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 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.


Focus on Resources: Christmas Joy Offering

The PC(USA) has four special offerings each year that go to benefit important mission areas throughout the denomination and in your local communities.

During Advent participating churches collect for the Christmas Joy Offering, which supports the following ministries:

  • Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions
    The Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions provides critical financial and housing assistance to qualifying retired members of the Benefits Plan, and financial and vocational assistance to eligible workers in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
  • Racial Ethnic Schools and Colleges
    These institutions covenanted with the PC(USA) have provided quality education to people who have contributed immeasurably to the church at large and to the world. Students are educated for the professions of their choice in an environment which supports and nurtures racial and ethnic heritage.Many of the college students are the first in their family to attend college and come from low- to moderate-income families. They may be marginalized and would not be accepted at other institutions of higher learning. The secondary schools receive students earlier than typical schools and prepare them for acceptance at institutions of higher learning.
  • Racial Ethnic Leadership Development
    Racial Ethnic Leadership Development helps plan, coordinate and promote racial ethnic and women’s leadership institutes. Leadership institutes identify, equip and connect racial ethnic women and men, who are teaching and ruling elders, with leadership opportunities in the Presbyterian Church (USA). This ministry also strengthens and nurtures the gifts of racial ethnic leaders, and inspires them to greater leadership roles in congregations, mid councils and in General Assembly agencies.

Learn more about these ministries at the links above, and find resources for your church’s participation in the Christmas Joy Offering at the Special Offerings site.

Resources: Future of the Church Conversations

From the beginning of the Church, as the Gospel moved from Judea to Asia Minor, to Europe and Africa and South Asia and eventually the Americas, how we practice and tell the story of our faith has been ever-changing. And with every change has come both fear and hope. The Church, especially in the United States, seems to be going through one of the larger transitions in how we gather, worship, do mission and share the Gospel.

The PC(USA) is certainly not immune to these changes, and with them, the fear and uncertainty, along with the hope and excitement at what is to come. But we are not mere bystanders in our practice of faith. We do not sit and simply watch God at work, but we are ever called into that work. Which is why it is important to change how we lead change and the conversations about that change.

The good news in this time of uncertainty is that there are lots of helpful resources to learn how to have these conversations and do church in new ways, even if we are not sure where to start.

Starting the Conversation

In our post on confirmation resources, we mentioned some of the rich resources that the Synod of Mid-America creates through their Theocademy efforts. These include resources for new members, confirmation students, and leadership teams such as Sessions of Elders and Boards of Deacons (though anyone who is interested is invited to watch and learn). In addition to these, there are other fun and informative series the Synod of Mid-America has put out on their YouTube Channel.

PC(USA) Co-Moderator Jan Edmiston recently reposted this 2014 Between Two Plants conversation between Jan and Synod of Mid-America Executive Landon Whitsitt, about the 21st century church, which is just as relevant today. It is just over half an hour, but well worth watching on your own, and with leadership teams interested in leading the type of change needed in our churches and other ministries right now.

PC(USA) Revitalization Initiative

The PC(USA)’s Office of Vital Congregations has just announced a new initiative focusing on the revitalization of congregations and presbyteries. And Newark Presbytery is one of the four pilot presbyteries! We will be hearing a lot more about this starting with our September 9 presbytery gathering, but here is a letter talking a bit more about this process, from our Director of Presbytery Transition, Rev.Barbara Smith.

Come To The Table

Another opportunity to start having these type of conversations is at the Synod of the Northeast’s Fall gathering – Come To The Table, September 22-23 at Stony Point Center. The theme of the event is “Feasting on Abundance,” which focuses on being faithful to Jesus in a time of upheaval, and living abundantly in a world that says there will never be enough.

Listen to Your Neighbors – LEAD

One of the things Jan and Landon mention again and again in the Between Two Plants conversation is needing to really go out and figure out who is in your neighborhood. So many long-standing churches have members who no longer live in the neighborhood around the church, and may not know the people in that neighborhood as well as they could or should. It can be intimidating to think about doing that work without some guidance.

