Step Right Up and Spin the Wheel

2013-7-16 B and Iona chamberThough it was 100 degrees in the shade, PUMC’s Growth Committee took its message “Help Us to Help Others” to the Princeton Regional Chamber’s “Plaza Palooza” networking event on July 16. From 4 to 7 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library’s Hinds Plaza, folks “spun the wheel” at the PUMC table.

This was the third year that PUMC’s wooden wheel, crafted by Tim Ewer, had a workout at the chamber’s mid-summer marketing expo. Local businesses  (hotels, restaurants, contractors, laywers)  gave out all kinds of free stuff, plus a limited number of nonprofit members of the chamber (such as Morven, State Theatre, and Habitat for Humanity) were represented.

Iona Harding prepared the wheel this year to include six charities that the church supports: Womanspace, Crisis Ministry, Appalachia Service Project, Cornerstone Community Kitchen, and United Front  Against Riverblindness, with its sister organization, Women of Abundance. Also staffing the table were Elsie McKee (from Women of Abundance and UFAR),  Lindsey Donaldson, and  yours truly.

The wheel makes satisfying clicks, and we took the role of carnival shills. “Step right up and spin the wheel,”  we called, “wherever it stops, there’s where your money goes.” We told the spinners about the charity they “won” and they were invited to contribute  $1 to it. If it stopped on “Free Gift” they chose from the basket of UFAR T-shirts, cute fabric purses made by FEBA, UFAR bookmarks made by Susan Lidstone, or a bar of chocolate. Everybody went away with a brochure about the  charity they “won.” Kids got to spin for free and choose one of the beautiful bookmarks.

We met lots of folks we knew, made many new friends — and were heartened that lots of them already knew about UFAR and Cornerstone Community Kitchen. The word is getting out there!

Barbara Fox

PS: The Growth Committee can use volunteers — as Greeters and as Poster Put-er-upers — and more!. Talk to Iona.

 

 

 

Cornerstone Community Kitchen: One Year Old

1 2013 cck Apperson Berger Glasser Zeitler
Larry Apperson (left) and Beth Zeitler (far right) speak with a mother/daughter team, Jackie Berger and Emma Glasser.

Just inside the doors of Princeton United Methodist Church, on a recent Wednesday, geraniums decorated the red-and-white covered tables, and napkins were tied with matching red ribbons. A dozen volunteers donned aprons and disposable gloves, ready to serve at Cornerstone Community Kitchen, When Emma Glasser arrived, Nicole Oliver, a high school sophomore from PUMC, showed her how to serve the trays – entrees and vegetables from the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, plus a green salad, a fruit salad, juice, bread, and a dessert.

 

Larry Apperson had the vision for Cornerstone Community Kitchen (CCK), and it will celebrate its first anniversary on June 5. In partnership with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) every Wednesday, no matter what, volunteers from the church and the community have served a free and nutritious meal from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the church on the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer. All are welcome, no questions asked.
Some come for the food, some for the fellowship. Mothers come with children, and several people are here to practice speaking English.
Among the diners on this particular Wednesday is a woman who takes the bus to a job in Princeton. “Some of us who have jobs, we can’t get help from the government, but we still have trouble paying our bills,” she says.
2 2013 cck judy miller
“The members of Princeton United Methodist church have a strong commitment to service,” says Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash, PUMC’s senior pastor. People from the community have also been eager to help – preparing the greens, the fruit, and the eggs, and donating baked desserts – plus working as servers and hosts. Judy Miller coordinates the décor and Beth Zeitler organizers the volunteers. “Brownie troops donate cupcakes, and we have had an entire office pitch in,” says Zeitler.  “CCK is also popular as a bar or bat mitzvah project for teens from the Jewish Center. Our greatest need is for people to prepare salads and fruit.”
Panera Bread and the Bagel Hole regularly donate baked goods, and Zorba’s Brother donated a turkey dinner during the holidays. “We’re grateful for the in-kind donations,” says Apperson, “and also for cash donations to cover our costs. Egg salad sandwiches are a favorite take-home item, and children leave with breakfast in a bag.”
3 2013 cck animal at the table
As she helps clear the tables, Glasser, a John Witherspoon Middle School student who is volunteering as part of her bat mitzvah Hesed Project, says that her experience was just what she had hoped it would be. “It was like a community here,” she says. “Everybody was so friendly, so happy to be here. I am glad to have helped.”
To volunteer or inquire about donations to Cornerstone Community Kitchen, emailCCK@princetonumc.org, go towww.princetonumc.org, or call 609-924-2613.

