Meeting Tom Shelton

Tom's meeting

Eager to meet Tom Shelton, the successor to Yvonne Macdonald, more than 50 people flocked to the Fellowship Hall after the worship service on August 10. Pam Bradley, from the Staff/Parish committee, introduced him: With 22 years of youth choir experience, Tom has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is assistant professor of sacred music at Westminster Choir College ; he is also associate director of the Princeton Girlchoir and conductor of its Cantores ensemble.

“Children and youth are an important part of ministry,” said Tom, telling how excited he is to be joining the ministry here. “When children and youth lead worship, they are giving of themselves.”

Tom wants the choirs to include everyone and encourages children and youth to invite their friends. We can try to arrange carpools. The Lower Elementary Choir will meet on Wednesday, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., and the Upper Elementary Choir from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., with the first rehearsal on September 10. The Youth Choir rehearses on Sundays from 5 to 6 p.m., and the first rehearsal is September 7.

Tom was peppered with questions from children, youth, and parents. From second graders in the front row, “Will we play instruments? Will there be parties? ” (Yes to both!) . Other than moving the elementary choir rehearsals from Tuesday to Wednesday, he plans to make no immediate changes to PUMC’s excellent music program, saying, “As we go forward together we will make any changes together.”

Step forward with your talents


Step forward with your talents! Richard G did that, 22 years ago, when he wrote a series of plays about Bible stories for “Summer Sundays.” Now this program is an integral and much-loved staple of the Christian education program at PUMC.

Kids love it. Who wouldn’t? Older children get to dress up in costumes (we have a fabulous costume stash) and use their thespian talents. They don’t have to memorize lines — they read through the script once on Sunday morning and then they perform it. Young ones do a craft that relates to the play and then get to watch the play. Plus, of course, refreshments.

Going by the maxim that we learn 10 percent of what we hear and 80 percent of what we experience, these thespians surely will remember these Bible stories. Some 50 skits are rotated from year to year. This year’s focus is on women in the Bible: Queen Esther, Miriam (Moses’ sister and prophetess), Ruth, and Mary Magdalene. Also — King Nimrod and the Tower of Babel, Jesus and the Demon Pig, The Christmas Donkey (a donkey who accompanied the Kings through the desert) and a new one, yet to be written, about Peter in prison.

The cast changes weekly, of course, due to family vacation schedules. Richard officially ‘retired’ from active duty three years ago, and this year’s Summer Sunday supervisors, Ed F and Andrew H, with help from Ian G, contact each prospective thespian every week, so they have a cast list in mind. Walk-ins and visiting children are encouraged. Just bring your ready-to-read child or visitor to Rooms 204/205 at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, now through August 24.

Meanwhile, young children and older kids who aren’t in the play come to Room 202 for crafts, creatively devised in the early years by Cindy G and then Laura F to coordinate with the Bible story. Then, during her freshman and sophomore years in high school, as part of earning her Girl Scout Gold Award, Elizabeth T designed the crafts to echo a wide variety of Bible stories and ran the program when Laura wasn’t there. Now Elizabeth is assembling a catalog of the plays.

What can be more fun than dressing up and acting out? Or of watching your child do it? Hint: parent volunteers welcomed and needed! Helping in the craft room at Summer Sundays is a perfect volunteer opportunity, a one-week-at-a-time commitment and there’s rarely any prep required. We’d love to give our long-time regular teachers a summer break! The signup sheet is on the bulletin board next to the Library.

When you ask Richard about how he used his talents for Christ’s service, he is self-effacing, downplaying his role, saying it was a family project, with the four of them (Cindy and the now-grown Heather and Rory) doing craft cut-outs in front of the TV and making suggestions on the stories. “”Peggy Fullman asked me once where I get the ideas. I told her I honestly don’t know; when I need an idea, it pops up. Peggy said I’m letting God in, and what comes out is His, slightly filtered through a mortal brain. I’ll go with that.”

Surely the rest of us are harboring unused talent and abilities. What talent or idea is God filtering through our mortal brains?

This article appears in the August newsletter. Above, an archival photo. Below, picture taken by Charles P a couple of Sundays ago.

current Summer Sunday



Meet the Neals at VBS

Neal Family

Meet Josiah — MercyWes — and Jerusha! Vacation Bible School students will have the chance to make friends with children who live 8,000 miles away. In our evening program entitled “Can You Hear Me Now? God Calls Kids Too!” preschool children through incoming 6th graders will meet — through videos — a missionary family working in Fiji. Set for Tuesday to Thursday, July 29 to 31, 5:30 to 8 p.m., the VBS program is free by registration. Dinner is included, and parents are invited to stay.

Twelve-year-old Mercy Neal and her eight-year-old brother, Josiah, are moving from their home in Belleville, New Jersey to Fiji, an island in the South Pacific. Their parents — Rev. Wesley Neal and Rev. Jerusha Neal, both graduates of Princeton Theological Seminary — will teach at a seminary there.

“The children and youth of Princeton UMC will be writing to Mercy and Josiah, and they will also support the Neal family with prayer and fund raising,” says Anna Gillette, associate pastor for discipleship. “VBS children will hear Bible stories about God calls children into discipleship.” Crafts, music, mission projects and games will tie the week’s theme together.

For information or to register — or sign up to help — call 609-924-2613 or email

Adult Study: “Moral Tribes”

adult ss contemporaryContemporary Issues adult class is reading “Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them,” by Joshua Greene. It meets every Sunday in the PUMC library at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings — with the possible exception of April 27 when there will be only one worship service at 9:30.  “We welcome new attendees at any time,” says Charles.

