Our History

Over 200 years of Faith, Hope, Love & Charity

The first missionaries were sent to this area in 1769 by John Wesley and as time passed, a Methodist revival swept New Jersey in 1797. In 1799 Rev Richard Sneath traveled through Moorestown as a circuit rider and Bishop Asbury passed through as well in 1802. Rev Sneath was only able to visit Moorestown once per month due to the number of communities he would visit and travel was only by horseback or stagecoach. Also, during that time, another fiery preacher of note was Benjamin Abbott.

It is interesting to note that in the early 1800s we were a very young country, still struggling on our own, while still having trouble with England which brought on the war of 1812.

In the early 1800s, Methodist Circuit Riders Bishop Asbury & Benjamin Abbott stopped in Moorestown, gathered together a few interested souls and preached to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Records are very meager, but what is known is that the interest had grown so much that in 1815 the plans for a house of worship took place. Thanks to a donation of land from the wealthy Edward Harris, a Methodist Meeting House was built “on the South side of Main Street near the land of Mill, by the large Oak tree growing in the sidewalk, not far from Town Hall”. As of August 15, 1815 a Certificate of Incorporation was received and the church was officially established.

After the church was established on Main Street in Moorestown in 1815, the first ministers of the circuit were John Van Schoick and Joseph Rusling and they also were leaders in the church building activity itself. Moorestown was part of the Burlington Circuit, which included Burlington, Mount Holly, Lumberton, Brick Meeting House, Woolston Chapel, New Freedom, Snow Hill, Greenland, Rodman’s Camden, Stone Meeting House and Chew’s Landing. It’s important to note that no public transportation was available in southern NJ, except stage coaches, which took a full day to travel from the shore to Philadelphia, but ministers often came by their own horse and buggy.  

After church incorporation in 1815, as time went forward in the 1820s and 1830s, the church struggled with membership and in 1833 it became part of the Medford Circuit. By 1845, 30 years after it was founded, membership numbered 50 persons. However, from 1845 to 1846 with then-Minister Thomas G. Stewart serving as pastor, the church saw a revival such that the number of members doubled and the church was able to expand its outreach. The church became more prosperous so much so that a new Moorestown Circuit was established, including Bridgeboro, Bethel, Asbury, Coopertown, Gibbsboro, Long-a-Coming, Blackwood, Chew’s Landing, Waterford and Jackson. The church continued to grow into the 1850s until it became necessary to relocate to a larger structure.

By the late 1850s it was determined that the congregation had outgrown its facilities on the South Side of Main Street and in 1858-1860 a new larger facility was built on the North side of Main Street (where Farmers and Mechanics Bank is currently located) at a cost of $7,000. In 1873 a parsonage was built at the cost of $2,130. In 1901 it was remodeled by expanding it toward the street, adding a portico to the side and several interior transformations (new ceiling, inclined floor, new heating and memorial windows). Total cost of this renovation was $19,000. The membership donated faithfully to this building endeavor, but a large donation by Calvin Crowell and family assured success of the project.  Unfortunately Mr Crowell passed away during church construction. By 1915 the membership of the church had grown to 235, Sunday School 305.

In 1917 a new Esty Pipe Organ was installed at a cost of $19,000, aided by a gift from the Dale Carnegie Foundation of $9,000.

In 1935 Rev Sayre was appointed as the 100th minister of the church and membership was at 315.

In 1950, the church held a 135 year celebration with Rev L. Burdelle Hawk as pastor. With growing space needs and with Rev Hawk’s guidance, the Board of Trustees purchased 6 acres of land in 1953 for $16,000 from Irving Hollingshead, whose ancestor, Hugh Hollingshead, hosted Bishop Asbury in 1802. This is the land upon which today’s Fellowship Hall and adjoining rooms (including the Heritage Room) currently reside. The building was completed in 1957 and in 1959 a parsonage was purchased (533 Kings Highway). In 1963, the congregation held a special service to celebrate the mortgage burning for the new building…..yes, just 6 years after completion !!!  