An organization that is helping churches and middle governing bodies, like presbyteries, do that work well is LEAD (Living Everyday As Disciples). LEAD has a Tune In Process and other processes that help churches listen to their neighbors, and learn how to become a church out in the world instead of looking inward. LEAD comes out of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is dealing with many similar issues and changes in the PC(USA).

New Beginnings

New Beginnings is another long-standing way for congregations to ask important questions and start conversations. There are congregations within Newark Presbytery who have used or are using New Beginnings to take an honest look at their futures. So, find out more about New Beginnings, and ask your neighbors about their experiences to see how it can help your congregation do transformational work.


Knowing where to start in addressing significant change can be difficult, but we hope these resources can help guide your way our of fear and uncertainty into hope (and uncertainty) and excitement.

Confirmation Resources

If your church has confirmation education, and you are looking for an update to your curriculum, you have probably noticed there are a lot of options out there.

In addition to what you may have used in past years, here are three excellent options you might consider, that have come out, or will come out soon.


Almost two years ago, the Synod of Mid-America introduced a multimedia PC(USA)-specific curriculum. Through games, group activities and conversations, and video presentations that cover both history and Q&A’s with pastors, it covers the basics of Presbyterian theology and structure with both simplicity and depth. Even difficult concepts are accessible in this 17-lesson curriculum. And, it’s very affordable, with free printed materials accompanying the DVD and online options for the video portion.

The confirmation curriculum is part of the larger Theocademy offerings that include elder and deacon training and new member lessons, lessons from the Old and New Testament and additional conversations on reformed theology – all available at their website.


Colaborate is the latest Presbyterian-specific offering from Sparkhouse, the curriculum division of 1517 Media (formerly Augsburg Fortress). Sparkhouse is another solid reformed option, arising from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). All of their curriculum, like Theocademy, is multimedia – integrating in-depth video presentations and open-ended, deep discussion questions and activities. Colaborate was developed with Presbyterian pastors and educators, so it is not just reformed, but designed specifically for Presbyterian confirmation needs.

The curriculum is so new it isn’t even out, but it will be available on September 12, 2017. You can look at the overview, a sample lesson and pre-order here. Check out our July newsletters for a discount code, available to all who order before August 15, 2017.

Big God. Big Questions.

Available from the PC(USA) Store in Fall 2018, being developed through research being done by The Confirmation Project and written by PC(USA) pastors. Read up on the work of The Confirmation Project, and keep an eye out for announcements about pre-ordering this curriculum for next fall. Past confirmation and other current curriculum is available at the PC(USA) Store.


Reformation Resources

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation kicked off by Martin Luther on October 31, 2017. Throughout the year people are celebrating throughout the world and in many different denominations that have arisen from this reformed view of Christian practice. We wanted to connect you with some resources available to learn about, talk about and celebrate the Reformation for yourself, and with your congregations.

  • The Presbyterian Historical Society has some wonderful reading on the foundations of the Reformed Protestant movement and Presbyterianism as well as past Reformation Sunday resources that are great for sharing with classes or congregations.
  • The PC(USA) has a trio of resources created specifically with the 500th anniversary in mind, for all ages. This Presbyterian Mission Agency article runs through the resources and has links for ordering them.
  • The largest United States-based Lutheran denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which arose directly from Martin Luther’s teachings, has a whole site dedicated to Reformation 500th anniversary resources and events happening throughout the year here and around the world.
  • Newark Presbytery will be celebrating together in November. Save the date for our Reformation celebration on November 11, 2017, at Montclair State University.

Enjoy these resources, and let us know what your congregation is doing to celebrate this remarkable milestone in our history!

Holy Week in Newark Presbytery

Holy Week starts after Palm Sunday and ends with Easter Sunday. You can follow Jesus and the disciples throughout the week in the different gospel accounts (Matthew 21-28; Mark 11-16; Luke 19:28-24:12; John 12:12-20:18), and while many churches don’t have Holy Week services throughout Holy Week, some have additional services during the three days that make up the Triduum – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

As this great Presbyterian Mission Agency article talks about, worship during these three days is really all one liturgy over 1-3 services (most churches just do Maundy Thursday and Good Friday) and is not intended as historical reenactment but instead a meditation on the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. (If you want the full Triduum experience, check out First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell’s schedule!)

