Vincent United Methodist Church
Thursday, September 21, 2017

VUMC Church History

 

Vincent United MethodistChurch

100 Vincent Place

Nutley, New Jersey07110-2717

                                                          This Is Vincent Church
                                                           By Dr. Frank S. Mead
                                                         (for 125th Anniversary)

    The Church is not a local pile of wood and stone and glass; it is a condition of mind and spirit, a hope and faith in courage in the heart, a company of hearts bound together in love of God and fellowman.  It is a fellowship dedicated to the proposition that his love is the last best hope of man and that it shall not perish from the earth, but in our children increase.
 This was the mind and heart of those who laid the first stone of Vincent Church.
 The footprint of the Indian was hardly gone from the sod, the American Revolution was still a lively memory in 1829, when ten Methodists took their courage in their hands and their purses from their pockets and started the first Sunday School and church in the community we now call Nutley.  Two subscription drives netted six dollars for current expenses and seven-fifty for the purchase of books.  A Sunday School was organized first; it met in a schoolhouse in Passaic Avenue until a hard-hearted and un-Methodist family living in the rear of the building complained about the noise the children made, and they moved to a nearby barn 
 Ten men and a barn!  They were mostly men wrestling a pittance for living from the soil of their small farms, men struggling for a bit of ground on which they could stand and say, “This is mine!” – but also men who saw beyond the struggle for bread that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof,” and determined that their children should know the God who gave sun and soil and seedtime and harvest.  They came with their children to worship in the barn a Christ born in a stable; they invited their neighbors to come, regardless of sect, creed, background or bank account.
 Too soon, the barn was too small.  When with their bare hands they cut down trees (oaks!) and tore stone from the earth and with it built a better house for God.  It was only forty feet long by thirty wide, but it was a Church, and it was theirs, the work of their hands.  We still have their old cornerstone set in the walls of Vincent Church, bearing the words they cut into it: “North Belleville M. E. Church, 1830.”
 Eight years later they had 111 in their Sunday School and a lending-library of over 500 volumes.  (That was typically Methodist; love and libraries, books and building have been our life blood since John Wesley rode horseback over England with the first Methodist library in his saddle-bags.)  They had trouble paying their bills.  Vincent Church, to its glory, has always been in debt; it is evidence of its faith in God, children and tomorrow.
 The pastors of the Belleville Methodist Church served them until 1849; after that, they had full-time pastors of their own – all bachelors, for there was no parsonage.  One of the bachelor parsons was John H. Vincent, young and on his first charge – a walking flame, brilliant, lively, aggressive, farsighted; within a week’s time he was talking about building a new church; to an over-flow congregation he undoubtedly preached at least one sermon on Nehemiah 4:6: “So we built the wall…for the people had a mind to work.”  Work they did.  They took the stones of their first Church and set them in the foundation of the second; just 13 months after deciding to build they dedicated a new sanctuary.  While it was building John Vincent preached to them in the woods near Mr. Jeremiah Kingsland’s house…
 For half a century they worked and worshipped and prospered in this second Church, and then they found the town moving away from them, west of Passaic Avenue and north of Centre Street.  What to do now?  Some said, “Stay right here.  We love the old Church.” Others, “We love it, too, so much that we want it in the middle of the town, not on the edge.”  There were arguments, far into the night, many a nights, until the “movers” won and it was decided to purchase the land on which Vincent stands today.
 The non-movers were something less than enthusiastic about the new site; on this land was the ruin of a deserted textile-mill.  Covered with rubbish, it had all the earmarks of a town dump – but it was at the heart of the growing town.  For three long years after the purchase they had nothing but a rubble-covered lot.  They had no money.  They argued on, at the expense of action.  They tried to sell the cemetery which flanked the Church, but nobody in town or anywhere else seemed anxious to buy a graveyard, and so…
 Then came Samuel Lobsitz, of the Lobsitz Mill family, Jewish, ecumenic, loving all people who loved God – there came Samuel Lobsitz with a thousand-dollar contribution for the Methodist Building Fund.  That did it.  The arguments stopped and the subscriptions rolled in and they began to build.
 And suddenly the national financial Panic of 1907 was upon them.  Men desperate, unemployed, sat in the pews with faces tense and blank, their life savings done, their wives wondering about the next meal.  It was a time to guard one’s resources, to hoard one’s money, to take no chances – and in the face of that, they gave more than they knew how to give and built a Church altogether lovely on their desolate rubbish-heap.  They even refused to put in plain glass (cheap) windows; they insisted upon stained glass.  It is still there.  Look at it next Sunday, and if you can, figure its cost in terms of human sacrifice.
 The day after New Year’s Day 1910, John Vincent – Bishop John Vincent, now – came back to dedicate it.  His people in love had named it Vincent Church, and it meant more to him than all the gleaming cathedrals in the world.
 Their dream had come true; their vision was justified.  It was “The Church at the Heart of Nutley,” and growing fast.  So fast that by 1928 they had to build again.  It was a good time to build; Calvin Coolidge described these years as “an era of unprecedented prosperity.”  Money came easily.   A new educational plant was built, with Philhower Chapel at its heart.  The cost?  One hundred thousand dollars – not too much, in 1928.
 But grim 1929 followed prosperous 1928; with a roar, the bottom fell out of the stock-market, and there was another national panic.  Men who had known luxury sold apples on street-corners.  Half-built houses stood gaunt and unfinished against the sky and mortgages were called in.  Vincent Church and Vincent’s Parsonage were plastered with mortgages – underwritten by some fifty men in the Church.  Church pledges went unpaid; ability to pay dropped to a new low.  Worry came to sit with worship, and everyone wondered…
 But there was something more.  There was the old raw courage and faith of the original ten men in the school-house and the barn, the old will to work.  Work conquered worry; for 25 years they fought to keep the flickering flame alive and on a bright Sunday just 125 years after the original ten had cut their oaks and their stone, Pastor Raymond E. Neff burned the last mortgage at morning service and the president of Drew University preached a sermon on “Fire.”
 Fire!  For 125 years men and women had burned themselves out for this Church.  A legion whose manes we will never know fought off discouragement and disaster to give us Vincent Church – a gift, free, inestimable.  Our Church is no accident.  It was bought and paid for in blood, sweat, toil, tears and hard-earned cash, by a people audacious and eternally undismayed.
 If they could speak, they might be saying,

  “To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high!
    If ye break faith with us . . .!”
 And if we have ears to hear we may hear God saying, “Be worthy of them.” 
                                                

Church Staff

Pastor: Rev. David LeDuc

Pastor Emerita: The Rev. Betty J. Young

Music Director: Tricia Blanchard

Office Administrator: Marty Canova

Sexton: John Colglazier

Missionary: John Yambasu

Ministers: All Members of the Congregation