by Elsie Walker
Every day at noon and 6pm, the chimes of the Stanhope United Methodist Church can be heard throughout parts of Netcong and Stanhope. Located within the border of Netcong, the church has become a special landmark. It is the helping hand reaching out to others through its food pantry, “Angels of the Glen” outreach, Christmas drives for needy children and nursing home residents, Jazz Mardi Gras breakfast fundraiser for hurricane relief and much more. It is a meeting place for groups like scouts and AA. In addition to its Sunday services, the church has celebrated weddings and baptisms and mourned the dead. Its memorial garden holds the names of some of those now gone. Over the years, people have crowded to church events like its former auctions and now its Strawberry Festival. Its bell choir has played at both the church and area events. The church is a historic figure, with its name on both the NJ and national registers of historic places. Now, as it celebrates its 100th anniversary this month, some members looked back and shared a glimpse at the church’s early history, some memories and a few little-known facts.
The church is called the Stanhope United Methodist Church, but it is in Netcong. That’s because the congregation first met in a church in Stanhope and never changed the name. Church historian, Amanda Rush of Netcong, explained how the building in Netcong came to be.
“In 1915, the decision was made to build a new church. The growth in the community and shifting population seemed to demand to build a church that would more adequately meet the needs of the congregation,” she said. Rush went on to explain that Mr. A. J. Drake donated the land where the church now stands. (The Drake family was a very prominent family in Netcong). “The cornerstone was laid in 1917, just about the time World War 1 began. The war prevented the completion of the building and the former church on Linden Avenue in Stanhope served the congregation until 1920, when the new building on the Musconetcong River in Netcong was completed. The Church in the Glen was dedicated on October 24, 1920,” Rush shared. (An education building was added to the original church building decades later.)
Rush noted that the church became known as “The Church in the Glen” because the area around Lake Musconetcong was considered a glen.
That description also became the name of the church’s bell choir: Bells of the Glen. The bell choir has existed for 38 years with two original members still ringing: Judith Bristol and Amanda Rush. Previously led by Harry and Marilyn Ostrander, the choir is now led by Scott and Rosalie Lefurge, of Byram, who took over the leadership duties when the Ostranders retired to Pennsylvania.
Reminiscing about the church, nearly 60 year member Dorothy Wolfe of Stanhope, who taught Sunday School to two generations, shared a memory from her own Sunday School days: “Our Sunday school always opened with a worship service. We sang a few hymns and said a prayer. The song leader for at least part of the year was Mr Greenlaw, and his wife played the piano. Mr Greenlaw had a very loud bass voice, and it made all of us sing louder to keep up with him.”
Many reminisced about various fundraising events. Among them were bazaars and dinners. An annual auction was held until the late 1970s (with Mr. Parr as auctioneer). A strawberry festival was started after that. There were huge rummage sales, and what started as “Grandpa Rush’s Pie Sale” (named for member Marion Rush) has turned into an annual pie selling event. Members agree the various events have left them tired, but happy.
Speaking of memories, in 2001, Bob Anderson of Andover and then Pastor Harry DeKolf started the restoration of the church’s garden of memories, which has become a contemplative place memorializing many who have passed.
Although some things may have changed over time, a constant is the place the church has in people’s lives. Member Leigh Ann Von Hagen, of Netcong, reflected on its place in her family. “Since moving to the area in the 1990’s, the church has been a part of our daily lives. Not only do we attend and help with live streaming services, we live close enough to enjoy hearing the chimes play from the bell tower every day. We have used the building for club meetings like Girl Scouts and robotics. We’ve helped host and attended fundraisers and family events. It’s part of the fabric of our lives,” she said.