‘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. 

 

 

4th Annual UFAR African Soirée

Shungu Family At 4th Annual UFAR African Soiree
The Shungu Family

The United Front Against Riverblindness (UFAR) is a non-profit organization led by Executive Director, and Chairman by Dr. Daniel Shungu. UFAR works in partnership with other organizations to combat riverblindness in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last weekend they held their 4th annual African Soirée, which is a dinner and auction, to raise funds for their cause.

4th Annual UFAR African Soiree

The check-in area already had an African marketplace ambience, with diashikis on racks, shoulder bags and other items for sale. The check-in table had a photo of a war canoe with about 30 people seated on it, and in front of it was a 3D model representing it.

4th Annual UFAR African Soiree

Once inside, teens wearing colorful dashikis passed flavorful hors d’oeuvres. The tablescapes beautifully re-created African villages, each with a mini thatch roof hut in the center and wooden female figures surround it. Everyone received a hand-crafted figure as a gift.

The Garvey School DrummersThe Garvey School Dancers

Drummers and percussionists from The Garvey School/Egun Omode Shule started playing, and had the audience participating by singing and clapping. Once we got warmed up, female dancers came in ranging from approximately 14 down to five years of age. They all danced perfectly synchronized, including the little ones.

4th Annual UFAR African Soiree Food4th Annual UFAR African Soiree Food

Soon after, the dinner buffet opened. I saw some dishes I’ve never heard of, but did recognize many. Plantains, peanut soup, goat stew, cassava, bitter greens and more were offered. People were buzzing about the new flavors as they tasted the exotic foods.

Former Princeton Township Mayor James Floyd's 91st BirthdayFormer Princeton Township Mayor Michele Tuck Ponder as Auctioneer

We celebrated former Princeton Township Mayor James Floyd’s 91st birthday with a cake, and another former Princeton Township Mayor, Michelle Tuck Ponder was the auctioneer of the evening. Quilts, artwork, and clothing were auctioned off for the benefit.

4th Annual UFAR African Soiree

The planning committee consisted of Elsie McKee (below left) and Susan Lidstone (below right), and they did a fabulous job! Overall, it was a wonderful cultural experience for an important cause. I hope to see you there next year!

Elsie McKee at the UFAR African SoireeSusan Lidstone at UFAR African Soiree

TASK’s Dennis Micai: Good Report Card

Originally posted on Princeton Comment.

PUMC Cornerstone Community Kitchen Grand Opening
L-R Howard Roundtree, Dennis Micai, Pastor Jana Purkis-Brash, and Larry Apperson

 The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) gets four stars on the report card provided by  Charity Navigator; it earns 69.13 points out of 70. So Dennis Micai, executive director of TASK, will be able to share that good news at a breakfast at Princeton United Methodist Church (PUMC), Nassau and Vandeventer, on Sunday, January 13 at 8 a.m.

Princeton Cornerstone Community Kitchen MealPUMC volunteers have been serving at TASK in Trenton for two decades, but last June the church and TASK began a new partnership to serve meals in Princeton to more than 50 people every Wednesday. Some come for the food, some for the fellowship, and dozens of volunteers from both the church and the community are helping. TASK cooks most of the meals but outside organizations (the restaurant Zorba’s Brother cooked a turkey dinner last month) have also contributed. TASK has a similar partnership in Hightstown.

TASK offers lots of ways to contribute. So although hunger is a growing problem, Micai will have some good news stories to tell. The breakfast is catered by the United Methodist Men, and all are invited. (Reserve at 609-924-2613 or UMM@princetonumc.org). It will be good to hear some good news for 2013.

TASK has had the four star rating, by the way, for seven consecutive years.

 

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.

Take Back Christmas!

