Artwork: Jack Abbott (circa 1988)
The United Methodist Church of Monroe was formed by combining the congregations of the Stepney Methodist Church and the East Village Methodist Church. In the fall of 1973, more than forty years ago, the new congregation began worshipping in our present church building. The United Methodist Church of Monroe has continued some of the traditions of the Stepney and East Village Methodist Churches and developed its own new and dynamic ministries.
Pastors of UMC Monroe
1973 – 1974 Rev. L. David York
1974 – 1978 Rev. Dennis Wagner
1978 – 1981 Rev. Louis Leone
1981 – 1996 Rev. Frank Denton
1996 – 1999 Rev. Karen A. Burger
1999 – 2003 Rev. Sherry Driscoll
2003 – 2004 Rev. Richard Griffin
2004 – 2005 Rev. Dr. Donald H. Kirkham
2005 – 2013 Rev. Kregg Gabor
2013 – Present Rev. Martha Epstein
* To learn more about our history and our church today, please see our 40th Anniversary and 25th Anniversary publications. *
- UMC Monroe 1973
- The Ground Breaking
As told by The Reverend L. David York, Pastor 1965 – 1974
The beginning of the United Methodist Church of Monroe is really a history of meetings, and meetings, and more meetings. Official Boards and Commissions and Trustees met many times to review hopes, plans, details. One major step toward the new building was the decision of the members of the East Village and Stepney Methodist Churches on March 18, 1970 to merge and form the United Methodist Church of Monroe. This was not a quick or easy decision and had involved a lot of discussion, planning and prayer. Another step along the way was the formal groundbreaking which took place on Sunday, October 29, 1972 with construction beginning soon after that event. Two months later, in December 1972, since we had been able to sell the Stepney Church to the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement, the combined congregation temporarily moved in with the members of the Stepney Baptist Church. For ten months, the two congregations used the Baptist facilities on a cooperative basis, which usually worked out. One exception was that the energy of our MYF members occasionally was bothersome to some of the older Baptist members! The end of the beginning chapter of our present congregation was on October 5, 1973, when a Certificate of Occupancy was given for the new building.
As the Pastor involved in all of this transition, I had a varied schedule. Along with many others, many nights were spent in long and sensitive meetings. Many other informal discussions took place before and after those meetings. I think the most interesting aspect was my various preaching schedules. While we were sharing the facilities of the Baptist Church, Reverend Yusko and I would literally pass each other on the stairs as we were exchanging places in the sanctuary. At one time we employed Allen Farabee, a student assistant pastor from Yale University, who would preach one Sunday in one church while I preached in the other and then we would switch the next Sunday to the other church, and so on. Another time I would preach at Stepney and then drive across town to East Village for the other service … with the Monroe Police observing my cross-town dash!
While we are observing the significant development of our church building, I think it is important to remember that in the midst of this project we were still maintaining and developing an active church school and mission program. We had an active Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) which did service projects and weekend retreats; the church was also supportive of the Community House, a youth center for Monroe teenagers, something which our town still needs to develop. Other church members were members of the Board of Education and the Town Council. Our church encouraged housing for the elderly, and Harriet Underhill championed that project to the point that Underhill Drive in High Meadows is named in her honor.
There are many stories that could be told, but I think two reports from the March 1974 Annual Meeting contain the essence of the process. Miss Gerda Lex was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and part of her report is as follows:
“This year the Board of Trustees has again been involved in much discussion, negotiation, decision-making, and, very often, “gentle prodding.” Although still sharing facilities with the Stepney Baptist Church, our dream of a new building began materializing in May 1973 when we started our search for the guarantors for the mortgage. In the meantime, work began on the building during which time there came a waiting period for bank approval for the mortgage until certain requirements were met. Finally after overcoming a well problem came the time for Consecration Day which was on September 30, 1973. Many people helped in its preparation by clearing around the church and moving furniture and other equipment from their various locations. Recently, a new stove was purchased for the kitchen because of the efforts of the ladies who planned the Harvest Festival. Still to be completed are some necessary paving, landscaping and outdoor lighting.
Not only did we see the completion of a church, but this year also saw the beginning of a new parsonage. After bids were sent out and plans were received, it was decided that the most acceptable was from Arbor Homes – a raised ranch with garage, which includes everything except a well and septic tank at a cost of $31,000. This plan was approved by the Conference Committee, which deals with this area. Until the East Village house could be sold, we had to ask the Conference for $35,000 to help with financing. The contract was signed and work began. The house, it was decided, will be hooked up to the existing wells at the church. Unfortunately, due to many delays, this construction is not yet completed.”
John Young was the Chairman of the Church Building Committee, and his full report for the year is as follows:
“The Church Building Committee has had a very frustrating, but most gratifying year. We have seen our new church blossom out of the ground into a beautiful new building.
Our frustrations were many as we watched the builder move slowly forward. Materials were late in arriving, and when they finally did arrive, the workmen were on another job and it took time to get them back at our building. Our worst problem was getting sufficient water to make the church operational. Last spring we had so much water we had to have thousands of yards of gravel placed in the drive area to make it passable for trucks and equipment. In the summer we drilled for water (twice) and could find none. While Kiddie Campus held its Open House one Saturday in late summer, we were busy setting and blasting both wells with dynamite with the hopes we could loosen enough rocks to get enough water to open the church.
Even though we were reasonably successful with our blasting and were able to get pumps installed, Kiddie Campus opened (late) with hoses to supply them with water.
The final frustration was, again, water; pipes in the attic area froze and cracked one cold day. When they thawed, we again had more water than we knew what to do with.
Hopefully, we now have a new building with most of the problems solved and that with some additional work on the grounds, parking lot driveway, and finishing touches on the interior, we will all have a church we can be proud of and place to come to and enjoy all the programs of the church.”
This summary of the years leading to the opening of our present building can only touch upon the incredible commitment of many individuals to see the mission and ministry enriched by the development of such a facility. I am proud that in this process we did our best to keep before us the ultimate purpose of our effort, which was to develop a caring, supportive mission-oriented fellowship of believers and seekers. May the next 25 years, and many more, be as productive as the first 25 years have been.
L. David York
Pastor, 1965 – 1974
The Formation of the United Methodist Church of Monroe – 2013 Addendum
As told by The Reverend L. David York, Pastor 1965 – 1974
My most vivid memory of the construction of the church building is when there were about six of us standing near the two new wells with each of us holding three loaves of dynamite in our arms. The well blaster had arrived late, taken a metal rod and drilled through the dynamite so he could run a primer cord (a lot like a clothes line except it explodes!) through the loaves and then grouped them so we could each give them to him as he lowered them in to the well. For a few minutes it seemed that there was a thin line between life and the afterlife ! For the record, the blasting did eventually give us water for the new building.
This is symbolic in some ways of our life for the last 40 years … this congregation has tried in a lot of ways to get things done. From Crop Walk to Habitat for Humanity to feeding the homeless in Bridgeport to Covenant to Care to Mozambique and to many other projects, our church members have tried to be up front and be in the action. We have reached out as we have seen needs within our congregation and community and where possible provided help as needed.
With that track record and the enthusiasm in our members now, it looks like the United Methodist Church of Monroe is set to charge ahead and take on current goals and look forward to future opportunities. May God bless us in our journey together.
L. David York