Thursdays: Journaling through Lent

image by Marc Romanelli via Getty Images, from Huffington Post
Photo by Marc Romanelli via Getty Images, from Huffington Post

Betsy Arnold will lead a “Journaling through Lent” group on Thursdays, 11:30 to 12:30, in the conference room of the church. “Journaling is a very personal process and we will be exploring different ways to enjoy this spiritual practice,” she says.  “Please bring any thoughts, ideas, books, and techniques to share with the group. You will also need some type of journal or tablet of paper and your favorite pen. We will be doing some writing during our hour together.”

Intrigued? Check out this Huffington Post article about journaling as a tool for changing one’s life.
Betsy and her husband Bill moved to West Windsor last year; they have three children, one still in high school. Betsy graduated from Emory University and, earlier in her career, was a social worker. Now a published author, she is hard at work on Book III in the Tapestry series, a series of young adult historical fantasy novels set in medieval times.
 To join the journaling group, or for more information, call 609-924-2613 or email

Circle of Friends Christmas Luncheon at Rocky Hill Inn

The PUMC Circle of Friends had an enjoyable time at their annual Christmas Luncheon on Tuesday, December 8, 2015, with 13 women around the table at the Rocky Hill Inn, Central Jersey’s premier gastropub.

Rocky Hill Inn, with its awesome decor, is located in a building constructed in 1750 that was frequented by George Washington. It is owned by PUMC members Evan and Maria Blomgren, Evan being the chef/proprietor. Maria explained the history of the restaurant to the ladies and gave them a tour of the upstairs rooms, where they enjoyed viewing antique paintings on the walls, art pieces, family heirlooms – items collected and treasured over the years. The ancient wine bottles were magnificent.

The menu was not only enticing but the food was delicious and the presentation eye-catching, with a little gift put at each place. After prayers and a short speech, the friends tucked into their hamburgers, veggie burgers, lamb burgers, calamari, tuna sashimi, fries and salads. For starters, everyone got ‘devils on horseback” free of charge. Dessert was great, what with their signature bread pudding, and crème brûlée. Every meal was delicious!

IMG_1101The friends had a lot to talk about and there was much buzz around the tables creating a very lively atmosphere. This photograph is a testimony to the enjoyable time shared by the Circle of Friends, which welcomes all women of the church.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year ladies!

All church women are invited to join the Circle of Friends at their next meeting on Tuesday, February 9, 2016, in the Fellowship Hall at PUMC. For more information, please contact the church office at 609-924-2613 or visit

Knitting for faith and prayer

The prayer shawl group meets Tuesday, September 29. Everyone is invited, no matter your skill level. Here’s how Catherine Williams describes her experience:

I joined the prayer shawl group originally to keep my daughter company. She loved knitting and crocheting but was anxious about being in the company of women so much older than she was. She soon discovered her fears were needless, even as I soon discovered the time spent was therapeutic. The evenings were low-keyed, relaxing, uplifting, and a wonderful opportunity for connecting to God through “prayer-work.” I learned stitches I had not known before and my teachers were all so gracious. I encourage anyone – especially if you’re not yet connected to a group – to give the Prayer Shawl group a try. My daughter is away at college now, but has carried with her treasured memories of those calming Tuesday evenings spent with her crocheting buddies!

Interested?  E-mail: or call 609-924-2613

Adult Ed Choices — which is for you?


Adults have lots of education opportunities this fall. Two classes meet on Sunday mornings at 9:30. The Contemporary Issues class, in the Library, will study the Historical Figure of Jesus by EP Sanders. top right from those pictured above. This informal class focuses on issues that individuals, families, groups, and countries face in today’s world. Past topics have included changing attitudes towards religion, understanding major world religions, science and faith, and politics and religion.

The Heart of Our Faith class meets in Fellowship Hall at 9:30 on Sundays. Rev. Don Brash, PUMC’s resident theologian, will lead the study of the Epistle to the Hebrews.Hebrews is richly textured with beliefs and ideas,” says Don. “It contributed to Christian thinking about faith, worship, transcendence, ministry, the church, and more.” 

Phoebe Quaynor leads an in-depth 32-week Disciple Bible Study on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. This year’s book in the valuable series, Remember Who You Are,  focuses on such themes as the call to remember, the call to repentance, the need for renewed vision, and the place of community. It includes the major and minor Old Testament prophets (except for Daniel) plus the 13 years traditionally attributed to Paul. For a sample chapter click here.

Informal study groups meet Monday mornings, Tuesday evenings, and Thursday afternoons. To join the Disciple study, contact All the other groups welcome drop-in visitors, so just drop by!


How to discuss hot button issues

Here is a training announcement from the Greater New Jersey Digest:

Learn productive ways to discuss hot button issues with your church. GNJ’s Board of Church and Society is hosting training focusing on helping church leaders facilitate discussions about difficult social justice topics. United Methodist Women Executive Secretaries Janis Rosheuvel and Mollie Vickery will lead a discussion on Racial Justice and White Privilege. The training will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 9 a.m. to 3 St. John’s UMC (2000 Florence Avenue, Hazlet, NJ 07730). The registration fee is $10 per person. To register or learn more, contact Rev. Jonathan Campbell at or 845-893-9157

New small group: Dare to Dream

2015 3 25 dare to dream
What three people do you admire? What qualities do they have and what steps did they take to nurture those qualities? Do you see these qualities making a difference in their lives? If these questions intrigue you, you are invited to come to a “just forming” small group that meets on Sunday nights, starting March 29  (but you can join later). Bianca Baird will lead the study “Dare to Dream” on these Sundays at 7 to 8:30 p.m. Call Jeff Ransom for information on where the group meets or email
March 29, 7 PM
April 19, 7 PM
May 3, 7 PM
May 31, 7PM
June 7, 7 PM’
You will see videos of the author, Mike Slaughter, who passionately wants everyone to have a  “God-Sized” Mission Statement for their Lives. Join us!


