Rev. Dr. Robert Drew Simpson
The Reverend Dr. Robert Drew Simpson was appointed Senior Pastor to the Chatham Methodist Church in 1965. Prior to his ministry in Chatham he was the Senior Pastor to the Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church from 1946-1960 where he started after he graduated, summa cum laude, with a B.A. in religion from Drew University, where he led the congregation in constructing their first church building.
As a devoted scholar, Bob received his Bachelor of Divinity from Drew Theological Seminary, magna cum laude, and continued graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. He returned to Drew University to complete a Ph.D. degree in Christian History in 1954. In 1960 he moved to Nutley, New Jersey, and again led his congregation in church-building at the Vincent United Methodist Church. In 1965, he began his 25 year ministry at the Chatham United Methodist Church . His Chatham congregation named him Pastor Emeritus upon his retirement in 1990 and named their Christian education building for Bob and his wife Megan. Members of the congregation created two named scholarships at Drew Theological School to honor the Simpsons: the Robert Drew Simpson Scholarship, and the Dr. Robert Drew Simpson and Dr. Megan Demarest Simpson Scholarship.
Bob, who was born in Port Jervis, NY, to Edna Drake and Edward Simpson, attended Drew University where he met and later married Megan Demarest Simpson in June of 1946. Bob did not initially favor Drew’s admission of women in the 40’s. He spoke out against co-education, only to meet and fall in love with Megan Demarest C’46, the next semester, as a new college co-ed. They were married for 68 years and have three children, six grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren, leaving a legacy of love and devotion. Bob’s joy and love for his family, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren were still very evident as he and his family celebrated his 90th birthday a year ago.
As a descendant of Daniel Drew, the founder of Drew University, Bob served there as Trustee from 1977-1997, where he was chair and vice-chair of the Student, Campus Life and Honorary Degree committees. He was an Adjunct Professor at Drew Seminary in the area of Pastoral Ministry. He also served on the Advancement and Executive Committees of the Theological School Alumni Association and remained an honorary member of the Executive Board. In 1994 he was the recipient of the Drew Theological School Alumni Distinquished Service Award. After his retirement he was an archivist in the Methodist Archives at Drew for 14 years.
Dr. Simpson’s published works include Freeborn Garrettson, American Methodist Pioneer (1954); The Life and Journals of the Reverend Freeborn Garrettson (1984); Camp Tabor (1995); The Civil War Letters of John Zephaniah Drake (1997); If Saddlebags Could Talk (1998) which he co-authored with Dr. Fred Maser and Minding God’s Business: The Stories of Women in Mission in the United Methodist Church (2003) which he co-authored with Dr. Megan Demarest Simpson. Dr. Simpson is the author of numerous articles on Methodist History. He also was president of the Archival and Historical Society of the Northern New Jersey Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Bob’s re-enactment programs of early church preachers, “Circuit Riders”, brought him and his audience’s great pleasure. Dressed in original preacher’s attire, including sword and saddle bags, he enjoyed educating congregations about the history of the early Methodist church pioneers. Bob’s hobby and passion for researching family history has left a complete account for his own future generations. During the holiday season Bob enjoyed presenting his program on “Santa Claus” depicted by the political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, using his personal collection.
Bob was the first in his family to attend college. In a letter dated Dec. 1945, from Bob’s mother, Edna Drake Simpson, she wrote some words of advice for his upcoming student pastorate at Mt. Tabor: “ I would love to hear you Sunday, you will know your sermon fine as usual. And I bet the church people will like you. When you stand at the door to shake hands with them, make them feel you have always known them. I’ll be thinking of you sweetheart.”
Bob was “hands on” throughout his ministry. He enjoyed knowing his congregations and ministering to them fully always with wit and humor. His interest in educating and mentoring others in ministry will live on in the scholarships in his name.
Before Megan’s death in Dec. 2013, Bob spent his time fully devoted to her every day, in her final few years, holding her hand as she succumbed to Alzheimers. His words: “She is now my last and only parishioner.”
Bob and Megan soar now eternally, side by side. They were both gifts in life and now share in God’s gift in life eternal. A family burial was held on August 15, 2015. The grandchildren scattered rice saved from their wedding day. Their’s was a love story for the ages.
A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, October 16, 2015 at 7pm at the Chatham United Methodist Church, 460 Main St. Chatham, NJ.
May each of our day’s be filled with simple joys, humor, and devotion.
With gratitude and blessings,
The Simpson Family