Pastor Skitch: Be kind to yourself

“Here’s the thing I keep saying to people, and the thing I think we need to hear most in this time: Be kind to yourself.

That’s what our leader, Amanda said to us all as we signed off from our every-so-often campus ministry call.

Be kind to yourself.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the stories of Jesus, and the letters of the early Church, we find many places where people are learning what it means to love God, and to love their neighbor. From prophets crying out to love those on the margins, to the Apostle Paul writing a theological treatise about what the love of God looks like in Jesus, we see account after account of loving God and our neighbor.

But what about loving ourselves?

When Jesus is asked what commandment is the greatest, the Gospel of Mark says he responds with, “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Love your neighbor as yourself.

We often focus on the front half, don’t we? We try to love the neighbor near, and the neighbor far. We try to love the neighbor we like, and the neighbor we don’t. We try to love our neighbor by transforming systems that hurt our neighbor. We don’t always get it right, but we try our best. But what about loving ourselves?

How can we try our best to love ourselves?

I think that’s what Amanda was getting at it. In asking our group to be kind to ourselves, she was reminding us that not only are we called to give grace to others but we are called to receive grace for ourselves, too.

What ways can you love yourself in terms of your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being?  This week I’m going to look myself in the mirror each day and say out loud, “Be kind to yourself.” I want to hear the words spoken to me, from me. I want to accept the grace that God has been extending to me, and I want to rest in it. Who cares if someone thinks I’m wacky. I need to hear it.

Let us be kind to ourselves, accepting God’s grace, and seeking to be healthier in body, mind, and spirit. Maybe you’ll want to join my practice, too.

Be Kind To Yourself,

Pastor Skitch

(This was published in Happenings, the weekly newsletter, on May 15, 2020)

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Maintaining Hope Through Adversity: Ashleigh Donaldson and Deena Prakash


Deena Prakash

Deena Prakash

Ashleigh Donaldson











Throughout the country, signs on lawns, banners on buildings, clanging pots and pans, and soaring voices celebrate America’s health care workers’ tireless efforts against the coronavirus. Within the Princeton UMC family worship several healthcare professionals and their families. In the first of an occasional series, Ashleigh Donaldson and Deena Prakash answer questions about their experiences working during COVID-19.

Since August 2018, physical therapist Ashleigh Donaldson has worked at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Currently, she is working in the ICU.  For 20 years, Deena Parkesh has worked as a nurse at Capital Health in Trenton. Deena works in hemodialysis, a specialty that uses a machine to remove waste and water from the blood. 

Ashleigh, can you describe your day? As a PT in the ICU my job consists mostly of evaluating the functional level (for discharge planning) of patients and, when appropriate, starting to mobilize them. With COVID patients, we are seeing their oxygen levels drop significantly with functional mobility, so sometimes even sitting them up for a couple of minutes in the ICU is difficult.

What is your biggest challenge? Firstly, as I am sure everyone has heard, we originally did not have enough equipment to safely see patients. This meant we were either not wearing appropriate equipment, or, we weren’t seeing patients as often as we should because we were trying to conserve gowns/masks etc.  Another challenge has been that patients are not allowed to see family members,and watching them deal with everything on their own has been hard. Personally, my biggest challenge has been not seeing my family. I know I am exposed every day so I absolutely cannot see them under any circumstances, and I am not sure when it will be safe to see them.”

Deena:“It is very challenging to work since 99% of our patients go on dialysis three times a week for the rest of their lives. Their only choice of treatment is a kidney transplant. Through this long term care, the patients become like family members to the nurses..  A few of my newly infected patients have died due to loss of kidney function. It is very hard for both patients and the staff. Fear and apprehension are very common.”

Where do you find strength? Joy? How do you maintain hope? Ashleigh: ” The hospital has received many food donations and a lot of positive messages of support.  Patients give me strength; they are fighting so hard and it helps us to fight hard too. Quiet times of prayer help to bring me to a place that is calm. I have also received so many supportive messages from friends, family, and of course this church. I would like to say now that I am so grateful for the prayers, cards, and calls to my mom.  I find joy in seeing the patients improve. When a patient is discharged, a song plays in the hospital;  when a patient finally sits up, medical staff cheer outside their room. People are all pulling together which gives me faith that humanity, kindness, and the human spirit will prevail.”

