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Holy Week and Easter Events in Newark Presbytery

We wanted to share some of the activities happening at the churches of Newark Presbytery during Holy Week and Easter:

If not specifically listed, Palm Sunday and Easter services will be at normal worship times.

Bloomfield Presbyterian Church on the Green

147 Broad St
Bloomfield, NJ 07003

  • March 25, – Palm Sunday Worship
  • March 29, 8:00pm – Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Worship with Watchung Presbyterian Church (in Chapel)
  • March 30, 8:00pm – Good Friday Worship Service of Word, Art and Song with Central Presbyterian Church of Montclair (in Chapel)
  • April 1, 6:30am – Easter Sunrise Worship (in Manse Backyard)
    10:45am – Easter Worship with communion

Central Presbyterian Church

46 Park St
Montclair, NJ 07042

  • March 25, 10:00am – Palm Sunday Worship
  • March 29, 6:30pm – Maundy Thursday Soup Supper (Junior Room) and Worship with communion (Sanctuary)
  • March 30, 8:00pm – Good Friday Worship Service of Word, Art and Song (Bloomfield Church on the Green Chapel)
  • April 1, 10:00am – Easter Worship
    Following Worship – Easter Egg Hunt

Elmwood United Presbyterian Church (East)

135 Elmwood Ave
East Orange, NJ 07018

  • March 25, 9:30am – Palm Sunday Worship with communion (regular worship with communion alsoat other campuses)
  • March 29, 7:00pm – Maundy Thursday Dinner and Worship through the Arts with communion
  • March 30, 12:00pm – Good Friday Seven Last Words of Jesus Worship
  • April 1, 6:00am – Easter Sunrise Worship
    9:30am – Easter Worship (regular worship also at other campuses)

First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell

326 Bloomfield Ave
Caldwell, NJ 07006

  • March 25, 8:30am – Palm Sunday Worship
    10:00am – Palm Sunday Worship
  • March 28, 6:15pm – Christ in the Passover Dinner (in Room 120)
  • March 29, 7:30pm – Maundy Thursday Worship
  • March 30, 12:00pm – Good Friday Reflection and Meditation (in Chapel)
    7:30pm – Good Friday Tenebrae Worship
  • March 31, 8:00pm – Easter Vigil Worship
  • April 1, 6:15am – Easter Sunrise Worship (in Old Burying Ground)
    9:00am – Easter Festival Worship
    11:00am – Easter Festival Worship

First Presbyterian Church of Verona

10 Fairview Ave
Verona, NJ 07044

  • March 25, 10:15am – Palm Sunday Worship with three choirs singing The Palms
  • March 29, 6:30pm – Maundy Thursday Soup Supper and Worship with communion
  • March 30, 10:00am-2:00pm – Good Friday Children’s Workshop including lunch and an egg
    hunt ($10)
    12:00pm – Good Friday Reflective Worship
  • April 1, 10:15am – Easter Worship with communion and the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s

Grace Presbyterian Church

153 Grove St
Montclair, NJ 07042

  • March 25, 10:00am – Palm Sunday Worship
  • March 29, 8:00pm – Maundy Thursday Worship (in Fellowship Hall)
  • March 30, 8:00pm – Good Friday Worship
  • April 1, 7:00am – Easter Sunrise Service
    9:00am – Easter Egg Hunt
    10:00am – Easter Worship

The Presbyterian Church of Livingston

271 W Northfield Rd
Livingston, NJ 07039

  • March 25, 10:30am – Palm Sunday Worship with communion
    5:30pm – Seder Dinner (in Fellowship Hall)
  • March 28, 12:00pm – Lenten Luncheon with Service of Healing and Anointing
  • March 29, 6:30PM – Dinner (6:30pm) and Maundy Thursday Worship (7:30pm) (in Fellowship Hall)
  • March 30, 12:00pm – Ecumenical Good Friday Service (at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church)
    7:30pm – Tenebrae Service (at Livingston United Methodist Church)
  • April 1, 10:30am – Easter Worship with communion
    12:00pm – Easter Egg Hunt

Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair

53 Norwood Ave
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043

  • March 25, 10:00am – Palm Sunday Worship
  • March 29, 7:30pm – Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Worship with communion
  • April 1, 9:00am – Easter Worship
    10:15am – Easter Egg Hunt and Coffee Hour
    11:00am – Easter Worship – family service

Prospect Presbyterian Church

646 Prospect St
Maplewood, NJ 07040

  • March 25, 10:30am – Palm Sunday Worship
  • March 29, 7:30pm – Maundy Thursday Worship
  • April 1, 8:00am – Easter Worship
    8:45am – Easter Breakfast
    10:30am – Easter Worship

Roseville Presbyterian Church

36 Roseville Ave
Newark, NJ 07107

  • March 25, 10:30am – Palm Sunday Worship
  • March 30, 11:00am – The 7 Last Words of Jesus sponsored by the Newark Chapter of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus
    12:00pm – Good Friday Fish Fry
  • April 1, 10:30 am – Easter Worship
    Following Worship – Easter Egg Hunt

