Summer is upon us, and it’s a time for relaxation and fun, friends and family, exploration and travel, and of course, ministry and worship. The beautiful part about worship is that it can be done anywhere and in a variety of ways. This summer, two churches in our GNJ beach communities are drawing in worshippers near and far with the power of music.
Rev. Keith Roller, Pastor of Zion UMC in Egg Harbor, NJ is excited to present their 2022 Outdoor Summer Concert Series, which began on Friday, June 3rd with Dave Pettigrew and will continue throughout the summer with John Tibbs in July, and Lan Wilson in August. The concerts may even extend into September and October for the church’s 200-year anniversary.
They were supposed to hold these events in 2020, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, everything was shut down. Now, everyone is coming together again in a new normal after pandemic impact, the concerts will take place on Hope Field, a name that is very fitting. As Pastor Keith profoundly stated, “It’s wherein our hope lies and we can reach out to the community, so we called it Hope Field.”
The musicians will perform on a new stage that was rebuilt by community members, a project that was spearheaded by Joe Elwell from BSA Troop 94 for his Eagle Scout project. The stage was completed in the summer of 2021 in time for the inaugural concert, which allowed them to reach a variety of individuals either from or visiting the area.
The Summer Concert Series is a great example of a community outreach event from our very own GNJ local churches. Pastor Keith joyfully recalled how many people even just drove past and beeped their horns when they heard the music, both last year and this year, and some even drove in off the highway just to see what was going on and be a part of it. He said, “It’s an inspirational night of worship and music. We are a church for the community.”
The events cost $10 to attend and all proceeds go directly to the church. This provides funding for Zion United Methodist to minister to the community through their food bank and distribute food every Saturday of the month. They provide emergency distribution as well, which is something Covid brought about, along with online streaming services that will continue. Pastor Keith shared that in 2022, they fed 200 people in the month of May alone. “Food insecurity is on the rise,” he said, “but we worked to find silver linings with the clouds that Covid brought.” Through their ministry, they provide comfort and hope for so many.
While the congregation is excited about the summer concerts, they were a little hesitant about the costs associated with hiring musicians, but Pastor Keith told them, “Put your trust and faith in the Lord, and we’ll make the money back.” He reached out to a local mentor of his, D’Amato Law Firm, and you could say they have become a “soul” provider for the event!
For more information on the Zion Summer Concert Series visit: https://zumcbargaintown.org
Asbury UMC in Atlantic City, NJ is another GNJ church providing ministry and music with their Jersey Jazz Vespers Worship Series, which will take place the 4th Sunday of each month from 4-6PM. Atlantic City is known for being a jazz town and as Rev. Dr. Stafford Miller tells us, “Jazz is music but also Vespers of Worship.”
This event was inherited from the late Reverend Clancy and was restarted in 2015. Many local jazz artists and young talented students from local high schools are afforded the opportunity to work with professional musicians. Light refreshments are provided after, as well as a chance to chat with the musicians and congregate with one another.
With a grant from GNJ’s 2022 Annual Conference, Asbury UMC is able support this endeavor. A very grateful Allen Maddux said, “It helps us open our doors to the surrounding community to offer a different way of worship. Music is like a universal language, bringing people together under the genre of Jazz.” Psalm 150 inspires the very idea of this concert series as it says to give praise with musical instruments. Through music, we praise the Lord and connect with each other.
Asbury UMC will also connect with the community by continuing their Touch Ministry, which provides a comfortable hot meal on Saturdays. It’s considered a relational time, meaning those in the community should come for a meal and are encouraged to stay for a while to spend time with one another in fellowship. Rev. Miller expounded that it’s wonderful to “hear people’s stories and connect with who God is in their lives.” It’s open to the public with no fee, just come as you are. “Come in out of the weather, sit, talk, and relax,” offered Reverend Miller. They also minister to the community by providing “protein boxes”, consisting of perishables like eggs, milk, and cheese that are provided by the community food bank. As Rev. Miller so eloquently and lovingly put it, “There is a greater hope from bringing people from desolation to consolation.” When I expressed awe at their good works, he replied without hesitancy, “This should not be amazing or special; it’s the way it should be, just what we do. It’s actually what we’re called to do.”
The church is on Pacific Avenue, a main road that faces a hotel located across the street. They are very intentional about making the church visible, especially to visitors coming to the area to vacation. Many visitors who are Methodist flock to their doors, but also people who simply “feel the need to worship,” as Rev. Miller says.
These two churches are putting in great efforts to bring people together through summer ministry and beyond vacationing season, whether they are regular worshippers or those on a brief sojourn to the area. Worship brings people together and music helps shape lives, like waves connecting with the shore and shaping the shoreline, leaving their imprint with every touch.