Join Newark Presbytery churches in this contemplation during Holy Week:

Newark Presbytery Holy Week Schedule

Here are Holy Week activities happening in Newark Presbytery (unless indicated, Sunday services will be as regularly scheduled on Palm Sunday and Easter – see church links for regular worship times). Find a church near you, and regular Sunday worship times, in our Newark Presbytery church directory, if not listed below. Contact the churches for more information.

Bethel Presbyterian Church
East Orange, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae Worship
April 13

Bethany Presbyterian Church
Bloomfield, NJ

Good Friday
April 14

Bloomfield Presbyterian Church on the Green
Bloomfield, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae and Communion Worship with Watchung Presbyterian Church, Bloomfield
@Watchung Presbyterian (park in the IHOP parking lot)
April 13

Good Friday
Worship with Central Presbyterian Church, Montclair
@Central Presbyterian
April 14

Central Presbyterian Church
Montclair, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Lenten Soup Supper
Meal, Fellowship and Worship, including Communion around tables
April 13

Good Friday
Worship with Bloomfield Church on the Green
@Central Presbyterian
April 14

Elmwood United Presbyterian Church
Elmwood West – West Orange, NJ
Elmwood East – East Orange, NJ
Elmwood Central – Newark, NJ

Good Friday
@Elmwood East (135 Elmwood Ave, East Orange)
April 14

First Presbyterian Church of Arlington
Kearny, NJ

Maundy Thursday
April 13
Dinner – 6:00-7:00pm
Worship – 7:00-8:00pm

First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell
Caldwell, NJ

Maundy Thursday
April 13
Seder Meal – 5:30pm

Right before the Maundy Thursday service
Suggested donation is $10 per adult. Children under 10 are free.
Please bring a dessert.

Worship – 7:30pm


Good Friday
April 14th
Prayer and Meditation – 12:00pm
Worship – 7:30pm

Easter Vigil
April 15


Easter Sunday
Sunrise Service – 6:15am
Easter Worship – 9:00am & 11:00am

First Presbyterian Church of Verona
Verona, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Worship and Meal
April 13
Love Feast, Hand Washing & Communion
Bring your favorite soup to share.

Good Friday
April 14
Worship – 12pm
Children’s Workshop -10am-2pm

$10 per child and $25 per family
Singing, Crafts, God Time, Lunch, Easter Egg Hunt

Grace Presbyterian Church
Montclair, NJ

Maundy Thursday

April 13

Good Friday

April 14

Easter Sunday
Easter Egg Hunt

(in addition to regular worship times)
April 16


Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair
Upper Montclair, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae Worship with Communion

April 13

Easter Sunday
April 13
9:00am – Traditional Worship with the Chancel Choir
11:00am – Family Worship

Prospect Presbyterian Church
Maplewood, NJ

Palm Sunday
Sensational Sunday
April 9

Walk through the last week of Jesus’ life by visiting different areas of the church where scenes of that week will be shared through creative storytelling. Followed by worship.

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae Worship with Communion

April 13

Easter Sunday
April 16
Worship – 8:00am and 10:30am
Easter breakfast after 8am service

United Presbyterian Church of West Orange
West Orange, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Meal and Worship

April 13
Meal – 6:00pm
Worship with Stations of the Cross – 7:00pm

Good Friday
Tenebrae Worship

Easter Egg Hunt
April 15

Easter Sunday
April 16
Worship – 7:00am & 10:30am

Watchung Presbyterian Church
Bloomfield, NJ

Maundy Thursday
Tenebrae and Communion Worship with Bloomfield Church on the Green
@Watchung Presbyterian (park in the IHOP parking lot)
April 13

Wyoming Presbyterian Church
Millburn, NJ

Palm Sunday
April 9
Children’s Palm Parade & Easter Egg Hunt

Good Friday
Meal and Tenebrae Worship

April 14
7:30 pm

Easter Sunday
April 16
Worship – 9:30am & 11:00am

Focus on Resources: Mental Health First Aid

One would think that if there was anywhere we could show exactly who we are and talk about our deepest joys and deepest struggles, it would be the church. And yet, so many ideas of who we “ought to be” as Christians become the standard of what we expect people to be within our church communities.