Before the mortgage for the Fellowship Hall Building was paid off in 1963, another Building program was already started to build a separate Sanctuary/Office building. That Building campaign started in 1961 under the Pastorship of Dr. Andrew Braun. Fellowship Hall served as our Sanctuary Building until the new Sanctuary was built. Due to the generosity of the congregation we were able to break ground for the Sanctuary on February 6, 1966 with our new Pastor, Charles W. Marker. Eighteen months later we held our first worship service in the new Sanctuary on Oct 7, 1967. This is the first time that the congregation remembers hearing “How Great Thou Art”, which was now included in the new revised Methodist Hymnal. In addition, a new Reuter organ was dedicated on November 10, 1967.

After moving in to our new Sanctuary building in 1967, the congregation continued its growth to fill out our new expanded facilities. In 1969, the congreation’s first Pictorial Directory was completed. In 1970, Rev Dan Hulitt became our Pastor and in 1972 the church had its first “Lay Witness Mission”, which helped further our spritual growth. In 1974 a second parsonage was purchased on Evergreen Drive for the Associate Pastor. On July 4, 1976, the newly-appointed chapel was dedicated (the chapel was previously unfinished) and in 1978 our second pictorial directory was completed. Pastor Carl Halvorsen was appointed as our Senior Pastor in 1982 and in April of 1989 we expanded our Mission program by way of “Faith Promise Giving”.

In May of 1982, Glenn Rogers began his tenure as Director of Music – a position he still holds now in 2015 (33 years later). In June 1993 Dr. Harlan Baxter was appointed as pastor for FUMC and in the next year, 1994, Rev Steve Donat was appointed as Associate Pastor and a second parsonage was purchased (503 Kings Hwy). 1994 was a busy year for turnover as another staff position was filled as Linda Tocher began her tenure as Director of Christian Education. In 1993, the 8:30 AM Sunday service was instituted as a year-long service, held in the Chapel. Also, starting in 1993, our church held a mass telephone outreach campaign to reach those in our general area with an invite to visit our church. With the growth in population especially in Mount Laurel and Moorestown, this invitation resulted in many new vistors and new members. This campaign led to the unveiling of our new Contemporary Worship service at 9:30 AM on Sundays, beginning on Easter Sunday, 1994. In November of 1994 a second Sunday School session was started to allow Sunday School during both the 9:30 AM and 11 AM Sunday services.

In 1996 we started a Saturday 5:30 PM Worship Service to accommodate an optional worship time. As a result of our previous telephone outreach campaign and new Contemporary Worship Service, our worship and Sunday School attendance grew such that we began to make plans for facility expansion. In 1997, the congregation approved the preliminary construction plans for an attached Education and Music Building and improvements for handicap accessibility. In addition, the new Education Building would provide appropriate features to allow for a Pre-school program that would be operated separately from the church, but utilize the new Education Building facilities. The initial financial campaign began in February 1998 and on April 28, 2002 a Groundbreaking Service was held to commemorate the beginning of construction of the Education and Music Buildings. Less than 1 1/2 years later, with a human prayer chain stretched around the outside of our buildings, we held a Consecration Service of the new Education Building and the Susan D. Rodgers Music Building.

When the first church was built in 1815, it was called the “The Methodist Meeting House ” and was located at “the top of Mill St.” although on a 1859 map of Moorestown it is listed as the “M E Church.”  In 1860 the new church was built where the Beneficial Bank now stands. Until 1936 we were called the “Methodist Episcopal Church.” From 1936 to 1968 it was “The Methodist Church.” In 1968 we joined with the United Brethren and became “The United Methodist Church.” Earlier, sometime in the 1800’s there was a split and a few members went down the street, where the Hope Church now stands which is the third church to be built there. They built a new church and called it the “Methodist Protestant Church.” A picture and article about it from July of 1891 is available. The reason for the split seemed to be of opinion regarding church governance.

On Sunday evening, April 25th, 2015 our First United Methodist Church held a History Night event in connection with the year’s 200th Anniversary year celebration. After partaking of dessert and refreshments, the attendees were entertained by an interesting presentation from Donna Miller, administrator of St George’s church in Philadelphia. St George’s church, with its 242 year history, is the oldest US church building in continuous use and Ms. Miller related several historical stories of the establishment of that early church. Following Ms. Miller, Sue and Lindsay Mitchell presented a slide show along with their commentary about the history of the FUMC church, starting in 1815 on Main Street in Moorestown. The evening closed with several people providing testimony and remembrance of their experiences at FUMC, including Bertha Bendel, who has been a member since 1935. These testimonies and slide show are captured in video for our archives. Sue and Lindsay Mitchell are our resident historians and along with the Heritage Room, have a wealth of knowledge about the history of Methodism and the history of out church specifically. Check it out!

