Pray Our Way Forward: January 29 – February 4

“Holy Spirit, renew and inspire us because the way forward is hard and the disciples’ journey is long.

This sentence concludes the prayer we are asked to offer during the week of January 29. It is part of the Council of Bishops’ prayer initiative, slated for the week of January 29. Bishop John Schol invites all United Methodists to join in “Praying Our Way Forward,” focused prayer before the revision of Book of Discipline on the topic of human sexuality.

Thie UMC bishops call on us to “seek, in this kairos moment, a way forward for profound unity on human sexuality and other matters.” Each conference is assigned a week of prayer, now through Spring, 2018.

Click here to register your commitment to prayer. You can register as an individual or volunteer to coordinate our congregation’s prayer participation. 

Here are the views of  Bishop Schol. As part of his Graceful Controversies initative, anyone from the Greater Jersey Conference may participate in a conference on March 4. 

Click here for the 75-word suggested prayer:  May we find inspiration.


Eat Right, Feel Better: Breakfast on January 10

Dorothy Mullen
Dorothy Mullen

Changing your diet can turn your life around says Dorothy Mullen, founder of The Suppers Program. She will speak at the January 10 breakfast sponsored by the United Methodist Men on Sunday, January 10 on “How You Feel is Data! An experiential workshop on brain health and food.”

Dorothy founded the Suppers network of nearly free-to-users programs — where people cook, eat, and develop a palate for the kind of food that can often turn around chronic health problems. Suppers hosts 30 – 40 events per month and serves people with diabetes, autoimmune diseases and addictions as well as those who simply want to learn to prepare delicious fresh food from scratch. The program has no bias of its own about which whole food eating style is healthiest, and members are taught to do their own experiments to discern which way of eating benefits them the most.

Dorothy has a master’s degree in addictions counseling from the College of New Jersey and uses addiction models to help people turn around entrenched eating behaviors that have placed them at risk for chronic disease. She is also a garden educator, having created garden based-education programs for the Princeton Public Schools for 13 years.

Enjoy a hot and tasty breakfast at 8 a.m., and the program starts at 8:30. A $5 donation is requested.

Longest Night: Solace for the Solstice

The Longest Night Service is Monday, December 21, at 7:30 p.m.
The Longest Night Service is Monday, December 21, at 7:30 p.m.

When Christmas is just not the same — because of the loss of a loved one, illness, aging, depression, loneliness, unemployment, loss, or broken relationship, — the Longest Night Service offers a peaceful, healing solace — away from the frenzy of the season.  Join us on Monday, December 21, at 7:30 p.m. as we allow the light of Christ to shine through our dark winter night.

In this way people of faith can honor the birth of Jesus away from the dazzling festivity and cheery excitement of crowded holiday gatherings. Stephen Ministers from PUMC will be available to help individuals who would like someone to pray with them. Scott Sherrill will preach.

As Christians, we believe that God is with us, even on the darkest of nights.

(Photo by Tom Tong)

Alternative Gifts: Part 3

 This is the third in a series of posts on Alternative Gifts. Here is Part One, and Here is Part Two.

These ideas came from LaVerna A.

Pick an activity your family/children enjoy and show your gratitude by:

contributing to a scholarship fund at the Y for swimming lessons or team membership or summer camp 

contributing to a fund at Westminster for scholarships for children’s music study 

contributing to the public library, with either money or a family favorite book (or two). 

From Barbara F:

Art books, coffee table books — they are great to sit around for awhile, but then they gather dust. One year I checked out from the public library one beautiful book for each person, adult and child, wrapped them up and put them under the tree as an “extra’ gift to open. Everybody enjoyed their books during the holidays, then they were returned. They don’t have to be “artsy,” they could be about a new hobby that you are tactfully offering to a child. Or a travel book about a trip for the future. Something to dream on!

More ideas, these from Iona H.

Three years ago, my immediate family and close friends and I decided to stop giving each other gifts. Instead, throughout the year, we buy personal products when they are on sale. Then in early December, I collect them from my mom, brother, sister-in-law, friends (and myself, of course), and take several boxes of shampoos, dental supplies, creams, soaps, deodorants, etc. to the Crisis Ministry. This is something that we really get excited about doing every year.

