Lenten Tuesday at Noon: March 7

What’s it like to come to Mid-week Lenten Worship at Princeton UMC? The 30-minute services are Tuesdays from noon to 12:30 in the small chapel; entering by the ramp door.

They continue every Tuesday through April 11 on the theme “Let All of Me Kneel before God’s Holy Name.”

For the first one on March 7, a dozen people gathered as Rev. Catherine Williams led worship on the theme “We worship God with our flesh,” meaning that the soul/spirit is not necessarily more important than the body.

Christopher McWilliams began by playing the evocative “Song of the Dark Woods” by E. Siegmeister, followed by the hymn “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

Everyone read the following passages.

John 1:1-5, 14;

Psalm 139: 1-3, 13-18;

and 2 Corinthians 4:7-10.

“The psalm reminds us of the care that God takes in forming bodies, and that even what we perceive as imperfections or physical flaws are useful to God in our worship and service,” said Catherine.

“The apostle Paul speaks of carrying about in his body marks that signify both the death and the life of Jesus. We are encouraged to worship and serve God with all of our bodies – this indicates true devotion.”

For a time of reflection, she offered the video This Is My Desire by Michael W. Smith.

After prayer, she closed with a couple of rousing rounds of the chorus This Little Light of Mine. 

Then everybody enjoyed the delicious lunch served by Lula Crawford. For her African Pea and Potato soup recipe, click here. 

EVERYone is welcome for Lenten Tuesdays. Come if you can!

Longest Night Service – December 20, 2016

Rev. Catherine E. Williams – The Gift of Love: 1 John 4:7-12


This evening we are featuring lavender, butterflies, and love. I confess I don’t know that I can string these together with sufficient credibility. Our Stephen Ministers got together earlier this year to brainstorm what we would like this evening to look like; we ended up with lavender, butterflies, and love. There is a great amount of symbolism in each of these elements, and I hope you can connect with any or all of these themes – according to your preference or your need. But for my short reflection this evening, as I inhale the calming fragrance of lavender, and enjoy the visual inspiration of the colored butterflies, I want to take advantage of the reflective, contemplative nature of this service and think for a little while about  love as a gift.

The gospel reading begins with the apostle encouraging us to love one another because love is who God is, and if we say we are people of God we are pretty much saying we are people of love. And yes, I’d be the first to acknowledge that some people and some situations make it much easier than others for us to respond as people of love. But think with me for a moment about a time when you received love from another person, a time when you felt loved. What was that like? Was it the time you sat across from a grandchild who suddenly looked up, caught your adoring eyes, and blew you ten kisses? Was it a time when you were at one of your lowest moments and got an unexpected phone call, note, or text message that said someone was thinking about you? Was it the expression on the face of someone whom you knew was just as in love with you as you were with her or him? Was it the meals, cards, calls, flowers, or other signs of care that you got while you were sick? Was it the earthy smell of someone who reminded you of your granddaddy who always told you, you were his favorite? Whatever it was, I’m guessing it stirred something deep inside of you that made you feel valued, accepted, uplifted, and cared for, among other things. Love, in whatever form, does something to us; it touches the image of God in us and puts a little shine on it, it reminds us who we are, it can sometimes change how we see ourselves.

Love, in God’s dictionary, is not an abstract idea. It doesn’t stay in the feeling zone, or simply roll around in the mind. God’s kind of love is active. It extends itself outward, it shifts its center of gravity to include others. Isn’t that what God did in sending Jesus Christ to earth? God so loved the world that God extended himself outward in becoming like one of us. That’s why Christmas in so many different ways, is about giving and receiving love; to me the gifts only really matter if they are expressions of love. And it’s a good thing God’s love didn’t come to us in a limousine or a private jet, else we’d have reason to be suspicious about whether it was really meant for everybody. No, God’s love entered the world in the lowliest of ways so everyone – from the least to the greatest – could see it, could hold it. Whether shepherd or king, whether carpenter or priest – God’s love is available to all.

thSo I’m recommending that we keep our eyes and ears open for the ways in which God’s love comes to us during this season? I have to say that just like the paradox of a Messiah in a manger, God’s love comes to us in unexpected ways. Yes, it would be nice to get a phone call from that estranged son or daughter, but let’s not miss God’s love in that unexpected gesture from a friend or coworker that somehow moved us. Yes it would have been nice to be staring out the window at lush green leaves warmed by Florida’s summery sun, but let’s not miss the glorious glow of a wintery New Jersey sunset that leaves a glow around our heart. I’m inviting us to be a little more mindful this Christmas, a little more open to the myriad ways in which God’s gift of love is born into our lives again and again. Continue reading “Longest Night Service – December 20, 2016”

Sermon Series: The Absurdity of Advent – Enduring Peace


On December 4, the second Sunday in Advent at the early service, Bob Meola read the scripture (from Isaiah and Philippians)

Laverna Albury explained  the theme to the kids at Children’s Time in a clear and understandable way.

