Newark Emmanuel UMC growing a small congregation through successful ministries
When Pastor Della Ludwig was appointed to Newark: Emmanuel UMC in 2018, she was delighted and ready to take on a challenge. Her District Super Intendent, the Rev. Dr. Jeff McDowell said to her, “This is a very mission-oriented church.” That it was and that it still is—only then there were seven to 10 members of the church and today there are over 20.
Della said, “When I arrived, we had a serious conversation about the future of Emmanuel. This very small group of dedicated individuals intentionally decided they had the heart to go forward being active in the church and doing the missions they are committed to no matter what it took.” This small group managed to prevent the church from closing!
And since then, it is largely in part of Newark Emmanuel’s mission work that the congregation has grown. The church has offered a lunch program for over a decade and their program is not a once-a-week program and it is not only sandwiches; this program serves hot lunches every Tuesday through Friday. Since the pandemic started, the in-person lunch has switched to a takeout service. The meals are still hot, and 113-150 meals have been served each day—over 25,000 meals in total since the pandemic began.
The lunches served at Emmanuel are given to local seniors (supported by the Department of Aging) and to anyone in need (supported by Foodlink Food Bank).
Della said, “It’s a community effort for sure.”
Parishoner Manny Crespo directs the free lunch program; he writes grants, picks up donations from Walmart and Save-a-Lot, and coordinates with Foodlink.
Della said, “We could not get this lunch ministry done without him.”
Parishoner Nancy Wellcher coordinates the senior program along with Della.
In addition to serving food to seniors, Della said, “Nancy and I have also started helping seniors who are overwhelmed with Medicare and Medicaid and work with them one; we also help them with things like getting situated with housing.”
The food pantry for the Newark area is also housed at Newark Emmanuel. For the weekday meals, the volunteers are often able to give visitors bread and other items from the food pantry.
On Saturday April 3, volunteers at Newark Emmanuel put together 120 Easter baskets with a ham, potatoes, veggies, and fruit for families in need.
For the food pantry ministry, Della said “We try hard to give those in need healthier food and not just processed food.”
During the Christmas season, Newak Emmaneul members are very involved with the Salvation Army’s bell ringing and they can use the funds collected to help people in their community who are behind on rent or utilities.
Della said, “People know if their heart is troubled, they can always come to Emmanuel.”
Newark Emmanuel also offers an “Experience Worship” service that consists of a scripture, short sermon, and a craft project. It’s held in Fellowship Hall for those who may be intimidated or feel uncomfortable in a church sanctuary.
Della said, “It’s a steppingstone for lunch attendees to start attending church.”
And it is working—this is how Newark’s membership is growing.
Della said, “Our hope is to continue to grow.”
She is utterly thankful for the “hand-full of people who said, ‘Don’t close our church!”