Breaking Bread with Mt. Pisgah AME Church


Rev. Dr. Deborah Blanks

What a joy it was to welcome Rev. Dr. Deborah Blanks, pastor of Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church, as guest preacher on April 25. “If there is a temptation to be someone other than ourselves, that would be a monumental mistake,” she said, preaching on the Good Shepherd theme in the Gospel of John. “God wants us to be the people that God has redeemed us to be.”

Her inspirational message represents a step toward a partnership that Princeton UMC is developing with Mt. Pisgah AME, located on Witherspoon Street. This project was sparked by Professor Emeritus Albert Raboteau, in answer to the question, “What can (one) do to help improve race relations?” shortly after the racially charged events at Charlottesville, VA. His answer was, “Sit down together and share a meal.”

“We proceed in that spirit of fellowship,” says Dana Dreibelbis, who co-chairs the project – a Juneteenth celebration picnic — with Rev. Dr. Blanks. Brenda A. Allen, president of Lincoln University, the oldest of the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), is a consultant on this effort.

Juneteenth is celebrated around the nation as the day (June 19, 1865) when freedom for enslaved people was finally and belatedly announced in Galveston, Texas, by Union authorities. Celebrations began the following year mainly as church-centered events and have evolved ever since.

PUMC will join Mt. Pisgah AME for the Juneteenth celebration picnic on the actual day, Saturday, June 19, at noon (Covid conditions permitting). Space has been reserved at Community Park South, and Rev. Dr. Blanks and Dana are assembling a volunteer team.

As United Methodists we have so much in common with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. According to the A.M.E. website, it split from the main branch of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1787, not because of doctrinal differences “but rather the result of a time period that was marked by man’s intolerance of his fellow man, based on the color of his skin.” It has grown from one church in Philadelphia to gaining members in 39 countries on five conti- nents.

President Allen suggests the Juneteenth project can “ultimately provide opportunities for diverse groups to build relationships towards the common goals of learning about each other and to come together to fight racial injustice. We agreed that this is not a one and done. Rather we envision a series of activities that bring communities together to build these relationships and develop cross-cultural trust and respect.”

“To this end we envision events throughout the year to keep the goal of genuine equality, respect and fellowship front and center,” says Dana.

Can you help? Email .

Faith Formation Toolkit

Immanuel Journaling

Were you unable to participate in the Selah Prayer Practices small group earlier this year? Our intern Tayler Necoechea shares one of the practices from the group here: Immanuel Journaling.

Tayler first learned about Immanuel Journaling through Pastor Anna Kang, one of the authors of this practice, while doing ministry in Los Angeles. What makes this journaling exercise so lovely is the emphasis on the “mutual state of mind” between the individual and God. Take a few minutes in between your part and God’s response to invite the Holy Spirit into your space. Remember that God is loving, not shaming.

Use this Immanuel Journaling Worksheet to guide you in your practice.

Do you want to learn about more spiritual practices? Email to get access to the self-paced Selah Prayer Practices group on Mighty Networks.

Laity Spotlight: Lori Pantaleo

Earlier this year, the Greater New Jersey Conference recognized Lori Pantaleo’s work with Maker’s Place by bestowing upon her their Lay Ministry Recognition Award. Maker’s Place distributes diapers to over 500 struggling families at five locations in the Trenton area. While she marks two years volunteering with Maker’s Place this summer, Lori’s involvement in ministry spans decades.

Picture of Lori Pantaleo in a red shirt, standing in front of the Sanford Davis Room windows.
Lori Pantaleo stands in the Sanford Davis Room.

Lori spent her junior year at Skidmore College studying abroad in Spain. After graduating from college with a double major in Spanish and music, Lori spent the next 16 years in Madrid teaching ESL, marrying, and raising two children. A life-long Methodist, Lori began attending the Church Without Walls, a Methodist congregation started by a pastor from Teaneck NJ. “We were a small group of really dedicated people who worked with the disadvantaged,” she recalled. While volunteering at a clothes closet run by two churches, Lori gained an early lesson in a core value of volunteering: shattering stereotypes about the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised. “In the early nineties, there was an influx of Liberian refugees into Spain. I recall one man who came to shop; he was articulate and poised from a middle class family in Liberia. I thought what it must have taken for him to come to the church to pick through used clothing,” she remembered. “We tend to stereotype the poor and homeless as uneducated and unmotivated. That they are somehow solely responsible for their situation. He challenged that perception,” she added.

When Lori was ready to return to the States, she called her sister Tari, who lives in Plainsboro. Tari found the perfect house for Lori and the kids and Lori found the perfect church – PUMC – and the perfect job: teaching at The Chapin School, first as a long-term sub and then as a full-time teacher. For the next 20 years until her retirement in 2016, Lori immersed her K-8 students in all things Spanish.

