The word we've heard ad nauseum in this interminable campaign season is "CHANGE." Some of us cringe at the thought; others eagerly embrace it. As is always the case with concepts that threaten the status quo, there are good and bad aspects of change. We rightly resist change if we clearly believe it is not for the better. Unless we think we are perfect, we always have room for improvement, and if we truly want to improve we must change to do so.
On Sunday, January 6, we baptized a little boy in our sanctuary. For all who participate, family, friends and congregation, baptism delivers a lifelong invitation from God to change for the better when it becomes plainly obvious that we need to change. The sacrament is built on some basic assumptions: that we are not now and never will be perfect, that we will wander away from God and become even less so, that our change for the worse will cause us spiritual harm and anguish, and that we need to know there is a way to return to our former condition and maybe even improve upon it.
The sacrament reminds us that every day we can be washed clean of our old or chronic foibles to make room for the new. It is the perfect message for the New Year. We celebrate the dropping of the ball in Times Square because it renews our hope. We sing Auld Lang Syne because we hope some of the former things that compromised our lives will finally "be forgot," and we hope that the change of the year will bring a change for the better.
The Bible tells us repeatedly that only God is changeless (Malachi 3:6, many others). The rest of us are in the midst of change, either for the better or for the worse. The ways we can guarantee improvement are fairly obvious: replace bad habits with good or better ones, think, speak and act in greater conformity to the example of Jesus Christ, and pray, pray, pray.
None of these things guarantee that the New Year will be easy. They do, however, improve our chances of dealing with challenges confidently and with hope.
If we believe that God is alive and well, and Christians certainly must believe this, then we must also believe that God continues his creative process, that we are in the midst of something that is not yet complete, but improving all the time. And it will one day be perfect. If we are to call ourselves godly people, we must commit ourselves to improvement - of our individual lives, our church, our community, nation and world.
We can only accomplish this with God's help, which is offered to us every second of our lives. Every time we solicit God's help through prayer we change, grow and improve.
Happy New Year!
Peace! Pastor Rich
BRC Preservation Fund Launches January 27, 2008
Come to a special meeting following Worship on January 27 to learn about the BRC Preservation Campaign. This fundraising initiative will cover a three year period and will seek to raise $500,000 to maintain our physical facilities. At the meeting you will learn the goals of the campaign and the events we plan to raise the funds within the church and the community. This is an explanatory meeting, so no pledges or gifts will be solicited. We hope to see you there.
Sharing & Caring
Earl Jabay went to be with the Lord on Friday, Jan. 11th. He was the father of former members Jane May and Margaret Beach. Rev. Jabay was the Chaplain at the NJ Neuro-Psychiatric Institute in Skillman for 28 years and clinical training supervisor at Princeton and New Brunswick Seminaries. As a member of the Classis of Raritan, he was the pastor at the Third Reformed Church in Raritan. Over the years he filled in when needed at Blawenburg and Rocky Hill Reformed Churches.
Congratulations to Adam and Christine Nichols on the birth of their son, Ezekiel Rainn (Zeke) on December 29, 2007 – 8 lbs. 1 oz, 20 inches long. Congrats also to grandparents Barb & Joe Pavlicek and Randy Nichols.
CHILDREN AND YOUTH LEAD WORSHIP
On December 16th, the sweet, young voices of our Sunday school children led in the singing of praises to the Lord in our worship service. They rehearsed with Mrs. Romagnoli and were accompanied by Chi Yi Chen, our Music Director, on piano and organ, and by Mr. Helberg on guitar.
Olivia, Mrs. Romagnoli, Pastor Rich, and Mrs. Perkins
getting ready for worship.
Mrs. Romagnoli rehearsing the Sunday School Singers.
Praising an Awesome God.
Youth leading worship:
Alyssa and Megan leading the Summary of the Law.
Byron and George reading the Scripture Lesson.
On December 23rd, the Sunday school classes (grades K—5) made gifts of light for special people in our congregation. Many of the children do not know the grandmothers and grandfathers of our church. By decorating gift bags, enclosing a white candle, a card, and scripture verse telling that Jesus is the Light of the world, the children then delivered their gifts at coffee hour—a nice connection between two generations. In addition to our seniors, gifts of light were also given to Chi-Yi and to Pastor Rich and Mrs. Van Doren.
Mrs. Van Nostrand and Mac helping Vincent, Christopher, and Angelo with gift making.
Griffen gluing a paper candle onto the gift bag for Mrs. Patterson.