Advent Wreath

The day after Halloween, stores like Target and Walmart slashed prices on costumes and candy corn to make way for artificial Christmas trees and holiday decorations. Before everyone had a chance to digest their turkey and cranberry sauce this past Thanksgiving, people were lined up to catch great deals at the big box stores. Stores used to wait for Black Friday to unleash a manic day of purchasing material possesions, but now our day of thanks has been compromised just for some deals, and Cyber Monday adds to the frenzy of Christmas shopping.

Princeton is known for spreading holiday cheer. Performances of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol can be seen at McCarter Theatre. There’s the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Palmer Square and at the Princeton Shopping Center. Morven holds its Annual Festival of the Trees. A horse and carriage gives rides throughout downtown. Carolers sing and musician play in the Square, and there are sightings of Santa about town.

Add the Christmas songs and TV specials about Rudolph and Frosty, numerous parties with mistletoe, eggnog and cookie exchanges, sending cards that read ‘Seasons Greetings’, and you’ll know that Christmas is but a mere national holiday for some. Even those of other religions put up a tree. This extreme commercialism has evolved from a few traditions and moments throughout history. Gift baskets were given in the north during the Yule season as part of the Winter Solstice, celebrating the return of the sun. These traditions were adopted by Christianity and were much simpler than those of modern day celebrations.

Since Christmas has become an American holiday, it’s hard to ignore some of the fun, but for those who are Christian, it should definitely take a back seat to preparing for the coming of Christ. Everything in moderation. This coming Sunday is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, marked by lighting the pink candle of the advent wreath. This indicates that our expected guest has almost arrived, and it’s NOT Santa.

Great ways to observe Advent are to volunteer serving warm and nutritious meals at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen or at our Cornerstone Community Kitchen, collect warm clothing or supplies for those in need, buy a gift for a needy child, or sign up to volunteer ringing the bell and collecting for the Red Cross (look for the sign up sheets near the office during the week). These are all great ways to open your heart, and prepare for commemorating the birth of Jesus. So, take back Christmas and bring back the true meaning of the season!

Peter Brown: The Church as “Social Urban Lung”

Peter Brown Speaking at Labyrinth Bookstore

Originally posted on Princeton Comment.

Diversity is much prized by some Christian congregations, but in recent history it hasn’t always been this way. Churches have been historically the most segregated, divisive groups in America. But in Rome in the period of late antiquity, in the period from the 2nd to the 8th centuries, says Peter Brown, the church promoted the value of diversity.

In a conversation between Brown and Elaine Pagels at Labyrinth Bookstore on Wednesday night. Brown and Pagels discussed Brown’s new Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, published by Princeton University Press. Brown cautioned against “pauperizing” the poor, thinking of poor people as … simply … poor.

Quickly scanning his book, I found Brown’s observation that, in the Hebrew tradition, the poor were not merely beggars: They came to the rich and religious leaders to seek justice and protection. Brown writes (page 77) that the early Christian church viewed the poor, not as ‘the others” but as “our brothers.” (Ironically that is even more true today now that folks who thought they could live in comfort now find themselves in foreclosures. In Princeton there are hidden pockets of need in the most affluent-seeming homes.)

Brown writes (page 87) that wealthy people “valued in the churches a certain lowering of the sense of hierarchy and a slowing down of the pace of competition.” (Just two days before, this is what Roberto Schiraldi seemed to be calling for, when he led a Not in Our Town discussion on the values of “white privilege” at the Princeton Public Library.)

Continues Brown, “Members of the rich often came to the church so as to find there a social urban lung.” That term, social urban lung, describes a place like the Princeton Public Library, which harbored refugees from the power outage, some poor, some wealthy, all equal as they needed warmth and plug-ins. It also describes the house of worship where people can drop their pretensions or inadequacies and “love their neighbor as themselves.’

It  has resonance to see what I see happening in my own church, where at the very hour Peter Brown was speaking, the Cornerstone Community Kitchen was serving dinner to a wide variety of people — some who needed the food, some who just wanted to mingle, some who just wanted to “give back” by helping. The good part is, you don’t need to know — and it isn’t visible  — to which group a person belongs.

P.S. Come out some Wednesday for the free meal, served in partnership with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen but definitely not in a soup kitchen atmosphere. You are served by volunteers at an elegantly dressed table (at right), and the meal includes fresh vegetables, salad, and dessert, and there’s even a piano player. It’s every Wednesday, 5 to 6:30, at the Methodist church at the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer, all welcome.

