Welcome to Skylands Fellowship! We hope that the information you find on our website will inspire you to come visit us in person. Our services begin at 10:15 every Sunday morning from the Sunday after Labor Day through the second Sunday in June, and we are always pleased to welcome visitors.
Our street address is
1811 New Jersey 57
Hackettstown, NJ 07840
(Click for directions)
Our mailing address is
Skylands UU Fellowship
PO Box 7110
Hackettstown, NJ 07840
We are a lay-led congregation serving Warren, western Morris and northern Hunterdon counties.
Most of our members grew up in other faith traditions and discovered Unitarian Universalism later in life. We are humanists, theists, Buddhists, pagans, atheists, pantheists, and more. What ties us together is our commitment to the seven UU Principles and our respect for each person's individual spiritual journey.
Many of us came to Skylands searching for a religious home for our young children. Others came looking for a safe place in which to explore life's biggest questions. All of us value this small outpost of liberal religious thought in NW New Jersey and the warm and open community offered by this congregation.
Being lay-led means that we have no resident minister. We invite guest ministers to speak on one or two Sundays each month. Other Sundays we might have an outside speaker or a discussion led by one of our members or a special program designed to engage our children as well as our adults.
We have no paid staff. As a result, we rely on each other for everything, from creating the services to choosing and teaching our religious education classes, to engaging with the world in social action or community service, to being there for each other in times of crisis.
If you are looking for a place to feel active and engaged, where your ideas will be heard and your talents celebrated, where it is fine to be shy but almost impossible to stay on the sidelines, we hope that you will come visit Skylands and see how our Sunday experience feels to you.
And if it's not quite what you were looking for, please visit again. Each kind of service--lay-led, guest minister, or outside speaker--has a different feel, and it's worth checking out several services to find out what you might be missing if you don't come back!
The best way to find out more about our denomination is to visit the Unitarian Universalist Association's website at www.uua.org.
But before you go there, it may be helpful to know that Unitarian Universalism is by design an association of individual congregations which together choose national leadership to represent them and to accomplish certain tasks on behalf of all our congregations. Each congregation sends delegates to vote on issues of common concern at an annual meeting called the General Assembly but retains the right to determine its own mission, to choose its own religious education curricula and its adult programs, even to ordain its own ministers. Needless to say, each UU church, society or fellowship has a personality of its own!
The History of Skylands Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Delivered by Bill Montfort at the Dedication in Beattystown on May 3, 2009
and updated August 2011
My talk today is on the history of this fellowship. lt is based on my wife Sue’s and my memories since 1969 when we joined, plus the memories of Karl and Virginia Brecheisen who made a cassette tape in 1993 about the fellowship. Also I have used some documents: membership lists and newsletters. Unfortunately, some other documents were accidently thrown out about 25 years ago when we were renting space at the Washington Twp Historical Society.
We are no longer in contact with any of the original members because they have passed away or moved, but having know some of them in the late 1960’s we can assume they established the fellowship known as the Unitarian Fellowship of Hackettstown as a place to search for answers for themselves and society. Incidentally, several of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowships in northern NJ were established about the same time, including Morristown Unitarian Fellowship.
The 1965 Certificate of Incorporation lists the trustees as Robert Olsen and Frances Olsen of Long Valley, William Lloyd of Dover, and from Hackettstown Frieda Sabin, Elizabeth Lipman, Ruth Smith, and Frank Jeffers. Two of the names in early documents were people who had marched in Selma, AL – Clark Olson who was the first minister at the Morristown Fellowship and Gabe Williamson, a member at MUF. When we moved to this area in 1969 and joined, it was clear that Bob Olsen was the person who was the real leader in terms of services, discussions, and vision. Bob had a strong interest in ethical and spiritual issues. At the first meeting that Sue and I attended, Bob gave a talk about the spirituality of wine, and the refreshments afterwards included tasting some of the wine that he had made. In the mid 1970s, Bob and Fran retired to Cape Cod and attended the Nauset Fellowship in Eastham, MA.
The Unitarian Fellowship of Hackettstown originally met at the Hackettstown VFW Hall, but by the late 1960’s when we first attended, it had changed its name to West Morris Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and was meeting in the Bartley Chapel on Bartley Road in Flanders, now the Church of the Mystic Light. It had a big room on the main floor and 3 basement rooms with hanging light bulbs and an outhouse. Due to heating problems and lack of indoor plumbing, we moved to Long Valley Middle School where we met in the library—always sitting in a circle of perhaps 15-20 people, with RE for the children in classrooms. For about 15 years we rented rooms at Long Valley Middle School or Old Farmers Road School, where we met in the art room. When rental costs became prohibitive, we rented space in various places: Washington Twp Historical Society, Schooleys Mtn Fire House, Port Murray United Methodist Church, the Washington Township Library Community Room, St James Episcopal Church in Hackettstown (in the Parish Hall from 4:30 to 6 pm), Classic Ballroom in Hastings Square (where the reflections in the corner mirrors gave the illusion that we had quadrupled our membership), and most recently for the past 10 years in the Mini-Mall in Hackettstown.
