PENNINGTON: St. Matthew’s longtime rector retires after 37 years

He retired as one of longest-tenured rectors in the Diocese of New Jersey

   The Rev. Canon John C. Belmont, longtime rector at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Pennington, retired at the end of June.
   The Rev. Belmont, who was ordained in 1971, served at St. Matthew’s for 37 years.
   He retired as one of longest-tenured rectors in the Diocese of New Jersey. During his time at St. Matthew’s, Father Jack performed more than 200 marriages and 500 baptisms, including the baptisms of his grandchildren.
   The most visible growth of the church was the addition of a parish hall and kitchen in 2000. This doubled the space of the facility. The hiring of an assistant rector focused on education (a position currently open). Education offerings include a full slate of Sunday school, nursery school, teen groups and adult-education programs.
   In terms of mission, the church’s outreach program touches people nearby — at the Urban Promise programs in Trenton and Camden, and as far away as a school for underprivileged children in El Hogar, Honduras.
   The church also enjoys a strong music program.
   Father Jack and his wife, Sandra, recently celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary.
   One of the highlights of his tenure, the Rev. Belmont said, was the church’s hosting of the couple’s wedding, which was attended by some 400 people. “It was such a wonderful, warm, supportive feeling,” he recalled. The couple’s blended family includes four children and four grandchildren, and their dog, Buddy, whom, they claim, rescued them.
   Father Jack’s efforts on behalf of the Diocese have included serving as chairman of the Commission on Ministry and co-chairman of the Committee on Priesthood. He has overseen the ordination of 11 people, including the Rev. Virginia Sheay, a St. Matthew’s parishioner who was the second woman ordained in the diocese. He calls his work on the Committee on Priesthood “incredibly fulfilling and joyful, as people make decisions about their own callings.”
   The Rev. Belmont, who is known for his warmth and his humor, and who often welcomed parishioners into his home, has no shortage of anecdotes.
   When he first arrived at the parish, a parishioner attended the twice-yearly rummage sale and made the mistake of setting down a raincoat — which was promptly and inadvertently purchased by a sale-goer. The rector repeated the mistake at this rummage sale this spring, setting down his own raincoat only to discover someone had purchased it.
   Father Jack previously served as rector at St. Andrew’s, Camden and at St. Luke’s, Gladstone, as curate. A native of Ewing, he received his bachelor’s degree from Rider University, his master’s degree in divinity from the Philadelphia Divinity School and his STM in pastoral counseling from New York Theological Seminary.
   St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church was formed in 1921 and today is the spiritual home to more than 200 individuals and families.
   The congregation built a woodframe church in the 1940s, which was replaced with the current brick worship space in 1966.