A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fifty Years of Ministry at First Baptist Church (1903-1952)

Below is a summary of fifty years of ministry (1903 - 1952) at the First Baptist Church in Matawan, based in large part on First Baptist of Matawan: A Constant Testimony, by Reverend Lewis W Kisenwether, Jr. (Matawan: Matbap, 2000). References are also made to The Matawan Journal and US census records.

The Reverend Samuel Bower began his ministry at Matawan in October 1903. The Matawan Journal said he was exceedingly popular, officiating at over 80 weddings and 244 funerals. "He was a ready talker and always had a funny story or more to spring on his audiences." He joined the Masonic Lodge and served as its chaplain for several years.

Major renovations included new pews and a center doorway leading to the center aisle of the meetingplace. Maude (McChesney) Banke began more than a half century of service as church organist in 1911. The church's association with the local Boy Scouts began in 1913.

Reverend Bower was 47 years old in the 1910 Federal Census, which showed him living with a wife and two children at 223 Main Street in Matawan. The Reverend was born in Pennsylvania to a father born in England and a mother from Pennsylvania. The Reverend was listed as a clergyman. His wife India M Bower was a year younger than he and was also born in Pennsylvania. A daughter Irene, 22 and son Samuel, 10, were both born in Pennsylvania. The Reverend and his wife had been married 16 years at the time.

Reverend Bower submitted his letter of resignation on 20 December 1914 to accept a call to the Lee Street Memorial Church in Baltimore, Maryland. At first the church rejected his letter, but eventually accepted it when a special committee of three deacons couldn't convince him to reconsider. His farewell service, which took place on 17 January 1915, was covered on the front page of The Matawan Journal (21 January 1915 page 1 column 1). (pp 34-38)

The Reverend Luther Latham Holmes began his ministry at Matawan on 16 May 1915, coming from a previous parish at Norwich, Connecticut. The church gained 77 new members during his tenure, 65 by baptism. The Ladies Aid Society published a cookbook in 1915. The church had an electrical system installed in 1916. (pp 38-39)

Reverend Holmes was 37 years old and living in Parkersburg, West Virginia in the 1920 Federal Census.  He was a preacher at a Baptist church. The Reverend was living with his wife Eliza M Holmes, age 30, also of Massachusetts. Reverend Holmes was a clergyman at a church in Georgia, Vermont (Franklin Co) in the 1910 Federal Census.

The Reverend William W Ludwig was born in New York State about 1865. He graduated Crozier Seminary. Believing strongly in home mission, the Reverend served three years in Minnesota before becoming a pastor. He and his wife Sadie had three sons. They lost two sons just before coming to Matawan, one in an airplane accident in England during the First World War (1918) and the second due to illness while studying for the ministry at Colgate University (1919). The third son, a businessman in Englewood, occasionally preached at Matawan in his capacity as executive director of Pioneer Youth of America.

The Reverend Ludwig was called in December 1919 while pastor at the Baptist church in Borough Park, Brooklyn, New York, according to The Matawan Journal (18 December 1919 page 5 column 3) and installed at Matawan on 4 January 1920. Besides the three sets of twins in Sunday School, the most notable occurrence during his decade of service was in October 1927, when the Board of Trustees took action to reverse a dip in church membership. The trustees resolved to have services start and end on time, reduce the amount of time worshipers had to stand, improve the quality of scripture readings, dedicate a service to hymn singing once a month, and increase overall lay involvement. While not a direct criticism of Reverend Ludwig, whom the trustees described as overworked, suggestions that scripture be read without commentary by the Pastor and that services "start and stop on time" can't help but give the impression that the Trustees were issuing an extraordinary, if subtle corrective.

During his tenure, the Ladies Aid Society purchased and installed nine stained glass windows. Two of the windows were designed by Rev Ludwig himself, including one with a patriotic theme dedicated on Memorial Day (28 May) 1922. The window, made by Sharp Brothers of Newark, shows an American flag emerging from the clouds of war, with the mottos Our God is marching on and Lest We Forget emblazoned in the glass.