United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

20 Old Indian Rd
West Orange, NJ 07052

  • March 25, 10:30am – Palm Sunday Worship
  • March 29, 6:00pm – Maundy Thursday Dinner (6:00pm) and Worship (7:00pm)
  • March 30, 7:30pm – Good Friday Worship
  • March 31, 1:00pm – Easter Egg Hunt
  • April 1, 7:00am – Easter Worship
    10:30am – Easter Worship

Wyoming Presbyterian Church

432 Wyoming Ave
Millburn, NJ 07041

  • March 25, 10:00am – Palm Sunday Worship
  • March 30, 7:30pm – Good Friday Worship and Dinner (Fellowship Hall) and Tenebrae Worship (Sanctuary)
  • April 1, 9:30am – Easter Worship
    11:00am – Easter Worship

Holy Week – Making Room for Jesus

Our lives are busy. And Holy Week is a busy week in the church. No matter what Holy Week looks like for your church – whether you have events planned each day, or only on Sundays – it can be hard to simply spend time with Jesus. We miss the forest for the trees or, rather, miss Jesus for all the planning related to Jesus.

Even the disciples struggled with this. After the last supper with the disciples, Jesus asks a few of them to accompany him on a walk. Jesus knows he will need some time by himself as he prepares for the terrible events ahead of him, but wants friends nearby, praying with and for him. They can’t join him in his personal struggle, but they can support him in it.

Jesus asks his friends to simply stay awake and pray nearby. But every time he goes to check on them, they are asleep! Yes, they have had long days, and spent much energy as they dined and conversed at dinner. Yes, they have been filled with food and wine. Yes, it’s late. We understand why they are sleepy, but we also know the urgency of Jesus’ need for friendship and support at this moment.

We also fall asleep in these urgent moments. We can get so caught up in the details, that we forget to stay awake and spend time with Jesus. So – if you’ve planned Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, what are ways that you can engage in, and not simply lead them? Can other people lead what you’ve planned? If your church will be open for prayer or self-guided stations of the cross, spend time practicing what you have prepared. If you are having a community meal, make sure to spend some time enjoying the meal and the company around you. Even at the last supper together,  Jesus truly engaged and enjoyed his time with his friends.

Find the time and space and practices that create holy moments for you to connect with Jesus. All he asks is that we stay awake and be with him. No, we will never fully understand what he was facing on the cross, but we can be with him, as Christ is always with us. This Holy Week, let’s stay awake.

With a Calling for Racial Reconciliation, Reverend Brings Social Injustice to the Forefront

Story originally published in Fordham News, from Fordham University

by Tanisia Morris

Several years ago, the Rev. Terri Ofori was leading a prayer service at a university chapel that was open to all members of its community when an older alumnus approached her with a prayer request.

“He said, ‘I have an issue and I need your prayers,’” recalled Ofori. “He said, ‘When I was a student here back in the ‘60s, there were no women, and there were certainly no people that looked like you here, and I’m having a hard time adjusting.’”

Ofori, who is the chaplain to the Synod Commission of the Synod of the Northeast PC (USA), suggested that they meet over breakfast to talk.

“I think he thought that I was going to be upset, but I told him I could relate to feeling marginalized,” she said, explaining that instead of having a “knee-jerk” reaction to his comment, she sought to spark a conversation. “He thought he was marginalized too—even though he had a lot of privilege. In his mind, he was being pushed to the side.”

The interaction was one of many experiences that made her realize that race remains a sensitive topic in many churches.

“I’ve always felt that I was called for racial reconciliation,” said Ofori, who serves as the college chaplain and director of spiritual life at Bloomfield College.  “I believe the Church should lead the way in racial reconciliation and inclusion of all people.”

As an interim transitional pastor, Ofori has helped integrate Protestant churches in the Northeast and provided guidance to church leaders seeking to strengthen their ministry. She has served as chaplain in a number of institutions, including Brown University, Wellesley, Emerson, Simmons College, and Harvard.

Most recently, Ofori, who is currently studying Christian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE – Fordham University), was one of three religious leaders who were selected as a Robert L. Washington Scholar. Representing the Africa diaspora, she is the first woman in the Synod to be accepted to the inaugural two-year program.

“We meet as a cohort with a team of leaders and we talk about leadership issues as it pertains to our community and what’s needed,” said Ofori, who recently visited Ghana, West Africa to meet with church leaders about women’s leadership in the country. “What we’re finding is that leadership models in the past have been mostly centered on white males. This is an opportunity to get people of color in leadership roles.”

Rocking the Boat

Though Ofori always knew that ministering to others was her destiny, she didn’t always feel comfortable in the spotlight.

“I never wanted to be in charge because of the perception that women had to be quiet and submissive,” she said. “But I realized that women are actually called to be leaders.”

