It sits on the corner of Park Place, a part of the Flanders landscape and heritage. People have started new lives there through baptisms and marriages. People have seen lives come to a close with memorial services. Its nearby thrift shop provides a place where people can buy clothing and other needs at bargain prices It also reaches out to the community through its Sacred Bean coffeehouse, which offers free wholesome musical entertainment. This is the Flanders United Methodist Church, which celebrates its 225th anniversary this year.
Before the church was founded, worshippers were served by circuit riders, itinerant Methodist pastors who travelled by horseback to groups of worshippers. In looking at the church’s history, its current Pastor, Rev. Meekyung Choi Kim, noted that the first circuit rider to serve was James O. Cromwell in 1781. After being served by a series of circuit riders, the Flanders United Methodist Church was chartered in 1789.
Of those who have served the church during its history, Kim has served the longest. Her 10th anniversary with the church is in July.
“I am certainly blessed to be a part of a church that has such a rich history,” she shared. She added, “A long history means a lot. It reminds us that we have people who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God (quoting Micah 6:8 in the Bible)”
While the church was founded in 1789, the current structure is not the original building. It was erected later, when the previous structure no longer met the congregation’s needs. A church history book from 1989 notes when the cornerstone of the current building was laid. The year was 1857:
“The new edifice will be built in modern style, with a spire of 90 feet high at an expense of $4,000 and will accommodate nearly 400 people. The old building, which has been removed, was one of the first Methodist churches built on this continent, when the whole number of the Methodist Church, which now comprises 1,500,000 was only 18,000.”
Additions were added to the building over the years to accommodate the Sunday School and other space needs.
In the beginning, no one could have pictured that today the church would include a busy thrift shop. Serving the community for decades, the shop sells everything from clothes to bikes. Its prices help those working within tight budgets to afford their needs. Prices there are kept low. For example, pants and shirts go for one dollar each, and kid’s clothes are 50 cents each. In addition to the thrift shop, there’s a gift shop which offers seasonal decorations and gift items at bargain prices. The thrift shop is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and the last Saturday of every month; the gift shop is opened Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Proceeds from the items sold help support the church and local and global Methodist Missions.
Another thing early worshippers might not have imagined is The Sacred Bean, the coffeehouse held at the church. The Sacred Bean is held at 7pm the third Saturday of every month, October to May (with a special Christmas program in December). There, a variety of musical styles have been heard, from traditional folk singers to jazz artists, to performers of Civil War era music, to Irish music, Blues, Classic Rock, Contemporary Christian, Country, and even a 4 part acapella group. Most of the performers are local and regional songwriters performing original music. Usually, the MC is lifelong church member, Ray Winch.
“The music of Sacred Bean Coffeehouse is more reflective about our lives and our relationships with family, friends, and our larger family in the world as we dream of a better world. Sometimes, it causes us to meditate deep down in our hearts; sometimes, we reflect on Heaven and God beyond our cognitive world. A wide variety of music by many different performers is presented. We, Flanders United Methodist Church, have been blessed to have Ray Winch as a gifted musician in our congregation. His music is very meditative, reflecting our soul, reminding us to walk humbly and to have a right relationship with God.
He sings of his love for his wife, children, and mother, family, friends and a better world. His music is so soothing and therapeutic to touch our hearts,” said Kim.
It was Winch who approached the church with the idea of having the coffeehouse back in 1998. Winch, the music director of the church,. is no stranger when it comes to music. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Winch spent four years as a keyboard specialist at Manny’s Music in midtown Manhattan. During the late 80’s and early 90’s, Winch performed in the New York City Rock bands “Burning Bush” and “The Zen Archers”. Developing a more acoustic sound in the mid-90s, his performance venues shifted from rock clubs to the coffeehouse circuit and acoustic venues. During the late 1990s and early 2000’s, he and his band performed as the opening act for the Marshall Tucker Band and The Charlie Daniels Band. Winch also wrote the theme song for “The Big Greasy Breakfast”, the morning show that ran until the late 2000’s on New Jersey’s #1 Commercial Rock Station WDHA 105.5 fm.
It was when Winch was promoting his first CD of original music, “Visions and Reflections” that he got the idea for the Sacred Bean. At the time, Winch was playing at bars and other establishments, but realized there was a need for a different kind of venue for those playing original music.
“When you perform in bars, the audience generally likes to hear songs they already know, and the musician is often there to provide background music. People go out to bars to socialize, or see a sporting event on TV. They’re not usually there to hear new songs from a singer they haven’t seen before. Coffeehouse venues are great for singer-songwriters. People are there for the music. It’s a nice intimate setting where you can really connect with an audience,” said Winch.
He took his idea for a church coffeehouse to the Flanders United Methodist Church Council which was very supportive of his idea. The first Sacred Bean coffeehouse was held in June 1998. Since then many talents have graced its stage.
“The musicians who have performed here over the years frequently comment that they love The Sacred Bean. I’ve been impressed by the quality of the musicians who have graced our stage. They deserve a quality venue, and I’m thankful that the Flanders United Methodist Church has graciously hosted this series for 16 years. I feel it is a good service to the community as well. From the start, it has been free admission, and we sell cakes and snacks for $2 and coffee, teas, and beverages for $1. It’s an inexpensive night out in a family- friendly environment. The audience seems to really appreciate the atmosphere and the quality of the music,” Winch said.
Reflecting on the Flanders United Methodist Church today, its mission and ministries such as the thrift and gift shops and the Sacred Bean, Kim commented on what she thinks keeps congregation going as it comes to this 225th anniversary year: “This year, we strongly feel God’s presence in Flanders United Methodist …. I feel that Missio Dei (Mission of God) is going on in the Flanders United Methodist Church nowadays. Here in Flanders we are participating in God’s mission as our church’s mission. As God works here in Flanders, we also work for God.
For more information:
Thrift Shop 973-584-5443
The Sacred Bean’s website is http://www.sacredbeancoffeehouse.org/
Thrift Shop Hours
Indoor (Thrift shop addition) 10:00am-2:00pm
Women’s clothes, Shoes, New Clothes, etc.
Education Wing Classroom 10:00am – 2:00pm
Men’s clothes, Children’s clothes, Linens, Books, etc.
House items, Toys, Bikes, Chairs, etc.
Gift Shop 9:00am – 12:00pm
Seasonal Decorations, All kinds of Gifts, Bags, etc.
Indoor (Thrift Shop & Education Wing)
Gift Shop 9:00am – 12:00pm
Saturday Gift Shop 9:00am- 12:00pm
Last Saturday of Each Month
All are open! Indoor, Outdoor, & Gift shop 9:00am-12:00pm