Pastor serves church that once served her

March 19, 2024 |

Epworth United Methodist Church Palmyra, NJ, is honored to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its Mandeville Scholarship, a cornerstone of the church’s Planned Giving program. Learn all about the scholarship on GNJ’s website.

The scholarships are awarded to full-time and permanent part-time graduate students who are members UMC churches in the Greater New Jersey Conference. That includes students preparing for ordained ministry or Christian education.

In July 2023, Epworth welcomed Rev. Rachel Callender as its new pastor. She opened her first sermon by sharing that she herself was a recipient of a Mandeville Scholarship, and she offered these thoughts on how that gift impacted her journey to the pulpit.

“I’ve stood here before. Sunday, June 26, 2016. I had just graduated from college. I decided on what seminary I would attend in the fall, and I was an Exploring Candidate for Ordination, just beginning the long, in-depth, difficult process of being ordained for ministry. And I knew that scholarships were going to be the difference between surviving seminary and enjoying and embracing the experience of seminary.

The Mandeville Scholarship was the first scholarship I received. It was this catalyst of much-needed support by people who didn’t even know me and didn’t know the many Reverend Callender’s there are at other Methodist churches. They simply saw my call as something they wanted to invest in.

Rev. Rachel Callender

I remember parking right in front of the church with my now late mother, and her excitedly bragging about me to everyone. She was so proud. It’s special to me that she got to see me here at least once. I remember meeting the other scholarship recipient, a woman who is also a pastor in the conference now. And I kid you not, every time we cross paths at conference events, we always look at each other and say, “MANDEVILLE.”

I remember, in 2019 when I was graduating from seminary, I had such a sense of gratitude toward Epworth, that I wrote to the Mandeville Scholarship Committee to let them know that their investment paid off, that I finished seminary and was applying for ordination. And the card I received back was one of celebration and joy and thanksgiving.

I’m starting off here today, at a new church appointment, having already been blessed by the ministries of this church. It doesn’t get any better than this: to walk into a sacred space that I already love and have loved for seven years.

If you would like to be considered for the Mandeville Scholarship grant, you can access the application via the Epworth website at:, or you can send in a request to This information is also available on the GNJ UMC Conference website, visit here.

Here’s a bit more information about Pastor Rachel Callendar.

She is the 13th Methodist pastor in the Callender family over five generations. After completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Performance at Kean University (Magna Cum Laude, Alpha Psi Omega, Lambda Alpha Sigma), she went to Princeton Theological Seminary for her Masters of Divinity where she fell in love with food justice ministries.

Then, with a scholarship from the United Methodist Council of Bishops, she attended the Bossey Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches in Bogis-Bossey, Switzerland for a Complementary Certificate in Ecumenical Studies. She was then ordained as an Elder in Full Connection in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in 2022.

Before being appointed to Epworth UMC, her previous appointments included Interim Pastor at the UMCs of Long Beach Island and Associate Pastor at Medford UMC. She has a heart for ecumenical/interfaith dialogue and exploring spirituality through creative expression. She and her husband, Matthew, are both born and raised in New Jersey.