One of the programs Lori appreciated at Chapin was its student community service program for the 8th graders. From the on-campus Runathon fundraiser to the monthly visits to St. Mary’s Loaves and Fishes program, and the Adult Day Care Center in Trenton, Lori joined the school’s eighth graders in community outreach ministering to the needy. She loved watching the changes in interactions the students had with the poor and the aged. “To see our students playing bingo and balloon volleyball with the people at the daycare center or serving meals to the hungry at St. Mary’s was wonderful,” Lori said. There is so much value in getting privileged kids “out of their comfort zone and in busting stereotypes about the poor and the elderly,” she added.

Over her 25 years as a member of Princeton UMC, Lori has supported many of the church’s ministries, including Worship and the Puerto Rican Mission Trips. She currently heads Trustees, sings in the choir, serves on the altar guild, and co-directs the Cornerstone Community Kitchen’s Clothing Closet. Additionally, she is the de facto church archivist.

Outside church, Lori recently began volunteering with Solidaridad New Jersey, a group that tries to find asylum for refugees from Spanish-speaking countries. By definition, volunteerism is the practice of providing time and skills to benefit others, but volunteers also reap benefits from giving of their time and talents. Lori feels called to ministry for many reasons. “It’s easy to get discouraged when you see so many people who need help, but when I see how generous others are with their time, it renews my faith and hope,” she shared. Beyond that, “volunteering is a reminder of how fortunate we are and how we can change things for others,” she concluded.

Written by Kate Lasko


This Fifth Sunday of Easter is also Communion Sunday. Our theme for this Sunday is love. We will start our service with Julia Hanna playing a classical piano music “Pastorale from Album Pour Mes Petits Amis” by Pierné. Our first hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” is a famous hymn usually played at weddings. PUMC Virtual Handbell choir will treat us to a beautiful rendition of “Jesus Loves Me.” Our final song will be “I Come With Joy, A Child Of God, Forgiven, Loved, And Free.” We will end our service,  as we started, with another beautiful classical piece, “Rigaudon from 10 Piano Pieces” by Prokofiev. 

VIDEO “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”

“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, Joy Of Heaven, To Earth Come Down” was written in 1774 by Charles Wesley and sung most often to Beecher by John Zundel. This poetic hymn covers themes of God’s love and ours, sanctification or Christian perfection, and is also considered a prayer. Its text is based in part on 1 John 4:16 and 2 Corinthians 3:18. It is a classic Anglican wedding hymn.

Rev. Jenny Smith Walz will preach on the subject “Perfected in Love.” Sunday’s Scripture “1 John 4:7-21” and John 15:1-8 will be read by Hyelim Yoon.  Click here to join us in this worship service as we lift up our hearts to the Lord with joyful songs and music.


We were blessed to have Rev. Dr. Deborah Blanks, pastor of Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church, as our guest preacher on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 25. In her sermon, Rev. Blanks preached on the subject “The Good Shepherd,” as recorded in the Scripture John 10:11-18.” We hope you enjoyed your time here with us, Rev. Blanks, as much as we enjoyed having you and listening to your powerful message. 

She assured us that Jesus the Good Shepherd knows us better than we know ourselves and cares for us beyond our knowing.” God knows each of us as though we were the only sheep in the world,” she told us. “It is a blessing to know the one who is the ground of our being and the mover of this very universe,” added Rev. Blanks. 

She made some interesting points throughout her sermon. Still, this one kept me thinking a lot, especially about how we do business: “In our way of thinking, a 99% return on our investment would be most desirable, but not this shepherd. He left the 99 to go in search of the one lost sheep,” stated Rev. Blanks. Yes, Jesus is the Good Shepherd to all of us. If only we can love Him as much as He loves us and love our neighbors as ourselves, what a wonderful world we would be living in!

You, too, can experience God’s love and love for others in return. Come worship with us at Princeton United Methodist Church, and be a part of this beloved community. Click here to watch the PUMC worship service and listen to Rev. Blanks’ sermon.

[Image Source: Google]


On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we will start our worship service with the hymn “Come, Christians, Join To Sing, Alleluia, Amen!” We will also sing the hymns “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” Julia Hanna will play classical music on the piano during the service.

The PUMC Virtual Chancel Choir will treat us to a special performance of E. Rentz’s arrangement of “In the Garden,” reflection of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ. This music has an upbeat rhythm that will make everyone want to get up and dance. So, let’s get up and dance and sing praises to our risen Lord!

            Video “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”

The hymn “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” written by Isaac Watts, refers to Psalm 23 and Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Watts, in this hymn, evokes the living water that Jesus offered the woman at the well (John 4:7–15.) He assures us that those who find themselves in the wilderness will be led back by truth and grace because our God is a God of mercy. You who believe in his name are God’s children and you will dwell in his house forever, not as guests, but as his beloved children.