Deena: “We are together at His Mercy during this pandemic.I pray to God every day for strength and courage, and for my patients’ recovery. I have never before seen nursing care like this before. It is frightening. To do our jobs, we need a lot of physical strength and mental stamina. Indeed, I appreciate our church family for thinking of me, and thank them for all of their prayers.”

Ashleigh (we think she’s on the right ’cause she’s tall!) with a co-worker

Deena (on the left) with her co-workers



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Just by Being Ourselves: Carl and the Meaning of Life

“We are enough because God is enough.” At PrincetonUMC we try to understand that. During Children’s Time on May 17, Pastor Jenny Smith Walz helped us to understand that by reading this book during Children’s Time:

Carl and the Meaning of Life

Here is how the publisher describes this story.

Carl is an earthworm. He spends his days happily tunneling in the soil until a field mouse asks him a simple question that stops him short: “Why?” Carl’s quest takes him on an adventure to meet all the animals of the forest, each of whom seems to know exactly what they were put on this earth to do, unlike the curious Carl. But it’s not until the world around him has changed that Carl begins to realize everyone, no matter how small, makes a big difference just by being themselves.

Want to hear it read aloud? Here.


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“Family Activities from PUMC Children’s Ministry” Evangeline Burgers

The birds are singing, the sun is shining, it is a glorious time! I hope you are all well and having a wonderful week together at home.

I’ve recorded another read aloud video for our children: What Mary Jo Shared, by Janice May Udry. It is the story of a girl who has a hard time finding a story to share, but when she does it brings her new life! This is a great one for those of us (young or old!) who always feel like, “I don’t know what to share!” I hope you can check it out with your family on our PUMC Flipgrid: and respond with your own stories.

I was inspired by Pastor Jenny’s inclusion in her sermon last Sunday of the importance of changemakers telling their story to make a difference for our world. I picked up this book earlier this year called, Holy Troublemakers & Unconventional Saints, by Daneen Akers. It is a book full of stories of real-life faith heroes, many who are still doing important work among us. The price tag is, unfortunately, a bit high, but the author is reading aloud a new story each week on her YouTube channel. I highly recommend this resource for you and your kids!

Family Story Activity: 

That’s Not How the Story Ends (from 52 Uncommon Family Adventures)

Take turns sharing your favorite stories from books, movies, and TV shows. Briefly explain how the story actually ends and then take turns offering your own ending – one that’s happier, stranger, or more interesting. Your ending may turn a minor character into a heroine or turn a tragic death into nothing more than a close call. The aim is to inspire creativity. Then, talk about some real-life alternate endings you’ve experienced – that is, when you thought a situation would turn out one way but were surprised when it turned out another way. Try to keep the stories positive, with endings that turned out better than expected. Your goal is to help kids understand that dread, fear, and worry are sometimes misplaced emotions. If we can’t see how something good ultimately can come from something that seems bad, we’re not looking at it from the right perspective. We’re not taking into account how
God can change the ending.




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Flowers, Candles, a Cross — and more

A beautiful altar always enhances the worship experience. Now that we see the altar through a camera lens, altar design is even more important. We asked Hyosang Park to tell us her she decides to arrange what we see on the altar. Working with the altar guild and the worship committee, she considers the sermon topic, the seasons and the church year, and the color of the floral arrangements.

“I am not sure most people recognize this extraordinary ministry,” says Judy Miller. “Hyosang creates such beautiful altar arrangements and puts so much thought, time, and detailed handmade touches into them.”

“Sometimes I quickly put together the altar table on Sunday morning,” says Hyosang. ‘But there are some Sundays that I prepare arrangements weeks ahead of time. For example, in the photo above, I looked for days in many web stores to find lamps to illustrate Pastor Ginny’s sermon on Thy Word is my lamp unto my feet, and Ginny helped me decide.”

