The Moderator Candidate Meet and Greet and Presbyterian Outlook

March 27, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

In today’s Presbyterian News Service releases, there is an article about the Moderator Candidate Meet and Greet event at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville NJ on April 25.

The article makes mention that usually the first joint appearance of the moderator candidates happens at the General Assembly site itself, at a dinner held by Presbyterian Outlook.

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UPDATE: I got a note from Jack Haberer.  He’s cool with the NJ events and even excited about them.  He does need a reporter to cover them – if you’re interested contact him at the Outlook link above.


March 20, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion, Weblogs 

Meme courtesy of Shawn, originally started by Bruce.

  • in about 25 words each (OK, I can’t do that, but I think I average to about 25), answer the following five questions;
  • tag five presbyterian bloggers and send them a note to let them know they were tagged;
  • be sure to link or send a trackback to this post;

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1. What is your earliest memory of being distinctly Presbyterian?

This is a close one.  Being elected as YAD to the Synod of the Northeast from Palisades Presbytery as a high school junior, followed 3 weeks later by ordination as a deacon.

The YAD election was really cool.  Youth from all over the presbytery (one per church participating – about 15-20 total) did a lock-in at a church in the middle of the presbytery.  The youth did a program to determine (today we’d say “discern”) what skills and attitude are important for a representative to General Assembly or Synod.  Then in the morning we would elect 4 youth to represent the presbytery – a GA YAD, a GA alternate, a Synod YAD, a Synod alternate.

This is also one of the saddest memories of my life.  The girl who was elected alternate to GA died in a car/train accident about 4 weeks later – one day before I planned to call her and ask her out on a date.

2. On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend LESS energy and time?

Attempting to draw a line around the acceptable beliefs (“essential tenets”).  This is religion, not a government computer system.  Gray is acceptable – black and white is not required.

3. On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend MORE energy and time?

Evangelism and mission in the local community.  We are dwindling in numbers because we think the “church” is a building.  The church is people.  We need to create, execute, and most importantly promote positive messages and actions in our communities.  We need to stop defining who is and isn’t a club member and start being radically inclusive.  It’s time to stop being a club and start being a movement again.

4. If you could have the PC(USA) focus on one passage of scripture for an entire year, what would it be?

Matthew 7:1-5.  Time to stop concentrating on others’ beliefs and start concentrating on our own – and how well we live up to them.

5. If the PC(USA) were an animal what would it be and why?

A starving dog, who has started eating other dogs held captive with it in order to survive.

Extra Credit: Jesus shows up at General Assembly this year, what does he say to the Presbyterian Church (USA)?

“You seem to have a lot of food here; I guess I don’t need to do the loaves and fishes bit.  How do you plan to share your abundance with those who need it?”

I tag:  Cheesehead in Paradise, Search the Sea, St. Casserole, some amusing blog pun, and Unresolved Tensions.

Week Roundup

March 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion 

This week’s roundup comes a little early – I’m taking Good Friday off from work.

Sunday – After worship I went to the Adult Forum on the capital campaign which included a manse tour.  The manse tour included lunch.  This solved a problem for me – Carolyn was in North Jersey at a wake for a cousin-in-law of hers.  Later in the evening I went to Sr. High youth group where we prepared further for Youth Sunday.  I have an assignment – I need to find Old Testament scripture(s) to match up with the Prodigal Son.  (Feel free to suggest some in comments or e-mail)

Work this week has been quiet.  My boss passed her Project Management Professional exam on Monday (on the first try!) and we celebrated with donuts and bagels on Tuesday.  The entire group is taking her out for lunch next week.  Other than that I’m doing design work for a project.

Planning for the moderator candidate event is progressing.  I’m finding a huge disparity in how presbyteries handle the list of commissioners.  Some are treating it like I’m some kind of identity thief and insisting on forwarding the event information to their commissioners.  One stated clerk said that he’d look at the invitation and determine whether or not it was “appropriate” for the commissioners.  Other presbyteries are being very forthcoming and giving me all of the information that I ask for in minutes.  I have to wonder who abused the list of commissioners at some point and how that caused the very prickly reaction in some places.

Monday evening at church Project Open Door met (well, actually at the manse – it solved a child care issue for the pastor).  Most of the meeting went very well.  Then we got to the subject of whether or not racism is an issue in our church (which is 90+% white) and whether or not we’ve introduced bias into our visitor survey.  I’m amazed at how passionate people were about their positions (given that it was a room full of white people) and at how much disagreement there was.  After this painful experience we’re going to revisit it again later – probably with the help of an expert.  Ironically, Barack Obama covered all of the issues that we discussed in his speech the next day.

Tuesday evening I ended up serving as the pick-up Net Control Station for a ham radio weekly drill.  This was the weekly Mercer County SKYWARN/RACES/ARES net – to test radios and procedures in case our services are needed due to a disaster or severe weather.  It went relatively well given that most of our members were attending a club meeting at the time and were unavailable.

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Tonight I plan to go to our church’s Tenebrae (Maundy Thursday) communion service.  It will reportedly be very powerful.  They gradually dim the lights throughout the service and end in darkness and silence.  With the strong winds that we’re going to get it should be interesting.

Friday evening we’re off to see the Trenton Devils play the Dayton Bombers with my sister Laura.

Saturday evening we go to the Philadelphia Wings vs. New York Titans lacrosse game at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton.  My friend Jill has a crowd coming.  My sister bought two tickets and after a friend dropped out Dad is coming with her – they’re riding with Carolyn and I to the game.

