While serving as a pastor in the Newburgh area of New York, the Rev. Martha Epstein shuffled back and forth between two churches, Vail's Gate United Methodist and Gardnertown United Methodist.
"A two point charge is responsible for two churches on a part-time basis," the Rev. Epstein told Patch in a recent interview. "On Sunday morning I would preach at one and then preach at another church after, so I'm very happy to be at one."
The Rev. Epstein has replaced the outgoing Pastor Kregg Gabor at United Methodist Church of Monroe, 515 Cutlers Farm Road, after the Rev. Gabor left to lead Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Hyde Park, NY.
The Rev. Epstein and Wayne, her husband of 12 years, have a 10-year-old daughter, Juliana, a Stepney Elementary School fifth-grader, and Phil, 24, a son from Wayne's previous marriage, who lives on his own.
"It's a wonderful place, both the town as well as the church," the Rev. Epstein said. "We're settling in nicely."Her first service in Monroe was on July 1 and Sunday school classes have recently begun.
United Methodist Church of Monroe has a number of events planned, including the Harvest Festival on Oct. 5 and the celebration of its 40th anniversary. The Rev. Epstein said the church will also remain active in its local and global ministry.
"We support people going on missions to Mozambique, Africa," she said. "A parishioner recently went there. She'll be sharing information about her trip at our Sept. 29 worship services."
Splitting her time between two churches in New York made if more difficult for the Rev. Epstein to forge close relationships.
"Sometimes I had to leave before the services ended and did not have time to meet with the parishioners," she explained.
One of her main goals in Monroe is to be closer to her parishioners and active in the community.
"I've already connected with the other clergy in Monroe with the Monroe Clergy Association," she said. "Now I live in the same place where I serve and can be more active in the community."
The Rev. Epstein said she joined the Parent Teacher Organization in Monroe and is active with the Girl Scout troop her daughter is part of.
She is also forming friends quickly among her parishioners."I started on July 1, but was not able to move in until the end of July," the Rev. Epstein said. "People opened their homes and took us out to lunch and dinner. They helped us move and get settled as a family. They've been great and also in the church, very helpful and accommodating — very positive."
Stepney Elementary School's staff, students and parents made Juliana feel welcome too, the Rev. Epstein said of her daughter's experience here.
Feeling Right at Home, Crickets & All
The Epsteins' house in Monroe is surrounded by woods in a neighborhood more rural than they were used to in New York.
"We were in suburbia, our daughter wasn’t used to being with woods," the Rev. Epstein said. "We love it. I love to be able to sit out on my porch and see deer come and we've seen wild turkeys."
One day, she said Juliana asked her to close the window because the crickets were out and she wasn't used to the chirping.
"It is a little smaller feel," she said of Monroe. "I’ve enjoyed going to the farmers' market. I do like that feeling better."
No matter where she has been, there has always been one thing about her mission the Rev. Epstein enjoys most.
"I enjoy being with many different people," she said. "Being able to be with people during the most important parts of their lives, whether it's the funeral of their mother or dedicating themselves to one another at their wedding or being at their bedside. I also love the children and having kids in worship."