Mendham Hills Chapel was conceived by a group of people who envisioned an evangelical work in the Mendham-Chester area. Many were membors of Long Hill Chapel in Chatham. They formally organized a Christian and Missionary Alliance work and began to meet for midweek Bible study and prayer early in 1976.
A Steering Committee was established, and the search for a Sunday meeting place began. We considered schools and firehouses, but in due time, the Lord opened the door to rent a beautiful contemporary chapel with adjacent classrooms at St. John Baptist School (now Daytop Mendham).
The first Sunday morning service was held on April 4, 1976 with Richard Bailey, superintendent of the Metropolitain District of the C&MA, preaching. Two weeks later, we celebrated Easter in record-breaking 90-degree heat.
Having found a meeting place, we set about the business of calling a pastor. For more than a year, we were ministered to by guest preachers and candidates. Members of the congregation led ongoing Wednesday evening meetings. In July 1977, we called our first pastor, James C. Mclymont Jr., who served through December 1978.
In May of 1979, we called Fred W. Henry, who, with his wife Carrol, who are currently pastoring Hope International Church in Paris, France, are aomong the C&MA missionaries MHCC supports.
From the beginning, the congregation of Mendham Hills has had a burdern for the youth of the surrounding communities, so even in the early years of our existence, we provided for part-time and then full-time staffing of a youth program. Our third youth pastor, Douglas G. Welbourn, was a student at Alliance Theological Seminary. Along with his enthusiastic and energetic wife, Priscilla, he made a significant impact on the youth of our area during the period of 1981 to 1983.
As the church grew, attendance at Sunday services increased, and the Sunday School flourished. We began to press the physical limits of the facilities at St. John Baptist School, and a building program was launched with a search for suitable property. The 6.3 acre parcel on Route 24 on which the current church is situated was purchased in January 1985.
In late 1984, The Shire, which had leased the St. John Baptist building, asked us to move. Again, the Lord provided a place, and the Mendham Township Elementary School was our Sunday home from January 1985 through July 1988.
In the fall of 1985, we embarked upon a stewardship program to raise the money needed to erect a bilding of our own, and on a Sunday morning in the spring of 1986, the congregation gathered in a muddy clearing in the woods, claimed the land for the Lord, and broke ground for the building in which we now meet.
Fred and Carrol Henry accepted the call to the Alliance church in Morgantown, West Virginia, that summer, so we were without a pastor during much of the design and construction of the building. A faithful remnant held on to the vision that the Lord had placed in their hearts ten years earlier and saw the building program through to completion. On Sunday morning, August 7, 1988, we worshipped for the first time in the place the Lord had helped us build for His glory.
While the facility was being erected, we were also seeking the Lord’s man to lead the congregation in this new phase of its ministry. A year-long search culminated in the return of Doug Welbourn as senior pastor in May of 1987. The church family grew dramatically during the nine years that Doug and Pris ministered to us, and the focus of church life began to shift to small groups where deep and lasting relationships were encouraged. In August of 1996, the Welbourns followed the Lord’s leading to Spokane Washington, and the search for the Lord’s man to lead MHCC began anew.
Charles B. Dewitt accepted the acll of the congregation and began serving at MHCC in June of 1997. His enthusiasm for a small group ministry quickly led to the addition of a small groups coordinator to the staff and an even greater emphasis on the small group as a vehicle for spiritual growth and ministry in the church. Chip’s burden for the lost has also resulted in unprecedented outreach to the communities in which we live as he urges us to encourage the people around us to know and walk with Jesus Christ.
As we look back at our history, it would not be hard to find scars and blemishes. Yet as we have sought steadfastly to exalt our Lord Jesus Christ, God has seen fit to sustain and establish the family of believers at Mendham Hills Community Church as a testimony to His amazing grace.