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My Experience in Zarephath

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


While living in Piscataway, New Jersey in the late 70s and working at the Piscataway Post Office, I was assigned to be the Postmaster of Zarephath, New Jersey. It was quite an experience that I still remember to this day. I learned some lessons there that I incorporate into my life decades later.

About Zarephath

Let me tell you about Zarephath (ZARRA-fath) before I tell you about my experience there.

Zarephath was named after the place in the Bible where the poor widowed woman gave the prophet Elijah the last meal she had to keep her and her son alive. Because of her obedience to the man of God, a miracle happened for her and she was able to have food for her and her son during three years of drought (1 Kings 17:8-16).

Zarephath, New Jersey was an unincorporated Christian community located in Franklin Township in Somerset County, New Jersey with a population of only 37 people that included 19 households. Thirty-six people were White and only one was Black.

Zarephath was the communal home of the Methodist Pillar of Fire Church, and was the worldwide headquarters of Pillar of Fire International. The community included Somerset Christian College and the radio station WAWZ-FM.

Buildings for housing were located on a hill between the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the Millstone River. Flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011 caused the community and all Pillar of Fire ministries to move from Zarephath. Therefore, the original campus no longer exists, but a new campus in Somerset was established.

In 1978, Margaret Minnicks date stamping last pieces of mail at the Zarephath Post Office.

In 1978, Margaret Minnicks date stamping last pieces of mail at the Zarephath Post Office.

Zarephath Post Office

I was the last Postmaster of Zarephath, New Jersey. I am seen in the photo that was in the Franklin News Record on March 2, 1978. The photo shows me date stamping the last letters that were mailed from the post office on February 28, 1978.

The one-room post office served the entire community. It was different from the big post offices we have today. There were no mail carriers or other workers. As postmaster, I did it all. Because there were so few residents, they picked up their mail from their free post office boxes during regular hours. A mail truck delivered incoming mail daily from the Somerset Post Office and picked up outgoing mail if there was any.

Lifestyle at Zarephath

I often wonder why I think about Zarephath so many years after my experience there. I have come to the conclusion that I liked the community and its lifestyle. I often wish I lived in a community like that.

The 37 people who lived there got along and worked together for the benefit of them all. Every person had an assignment and everyone had their needs met. Those who worked outside the community received paychecks, and they put the entire amount in a common fund. Those who did not work for a paycheck worked in the community to help supply everybody's needs. For instance, the teachers worked at the college, but they did not have to pay rent, buy food, cook, clean, or do any work on campus. There were farmers, cooks, and others doing the work in the community.

I replaced the postmaster who retired. She was a resident of the community and her paycheck went into the common fund. I was the postmaster there, but I was not a resident of the community. Therefore, the community's rules did not apply to me.

All meals were prepared by those assigned to do so. At meal times, everyone ate together in the dining hall and no one went without. People whose jobs were to wash dishes and clean up the kitchen and dining hall did it while teachers, farmers, and other others went back to their rent-free homes.

One day after my shift was over at the post office, I joined the residents for dinner. What an experience! Complete joy filled the place. Everyone was pleasant while telling about interesting things that went on during the day.

Zarephath Mentality

I often wonder if the Zarephath mentality would work among many of us. I am thinking that I could really adjust and get used to living like that. I wouldn't mind putting my entire paycheck in a common fund if it means I wouldn't have to pay living expenses, buy food, cook my own meals, wash another dish, or clean my own house.

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