EDITOR'S NOTE: Below is the second article we found in one of our old files labeled Brooklawn's history. The first article titled " A Town is Born" appeared earlier this week. Both stories were written in 1959-60 by Evelyn 'Kerry' Massengale (nee Adams).
By Evelyn 'Kerry' Adams
As a member of the Brooklawn Methodist Church, I have access to some interesting information on the church. Since it deals with Brooklawn I have decided to include it in my term paper.
In most respects, the history of the Brooklawn Methodist Church parallels the growth of the community from its beginning as Noreg Village to its present status as the Borough of Brooklawn. However, this parallel is broken on one significant matter. Whereas the physical growth of the borough has been limited by geography, the spiritual growth of the Church continues without limitation.
The story of this spiritual growth begins in October 1919, when the Reverend Richard P. Conover, pastor of the First Methodist Church of Gloucester, undertook a spiritual survey of Noreg Village, a World War I housing village with homes for some 2500 people. As a result of the findings made during this survey, the Board of Home Missions undertook the organization of a Methodist society by renting a meeting hall and a parsonage for the use of the pastor to be later assigned.
The first meeting of the Methodist Society was held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 30, 1919, with nine local residents and seventy members of the Gloucester Church in attendance. This initial meeting was held in the hall over the stores at New Broadway and Marne Road By the Reverend Conover who received six members into fellowship during the conduct of the service. These "Charter" members were Clarence and Esther Brown and Aaron, Anna, Florence, and Margaret Rodman.
The Reverend Wilbur Burch was assigned to the charge and moved into the parsonage on December 5, 1919. Two days later, the Reverend Burch organized the Sunday School with twenty-four local residents in attendance. Further organizational activity was continued into the New Year and the Ladies Aid Society first met on January 7, 1920.
The success of this organizational activity was reported in "The Christian Advocate," in the following terms: "Unsettled conditions, high rents and the fact that many of the people longed for a church of their own denomination did not dampen his enthusiasm. And now there are a Sunday School of one hundred, a church membership of twenty, a Ladies Aid Society and Boy Scouts. The social work of the church is being felt in the community, but there is great need of a church building, as many people will not worship in a hall. It is coming. The Emergency Fleet Corporation have promised a $5000 lot 180' x 92', on the main avenue, facing three streets, in what will be the future center of the community, and it is hoped that in the spring a church costing from $10,000 to $15,000 can be erected.
Although the present site was made available by the Fleet Corporation, the hoped of building in the spring of 1921 proved to be unduly optimistic. Instead, in order to increase the space available, the meeting hall was moved to the auditorium then located at New Jersey Road and New Broadway. It was in the same year that Reverend Burch was succeeded by the Reverend William Robinson who served his charged for approximately a two-year period.
The hoped for a sanctuary were finally realized in 1924, when a white wooden chapel was purchased and erected on the present site. In 1935, the lighted cross and bell tower and bell were installed atop the chapel building.
In the spring of 1940, the exterior of the "little white church" was painted in thirteen minutes by the combined efforts of the men and women of the community, including the Brooklawn Fire Company, whose resources were required in order to reach the top of the spire. The cornerstone of the newly-added Sunday School room was laid on November 23, 1941, and this room was completed in the same years. In 1942, on Thanksgiving morning, a mortgage burning service was held signifying the clearance of indebtedness.
After the close of World War II, during which the church had seen most of its youth leave for military service, it was decided reluctantly to cover the "little white church" with red brick siding in order to protect the frame structure from further deterioration and this project was accomplished in the fall of 1945.
In 1948, the parsonage mortgage was burned as a result of the completion of the purchase which had been begun in 1932. An anniversary service was held on November 30, 1952, in commemoration of 33 years of community service.
Thus, there had been a gradual but persistent growth in the church, when on Easter Sunday 1954, the need for a new sanctuary was recognized to be compelling. The First Loyalty Crusade was initiated on May 16, 1954, and two weeks later, a Victory Service was held, at which the electrifying announcement was made that three-year pledges had been received in an amount exceeding $45,000.
On Saturday, June 5, 1955, the Brooklawn Methodist Church was stripped of its furnishings in anticipation of the official ground-breaking ceremony which was held on the next day in the deluge of a springtime thunder shower. Demolition of the original structure was begun on June 7, 1955, signaling the trek of the Methodist Congregation to the "wilderness" of the Brooklawn School where weekly services were continued on an uninterrupted schedule. The cornerstone of the new structure was laid, in a suitable ceremony, on November 13, 1955, and, after a three-week delay, caused by the failure of the new pews to arrive, the new structure was officially opened at a Consecration Service on July 1, 1956.
From the seven Charter members of the Methodist Society, the membership has grown to its present total of 299, of which number 28 were received into the church on January 27, 1957.
Bibliography of "A Town Is Born"
Many people helped me to compile this composition. Some of them were: Mrs. David Kerr, Mrs. Ralph Parkinson, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas O'Brien, Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Adams, Jr., Mayor Edward Murphy, Reverend Donald Bakely, and Judy Mitchell.