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 shivonne.mckay@ptsem.edu.





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


Chaplains on the Medical Team

2015 jan tn04xxtedtaylor_2mm-(ZF-2175-91045-1-001)Many of life’s critical moments take place in a healthcare setting. For most of us the bookends of our lives – birth and death – take place with the support of a medical team outside the home. With more attention now on patient-centered care, other healthcare team providers are being recognized for the roles they play at these crucial times.

An important, but sometimes overlooked or neglected, component of the healthcare team is the pastoral care provider.  Chaplain Tedford J. Taylor, director of pastoral care & training at RWJ University Hospital Hamilton, will speak at the UMM breakfast on January 11 on how chaplains and others can offer pastoral companionship and support during these critical times.

Ted supervises more than 20 volunteer and intern chaplains in providing  spiritual and emotional care to patients.  A diplomate in pastoral supervision through the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy (CPSP), he is also board certified as a clinical chaplain with a fellowship in palliative care and hospice through CPSP. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Baptist Theological Seminary.  Ted lives with his husband Kevin in Ewing Township and is a Recorded Minister in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and is active in the Yardley Monthly Meeting.

The delicious hot breakfast begins at 8 AM, followed by the program at 8:30. A $5 donation for the meal is requested. Please RSVP to umm@princetonumc.org or 609-924-2613 by noon on  Friday, January 9. Everyone is welcome!

Meeting Needs: Bentley Community Services

Dorothy Sterns-Holmes and Brant Holmes of Bentley Community Services have been providing fresh produce, frozen meats, and desserts for Cornerstone Community Kitchen for more than a year –and  now we can hear them speak at the UMM-sponsored breakfast this Sunday, October 12, 8 a.m. Topic: “Meeting Needs Brings About Restoring Self-Sufficiency”
Bentley Community Services is a charitable organization dedicated to  providing food, basic necessities, household goods, clothing and adult  education on an ongoing basis to struggling families in need. 

Brentley  welcomes and serves those who need a “hand up” rather than a “hand out” and  are prepared to participate in the unique  method of meeting  needs while working towards restoring self-sufficiency.  Bentley Community  Services encourages and provides the opportunity for its friends and neighbors in the community to join in and assist with their service.This program has been modeled from the Birch Community Services in Portland,  Oregon.

Please contact the church office by 12 noon – Friday, October 10,  with your attendance plans so that we can plan the breakfast for all who will attend by calling (609) 924-2613 or  email office@princetonumc.org. A $5.00 donation for breakfast is recommended.

2014 9 10 hands


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.

African Women Extraordinaire: March 1 and 6

Elsie speakselsie and cake

Princeton Theological Seminary stages a one-day symposium on March 6:  African Women Extraordinaire: church, health, and women’s development. The full-day workshop is $50 and is being planned by Dr. Elsie A. McKee, who spoke at the UMM Men’s breakfast last month amd told of growing up in the Congo and of her connections with the Shungu family.

Elsie is Princeton Seminary’s professor of Reformation Studies and History of Worship. She is also the International Liaison and President of Women, Cradle of Abudance, a North America-based organization that promotes the work and ministry of Femme Berceau de l’Abondance.

If you go to the African Soiree this Saturday, March 1, you will see her there as well. Elsie is on the board of United Front Against Riverblindness and co-chair of the African Soiree.

So much good work!



Robotics Revolution? George Young

2013 oct umm YoungsWhere is R2-D2 when we need him? We won’t see a robot like that for a good long while, says George Young. He will speak on “The Robot Revolution: The Promises and Limitations of Collective Robots” at a breakfast sponsored by United Methodist Men on Sunday, October 6, at 8 a.m., in the Sanford Davis Room. Everyone — men and women — is invited. A $5 donation is requested. Email umm@princetonumc.org or call 609-924-2613

Industrial robots have reshaped manufacturing, domestic robots help maintain floors and lawns, and military robots and drones have been developed to help fight wars. “Despite these advances, ” says Young, “state-of-the-art robots remain far removed from the automated personal assistants, companions or enemies that science fiction writers have dreamed of for decades.”

A native of South Australia, Young has undergraduate degrees from the University of Adelaide. He is completing his PhD in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University, where his research focuses on understanding how the structure of interactions between individuals within a group (of robots, birds or people) affects the behavior of the entire group. In particular, he examines how groups manage uncertainty and how sharing information can lead to better or worse performance.

“Rather than attempting to build ever more complicated and sophisticated machines, today many researchers are attempting to expand our technological capabilities using an entirely different idea — building simple machines that can work together to achieve difficult tasks. These jobs could include monitoring the environment, growing crops, responding to natural disasters, building infrastructure and a host of other tasks.”

Before coming to Princeton he obtained undergraduate degrees in mechatronic engineering and pure mathematics from the University of Adelaide in his home state of South Australia. He and Elizabeth — who spoke to the UMM last spring — will shortly be moving to Memphis, Tennessee. We will miss them!