THE HISTORY OF ST. PAUL’S
The Story of St. Paul's United Methodist Church of Ocean Grove is one of wandering, building, growing, and moving up and into the next century and challenge. The church began when Rev. William B. Osborn a Methodist preacher held a charge at Farmingdale in 1860 and helped to found the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, 300 acres of lake-locked land. In 1869, Osborn was appointed by Bishop Simpson to the charge known as Greenville (now Hamilton U.M.C.) and Ocean Grove to build a Christian resort.
In 1871, Bishop Janes approved creation of Ocean Grove as a separate charge and made Rev. H.B. Beegle the pastor. Rev. Beegle was superintendent of the camp grounds and Asbury Park was just founded. The church began with four members (William A. Harvey and his wife, Catherine, William Laird, and Abigail White) that Beegle recruited and they met over a blacksmith shop and had preaching missions in cottages and tents. They also met in James A. Bradley's new Park Hall in Asbury Park and also met in New Branch (which is now Neptune City) and Logantown (which was Whitesville).
By 1874 the first major building program had begun and the pastor was Rev. Levi Larew. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association offered a prime location on the Turnpike which is Main Street (Route 71 today) and south of the Main Avenue gates (where we now find the parking lot of the old Neptune High School) with a pledge of $1,000. The first structure cost $8,000. Today the old high school & middle school building has been renovated by a special Arts Council. St. Paul's had 136 members at this time, and 247 Sabbath School pupils.
November 11, 1874 - Incorporated "The St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church of Ocean Grove and Asbury Park.
On May 28, 1876, the first service in the new building took place when Dr. Ellwood H. Stokes, president of the Camp Meeting Association, preached from Exodus 15:27. On August 1st, Bishop Edmund S. Janes came to dedicate St. Paul's Church. His theme was "For He loveth our nation and hath built us a synagogue." (It was the last church dedication by the popular Bishop, who died shortly afterward. The Tabernacle on the camp grounds was dedicated in his name and memory several years later.)
In 1882 the church sold the Main Street site to the school district and moved into the Association Hall over the Post Office, renting the space for $125/year. There were 365 church members and 387 Sunday School members. During this time the association donated Park Square, a block of land sitting between Webb, Embury, Pennsylvania, and New York Avenues, for the church to erect a permanent abode.
In 1885, Rev. J.B. Westcott established the sanctuary and church school building for $17,000. On the last Sunday in May, 1885 Dr. Stokes preached the first sermon in the lecture room of the new church. A month later, the "audience room" (sanctuary) was ready and Dr. James M. King of New York preached the dedicatory sermon from John 1:4. The congregation was "home" after several years of wandering from meeting place to meeting place, and had a debt of only $1,600. Within the year, St. Paul's had established a chapel at Ocean Park (Bradley Beach). The chapel boasted a good Sabbath school and regular Sunday services. The membership of St. Paul's was 400 and growing.
Winter of 1891-92, a committee consisting mainly of young people purchased and installed the first pipe organ costing $1,500.
April 8, 1896, re-incorporated as "The St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church of Ocean Grove." 1897, St. Paul's membership reaches 650.
1900's, St. Paul's Church helped bring great music to the area and at the same time reaped some financial gain, much of which was used to pay off debts, by staging annual St. Paul's Night Concerts in the Ocean Grove Auditorium. Some of the world's best-known vocalists sung for St. Paul's Night.
In 1908, during the pastorate of the Rev. Percy Perinchief, a brownstone Sunday School Temple was added to the building.
In 1925, a gala program lasting from November 8 to 11 marked the Golden Jubilee of our Church. Parishioners were reminded that the motto of St. Paul's Church was "All at it and always at it." There was a challenge fitting for such an occasion. It was in the form of an "Anniversary Ode" written by Dr. John Love, a retired Baptist minister and father of the organist here, Mrs. Harold Warren. Dr. Love's ode included a dedication to "our Paradise beside the sea" and pledged participants as follows: "Anew we pledge our love and loyalty/Our aim - the Master's name to glorify/Win souls for Him and fit them for the sky." "Increase our zest," said the hymn-prayer, "with sacred fire...Thrill hearts with joy; evoke our grateful praise." This was a high tide in the life of our community Church.
In 1941, an unforgettable occasion was the burning of the parsonage mortgage.