“To create the altar for Thanksgiving Sunday in 2019 (on the right), I stopped my car many times on the side of the roads, to harvest beautiful reeds.  Dana Dreibelbis and Lori Pantaleo also brought beautiful fall plants for me to use.”


With construction tools, this altar celebrated the safe return of the ASP team and the sharing of their stories.









For World Communion Sunday 2019, shown at the top of the page, Lori Pantaleo shopped and gathered the different breads and the fabrics shown. “Lori and I got together on Saturday to decorate the table. After taking a few pictures we took it down since we wanted to have fresh bread on Sunday morning. Yes, we redecorated the table Sunday morning. “

An altar arrangement for Advent

Creating Lent/Easter arrangements took few more steps then other Sundays. “First, the Worship committee voted on using white, pink and purple colors on Easter Sunday,” Hyosang explains. “Pam Nugent talked to our florist to find suitable plants for Easter.  Meanwhile, my cockatiel laid 7 eggs in February. So, I decided to use a bird nest that Dana Dreibelbis gave back in 2019.









“Ideas started to float into my head, and I began putting things together in my mind first…… 1. bare tree branches, 2. empty bird nests,  eggs in the nest,” says Hyosang.  Cherry blossoms made out of crepe paper were glued on after Maundy Thursday service.

On Friday, following Hyosang’s color requests, Judy Miller brought pink and white tulips, pink Hydrangeas, solid deep purple pansies, and white pansies with a deep purple center. “I was so pleased by the spectacular finished arrangement,” says Judy. “Stunningly beautiful.”







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Tell Your Story with FlipGrid!

From Pastor Jenny

Story-Sharing on FlipGrid

I’ve been looking for a long time for a way to help people share their stories in a relatively easy way – both on the telling and the listening ends. Thanks to Elliot’s teachers, I’ve found a fun tool I invite you to try!  It’s called FlipGrid. You can access it through your web browser or by downloading an app on your device. I’ve set up a Grid there with “Tell me a story about. . .” prompts from the last three weeks of our Talking the Walk worship series. There are a few of us who have already put up some stories.

This is very informal. Don’t stress over writing something or teasing out a perfectly told story. Just share for a few moments. And it’s also easy to show and tell – share art or play some music. I find it’s sometimes easier to have someone ask me a question or two to help me along.  And as you listen to the stories of others, you can respond with a video back. You can see some of us have already done that too. I hope you will try it out!!

Because, like many apps, there’s a slight learning curve, I’ve created a video to help you along. Here’s my instruction video about How to FlipGrid!  Be sure to log in as a STUDENT.

Take a few minutes and Go to our FlipGrid and Tell Us a Story. . . !

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Happy National Day of Prayer! Evangeline Burgers

To honor this National Day of Prayer, here are some great resources:

For our younger ones (and young at heart!),  ‘Friends With God: Discover How to Pray by Jeff White and David Harrington, contains prayer activities and stories from friends in the Bible. Consider taking a walk around the house with your child, looking at photos of family and friends. Use these photos as an opportunity for prayer. You might say, “God bless Grandpa.” or “I pray for peace for my friends from school.”


For our older kids and families, here’s a great family prayer activity from  Faithful Families by Traci Smith.

Smartphone Prayers:

1. For this practice, one family member will act as the leader, and others will be participants. Rotate who serves as the leader, to give everyone a chance to participate in the prayer.

2. The leader will call everyone together and explain ‘Smartphone Prayer.’  Say, “This prayer moves through five different activities on our smartphones. Each is one minute long. I will tell you what to do for each activity and then start my timer. When the timer rings, look up at me and listen for the next mission.”

3. Go through the five missions as follows, making sure the leader sets his/her timer after each instruction and calls everyone back together before presenting the next mission:

Minute One: Go to your text messages and take a look at the last five people in the recent messages, whether they are people you text regularly or people you don’t know at all. Take this minute to pray for each of the five people listed there.

