Crafting Advent 2019

Thanks to all who helped us get into the spirit of waiting – the Advent season – on Sunday, December 8, after the worship service. Intergenerational inspiration!

Available Tools

Posted in Advent/Christmas | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Crafting Advent 2019

Sermon “Singing Mary’s Song of Rejoicing”

“Singing Mary’s Song” is the theme for Princeton United Methodist Church this Advent season, during 10 am worship. “The Magnificat” is the Virgin Mary’s joyful, prophetic response when the baby John the Baptist in her cousin Elizabeth’s womb joyfully recognizes the presence of the baby Jesus in her womb.

On this First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “Singing Mary’s Song of Rejoicing.” The Scripture for the week is Luke 1:46-55. These ten verses of Scripture are beautiful, dense, vibrant, hopeful, and challenging. 

“We are a diverse community joyfully responding to God’s love and growing as disciples of Christ.” That is our Mission Statement – why we exist as PUMC – why we are thankful more and more. 

The keyword here is “Joyfully.” We are joyfully responding to God’s Love, yet, we get confused sometimes between “joy” and “happiness.” Joy can be both a gift and a challenge. Is it aspirational? Is it appropriate – given so much sorrow, struggle, and despair in the world? A joyful thing can be a struggle, particularly when we are struggling and finding it difficult to be happy. It is not always a natural disposition to be joyful when one has a lot of work to do. Define Joy. What is your joy?

In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, verse 11, Jesus said: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Jesus demands us to love one another: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Mary taught me much about Joy. Here we see a young Jewish girl from the backwater town of Nazareth, unwed and vulnerable – receiving the announcement by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit to be called Jesus. She goes to visit her relative, Elizabeth. Her response to the Annunciation is to sing a song, “My soul magnifies the Lord …” She is full of joy, but it could easily have been fear. This song is full of joy, hope, reversal, expectation, Incarnation, and Kingdom building. 

Rejoice! God has broken into your life and human history.

Rejoice! God has regard for you – beloved, enough, seen, known, loved

Rejoice! God is calling you to join God’s action. Incarnate, kingdom building, liberation, healing, joy

Rejoice! Mary’s ‘Yes’ and every ‘Yes” within us

Rejoice! The reign of God is at hand. God has fulfilled his promise. Full of surprise and life 

Rejoice! God is trustworthy, kind, merciful. We can say yes, even if we don’t understand

Rejoice! God is giving us eyes to see God’s promise as already fulfilled.

Rejoice! God is turning things on their heads! Subverting power structures, pretensions, hierarchies, sin, in church and society  

Rejoice! God’s liberating work has set you free. No more fear of failure, loss, rejection. No more shame that distances and hides. No more need for anxiety and control. No more need to get your worth from status, wealth, privilege, possession, or meeting expectations.

Rejoice! God has not forgotten those who are oppressed (underprivileged or overprivileged). God’s liberating work is setting the downtrodden free, scattering the proud, lifting the lowly, filling the hungry with good things.

Rejoice! God has embodied all of this in the absurd choice of these two marginalized pregnant women who bear the good news, the gospel, the “incarnate” love of God in this world of the “I – young/poor/unwed” or the “I – too old!”

Rejoice! We are all pregnant with the possibility of a new life. God is with us – God is in us.

Rejoice! We do not have to manufacture joy – a gift – a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We just let it in. Say yes! And when we do, like Mary – our souls magnify the Lord – aglow.