She found inspiration in her ministry from the courageous stories of Catholic saints after taking Women Mystics with Shannon M. McAlister, Ph.D., assistant professor of spirituality at GRE.  Contemplative Action, a course taught by her advisor Fr. Francis X McAloon, S.J., also helped her to approach multidimensional issues like race and social injustice, she said.

“One of the things that I have learned from Catholic teachings is the quiet contemplation that comes before action,” she said. “A lot of times, people don’t want to rock the boat. In challenging situations, people may ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’  Some people think he would just fold his hands and pray, but he was a person of contemplation and action. He was a social justice figure, and he was actually controversial in that he challenged power structures.”

Having been born into poverty to a teenage mother in Philadelphia, Ofori said she faced many obstacles throughout her childhood. She found solace in an after-school program at a local church, where some of the teachers would sing gospel songs as they welcomed the students off of the school bus. With the help of scholarships, she went on to pursue degrees in theology, formation, and ministry.

Standing Up for the Vulnerable

These days, she is determined to pay it forward. An interim minister of the United Church of Spring Valley in Rockland County, New York, Ofori believes that religious leaders and institutions have an obligation to stand up for vulnerable members in society.

Her convictions led her co-found the Pan African Youth Leadership Academy (P.A.Y.L.A.) Project with her husband David Ofori Jr., an ordained ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). P.A.Y.L.A. provides academic support and leadership development to at-risk black youth in the New York metropolitan area. Rev. Ofori also leads a support group for minority women at Bloomfield who are grappling with issues such as homelessness, mental health, and poverty.

“Sometimes people don’t feel good about themselves because they’re not told good things about themselves,” she said. “I always tell them that you don’t always know where people come from and the struggles they’ve had to overcome. I do this because of where I came from.”

Lent: A Time of Reflection and Rest

Lent is a strange time for pastors and other leaders in the church. We teach and preach that Lent is a time of self-reflection and examination, a time of renewing the connection to the salvation and new life given to us in Christ, time to shed bad habits that we just can’t shake. And yet…all of the work we do to create opportunities and spaces for this reflection and renewal makes this a very busy time for our leaders.

Instead of attending to our own prayer lives and Sabbath practices with increased vigilance, we spend extra time preparing special worship and meals. And this is not to say that extra time we spend working isn’t life-giving, or that it is unfulfilling. Most of us gain a great sense of life and renewal in doing this work for and with others. However, church leaders are notoriously bad at following our own teachings.

Lent originated with the preparation of new Christian converts for baptism on Easter. They spent time practicing being Christians – studying and memorizing creeds, praying together, fasting, shedding the material and psychological attachments that were anchoring them to their old lives. For those of us who have been Christians, for a little or a long while, we can forget what called us here in the first place. Even prayer, worship and study can become routine instead of new and exciting.

What are some Lent practices that help us reflect and breathe life into our regular routines of Christian life? Perhaps we change up our schedules. Take a few extra days off during these weeks. Or sleep in a few days a week when we have evening activities for church. If sleeping in isn’t possible, what else can you stop doing during Lent? Giving up a duty for a season can give you some breathing room to rest a bit, as well as seeing what really does need to be done, and what you might be able to give up.

Maybe you try something new – take a class, make extra coffee dates with friends, or schedule a game night, do something you are terrible at but love. You could take 10-20 minutes each day just to sit with yourself and pray, or dream about the future, or read or create something just for yourself. Don’t think about all the things you haven’t finished yet. They will still be there when you are done with your break.

It doesn’t need to be a huge change, but it does take a bit of thought and planning. Like the early Christian converts, we have to be deliberate about changing our lives to shed old habits, and embrace new life. We have to practice what we preach this Lent, both for our own sake and for those we lead.

Praying Together

Are you a “designated pray-er?” A pastor or church leader that everyone looks to when it’s time to bless a meal, or at a meeting? Even if that’s not you, you can probably name the “pray-ers” in your congregation. Prayer is a central practice to Christian life, yet public prayer is seen as a challenge only a certain few prayer experts can undertake.

For the last two months, Rev. Dr. Diana Nishita Cheifetz has written on prayer in Regarding Ruling Elders for the PC(USA). Last month, she wrote about the gift of prayer being offered out loud, in personal and community settings. This month, she talks about that feeling of being put on the spot in being asked to offer prayer, as a “designated pray-er.” She speaks of how nerve-wracking it can be even for “professionals” such as ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament to be asked to offer public prayer.

As Christians, we know we are called to pray. We might even have regular and fulfilling private prayer lives. After all, didn’t Jesus tell us not to pray like the Pharisee, publicly calling attention to himself? Instead, we are to pray humbly, even in a closet, away from others. And that is how many of us conduct much of our prayer life. The most public prayers we participate in are corporate prayers in worship. But sometimes there is a need for prayer in groups and public spaces beyond our closets and sanctuaries.

