The 2019 Laity Recognition Awards

May 15, 2019 | | GNJ News, Events

What do shoes, pies and clowns have in common?  They are representative of unique ministries led by GNJ laity which were recognized on April 13 at the Mission and Resource Center.

“Twenty-four ministries shared how God continues to work in GNJ,” said GNJ Lay Leader Rosa Williams who hosted the event, “We are grateful for all of those folks who are reaching out to spread the Good News”

The Laity Recognition Awards are given each year to honor creativity and innovation in transforming lives and making disciples of Jesus Christ.  United Methodists throughout Greater New Jersey have the opportunity to nominate people in their congregation who are leading ministries that reach out into communities in a commitment of Christ’s outreaching love.

Honorees represented all nine districts and their service provide models for all GNJ congregations.  Juel Nelson, Director of Leadership Development noted the diversity of the leaders, “There were youth and young adults to long term members.  One honoree was in his 90’s.  This is the church alive for Christ no matter what your age.  God is making things new and vibrant in our local churches.”

“Laity, through these ministries, are addressing the needs and concerns of people living in our communities,” said Williams, “They provide a place of hope and bear much fruit.”



Kevin Strenger | Feed My Sheep Dinner Church, First UMC Mays Landing

Kevin makes dinner monthly on Mondays for church and non-church members. He calls it Feed My Sheep, reads and has conversations about scripture passages. What started with church members only has now brought in friends and strangers to eat and hear God’s Word.


Paul Bejgrowicz | Open Mic Night Ministry, Hopewell UMC

Paul’s Open Mic Night has grown to 55 attendees. The community is experiencing the church in a new way, including a yearly concert series which has raised enough money to send five underprivileged children to summer camps, and a Sunday afternoon Coffee House Open Mic.

Evelyn Carson | Growing Gracefully Ministry, St. Paul UMC

Evelyn loves to exercise and pursues healthy habits which led her to Growing Gracefully Ministry. The ministry meets monthly and speakers discuss various topics related to wellness, volunteering and spirituality.


Karen Caesar |Youth and Young Adults Community Outreach, Haven UMC

Karen is a true disciple who follows Jesus wherever He would have her minister. She is involved in the community, visits the sick and homebound and coordinates the 5th Sunday, a blended service with youth.

Kristen Raine | Music Outreach Ministry, Sharptown UMC

Kristen is involved in many ministries at the church including leading the youth programs, organizing a youth mission trip in Philadelphia, VBS, serving over 200 children, women’s committee, women’s retreat, chairing the mission committee and organizing a yearly Strawberry Festival and yard sale to raise money.

Pat Pierce, Mary Ann Davis & Bonnie Ridgway | St John Food Giveaway, St. John UMC

The St. John’s food pantry is staffed by the Cuff cousins, Pat, Mary Ann and Bonnie, serving over 70 families per month with food and household items donated by the Food Bank of NJ, Amazon and other community members. Additionally, they prepare 30 food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas. A clothing giveaway is often held in conjunction with the food giveaway.


Young Adults & Youth Ministries | IGNITE Ambassadors Ministry, Community UMC

The IGNITE Community Ambassadors have created new spaces to engage people in the community, are willing to connect with others and have blessed many people through their music. They focus on building their team through intentional physical and spiritual fitness sessions, meeting to exercise and study scriptures related to spiritual wellness and fitness.

Naomi Roberts | Connectional Ministry, Woodbridge UMC

Naomi assists with caring for the homebound with Communion visitation monthly, including a small worship service, hymns and communion. Naomi faithfully helps in the office preparing the bulletins each week and is always willing to be a scripture reader on Sunday mornings.


MaryBeth Franklin | Camden Street Ministry, Camden UMC

MaryBeth distributes lunches from the Sparrow Program, provides blankets to the homeless, organizes supplies and volunteers for mission. She established relationships and developed trust with the community, planting seeds and trust in God to bring the seedlings to fruition.

William Schober | L.A.U.G.H. Clown Ministry, Evangelical UMC

Bill is a Christian comic who volunteers for non-profit charity fundraisers, nursing homes, hospitals, vacation Bible school, church services and church family nights through L.A.U.G.H. Clown Ministry, Loving All Under God’s House. With over 30 years of experience as a professional clown entertainer, he is a joy maker wherever he goes.


Tempe Mahan | Youth Revitalization Ministry, Central UMC

Tempe was instrumental in growing the Sunday School program, spending countless hours choosing the correct curriculum and ensuring the school space was suitable for the students. Tempe also sings in the choir and participates in small groups and organized Bible study.