So let us celebrate Advent, singing Mary’s song of praise together: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my savior.” AMEN

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link

For the complete video of the December 1 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here

Posted in Advent/Christmas, General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “Singing Mary’s Song of Rejoicing”

LONGEST NIGHT SERVICE – December 17, 2019

As a peaceful, healing solace for those who are hurting and mourning — away from the frenzy of the season – Rev. Jenny Smith Walz and PrincetonUMC’s Stephen Ministers will offer a “Longest Night Service,” on Tuesday, December 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Posted in Advent/Christmas, Community, General, Ministries, Small Groups, Worship | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on LONGEST NIGHT SERVICE – December 17, 2019

CELEBRATE ADVENT- December 1, 2019

 Singing Mary’s Song

“Singing Mary’s Song” will be the theme for Princeton United Methodist Church during the Advent season, beginning on Sunday, December 1, during 10 AM worship. “Throughout December, musicians and singers of all ages – and even those in the congregation – will have an opportunity to respond to the words of ‘Mary’s Magnificat,’” says Rev. Jenny Smith Walz, lead pastor.

 

 

At 5 p.m. on December 1, Hyosang Park, music director, will conduct a free concert “How Great Our Joy!” featuring PrincetonUMC’s handbell choir, handbell quartet and a handbell solo with Duo Grazioso. “Through handbell music and singing Christmas carols, you will experience a truly joyous season,” says Park.

Posted in Advent/Christmas, Community, General, Music, Worship | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on CELEBRATE ADVENT- December 1, 2019

Steve Wong “I Like Giving: Faith Story” 11-03-2019

Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish”

When I was asked to share my story about giving, it made me stop for a moment and think about why it is that I am so willing to give up my time and resources for God. One would think that it would be an easy and obvious question to answer, but I struggled mightily to come up with the words to explain it to even myself. So I started thinking about the times I spent around the church. I started thinking back to the summer when we did nine Sundays of robotics –  sitting in the sanctuary listening to the sermon – taking the children through a Bible story in Sunday School – having fellowship with folks before and after service. And then it dawned on me. I’m willing to give because giving is one way that I can give thanks to God for all he has done. 

And what has he done? He has provided our family with a home church in PUMC. We feel blessed to have the music ministry. Both of our children are singing or have sung in the choir. PUMC has provided a Sunday School to our children that has taught them essential Christian-based lessons. Volunteering as a Sunday School teacher has dramatically expanded and deepened my understanding of Christianity – which is significant for me since I grew up with non-Christian parents and never learned about God or attended a church service until well into adulthood. My son William had the opportunity to act as a lay-reader and serve communion during service. My daughter Elizabeth got to be a part of the children’s performances. Listening to the sermons reinforced my faith and helped equip me to better deal with life’s challenges, including some significant problems at my day job. 

I remember finding myself in a position within my career where I had hit the ceiling, and the only way to continue growing was to take drastic steps to improve my situation. Retraining can be a terrifying thing fraught with risks. It was just when we started attending PUMC, and I needed God more than ever to help me through it. Through His grace and guidance, I’m in a much better place now. I would be remiss not to mention that PUMC has connected us with a community of faithful believers who are not only welcoming and care for each other but also visibly serve God and the community in creative ways. You are all a constant source of encouragement and inspiration to our family. 

I am happy to give back to God in appreciation for all his blessings to us.  I am profoundly grateful to Him for bringing us to this church and walking with us through good times and bad. I am also thankful for being able to share this story with you. 

 

 

Posted in General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Steve Wong “I Like Giving: Faith Story” 11-03-2019

Sermon “I Like Giving: Ripples”

On All Saints Sunday, November  3, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “I Like Giving: Ripples.” The Scripture for the week is John 6:1-14

As she continued her focus on acts of generosity,  she looked at the story of Christ feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes. There was this boy ready to share a little, and in the hands of Jesus, his act of generosity produced ripples that continue to this day.

Do you ever wonder about this boy with the five loaves and two fishes? Did he have grandparents who taught him generosity? Or was it his idea? How did he get that food in the first place? Did he catch the fish himself? Or was it packed for him lovingly to go on this journey? What did he imagine would happen as he handed his food to Jesus? What did he think when 12 baskets were collected? What difference did his act of generosity make? His life most certainly was changed that day. The miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand changed these people’s lives on that day. They all ate and were satisfied but most importantly, they must have told the story to many others who also recounted it to still others and impacted their lives as well. Might our presence here right now in these pews be a ripple effect of this little boy’s offering 2000 years ago?  