If all we do is of Christ, we ought to be praying a whole lot in public. Before meals, before our work days, before meetings in and out of church communities, after a day of work, after joyful moments, and after stressful ones – in other words, praying constantly as the apostle Paul says. And some of that prayer might be on behalf of groups, out loud, in the midst of those groups.

Rev. Nishita Cheifetz suggests having a short prayer template ready for those who are asked to offer prayer (including yourself) to make the task less stressful. That is a great suggestion. Also, like anything else in this life, being good at public prayer takes practice. Those “designated pray-ers” might have some natural skills of putting words together well at a moment’s notice in front of others, but even those with natural skills probably got good through lots of public prayers.

We can learn to pray more easily in public. When in doubt, we have a great prayer in our pockets – the Lord’s Prayer. A great meal blessing is a shared Doxology. And if you start one of those, others are likely to join in, taking the pressure off of you. You can also start with a simple template – giving thanks, stating the goals of the gathering, and how you hope to be blessed and bless others through those goals. You can use simple one-word prayers where each person offers a word of thanksgiving, joys or concerns, or hopes. You can institute a practice of prayer in groups that meet regularly, where you use different types of prayers that are written or outlined, and rotate prayer responsibility. As your group participants get more comfortable praying out loud in a group setting, they might be invited to pray for the group using their own words. All of these are probably some of the ways the designated pray-ers in your communities also learned to pray well.

As Christians, we are called on to pray, and to pray for and with each other when we are gathered. Practicing public prayer is not about showing off or being judged by a group on how well you put together your words. Rather, it is an opportunity to connect and open those gatherings more fully to God’s work among you. In our work together, in times of crisis, in times of celebration – these are always better when we welcome God’s presence. Because, of course, God is already there, we can just forget to look, and prayer helps us do that.

Read Rev. Nishita Cheifetz’ articles together as teams and remember what a gift prayer is in our public spaces. Take some time to discuss how you might practice prayer as a group, and as individuals leading your group in prayer, and then do it. Challenge each other to each take turns and get more comfortable in public prayer. And pass it on. See if you can create a congregation of “designated pray-ers” that the world might be filled with prayer.


Preached at Newark Presbytery
Rev. Edward Clydesdale
February 10, 2018
Ezekiel 37:1-6
Hebrews 12:1-2

A few weeks ago I attended worship at Central Montclair, and on the way out I encountered an old friend and stalwart of the church, John Finney. He had a strange look in his eye and he said, “You know, I just read your name in a little book named Stuart Little, written by E.B. White. Oh, says I. Now the name Edward Clydesdale is admittedly quite unusual and if anything, the name “Clydesdale” usually brings to mind horses and Budweiser! So I decided to find out what an Edward Clydesdale had to do with Stuart Little.

Well, I discovered that Stuart is this charming little mouse in New York City who has lost track of his love interest, a free-spirited little bird name Margalo. Stuart is devastated and in desperation he turns to Dr. Paul Carey, his wise dentist. He marches into Dr. Carey’s office on the day that Edward Clydesdale is sitting in the dentist’s chair and being worked on. Clydesdale suggests where Stuart should look for Margalo; but alas, most of what Edward Clydesdale says to Stuart is barely understandable due to all the stuff the dentist has put in his mouth.

Well, this morning this Edward Clydesdale intends to be perfectly clear in what I say. Truth be told, I couldn’t understand why I was asked to bring the message this morning which is such a pivotal time in our long history as a Presbytery since we’ve just been returned to original jurisdiction by the Synod and we’re kicking off this revitalization initiative.

I am certainly not the most eloquent of preachers. I’m not the most learned of theologians. But then it dawned on me. I’ve been around perhaps the longest – and I have a Presbyterian pedigree. Born at Newark Presbyterian Hospital a little more than 80 years ago, and baptized a few months later in First Presbyterian, Arlington, in Kearny. I grew up in Sunday School, attended Westminster Fellowship, went to Presbyterian camps and conferences and then a Presbyterian College (Wooster) and Princeton Seminary, and was ordained in this Presbytery on June 6, 1962.

Then I spent 15 years ministering in the Trenton/Hamilton area and five more in a small town Ohio before returning to Newark following a divorce in 1982. Subsequently, I served as Stated Supply pastor at the old Forest Hill Church in Newark and then interim pastor at Cedar Grove, Fewsmith, First, Orange and First Congregational, Montclair, while chaplain at Mountainside Hospital from 1986 until I retired in 2014. I’ve been around a long time.

As a child, my parents dropped me off at Sunday School and I grew up with a wonderful group of children, and later with a fellowship group of 35-40 teenagers. And it was at a Newark Presbytery youth rally when I was a junior in high school that I had a remarkable experience. I don’t remember who the speaker was that evening or what hymn it was that we were singing at the conclusion of the service, but as we were singing the last verse the lights in the sanctuary were dimmed – and all was dark. Then, in the midst of the darkness the Cross, which still hangs above the pulpit at 1st Arlington, was illuminated, and within me something happened.

