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Second BCEF Call of 2020: Church of the Messiah, Chester

The Bishop’s Church Emergency Fund (BCEF) provides financial support for church buildings in the diocese needing repairs and renovation, usually with a special focus on emergency and unforeseen needs. Through the BCEF, you can support the critical needs identified by the Bishop.

The second BCEF call of 2020 is for security system upgrades at Church of the Messiah, Chester. You can donate online, or mail a check payable to BCEF with Call #2 in the memo line to: BCEF, c/o Diocese of Newark, 31 Mulberry St., Newark, NJ 07102.


Chester Borough in Morris County has been called one of the most beautiful communities in New Jersey. Just one-and-a-half miles from the center of town, the Church of the Messiah enjoys a lovely rural location. In the late 1970s, the congregation gathered first in members’ homes and then in the local high school. Messiah grew quickly and was soon ready to find a permanent home. The bucolic property eventually selected had once been a dairy farm. The barn became the first sanctuary; the stable, a church school, and the cider mill, a rectory. The site also afforded lots of room for parking.

The Rev. Margaret Otterburn has served as Messiah’s rector since 2007. She describes the parish as a very busy place with something going on nearly every day of the week. In addition to two services on Sunday, there are worship services every weekday except for Friday. Adult forums, a worship experience for children called Play and Pray, and an active music program including a bell choir, draw participants of all ages.

Messiah’s commitment to community outreach is also admirable. The parish operates a large senior center and four AA groups use the church. A key ministry is St. Elsie’s Closet, a church-run thrift shop offering clothing and housewares. The parish is also active in supplying two local food pantries and in preparing meals for a county program called Homeless Solutions. But having so much activity at the church has brought some new challenges.

Dave Sullivan, a parishioner for the past nine years, has special responsibility for security, an area of growing concern. He says that with the parish offices on the lower floor as well as the thrift shop, the unregulated through-traffic has left the church especially vulnerable to unwanted entry. A total of six exterior doors increase the liability—although before worship services all are locked. Taking a proactive approach, Messiah is seeking a BCEF grant to make critical upgrades to its security system.

Sullivan described a detailed action plan developed in consultation with the local police. It would add Ring doorbells to exterior doors, video cameras for the offices, card reader locks for the doors, and a silent panic button for the sanctuary. Emergency medical equipment will also be upgraded, including the addition of an electronic defibrillator.

The diocese commends the proactive approach to security taken by the Church of the Messiah. Your help can greatly reduce the impact this initiative makes on the parish operating budget. Given the role of the church in the spiritual lives of its members and the vital ministries they provide to the larger community, I ask you to please be especially generous.

God's peace,

+Carlye J. Hughes

The Rt. Rev. Carlye J. Hughes
Bishop of Newark