Harold Payne | Discipleship by Example Ministry, Christ UMC

Harold has held various offices in the church, including Trustee. Harold is a faithful contributor and supporter of the church ministries who donate fruits and vegetables to the food pantry from his own garden and shares his financial resources and his time.

Anna Payne | Discipleship by Example Ministry, Christ UMC

Anna is a prayerful person in all she does. She cares for family, friends and the sanctuary. She reverently tends to the altar with love and care, filling it with candles and oil every Sunday and tidying the sanctuary weekly.

Molly Kirman | Food Pantry Ministry, Christ UMC

Molly serves and volunteers in the food pantry, shares her artistic gifts and talents for Vacation Bible School and supports many annual program events. She also supports the church with statistical record keeping for the church and church members.

John Walradt | Red Bank Preschool Hospitality Ministry, Red Bank UMC

John is property committee chairperson and member of the Finance Committee. He led a multifaceted team effort to convert space in the church education wing to meet the needs of the Red Bank Public School District, which sought additional space to host preschoolers in facilities within the borough of Red Bank. He has been generous in his devotion of time to such projects and his joy in service has inspired numerous youth and adults to volunteer.

Carole Trimmer | Pie Ministry, Central UMC

Carole’s dedication to the Pie Ministry (Church Lady Pies) is remarkable, growing the ministry to a year-round operation that makes over 350 pies annually. Money raised from the sale of pies goes to support local, national and international mission work of the church.


Terry Stevens | Shepherding Leadership Ministry, Hillsdale UMC

Through maintaining and caring for the building, Terry has made it a welcoming environment for the church and for the larger community. She has gone out of her way to show hospitality for groups that use the church, from weddings to funerals to fundraisers.

Bruce Ford | The Old Stone Music & Coffee House Ministry, Franklin Lakes UMC

Bruce and his wife Pam developed an idea of transforming the church’s old 1920 sanctuary into The Old Stone Music & Coffee House. The Old Stone features local musicians and artists on the first Friday of each month.

This ministry is most directly tied to the church’s mission to connect with new people in the surrounding community.


Donald Schulz | Rise Against Hunger Mission Ministry, Bridgewater UMC

Donald is a leader of the church mission to support Rise Against Hunger through hosting meal packing events and sending monetary donations which increase yearly. The Mission and Outreach Team also engaged in small group conversation to promote and mobilize people to help meal packing events. The M&O team promotes this mission to people in our community so that they can send monetary donations to help.

Sherry Peterson | Fishes and Loaves Ministry, Christ UMC

Sherry is a part of Shepherd Shelves ministry and Fishes and Loaves which involves cooking and serving food for members of the community and others in need. Sherry is also active as a Sunday School teacher and youth leader. She is passionate about food insecurity and works to try to alleviate it with ministries at the Rutgers University Food Pantry, FISH Hospitality, which helps the homeless in the area, and CUMAC.

Paul Klitsch | Soles4Souls Shoe Ministry, Cokesbury UMC

Paul participates in feeding ministries, coordinates the churches annual involvement in the Red Bird Mission and recently established Cokesbury as a drop-off location for the Soles4Souls Shoe Ministry. This ministry collects and recycles used shoes that would be discarded, becoming part of over 30 million pairs sent to more than 127 countries, including Haiti, Kenya, Thailand, Nepal, Tanzania and many others.


Douglas Bull | Leadership Ministry, Milton UMC

Doug has always taken the time to get to know the youth and adults who attend the mission trip, inspiring many adults and teens to be part of the project. Doug is also a part of the small worship ministry team, Bible study, praise band, and launched an appeal for audio-visual equipment to use during worship.

Gayla S. Garren | Baby Blessings Pantry, Dingmans Ferry UMC

Gayla grew the Baby Blessings Pantry which came out of a bi-annual clothing giveaway mission. Currently, the pantry occupies an entire classroom and shed, permanently designated to Baby Blessings. In 2018, the pantry served over 200 families with clothing, diapers, formula and baby items, and has expanded the collection to include children’s clothing of all sizes.


Laura Murphy | Shepherding Leadership Ministry, Waterloo UMC

Laura serves as lay leader, organizes, plans and actively participates in worship. She is engaged in all the mission and ministry programs of the church. She continues to organize the administrative life of the church, representing the church at Annual Conference.