When I awoke the next morning I woke to a different world. I felt loved as I had never felt before. I felt a self-worth that I had never experienced in the same way. I was free to embrace life as never before. Christ had become alive within me. My grades in school went from Cs & Ds to As and Bs, and the following summer, during a synod summer conference at Blair Academy, I felt called to ministry.

Those were wonderful days in the life of the Presbyterian Church and Newark Presbytery. The Spirit was alive in our midst. Five of my friends from that youth group in Kearny also, during that time in the mid-50s, felt the call to ministry.

In 1937, the year I was born, the churches of what is now our presbytery numbered 57, with 30 churches just in Newark. Virtually every neighborhood had a Presbyterian church within walking distance. We had more than 36,000 members in our congregations and 21,000 children in our Sunday Schools. When I was ordained in 1962, 25 years later, the number of churches had increased to 65, although we had 2,000 fewer members. We still had 14,000 children in our church schools. By the time I returned in 1982, the number of churches had dropped by 13, we had 20,000 fewer members and had but 4200 children in church school, a third of what we had 20 years earlier.

As our Presbytery Executive, Chuck Leber, drove me around the Presbytery reorienting me he said, “We’ve closed too many churches. It’s time to dig in and not close any more.” Well, that wasn’t going to happen. We’ve closed 22 more since, although we’ve welcomed our Korean, Latino and Taiwanese churches since then.

But what a heritage we have, starting in 1666. While it is true that Robert Treat and the first settlers in Newark were congregationalists, they eventually came to see the light and became Presbyterian, and Old First was the mother church of so many of our congregations. The farmers and townspeople of Orange founded a congregation in 1719 and sacrificed much in the Revolutionary War. In 1803, a matron of First, Newark, Rachel Bradford Boudinot seeing the poverty around the church, founded the first social service agency in the country, The Newark Female Charitable Society to help the city’s orphans, elderly and unemployed. It continues to serve to this day as the Newark Day Center, providing important services to the underprivileged.

In the 1880s, German Presbyterian immigrants living in the Ironbound had this vision of a German Seminary to train young ministers, and that seminary eventually morphed into Bloomfield College.

In the early 1900s, the pastor of the Bethany Presbyterian Church in Newark, a man named Rev. Stubblebine, initiated a health services dispensary (a kind of immedi-center) which became Presbyterian Hospital, one of the largest and most influential medical facilities in the area before closing in 1994.

During the tumultuous events of the 1960s, through the rebellion/riots and afterwards, courageous pastors like Jack Sharp at Kilburn Memorial in the Vailsburg and Henry Cade at Central, Newark, were among others who brought the hope of the gospel to a broken community. And Newark Presbytery played a key peacemaking role by awarding seed money, a grant of $10,000 to an unknown school teacher name Steve Adabato who parleyed that money to attract other grants enabling him to purchase the Clark Mansion in the North Ward and to act a a moderating, reconciling force in a terribly divided community.

Up through the 60s the Presbyterian Church had such a role within the community that the Newark Evening News, the largest newspaper in the state, had a staff member, Margaret Vance, covering Presbytery meetings. What happened any Presbytery one night was published in the statewide newspaper the nest day.

But that was then. This is now. And it is true, to quote Frederick Douglas, “We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” Nevertheless, we are heirs to a glorious history. The stewardship of those faithful Presbyterians of the past has been passed down to us. We walk into our old buildings and see plaques with names. Names of loved ones etched into stained glass windows. Rooms named after people we no longer remember. Ancestors in the faith who left us a proud legacy.

But that was then – this is now. We have half the number of congregations we had in 1962. 5,000 members versus 36,000 in 1937. 476 in our Sunday Schools verses 21,000 then. We are but a remnant of what once was. Presbytery meetings are no longer newsworthy except to us and, hopefully, to God. The beautiful buildings they worked so hard to build and left to us are now difficult to maintain. The little Sunday School rooms in our educational buildings gather dust or are used for storage, and sometimes we get depressed when we look around and remember what has been.

Of course we can point to the reasons. Demography for one thing. The devastation of our Church Schools by athletic programs scheduling games and practices on Sunday mornings for another. And we live in culture which has eschewed anything institutional. I mean where did all the Elks and Masons go?

But we can also point the finger at ourselves. We’ve tolerated some poor leadership at the Presbytery level. We’ve wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting among ourselves; money which could have been used for mission. Newark Presbytery is infamous within the denomination for our judicial proceedings. What a tragic waste. We have been in a survivalist mode instead of a being the missional, servant community. We are but a remnant of what once was. We’ve needed an Administrative Commission of Synod to help us out. We are but a remnant. That’s the bad news.

The good news is our God is used to working with remnants! Ezekiel looks out over the valley filled with bones, the remnant of what once was a people. And God says to the dispirited people of the covenant:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. Instead of death there is going to be ‘life, life, and more life!”

