When the Rev. Dr. Nancy E. Muth came to The First Presbyterian Church of Germantown (FPCG) to minister in 1999, she had worked in religious service for about two decades. But it wasn’t until she arrived on Chelten Avenue that she understood how “churches can make a real difference.”
On Jan. 8, Muth announced her retirement to FPCG’s congregation after 14 years of service. The senior minister said her decision resulted from much thought and prayer and follows a year of physical setbacks. Yet, it still came as a surprise to the congregation.
What she meant
Over the course of Muth’s tenure, the church had strengthened its ties with the community through crisis and youth ministries.
Longtime member Bill Young said that as soon as Muth arrived, she recognized that the church needed to be “one of the driving forces” in helping Germantown make positive transformations.
One of her first projects as an assistant pastor in 1999 was to help Northwest Philadelphia’s ecumenical community find a way to meet a growing number of emergency aid requests.
This effort led to the Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry, an organization that connects individuals and families to food, funds and needed social services.
In 2008, Dr. Muth co-founded Germantown Community Connections to facilitate civic dialogue among various groups.
Advocacy and community service
Muth’s involvement in community service leadership has also included advocating for children.
For seven weeks every summer, FPGC has offered a reasonably priced day-camp for children. Along with FPGC’s Director of Urban Ministries Eileen Jones, Muth learned how to make the camp a “Freedom School” by participating in a reading enrichment initiative through the Children’s Defense Fund.
Throughout her work, Muth has consistently found encouragement through a Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:7: “But seek the welfare of the city … and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Urban ministry, said Muth, is something she “wanted all of us together at the church to learn.”
Now, FPGC offers a week-long Philadelphia Urban Ministry Institute to help others understand what they have learned: That urban service requires a commitment to a community.
“If First Presbyterian were not in Germantown, the people would miss it,” said Muth. “If churches weren’t in communities, communities would miss them.”
In retirement, she will not only need to forego attending FPCG, but also her involvement in its community service groups.
“Once you leave a Presbyterian church, you leave,” Muth said. “You aren’t able to have your hand in anything.”
Asked where she will go, or what she will do, Muth said she neither knows nor needs to: “It’s in God’s hands.”