Nurturing Community During Quarantine


Catherine Williams led the first Love Lives On group. This photo shows her farewell party.

by Kate Lasko

It is not a group people clamor to join, yet once in you can’t imagine leaving.  Love Lives On is a group where church members who have lost loved ones meet two or three times a month for support and fellowship. The original group is five-plus years strong.  Last year, Pastor Ginny Cetuk and LaVerna reached out to those of us whose losses are newer and rawer  to form a smaller group within the established Love Lives On. Here we share stories of loved ones and in sharing, help each other process loss, cope with loneliness, and, most importantly, understand that grief does not disappear.

When Covid-19 made it clear that our meetings had to occur virtually, I wondered how distance would affect the closeness that our meetings have nurtured.  When life was “normal,” we met in the youth room, sat on comfortable couches and chairs, the only adornments a table supporting a simple wooden cross, a candle, a Bible, and always, a comforting touch at the ready. At 3 p.m. I logged on and one by one familiar faces appeared. Yes the voices were a little tinny and the vocal delays a bit challenging, but Zoom had its advantages. It brought Ginny and Chris from Florida and allowed all of us to meet LaVerna’s cat, who made a guest appearance.

Of course, the most valuable advantage of technology during this quarantine is the ability to connect with others and share joys, concerns, and coping strategies.  Duncan finds joy in cooking, LaVerna rereads a favorite collection of essays on the seven last words of Christ, Ida walks her beloved golden retriever, someone else blasts Beethoven, another journals, and everyone makes phone calls, no texts. As often happens in our meetings, the talking meandered down a variety of paths, and too soon, Pastor Ginny moved us to a closing prayer. As she spoke, I realized my concerns about closeness in distance were silly; only the setting had changed; the people were the same.  Ginny was so right: “Through Christ, miles don’t matter.”

Learning about Uncertainty as a Spiritual Discipline

Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you do not know what to do? Have
you ever been puzzled as to which way to turn or how to respond to things that arise?
Have you ever felt overwhelmed, or anxious or lost because you just don’t know how
things will turn out?

If you said “yes” to any of these things, know that you are not alone, says Pastor Ginny Cetuk. She will lead a retreat at PrincetonUMC, entitled “Uncertainty as a Spiritual Discipline” on Saturday, August 24, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Part of the human experience is facing times of uncertainty,” she says. “All of us will have experiences that we didn’t expect to have; we have losses of multiple kinds in our lives that leave us uncertain about how to proceed; and all of us will have times when we even question God when the future suddenly is changed in ways we did not anticipate.”

In our time together that day, we will share stories, explore scripture, learn from other faith traditions about practices that are helpful in these seasons, and enjoy food and fellowship. Everyone is welcome.


Coffee With The Pastors

Got questions? If you would like to know more about Princeton UMC, you are invited to Coffee with the Pastors in Room 204 on Sunday, June 23, 2019, after worship service at 11:30 a.m. We also want to get to know you better.  Psalm 34:3 says, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”

If you want to explore joining this congregation, a small group will meet starting in the Fall.

Princeton United Methodist Church Seeking Director of Children’s Ministries

Princeton United Methodist Church BuildingPrinceton United Methodist Church in Princeton, NJ is seeking a part-time Director of Children Ministries to plan and lead the children’s programs, including the Sunday School program that helps the children of our diverse and welcoming congregation grow together in faith, fellowship, and discipleship.  The successful candidate for this position must be able to articulate her/his spiritual journey in the Christian faith, be able to teach and assist both children and teachers in doing the same, and help our children begin the quest for continued spiritual growth across their lifespan.

Requirements for this position include a minimum of a Bachelors’ Degree in an education or ministry-related field, active involvement in a church for at least ten years, present or previous participation in a United Methodist congregation, and a minimum of three years involvement with or leadership of children’s ministry.  At least one year of seminary is preferred.  Interested candidates will submit a cover letter and resume to with Director of Children’s Ministries in the subject line.

Written by Isabella Dougan

Contemporary Issues New Topic, New Book – ‘Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists’

Starting Sunday, May 19, 2019, the Contemporary Issues class will be reading ‘Moral Clarity’ by Susan Neiman. 

According to its chair, Charles Phillips, “We chose this book because we wanted to discuss a contemporary philosopher’s thoughts on morality and compare them with our understanding of morality as based on our faith.” 

The introduction to this book, ‘Moral Clarity,’ stated: “Moral inquiry and political activism start where reasons are missing. When righteous people suffer, and wicked people flourish, we begin to ask why. Demands for moral clarity ring long, loud bells because it is something we are right to seek”.

Listen to Susan Neiman in her own words 

The Contemporary Issues class meets on Sundays at 8:45 a.m. at the church library and precedes the 10:00 a.m. worship service so that attendees can benefit from both experiences

The subjects addressed are chosen by those who wish to attend, with a focus on issues that individuals, families, groups, and countries face in the world today. The group has lively discussions, and everyone can participate. 

All adults are welcome to join this weekly discussion group.