That day reminds us of repeated scenes in our lives too. Look around and see the enormous need in the world. Hungry people. Unending gun violence. Countless people without homes. Refugees. Far too many children in orphanages and foster care. So many homes destroyed by fires, hurricanes, earthquakes.  Desperate people have given to despair. What are we going to do about them? When we lift our need to God, God is asking, “what do you have?” We reply, “not enough.” The end of our human understanding, knowledge, resources, is the beginning of love’s understanding and knowledge. Love’s knowledge multiplies our seemingly meager resources and makes a way where there doesn’t seem to be a way. Love’s understanding is enough to feed all the people and with leftovers. When placed in the hands of Jesus – hands full of love’s knowledge – our gifts, as limited as they might be (even generous giving can feel like a drop in the bucket) become abundance, more than enough.

God calls us to is not just generosity, but generosity as Ministry, as an act of love. Ministry is about multiplying resources in the hands of love, Jesus’ hands, so that what might’ve been just a social hand-out becomes a revelation of God’s amazing Grace, leaving behind transformation, healing, restoration, life, justice. God’s love changes people and societies.

As the names of the deceased were read, a dove was placed. Each family was able to take home a dove

As we come to the Table today on All Saints Day, let us bring, with thanksgiving, the memories of the saints who taught us not only generosity but how God multiplies resources? Let us remember that at the end of our understanding, love’s knowledge takes over.

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link

For the complete video of the November 3 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here

Posted in General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “I Like Giving: Ripples”

Welcome Our New Staff Members and Interns!

It’s Fall, and you’ve probably noticed a lot of new faces working around PUMC. We would like to introduce you to our new staff members and seminary interns. Please seek them out and make them feel welcome.   Introduce yourselves, ask them about themselves, ask them how you can help them become part of the life of our church, and tell them what you love about PUMC! We have several new staff that are focused on our children and youth ministries, in particular. And two seminary interns, one working with our youth and one working with Jenny in ministry.  We are so happy that all of these talented individuals are here!

Evangeline Burgers - Director of Children’s Ministry

Evangeline Burgers

Evangeline Burgers – Director of Children’s Ministry.  Evangeline is the proud mother of Henry, dog mom of Charlie, and wife of Alex. She and her small family are recent transplants to Princeton from Pasadena, CA. Evangeline grew up in St. Louis, MO and attended graduate school in Ann Arbor, MI. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. Evangeline spent the last four years teaching first grade in East LA and six years before that teaching various grades K-5 in the greater Detroit area. Having grown up as a double preacher’s kid in the UMC and serving churches in a variety of capacities as an adult, Evangeline is excited to offer her spiritual gifts of servanthood and exhortation in working together with the children and families of Princeton UMC.

Julia Hanna —Accompanist for Children and Youth Choirs

Julia Hanna

Julia Hanna Accompanist for Children and Youth Choirs.  Taiwan-born pianist Julia Hanna earned her Bachelor of Music and Master’s of Music at Rutgers University studying under Paul Hoffman.   Julia’s husband, Steve, who she met in choir at Rutgers, is a Middle School Band teacher. They have two sons, Kieran and William, ages 7 and 11, Julia has toured in the US and internationally with various choirs and artists in the NYC area.  She currently serves as a staff accompanist and coach at Westminster Choir College and at the summer Co-Operative Program.  Julia is delighted to be working with our children and youth music program at PUMC.

Mikaela (Miki) Langdon—Nursery Care Lead

Mikaela Langdon

Mikaela (Miki) LangdonNursery Care Lead.  Miki grew up at PUMC, singing in the choir and attending youth group. After acquiring an MA and BA in Writing from Rowan University, she is back at her home church, serving as a nursery lead and youth volunteer.  Miki started as a volunteer in the nursery where she clearly demonstrated her love of little children.  Miki’s day job is working as a publications and education administrator at The IEEE in Piscataway, NJ.  She loves being back “home” and working with our youngest and our youth, and we’re happy she is here!