– Minute Two: Go to a news app or website and take a minute to scroll through the headlines. Pray for what jumps out at you as a prayer need this day.

– Minute Three: Go to the notepad and spend this minute typing out whatever comes to mind: praise, gratitude, confession, or requests to God.

– Minute Four: Go to your favorite social media site and spend this minute praying for the people who come up on your feed during this minute.

– Minute Five: Go to your photos. Take this moment to scroll through the most recent twenty or so photos. What prayers come to mind? Lift them up to God now.

4. Follow up: After the five-minute prayer is over, take a couple of minutes to talk about the activity together using one or more of the following questions:

Was there anything surprising or unusual that you heard from God when you were using your cell phone to pray today? What was the most important prayer that came through today? How can we incorporate this attitude of prayer as we use our smartphones throughout the week? In your opinion, does technology draw us closer to God or farther away? Talk a little about your opinion.


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News from the Gillette Familyl

Trey and Anna Gillette are grandparents! They worshiped here with their three sons (Eric, Peter, and Jeffrey) when they were in seminary. Both Trey and Anna served here on the pastoral staff. Trey now works at the seminary. Anna, currently at Marlton UMC, has just been appointed to St. Andrews UMC in Toms River. And Eric and Abby welcomed their son, Jackson Boone, in March. Anna’s appointment just came through from the conference, as below. Her email is if you would like to say hello.

anna gilletteAnna Gillette: a fervent minister who feels called to lead congregations in clarifying and attaining their vision for ministry. She deeply loves creative and passionate worship and teaching Bible studies for all ages. She has served at Marlton United Methodist Church. Princeton UMC, and Centenary UMC in Lambertville. She and her husband Trey are graduates of Princeton Theological Seminary and her husband is an employee there. They have three boys: Eric who lives with his wife in Lubbock TX and is expecting Anna’s first grand baby, Jeffrey who is a student at Rowan College, and Peter who is a senior at Rider University.



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Sermon ‘Talking The Walk: The Hero’

1st scripture – 1Peter 2: 9-10 – Peter saluting God’s chosen people

2nd scripture – Acts 1:1-11 – The promise of the Holy Spirit and the Ascension of Jesus


Pastor Jenny's Sermon 4-26-20

Pastor Jenny

In her sermon on Sunday, April 26, 2020, Rev. Jenny Smith Walz reminded us that the question, ‘Who are you,’ has been asked in many stories, in such classics as ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.’ When Alice met Caterpillar, the first thing he said to her was, “Who are you?” Alice did not know how to answer Caterpillar so she left. In our “Talking the Walk” worship series, we are putting words to our faith, telling stories of God, life, resurrection, healing, etc. This can be very hard to do, sometimes vulnerable to share. We may even think we don’t have a story to tell. 

Hearing stories helps us tell our stories and strengthens our faith. Every story has a hero, not necessarily a superhero, but the main character, a protagonist. In Bible scriptures, it is easy to see that God is the hero. We read stories of Moses, Joseph, Samson, Esther. What then is our story? The stories we like best to tell are the ones where we are at the center – we are the heroes. However, we must never forget that God is the hero of our stories – a different sort of hero. He creates, calls, proclaims us into being. God gives us each a co-hero role in the story, thus bringing us into the spotlight. He calls us out of darkness into marvelous light, out of obscurity, out of chaos, out of nothingness. 

In the first scripture for today, Peter is reminding the Exiles of the Dispersion who they were – troubled, persecuted, un-gathered. Yet, he brings them grace and peace. With the Covid_19 crisis, God is also reminding us how fragile our identities are. We should, therefore, embrace the truth of what Peter is telling those exiles. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

In worship, we hear a different word – ‘Enough.’ We are enough for God. not because of our greatness, not because of our accomplishments. We are God’s people because it is God who is summoning us into being, gathering us together, shaping us as his people and, telling us who we are – God’s beloved. We don’t have to become the amazing hero of the story. We only have to believe that we are called and chosen and should joyfully respond to God’s love. All we have to do now is to remember who we are and then tell our story of how God has created us, how God has chosen us, how God has called us, how God is shaping us, connecting us, equipping us, and strengthening us to love others and bring justice to this world. Because God claims us, no stereotype can define us, and no ridicule can undo us. 