We welcome Rev. Dr. Deborah Blanks, an itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, currently appointed to Mt. Pisgah A.M.E. Church in Princeton,  as our guest preacher on Sunday. She will preach on the topic “The Good Shepherd” based on John 10:11-18our Scripture reading for this service.

Click here to join us in this worship service as we lift up our hearts to the Lord with joyful songs and music.

[Video credit: YouTube] [Image Source: Google]


PUMC youth led our worship service, including prayers, music, hymns, and liturgy, on Youth Sunday, April 18, 2021.  Ana Francisco-Cabus and Delaney McCarty shared their youth testimonies. The Scripture was from “Matthew 25:34-40.”

You, too, can experience God’s love and transformation. Come worship with us at Princeton United Methodist Church, and be a part of this beloved community. Click here to watch the PUMC worship service and listen to their testimonies.


To celebrate Youth Sunday on April 18, we will have special musical performances of hymns we love featuring the Youth Choir. Other performing musicians will include Leanne Griffiths (piano), Gillian and Reanna Bartels Quansah (vocals), Delaney McCarty (flute), and Andre Penn (piano). There will also be classical music from Bach, Faure, and Mendelssohn.

Our hymns include “When The Poor Ones” and “No Hands But Yours,” written by Tom Shelton, PUMC Director of Children’s and Youth Choirs. Shelton has written many hymns and served as guest conductor at many music festivals for children and youth. We will start the service with one of my favorite hymns, “In Christ, There is No East or West.”

William A. Dunkerley wrote the hymn “In Christ, There Is No East Or West” in 1908 under the pseudonym John Oxenham, and is sung to the tune  ST. PETER (Reinagle). While it is appropriate for the Easter Season, some people criticized it for emphasizing masculine qualities.

 VIDEO   “In Christ, There Is No East Or West”

PUMC youth will lead our worship service, including prayers, music, and liturgy, with Ana Francisco-Cabus and Delaney McCarty sharing their youth testimonies. The Scripture is from “Matthew 25:34-40.”

Click here to join us in this worship service as we come before the Lord with joyful songs.

[Videos credit: YouTube] [Photo credit: PUMC Library]


In her sermon on the Second Sunday of Easter, Interim Pastor Rebekah Anderson preached on the story of “The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith,” as recorded in the Scripture Mark 7:24-30.  She stated that when people are brought into direct contact with the truth, they are transformed. Whatever is obstructing their view is removed and allows them to see clearly something they couldn’t see before. In the case of Jesus, it’s as if, for one moment, he lost sight of his mission. He seemingly forgot that he had just taught the crowd of Scribes and Pharisees that “what comes out of our hearts supersedes the law.” 

The Syrophoenician woman of great faith asked Jesus to heal her daughter. She, who was a Gentile, not Jewish, taught Jesus to be more tolerant. This woman brought Jesus into a direct encounter with the truth and reminds him of his mission’s entire point, thus empowering him to transform others. Pastor Rebekah reminds us “that as Christians, we are called to listen deeply to ourselves, to others, and to God.” We are often afraid to listen, she said, “because when we do, we are often confronted with things that are really uncomfortable.” She invites us to honor God with our hearts and actions by listening to those who are different from us, who can remind us of what we are called to be. God’s unconditional love for us will help us listen deeply. 

You, too, can experience God’s love and transformation. Come worship with us at Princeton United Methodist Church, and be a part of this beloved community. Click here to watch the PUMC worship service and listen to the sermon.


On this Second Sunday of Easter, April 11, Music Director Hyosang Park performs a handbell solo, and Pianist Julia Hanna treats us to beautiful classical music pieces.   Our hymns include “Spirit Of God” and “Open My Eyes, That I May See,” popular hymns for this season. “Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us, a favorite hymn of mine,” fittingly brings this service to its close. 

 The hymn, “Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us,” was first published by its composer Dorothy Ann Thrupp in a collection of songs titled “Hymns For The Young,” and sung to the music “Bradbury” by William B. Bradbury. It is a prayer  based on Psalm 23, with pleas for tender care from lost, needy children. The Shepherd responds with love. We are his lambs, and He, our Shepherd continues to lead us.

Video:  “Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us,”      

In this Easter season, we celebrate new life in Christ, who triumphed over death and is alive again. Come, let us worship in the light of his teachings and his healing mercies, and come before his presence with music and hymns.  Pastor Rebekah Anderson is preaching on “The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith,” as recorded in the Scripture Mark 7:24-30.  

Click here to join us in this worship service and share in songs and music.

[Videos credit: YouTube]  [Photo credit: PUMC Library]