Photos submitted by Christ Episcopal Church, Budd Lake
By Steve Sears
“The four acres at the corner of Sand Shore and Smithtown Roads were donated to the Episcopal Diocese of Newark in the late 1980s just as the area was undergoing extensive residential development,” explains Ray Bonker, church Treasurer and AGC (All God’s Children) worship coordinator. “The Diocese approached our church in Stanhope and asked us to consider moving to Mount Olive because Budd Lake was growing rapidly, and this corner lot had been donated to the Diocese.” The congregation agreed to sell the Stanhope church to a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple group, and then spent several years worshipping in the Sandshore Elementary School on Sunday mornings while the current church building was constructed. “We wanted to raise our profile in the community and establish our church as a bright shining light upon the hill.”
Originally organized as a Mission in 1865, the church was promoted to Parish status in 1981. “We are very proud of our Stanhope roots,” says Bonker, who adds that several members who attended services at the former location now do so in Budd Lake.
The Rev. Elizabeth Myers has served as Priest in Residence since July 2018, but Christ Episcopal Church is in the process of calling a new priest to lead the congregation. “We are excited to see where our journey as a faith organization will take us as a new priest helps us to accelerate our impact within the Mt. Olive community,” says Bonker.
The average Sunday attendance is about twenty people, with an overall membership of approximately 50. Although tiny, Christ Episcopal Church does its best to give back to the community in a huge way. Consider, for example, the Mount Olive Food Pantry, a joint outreach effort with the other township churches. “The Pantry is open three days per week and serves anyone in need in Mount Olive,” says Bonker. “The Food Pantry has grown significantly since it was housed within our church building starting in 2014. Especially now during the pandemic, our church has granted the Food Pantry use of the entire downstairs to make enough room available for the increased usage and the increased amount of food donations being received.” Additional details can be found at www.mountolivepantry.org.
Christ Episcopal Church also provides a home for two different AA groups, which meet every weekday (although currently these groups are meeting virtually due to the pandemic.) “Much like the Food Pantry,” says Bonker, “we started very small by hosting a single AA group of four people once or twice a week, and over the years it grew to include an average of 40 people every weekday.” The parish also reaches out to the special needs community within the area, provides a friendly worship service called All God’s Children twice a month on the first and third Sundays for families with children that have autism, ADHD, Downs Syndrome or any other special need, and offers a monthly meeting place for groups in the community that provide services to young adults and adults with special needs.
“Jesus commands us to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself,’” says Bonker, alluding to the congregation’s prime focus. “At Christ Church Budd Lake, we strive to follow these two great commandments through the development of a deep faith and through outreach to our neighbors in our Mount Olive community. Over 27 years ago we came to Mount Olive with the hope of becoming a bright light upon the hill. While we are proud of our role in the community so far, we are also striving to identify new opportunities to serve.”
To learn more about Christ Episcopal Church, which is located at 369 Sand Shore Road, visit www.christchurchbuddlake.org.