Emma-Claire Martin – Nursery Care Lead

Emma-Claire Martin

Emma-Claire Martin – Nursery Care Lead.  Emma-Claire is a first-year student at Princeton Theological Seminary where she is working toward her Master of Divinity and Master of Christian Education and Formation dual degree with a focus in youth ministry. After studying filmmaking at American University in Washington, DC, Emma-Claire was most recently a substitute high school teacher in Philadelphia. This is her second time working in a UMC nursery, and she loves working with our children.  She can’t wait to meet everyone at PUMC.

Pearl Quick – Youth Intern

Pearl Quick

Pearl Quick – Youth Intern.  Pearl is a Divinity & Youth Ministry student at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is currently getting her DUAL degree and is expected to graduate in May of 2020. She is originally from Littleton, North Carolina where she was raised on a farm.  She has since settled primarily in NYC, where is attended Sarah Lawrence College for her undergrad in Biology— specifically Disease Ecology. She spends her free time  teaching Urban Farming to middle schoolers in hopes of starting a farm dedicated to healing black & brown people back towards the land.  This is Pearl’s second year working with our youth at PUMC, and we are so glad she is back with us!

Rebekah Anderson—Ministry Intern

Rebekah Anderson

Rebekah Anderson—Ministry Intern.   Rebekah is a second year student at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she is pursuing her Master’s of Divinity. Rebekah is originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and studied Religious Studies and Psychology at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida prior to coming to Princeton last fall. Rebekah is in the process of seeking ordination in the Presbyterian Church USA and is passionate about community, social justice, and telling stories. Rebekah is absolutely thrilled to be working at PUMC this year!

Posted in Staff | Tagged , | Comments Off on Welcome Our New Staff Members and Interns!

Sermon “I like Giving: Change”

On Sunday, October 20, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “I Like Giving: Change.” The Scripture for the week is Luke 19:1-10. She focused on acts of generosity while looking at the story of Zacchaeus, that wealthy tax collector who is radically changed, ready to put right the wrongs he had done, and eager to give half of his possessions to the poor.  

Pastor Jenny at Princeton UMC

Sunday Service, October 20, 2019

Generosity is very complex. It comes easily in some ways but in other forms, not at all. People’s feelings, lessons learned, money, sadness, fairness, fear, and responsibility are all involved. But being generous to the point of extravagance is a crucial attribute of God, and thus of discipleship.

Indeed generosity is a significant theme in Luke’s Gospel, especially at a time when the rich keep their riches for themselves, believing they are given to them by God. Luke is concerned about wealth and what happens to the poor. He believes in distributive justice, and consequently, he is hard on the rich and how they use their money. Closely tied to the theme of welcoming outsiders, the poor and the marginalized, are money, and generosity of spirit. We could be generous with our money but also with our thoughts, words, time, energy, and love. 

Zacchaeus’ story is straightforward but still challenging. Something is stirring in Zacchaeus’ conscience at this time of his life. A tax collector, wealthy, involved in exploitation, extortion, and taxing, who has this desire to come and see this one with the reputation of being a friend of tax collectors. Zacchaeus is so eager to catch a glimpse of Jesus despite the mumblings of the crowd, who, no doubt dislike him, that he climbs up a tree in an undignified manner. The people are shocked to see that Jesus sees him, calls him, names him, showers him with love, and then invites himself to his home.   

God sees him, loves him, and claims him as his own – and this immediately transforms Zacchaeus. He receives the generosity of God’s presence and forgiveness – and it spurred him to action. He must, therefore, fulfill his obligation of theft and right the wrongs he has done. Reminded of God’s abundant gift of grace, he is moved to extravagance – giving away half of his wealth. 