In 1945 at the 75th anniversary of St. Paul's, Pastor Verne Leslie Smith greeted 109 new members in one day.
The 1950's brought the need for enlarged facilities. During Dr. Herbert J. Smith's pastorate many meetings and prayers were devoted to the single purpose of modernization of this important facility.
In 1958 plans were finalized for a $200,000 project. A two-story addition at the east end of the church provided for a divided choir loft, a modern worship center, pulpit, lectern, office space, new classrooms, modernization of the kitchen and dining areas, an all-purpose room, a choir room, and other needed facilities. St. Paul's Church had faced the challenge of the day and met it four-square. Groundbreaking took place Sunday, April 13, 1958, and the cornerstone was put in place October 16.
In 1959 Consecration of the building occurred March 3, celebrating the payment in full for a comprehensive project which included new pews, an inspiring rose window, and a facility equal to the needs and demands of the day. The church now had three full time ministers on staff, 1,241 members, and 456 in Sunday School.
In 1970 a three manual Austin Pipe Organ of 51 ranks was installed.
By 1972, 101 years of St. Paul's church history had been established and another new addition was added under the pastorate of Rev. William McClelland. The church now had 1,150 members.
December 1975, with membership constantly growing and now numbering about 1,500 the congregation was constantly pressed for space and it was realized that more room was needed. The sanctuary was too small, the fellowship room was small, class rooms and choir rooms were inadequate. The west end of the building was in dire need of repairs many of them major. The outside was brick veneer over wood frame and this frame was rotted. At a meeting on Dec. 23rd after much discussion the congregation voted overwhelmingly to undertake a new building campaign to replace the entire west end of the church.
December 12th 1976: A groundbreaking ceremony was held following the morning worship service. It was the 12th day of the 12th month at 12 noon. It was also the 12th year at St. Paul's for the Rev. William R. McClelland.
December 4th 1977: The new west wing of the church was already in use and special cornerstone laying ceremonies were held as part of the morning worship service. Special music led the congregation outside at which time the Rev. McClelland and the Superintendent Dr. Robert Beyer, conducted the ceremonies.
1992: The first few praise services were experimented with at evening dates. These services were an outgrowth of prayer groups led by Michael Badger, Richard Hendrickson, Stephen Mugglin and George Robson IV. As summer approached separate commitments led the leaders in different directions away from continuing this exercise.
1993-1994: Youth Minister Drew Dyson had the desire for a praise service in the spring of 1993 but lacked the proper tools and support until Pastor Charles Root approached him and the newly arrived student minister, Ronald Sager, about beginning a morning contemporary service in the Spring/Summer of 1994. Doug Dyson (another student minister) began as worship leader with some pre-recorded music. By week/service #2, Stephen Mugglin "signed on" as accompanist to better formulate what songs and arrangements would be tackled by the new "team" formulating. George Robson IV (like Mugglin) had previously had to refuse Drew Dyson's invitations because of time commitment concerns, but when more musicians were involved the workload was viewed as a shared task (though this was often only in theory).
Summer of 1999: The first St. Paul's Pavilion Praise Service is held at the Ocean Grove Boardwalk Pavilion. Average Sunday attendance this first summer was 127.
2005: A large screen was installed in the sanctuary to aid in worship & to better present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an increasingly multimedia and visually stimulated world.
2006-2008: The board of Trustees under the leadership of Norman Harris embarked on the monumental task of repairing a well worn building after 30 years since the last major building project. Much was accomplished with much still to be done as the ministry of the church once again outgrows the space of the building. We know that if it is God's will He will provide what is needed as we continue to be "All at it and always at it."
Summer of 2008: The tenth year of "Pavilion Praise @ 9" had an average attendance of 537 people with one Sunday having 727 in attendance. Every week there were people accepting Christ as their Savior. God has blessed this service with much growth as we stay faithful to Him in reaching out in love to all who walk, jog, or ride their bikes on the boardwalk.
And so the story continues, and you are invited to be a part of our story, whether it's for a minute, an hour, a day, a Summer, or a lifetime. Come and learn who Jesus is and how He can change your life, come grow closer to Jesus with us, and come join us in bringing Jesus to others. So if you are in the Ocean Grove area stop by the Boardwalk Pavilion Sunday's at 9AM during the summer or at 80 Embury Avenue the rest of the year.