Montgomery UMC - A Church of Open Doors
Montgomery United Methodist Church in Belle Mead, New Jersey, is a church with a mission. Its mission is to help people become closer to God and each other through devotion to Jesus Christ.
To accomplish that goal, the church has undertaken a number of different projects to increase its visibility and attractiveness to the community and be a church of Open Doors.
Air Conditioning Now a Reality
The church has recently completed its fund raising drive to install air conditioning in the sanctuary and Sunday School wing. Having endured the heat and humidity of New Jersey summers since its inception in 1966, the church is now able to provide Sunday services and "Children's Church" in air conditioned comfort for the worshiping community. "A basic key to Christian living is our commitment to worship the Lord every Sunday," says the church's pastor, The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski. "It's our job to make sure that the worship experience is as meaningful, memorable, and comfortable as possible. Worship is what defines us as a church."
"We've also moved to a two service schedule year round," says Rev. Godlefski. "We used to go to one service in the summer. However, that wasn't really helpful to very many. Worship in the summer is as important as it is at any other time of year." Trustee Vice president Bill Murphy agrees: "Air conditioning and a year-round dependable schedule send an important message to the community and the congregation. Why send the message that we're operating under 'half power'?" Air conditioning will also benefit the Vacation Bible Camp held at the church.
New Sanctuary Seating and Accessibility
New sanctuary seating is another project the church has recently completed. "Metal folding chairs have been part of the church's experience for the last 30 years or so. The folding chairs had a transient look, and were far less than comfortable. "The time has come to make a more permanent statement, and to care about the comfort of our guests and visitors," says Seating Project Chairman, Tom Neilssen. The church has replaced its metal folding chairs with comfortable new seating by the Sauder Corporation, which still allows for flexible use of the Sanctuary space.
"We're out to publicize that this church is handicap accessible and wheelchair friendly," says Administrative Council Chair Lt. Col. Chris Duffek. A number of families, including mine, came here because it gives those in wheelchairs comfortable and easy access. We aim to make that better known."
Another project the church recently completed was the installation of a new pipe organ. The project was directed and overseen by Pastor Godlefski, a graduate of the Westminster Choir College and Certified Minister of Music for the GNJ Annual Conference. He is also the director of the Annual Conference Festival Choir.
"The organ represents the rebirth of a fine seven rank Casavant Pipe Organ built in 1941. We added another seven ranks of new pipes made in Holland. To this we added 33 state of the art digital voices, all combined and coordinated by the Allen Organ Company. The Allen representative, Lee Stadele, was a prince - dependable, professional, and generous." The organ is completely paid for, and plans for the dedicatory recital will be announced soon.
Another joyful enhancement of the MUMC worship experience is the "Sunday Cafe." Presided over by Worship Chair Barbara Ewick. The fellowship area is elaborately decorated for each changing season and holiday. "We want to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere for the coffee time. For me, it's an extremely important part of the worship experience. It may not be Holy Communion exactly, but it is a celebration of fellowship and togetherness. The decorations give people something to focus on and talk about. It makes them feel welcome." Ms. Ewick's decorations range from a collection of angels at Christmas to the red and white of Valentine's Day to reminders of summer days at the beach.
Thousands of people pass the Montgomery UMC each day. A new sign brings the advantage of changeable messages to those who pass by. "It's our single most widely read publication," says Rev. Godlefski. "Hundreds of students on their way to and from school read it, as do commuters on the way to work. Sometimes we use the sign to invite the communtiy to worship and other events. Most of the time we like to post mini-sermons to bless the passers-by. A message as simple as, "Relax." or "God Loves You" may be just the thing a harried driver needs to read." Reaction to the sign messages has been very positive, and often comes from non-church members.
Another innovative form of outreach to the community is the recent series of advertisements in local movie theaters. Outreach Chair Debbie Ploe explains: "Before a movie begins in the local theaters, there is a series of advertisements for local businesses and a variety of quiz questions. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to invite people to church this way?'" The church recently sponsored a 16 week campaign to promote the message and ministry of the MUMC congregation. A picture of the church was captioned, "God Loves You." and invited people to the Sunday services. "We'll never know the full impact of these ads," says Ms. Ploe. "We want to be a witness for God to our entire community."
Sunday School Now Rotates
The Sunday School is another vital "open door" program. Since changing over to a "Rotation System" recently, enthusiasm and participation in the Church School has increased. "Rotation helps us focus on a single theme over a longer period. It is sensitive to the different learning styles of children," says Regina Neilssen. "The children are charged up about doing something different each time." Pastor Godlefski says, "I am so grateful that our teachers have supported the Rotation System. It's like having Vacation Bible Camp all year long."
The Missions Team
I love the statement of St. Francis," says Joanne Tonkin, head of the Missions Team. "Preach without ceasing. And when necessary, use words." The Missions Team has been involved in numerous creative projects designed to proclaim the gospel of jesus Christ by helping people. Food for Soup Kitchens and hands-on work with Habitat For Humanity are among the ways the team opens the doors to those with needs and provides doors for the "house-less" to open.
A major outreach effort of Montgomery UMC is its internet ministry called, "Visions of Hope." Each week the pastor's sermon is transcribed by VOH editor and church member Laurie Scott, then broadcast in a "blind copy" email format to church members and subscribers nationwide. "We have readers as far away as Sri Leone, Africa, who regularly write back to thank us for the sermons," says Mrs. Scott. "I am amazed with the response to VOH," says Rev. Godlefski. "People forward the sermons to family and friends, and feel connected to the church when they cannot be here. I am so grateful to Laurie Scott. Even though she lives in Wellesly, Mass., she carries on this active ministry via the internet. Together with our Internet Ministries Team, we are able to reach people with thoughts of the Lord as never before."
The Internet Ministries Team members Rich Specht, Bob Cummings, Steven Thomas, and Dave Lawrence have recently developed a series of podcasts of Rev. Godlefski's sermons called "Put a Pastor In Your Pocket". The idea came from youth member Lauren Berk. "I loved Pastor Tony's 'Sermon in Blues' so much, and thought everyone should have the chance to hear it. So, I asked, 'Can it be podcast?'" said Lauren. The IM team went to work, and Lauren's dream became reality. The musical sermon is available through the church's website, <www.MontgomeryUMC.org>
Gardens and Grounds
Major improvements to the church's gardens have been accomplished in recent seasons. "When God created people, He put them in a garden," says Trustee Lib Viloria, chief gardener for the church. "Having beautiful flowers lifts up the spirit, and tells people that they are welcome. We want people to know they are coming to a place that's cared about."
The church has also completed major improvements to the parsonage in recent years, and has completed a balcony in the sanctuary. "I am so proud of the members of this congregation. They have given abundantly to make our church a more welcoming, cared-for place," says Trustee President, Daryl Potter.
"Building up the church in our area of the country requires us to be creative and inviting," says Trustee Vice President Bill Murphy. "We've got to think outside the box. After all, we've got a great example in Jesus Christ. Our Lord thought outside the box. Isn't that what Easter morning is all about?"
"We want to be faithful in helping people build a strong relationship with God and each other," says Pastor Godlefski. "I am so proud of the people of Montgomery UMC. They are working diligently toward making this church a welcoming place to love and worship the Lord."