Morgan, Hannah, and Emily waiting to deliver their gifts.
Save the Date (and Your Rummage)
The BVS Clubhouse will be holding a Rummage Sale on February 19th in Memorial Hall – drop off is from February 13-17; set-up is February 15-18. The Sale is on February 19 (snow date the 20th) from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Please no electronics, large furniture or appliances – they will be accepting clothes, toys, children’s items, books and household items. Please feel free to come and assist the Clubhouse with their first Rummage Sale.
Blawenburg Village PreSchool
The Blawenburg Village Preschool (BVS) will conduct an
Open House on Saturday, February 9, 2008.
Please join us for an information session regarding our curriculum and program descriptions at 10 am in the Sanctuary of the Blawenburg Reformed Church. This session will be followed at 11 am by tours of our classrooms in our historic schoolhouse and our Cook Hall classrooms. BVS is dedicated to nurturing the social, developmental, emotional and spiritual lives of children. We accept children from ages 2 and a half through 5.
The Blawenburg Village Preschool is rooted in the Christian faith and practice of the Blawenburg Reformed Church.
We warmly welcome families of all faiths. Please RSVP by calling Laura Sarubbi at 609-466-6600. We look forward to meeting you!
New Director Search
A letter was sent our by email or snail mail to all members of the congregation regarding the BVS search for a new director. The job description is online at www.blawenburgchurch.org. Please let your family and friends know about this position if they are interested in working in a loving, Christian environment.
Deadline for the February Outreach is January 23rd.
Accidents bring seminary community together
By Rev. Eric J. Titus
‘Tis the night before the night before Christmas as I write this. I’m sitting in the nice warm room that serves as our office (Nancy’s and mine) in our new house here in Croatia. The year has been absolutely full and chaotic.
There have been a lot of changes in the past year, even beyond our moving to a new place in Osijek. I have been filling the role of student dean this year, which brings with it new responsibilities of overseeing the care of the student body. Perhaps one of the most challenging times for me came when a van full of our students (who were out on practical ministry assignment) swerved off a slippery road near a town ninety minutes from Osijek and rolled over.
Seeing the pictures of the accident (and the van itself which is now in the back parking lot of the seminary), I recognize it is no small miracle that everyone walked away alive. We had one student hospitalized with head injuries and a broken leg. This student was in the middle of a class with me about the theology of suffering. I told her she really didn’t have to do field work! We are grateful that she was able to come back to the seminary with us and has now gone home for Christmas as have most all of our other residential students.
I had the job of making pastoral phone calls on behalf of the seminary to the families of the students involved. Though the news was generally good, in that the other students were banged up but not seriously hurt, it was a stretch to have to convey this emotional information through a language barrier. I was grateful for a wonderful translator working with me.
About two weeks later we received word that another one of our professors (a very kind man from Norway) had run his car off the road not far from the other accident, rolled onto his roof, and was hanging upside down from his seatbelt as the water from the river he landed in began filling up his car! He, too, came out of it physically intact but a bit shaken.
After the slight “hearers shock” wears off, one cannot help but thank God for God’s particular grace. How quickly things change. You may be sitting in a warm office one day and hanging upside down in freezing water the next! I sense this grace of God is exactly what these people and our seminary community experienced.
What struck me about these accidents was how quickly the students and professors responded to each other. In a moment of time, even though we had different languages and cultural backgrounds, we were drawn together instantly by our common humanity. Even more, we were drawn together by our common Christian humanity. We gathered many times as a community for prayer and worship, and many more in smaller groups to wonder about it all.
We were drawn together because we were human: we were drawn together in a community because we were Christian. It did not escape me that we were together in suffering because God in human form had suffered for us. In a sense, when we were in our most tragic situation, this is when God came to make our humanly Christian life a possibility.
These recent events have quickly passed and it hasn’t taken long for the seminary to fall into its usual routine: classes, study, grading, grumbling, laughing. How quickly our memory evaporates and the intensity of the moment passes. I would that the accidents had never occurred of course. Yet, I do not want to quickly yield the fast sense of community we had, the fervency of prayer, or the honesty of worship that took seed in that soil. I do not wish to forget that I am a Christian human.
So it is that I sit on this night before the night before Christmas, warm and grateful to God for the wonder of the Incarnation that makes it possible for me to be humanly Christian. We are grateful for you too, who have come along with us for this most incredible, unpredictable divine adventure in mission.