Salvation comes not only because he is repentant and changes his ways but also to heal his brokenness. Now, marginalization is a thing of the past. God has freed him. In God’s company, giving back after defrauding the poor, changes the relationship and brings joy, eagerness, humility, and reconnection. Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Lack of generosity lies with the self-righteous observers who are mumbling, judging Zacchaeus and Christ. It keeps people on margins – withholding grace, love, acceptance. They act superior as they desire to maintain their reputation. They deny that people change. But God’s grace brings healing and transformation. God’s grace transforms us into more generous people. Acting in generous ways also brings us closer to God. When God saves and heals us, we are no longer broken. 

The story is asking us what lack of generosity, or attempt to stockpile wealth is keeping us apart from God and others, stifling our joy and leaving us broken? On the other hand, what longing for Christ is stirring in us? What joyful reactions to God’s grace are we experiencing? Eagerness, welcome, hearing our name called, looked upon with love? What change comes as we respond joyfully to Christ’s love, call, and presence? Let us now return God’s extravagant grace with our extravagance in giving.

This week, I invite you to try one big generous act in your own life. Also, pay attention to what you are worried about, like fear, excuse, debate, judgment, discomfort, violation of fairness, debt, time, need a reward, or what else is happening in your life. Jesus is saying, “I see your generosity. Give just 10% of your wealth.” Ask God to stir up your heart and make your spirit willing.

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link

For the complete video of the October 20 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

Posted in General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “I like Giving: Change”

Sermon “I like Giving: The Way God Does”

Pastor Jenny Smith Walz blesses the Puerto Rico mission team

On Sunday, October 13, 2019, Pastor Jennifer Smith-Walz preached a sermon titled “I Like Giving: The Way God Does.” Her message focused on the free-handed contributions of the Israelites to the building of God’s tabernacle, as found in the Scripture Exodus 35:4–36:7. She reminded us of how God is stirring our hearts to give generously and creatively for the work he is calling us to do.

God gave Moses instructions to build a tabernacle, a place for worship. Moses called the people together and invited them to contribute to this worthy cause, suggesting all sorts of materials – precious metals, fibers, cloth, wood, leather. And then, he asked for an offering of skills – labor, design, spinning, weaving, artistry, craftsmanship, intelligence, knowledge, teaching, training, apprenticeship, and leadership. And everyone whose heart was stirred, and whose spirit was willing, brought their offerings to the Lord. They were generous, creative and extravagant. The donations came pouring in and far exceeded the need that Moses had to tell them to stop contributing. Whoever does that?

The Scripture is descriptive, even with eyes closed. It gives a detailed description of the tabernacle building plans, making use of the senses of colors, taste, smell, and sound. While these details are glorious, what God is doing in this community of  Israelites is even more remarkable.

Remember, the Israelites had had a difficult life – slaves in Egypt, plagues on Egypt, Moses, and the burning bush, ‘Let my people go’, their escape from Egypt, 40 years wandering in the desert, the arrival at Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments, the Covenants – yet they responded generously to God’s commandment to give. They recognized they are God’s beloved children, created in His image. Their generosity was contagious. It was the first time this community formed a shared vision and purpose, and it brought them great joy.

Numerous studies have shown that giving makes us happier, like spending on others and giving donations to organizations trying to leave the world a better place. Achieving goals related to helping others not only increases happiness, satisfaction, and well-being but also erases the feeling of anxiety, depression, pain, etc. “Giving is the most potent force on the planet and will protect you, your whole life,” says Dr. Stephen Post. Give daily, in small ways and you’ll be happier, healthier, live longer. God created us in his image, and as such, we need to give, but somehow, we tend to forget. We notice the Israelites’ excitement about giving stuff, time, skills – joyfully singing, laughing, as they contributed. Remembering earlier in their journey, when they were complaining, God was generous in his provision to them. Now they are generous to God and others.

