by Elsie Walker
For its 150th anniversary in 1939, the Flanders United Methodist Church, located at 2 Park Place, Flanders, received a congratulatory note from then President Franklin Roosevelt. As reported in the Newark News, that message said, “It is a happy circumstance that the life of your church organization coincides with our life as a nation. Happily, under the Constitution, which decrees the complete separation of church and state, the rights of each within its own sphere are recognized.” As the country has grown, so has that Flanders church’s outreach. Besides being known as a historic church with spirit-filled worship, the Flanders United Methodist Church is known to the community through its thrift shop and Sacred Bean Coffeehouse.
The Flanders United Methodist Church was founded in the decade following the birth of this country; the year was 1789. That year was also the year the first governor of New Jersey was elected. That’s not the only first the church witnessed. The church’s pastor, Rev. Meekyung Choi Kim, notes that the church is considered the “mother church” of its denomination in this region, as it was the first Methodist Church in the northern New Jersey area. The current building is not the original one. The pastor noted that the current building “was built in 1857 at a cost of approximately $4,000. The fellowship room was added in 1898 and the classroom wing was constructed in 1959.” The church’s thrift shop was started in 1974. The pastor added that another major milestone in the church’s history was recently marked as the Sacred Bean Coffeehouse celebrated its 20th anniversary.
The Sacred Bean Coffeehouse is held once a month, October – May (taking a break in the summer) in the basement area of the church. Usually two performers taking the stage each night. The coffeehouse was the brainchild of Ray Winch, who himself is singer-songwriter. In 1998, Winch saw that many of his musician friends performed in bars and restaurants. While he noted that those were good venues in which to gain performing experiences, most patrons wanted to hear songs they already knew. It was difficult for a singer-songwriter to introduce his/her own work as the audience usually talked through it or was inattentive. However, Winch got an idea.
“The church had a pretty good space in the basement, so I thought we could set up a good venue for singer- songwriters down there. I brought the idea to the Church Council and the Council approved it unanimously. So we had our first coffeehouse in June of 1998 and we’re still going strong 20 years later! “ Winch said. As for the types of music performed, Winch said,” We’ve had many different styles of music from Jazz to Folk to Rock and more.” He noted that all styles are welcome as long as the music is appropriate for all ages.
Admission to the coffeehouse is free. The church sells coffee, brownies and other goodies and has a donation jar. “We pay the musicians and we are happy if we break even! Fortunately, we have managed to stay solvent after 20 years,” said Winch.
Winch noted that the musicians who perform, most of which are also songwriters, appreciate having an attentive audience, receptive to their work and the positive atmosphere. The coffeehouse’s reputation has grown. Many in the singer-songwriter community contact the coffeehouse looking to perform, to the point that Winch says there is usually more performers than slots available. The next coffeehouse performance is on January 19th and will feature performers Carlsea and Karen Kamenetsky. Winch noted that a list of upcoming performers and links to their websites can be found on the coffeehouse website at www.sacredbeancoffeehouse.org
“I am always impressed with the level of talent at the Sacred Bean. There are a lot of excellent musicians and songwriters out there that deserve to have their music heard in an appropriate venue. We have been blessed to be able to provide a good space where they can share their gifts and talents,” said Winch.
Kim noted that the Sacred Bean is an important outreach and one way in which the church connects with the local community.
Another outreach the church is known for is its thrift shop. It started over four decades ago in the church basement and a few years later, when it outgrew the basement, it moved to the current building at 4 Park Place in Flanders. Open Mondays 9am – 2pm, Wednesdays,. Fridays. and Saturdays. 9 – 12 noon, the shop is run by volunteers from the church and community. Clothing, handbags, jewelry, and shoes are among those items sold in the building. A tent space has been opened outside in which larger items are sold.
“Many of our shoppers are of modest means and are in need of an inexpensive alternative to retail stores. We also have customers who buy clothing to bring back to their countries, primarily in South America and Africa. The proceeds from thrift shop sales help support our local church, as well as regional and global Methodist ministries. We have been blessed to have a very generous community. The donations are generally high quality and enable us to offer clothing brands to our shoppers that they usually would not be able to afford,” shared Winch.
Winch noted that volunteers from the community are always welcomed to help at the shop. Those interested can stop by the Thrift Shop during open hours and speak to one of the church members or contact the church by email at FlandersMethodist@yahoo.com
Kim noted that the community is also welcomed to join the church in worship. Kim has been the church’s pastor for 14 years. Prior to coming to this church, she served at Hawthorne United Methodist Church and Hackensack United Methodist Church. The pastor shared that she studied Christian Studies and Old Testament at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, Korea. She explained, “Ewha Woman’s University is the largest Woman’s University in the world founded by Mrs. Mary Scranton who was the first woman’s missionary to Korea from the Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Church in the United States.” The pastor also studied at, and is a graduate of, Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey.
The pastor shared that she is “grateful to serve Flanders United Methodist Church as we together worship God, Creator of Heaven and Earth and Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, and to share fellowship with God’s people with help of the Holy Spirit, our Sustainer,”
Sunday worship at the Flanders United Methodist Church is at 11am (10am during July and August). Winch shared, “ Our worship is primarily traditional, although we are open to contemporary styles as well. We have a choir as well as solo performers and we occasionally include multimedia in the worship service. We encourage members of our community to join us in worship. If you have been blessed with an artistic or musical gift and would like to use that gift, join us and speak to someone on our worship team. There are many opportunities to serve. “ There is a children’s message during the Sunday service and a coffee hour after worship. On special occasions, the worship service is followed by a dinner. Although the church does not have nursery during services, there is a room adjacent to the sanctuary where parents can bring a child if they are concerned about noise.
The church offers Christian education in the form of Sunday School and confirmation class, plus a Vacation Bible School during the summer. Sunday School is Sundays at 10am for both children and adults. In late June, after school lets out, the church holds a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for children in the church and the local community. This past summer, the VBS was Rolling River Rampage: Experience the Ride of a Lifetime With God. “VBS is held for several hours a day for a week and ends on Friday with a closing ceremony in the sanctuary. The older children help lead the ceremonies and plan the activities,” said Winch.
Looking to the holidays, the church will have its Christmas Eve service at 7pm on December 24th. It will be a service of carols, lessons, and candlelight. Other news of the church can be found on its website: http://flandersmethodist.org/ or on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FlandersUnitedMethodist/
Reflecting on the church, Kim noted that “the present congregation is engaged in vital ministries in this community and worldwide as we follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.” She extends the invitation to the community to join the church in any of its events or outreaches. She noted that she wants the area to know that all are welcomed at the Flanders United Methodist Church.
Flanders United Methodist church
2 Park Place