Singing our way to Christmas

Karen zumbrunn 3Celebrate the season with Christmas carols at Princeton United Methodist Church — starting with the Advent Extravaganza on Sunday, December 9, 4 to 7:30 p.m. Listen to the children’s choirs and Sunday School classes present the Christmas story and join in the singing. Then enjoy dinner and crafts followed by dessert and caroling, led by Dr. Karen Zumbrunn. (If your last name begins with A to L, bring a side dish. From M to Z, bring a dessert.) Questions?

Then at the United Methodist Men’s breakfast on Sunday, December 16, Dr. Zumbrunn plays and shares stories behind the carols. The delicious hot breakfast begins at 8 a.m. and the program is at 8:30 a.m. All are welcome. Please RSVP to or 609-924-2613 by Friday, December 12 at noon.

That night, December 14, 7:30 p.m., the combined choirs, directed by Hyosang Park and Tom Shelton, present Lessons and Carols From Around the World. A freewill offering will be taken.

On Sunday, December 21, at 4 p.m., the sanctuary hosts the New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus as it presents Masters of Good Cheer.

And then — the candlelight services on Christmas Eve, 6 p.m. for families, a traditional service at 8 p.m.  Youth choir alumni are invited to sing with the youth choir: rehearsal at 7:15 p.m. in Room 203.

“People, look east and sing today: Love, the Lord is on the way.”

Children’s Sabbath: November 16

2014 nov Shelton choirJoin us on Sunday, November 16, for a Children’s Sabbath service, when the youngest members of our church will lead worship at both 9:30 and 11 a.m. Fourth graders will receive their Bibles and read from them. With Pastor Anna Gillette the fourth and fifth grade class will deliver the sermon.  Led by Tom Shelton, the children’s choirs — shown here in rehearsal — will  sing. All in all we look forward to a very special time, when together we worship God, our loving parent.

Christopher McWilliams at the Organ

fantasiaRemember the opening scene from Disney’s Fantasia? With the image of the conductor (Leopold Stowkowski) lifting his arm for the crashing downbeat? That’s J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in d minor, and it’s featured on Christopher McWilliams’ organ recital on Saturday, October 25, at 2 p.m., at Princeton United Methodist Church (PUMC)

McWilliams, the organist at PUMC, will also play selections by  Francois Couperin, Herbert Howells, Marco E. Bossi, and Calvin Hampton. Admission is free; a freewill offering will benefit capital improvements to the church.

Christopher McWilliams A Vermont native, McWilliams has a Bachelor of Music in Piano and Organ Performance and a Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy and Performance from Westminster Choir College of Rider University, where he studied with Phyllis Lehrer, Matthew Lewis, and Kenneth Cowan. He teaches private lessons in piano at the Westminster Conservatory of  Music, at PUMC, and in students’ homes, and is a frequent accompanist at the Dutch Neck Presbyterian Church.



Songs for Congo: November 9

Karrin and Bill

Here is a way to support a cause founded by PUMC’s own Daniel Shungu, United Front Against Riverblindness. Together with another worthy charity for Congo, Woman Cradle of Abundance, UFAR presents its second annual benefit concert with 4-Time Grammy Nominee Karrin Allyson.

When: Sunday, November 9 at 3:00 PM
Reception with the artist will follow. Doors open at 2:30 PM.

Where: Solley Theatre, Arts Council of Princeton
Corner of Paul Robeson Place and Witherspoon St. in Princeton, NJ

Tickets are $70, $30 for students, and sponsorship opportunities are available.

Many at PUMC know how UFAR is working to stamp out riverblindness. We sent a mission team to the DRC five years ago. One-third of the 60 million people in the DRC are at risk for getting riverblindness, which starts with a rash and leads to sight loss, forcing children to leave school to care for parents.

But what is Woman, Cradle of Abundance, also known as FEBA? It aims to change the dismal future for many women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a woman. Founded in 1999 by an ecumenical group of Congolese women, it supports a sewing school where girls learn a marketable trade. It also provides medical care and support for women and children living with HIV / AIDS, counseling for survivors of rape and forced prostitution, and school fees for orphans. The US partner is raising funds to help the Congo project build a Women’s Center.

Help both causes by enjoing a jazz afternoon with Karrin (shown here with her partner Bill McLaughlin). She is described as “always globetrotting and delighting audiences all over the world with her unique and personal style — straight from the heart.”



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.”

Passing the Baton: Yvonne to Tom

yvonne headshot on web now 2011tom-175

This press release announces Yvonne Macdonald’s retirement and Tom Shelton’s appointment as director of music for children and youth

“When children and youth feel what the lyrics are saying, the beauty comes alive,” says Tom Shelton. He is the new director of music for children and youth at Princeton United Methodist Church (PUMC), succeeding Yvonne Macdonald, who retired from that post after 40 years.

“Passing the baton to Tom Shelton is a joy and an honor for me,” says Macdonald. “Easing the transition is my belief that seeds sown over the years both in faith–and in music — are blossoming. I know the choirs are in excellent hands.”

With 22 years of youth choir experience, Shelton has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is assistant professor of sacred music at Westminster Choir College of Rider University and conducts the Princeton Girlchoir’s high school ensemble. He is also a prolific composer and aims to write special pieces for the PUMC choirs, ages three through high school. Shelton will be assisted by Anna de Groot.

Schools can teach character development, says Shelton, “but in church we can teach spiritual values. I encourage each child to relate the essence of the song to a personal experience in their lives.”

“We plan to make no immediate changes to PUMC’s excellent youth music program,” says Shelton.

Located at the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer in Princeton, PUMC is a diverse congregation whose members come from many surrounding communities, backgrounds, and faith histories. For information on joining the PUMC choirs, call 609-924-2613 or or

Christmas Concert 2012

PUMC Chancel and High School Choirs

The Christmas Concert took place last Sunday, and included music from the Handbell Choir, the Chancel and High School Choirs, Christmas stories from Holland, China, Guatemala, India, and Ghana, music from nine PUMC instrumentalists (strings, brass, and woodwinds) accompanied by piano and organ, plus hymns and carols were sung.

We are blessed to have so many musically talented members of our congregation willing to share their gifts. It was a truly joyful event. If you missed it this year, you should definitely NOT miss it next year.

Photos can be viewed at our Christmas 2012 Flickr set. More will be added, so please check back occasionally.