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History of The Church of the Good Shepherd 1904-1994


The Church of The Good Shepherd, Berlin, N.J. operated as an unorganized mission from August 1904 until it became an organized mission in the year 1918 under the Canon Laws and Rules and Regulations of the Diocese of New Jersey.

The history of the mission dates back to the year 1904. The need for an Episcopal Church in Berlin, N.J. was reported to the Convocation meeting in St. Peter's Church, Clarksboro, N.J. in June 1904 by the Rev. William C. Emhardt of the Ascension Church, Gloucester City. The Dean of the Convocation requested the Rev. Thomas H. Gordon of St. John's Chews Landing to look after the same. The first recorded official ministration states that on Wednesday, August 24, 1904 the Rev. William C. Emhardt baptized two children but no names or dates of birth were recorded.

On September 11, 1904 the Rev. Thomas Gordon made calls on the Church people in Berlin and arranged for a Church Service for September 18, 1904 at 9:00 A.M. to be held in Brotherhood Hall, 103 White horse Pike, Berlin. Father Gordon celebrated the Holy Communion with 22 people present and 12 receiving. Among those present for this first Service were Mrs. Bodine, Mrs. Clark, Miss Humphries, Mrs. Karstein, Mrs. Lenz, Mr. & Mrs. Minard, Mrs. Nichols, Mr. & Mrs. Reid, Mrs. Strahain, Mrs. Westcott and others.


Thus these people inaugurated the Mission of the Good Shepherd in Berlin, New Jersey and took charge to keep the Mission going. Communion Services were subsequently held on October 9th, November 13th and December 18th in that same year. Father Gordon officiated at these Services.

Four years later, the Mission moved to the second floor of a machine shop in West Berlin. Records indicate that during this period (in at least one instance), the Board of Health closed the church for excessive wood smoke! Thomas Gordon served from 1904-1912 as the first clergyman of Good Shepherd. He was followed by G.M. McMullin who served from 1912-1916.

The present church property located on Broad Avenue in Berlin Borough (then Berlin Township) was purchased in 1918 for $323.00. C. Estomel served as clergyman during this period (1916-1919). The corner stone for the church was dedicated three years later in 1921. R. Ringwald was the clergyman during this period (1919-1924). The total cost of the building was $4,600.00. On September 30th of that year, a windstorm partially blew the church off its foundation. The damage was repaired; and that building is still in use today as the Sunday School and Parish Hall. F.W. Chipp served Good Shepherd from 1925 to 1935.

Elizabeth Shaw Wescott was one of the founders and greatest supporters of the Mission. She died in 1934 and left a generous financial legacy to the Good Shepherd Church. That bequest provides to this day a significant portion of the Mission's income. Without her love and dedication to the Good Shepherd, the Mission might very well have not survived to this day.

In 1938, a house and lot adjacent to the church at the corner of Broad Avenue and Central Avenue were purchased for use as a Vicarage. R.H. Miller served as clergyman during this period (1935-1941) when the house was purchased. This house was used as a Vicarage until 1976 when it was razed. Working with Mr. Miller as clergyman during a two year period was Lewis C. Morrison who served the Good Shepherd for almost 20 years (1939-1956). Many of Fr. Morrison's relatives and descendants are still active in the Church to this day. William Paul, who served from 1956-1960, followed Fr. Morrison.

As time passed, it was obvious a new church would be required for the growing Mission. In 1963, a new church building was started under the direction of Fr. Robert J. Sykes, who served as Vicar from 1960 to 1968. In June of 1967, the first Holy Eucharist was celebrated in the new church, which was constructed adjacent (and connected) to the existing building. Fr. David Somerville served as Vicar from 1968 to 1973.

Following Fr. Somerville, in 1973, was Fr. Charles Birkby (1973-1977). In 1976, under the direction of Fr. Birkby, a new house and property were purchased for a "new" Vicarage, which resulted in the razing of the old building as indicated above. The new Vicarage is located at Rich Avenue and Central Avenue, which is directly behind the site of the old Vicarage.

In 1978, Fr. Myles J. Gill was appointed Vicar of the Good Shepherd. Fr. Gill served the Good Shepherd until he retired in 1990. From 1990 to the present, Fr. Paul Van Sant has served as Vicar of the Good Shepherd. The past fifteen years has seen much activity at the Good Shepherd under both Fr. Gill and Fr. Van Sant. Various programs and projects have been initiated. Among those are a Food Pantry which currently supplies approximately 30 families per month with basic food necessities. An Evangelism Committee and a Stewardship Committee work to enhance the awareness and growth of the Church within the community. The Lay Eucharist Ministry and Lay Readers Program was started in 1990 under the direction of Fr. Van Sant. More recently founded groups include the Women's Prayer Group and the Daughters of the King. During all of this period, as well as prior to 1978, the Episcopal Churchwomen provided a very special service to the Church. This group, which is comprised of all women members of the parish, continues to provide essential services and support to the Church.

The Fund Raising Committee continues to work diligently to maintain the success and financial support of the Mission by hosting such events as the yearly Church Fair and Chicken Barbecue, the Haunted House, and such events as Socials and the Sweetheart Dance held in February. Other events and projects such as completion of an access ramp to the Church, replacement of sidewalks, a Church directory with pictures, new robes for the choir, and a Church brochure all attest to the vibrant commitment of the parish members during the past decade.

A commitment was made in 1991 to conscientiously work toward becoming an independent parish. With each passing year, this appears to be an attainable objective. A Mission Statement along with a Five-Year Plan was also developed during this same year. In 1992, the Mission By-Laws were updated.



♦Editor's note - The preceding history was a compilation of two histories. Charles A. Schaffer, Sr., Mildred Hillman, and Clara Lutz wrote the first in 1967. Muriel Johnson, Diane Krug, Edna Krug, and Regina Listman wrote the second in 1994.  An updated history is currently being developed to cover the period from 1994 to present.

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