And Rev. Catherine Williams put the words of Isaiah and Paul into the context of their times. How does it make sense that Isaiah calls for peace in the time of war and Paul exudes joy when he is in prison?

It’s paradoxes and existential tensions like these why non-Christians have accused us of having an opiate religion. Because it doesn’t make sense that a small nation would not ask a bigger nation for help in a pending war, but choose rather to trust in God’s deliverance. It doesn’t make sense that a Messiah called the Prince of Peace would be born in a barn, grow up to be ridiculed and eventually killed within a bloody, political system of militarized occupation. It doesn’t make sense that three days after they killed this Prince of Peace he rose from the dead, seen by at least five hundred witnesses. And it doesn’t make sense that a highly educated Jewish scholar like Paul would risk his life, and suffer repeated imprisonment in order to preach and teach about this crucified Prince of Peace – a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. It all makes no sense unless…you are a person of bi-focal vision.

Those with uni-focal vision see life in a singular dimension. But as the people of God, born again by the Spirit of God, we have the capacity to see both as humans see, and as God sees. It’s not absurd to rejoice while you’re in a prison cell if you’ve encountered a God who has been known to use earthquakes to open prison doors and loose chains. It’s not absurd to sing songs of freedom as a slave if you’ve encountered a God who has given you freedom of mind and spirit that no bondage of body can take away. It’s not absurd to live a life of energized service to others while your body is fighting a terminal disease. It’s not absurd at all if you have the divine capacity to see both earthly and heavenly realities at the same time.

Here is the link to her complete message. 

Rejoice in the Lord!

Longest Night Service: December 20

2015-12-24-20-15-55Our Longest Night service is a worship gathering — we commemorate the birth of Christ in a manner more subdued than the typically festive Christmas services.

This low-keyed service provides a spiritual and affective space for the grief that accompanies loss of any kind, loss most keenly felt around this time of year. Music, prayers, candles, bells, and rituals all come together in ways designed to support and nurture faith in the midst of loss.

This year’s theme is “The Gift of Love;” it highlights our need to give and to love, and the symbiotic relationship between the two, so beautifully demonstrated in the Christmas story.

We would be pleased to have you join us for this hour of worship and reflection on Tuesday December 20th at 7:30pm, the evening before the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

Rev. Catherine Williams  Associate Pastor of Pastoral Care

How does “disgust’ contribute to healthy spirituality?

Catherine Williams answered the question “What’s so spiritual about disgust?” in her sermon on January 3. In the movie “Inside Out”  the “Disgust” character protected Riley from social danger (making choices that would endanger her popularity) and physical danger.
She told the story of David’s wife Michal recoiling in disgust when he danced before the Ark, based on the text 2 Samuel 6:12-17, 20-23.  In David’s case, however, he was rightfully objected to Michal’s disdain. David had been ordered by God to build the proper temple for the Ark and at long last he had achieved that goal — so his joyful dancing was justified.
Here is the complete text and her conclusion:
It is a good and spiritual thing when we can respond with disgust to the things God finds detestable – situations that contaminate our humanity, situations that endanger our connectedness to God and to one another.

For January: Inside Out

disgustIt is no secret that some of the pastoral staff have a passion for Disney (sneak a peek at Jana’s phone case or her computer sometime, or ask Scott how many days until his next family trip to Disney World [388 days as of writing]). So it is exciting when we can take an important topic and wrap it in a Disney package. In the recent Disney movie Inside Out, we receive a glimpse of the emotions inside the mind of the young girl Riley, and how her emotions and shape who she is. We will use the movie as a starting point for our sermon series.

Starting on Jan 3rd the new sermon series is entitled Healthy Spirituality: Inside Out. Catherine Williams will preach on “What’s So Spiritual About Disgust?” using the texts from Samuel 6:12-17, 20-23 and Matthew 2:7-12. (For Catherine’s sermon on December 20, The Unopened Gift, click here.)

Later in the month the pastoral staff will help us look at Anger, Fear, Joy and Sadness and consider them spiritually. No one ever thanks God for anger or fear but these are emotions that God has provided. Why did God give them to us? How do we embrace these gifts from God? How do we use them in a way that is honoring to God and to others? What does healthy spirituality really look like?

(This was taken from a post written by Scott Sherrill for the January newsletter).