Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Amwell Church of the Brethren celebrates 275 years.

Amwell Church of the Brethren celebrated its 275th anniversary on Sunday, Oct. 5. Amwell is one of the oldest Brethren congregations and the only Church of the Brethren in New Jersey.

The Amwell congregation was organized in 1733, 10 years after the first Brethren congregation in the Americas was organized at Germantown, Pa., in 1723. The congregation claims legendary Brethren figure Johannes Naas as its founder.

"To put this into perspective, George Washington was kicking in his crib when Amwell was doing church!" commented Atlantic Northeast District executive minister Craig Smith.

The Amwell Church is located in a rural area near the town of Sergeantsville, N.J., in the west-central part of the state about 25 miles north of Trenton. The congregation "is a real nice mix of people," said pastor Robert DiSalvio. Average attendance at the church is about 100 people, and DiSalvio added that recently the attendance numbers have been growing.

The congregation makes use of its rich heritage and age as it reaches out to people who do not know the Brethren, DiSalvio said. In fact, most church members have had little connection with the denomination, and most are new converts to Christianity, he said. "We have to use the idea that we have been here since 1733, that kind of diminishes the 'cult' status," he said, an association that those unfamiliar with the Brethren may make with the name.

DiSalvio is working with the congregation's leaders to help a country church "step up to the 21st century," he said. For example, the church website at offers a variety of interactive features including audio and video recordings of worship services. During his sermons, the pastor uses PowerPoint presentations to highlight words and images and to provide more information to the congregation as he preaches.

The church has been working on a servant leadership model with a team approach, and the leadership also have been identifying the common objections people have to coming to church, DiSalvio said. He intentionally keeps those common objections in mind in designing services and presenting the church's ministries, in order to work to remove those objections.

DiSalvio also is working to reconnect the congregation to the district. He recently was nominated moderator-elect for Atlantic Northeast District.

The 275th Anniversary celebration included a two-hour worship service with about 140 people in attendance. The guest preacher was Phill Carlos Archbold, interim pastor at First Church of the Brethren in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a former moderator of Annual Conference. Others who brought greetings or gave statements included Smith and others representing Atlantic Northeast District.

In a special presentation, the director of pastoral care at Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital expressed appreciation for the congregation's ministry with patients. Up until recently, a busload of patients attended worship at Amwell Church of the Brethren once a month. Pastor DiSalvio is a chaplain at the hospital, and church members visit the hospital as well.

After worship, the congregation held a dinner at a local fire house. Filet mignon and a special chicken dish were on the menu, offered by a chef who is a new member of the church. Another church in the community offered to serve the meal so that Amwell members could relax and enjoy the celebration.

Go to for more about the congregation and its ministries.

Source: 11/5/2008 Newsline

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