What is your “I like giving” story? When have you discovered, like the Israelites in Exodus, that God stirred your heart, and your spirit was willing? When did you realize that your gift made a difference – in you and the recipient? What have been your missed opportunities for generosity? Remembering that God created us to share joyfully the gifts he has given us, we encourage you to rediscover the joy of giving generously. Today, we invite you to ask God to stir your heart and make your spirit willing to give.

The sermon is a podcast on this webpage under the category worship. Here is the link

For the complete video of the October 13 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here.

Posted in General, Sermon, Worship | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Sermon “I like Giving: The Way God Does”

Art Against Racism: Opening Our Doors

Rev, Ginny Cetuk, left, with Caroline Clarke, who delivered Not in Our Town Princeton’s lecture on “The Case for Reparations,” and Robt Seda-Schreiber of the Bayard Rustin Center of Social Justice

Art Agaist Racism - "Girl in Prayer" by Rhinold Ponder

“Girl in Prayer” by Rhinold Ponder

Princeton UMC gave strong support to the first Art Against Racism project, founded by Rhinold Ponder and aided by the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice and Not in Our Town Princeton. Princeton UMC members hosted the intercongregational breakfast on Sunday, staged the reparations talk by Not in Our Town Princeton’s spokesperson Caroline Clarke, and opened the doors to the exhibit for 11 days. A member of PUMC bought one of the paintings, “Girl in Prayer,” and donated it to the church.

The exhibit attracted nearly 300 visitors. “We are extremely grateful,” says Rhinold, “that the PUMC family embraced the project with open arms and hard work to make it a very successful event. So much positive energy and relationship building came out of PUMC’s participation.” Other works were shown at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Princeton and the Princeton YWCA. 

Rev. Ginny Cetuk worked with Rhinold to bring these events to our church. “Thank you, Pastor Ginny, for bringing this wonderful opportunity to show PUMC”s commitment to work against racism and for justice and love for all people,” says Pat Ostberg, who took charge of scheduling exhibit volunteers.

Princeton UMC joined members of First Baptist church and Mt. Pisgah AME church at a breakfast cooked by Ian Macdonald.

Special thanks go to Chef Ian Macdonald and the hosts for thebreakfast, to Abu Ibrahim and Iona Harding who helped stage the lecture and reception, and to the 22 volunteers who worked to keep the show open for 10 ½ days. They include Judy Algor, Chris Cox, Dana Dreibelbis, Anne Fikaris, Barbara Fox, Iona Harding, Karen Hoagland, Mikaela Langdon, Karen Longo-Baldwin, Jeff & Vivian Sayre, Marv Ostberg, Pat Ostberg, Lori Pantaleo, Joe & Sunny Paun, Beth Perrine, Charles Phillips, Katheryn Ranta. Hyelim Yoon, Temi Tayo, and Michele Tuck-Ponder.

“I was touched by the artists’ statements through their art, the people who came through our doors to view the exhibit, and the volunteer’s willingness to devote some of their time to the issue of racism,” says Pat. “Thanks to Debbie Blok for the many behind the scene things she did and to Susan Lidstone for the eye-catching, outdoor signs. Many of our visitors were just walking by, saw the signs and dropped in.”

“I was so proud of our church for “opening” our doors to this very important community outreach,” says Katheryn Ranta.  “I was especially touched by meeting and talking with our visitors:

  • The young man with autism whose painting of hands forming a heart over the rainbow was on display.  His proud parents and grandparents were with him.
  • A young Asian woman with her white husband talked about how the painting of an interracial couple touched on the problems she faces.
  • Three college age students spent a long time discussing some of the paintings and then took Skitch’s Testing Your Spirituality and talked with Iona and me about it.”

Pat’s favorite story: “When Marv and I were there one evening, a couple came in. After looking at the paintings and poetry, the wife told me she had always wanted to see the inside of our church, and then said, ‘You can tell there is a lot of love here.’ I agreed with her.”

 

Posted in Community, Not in Our Town Princeton, social justice | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Art Against Racism: Opening Our Doors