As early as 1874 there were young people services held in church monthly and in 1893 the Epworth League was formed to provide well-rounded programs of spiritual and social activities. The group also held fundraisers to support church needs, including the building fund. Social life in those days leaned toward the intellectual, with such programs as “An Evening with Tennyson”, a lecture on “Bees” and a debate “Resolved that Men have a harder time in life than Women”.

Methodists in Moorestown have been worshiping with the sound of pipe organ for many years.  Before 1901 it was a parlor organ. In that year a pump organ was installed in the Main Street sanctuary and it was hand pumped by the boys of the church. In 1917 Andrew Carnegie paid for 1/2 of the cost ($1800) of installing a six rank Estey organ whose wind chest was electrified. This organ served us well for 40 years, right up to the time of moving to the current Fellowship Hall/Educational Building in 1957.  In 1962 a commission was formed to decide on a new organ and the final decision was to install a fine Reuter organ which took 2 years to build. Funding came from many memorial gifts, special donations and not the least of which were from the children’s choirs who donated $300.  This Reuters organ has more than 1800 pipes which range in size from 16 feet in length to some about the size of a pencil. This organ has sounded since then, furnishing the sounds of a wide variety of organ music all dedicated to the Glory of God.

During World War II, the Mothers of the Church sent a Mother’s Day message to those relatives in service to our country. The Sisters, Sweethearts and Wives joined the Mothers in Best Wishes and Prayers for the 49 named individuals. The message was in a form of the following poem:

She never failed you, lad, when you were small
And needed help to climb the rugged hill,
Or find the winding way when shadows fell,
She never failed you then – She never will.

You must not fail her, lad to manhood grown,
Her faith and hope and love are with you still;
You’ll keep the faith, she shall not hope in vain,
You’ll guard that secret love – We know you will.

The Mite Society was established in 1875 with Pastor Rev G R Snyder as President. It was a society of women with the aim of trying to keep the parsonage interior in good repair and furnished and to help in the betterment of the church. Over the years, this society helped provide a new gas range, new living room furniture, new flooring and most rooms painted and papered. In addition, they were involved in providing food for Missionary projects.

By the way, the origin of the name “Mite” ? The mite they are talking about is a coin.  It comes from Mark 12:41-44, a story about many rich people who went to church and donated a large amount of money, that to them was a drop in the bucket. However, a poor widow also gave what little money she had (a mite or two) and was revered for it.

Ever wonder about the origin of the 2 Stained Glass windows hanging on the walls of the Heritage Room?

These 2 Stained Glass windows were originally installed in 1901 in our previous church location on East Main Street. When that church building was purchased in 1957, these 2 windows were saved by the purchaser, who had them re-leaded, crated and stored away until 1974, when the Sunshine Bible Class negotiated with him to let us have the windows. A previous member of our church, Harry Norcross, took on the task of transporting the windows back to our church and after a study to determine where they would be displayed, Harry arranged to have them permanently installed in the Heritage Room, framed and illuminated. A beautiful addition to the Heritage Room!

Everyone around town knows about the First United Methodist Church Rummage sales! No wonder, since it has occurred since 1930, started by the Sunshine Bible Class, and has continued nearly every year since. The first Rummage Sale was held in the Boudwins’ garage at Central Ave and Washington St. During the Depression years, there were many such sales, where the profits were used to supply various needs of the church and parsonage. Later, the location of the sale changed frequently to various empty stores on Main St. until in 1945, permission was ganted to use the Lecture Room of the Sunday School of our church bldg on E. Main St. After the current church location was built in 1957, it moved inside our current Fellowship Hall. Later, the Adult Fellowship joined in the organization effort as the scope of the sale grew. In the early days of the sale, each item was paid for at the place it was found and a red string was attached to each item to indicate that it was paid for. In 1979 the tradition of selling snacks and lunch started and continues to this day.