Instead of being vulnerable and honest around issues of relationships, addiction, insecurity, job loss, sexuality, mental health and financial security, we tend to pretend everything is just fine for the sake of not upsetting one another. How can we pray for and support each other if we don’t even really know each other?

While the Christian community has become more communicative around sexuality and our physical being, mental health is still a topic to be avoided, as it is in the world beyond our churches. Instead of waiting for the world to lead the conversation, wouldn’t it be great for the church to once again be at the forefront of conversations that lead people away from shame and secrecy into a practice of being whole together?

If your friend broke their leg, you would want to help as they needed, right? The same goes for mental health. If you know you could help your friends and other neighbors be full members of the community, wouldn’t you want to try? Also, if you were struggling, and you didn’t know why, wouldn’t it be a kindness to have a friend notice and work together to find answers?

These are some of the conversations church leaders are having, but with few tools to address conversations around mental health, much less long-term mental health need or immediate crises. As the Newark Presbytery Leadership Training Team discusses educational opportunities to offer, talking about mental health was a clear need.

Doing a mental health first aid training specifically for our youth leaders was a good place to start because there is already a cohesive group of youth leaders within the presbytery. We have been working to build a support system and programs for the youth and youth leaders in the presbytery, and offering such a training was a good next step.

Newark Presbytery has many small churches with volunteer youth leaders, part time youth leaders and elders in charge of youth programs. These leaders don’t always have the opportunities for Continuing Education or training that full time and ordained staff might, including and especially dealing with mental health. This training is accessible and available to anyone who works with youth. We encourage you to join us on April 8th. You can find more information on this event on the event page.

The Leadership Training Team is interested in partnering with other people and groups in the presbytery to support, enhance and publicize training events like this one. If you would like to share an idea, please email Rev. Mike Capron.

Focus on Resources: Educational Opportunities for Students and Pastors

Clergy Renewal

The Lilly Endowment offers clergy renewal programs that are intended to build up both pastors and their congregations.

From the Lilly website:

Seeking to strengthen Christian congregations through renewal and reflection

Welcome to the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary!

Lilly Endowment’s Clergy Renewal Programs are administered by the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary.

Through its religion grantmaking, Lilly Endowment, an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation, seeks to deepen and enrich the lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

To this end, National and Indiana Clergy Renewal Programs provide an opportunity for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection. Renewal periods are not vacations but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for drinking again from God’s life-giving waters, for regaining enthusiasm and creativity for ministry.

Details and application materials for the 2017 programs are now available. In the 2017 Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program and the 2017 Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations, eligible congregations will be able to apply for grants of up to $50,000 each to support a renewal program for their pastor. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used for congregational expenses associated with the renewal program.

Scholarship Opportunities from the Synod of the Northeast

The Synod of the Northeast offers the Wurffel-Sills Student Scholarships & Interest Free Loans for undergraduate and seminary students from all the presbyteries in the synod.

  1. Application is open to any member of any church within the Synod of the Northeast’s 22 Presbyteries.
  2. Application is open to any under-graduate student and/or seminary student.
  3. Application deadline to apply is APRIL 1, 2017.

Download more information and applications:

2017-2018 Wurfell-Sills New Applicant Form

2017-2018 Wurfell-Sills Re-Applicants Form

From the Top of the Pile: Do Something Else

Editor’s Note: We are introducing a new periodic blog series, with book reviews from our Transitional Director of Presbytery Ministries, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Smith. Like most of us, Barbara has a reading pile full of books of interest to others in ministry. She’s eager to share what she gained from this reading, and how your congregations might benefit.

The Presbyterian Outlook is hosting a 90-minute webinar with Nate Phillips, discussing where churches can find encouragement as we look forward and “stop doing things as usual.” Newark Presbytery will host a watch party at the Presbytery Center, if you are interested in the webinar.

by Nate Phillips (Cascade Books, 2016)

Do Something Else book coverFrom time to time as I have the opportunity to finish something in my reading pile, I will share my thoughts with you –

In his Forward to the book, Bruce Reyes-Chow points out that this “is NOT a book that intends to give a list of “how-to-do” church tips to save any particular faith location, but one that simply asks the question, “What if?” in order to inspire and give texture to the idea that the church is and can be so much more than we can imagine.  So read this book, not as a command to go and do something specific, but as a powerful encouragement to go out and be the church in ways that are specific to the community into which it is called to serve.”