I love Brown’s term, “a social urban lung.”

 

Princeton’s Good Samaritans Nurtured Community After Superstorm Sandy

Written by Sarah Harris, Barbara Fox, and Robin Birkel

PUMC Serving Lunch after Superstorm Sandy

Hurricane Sandy caused havoc in New Jersey. Princetonians suffered downed trees, road closures, power outages, school and business closures, sporadic cell service, and no Comcast or FiOS phone service.

Princeton has long been one of the most wired towns in the nation. So when Sandy hit, and virtually all of Princeton lost power and phone service, lots of people were frantic, not just to notify family members that they were safe, but to conduct business. The next day Princeton United Methodist Church opened its doors. That day, and the entire week, Pastor Jana Purkis-Brash, Music Director Hyosang Park, and church members plugged in the coffee pot and posted a sign on the lawn. It read: Come in! Get warm! Charge and use our wi-fi!

We provided a safe and warm environment for charging cell phones and other devices, staying connected with family and friends, reading, studying, and working. Additionally, we served meals to those not able to cook.

Wednesday, two dozen passersby sought brief refuge from the cold, plus nearly 100 people spent the day. Church members hosted in the Sanford Davis room. Then at 4 p.m. the Cornerstone Community Kitchen team converted it into a dining room. The menu was roast pork, mashed potatoes, salad, and dessert for 73 hungry people.

Thursday, PUMC hosted 75 wi-fi users, everyone from entrepreneurs who stayed all day, to frustrated travelers needing a computer to update their itinerary, to families with children who just dropped by. Some were referred by the Princeton Public Library, which with thousands of visitors daily was having trouble meeting the enormous demand. Even PUMC’s wi-fi had faltered because of too many users, so two more wi-fi nodes were added. We served breakfast, lunch, and another Cornerstone Community Kitchen dinner. This time it was spaghetti for 100 people. At that point, many in Princeton still had no power, and it was getting quite cold.

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PUMC hosted lunch again on Friday, and breakfast and lunch was offered on Saturday. Of course, all of these services were provided free of charge.

“You imagine that this is what a church should do, but you rarely ever see it done,” said Princeton resident Diana Rhodes, one of the grateful visitors. “What a wonderful service you have provided!”

Princeton United Methodist Church Youth Raking Leaves

Meanwhile, outside of the church, PUMCers were living their faith. More than a dozen in the youth group responded to a plea for help to clean the property of a church member living alone. Generators were brought to several families who are vulnerable to the cold, including someone new to the community.

 

Appalachia Service Project (ASP)

Princeton UMC ASP 2012

The Appalachia Service Project, also known as ASP, is a Christian volunteer organization founded in 1969, to repair homes of low-income families. They live in central Appalachia in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The primary goal is to make homes safer and more comfortable for their residents. It’s an 8-week summer program open to all volunteers.

The Princeton United Methodist Church has participated in this ministry since the mid-1970s. Every year we send a team of high school students and adult leaders the beginning of July to help needy families. Volunteers are not restricted to just our church members. We welcome all to participate.

Princeton UMC 2012

While the trip takes place in summer, planning begins a year ahead, basically after the previous group returns. Meetings start in October the year before, so those interested can get informed and start raising funds for the trip.

Princeton UMC ASP 2012

Each participant must pay for the rental of vans that are the mode of transportation, lodging at a facility like a school, meals, and materials to repair the homes. Fundraising helps offset the costs, and is great for early team building.

Princeton UMC ASP 2012

Teens participate for a number of reasons. No matter the objective, their journey returns them as changed young adults. The experience is unparalleled, just based on their personal growth. And as a bonus, sophomores can use some of the time spent toward hours needed for community service (check with individual schools). Of course, adult leaders are also transformed.

The first meeting was last weekend, but it’s not too late to sign up. If you’re interested, please contact PUMC by email office@princetonumc.org or call 609-924-2613 for more information. You can sign up with a friend or family member, and remember, you don’t need to be a member of our church, or any church to participate.

Go to our Flickr album for more ASP 2012 photos.