Built into our DNA is the belief that God can call forth life out of what is dead. After all, are we not Easter people? Do we not believe that the worst thing is never the last thing? Do we not believe that God can make a way where there is no way? Do we not believe that God can put flesh on our dry bones?

Brothers and Sisters, we have been called to be the salt and light of the world – and the world have never needed to hear the Good News more than now.

There was another time in American history when the church was moribund, lifeless. It was in colonial days, before the Revolution. Sermons had become long, dry dissertations. Churches were empty. The valley was covered with dry bones. And then the Spirit began to move through the words and vision of men like Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitfield came from England, and Gilbert and William Tennant joined in near us and what happened was called The Great Awakening. Or to use the terminology of today’s Millennials, the church became “WOKE!”

Could it be that God is calling us here in Newark Presbytery to new life, to become “Woke?” Could it be that through the Revitalization effort – building upon New Beginnings – another Great Awakening can happen here? You know that the national church is looking to us, because if a reawakening can happen here, it can happen anywhere. We are being given new tools, we are being given skillful guidance, but unless we open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit working within and among us, nothing will happen.

May there be a new rush of the Spirit within each of us individually and all of us corporately. Let this Body of Christ put aside the internal bickering that has thwarted our mission. Let us have done with judicial commissions and all rancor. May we, at the very least be kind to one another, and let us celebrate the fact that among us are brothers and sisters who have come from lands where our missionaries worked so hard to spread the gospel and now they are here among us to share the joy of Jesus Christ. Presbyterian Christians from Kenya and Ghana and the Cameroons and Nigeria and Taiwan, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Korea and other lands have been sent here by God to bring new life and exuberance to the rest of us. And most of all, let us be a praying people, praying at a depth we have never attained before and let us study the Scriptures as though we were reading them for the first time.

There is that wonderful video, if I could describe it as such, that the writer to the Hebrews gives us in the 11th and 12th chapters of his letter. He talks of all the heroes of the first covenant who lived by faith; generation after generation of them. Saints – and actually some not so saintly people like Rahab the harlot. And there they are, in the stadium, cheering us on as we run our race. And look, I see David and Saul, and there’s Paul and Timothy and Lydia, and wait, isn’t that John Witherspoon and that Presbytery exec, Chuck Leber – and old Rev. Stubblebine, who founded the Presbyterian Hospital in Newark; and there’s Howard Day from Montgomery Church; and Al Stone (who loved to tell corny jokes), pastor at Fewsmith; and Lester Klee, who had hundreds of men (including my father) at Bible study at Second Pres, Newark; and Doris Houston, the matriarch of the old German Emanuel Church; and Howard McFall from First, Arlington; and Frank Benson, the motorcycle-riding Scot from Knox in Kearny; Rachel Boudinot who started the nation’s first social service center; John Wilcox from First at Caldwell; Joe Smith from PCUM; Ernie Fogg from Central, Montclair; Lincoln MaGhee from Trinity, Montclair,  – and there are all the other folks who once sat in our pews, the ones whose names adorn our buildings and stained glass windows and the ones who names aren’t etched on plaques, but who were faithful stewards and church school teachers and missionaries who served in our church over the decades, cheering us on as we run our race.

And out in front is Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith who I can imagine saying, “Come on, come on. I’m not done with Newark Presbytery yet. I’m not done with Newark Presbytery yet!” So brothers and sisters, “let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” It is our time. It is our time.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Wurffel-Sills Scholarship and Interest-Free Loan Program

The 2018-2019 Wurffel-Sills Scholarship and Interest-Free Loan Programs are open to all members of any Presbyterian Church within the Synod of the Northeast who will be attending school beginning in the Fall of 2018 for either undergraduate or seminary studies only.


The deadline to apply is April 1, 2018.

Please share this information with all of your churches, members, and anyone you know of who could use a little financial assistance with their higher educational goals.

To ensure all questions receive timely responses, please refer all to Stacy Galloway at the synod office at 315-446-5990, or by email.

Always Have the Funeral

On Ash Wednesday, many of us will have ashes placed on our foreheads with the words, “You are dust, and to dust you will return.” We are reminded that our lives are finite, that we will someday die, just as every human life ends. As we mark the beginning of Lent, a season of self-reflection and preparation, it makes sense to begin with a reminder that this life will end. There is resurrection from the dead, there is eternal life, but instead of rushing to the joy of Easter, we must understand why our old lives and old ways must die.

Ash Wednesday can seem depressing or macabre, and many, even pastors, can struggle with this service, and the whole season of Lent. Lent is rather funereal. But there is something beautiful in those very blunt words. We come from dust – not just in the Creation story where Adam and Eve are created from the very dust of the Earth, but in reality. Our atoms are made up of atoms that have been in the ground, in the water, in living beings over time, even in the dust of stars.

God’s creation is truly cosmic, universal. We do not exist separately from the rest of creation, but are intermingled with all of creation, and all of humanity. We are part of each other. Likewise, death is inevitable and universal for humans and all of creation. Nothing remains static. Even stars that bring light and life to planets die. And when we die and turn to dust, that dust will become part of another new life.

