Driving from Howell to Freehold on Howell Road is one of the most peaceful stretches between the neighboring town. Long before you reach the intersection with Business Route 33 you can see the steeple rising in the distance from one of Howell's oldest churches.
can trace its roots back to the 1830's and the cornerstone of the actual building was put in place back in 1869. Not far down the road is a cemetery owned by the church that has soldiers who served in the Civil War buried in the bucolic setting.
Even through all these years the congregation has remained a close knit group despite seeing dwindling numbers over the past few years. Many of the members have spent their entire lives at the church. Wayne Brocklebank, the lay leader of the church remembers going to Sunday school growing up in the town in the 1930's.
He has become an institution of the church according to Rev. Beverly Jones, who is in her ninth year leading the congregation. "Wayne has almost single handedly kept this place running," she said. Whenever there was a problem, whether it was flooding or another unforeseen issue, she said Brocklebank has always been ready to help.
Most maps these days do not even list Jerseyville as a location, and the church technically has a Freehold mailing address, but Brocklebank said the community has always rallied around the historic building. "This church, it wasn't the members, it was the community," he said of the people working together. "When they re-did the closed balcony and put those tiles up, there were at least two carpenters that came here and worked. It's been that way forever."
Jones said the church's membership is currently at 49 with many of them very active in the activities they hold throughout the year. It is that sense of community that she said makes them a special group to work with. "Everybody cares about everybody else and we do ministry together," she said.
The reach of the church also extends beyond Howell's borders as they are involved with the initiatives of the Freehold Clergy Association and provide housing for their emergency housing program two nights a week. The church provides them bedding and dinner and breakfast. Jones said their efforts would not be as successful with the help of the five other Methodist churches in and around Howell.
In a time when churches and congregations have grown and multiplied exponentially, Jones said smaller churches have been able to survive by playing an important role to their congregants. "This church is really unique because I've belonged to other churches in my life where there was a lot of strife, a lot of not agreeing on anything," she said. "This family of people work so well together. They take care of each other. They're concerned for each other." With such a tight knit community, Jones said members often celebrate life events like birthdays and anniversaries together.
Jones spent almost 40 years in education before following what she believes is her calling into ministry. "I just wanted to serve," she said. "The lord lead me here and I've been perfectly content. I was really called to ministry when I was young, even before I went to college.
When she first started she said the church members asked her to stay for five years, but she is glad to still be with them. "I've really been blessed because so many pastors have so many problems and the only problems we have around here is keeping things dry and keeping an old building up."
Brocklebank said that is the way the church has been for as long as he can remember. "Everybody liked coming to this church because everybody was friendly in this church," he said. "I can't say that we never had some conflict, but almost always the congregation got along good."
Jones said one of the highlights of the year for the congregation is an annual picnic held at Allaire State Park. They, like other churches in the area are also getting ready for the Christmas holiday. That includes a family service at 7:30 on Christmas Eve and a service Christmas Day as well.
Sunday morning services are held at 11 a.m. and there is also bible study available for members on Wednesday nights. Jones said that gives congregants a chance to learn, share stories and share a meal. They also take a trip every other month to the Perkins in Freehold to enjoy each other's company outside of the church.
From the first time she walked into the church, Jones said she knew it was a special place to be. "I'm a real history buff. When I walked into the church that first night that I came here it just blew me away because of the beauty and the history that you could see.
More information can be found on the church's website, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also be reached at 732-409-6604.