by Elsie Walker
Just down the road from the Budd Lake Chapel is a place the church calls “The Lord’s Oasis”. This piece of property, owned by the church, sits on the lake, and has a picnic pavilion, snack shack, and room for children to play games. It is a place the church uses for events, Vacation Bible School, and fellowship. Last month, it was used for a program of music where attendees were asked to bring something for the Mt. Olive pantry. The “oasis” as some simply call it, reflects the love and spirit of the chapel itself. “We genuinely love each other,” said Ken Nestman of those who attend the church. An elder of the church, Nestman, of Hackettstown, said that visitors have commented what a very friendly church it is. It is located at 54 Sandshore Road in Budd Lake
The Budd Lake Chapel, started in 1871 when Mrs. John Chipps held Sunday School at the home of John Budd. Later, the Budd family deeded land for a church with the stipulation that it be non-denominational. The Budd Lake Chapel was dedicated in 1875.
The oasis was a piece of property rented many years later as a parking lot, explained Donna Morris, of Ledgewood, who has attended the church for 42 years. When the owner of the rental property died, her family asked if the church wanted to buy the property. The person had also owned a piece of property across the street, by the lake, and that was offered to be sold to the church, too. The church bought both pieces of property, though the property on the lake was in disrepair. The church worked to fix up that property. When done, the church decided to name it “The Lord’s Oasis”. “It truly is an oasis,” said Morris.
The church’s pastor is Alan Pirrello. Pirrello has been in the ministry 33 years. Originally, Pirrello worked in corporate America in health sales and as a motivational speaker on wellness, health, and fitness. During that time, he was invited to a breakfast meeting of the Gideon’s. (The Gideon’s is a group of Christian business and professional men and their spouses which share the message of Jesus with others.) He was touched at how the men shared their faith and got down on their knees and prayed. He joined the Gideon’s and became an evangelist, while still working in sales. Pirrello’s evangelism took him to churches, jails, and many other places. One Sunday, he was invited to speak at a church. When he arrived, the minister there was surprised to see the speaker was so young. However, after the service and hearing him speak, that minister asked Pirrello if he did pulpit supply. Pirrello didn’t know what he meant, but learned that it meant filling in for pastors when they went on vacation. Pirrello said, “sure”, and soon found his name being circulated around, as ministers were looking for a good speaker to fill in for them. However, although asked about it many times, Pirrello did not feel called to change careers and become a pastor himself, until 12 years ago. That is when he started as part time pastor of the Budd Lake Chapel, becoming full time two years later. When asked what he finds most rewarding about being in ministry, he said, “more than anything else being able to help others in their time of need. “
Pirrello has been married to his wife, Karen, for 24 years. He describes her as “an outstanding woman.” They have a son, Matthew who is a biology major at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison and is interested in sports. Sports is an interest of the elder Pirrello, too. Pastor Pirrello is a former Mr. Jersey (body building champion).
Looking at his life, and his path to the ministry, Pirrello noted, “I owe everything to Jesus”.
At 10 a.m. each Sunday, the Budd Lake Chapel has a blended service, a mixture of traditional hymns and more contemporary music. There is a pianist, and music is also provided by soloists and a praise band. Pirrello explained that his is a diverse congregation in age and ethnic background. The service appeals to that diversity. Also, there is nursery care during the entire service for children infant to age three.
“The pastor applies everything to the here and now and prompts you to put yourself in the story and how it applies today,” said Nestman of the message given during worship. He said that the church and pastor encourage everyone to read the Bible more and to be better Christians.
The congregation enjoys fellowship time with something to eat after worship, in good weather enjoying that fellowship outside at the oasis.
“It really is a family, very close,” said Pirrello of the bonds that form at the church.
There are a variety of educational offerings at the church; one of which is Sunday School for the children. During the worship message every Sunday, children ages 4 – grade 3 attend Sunday School. (Those in grades 4 – 6 have Sunday School every other week). Morris is the Children’s Ministry Coordinator. Currently, the Sunday School is using a three-year study program, the Gospel Project for Kids. “[It] helps kids to recognize Jesus’ role throughout scripture, that the Bible is God’s story of redemption” said Morris. The children look at the entire Bible during the program. “Kids really enjoy it and come up with wonderful questions,” she added.
The church has many Bible studies for adults. There’s a weekly Bible study for women at 7 p.m. on Mondays and one for men on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. One Saturday a month, there’s a “Rise and Shine” study series for women. Once a month, on a Friday or Saturday, there is a home group, where people come to someone’s home to eat and have a Bible study. “It is a church that fellowships,” said Pirrello of Budd Lake Chapel.
Pirrello also noted that besides meeting with others, he emphasizes the importance of spending time together with family, sharing the Bible and praying together. “There is where a foundation is built,” he said.
Every July, the church holds a week of Vacation Bible School (VBS) directed by Karen Pirrello with the help of other adults and about 22 teens and college students. Not all the teens and college students come from the church, but they are dedicated to this yearly event, helping year after year. The Vacation Bible School offers children from the community a fun time while learning Bible stories. The children are involved in skits, dance routines, and more. Outreach is part of this event and this year it raised $2,500 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital through its VBS penny wars.
“Penny wars” have become a part of each year’s VBS. Morris noted that it is a fun activity, which also focuses the children on giving. Each age group has a jar. Each day of the program, children bring in pennies they have collected; the coins in each jar are counted and each group gets points for the number of pennies in its jar. However, if coins other than pennies are put in a jar, a group has points taken away. (For example, a quarter found in a jar means 25 points are deducted from the group’s score.) Some groups will put dimes, quarters or a dollar in another group’s jar to lower the points. Sometimes, older groups will see younger ones struggling to earn points and help them out with pennies. Morris noted that overall, regardless of points won or lost, the kids know the money all goes to a good cause, this year’s being St. Jude’s. At the end of VBS, the week’s points are totaled for each group. The leader of the group with the lowest total gets a whipped cream pie in the face.
The church is involved in a variety of other outreaches during the year. The church holds a fundraising banquet a week before Thanksgiving. Monies raised from the event purchase gift cards for the Mt. Olive Health Department to give to families in need. In addition, the church helps many people with needs during the year.
Missionary work is also important. People from the church have taken medical supplies to Kenya and held a Vacation Bible School in Belize. The church partners with Market Street Mission and the Salvation Army to support missionary efforts both in the United States and abroad.
Looking ahead at events, this year’s fundraising Thanksgiving banquet will be November 17th. In December, the church will have a Ladies Christmas Brunch which is open to the community. If interested, people should watch the church website for details at http://buddlakechapel.com/
The chapel’s Christmas Eve Service will be December 24th at 7 p.m.