We are dust, just like everyone else. When we see the ashes on the foreheads of strangers in the street, and they see ours, we know how they got there, we know what they mean. We are not alone.

There is hope in that. And there is hope in the resurrection. We may all die, but death does not have the final word. This is what we proclaim in our words on Ash Wednesday – it is the beginning of a season, not the end – and it is what we proclaim on Easter, when we celebrate the certainty of that promise. It is also what we proclaim every time we have a funeral.

When we die, we do not need a funeral. We have already gone on to what is next. We may think it is too much to ask for people to go through. But we need to remember, and to hear the good news of resurrection. It can be uncomfortable. Not all lives are good lives. Not all deaths are good deaths. Like our self-examinations in Lent, funerals can bring up some hard truths. But we cannot live a new life if we are holding on to the old life.

Churches are like that, too. The Body of Christ lives on, but individual communities have finite life-spans. Churches are brought forth from the dust, and to dust they will return. And it is ok. But let us have the funeral. Let us remember all that God did in our lives, and the hard times, too. Let us let go of the old life, so new life can grow.

As at any funeral, we should gather together friends and family. We should tell stories and remember. We should figure out what to do with what has been left over from our lives – where a building or money or art or collective knowledge will do the most good. We should grieve the death of a community. We should proclaim resurrection.

Our churches may not last. Which of the churches the apostle Paul wrote to is still standing? Which ones have you visited? Some were in towns that no longer exist anymore, much less the church community. But their stories, their struggles and their joys live on. We learn from them in order to keep living the new life we have been given, and not fall into the habits of the old life.

So have the funeral. Remember and grieve. Then let it all go, and live into new life. For you are dust, and to dust you will return. And it is beautiful.

Focus on Leadership: Push Past Easy Answers

“Jesus!” – No, not what you might be saying when you took down your Christmas lights and decorations, but rather the ubiquitous and enthusiastic answer to any question at children’s time in community worship and Sunday School. Jesus the Christ, whose birth into the world as a tiny human we just celebrated. Jesus, a man who was (is – because, Jesus) also God. Jesus, who called the disciples, and continues to call us. Jesus, who is at the center of our worship and our lives, pointing us always toward God and God’s coming into the world. Of course Jesus is the answer to every question, right?

Well, not if I ask who guided the Hebrews out of slavery, or the prophet who John the Baptist was quoting, or who was baptizing people in the wilderness before Jesus started his ministry. And that matters because if our only answer to questions of faith are Jesus, and love others, we are probably missing the meaning of Jesus and what it looks like to love others.

Who are these “others,” for instance? And what does loving other people look like? For too many of us, we feel good about following Jesus when we are simply being nice to people in the grocery store, or posting “thoughts and prayers” on the Facebook post of someone grieving or in crisis. But what does it look like to push past the easy answers we give so glibly, and love the way Jesus loved?

Jesus found himself challenging the core values and understanding of the world at the tables of the rich and powerful. Jesus broke up petty fights between disciples over who would sit at his right hand. Jesus rebuked the idea that his death could not happen. Jesus had a deep understanding the tradition, people and law that formed the Jews. He quoted prophets and law and had a family line that included both royalty and impoverished outsiders.

Jesus did not accept the easy way or easy answers – from his own disciples, from the people they met along the way, or from the most brilliant Jewish leaders – he challenged them to go deeper. It was not that they were always wrong, but that too often they didn’t understand the depth and consequences of their answers.

For a young lawyer, it was not enough to love the people you knew and liked, but it was necessary to see people you detested as your neighbor. Clever rabbis who knew the law inside and out needed to understand that if Sabbath was not life-giving, it was worthless. The rich and powerful needed to see that empire is a human creation, therefore only worth the value we give it. The faithful had to hear that it was not enough to follow the rules of faith, but one has to empty oneself to be filled with God.

And none of this has changed. We are tempted to give and accept the easy answers. We say that people are “good” if they are nice to us, even if they say or do terrible things to others. We do not challenge conventional wisdom or group think even when we know we could do more.

As leaders, in our daily practice, in our pastoral care, in our committee work, in our teaching, in our congregational decision-making, we need to push past the easy answers. When something doesn’t feel quite right, it is ok to slow down and talk it out. When someone invokes the name of Jesus, but does not act like Jesus, we need to hold them accountable. When it would be easier to walk away from a conflict, we need to forgive and ask for forgiveness and seek a way forward.

And, if we do these things, those who look to us for leadership, for an example, will seek to do the same.

Lent Resources

Lent begins February 14, with Ash Wednesday, and concludes with the arrival of Holy Week, March 25-31. We wanted to share some resources for worship, study and practice this Lent as well as what churches around the presbytery are doing this Lent.

We will post Lenten and Holy Week events around Newark Presbytery as we get them.


