“Down by the Jordan,” “Down to the River to Pray,” “Baptized in Water.” | Hymns and Music for First Sunday after the Epiphany


Come to a church that’s refreshing, inspiring, and fun!

At Princeton United Methodist Church, we play beautiful classical and sacred music during worship, which refreshes the spirit. We also sing new or well-known hymns and “gospel and folk songs.” PUMC music ministry includes a handbell choir, children, youth and adult choirs. We pray that our music will inspire everyone, old and young, and help them find faith and hope

This Sunday, we celebrate Christ’s baptism, and we reaffirm our baptismal vows as we come to the waters to renew our commitments to Christ. This recommitment will remind us of how Christ heals us, especially in light of what is going on around us today. The hymns that we sing at this worship service go perfectly with our scripture, Mark 1:4-11, and are also in line with Pastor Jenny Smith Walz’s sermon, “Baptism of Christ.”  Here are three of the hymns:

  Video:  “Down by the Jordan”

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote the hymn “Down by the Jordan; a Prophet named John was Baptizing” and published it in 2000. It draws from Bible scripture in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and tells about the chosen one, birth and baptism, love and joy. The tune generally used for this hymn is LOBE DEN HERREN

  Video:  “Down to the River to Pray” 

“Down to the River to Pray” is a traditional American song differently described as a Christian folk hymn, an African-American spiritual, Appalachian music, and a gospel song. The text contains some scriptural references. Ephesian 4:5 tells us, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” This profoundly spiritual hymn is about “keeping the faith in a time of darkness.” It gained popularity in 2000 after Alison Krauss performed it for the film’s soundtrack, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” 

     Video:  “Baptized in Water”

Michael Saward wrote “Baptized in Water” in London on May 29, 1981, a few days after the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination to the ministry. The tune generally used for this hymn is BUNESSANThe text is rich in baptismal images and scriptural references. It is a great hymn for infant or adult baptism. It also tells of being cleansed by Jesus’ blood for salvation, godly living, dying and being buried with Jesus and rising again, free and forgiven, becoming God’s children and praising God.                                                 

Click here to listen to the PUMC worship service, hear the beautiful music, the children’s storytime, the scripture readings, the sermon, the prayers, and the story sharing.

Romans 12:9-21 and
 Matthew 16:21-28

The scripture for Sunday, August 30, 2020, is from Romans 12:9-21 and
 Matthew 16:21-28.          

“Take Up Your Cross” is the title of Pastor Jenny Smith Walz’s sermon. 

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”  ~Romans 12:9-13

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”  ~Matthew 16:24

To watch interesting videos on YouTube of both scripture passages, click here and here.

To follow our worship service, hear the scripture, and listen to Pastor Jenny’s sermon click here.


Sermon Response: “Even the Dogs”

I write this to my friends at Princeton United Methodist Church, as I wind and rewind the opening of today’s service. so that I can enjoy the soprano/alto duets for the pre-service hymns, “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” “To God be the Glory,” “How Can I Keep from Singing?”…..Barbara Fox 

What was your reaction to Pastor Jenny’s sermon today (’Even the Dogs” 8/16/20, available at on the facebook page or on that date at PrincetonUMC.org) about the Canaanite woman “Justa” pictured above? It was based on Matthew 15: 10-28 (video of the first part of that passage here).

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Admitting it was a difficult story (did we catch Jesus on a bad day?) Jenny reminds us that Jesus was not only divine, he was human, raised as a Jew to followed the “clean and unclean” laws. The Hebrews believed that only by following the purity codes could they survive as God’s people.

In the comments I connected Justa  –who persisted against all odds to get Jesus to heal her daughter – with Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and author of Fight Like a Mother, showing how the skill sets mothers use to manage their families can empower them to help any cause ”Every mom is already an organizer, a multitasker, and a hero going into battle every day for the ones she loves. Learn how to use those skills to enact change, pass laws that save lives, and FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER”

Then – I regretted posting that in haste. Did I distract or irritate someone who (quietly, because it’s really unpopular in Princeton) supports gun ownership? I can understand both sides. My late husband was raised in a family of hunters but came to reject the unreasonable gun lobby. Some of my children and grandchildren own guns, practice at gun ranges, honor the animals they hunt and are nourished by them. Others of my children and grandchildren – opposing the misuse of guns – march to support Moms Demand Action.

What connects Justa with Shannon Watts? All the mothers everywhere who fight for their children. I thought of the wives and mothers in the civil rights movement who put themselves ‘in harm’s way’ because they were less likely to be harmed than their men. Of mothers of children with rare diseases who fight for cures for their children. Of Deborah and Sara Hicks, fighting today at CHOP for the health of Zion.

Which person in this story are you, Jenny challenged us to ponder?

  • the daughter, who needs healing?

  • the disciple, who rejects the outsider

  • the Son of God, who we might say is changed by Justa?

  • the mother who raises a ruckus to make change?

One way “to grow as disciples of Christ” is to be in conversation with each other about our beliefs. You could comment in the link under the Facebook post, or talk about it in your small group, or email the Communications Ministry Team (Communications@PrincetonUMC.org) to have your thoughts published, or for a more private dialogue, email me or Jenny. What was your response to this or any other aspect of this passage? Had you heard of the Justa Center? Does my response smack of politics and you think politics should be separate from religion? What challenged you?

Sermon: “Swing Forward: Growing Pains”

Rev. Jenny Smith Walz preached on September 2, 2018 in the sermon series “Swing Forward”, on the topic ‘Growing Pains’.

Her message is based on the Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith in Mark 7:24-30.