Reverend Ludwig addressed a meeting of the Monmouth Baptist Ministers Association at the First Baptist Church of Asbury Park in 1927 on his many years in ministry.  The Reverend retired on 26 October 1930, having served 37 years in ministry. According to The Matawan Journal the following day (31 October 1931 page 1 columns 4-5), the Reverend W H Dilts of First Presbyterian church and the Reverend Edward Mount of the First Methodist Episcopal church attended the festivities with their wives. The three churches planned a union service of song the following Sunday evening as a final farewell to the Reverend and his wife. (pp 39-40)

First Baptist had a vacancy in the pulpit for about six weeks. During that time, a general notice of worship services appeared in The Matawan Journal through 5 December 1930 (page 8 column 6). Joint Thanksgiving services were held at the Presbyterian church in 1930, with the Presbyterian pastor officiating, according to The Matawan Journal (28 November 1930 page 1 column 7).

Reverend Ludwig was 45 years old in the 1910 Federal Census and living in Brooklyn, New York. He was listed as a clergyman at a church. He was born in New York State to German parents. His wife Sadie was 39 years old, also of New York. They had four children - Everett (14, Minnesota), Lloyd (13, New Jersey), William (12, New Jersey), and Kenneth (11, New York).

The Reverend Carl H Koeker, Jr, of Ohio, is listed as preaching at both morning and evening services at the First Baptist Church in the 12 December 1930 issue of The Matawan Journal (page 5 column 8). When the Monmouth Baptist Association met in Keyport on 5 January 1931, there was no mention in the Matawan Journal article covering the event (9 January 1931 page 6 column 5) of a pastor from Matawan attending. Reverend Koeker, pastor of First Baptist, appears in an article in the Matawan Journal of 27 March 1931 (page 1 column 8). The article features his speech to the monthly meeting of the area's Council of Religious Education. His topic was "The Land of the Bible," in which he offered his observations from a personal trip to Palestine.

Reverend Koeker began a number of groups focused on mission and youth, including a guild for girls and a mission circle, as well as a Vacation Bible School, which was founded on 15 June 1931.  He served the Monmouth Baptist Association in leadership roles. He also taught courses on the Old Testament and local church organization at a NJ Baptist Convention-related young people's assembly held at the Peddie School in Hightstown.

Reverend Koeker brought in 62 new members, 44 by baptism. The Reverend and his wife Grayce had a son during their tenure at Matawan.  On 15 September 1936, Reverend Koeker submitted his letter of resignation to accept a call to mission in Sacramento, California. (pp 45-48)

The Reverend Garrett S Detwiler graduated from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in St David's, Pennsylvania in 1933. He was ordained at the First Baptist Church of Baptistown, New Jersey, where he served through the end of 1936.

Reverend Detwiler began his ministry at Matawan on 1 January 1937. He introduced the concept of a weekly church bulletin at the Easter service later that year. He brought membership to 340 by 1943.

The Reverend took a leave of absence after enlisting in the US Army to serve in the Second World War in October 1943. He accepted a commission as a first lieutenant and reported to Chaplains School at Harvard University in March 1944. The Reverend had the occasion to visit one of the Nazi concentration camps, something he described to his wife in a letter home. Much of that letter witnessing to the horror of the camps was published in The Sunday Asbury Park Press in a 4-column article on 13 May 1945. Reverend Detwiler returned to his post at Matawan at the end of the war.

The church received the gift of another stained glass window from the Ladies Aid Society. This one, of the Baptism of Jesus, was given in memory of two deceased presidents of the society and in honor of one who was still living.

The church celebrated its centennial in 1950. The History of the First Baptist Church was written by Franklin S Thompson as a centennial publication.

Reverend Detwiler left ministry at Matawan in September 1952 to become pastor of the Memorial Baptist Church in Salem, New Jersey. (pp 48-61)


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