Some interesting notes regarding the activities around the construction time (1966-1967) of the current Sanctuary:

The wood for the cross behind the alter on the chancel wall was given by the late Sidney O. Nicholson, who owned a farm on the Mount Holly-Burlington Road. While ill in Greenleaf in Moorestown, he heard of the plans for this new building and offered the wood from one of his farm buildings. From this wood, Robert Fisher and his two sons, Max and Arthur, fashioned the cross by hand and hung it in place. They also fashioned candlesticks from the same wood. As it turns out, Max was also involved in the mounting of the new cross in the courtyard – ask him about it!

Disputes over slavery placed the Methodist churches in difficulty in the first half of the 19th century, with the northern church leaders fearful of a split with the southern churches and reluctant to take a stand. The Wesleyan Methodist Connexion (later known as the Wesleyan Church) and the Free Methodist Churches were formed by staunch abolitionists and the Free Methodists were especially active in the Underground Railroad, which helped to free the slaves. Finally, in a much larger split, in 1845 at Lousiville, the churches of the slaveholding states left the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Much later, the northern and southern branches were reunited in 1939 when slavery was no longer an issue. The Methodist Protestant Church also merged at the same time. However, some southerners, very conservative in theology and strong segragationalists, opposed the merger and formed the Southern Methodist Church in 1940.

In 1983 the Sunshine Bible Class held it 70th Anniversary Celebration in the Laurel Room at Wanamakers. At that celbration, the Class Song was sung by all, as follows:

Sing the clouds away, night will turn to day;
If you sing and sing and sing, you’ll sing the clouds away.
Smile the clouds away, night will turn to day;
If you smile and smile and smile, you’ll smile the clouds away.
Pray the clouds away, pray and pray and pray;
Night will turn to day, no matter what they say.
Sing and smile and pray, that’s the only way;
If you sing and smile and pray, you’ll drive the clouds away.

We at First United Methodist Church in Moorestown are a welcoming church, including being welcoming to newly-appointed Pastors to lead our congregation. These new appointments, as was recently seen with Rev. Richard Nichols last year, generate a feeling of “newness”, with anticipation of what new new directions and activities could result. Unfortunately, in our history, there was a time when some in our congregation were not so “welcoming”. The date was 1883, when our chuch was 68 years old. Rev. Dr. Charles H. Whitecar was appointed by the New Jersey Annual Conference, per the Methodist Espicopal bylaws (we were part of the Methodist Episcopal Church at this time). This appointment was his second annual appointment to our chuch. Rev. Whitecar arrived at the chuch on March 29, 1883 to hold his usual prayer meeting and found the church locked, with a notice that it would remain closed until further notice. It seems that the Board of Trustees of the Church did not accept his appointment, speaking for the majority of the congegation. and locked the church to bar him from entering. The records indicate that the issue was taken to court and although resisted by the Trustees, it resulted in an order to open the church to allow Rev. Whitecar to enter and perform his duties according to a lawful appointment. The Trustees continued to refuse entry, but soon relented and were absolved from contempt of court charges. The records don’t indicate if 1883 was Rev. Whitecar’s final appointment at our church.

A Brief History of Moorestown

Moorestown has been farmed and lived on for more than 300 years by Europeans and for centuries before that by Lenni Lenape Indians. The earliest European settlers were Quakers. The year 1682 is the accepted date that the first Europeans settled in what is now the Township of Moorestown and the Quakers built the first Friends Meeting House in 1700. Moorestown has been, from the beginning, a town of homes rather than industry, but that changed later in the 20th century. The town grew in the beginning years for many reasons; it was close to the Delaware River, close to Philadelphia and was the center for commerce and sociability for local farmers.

In the 1700’s the main settlements around the current town of Moorestown were a large settlement to the east known as Chestertown, with a similar cluster in the west known as Rodmantown. Moore’s town, or Moorefield came to be used in the late 1700’s and referred to Thomas Moore, who was the town’s first tavern keeper as well as the town’s first realtor. Thomas Moore originally owned all the land west from the Friends burial ground to Locust Street and from Main St. to Second St. He subdivided the land and sold it for houses and businesses. The name Moorestown did not come into effect until the Moorestown Post Office was established in 1802.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the stagecoach was an important means of travel for the townspeople of Moorestown. The stagecoach traveled the Kings Highway from Camden to Trenton, until 1867 when the railroad came to town. During this time period (1815) our first church was established on Main Street.