Until 1999, this fellowship had been lay-led. Services when we first joined had very little structure, and no singing. In the mid 1970s the candle and chalice were introduced, we made a songbook, and we sang with me playing the guitar. RE was essentially the one-room school concept.
Through the years we had a wide variety of speakers and discussed many topics—I will mention just a few here:
1970s- – Values Clarification, Amnesty, the Casino Gambling Referendum in NJ- its moral and social implications, The Invisible Minority (homosexuals), and an energy sharing workshops with George Prehmus and Luis Cavallone
1980s – Freezing the Nuclear Arms Race, Self Image/Self Esteem with Sue Montfort, the “Building Your Own Theology” curriculum, and Allen Wells
1990s- Paul Callendar (from Newton UUF) and Rich Balzer on Zorastrianism
Various special activities began in the 1970s, including: a Thanksgiving Sunday service with special foods, gingerbread house making at Christmas, Rites of Spring in March, retreats, potluck dinners, and more recently, the Seder (introduced to the fellowship by Joan and Denis Sullivan)
Religious Education - In 1969 we don’t remember any RE programs for the kids, but by the mid 1970s there was a dedicated core of parents who worked hard to have an interesting RE program. We had many self-generated RE activities, and we used some of the UUA materials- “Haunting House” and “Man the Cultural Builder”, and the Quaker Creative Response to Conflict Resolution, with a strong emphasis on art projects and nature, due to the interests of the adults who took turns doing RE. We all wanted RE to be a home and an extended family for the children, free of imposed religious dogma, but there were frequent debates about whether the emphasis should be on content or on social skills.
The women’s group was started in the early 90s, with Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, and it continues to be an important part of our fellowship life today.
It is interesting to note that when several members of our Fellowship moved away, they established Unitarian Universalist Fellowships in their new home areas:
Cis and George Prehmus moved to Prescott AZ and established the Prescott UUF.
Karl & Virginia Brecheisen and Art & Sally Friedman moved to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and established the Pocono UUF.
I mentioned that the first singing in our services began in the late 1970’s, from a songbook that we all put together. In the 1990s, we were given some copies of “Singing the Living Tradition” by the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, NJ. Recently, we have added additional copies through a generous donation from the family of Richard Balzer… we appreciate those hymnals very much and are pleased that Balzer family is here with us today.
One of the issues that was discussed at various times through the years was how to increase our membership—in the 1970s we grew mainly by “word of mouth”. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s with the leadership of Joan and Denis Sullivan, Jim Hall, and others that we changed our name to Skylands Unitarian Universalist Fellowship to broaden our geographical area and then we advertised our fellowship more actively, especially through the Internet.
Another issue that was discussed at various times through the years was whether we should have a minister, and whether we could afford one. In 1999 we hired our first part-time minister: Ron Sala, followed by Rosemary Bray McNatt, Allen Wells, Linda Goonewardene, and Julie Newhall.
In addition, we have been fortunate to have various Unitarian Universalist ministers come to lead our Sunday morning services. I am pleased to see that some of these ministers are here today.
Through the years there are some features that I think have been consistent here at the fellowship:
1. A place where people could express themselves and test their ideas in an accepting atmosphere
2. A place where people could search for meaning and would accept the fact that people were in different places, from different religious backgrounds, and could agree to disagree.
3. A place where people valued justice and were concerned about social issues
4. A place where people were supportive of each other, where people would reach out and try to help when members were having difficulty.
So these are some of my thought about our 45 year history…. And it is wonderful to be here today to celebrate in this building.
Some new activities since May, 2009, now that we have our own building:
Annual Christmas Eve service for congregation and community
Concerts: Lew Gelfond and Andy Goessling, Concert for Haiti in 2010 with Jody Price, Kate and Paul, Mef and Angela, Nadine and Brian, and Renee Paddock
Riverside Rhythm and Rhyme Coffee house 4th Saturday of each month: open mic plus featured performers
Tuesday Evening Series: Tai Chi, Belly Dancing, Shamanic Journeying, Green Tuesdays (films and speakers), Singing Bowl Meditation
Welcoming Congregation activities: speakers, discussions, workshops, films
"We are a spiritual and intellectual community that embraces each child and adult in close fellowship, encourages the open exchange of ideas, provides religious education for all, and serves the larger community"
A congregation is an ever-evolving organism, so we periodically revisit the question of our mission in the world. What is right for a particular group of people at a particular moment in time may no longer be helpful years later, as the world and the congregation itself change.