Adult education — drop-ins welcome

Why I am an atheist who believes in God” is the book now being studied by the Contemporary Issues class, which meets in the library at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. The author, Frank Schaeffer, is the son of noted conservative evangelists who founded L’Abri, a chain of worldwide retreat centers. All are welcome, and new participants or drop-ins are encouraged. Click here for listings of other adult education opportunities — including the new study that starts this Tuesday evening.


Teach Us to Want: Tuesday Bible Study

michel book better

As Christians, we are squeamish about desire. Isn’t wanting selfish? Aren’t we supposed to find and follow God’s will rather than insisting on our own?

Please join us for a new and exciting five week study, “Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition: the Life of Faith.”  Author Jen Pollock Michel explores the themes of Fear and Courage, Grace, Scripture and Prayer, Petition and Confessions, Community and Commitment. Come and engage in conversation on how to identify and overcome the tension that sometimes exists between personal ambition, desire, and faith.

“When desire is informed by Scripture and reformed by our spiritual practices,” writes Michel, “it can root us more deeply in the fundamental belief that God is good and generous…” 

Classes will be on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., weekly, from February 3 to March 3. The book is available in paperback or by download at Amazon or from the publisher, Intervarsity Press.  Contact: Shivonne McKay at





What We Believe: We seek to know God personally

In this essay Jeff Ransom has written the first in a seven-part series illustrating the vision statements of Princeton United Methodist Church as described here:
“We aim to know God personally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We glorify God in our words and deeds and celebrate God’s love. We are open to all of God’s possibilities. As God loves us, so we love one another

The New Year: talking with my (new?) self

Wow! Whew!   ‘Twas a great Christmas season:  The celebration of the Christ child, family visits, food, carols, concerts, pageants, kids’ excitement, charity to all, even football playoffs and cleaning up.  I enjoyed good times, good fellowship, good deeds, good services, and (good gracious me) – my new year resolutions.

Speaking of my resolutions:  Am I good with God, after all that I’ve been doing for family, friends, and others in the church?  I think I’ve been loving God and neighbor this season, but what about that other part – loving myself?  Doesn’t Luke 10:27 (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”) say my relationship with God, and with others, should be as meaningful as my relationship with myself?  If so, this passage is not just about me not being selfish, but about me being more loving to me as a model for me loving my neighbor and God.  That love means I’m to try to be a better Christian disciple.  God already loves me so much: John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life”).

Then how can I be more loving of myself so I can grow as a disciple?

Well, let me take stock of my “disciple checklist”: I listen to the sermons, give my time and money, serve on a committee or two, do community service, love and support others and my family. Am I missing anything in my “loving me by what I do” duties?

By now you have probably figured out that I’m talking about improving my spiritual growth, and becoming a mature Christian. To grow, I need to challenge myself. If I look at Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:48 (“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”), I realize there is no comfort in Christ from coasting, or resting at, where I already am.

The bottom line: I need to deal with two things: my sin, and my service – fighting the former, and growing the latter. Both are addressed by Jesus through the gospels, and by Paul, in his letters.  According to Jesus and Paul (and for Methodists, John Wesley), I can’t make any progress by my own efforts. While the right next step is to seek the only capable helper, the Holy Spirit, my human-ness (reluctant to yield control) resists my inviting that help. Alone, I seem to restrict my own access to the Holy Spirit.

Because I can’t seem to manage this individually, I really need a love-binding community — a church community — of those in a similar condition. In such a community we can help each other to connect with the Holy Spirit and overcome our personal obstacles.  Yet fear of exposing my “private issues” to others keeps me isolated, unable to move forward on my spiritual journey.

Is Princeton UMC not a trusted community where it is “safe” for me to take that next step?  Well, No . . and Yes!

The NO answer: At the Sunday corporate worship service, or in the typical functional committee meeting, the church may offer a heart-warming or head-inspiring growth for the prepared disciple, but it just doesn’t seem to be the right “bare-your-soul space for spiritual changes” toward Christian maturity. The result: conversions of nominal or non-Christian persons do not often happen here. Don’t agree?  Ask yourself, except for youth confirmations, how many professions of faith happen at PUMC ?

The YES answer: PUMC is exactly the right spot for me if I am in a small group that uses daily intercessory prayer and discretionary support of confessions for its members. I would have the accountability, caring and learning environment I need to commit myself to be a new creation, someone with an intimate relationship with God. If we invite others to join the groups, and seek to encourage new leaders, small groups could also provide a vital engine for church growth.

My conclusion: I should either start such a small group, or work toward revitalizing an existing small group.

If you conclude this is a personal message of resolution for its author, you are correct.  Now go through it again with “you as the me.” Make it your own story to see if any of it resonates with your own discipleship path. See if you agree that, together in a small group, we could each be better disciples.

The Small Group Ministry at PUMC will look at existing small groups. More than 40  meet the minimal definition (hint: they’re groups which are . . small).  Our principle was stated by Jesus in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Many of us — including our annual conference leaders– believe our church and personal growth depends upon vital small groups.

Early this year PUMC will set up small group facilitator training and coaching support to help existing small groups aim to be more vital. We will also establish new vital small groups, either study- and/or mission-oriented, which follow the small group health guidelines for praying, caring, reaching out, and empowering. Let me know if you you’re interested. Let’s grow together!

Jeff  Ransom, Lay Leader