She begins by asking some challenging questions – Who is the church for? Who is PUMC for? For whom will we exist in 20, 50, 80, 100 years? She concluded there was not just one answer.

To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page here

Also the sermon will be podcast soon on this webpage under the category “worship.”

Of the four gospels, Mark portrays Jesus as the most human. This allows us to see how Jesus might develop and grow. It’s still surprising to us to hear Jesus calling the woman a ‘dog’, but knowing Jesus is fully human could lessen that surprise a bit. Jesus is open to compassion and love and heals her daughter. Here we see the Kingdom of inclusion, which though not new in theory remains new to us in practice. The disciples were more offended that Jesus healed the woman’s daughter than he called her a dog. While we are offended that Jesus called her a dog, we are not so quick to notice the “dogs” of the world or to offer them healing.

Rev. Smith Walz made reference to Kaylin Haught and Karoline Lewis.

Learn also how Karoline Lewis gets Jesus to change his mind.

Rev. Smith Walz’s message is that church is for everyone. She encouraged everyone to come to church:
the children, who are not saying they left church but that their church left them behind;
– the young adults, the majority of whom feel lonely and disconnected;
those dealing with homelessness;
those who have experienced spiritual trauma, for whom we need to envision a healing center.

We need to share God’s love with them, share the fullness of life that we’ve found. Together with them, we need to discover more of who God is, living more fully in God’s kingdom.

Rev. Smith Waltz feels sadness when people call wondering whether they are welcome at church for all kinds of reasons, notably that they are different or they have nothing to give. She feels sadness also that people don’t call or won’t come to church for many reasons, not least that they don’t actually experience God at church or that their spiritual hunger isn’t being satisfied.

The good news is that Jesus knows our struggles and has compassion for us, but above all God invites us to the Table to serve us a feast, even as we are “unworthy of the crumbs’. Jesus came to save people not to exclude them.

Finally, the church is there to pass on the tradition from one generation to another.

— Isabella Dougan

Sermon: Hungering for God, July 22, 2018

What riles you up? Pastor Jenny Smith Walz asked this question on July 22, 2018. Here are some notes from her message, titled “Hungering for God” based on the story of the “rich young ruler” in  Luke 18: 18-30.

Jesus was saying you can’t stand on top of your wealth and be saved. You need a ‘We.” a whole world of We’s — and the We’s have to include God. We can find a banquet table here /for our needs and wants,  for us and many more… 

She illustrated her message with this  “Justice” video. .

And this  poem by Bishop David Lawson.

Soon, the audio of the sermon will be available on the website (Worship: Sermon Archive), and the live stream is now posted on Facebook.  Click here for some notes from this message. 

Allow the hunger to be in you. Go in peace knowing that God asks us to move from Our “Me’s” to our “We’s” with God and one another.






Worship: August 23 10 a.m.

Here is the link to the live stream of the worship service on August 23. Thanks to Charles Hayes for managing this.

Starting at minute 18, Trey Wince preaches on John 10:1-16, titled “The Voice.” Among the favorite hymns – “All Creatures of Our God and King” and “The Lord’s My Shepherd I’ll Not Want.” Plus the Pickup Choir, directed by Hyosang Park, offers “All Things Bright and Beautiful” in a John Rutter arrangement. Anita Tong – who just celebrated her birthday 🎂and Skitch Matson are liturgists. Nancy Dawn Jones is the reader.

Viewers — the only part you can’t join us with is the coffee hour 😉 ,

Want to see previous Sundays? Here is August 13. It was managed by Robin and Caroline Birkel.

All Are Equal


As part of the “God Imagines” sermon series, Gerald C. Liu will preach on “All Are Equal” on Sunday, January 22.

An assistant professor of worship and preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary, he has degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, Emory University, and Vanderbilt.  An ordained United Methodist minister, Gerald  is a minister in residence at Church of the Village, a United Methodist congregation in Manhattan.

He has studied in Germany, served as a minister in England, and did ethnographic research in Uganda for a contributed chapter for The Culture of AIDS in Africa: Hope and Healing Through Music and the Arts, Oxford UP).

Gerald’s text is Revelation 7:9-17, which begins with  …a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.

and ends with

‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[c]

Sermon: Telling Our Stories

Our lives are ‘storied’ together as people who will be remembered, and who will act by faith, said  Erik “Skitch” Matson in his August 14, 2016 sermon ‘The Stories We Tell.” it was based on a lectionary reading, Hebrews 11:20-12:2.

“By faith” was the often repeated catch phrase in this passage, which recounts story after story — from the Exodus to Jericho and the sufferings of the prophets.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith,” says Hebrews. 

“Narrative is the scaffolding of experience,” said Matson. Let’s use Jesus as the lens, the eyeglass, with which we interpret our stories.”


Advent Sermon: An Unexpected Gift

For her sermon, “An Unexpected Gift” on the first Sunday in Advent, November 29, 2015,  Pastor Jana Purkis-Brash included this poem, The Story of the Christmas Guest, by Helen Steiner Rice.

Based on the story by Leo Tolstoy, it tells of the humble shopkeeper who was very eager to see Jesus. As in the scripture lesson for that day, he was like the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 64:1-9)  who begged for the Messiah to appear, crying out “you have hidden your face from us.”

This contrasts with the New Testament scripture, Matthew 1:18-25, where Joseph is surprised by the news that Mary is pregnant with the son of God, a very unexpected gift.

The shopkeeper in the poem waits and waits, but the only folks who knocked at the door were a beggar, a hungry woman, and a homeless child. Let’s all be on the lookout for ways that Jesus comes to us in unexpected ways.