Our current mission statement was created through a series of small group sessions which led to an open session designed to pull our various hopes and goals into one cohesive statement. The final version was voted on and accepted by the congregation on November 20, 2005.
We use the statement to guide us as we make decisions about how to use our time and our resources as we plan activities within the Fellowship.
And we try to remember to "embrace...encourage...provide...and serve" as we live in relationship with one another.
Past Year's Services
in reverse chronological order
All services are listed, even though some Sundays are missing from the list. Those Sundays were either moving days (to our “new” old church in Beattystown), snow days, or days on which we had a purely social activity such as a brunch or a picnic.
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:
We have designed these pages to answer some of the questions you may have about what to expect if you visit our fellowship on a Sunday morning.
If you don't find the answers you are looking for, or if you would just like to be in touch with a human being before you venture forth, feel free to leave a message on our answering machine at (908) 684-4040 or send your question by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the "contact us" tab above.
Although our home is over 100 years old, renovations have been made to increase its wheelchair accessibility.
To enter the sanctuary, use the ramp by the entrance driveway.
To access the restrooms, enter through the side door by the parking lot, where there is a small bump at the doorway, then continue straight ahead.
Unfortunately, the sanctuary and the restrooms are on different levels, separated by a short set of stairs. Movement between the two areas requires either assistance with the stairs or a trip outside and around the back of the building. We hope to remedy this situation in the future, but for now this is our accessibility reality.
Children are always welcome to visit Skylands!
We begin our services at 10:15 with everyone together in the sanctuary. Children remain with us through the children's story--less than a half hour altogether--after which they go downstairs with their teachers for religious education classes. Visiting children may go downstairs with the others or remain upstairs with their parent(s). If a child is interested in checking out the class but feels a bit shy or reluctant, a parent may accompany them downstairs to help them settle in.
Some of our services are intergenerational and designed to be of interest to all ages, and in this case children remain with their parents in the sanctuary for the entire morning.
More often, we will have a guest speaker or a guest minister or an adult-oriented discussion during the service. Although rarely inappropriate for children in their subject matter, they would generally not be of interest to children of middle school age and younger.
Crying babies? Don't worry. We're used to that. A little noise won't bother us. If you feel uncomfortable with the volume of your infant or toddler's musings, you may certainly walk out of the service and remain in the vestibule until relative quiet resumes. Also, we usually have a nursery caregiver in place by 10:15, so very young children can be dropped off with her if that seems a better option for your family. Let the greeters know that you are interested in the nursery when you arrive, and they will connect you with someone who can lend a hand.
We encourage children to begin their moining in the sanctuary if at all possible. This portion of the service is the most kid-friendly, with music and candle-lighting and story-telling. Children are welcome to share a "Joy or Concern" if they wish to do so, along with the adults. Gathering together in community is one of the gifts a congregation offers, and most children find they can manage it with just a few weeks of practice.
We know that each child is unique, so if you have special concerns, please take a few minutes to speak with your child's teacher or our Religious Education Chair.
If you think that you and your family might return for a second visit to Skylands, we ask that you fill out a registration form which gives us important information about allergies, special needs, contact info and more. In some cases teachers may send a note to children during the week, and we wouldn't want to leave your child out. Filling out this form does not in any way commit you to anything! It just helps us to keep your child safe and included in class activities.
We are always happy to welcome visitors to our Sunday services!
The services begin at 10:15 and usually run until about 11:30. The building should be open by 10:00, and you may want to arrive at about that time in order to get your bearings before the service starts.
When you enter the building, please come up the short flight of stairs to your left. A greeter should be present to welcome you and answer any questions. You will have an opportunity to sign our guest book. You may also want to browse through the written materials in the vestibule. Feel free to pick up any brochures which you would like to take home.
If you have brought children with you, you may want to show them the religious education classrooms downstairs. Then bring them back up with you, as our children participate fully in the first portion of the service.
When you are ready, please find a seat in the sanctuary. This will give you a chance to look through the "order of service" which will outline the morning's program. A typical Sunday service might include readings, hymns or songs, a children's story, an offering and a message delivered by a visiting minister or lay speaker, with a discussion period following that message. Sometimes one of our own members leads a discussion on a particular topic. Each Sunday is different, so visiting several times will help you to determine whether we offer what you are seeking.
We often welcome visitors during the service. You may choose to introduce yourself or not, depending on your level of comfort with that idea!