Also each year my husband and I tell his local son and daughter-in-laws which charity we want them to donate to in our name. We keep insisting that we want nothing, but they insist on doing something. So they do something for us (no more stuff) while doing something for others. Last year their donation went to the Cornerstone Community Kitchen here at PUMC.

For more ideas check out,

Also check out charity ratings at and

If you have family-favorite alternative gift-giving ideas, or have tried some of the above and want to give feedback, please send them to We can post them on this blog and add them to the list for 2014.

Have a joyous Christmas celebration with the emphasis on Christ’s coming to be among us.


Alternative Gifts: Part 2

Karen Z oberea mugsffers ideas on alternative gifts, a follow-up to Alternative Gifts Part I:

I began using alternative shopping ideas years ago after reading a mid 80s book by Jo Robinson & Jean C. Staeheli called Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season. 

Koinonia  Christian based, sells pecans in many forms, cakes, etc. 

Christian Appalachian Home sells greens and wreaths and other crafts. I have ordered their wreaths for our church doors for years; it gives employment to people there. 

Misericordia cards, amaryllis kits, coffee bakery. Catholic organization supports people with learning disabilities. 

Crossnore ( Weaving, other gifts. In the heart of Blue Ridge. It’s a DAR supported school built in 5 rural type areas for kids whose families are in trouble. 

Hindman Stettlement  Baskets, etc. This part of Kentucky is really poor. DAR supported, the Settlement school mission is to provide educational and service opportunities for people of the mountains while keeping them mindful of their heritage. Hindman Settlement School is focusing on dyslexic kids for a large area. 

National Wildlife Federation  supports conservation and protection for wildlife. They have three children’s magazines. Ranger Rick is the most known. 

Berea College Crafts  Berea College does terrific crafts—broom, wood furniture, etc. Catalogue is 38 pages . Non profit educating the head, heart and hands. The mugs shown above cost $15 and were made by Berea students. The

Other ideas from Karen:

Think before you buy from a book Simplify Your Christmas by Elaine St. James:

Do I need it? How much will I use it? How long will it last? Will it end up in a landfill? Are the resources that went into it renewable or non-renewable? What is the worst that will happen if I don’t buy it now?

Buy American by supporting home town folks: buy gift certificates from locally owned businesses, like hair salon, barber, restaurant, mechanic, cleaning service, hometown theater, local craft people, lawn service, local golf course, etc.

Some tips for a simpler, more meaningful Christmas: Give alternative gifts. Give 25% of what you spent last year to the truly needy—individuals or groups locally, nationally or internationally. Buy crafts and clothing from developing countries at alternative gift markets, not from commercial importers, so that the artisans receive a fair price for their work.

Give of yourself, not just “stuff”—a, coupon book for future services such as baby sitting for an “enchanted evening” or something baked.

Draw names rather than everyone giving something to everyone else. Set a ceiling for each person.

Take turns opening gifts, not all at once, so each gift can be appreciated and each giver thanked.

Celebrate Advent for four weeks before Christmas.

Whose birthday is it anyway? 

Here is a link to Part 3

Alternative Gifts: part one

feba displayChristmas is a wonderful time of the year for Christians around the world; a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. But it can also bring stress, distractions and a blow to our finances, especially when it comes to giving gifts. Why not try a few of the alternative gift-giving ideas and spread some good cheer along with Christian values all at the same time.

These ideas come from Pat O., a member of the outreach committee.

Trying to explain to a young child that you just gave the money you would have spent on their gift to a worthy cause, can be a hard sell. We use the following organizations which send a token gift to give to the child. Older children appreciate them too.

World Wildlife Federation ( Adopt an animal on the endangered species list. You will get a plush animal and adoption papers.

National Wildlife Federation ( Adopt an animal program at the national level. Other gift ideas available.

Heifer International ( Choose a meaningful gift to help families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant. Heifer does sell stuffed animals, but hard to find on their website. May have to buy matching animal elsewhere. Our children’s Sunday School offer goes to Heifer.

