In 1800, a Methodist group led by Sally Curtis began to gather in worship across the river in an area known as George’s Hill. Around this same time another group was gathering inside the residence of Mrs. Phoebe Peck on Brookfield Road, a short distance from Newtown [Main] Street.
Shortly thereafter, a man named John R. Wheeler moved into an old house purchased as a building spot for the Episcopal Church. He then invited local Methodist preachers, Levi Bronson and Joseph Pierce, to join him in the efforts to further strengthen the christian community in the area.
Samuel Merwin became the first itinerant minister to preach on behalf of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
A class was soon formed, in the Wesleyan tradition, and in 1805, Isaac Sanford was appointed leader with twelve members under his care. Preaching and other meetings were held in members’ homes; and this ‘Newtown Society’ operated under the care of a continuous succession of preachers until 1850, when Reverend Nathaniel C. Lewis presided over construction of the church building still in use today.
The Early Years
The Sandy Hook Church was part of a circuit of the New York East Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
A parsonage was built on the comer of Walnut Tree Hill and Church Hill Road in 1859, and in 1900 the Sandy Hook Church was made an independent charge and the semi-centennial of the church was celebrated.
In 1917 Deaconess Elsie F. Stowe was appointed to serve the Newtown charge and later became the first woman ordained by the Methodist Church in the New York East Conference.
In 1935, women of the church led a fundraising drive to bring electricity to the building, and in 1936 they hosted the first united Lenten service which included the Congregational, Trinity and St. John’s Episcopal churches.
The first pastor to serve full time at the church was Rev. Kenneth E. Halcott in 1963. When, on the national level, the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodists merged in 1968, the United Methodist Church was formed.
Response to Growth
In 1972 Rev. Eugene Crabb presided over the moving of the sanctuary across Church Hill Road to the 14-acre site where it stands today.
In 1984 a new parsonage was built in the upper meadow of the property, and in 1988 the Sandy Hook Fire Department conducted a controlled burning of the old Wesley Hall barn to make way for the new Wesley Hall, dedicated by Bishop Forrest Stith in 1992.
In 1993 Wesley Learning Center (WLC), a high-quality, preschool program for 2, 3, and 4-year olds, was founded in Wesley Hall by church member Rhanna Peck. Today WLC is an accredited NAEYC program that enrolls approximately 70 children annually.
In February 2011, Newtown United Methodist Church became a church of Stephen Ministry. Trained lay caregivers (called Stephen Ministers) provide one-to-one Christian care to the bereaved, those facing medical crisis or overwhelming life challenges. Stephen Ministers strengthen pastoral care by offering an enhanced community of support for anyone in need.
NUMC is a vibrant, active community of faith. We have a strong tradition of Mission & Outreach, both locally and abroad and offer educational and social opportunities for all ages. Come see what we’re all about!
Historical information provided by Rev. E. Sue Klein, Minister of Music & ordained Deacon of the UMC.