The Story of Eddie: How the Methodists Got George

Awestruck by the Tiffany window of St. George and the Dragon in the balcony of Princeton United Methodist Church, visitors want to know more about its history. It is dedicated to Eddie Durrell.

William Edward “Eddie” Durrell grew up in southern New Jersey. Well liked, and a talented baseball player, his father, Rev. Edward Hicks Durrell, was a Methodist minister. When Eddie came to Princeton University in 1884, he made Princeton Methodist Episcopal Church his church home. Princeton was (and is) a Presbyterian town, but the Methodists had gained a foothold when a “shell buyer” purchased the property for the first sanctuary, on Nassau Street. It was built in 1849. During Eddie’s time, the minister was Charles H. McAnney, “an evangelistic preacher of great power,” according to Ruth Woodward in A Journey of Faith for One Hundred Fifty Years: A History of Princeton United Methodist Church. 

Eddie majored in electrical engineering, graduated  with honors in 1889, did graduate work in 1890 and ’91, and starred on the baseball team all six years. In 1991 he went to study engineering in Berlin. On a trip to Italy, in 1892, he died of “congestion of the brain” and was buried in Rome.

Meanwhile the Methodists were evangelizing and growing.  Moses Taylor Pyne  (1855-1921, Princeton University Class of 1877), was the grandson of a Wall Street financier. Pyne bought and expanded Drumthwacket, which is now the New Jersey governor’s official home,  and he was very generous to his alma mater.  Although he was not a Methodist, he evidently thought that a bigger and grander Methodist church on a main street (he envisioned the High Street of an English village) would be an asset to the town. He bought the  property on the corner of Vandeventer — adjoining the sanctuary property, owned by a trustee — and donated it to the church.

In 1910 the church razed its original structure and constructed the present church on the double lot. Many stepped forward to help erect a grander building than before, worthy of a university town. Among the contributors was the family of Eddie Durrell. Ministers aren’t generally rich, but Rev. Durrell had been investing in cranberry bogs and had become one of the largest cranberry growers in the state.

Why St. George? We can think of George’s story as an allegory of the triumph of good over evil. George is pictured — not in the act of spearing the dragon — but with his sword sheathed, as if the battle had been won.



Erik ‘Skitch’ Matson on ‘Stories We Tell’

SkitchMatsonErik ‘Skitch’ Matson — our new youth pastor — will be in the pulpit on Sunday, August 14, to preach, based on Hebrews 11:29-12:2. His topic is “The Stories We Tell” so here is his biographical story, in his own words:

“Prior to coming to Princeton Seminary, I spent 5 years working with youth in San Diego, CA, and am grateful to lead in this role again. I was born and raised in northern California but headed south to Point Loma Nazarene University for a B.S. in Physics. It was during this time that God pulled my heart towards ministry, and I haven’t looked back since. I enjoy listening to and playing music, exploring the great outdoors, playing sports, and reading a good book. I also enjoy being around young adults, which fits nicely into the second part of my two-point charge as the Director of the Methodist college ministry at Princeton University, the Wesley Foundation.”

Summer Sharing: ‘The East and West in Me’

So far this summer, in Summer Sharing sessions after church, Barbara MacGuigan has spoken on her anthropology adventure, and Paul Manulik and Lindsay Diehl have told about their music mission to Haiti.

Summer Sharing continues with Jamileh “Jamie” Gerber on Sunday, August 14 at 11:15 Fellowship Hall. Born in Iran, Jamie has worked around the world from Tehran to Trenton, from South Carolina to Spain.

Jamie grew up as a Christian in Iran, where most of the people, including her 2016 august jamie headshotgrandparents, were Muslims. In the early 1930s her father was befriended by Christian missionaries who arranged for his eye disease to be treated in Tehran. “It was his Damascus moment,” says Jamie. She remembers that, following the teachings of Jesus, he brought people into their home from all backgrounds and religions.

Jamie went to college in Beirut and worked in the royal palace, leaving Iran for a year to earn a master’s degree in instructional technology from Indiana University. One of her favorite jobs at UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was to help newly literate rural farmers read how to improve their agricultural methods. In 1979 she and her family survived the revolution. Jamie moved with her husband and two children to a Spanish fishing village on the Mediterranean Sea, and she found work teaching in an international school.

When Jamie moved to Princeton in 1983, she joined our church. She earned her Master of Library Service at Rutgers and worked at the Princeton University Library and at the state labor department. Then she left town to be an associate professor at Bloomfield College. Remembering Princeton and PUMC fondly, she moved back here and rejoined the church this spring.  Her topic: “The East and the West in Me.”