Maybe it is because I visited MATE (Mission at the Eastward) in rural Maine a number of years ago that the beginning of this book immediately captured my attention.  The author – Nate Phillips – while he is now a pastor at Red Clay Presbyterian Church in Delaware – grew up in rural Maine in an old manse owned by local church.  He shared his experiences of church groups showing up to “do something” with their hands.  It taught Phillips that “the church can do something.  For a long time, it’s done the same thing.  Perhaps it’s time for it do so “something else.”

In this book, Phillips talks about different churches that have engaged in different mission, entered cooperative parish arrangements, and started new worshipping communities.  All excellent food for thought, but Chapter 4 is the one that caught my attention.  As I travel around the Presbytery, I hear a similar question over and over again – a question that wonders how to increase church attendance and, especially, attract young families.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been read a lot of these kinds of books and heartily agree that it’s time for the church to rethink itself, that Chapter 4 has the most yellow highlighting of any other.  Chapter 4 – “What We Mean When We Say ‘Church’” is actually written by Phillips’ colleague, Matthew Bruce.

A good read through and through.  But the icing on the cake for me was the Study Guide at the end of the book – one study guide for each chapter.  It is scriptural based and the questions are quite thought provoking.

This would be a good book for an adult study, or a visioning group!


Continuing Education Resources 2017

Whether your continuing education budget is practically infinite or non-existent, choosing where to spend your valuable time and budgets can sometimes be challenging. You may be looking to learn a brand new skill, grow in a particular area of ministry or just shake things up.

Harvard Business Review has some great advice that applies to ministry-based continuing education as well as it does for getting ahead in the business world. How do we choose which conferences and education events to go to?

Here is a list of more traditional PC(USA) and other events that pastors, educators and other ministry leaders continue to gain deep value from:


The Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators has courses and conferences that can be attended on an individual continuing education basis, or as part of a certification program.

Big Tent

Big Tent is actually a set of PC(USA) conferences all occurring at the same time in a common location so participants can choose one track, or sample different interest areas while also gathering with friends and colleagues from across the PC(USA). It alternates years with General Assembly.

Festival of Homiletics

The Festival of Homiletics is an ecumenical preaching conference. If you are someone who preaches regularly, or wants to, it is a great event that speaks to a multitude of styles and practice.


And here are some new ones you may have heard about, and wanted to know more:

NEXT Church

NEXT Church is a PC(USA)-based group thinking about the future of the church. They host regional and national gatherings as well as providing resources and conversation about the future of church and ministry on their website.


The Unconference is an ecumenical open-space ministry conference. Instead of relying on big-name speakers, Unco gathering topics and conversations are determined and guided by participants, sharing expertise gained through practice. The goal is not just to talk about innovative ministry, but to start and support innovative ministries.

The White Privilege Conference

Jan Edmiston, Co-Moderator of the PC(USA) General Assembly, has suggested several ways for PC(USA) churches and members to face and talk about the consequences and benefits of historical white supremacy, in the United States, and in the church, including the PC(USA). This conference is one way we can do that work head-on.


In addition, PC(USA) Camp and Conference Centers and Seminaries are great resources for continuing education from pew to pulpit, covering a wide range of interests and learning styles. As the largest conference centers, Ghost Ranch and Montreat have been leaders in creative and varied events, but there are wonderful events offered throughout the country, so you can find the event, location and dates that fit your schedule and needs.

Major Camp and Conference Centers:

Ghost Ranch

Massanetta Springs



Stony Point

Zephyr Point

Our local camp, Johnsonburg, and other smaller camps and conference centers offer great programs year-round as well. The Presbyterian Camp and Conference Association has a full listing for locations beyond our local options:


PC(USA) Seminary main sites or continuing education links:

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Columbia Theological Seminary

University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary

McCormick Theological Seminary

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Princeton Theological Seminary

San Francisco Theological Seminary

Union Presbyterian Theological Seminary