Sunday morning’s Easter service will probably be Catholic this year – we did Presbyterian last year.  Sunday afternoon we’re hosting Easter dinner with the Smiths and Brennans at our house (anywhere from 9 to 13 people depending on who comes).

Happy Easter!

A bunch of prayer requests

March 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion 

We need a pile of prayers this week.

  • For my congregation, the Gernhardt family, and others who knew Ray Gernhardt.  He died suddenly last week.  The Gernhardt family are part of the backbone of the church.
  • For Carolyn’s family, who have experienced the 2nd death in the extended family in two weeks.  Bob who died last Friday also died suddenly.
  • For a youth in my church, who may be about to make a bad choice with his/her life.
  • For all who serve on church committees – that they may balance the contradictions of keeping information confidential vs. the congregation’s need to know, and controlling process vs. personal ego/power.

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Thank you.

PC(USA) Moderator Candidate Meet and Greet, Lawrenceville NJ, April 25, 7-9pm

March 10, 2008 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

Lawrenceville Moderator Meet and Greet Flyer
Click the image to download a PDF of the flyer.

What: A meet-and-greet event with all 4 candidates for PC(USA) moderator:
Rev. Carl Mazza
Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow
Elder Roger Shoemaker
Rev. Bill Teng

Where: Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville
2688 Main Street (US Route 206)
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
See below for directions.

When: Friday, April 25, 2008 7-9pm EDT

Who: The event is presented by the Central Jersey Moderator Candidate Host Committee, a group of local Presbyterians who have come together to put on this event.  The Lawrenceville church is thanked for providing the building free of charge.

Who’s Invited: You.
The event is primarily intended for General Assembly commissioners, YADs, TSADs, presbytery moderators and presbytery stated clerks but all who are interested are invited to attend.

What do I need to do? Please RSVP if you plan to attend to or the phone number in the flyer image above (not after 10pm Eastern, please).  Please provide the names and any General Assembly status (commissioner, YAD, etc) for those attending as well as a way to contact you in case something changes.  Contact Mark with any questions, too.

Any other Useful Information? Light refreshments will be provided.  Child care will not be provided.


See the church website directions at

Basically, you want to get to I-95 northeast of Trenton, or US 206 coming south from Princeton.  Here are a few suggestions:

From the northwest: Take either NJ 31 South to I-95 North to US 206 North (exit 7B), or US 206 South through Princeton.  On 206 North from I-95 the church is very shortly after the 3rd light on the right.  On 206 South from Princeton the church is on the left after Cold Soil Road.

From the northeast: (NYC/Long Island/points Northeast) Take the NJ Turnpike to exit 7A, then take I-195 West towards Trenton.  Take I-295 North which turns into I-95 South as it crosses US 1.  Take exit 7B for US 206 North.  The church is very shortly after the 3rd light on the right.  In case of traffic issues on the NJ Turnpike you may take Route 1 South from Turnpike exit 9 (take Route 18 North to Route 1 South) and then get on I-95 South.

From the east/southeast: (NJ Shore)  Take the Garden State Parkway to I-195 West if necessary.  Take I-195 West towards Trenton.  Take I-295 North which turns into I-95 South as it crosses US 1.  Take exit 7B for US 206 North.  The church is very shortly after the 3rd light on the right.

From the southwest: (Delaware and points south)  Take I-295 North from the Delaware Memorial Bridge all the way up to US Route 1 where it turns into I-95 South.  Take exit 7B for US 206 North.  The church is very shortly after the 3rd light on the right.  In case of traffic problems on I-295, take the NJ Turnpike to exit 7A and follow the northeast directions above.

From the Philadelphia area: You have three choices.  1.  Take I-95 North across the Scudder’s Falls Bridge to exit 7B.  2.  Take US Route 1 North across the Morrisville Toll Bridge (no toll this way) and continue north to I-95 South to exit 7B.  3.  Cross the river and get on I-295 North until it changes into I-95 South at Route 1.  From any choice, the church is very shortly after the 3rd light on the right once you get off exit 7B on I-95.

If you need help with directions contact Mark at the e-mail or phone above.

The Central Jersey Moderator Candidate Host Committee

  • Mark Smith
  • Carolyn Smith
  • Rev. Jon Seitz
  • Richard O. Richards
  • Grier Booker Richards
  • Laura Ferguson
  • Sara Ferguson
  • Rev. Neal Presa, Press Contact

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A Once and Future Pastoral Star

March 5, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

At the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville this year we are blessed with three seminary interns.  All three of them have preached well at our church on different Sundays.  I have to write today about the intern who preached this past Sunday – she touched my soul in ways that are rare.  (Sorry Dave and Alissa – you did really well too but this one hit me deeply.)

Grier Booker Richards is a middler (2nd of 3 years) at Princeton Seminary.  She and I share one trait – both score as strong introverts on the Myers-Briggs scale.  That affects how people do ministry.  Most minsters are extroverts and the whole concept of ministry today is based around the ideal of the prophetic minister firing up his congregation with his charm.  Grier has charm – it’s just a different type of charm, more of a warm presence than a fiery presence.

Anyway, she preached on Sunday about the seminary experience and particularly about what brought her to hear her call.  In the sermon, she relates a story of tragedy and her response and her church’s response to an event that happened while serving as a lay youth ministry leader.  You’ll have to hear it for yourself – the audio version is HERE, and the text is HERE.  Listen to the audio version if you have the time – it’s much more powerful than the text.
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It’s very rare that a sermon has moved me to tears.  Grier has the ability to take an emotional story and relate it back to a spiritual concept.  She poured so much of herself into this sermon that it’s hard not to understand her point.

Coming soon to a pulpit near you – this once and future pastoral star.  Watch for her PIF in a few years.