Pastor Jenny explained that we are constantly bombarded by questions that make us question who we are, what our identity is, how much money we have – all the things that tempt us to think that they matter in terms of our identity. God is reminding us again and again that the things that tempt us do not define our identity in Christ. The most important part of our story is not what we do or what we have but in merely being a beloved child of God. And here we are in this covid_19 crisis in a way that may make it even trickier. Even as we find ourselves in isolation, we are trying to understand what is most important and what activities are essential for our well-being. 

She referred to the story of Howard Thurman, author, philosopher, theologian, educator, civil rights leader, dean of the chapel at Boston University and the first African American professor at Boston University, several decades ago. He stated that part of his identity as God’s beloved was that which his grandmother, a former slave, gave him when she kept saying over and over again to him, “you are someone.” 

Thurman told the story of his family traveling in the South in the 50s when they came upon a playground. The girls wanted to play on the swings, but there was a sign that read “For Whites Only By State Law.” In explaining why they were not allowed on the playground, he said to them: “You are somebody, you are so important to God, so powerful in fact that it takes all of the state legislature, the courts, the sheriffs and policemen… it takes all these to keep two little black girls from swinging in those swings. That is how important you are! Never forget that the estimate of your importance and self-worth can be judged by how much power people are willing to use to control you and keep you in the place they have assigned you. You are two important little girls.” What a way to reinterpret that sign and to keep proclaiming their lovingness, enoughness, somebodyness amid such a terrible injustice! 

As we continue our “Talking the Walk” worship series about telling our stories, “I would love to hear the stories of your beginnings and how God was a part of that beginning. So tell me a story of who you are,” announced Pastor Jenny. “Tell me a story of how you know you are God’s beloved child. Tell me a story about your belovedness, your enoughness, your somebodyness, your chosenness. Tell me a story of who you are in God.

Following Pastor Jenny’s sermon, Heather Hadley told her amazing story about how she came to be a member of Princeton United Methodist Church.     

To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page 

For the complete video of the April 26 service, found on Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page, click here


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What’s Your Story? Uniquely Formed: Evangeline Burgers

What's Your Story: Uniquely Formed - Little Humans

Little Humans

I hope you and your families have been able to reflect together on Pastor Jenny’s call for us to think about our stories of when we knew we were God’s beloved or when we knew that we were enough. One of Henry’s favorite books is Little Humans by Brandon Stanton. I’ve created a video read aloud of the book and also an Imaginative Prayer (from Jared Patrick Boyd) inviting us to imagine ourselves being fully and uniquely formed by God.

Here’s a fun idea for a Family Activity (adapted from 52 Uncommon Family Adventures by Randy Southern):

FamilyInterviews: Get to know your family members better and practice storytelling.
Set up – Make a whole production out of it and set up an interview space in your home with two chairs and a fun backdrop (*think The Tonight Show!)
Think of some good interview questions and make sure everyone has a turn to be an interviewer and interviewee. You could even record the interviews for posterity. Here are some interview question ideas:
– What were you afraid of when you were younger? How did you overcome fear?
– When were you most proud of yourself?
– If you could talk to anyone – living or dead – for one hour, who would you choose and why? What would you talk about?
– Where do you see yourself in ten years? Where would you like to live? What would you like to be doing?
– If you could do one thing over again, what would it be?
After the interviews are done, reflect on the process of interviewing. What makes a good question? What does it feel like to know that others are interested in your stories and ideas?
Closing Family Prayer: Our interests, skills, abilities and quirks – the things that make us unique – all come from God. God put them inside us for a reason. So the more we learn about one another, the more we learn about God.
 If you are wanting to get your own copy of either of these books “Little Humans” or “Imaginative Prayer” we encourage you to order them through a local bookstore like Labyrinth Books or jaZams!
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