UMM Breakfast: Prison Ministries: The Petey Green Program


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United Methodist Men’s Breakfast

Speaker: Walter Fortson, The Petey Greene Program
Date: March 13, 8 am

Walter Fortson is the public relations and special projects manager of the Petey Greene Prison Assistance Program, which has its national headquarters here in Princeton. It aims to be the largest volunteer program behind bars in the country that offers in-class high-quality tutoring and resources for all incarcerated students working toward their GED or high school diploma.


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An inmate at Albert Wagner Correctional Facility in Bordentown works towards his GED in weekly sessions under the guidance of a Princeton University student tutor as part of the Petey Greene Prison Assistance Program.


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Upon his own release from prison in 2010, and through the Mountainview Project – a special program geared toward helping formerly incarcerated students go to college – Walter Fortson was admitted to Rutgers University. In June of 2013, he completed his Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology with minors in Biology and Psychology – graduating magna cum laude. In 2012, Fortson was the recipient of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship – a national award that recognizes the country’s student-leaders in public service. In 2013, he worked as a research associate with the Justice Policy Institute in Washington, D.C, evaluating alternatives to parole revocations in Maryland. He recently earned a Master of Philosophy from the University of Cambridge.
Everyone is invited to enjoy a hot and tasty breakfast. A $5 donation is requested. Next month, April 10, Carl Clark will talk about Urban Promise Trenton.

John Kuhlthau: On Stewardship

When I was asked to participate  and  speak on stewardship, I agreed right away    because I cherish this community of believers.  This Church has always been and continues to be an amazing collection of diverse, but  genuine , honest,  faithful  believers in and servants of Christ Jesus.  I count myself among you without  any particular pride but  in sincerity and  in the earnestness of  my discipleship..

As many of you know, I came to Princeton as an outsider.  My  father was a loyal  Son of Rutgers and the family attended the annual Rutgers- Princeton season opening fall football game sitting on the sunny side of Palmer Stadium.

So  I had to shift when I applied to and was accepted at Princeton University  .  .  .  but I was a Methodist, having become one of Bishop Fred  Corson’s  Crusaders committed to Christian service.  I joined other Methodist students in the Wesley Foundation meetings here at the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer.     I dutifully did my Latin and undertook Greek in order to really read the New Testament.  Princeton was all male and Carol was going to a Teachers College. We were married here in this church on the Saturday after I graduated on Tuesday. The wedding reception was here in the social hall downstairs  which was convenient because it was raining pretty hard.  Rev. Charles Marker presided over the ceremony.kuhlthau

After Princeton, I attended the Drew Theological School up in Madison as Carol finished her bachelors’ degree.  We lived in married student housing which was quite a different community.  I enjoyed my courses  but quickly realized that I was not  cut out to be a  Biblical scholar  and  I certainly wasn’t cut out for the pastoral ministry.   So I fell back on Plan B which was law school.  I was persuaded by my guidance counselor and the church hierarchy to take the two small churches in South Jersey that had be selected for me for the summer of 1959, which I did.  I preached twice on Sundays and led a Bible Study on Sunday evenings, had a membership class and did most of the things a pastor is called upon to do.  But come September, I could not return to the Drew routine and headed to Newark for three years at  Rutgers Law School while Carol taught grade school.

After law school and a quick six months in the Army at Fort Dix during the Bay of Pigs episode,  I settled in New Brunswick where I began the practice of law under the tutelage of my father, his partners and associates.  I reconnected with the Princeton Wesley Foundation and Rev. Bill Kingston,  Class of ’55.  Carol and I became active in the First Methodist Church of New Brunswick  and helped to shepherd the union of the three Methodist Churches that were then struggling to get along to  form The Methodist Church in New Brunswick which  was at some point pastured by both Rev. Jim Harris  and  Rev. Greg Young  both of whom also served  here at Princeton.

But I digress from my path.  I was Deputy Public Defender   for a  short time;  then I became the first full time County Prosecutor for Middlesex County for 4 years.  As  I was about to resign, the issue of casino gambling in Atlantic City came to the fore and I seized on that as a worthwhile political campaign.  I resigned as Prosecutor to campaign against casino gambling for the Methodist Church in cooperation with other opponents under the slogan “No Dice”.  I worked closely with Rev. Jack Johnson, mostly in South Jersey with church meetings and Saturdays at shopping malls with Youth Fellowship volunteers. Casino gambling was defeated on its first referendum, but of course, it was re-designed and the voters approved.

