Wesley United Methodist Church in West Berlin, NJ may be representative of a small church congregation, but it is indeed a mighty one at heart. This church has been able to make a big impact in their local community, whether it be their food pantry, prayer shawls to the sick, or new technology to reach out to others. Striving to bring people back into the life of the church, they have been able to welcome 12 new members into their church home, according to Jay Brown, Certified Lay Minister – SY Pastor/Order of St. Luke of Wesley UMC.
“Our church currently has 40 active members on its rolls. Due to COVID-19, attendance has averaged between 25 to 30 people. Some of the new members are transfers from local churches that I have served in the past such as Glendale and Lucaston and some are Associate members from other UM churches who regularly attend our services. Most came by word of mouth because of the openness and welcoming nature of the Wesley congregation. For a small neighborhood church, we truly offer ‘radical hospitality’ to all visitors and attendees,” he said.
Jay, who has been at Wesley UMC since July 2020, was District Superintendent Rev. Myrna Bethke’s last appointment. He has served as the supply pastor at the following churches since 2008: Frances Childs in Collingswood, Glendale and Lucaston in Voorhees, Mt. Zion in Wenonah, and prior to his current assignment served at Billingsport UMC in Paulsboro, NJ for 6 years.
”I was the GNJ Conference Lay Leader from 2000 to 2008 and served as a Director on the General Board of Global Missions and the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters from 2008 to 2016. In 2008, I started and coordinated the GNJ CLM Program for ten years,” he added.
According to Jay Brown, Wesley UMC has a long, rich history, dating back to when the church began in the spring of 1899. At that time, it was called Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church.
“Luke Bate had donated the property to the church and Harry Minck was the attorney and realtor who donated his time to make it happen. The church building was dedicated on November 20, 1899. In 1903, the church building was rebuilt. The church building is located on the corners of Bate and Pine Avenues in West Berlin,” said Jay.
Today, church members reside in various South Jersey towns including Atco, Bellmawr, Berlin, Glendora, Clementon, Lindenwold, Glassboro, Runnemede, West Berlin, and Williamstown.
“Our older but very spirited church members engage in many local mission projects such as its own local food pantry that serves the community and beyond as needed. During the recent tornado events this past year, the church provided for families in the Mullica Hill area as requested by families and friends,” he said. “We also have a prayer shawl ministry as well as a blanket ministry who handmakes blankets for low-income seniors in the community. We collect gently used footwear for a project called ‘Soles for Soles’ and we have recently become the storage site for the Conference Disaster Relief trailer in South Jersey for emergency supplies.”
In addition to these ministries, Wesley UMC has a weekly Bible study and prayer group on Tuesday nights at 7pm and a Monday meeting of the former “UMW”, now known as “Women in Faith.”
Jay said that his greatest joy at Wesley UMC has been having a congregation who has been very receptive to having a CLM as a pastor.
“They are open to change and new ways of doing ministry in the 21st century. I personally love blended services and they allowed me to share my conference and general church experiences with them to help them grow.” he added.
Jay Brown continued that Wesley UMC is always looking for new members and is “very open and loving and want to share the love of Jesus Christ with all we meet.”
“Hopefully we are not that different from other churches in that we have the same goals of helping others to be spiritually fed and grow, and would like to serve in some humble way to help make disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Wesley UMC is located at 159 Bate Avenue, West Berlin, N.J. Phone number is 856-767-9269. Visit their website at wesleyumcwb.wixsite.com or contact Jay Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.