Just inside the doors of Princeton United Methodist Church, on a recent Wednesday, geraniums decorated the red-and-white covered tables, and napkins were tied with matching red ribbons. A dozen volunteers donned aprons and disposable gloves, ready to serve at Cornerstone Community Kitchen, When Emma Glasser arrived, Nicole Oliver, a high school sophomore from PUMC, showed her how to serve the trays – entrees and vegetables from the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, plus a green salad, a fruit salad, juice, bread, and a dessert.
Larry Apperson had the vision for Cornerstone Community Kitchen (CCK), and it will celebrate its first anniversary on June 5. In partnership with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) every Wednesday, no matter what, volunteers from the church and the community have served a free and nutritious meal from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the church on the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer. All are welcome, no questions asked.
Some come for the food, some for the fellowship. Mothers come with children, and several people are here to practice speaking English.
Among the diners on this particular Wednesday is a woman who takes the bus to a job in Princeton. “Some of us who have jobs, we can’t get help from the government, but we still have trouble paying our bills,” she says.
“The members of Princeton United Methodist church have a strong commitment to service,” says Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash, PUMC’s senior pastor. People from the community have also been eager to help – preparing the greens, the fruit, and the eggs, and donating baked desserts – plus working as servers and hosts. Judy Miller coordinates the décor and Beth Zeitler organizers the volunteers. “Brownie troops donate cupcakes, and we have had an entire office pitch in,” says Zeitler. “CCK is also popular as a bar or bat mitzvah project for teens from the Jewish Center. Our greatest need is for people to prepare salads and fruit.”
Panera Bread and the Bagel Hole regularly donate baked goods, and Zorba’s Brother donated a turkey dinner during the holidays. “We’re grateful for the in-kind donations,” says Apperson, “and also for cash donations to cover our costs. Egg salad sandwiches are a favorite take-home item, and children leave with breakfast in a bag.”
As she helps clear the tables, Glasser, a John Witherspoon Middle School student who is volunteering as part of her bat mitzvah Hesed Project, says that her experience was just what she had hoped it would be. “It was like a community here,” she says. “Everybody was so friendly, so happy to be here. I am glad to have helped.”
“Holy boldness” is the theme at Trenton’s Turning Point United Methodist Church, says Kim Kracman. A PUMC member and a recent graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Kim is putting her considerable talents and skills to work at Turning Point (where she teaches Sunday School, among other duties) and at Urban Promise, the Christian youth ministry that runs successful after school programs and summer camps.
The church has a lot of history behind it; it is located at the site that formerly housed the “mother church of New Jersey.” Now it is growing a new and diverse congregation. Kim quotes one of the members as saying that she isn’t worried about going to heaven, because heaven is about people, and “heaven is everybody here.”
Kim offers the opportunity to PUMC members and friends – do you feel called to help in any capacity at either the church or the youth program? Volunteer opportunities are certainly plentiful in Princeton, but some may feel drawn – or called – to one of these opportunities in Trenton.
One of the best parts about the Urban Promise program, says Kim, is that it makes no rigid demands. Whatever an adult can add for an hour, a day, or a weekly visit – that is something extra to benefit the children. “Whatever you have to share, whatever you feel called to do” is what they ask for, she says. “Whatever you can do, the children are sponges for love and affection,” says Kim.
At a recent UMW luncheon Kim was joined by Alison Yearly and Mark Tomkovicz, who told how Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church in New Hope answered their pastor’s challenge – that all their outreach programs were like a diversified mutual fund, all good things but not one special thing that was really making a difference.
That church decided to rally support for Urban Promise, beginning with the summer camp, where mornings are taught by “street leaders” teenagers who get paid do this job. In the afternoons the teens get their training and volunteer adults take over. The church staffed a week of afternoons and recruited four other churches to staff a week. It invited the children to New Hope for a field trip. One person started a nature camping program and another donated a set of bell chimes for a music program.
The Turning Point church has service opportunities also. It no longer calls its mission committee “Outreach” because it doesn’t want to make a distinction between “us” and “them.” Instead, this committee is called “Christian Formation.” With “holy boldness” as its theme the church ministers to the physical and spiritual needs of the community with monthly grocery distribution, a Saturday breakfast with devotions, a monthly lunch, a clothes closet, a weekly breakfast for women (many homeless), and Wednesday night prayers. It hosts the Monday to Thursday after school Urban Promise program.
PUMC is not a suburban church, set among tract housing. We have committed ourselves to try to use our geographical site, on the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer, to minister to Princeton’s needs. In addition to Cornerstone Community Kitchen’s weekly free meal for the hungry, we have many other service opportunities, those we are fulfilling and those we have yet to fulfill. But some of us – like Kim – may feel called to the work in Trenton.
Visit, she asks. Perhaps you will discern your call.
It’s almost time for the ASP team to load up and head out for their summer mission work. This year the team is planning on providing blog updates from the road as time and Internet/Data Service is available. Check back here for updates.
To find out more information about Appalachia Service Project (ASP) goto www.asphome.org.
Cornerstone Community Kitchen is the name of our new Wednesday evening dinner that will begin June 6th. On that Wednesday we will begin offering a free nourishing meal in a warm and friendly atmosphere to all who come. Those who come will be guaranteed a warm greeting, someone to talk with if they like, and a satisfying meal. We hope to nourish body and soul as we build community around the table. Dinner will be served will be from 5 till 6:30 PM in the Sanford Davis room. Teams are being organized to serve one Wednesday each month. If you have an interest in being part of this opportunity the Lord has given us here at PUMC, contact the church office.
Our 105-year-old building has a spectacular stained glass window from the renowned Tiffany Studio of New York City. How did PUMC acquire a window with such an unusual subject?
It was the gift of the family of William Edward “Eddie” Durrell, a Methodist preacher’s son who – while he attended Princeton University – made PUMC his church home. Eddie graduated in 1889 and two years later met an untimely death in Rome, perhaps because of an aneurism. His father (Reverend Edward Hicks Durrell, who had invested in cranbury bogs in South Jersey) and his brothers — grateful for what the church had offered Eddie – commissioned the window symbolizing the triumph of good conquering evil.
Most images show St. George on a horse in the act of spearing the dragon. This memorial window shows an athletic young man, sword sheathed, as if to say “the battle is over, he fought the good fight, he conquered evil.”
The St. George window, by the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany, is the most valuable of our treasures. As Pam Hersh said in her column, it is ‘a spectacular piece of art in a surprising space.” Tiffany revolutionized stained glass art. While the Europeans fired paint directly on the glass, effectively dulling its natural transparency, Tiffany managed to create vivid color in the glass itself, and he etched details with acid instead of using paint. He layered multiple panels to create unparalleled clarity, and the windows shimmered on both sides.
Tiffany also redefined the use of leading. Traditionally, it was purely functional and thought of as little more than support for the glass. As a result, the lead tended to distract from, rather than enhance, the artistic vision. That is until Tiffany developed new techniques that allowed the metal to become an integral part of the design, and the once clunky lead lines were transformed into elaborate outlines for things like tree branches and butterfly wings — or, in this instance, cathedral windows.
The only other Tiffany windows in Princeton are on campus at Alexander Hall and Jadwin Hall. The best view of “Saint George and the Dragon” is from the back pew of the balcony. Look for the iridescent scales on the dragon (Tiffany patented that method as @Favrile), and also note the Tiffany signature on the right.
Source: Ruth Woodward in A Journey of Faith for One Hundred Fifty Years: A History of Princeton United Methodist Churchand Elizabeth E. Evitts, Baltimore Magazine.