Memories and reminiscences of the turn of the century show Moorestown in a nostalgic light with self contained business and social life unknown today. People were born in town, went to school here and married someone from town or nearby and died here. Most of the people they knew in their lives did the same thing. For anyone who knew Moorestown in the early 1900s, every house has a story, streets and buildings bring back many memories and a family name lets loose endless lists of relationships, marriages, accomplishments and anecdotes. You can learn more about the detailed history of Moorestown by contacting the Moorestown Historical Society.

Sources:
“Moorestown and Our Neighbors” by George DeCou, copyright 1960
“Moorestown Old and New” by James C. Puffy, copyright 1886

The Final Cut

The 200th Anniversary Committee hopes that you have enjoyed reading the entries on this page that have revealed some of the historical fabric of First United Methodist Church.

It is clear that in order for us to reach a 200 year anniversary it was due to the strong commitment to God’s word and to adherence to the Great Commission by members of this congregation for 2 centuries. We have truly been blessed and will continue to be as we begin our 3rd century of Faith, Hope, Love and Charity.

Members should be aware that the historical records of this church are primarily available in the Heritage Room under the care of Sue and Lindsay Mitchell. Please contact Sue or Lindsay for review of any of that material.

 

Highlights

Late 1700’s

The Reverend Pilmore (one of Wesley’s first appointed preachers in America) stopped in Moorestown on his way to New Mills (now Pemberton).

1799

The Reverend Richard Sneath rode to town of Moorestown, the first place on the Burlington Circuit.  He would visit monthly.

1802

(March 14) Bishop Asbury rode to Moorestown and held a meeting at Hugh Hollingshead’s house (now 260 East Main Street).  He spoke 15 minutes exhorting against “making light of the Gospel”.

1812

The gathering of the class meetings of the Methodist Church began in the new Town Hall.

1815

(August 21) MOORESTOWN METHODIST MEETING HOUSE INCORPORATED.

1815

Began to build a meeting house.  A plain brick building without a bell tower at the head of Mill Street.

1845

Thomas Stewart, Presiding Elder, started a revival.  Membership doubled from 50 to 100 members.

1858

Mortgage approved for property at 53 East Main Street.

1860

A new church building was begun.  (Where Beneficial Bank is now located.)  Cost: $7,000.00.

1864

Mortgage approved for property at 62 E. Second St. for the first parsonage.

1871

(March 5) Church building dedicated.

1873 

(June 14) Contract signed for building of first parsonage.  Cost: $2,130.00.
(Dec. 8-15) 80th Anniversary Celebration.  The Reverend Melville E. Snyder, Pastor.

1901

Remodeling of the Church with the addition of a new Queen Anne style front.  Cost: $19,000.00.

1910

Addition to the parsonage.  Cost of $1,800.00.

1915

(October 17-24) Centennial Celebration
(Church property including parsonage valued at $39,000.00).
Church membership – 235, Sunday School – 305.  The Reverend Charles S. Lawrence, Pastor.

1917

A new Estey Pipe Organ installed.  Cost $18,000.00.  Aided by a gift from Dale Carnegie Foundation of $9,000.00.

1920

Parsonage renovated at 69 East Second Street, immediately behind the church.  (Now a vacant lot on the Second Street entrance to Beneficial Bank).

1934

Appraisal of church properties – $45,000.00.

1935

The Reverend Woodburn Sayre was appointed as the 100th minister.  Membership 315.

1940

125th Anniversary Celebration.  The Reverend Woodbury Sayre, Pastor.

1950

(October 6) 135th Anniversary Celebration.  The Reverend L. Burdelle Hawk, Pastor.

1953

The Board of Trustees, instructed by a special Quarterly Conference, purchased 6 acres of land for $16,000.00 from Irving Hollingshead, whose ancestor, Hugh Hollingshead, hosted Bishop Asbury in 1802.