Early in the service we will light the chalice candle, a symbol of Unitarian Universalism. Our own candle is made up of bits of wax collected from all our members throughout the four decades of our history. For us it symbolizes our Fellowship community, from the past into the future, as well as the search for truth and understanding which brings us together on Sunday mornings.
During the period called "Joys and Concerns" anyone--member or visitor, child or adult--may come up to light a smaller candle and briefly share the news of something which is weighing on their heart or bringing them joy.
After the children's story, the children and their teachers will leave the service and head to their classrooms. Visiting children are welcome to attend the religious education classes or to remain with their parents during the service.
During the short discussion period following the message, brief remarks and silent contemplation are equally appreciated.
After the service, you are most welcome to join us downstairs for our social hour, which usually lasts until about noon, although you may certainly leave at any time.
If you would like to receive our newsletter and/or other updates from the Fellowship, please be sure to leave your contact information when you sign the guest book.
Bathrooms are located on the mid-floor, just across from where you entered the building.
You may want to arrive shortly after 10 am to give yourself a chance to settle in before the service begins at 10:15.
Our greeters will welcome you and answer any questions you may have about our congregation. They will offer you a name tag and ask you to sign our guest book.
If you have children, these extra minutes may give your family an opportunity to peek downstairs at our religious education classrooms before coming back upstairs together.
Dress is casual and individual. On any given Sunday you may see everything from jeans and hiking boots to a dress with a hat. Please wear whatever feels best to you.
We do not have air conditioning and the sanctuary can become rather warm during the summer months, so please keep that in mind. The classroom space downstairs is much cooler. Children may want to bring along a sweater or sweatshirt just in case.
We are located at
1811 New Jersey 57
Hackettstown, NJ 07840
Local? We are located on Route 57, just west of Airport Road and the Kohls/Sears plaza, in the Historic Beattystown section of Mansfield.
From Route 80:
Take Route 80 to exit 19. Follow 517 South about 4 ½ miles to the light on Main Street in Hackettstown. Go through the light (a bit of a jog in the road) instead of following 517 to the left. You will now be on Grand Avenue/Rockport Road/629. * Continue 2.4 miles to Airport Road. (White fence on your right.) Turn left onto Airport Road and continue 1½ miles to the end. Turn right onto Route 57 West and look for the white church on your right, three buildings down. Enter the parking lot by using the “enter” driveway just beyond our building.
From Route 78:
Take Route 78 to exit 24. Follow 517 N through Oldwick and Long Valley (about 10 miles) and continue up Schooley’s Mountain. From the light at the top of the mountain, by the police station, continue down the northern side of the mountain for 2.4 miles. Turn left onto Newburgh Road and continue 1 mile to the first light. Turn left onto 57 West and travel another mile, through two lights, to the white church on your right.
From Route 46:
From the west: Follow 46 East down the hill into Hackettstown. At the second light turn right onto Grand Avenue and follow the directions from * above.
From the east: Follow 46 West toward Hackettstown. Go straight through the light at Target. At the next light turn left onto East Avenue. Drive ½ mile to the light at Mountain Avenue. Turn left and continue another ½ mile then turn right onto Route 57 West. Follow 57 for 1.8 miles, through 4 lights, to the white church on your right.
From the southwest:
Follow 57 East toward Hackettstown. After passing the Beattystown sign on your right (just before the Tri-County Firehouse) continue about another ½ mile, then enter the drive just before the white church on your left.
Wheelchair accessibility to the sanctuary is provided by a ramp alongside the entrance driveway.
We have a semi-circular driveway and parking lot, with the entrance drive on the western side of the building. Please park on the pavement if spaces are available or on the grass to your left if the paved lot is full.
The door on the parking lot side of the building is our primary entrance. A separate door on the opposite side of the building has a ramp leading up to it for anyone coming in on wheels. In fine weather we sometimes open the double doors by the front steps, as well.
Please do not try to use the kitchen door (closest to the lot) except in the case of emergency, as those steps are rather steep.
Our summer services are a bit more informal and varied than the services you will experience during the regular fellowship year, which lasts from the Sunday after Labor Day through the second Sunday in June. Religious education classes are not held during the summer, but we will offer child care during adult services held at the fellowship. We usually do not have a service over the Fourth of July weekend.
Please be sure to check the website or the newsletter to find out if we are meeting at a different site on a particular summer Sunday. We might be gathering at someone's home for a brunch or a picnic, or meeting at a local park for a guided hike. This summer we even had a geology-oriented service at a "scenic view" rest stop on Route 80!
If your first Skylands experience takes place during the summer, we urge you to visit again in the fall in order to have a more complete understanding of our Sunday services.