Other ideas for young and old:

Ten Thousand Villages sells fair trade handmade goods from around the world. Princeton Shopping Center.

UNICEF ( catalog of gifts, cards.

Church World Service ( Donations in honor of recipients for School Kits, Baby Care Kits, literacy classes, animals, wells, and much more. Cards can be printed out to give to the person.

Womanspace ( See “December Holiday Wish List” 2012 on website.

United Front Against Riverblindness ( UFAR helps eliminate riverblindness in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For $250 you can adopt a village of 500 people for a year. Will Receive a certificate with a village name (immediately) and a set of photos of the village chief (at a later time.) Gifts of any amount are gratefully accepted. Contact person: Susan Lidstone (

Woman, Cradle of Abundance ( Purchase items made by Women in the Democratic Republic (displayed in the photo above) of the Congo like clothing, table cloths and napkins, purses, jewelry. Donations also accepted for building a new facility to grow their business.

crane earringsInternational Crane Foundation ( has various crane-themed gifts, like the $25 earrings at left.

IOU’s Give a Christmas coupon book that can be redeemed for breakfast in bed, or a backrub, or a trip to the park, etc. Be creative. You can find coupon books to print out online

This is part 1 of three posts distributed by the Outreach Committee. Here is a link to part 2, and you can pick up the complete sheet in the Sanford Davis Room!

Jeremy Lin: Christian ballplayer — October 11

Mo Chen invites everyone to see Linsanity, the documentary about Jeremy Lin on Friday, October 11, at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Garden Theatre.  Even the most casual basketball fan knows the story of Jeremy Lin,  as he and his New York Knick teammates created one dramatic win after another in a season that seemed to be going nowhere.  Lin is known as a committed Christian.
The Princeton Area Alumni Association (PA3) in association with the Asian American Alumni Association of Princeton (A4P)  sponsor these two showings, which may be the only two in New Jersey. Tickets must be purchased in advance online. Tickets are $15 and $7.50 for students.


Take Back Christmas!

Advent Wreath

The day after Halloween, stores like Target and Walmart slashed prices on costumes and candy corn to make way for artificial Christmas trees and holiday decorations. Before everyone had a chance to digest their turkey and cranberry sauce this past Thanksgiving, people were lined up to catch great deals at the big box stores. Stores used to wait for Black Friday to unleash a manic day of purchasing material possesions, but now our day of thanks has been compromised just for some deals, and Cyber Monday adds to the frenzy of Christmas shopping.

Princeton is known for spreading holiday cheer. Performances of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol can be seen at McCarter Theatre. There’s the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Palmer Square and at the Princeton Shopping Center. Morven holds its Annual Festival of the Trees. A horse and carriage gives rides throughout downtown. Carolers sing and musician play in the Square, and there are sightings of Santa about town.

Add the Christmas songs and TV specials about Rudolph and Frosty, numerous parties with mistletoe, eggnog and cookie exchanges, sending cards that read ‘Seasons Greetings’, and you’ll know that Christmas is but a mere national holiday for some. Even those of other religions put up a tree. This extreme commercialism has evolved from a few traditions and moments throughout history. Gift baskets were given in the north during the Yule season as part of the Winter Solstice, celebrating the return of the sun. These traditions were adopted by Christianity and were much simpler than those of modern day celebrations.

Since Christmas has become an American holiday, it’s hard to ignore some of the fun, but for those who are Christian, it should definitely take a back seat to preparing for the coming of Christ. Everything in moderation. This coming Sunday is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, marked by lighting the pink candle of the advent wreath. This indicates that our expected guest has almost arrived, and it’s NOT Santa.

Great ways to observe Advent are to volunteer serving warm and nutritious meals at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen or at our Cornerstone Community Kitchen, collect warm clothing or supplies for those in need, buy a gift for a needy child, or sign up to volunteer ringing the bell and collecting for the Red Cross (look for the sign up sheets near the office during the week). These are all great ways to open your heart, and prepare for commemorating the birth of Jesus. So, take back Christmas and bring back the true meaning of the season!