According to reviewer Vanessa Bush, “Greene’s strategies for examining moral reasoning are as applicable to day-to-day decisions as they are to public policy. This is a highly accessible look at the complexities of morality.”

The Heart of Faith class has moved to the Fellowship Hall at the same time, 9:30, and various studies during the week welcome newcomers.

Fellowship Hall: Celebrate on May 3

fellowship hall celebration

Our ground floor space has turned from a homely caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly, thanks to our Opening Doors capital campaign. Everyone is invited to help celebrate the transformation of the Fellowship Hall!

On Saturday, May 3, at 6 p.m., enjoy a delicious sit down dinner with entertainment provided by our own Scott Langdon and music by the PUMC Ensemble. Hear about how we used to be known as the ‘Rowdy Methodists,’  learn about we changed during our 165 years — and help launch our future work for Christ in the new space.

Tickets will be available in the Sanford Davis room after each service.  Suggested donation: adults $10.00 per person, $5.00 for children. Get yours soon — tickets will not be sold at the door.

Ben Burt: “An amazing childhood within your walls”

As a kid, Ben Burt was no shy wallflower. You could always count on him to pipe up with great answers. Now he’s being ordained, and he credits the Christian nurturing at PUMC. These are excerpts from his letter sent, in appreciation, to the congregation.

My name is Ben Burt, better known as that little hooligan son of Fred and Vivian Burt.  For the most part, I have not been a physical part of your congregation since 1997, when I went off to college.  However, my name remained on the roll of PUMC from many years after I left.

            After I left Princeton I struggled to find a church home and I never wanted to move my membership.  I never encountered a place as welcoming, comfortable, and beautiful as PUMC.  . . .

I am sending you this letter to inform you that I am up for ordination as an Elder in full connection at the South Carolina Annual Conference on June 2nd

            Moreover than your presence at this service, it is important to me that you know you are invited to be there.  To some end you will already be there, through all you poured into me.  You, Princeton United Methodist Church, are the reason I am where I am today.  Sure, from a theological perspective we can say God would have gotten me to where ever God wanted me, regardless of my or other’s actions; God got Jonah to Nineveh.  However, I believe God wanted me to be nurtured by Princeton UMC. 

            You all are an amazing congregation.  Even though I was just a punk kid, who didn’t listen (and my wife might agree that I still don’t listen), you all poured the love of Christ into me.  You nurtured and taught me the tradition of the Church.  You let me experience the community of love that Scripture calls the Church to be.  It was what you all instilled in me that God used to draw me deeper into service.  I do not know if I would have the same love for the Church if I had not had such an amazing childhood within your walls.

            I do not know what children are in your nursery these days, but I am happy for them.  Those kids might grow up to be doctors, lawyers, or even bishops.  No matter what they grow up to be I am sure they will know an amazing God through the loving community of PUMC.

Here is the complete text of Ben’s letter.  It includes his contact info.  Send him warm wishes and prayers!

God’s Kingdom Belongs to Them

ss 2-3 tracey largess 2-3 brandice

You never know what you’ll find when you poke your head into a Sunday School class. On this day a hall monitor with a camera found the 2nd and 3rd graders doing a service project, using sand and balloons to make “stress balls,” part of a cheery “get well kit” to give to shut-ins.

ss yvonne

Meanwhile Yvonne Macdonald was teaching a song to 3 and 4 year olds; they performed it last week.

ss k-1The kindergarteners and first-graders were busily at work.

And the 4th and 5th graders were painting about Psalm 23 and working on their sewing projects.

ss 4-5 sageserss 4-5 paint

Who gets the most out of the children’s Sunday School classes? Could it be the teachers? After all, as the saying goes “We teach what we need to learn.” And — the lesson for this Sunday, March 2, is on Jesus and the Children, the story in Luke 18: 16-17 about how children are the best ‘welcomers’ of God’s kingdom. Said Jesus: “God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.”

Bill Fairbanks: Doing the Hard Thing

bill fairfieldRev. Jana Purkis-Brash challenged the congregation, on Sunday, in her sermon “Fitting In or Becoming Fit.” Taking the spiritual gifts passage from I Corinthians 12, she helped us remember times when we had play the part we didn’t want to play, when we wanted to “fit in.”

“Pressure squashes our particular gifts,” she warned.”To fit in, we hide away what God has given us to be gifts to others. Do the hard things,” she urged. Don’t “put a basket over your light.” Don’t resist the very things that make us uniquely situated to help others and work for good. “We have choices,” said Jana, “to simply fit in or become fit. May God bless us as we choose to do the hard thing.”

She cited how Nancy Brinker pushed uphill to make sense of her sister’s death by cancer. You may not know Nancy, but you will recognize the name of her sister, Susan G. Komen, and the millions of dollars raised in her name to combat breast cancer.

Jana offered an excerpt from Do Hard Things” A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, by Alex and Brett Harris, two young men who challenge young Christians:

  • Do things outside your comfort zone
  • Do things that go beyond what is required
  • Do things too big to accomplish alone — organize a team
  • Do things that don’t earn an immediate payoff, but that are the right thing to d
  • Do things that don’t fit in

As if to illustrate, some of us met a couple who are living those rules, going outside their comfort zone, doing something that doesn’t fit in. They joined us at the All Church Picnic. Bill Fairbanks-– a cultural anthropologist from California — is walking across the United States, just “to do it.” He’s gotten as far as Princeton, en route to Boston. His wife, Carol, drops him off in the morning and picks him up at night. They show us that anyone of any age can take up a challenge.

May God bless us as we choose to do the hard thing.

Pictured above, Reggie C speaking with the Fairbanks at the church picnic.


‘Holy Boldness’ Offers Hope in Trenton

“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.