Two years after Francis Asbury came to America in 1771, this one of the oldest societies in New Jersey, was striving to build up Methodism. The Broad Neck Society (Today known as Olivet) was organized in 1773. At that time, Reverend Philip Gatch was appointed to New Jersey by the Philadelphia Conference. He sent local circuit preachers to carry out the new work preaching in homes and barns every two weeks. Among them was Rev. Benjamin Abbott who played a great part in Methodism in this part of New Jersey. This was 60 years before the New Jersey Conference was organized. The first church, a chapel, was built in 1775 on a site just to the rear of the old Olivet Church. The cemetery was laid out at about the same time. The Old Olivet Church was built in 1788 and rebuilt in 1851. The rebuilt church maintained its original windows and doors. In 1897 the belfry and a new roof were constructed. In 1908 a 1000-pound cast iron bell was purchased from the Cincinnati Bell Foundry for $150 (Today’s resale value $8000) and placed in the belfry.
In 1842, the stewards of Olivet and Upper Friendship petitioned to become a charge by themselves, which was then known as the Pittsgrove charge. By 1844 there were five Sunday Schools in the Pittsgrove charge; namely, Friendship, Pittstown (Elmer), Hitchnertown (Greenville), Broad Neck (Olivet) and New Freedom. In 1889 Olivet separated from the Elmer and Friendship charges and joined with Union Grove to become the Centerton charge.
In 1890 a lot for a parsonage was purchased at Centerton, and by the latter part of the summer, Rev. E.C. Sunfield moved into a newly-built and furnished home.
On February 3, 1961, Architect Leonard Bets presented to the Trustee Committee, the floorplan for a new church. The cost estimated at between $120,000 to $130,000. On February 17, 1961 at a Church Conference, the purchase of 12 acres of land was approved. The land known as the Robert J. Davis Farm was purchased from John McClintoch on March 20, 1961 for $14,000. In April 1961 at a Church Conference, the building of the new church was approved and Mr. Nelson Creamer of Millville, N.J. was hired to organize a fundraising campaign. The Goal was $100,000. On June 11, 1961 a Loyalty Crusade was launched. A kick off dinner, with 110 in attendance, was held on June 16th and a house-to-house visitation of all members and residents of the community took place ending on July 1st. This effort raised $103,167 for the Church building fund.
Groundbreaking took place on July 22, 1961 and a contract was signed with the architect on August 21, with a building cost of $150,000. The Olivet congregation continued Oyster dinners monthly for the building fund, serving up to 300 people at these events. In November their annual Turkey dinner was held with net proceeds of $1103 for their building project. Dinner tickets were $2 for Adults and $1 for children. If the children worked as servers they received a $.50 discount on their ticket. Youth participated in the building fund efforts by holding carwashes and paper drives. Owens Illinois Glass Company donated special drinking glasses celebrating Olivet’s 190th Anniversary providing another fundraising event. The youth sold these glasses for $1ea. or $5 for six.
In January of 1962 the Church began renting the unused land at $12/acre and construction of the new church began in Spring of 1962. By May 1963 Church council voted to borrow $50,000 to complete the building. In July 1963 the Church Spire was ordered at a cost of $8,000. The spire weighed 3480 lbs., 40 ft. high and 10 ft. square at the base.
December 1st, 1963 the first Worship Service in the new Church was held. One week later, on December 8, the Church Cornerstone was laid. The total cost of this project was $206,011. The building was consecrated at a special service on March 5, 1964. Within one year, a landscaping project began planting over 200 trees and shrubs. The old Church bell and the Spire were placed on the steeple in 1964.
The Olivet United Methodist Church has served Pittsgrove and the surrounding communities for fifty-five years. The steeple presented many maintenance challenges over the years, but limited funds restricted its repair. In the summer of 2017, the Trustee Committee voted to repair the steeple and engaged the services of an engineer to determine the scope of the project. The Church received a bequeathal of over $600,000 which enabled us to undertake this enormous project. On September 1, 2017 the Spire and Bell were removed from the steeple in anticipation of renovations.
At this time, the Trustees were receiving inquiries as to the air quality in the Church building especially in the North wing. Air quality testing ensued resulting in a major mold remediation. This of course delayed the steeple project and the total cost of the remediation and remodel was approximately $185,000. No room in the building was left undone. This was actually a blessing as the existing Sanctuary was badly in need of renovation. During the following six months, worship services were held in both the Fireplace room and the Sunday school rooms. The congregation worked together to make the best of the situation. In March, Worship services returned to our newly renovated Sanctuary which included a new altar, carpet, sound system, audio visual equipment, and a keyboard. The original communion table was placed atop the new altar and new folding chairs were used as temporary seating. The fellowship hall received new tables and when our permanent seating arrived for the Sanctuary on May 30th, the new folding chairs were added to the fellowship hall.
The fireplace room received a new floor and was designed as meeting room and conference area. The Nursery and Sunday school rooms received brightly colored floors and area rugs for the children. A new office was designed for the Pastor, and a church office was completed.
Now that the project was completed, attention turned back to our spire, bell and steeple. On June 4, 2018 the interior steel work began followed by repairs to the pre-cast concrete structure and stone work. The steeple was washed and weather sealed and the spire was sandblasted, primed and painted. The spire was returned to the steeple on August 22nd. A brick monument was constructed of the original brick used to build the Church in 1963 was erected as a new home for the Church bell.
On September 16th, 2018 the Olivet United Methodist Church congregation held a Special Worship Service to celebrate the 245th Anniversary of the organization and to re-dedicate the building. We are looking forward to fifty-five more years and beyond of ministry to our surrounding communities.
Updated September 2018