MORRISTOWN, NJ - TapintoMorristown is excited to present the “meet our leaders” series. These articles put a spotlight on key leaders in our community and give readers a chance to learn more about the individuals who help make Morristown a booming metropolis.
Next leader to take the spotlight is Pastor Sidney Williams of Morristown’s Bethel Church, nominated by Morristown Library Director, Chad Leinaweaver. In the spirit of paying it forward, Leinaweaver enthusiastically recommended Pastor Williams for Tap’s Meet our Leaders Series.
The two community leaders are working side by side to bring an exciting exhibit to the Morristown Library for the 2018 fall season. This year marks the 175th anniversary of Bethel Church. Established in 1843, Bethel was the first African Methodist Episcopal Church of Morristown. In 1841, several families left the Presbyterian Church of Morristown to form the Bethel Mite Society, which was later incorporated as Bethel in 1843. For eight years the congregation met in each other’s homes until funds were raised to construct the Carpenter Gothic church on Spring Street in 1849.
Pastor Williams is very excited about the upcoming library exhibit and is looking forward to showcasing the history and teachings of Bethel Church and its impact on the Morristown community these past 175 years.
“Before I came to Morristown in November of 2010, I served in a missionary in Cape Town, South Africa. There, I learned before justice is ever possible, we must first focus on truth and reconciliation. I have been trying to find ways to bring this information and knowledge to the Morristown community.”
“Since 2011, I have been working with the Church of the Redeemer here in Morristown. Through a pulpit exchange we bring our communities together. They close their doors and come to our church. We close our doors and go to theirs. We do this to say we are neighbors and we affirm each other. We model for the rest of the community, by demonstrating ways to come together and move past differences.”
Coming together has been a strong theme for Pastor Williams since his arrival. Politically, he believes that Republicans and Democrats in Morristown need to come together more. “Morristown is a small town, makes no sense to be divided by party lines. Our things in common are far greater than our differences.”
In the past 175 years, Bethel has welcomed, then waved goodbye to 51 pastors. Williams is only the fifth pastor to ever stay longer than three years. 2018 marks his lucky seventh year. He is grateful to the Bethel community for their continued love and support.
Perhaps William’s tenure is longer than most because his love and support goes further than the walls of Bethel.
“I am a pastor of my congregation, but also a pastor for the larger community. I want to give support regardless of religious or political beliefs.”
Tap- How do you deal with the celebrity that comes with your position? “In this role, I knew there would be no private life, but I do have a funny story to share. It was maybe my first or second week here in Morristown and I was over at Walmart. I went to check out and the salesperson said, ‘your wife was in the other day and left her Claritin.’ I said, you know who I am? He said, yes Pastor. And you know who my wife is? Yes… please take her Clariton. I grew up in Philadelphia, where if I left anything behind in a Walmart, forget it. I learned early on what a small community Morristown is.
Tap- Any favorite local Hot Spots- MY CHURCH! And when he wants to avoid some of the celebrity fanfare that happens around town, Williams heads to Mintea Sushi in Cedar Knolls.
Tap- Anyone you would like to thank? On the personal level- my paternal grandfather. He was an important influence. On a more external front, I would have to say Dr. King and his mentor- Howard Thurman, author of one of Pastor Williams most cherished works-Jesus and the Disinherited.
Tap- What have you learned in this role? I have a better understanding of historical narrative. By that, I mean, the story we perceive often times is not what is going on right NOW. People’s understanding of places and politics evolve. Morristown’s historical narrative has been written for generations. Relationships, opinions, understanding and perceptions vary depending on time and circumstances, all make up the historical narrative.
Tap- Final thoughts- I am optimistic about Morristown. I do think it makes sense to bring Morristown and Morris Township together, consolidate the two communities. We’ll see how it evolves.
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