By that time, I had become a  Middlesex County Judge and could not campaign. In due course I was appointed as a Superior Court Judge.  I sat as a Judge for 22 years.  When I retired from public service, Carol and I decided to move back to Princeton where we have been for the last 15 or so years.   We promptly transferred our membership to Princeton United Methodist  Church while Rev. Jim Harris was here and frankly we felt quite at home. The reception we received was warm and welcoming.  We were soon put to work and began to meet the wonderful people of this congregation.

Rev. Jack Johnson was the District Superintendant  in those days and recruited me to go on the board of trustees of the Pennington School.  What a refreshing experience that was for an old warhorse like me.  The Board was mostly parents of the  students, enthusiastic, energetic and dedicated to the growth and improvement of their children.  There were some pastors: Rev. Dr. Charles Sayre, pastor at Haddonfield whose father went to the school:  Rev. Dr Bob Williams,  church historian and former pastor of  St. Andrews Methodist Church;  Rev David Mertz,  now a pastor in Westfield but formerly an associate here   and there were others.

I have had a wonderful career and expect more opportunities for service. I have supported each  church of which I was a member including my summer membership in Avalon  and my affiliate memberships at Turning Point, plus The Pennington School  Annual Fund and several Scholarships..

As Deuteronomy says in chapter 12,  “You shall bring everything to the place the Lord shall choose, your sacrifices,  your tithes, your donations   AND   (VERSE  12 ) YOU  SHALL  REJOICE before  the  Lord  Your   God !     I  rejoice!   I  rejoice with you all in this wonderful community at Princeton U. M. C.

— John Kuhlthau




Students versus Stereotypes

Whistling_Vivaldi_Princeton_Cover-Art-Samples[2]-2 (1)Sleeping bags covered the floor of the Youth Room when Princeton United Methodist Church welcomed freshmen from Princeton University for a “service sleepover” this week, part of the Community Action program  that launches freshman year. As described in the Packet,  they did a service project during the day and met for dinner, and went back to the dorms to shower. On the last night the students and team leaders– and some church staff — met to discuss this year’s ‘pre read book,’ Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi: how stereotypes affect us and what we can do.

That book fits right in to the PUMC sermon series on “Gospel of the Nobodies,” especially “The Ethnic Other.” Steele will speak to the freshmen on September 12. Other opportunities to examine stereotypes and their effect:

Monday, September 14, an event in the department of African American Studies

Sunday, September 20, a panel at the Suzanne Patterson Center.

St. George and the Dragon Window

Our 105-year-old building has a spectacular stained glass window from the renowned Tiffany Studio of New York City. How did PUMC acquire a window with such an unusual subject?

It was the gift of the family of William Edward “Eddie” Durrell, a Methodist preacher’s son who – while he attended Princeton University – made PUMC his church home. Eddie graduated in 1889 and two years later met an untimely death in Rome, perhaps because of an aneurism. His father (Reverend Edward Hicks Durrell, who had invested in cranbury bogs in South Jersey) and his brothers — grateful for what the church had offered Eddie – commissioned the window symbolizing the triumph of good conquering evil.

Most images show St. George on a horse in the act of spearing the dragon. This memorial window shows an athletic young man, sword sheathed, as if to say “the battle is over, he fought the good fight, he conquered evil.”

PUMC has many stained glass treasures, including the Corson Chapel windows and the “Let the children come to me” mural in the Sanford Davis room.  In the sanctuary, our windows of the four Gospel writers  can also be found in the cathedral in Cologne Germany. The windows with abstract and symbolic designs are beautiful.

The St. George window, by the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany, is the most valuable of our treasures. As Pam Hersh said in her column, it is ‘a spectacular piece of art in a surprising space.” Tiffany revolutionized stained glass art. While the Europeans fired paint directly on the glass, effectively dulling its natural transparency, Tiffany managed to create vivid color in the glass itself, and he etched details with acid instead of using paint. He layered multiple panels to create unparalleled clarity, and the windows shimmered on both sides.

Tiffany also redefined the use of leading. Traditionally, it was purely functional and thought of as little more than support for the glass. As a result, the lead tended to distract from, rather than enhance, the artistic vision. That is until Tiffany developed new techniques that allowed the metal to become an integral part of the design, and the once clunky lead lines were transformed into elaborate outlines for things like tree branches and butterfly wings — or, in this instance, cathedral windows.

The only other Tiffany windows in Princeton are on campus at Alexander Hall and Jadwin Hall. The best view of “Saint George and the Dragon” is from the back pew of the balcony. Look for the iridescent scales on the dragon (Tiffany patented that method as @Favrile), and also note the Tiffany signature on the right.

Source: Ruth Woodward in A Journey of Faith for One Hundred Fifty Years: A History of Princeton United Methodist Church and Elizabeth E. Evitts, Baltimore Magazine.