Written by Isabella Dougan

Cub Scouts Cook

Mike Babler, a Cub Scout den leader and PUMC member, brought his Scouts to PrincetonUMC’s kitchen to cook up some fun as a community service project for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK). TASK had received a number of baking mixes. “We divided the mixes among the Scout dens, and then Scouts, family and friends baked brownies, cakes, cookies and muffins at various locations around town,” says Mike.

Mike and Kristin live in Belle Mead and their sons, Ryan and Andrew, are active in both Scouts and the PUMC Children’s Choir. Ryan’s den of fourth graders  meets at the Otto Kaufman Community Center in Montgomery.  He is second from left in the pack photo. 

Both boys really enjoy Scouting,” says Mike. “They had a blast cooking for TASK!”  

Written by Isabella Dougan

Guest Preacher: Gerald Liu on February 17

We welcome Gerald C. Liu — a minister and professor who focuses on multicultural worship and the arts as a theological resource — as our guest preacher on Sunday, February 17 at 10 a.m. In the “Beloved Community” sermon series, he will preach on “Righteous Anger,” based on Jonah 3.

Gerald is assistant professor of worship and preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his BA in Music at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, his Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (during which time he was also a theological fellow at Georg-August Universität in Göttingen, Germany), and his PhD from Vanderbilt University with a concentration in homiletics and liturgics.

He has previously served as a British Methodist Minister in Nottingham, England before becoming ordained in the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church. Currently he volunteers as a minister in residence at Church of the Village, a United Methodist congregation in Manhattan.

His classes and publications explore curiosities about the arts as theological resources and phenomena, Asian American identity, multicultural worship, and the production of believable public Christian witness.



Susan Victor Commissioned: Maker’s Place in Trenton

Celebrating Susan Victor’s commissioning to serve at Maker’s Place, from left: Michael Reed, Pastor; Susan Victor, Deacon; Judy Miller, Cornerstone Community Kitchen Clothes Closet; Jennifer Hartigan, PrincetonUMC Volunteer

At worship on February 10, Princeton UMC commissioned Susan Victor to serve at Maker’s Place, a Hope Center of the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey.  Susan is an ordained Deacon, whose primary appointment is to Womanspace, where she works with women, men, and families impacted by domestic and sexual violence, as well as the staff of Womanspace. All Deacons who serve outside the local church are also appointed to a local church ministry where they also serve in various capacities, yet on a much smaller scale. For the last 9 years, Susan’s secondary appointment has been Princeton UMC.

Susan Victor found her faith home in the United Methodist Church after moving to the US from India. She completed her theological training at Union Biblical Seminary, India and Princeton Theological Seminary. She has an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania and is a licensed clinical social worker. She particularly loves working with the confirmation class at Princeton UMC.

Susan has discerned that her gifts and service are needed at The Maker’s Place, the new Hope Center and ministry in Trenton, which is led by Rev. Michael Reed. Michael was
with us for worship the first week in December and we collected diapers for The Maker’s Place throughout Lent. Susan is faithfully answering God’s current call for her life
and ministry, and we celebrate that with her. She will be an enormous help and support for The Maker’s Place as they connect in faith around Food and Families.

The Maker’s Place will be her secondary appointment, effective Jan 1, 2019. We aren’t entirely saying goodbye to her and Vasanth, however. Susan will continue to be part of our Relationships and Faith steering team. She also hopes to help our congregation to connect with The Maker’s Place in powerful ways. Vasanth will maintain his membership with us. And until The Maker’s Place begins holding worship services, they will continue to worship with us.



Circle of Friends: Next on November 13

All women who attend Princeton United Methodist Church are invited to Circle of Friends on second Tuesdays, every other month, in Fellowship Hall. The next meeting will be Tuesday, November 13 at 10:30 a.m. Bring your lunch; beverages and dessert will be provided.

Here is an account of the previous meeting on September 11:

Katheryn Ranta

The meeting opened with a hymn sing, led by Karen Zumbrunn, who had selected hymns to coordinate with the day’s presentation on Prayer. Katheryn Ranta shared a devotional reading and led in prayer. Beth Perrine led a short business meeting, introducing this year’s format of sharing the meeting responsibilities.

From left: Beth Perrine, Jenny Smith Walz, Pat Ostberg

Pat Ostberg and LaVerna Albury, from the Outreach Committee, told about volunteer opportunities at HomeFront, a Family Preservation Center in Ewing. . It houses 38 families along with many supportive services. A vote was taken to make a donation to support serving a breakfast at HomeFront. Circle of Friends is continuing our “caring project” of sending notes and cards to church members unable to attend church.

Our speaker was lead pastor Jenny Smith Walz. Pastor Jenny spoke about prayer. She presented how prayer has changed throughout her life, how she understands and experiences prayer now, and how she seeks to “pray without ceasing.” We shared our thoughts and questions on prayer. A time of fellowship over lunch followed.

At our next meeting, Tuesday, November 13 at 10:30 a.m., Dr. Katharine Doob Sakenfeld is our speaker. She was the second female professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, and she taught Old Testament for 43 years. She has a special interest in women and their relationship with the Bible. Among her books are  “Just Wives: Stories of Power and Survival in the Old Testament Today”

All women are welcome. Contact Beth Perrine ( for information.