From the PC(USA)’s Lent resources page:

The season of Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and self-examination in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord at Easter. It is a period of 40 days — like the flood of Genesis, Moses’ sojourn at Mount Sinai, Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb, Jonah’s call to Ninevah to repent and Jesus’ time of testing in the wilderness. (The Sundays in Lent are not counted in this reckoning of the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, as every Lord’s Day is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.)

In the early church, Lent was a time of preparation for the celebration of baptism at the Easter Vigil. In many communities of faith it remains a time to equip and nurture candidates for baptism and confirmation and to reflect deeply on the theme of baptismal discipleship.

Presbyterians Today has a new Lenten devotional this year, Jesus and the Prophets. The season of Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and contemplation of the power and promise of the paschal mystery. Perhaps there are no better models of how to live Lent than the prophets. Designed for congregational, family and individual use, the 2018 Presbyterians Today Lenten devotional is now available in six languages for ordering.

Westminster John Knox has published two new books for Lenten reading and reflection, Holy Solitude and The Journey to Jerusalem.

Illustrated Children’s Ministry has Lent resources that are enjoyable for all generations. Churches all over are using their beautiful oversize coloring sheets to gather their communities around creation and discussion, not to mention everything else they offer.

LEAD, a ministry organization dedicated to building up, educating and encouraging leaders in the church, offers a wonderful blend of resources each season of the church. Art, devotions and liturgy for church and family use. Check them out here.

Lent Madness is just a little fun for Lent, started by a group of Episcopal priests, and is a “competition” based on the NCAA’s March Madness, pitting saints of the church against each other. Popular voting determines the outcomes, and you learn a lot about the saints of the church along the way. Not just for church history nerds.

Lent Happenings in Newark Presbytery Churches



Bethel Presbyterian Church

185 Midland Ave
East Orange, NJ 07017

  • February 14, 6pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service
Bloomfield Presbyterian Church on the Green

147 Broad St
Bloomfield, NJ 07003

  • February 14, 8pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service
  • Sundays (February 11-March 25), 6-8pm – Lenten Small Group @ Church Manse: Embracing the Uncertain
    Participants Share in bringing soups
    Call Church Office to sign up and order books ($9) – 973.743.1796
  • Wednesdays (February 14-March 28), 12-2pm – Lenten Small Group @ Church Manse: Embracing the Uncertain
    Participants Share in bringing soups
    Call Church Office to sign up and order books ($9) – 973.743.1796
Central Presbyterian Church

46 Park St
Montclair, NJ 07042

  • February 14, 7:30pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service (in Chapel)
  • Thursdays (March 12, 22, 29), 6:30pm – Lenten Soup Suppers (in Junior Room)
Elmwood United Presbyterian Church (East)

135 Elmwood Ave
East Orange, NJ 07018

  • February 14, 7pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service
  • Mondays (February 12-March 26), 6:30pm – Women’s Lenten Bible Study: Strength for the Journey
    Dinner and Fellowship at 6:30pm, Discussion at 7pm
    Bring Bibles and Study Journals
    Sign up by email or call the church office, 973.678.0055
Fewsmith Memorial Presbyterian Church

444 Union Ave
Belleville, NJ 07109

  • Wednesdays (February 14-March 28), 7:45am – Lenten Breakfasts
First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell

326 Bloomfield Ave
Caldwell, NJ 07006

  • February 14, 7pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service
  • Wednesdays (February 14-March 28), 4:30-6:15pm – Lenten Blaze
    A program of learning and fellowship for Kindergarten-5th grade
    $25 for program – sign up and more info through church office, 973.228.0310
First Presbyterian Church of Verona

10 Fairview Ave
Verona, NJ 07044

  • February 14, 6:30pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service
Grace Presbyterian Church

153 Grove St
Montclair, NJ 07042

  • February 14, 12pm – Seasoned With Grace Ash Wednesday Service followed by Lunch
    RSVP to church office by email or call, 973.744.2565
  • February 14, 8pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service
  • Wednesdays (January 31-March 14), 7-9pm – Lenten Interfaith Bible Study
    Call church office for location (off-site) and other details, 973.744.2565
The Presbyterian Church of Livingston

271 W Northfield Rd
Livingston, NJ 07039

  • February 14, 12pm & 7:30pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Services
  • Wednesdays (February 21-March 28), 12pm – Lenten Luncheon Series: A Time in the Wilderness
    You will hear from rotating preachers from the Livingston area
    Bring your lunch, and beverages will be provided
Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair

53 Norwood Ave
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043

  • February 14, 7:30pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service
Prospect Presbyterian Church

646 Prospect St
Maplewood, NJ 07040

  • February 14, 5pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service
United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

20 Old Indian Rd
West Orange, NJ 07052

  • February 14 – Ash Wednesday Worship Service (contact church office for time, 973-731-1868)
Wyoming Presbyterian Church

432 Wyoming Ave
Millburn, NJ 07041

  • February 14, 7:3-pm – Ash Wednesday Worship Service