1956

(June 10) Groundbreaking of the Educational Unit.  The Reverend L.B.Hawk, Pastor
 (December 30) Cornerstone Laying for the Educational Unit.  The Reverend L.B.Hawk, Pastor

1957

(September 1) Celebrated Holy Communion in the new Fellowship Hall
(September 8) Opening service in morning and at 4:30 a Service of Consecration with Bishop Fred Pierce Corson presiding.  The Reverend L. Burdette Hawk, Pastor.
(September 12) Dedication of Organ and Furnishings in Fellowship Hall

1959

New parsonage purchased (533 Kings Highway)

1960

(June 22) The 145th Anniversary Celebration.  The Reverend L.B.Hawk, Pastor

1961

Sanctuary Crusade begun.  The Reverend Andrew Braun, Pastor

1963

(May 1) Service of Mortgage Burning for Educational Building. The Reverend Andrew Braun, Pastor

1965

(October 17) The 150th Anniversary Celebration. The Reverend Charles W. Marker, Pastor

1966

Groundbreaking for the new Sanctuary

1967

(October 7) First service in the Sanctuary. The Reverend Charles W. Marker, Pastor.
(October 29) Service of Dedication, The Reverend Charles W. Marker, Pastor.
(November 19) Dedication of the new Reuter Organ. The Reverend Charles W. Marker, Pastor.

1968

The uniting of the Evangelical United Brethren Church with the Moorestown Church to form the United Methodist Church.

1969

First Pictorial Directory. The Reverend Charles W. Marker, Pastor.

1971

The second parsonage was purchased on Evergreen Drive.

1974

First Lay Witness Mission – A New Spiritual Awakening.

1976

(July 4) Dedication of Chapel and furnishings. The Reverend Daniel Hulitt, Pastor.

1978

Second Pictorial Directory, The Reverend Daniel Hulitt, Pastor.

1982

(June) Naming of the chapel Dan Hulitt Chapel in honor of his ministry among us.

1987

(November 15) Service of Mortgage Burning for Sanctuary. The Reverend Carl W. Halvorsen, Pastor

1989

Faith Promise Giving- Expansion of our Missions program

1990

The 175th Anniversary Celebration. The Reverend Carl W. Halvorsen, Pastor.
Third Pictorial Directory. The Reverend Carl W. Halvorsen, Pastor.

1993

The 8:30 am worship service moved to year round weekly service, The Reverend Dr. Harlan M. Baxter, Pastor.

1994

New Second parsonage (503 Kings Highway) purchased.
Mass telephone campaign to reach unchurched in local and surrounding areas for Jesus Christ
The 9:30 Contemporary & Praise worship service added at Easter. The Reverend, Dr. Harlan M. Baxter, Pastor.

1995

Fourth Pictorial Directory. The Reverend Dr Harlan M. Baxter and The Reverend Stephen L. Donat, Pastors.

1996

The 5:30 PM Saturday Contemporary & Praise service added on Easter.

1997

Beginning of three year Building Campaign for additional Sunday School space and new Music building.

1999

(February) Lay Witness weekend

2000

(August 20) The 185th Anniversary celebration picnic
(October 22) The 185th Anniversary Worship Celebration, Celebration Banquet at Sensational Host. The Rev. Dr. Harlan M. Baxter and The Reverend Stephen L. Donat, Pastors
Fifth Pictorial Directory

2002

(April 28) Groundbreaking Service at 230 pm for construction of new Sunday School space and Music building, The Reverend Dr. Harlan M. Baxter and The Reverend Stephen L. Donat,
Pastors.

2003

(September 21) Consecration of the Susan D. Rodgers Music Ministry Center and Educational Building
(October 12) Open House for the Community

2004

(June 27) Dr. Harlan Baxter’s last Sunday with us before his retirement.
(July 3) Rev. Stephen L. Donat’s first Sunday as Senior Pastor
(July 3) Rev. Hey Young Horton’s first Sunday with us as Associate Pastor
First Light PreSchool began with morning and afternoon sessions

2008

Sixth Pictorial Directory

2011

Courtyard finished

2012

(April 1) Dedication of stained glass mosaic

2014

Rev. Stephen L. Donat appointed to St. Peter UM Church in Ocean City
(July 6) Rev. Richard Nichols began his ministry as our Senior Pastor.
Rev. HeyYoung Horton remains as Associate Pastor.

2015

Seventh Pictorial Directory
200th Anniversary (August 21st)