St. Paul's Gathered and Sent
“The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” Mark 6:30-31
Worship, First and Last
At Saint Paul’s, our week begins and ends with worship. Now, when we talk with our people about St. Paul’s we might say, “We have service on Saturday night at 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday morning at 10 a.m,” as if the week ran from Monday to Friday and the week culminated in a weekend of Saturday and Sunday. Yet, Sunday is the first day of the week, and Saturday is the seventh. So, when we gather for worship on Sunday morning and Saturday evening we are gathering at the beginning and end of the week. Now, since we begin and end each week in worship, it would also be safe to say that worship is the most important thing we do each week.
At the center of our worship, Jesus Christ, our beginning and our end, has promised to be there for us with God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, in the Word, in the Sacraments, and in the community of the saints. Everything we are and everything we do, flows out from Christ and returns to Christ. So, when we look back and tell the story of this year in ministry, it may help to picture Christ at the center calling us into fellowship with him and sending us out for the sake of our neighbor, community and world.
St. Paul’s Gathered … For You
One of the practical things God does for us in baptism is to join us to each other by joining us to Christ. God makes us members of God’s family. One part of the story of St. Paul’s this year, the story of how we held together as God’s faithful people.
Again, our story begins and ends with worship. In 2013, we worshiped in a variety of settings and styles, some new to us. Thank you to Toya Sommer, Betty Fritz, Kelly Lubonski and, of course, our musician Natalia Gabrielov, who form our worship and music committee. We started using the ELW setting for Service of the Word on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, and, in the fall, we tried out ELW Setting One for our services of Holy Communion on the first and third Sundays of the month. We returned to an expanded Easter Vigil service. On Saturdays in Advent and Christmas, we celebrated Holy Communion each week, using a spoken service of evening prayer with Holy Communion. In addition, we offered a number of special services throughout the year.
In early February, the church council gathered and set some goals for the coming year. One of the areas said we would focus on was fellowship, opportunities to gather as a community of friends and family. Our parish life team led by Billy Orcutt, Jesse and June Cuzzo planned a number of events to brought us together as a congregation and as community of Lutheran churches in the Edison-South Plainfield area.
Buildings And Grounds
One last area council identified as important for the life of St. Paul’s in 2013 was paying attention to appearance of our buildings and grounds. Thank to Frank Hall, Ralph Berg and Ted Mezours for their weekly meetings for maintenance, repairs and for their care of the memorial garden. Thank you to Bill and Denise, as well as Billy Orcutt, for their hard work and beautiful plantings on the grounds. Finally, thank you to all who volunteered to keep grass cut and edges trimmed. The placed looked beautiful this year, and that, in its own way, told the community, we cared about what God was doing here among us.
At the end of the year, we transformed the sanctuary by adding a new coat of paint, new carpeting and flooring and restoring the original wood floor on the chancel. This project, together with a project to install energy efficient air conditioning and lighting, were rolled into our Special Building Project, which continues in to 2014. Thank you to Bob Crupi for bringing the energy efficiency opportunities to our attention, and thank you to Bob Crupi and June Cuzzo for leading the sanctuary changes.
It may be tempting to locate our Christ-centeredness on our altar, in our sanctuary, in the building at 445 Old Post Road, but Christ-centered, worshiping community doesn’t depend on building at all, but rather on Christ’s promise and presence and a gathered community. In that way, the church exists as an event of God’s own making whenever and wherever Christ and his people get together. In 2013, we spent considerable time, energy and money on the various buildings this community possesses, yet the most important thing we do each week, each month, each year — including 2013 — is gather around Christ in worship. That’s our beginning and our end, our source and center. It’s all about Jesus.
Another priority for the church council was dealing with the parsonage. Throughout the year, a parsonage renovation team, led by June Cuzzo, worked to make updates and repairs on the parsonage. Assistant to the Bishop Rev. Scott Schantzenbach facilitated a council discussion on future options for the parsonage. In a series of town hall meetings, David Post presented a council recommendation and led a discussion about the possibility of selling the parsonage and creating a pastoral housing endowment. Finally, we voted in special meeting Oct 13 to sell the parsonage and create an endowment fund at the annual meeting January 26. Thank you to all the council members for such thoughtful and careful consideration. The community meetings have shown us the value of getting together to discuss the workings of this congregation.
Young People: In addition to our three Sunday School classes, I led confirmation (7 students, total; though only 4 attended regularly) and first communion classes this year. Confirmation students are making their way through Martin Luther’s Small Catechism and participating in service projects, including a trip to our Sandy relief partner in West Long Branch to serve meals to relief workers. In addition, we worked on Faith Formation in our young members in some other ways.
Adults: We started Bible and Bagels, a Bible study that meets Wednesdays at 10 a.m. at the Grill and Fill Bagel Restaurant on Talmadge Rd. This year we studied Sunday’s Gospel readings and First and Second Corinthians. On Tuesday nights this fall, we met for discussion on some of the big questions of faith and life using the Animate Faith series. In Lent we studied Lutheran Worship, and in Advent we talked about prayer. I tried to start each council meeting with a time of Bible study and discussion on the church’s mission. I offered one pastor’s class for those interested in becoming members of St. Paul’s.
Sunday School for All. In May, about 50 people gathered for a Sunday School for the whole congregation that focused on Holy Communion. A good time for all ages.
I pray that all who participated in these lively classes and groups, from our youngest Sunday Schooler to our oldest Bible student, heard and internalized the good news of God in Jesus Christ and that they grew in faith and in love.
We gathered a stewardship team in the fall to start work on a asset-based, year round stewardship ministry. In the fall, our financial stewardship emphasis challenged us to see ourselves as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s gifts. A portion of the gifts God has blessed us with were pledged to God’s work through us in 2014. Thank you to all who pledged, and to all who continue to give generously to God’s work. In addition to the annual financial pledge campaign, this team will lead us to look at all the gifts God has entrusted to us and how we can use these gifts as assets for God’s mission here in Edison. Thank you to Tony Gruenewald, Christine Richter and Sue Kouyoumdjian for their work and wisdom so far.
St. Paul’s Sent … For The World
Joined to Jesus in baptism, we are sent on his mission to love and bless the world. In our baptismal vows, we promise to love all people following Jesus’ example and to strive for peace and justice in all the earth. We’re sent from worship to serve and live as a servant community in the world. Here are some of the ways, we got together to love and serve in 2013.
In the early days of the church, Jesus’ followers would gather on the first day of the week for worship and a community meal. From that meal, Jesus’ followers would take food to those who had no food to eat. At St. Paul’s we have a long tradition of gathering to prepare food that we can share. In 2013, our Servant Ministry Team (see separate report), led by Elaine Peterson, looked for ways to expand our feeding ministry by including more of us in the food preparation process and working with more mission partners to share the food we have prepared.
St. Paul’s Food Pantry served more than 500 people this year, in many cases helping to families make it through the month and supplementing other food assistance programs. Thank you to Gary Wittmer for his dedication to this ministry and for keeping our shelves stocked each morning, and thank you to Eileen McMahon, our administrator for her compassion and service. Eileen’s hospitality and loving, people-oriented service has filled the pantry experience with Christ’s love and opened conversations that have allowed this community to impact more deeply the lives of people in this community.
In addition to our food pantry and feeding ministry, we have collected funds for Lutheran Disaster Relief, ELCA Malaria Campaign and Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey. We have partnered with Reformation, West Long Branch, in their ministry of serving the servants. We have responded to a wide variety of needs and emergencies in people’s lives this year.
Brian. Just after Thanksgiving, we discovered that a man was sleeping in our recycling bin. We learned later that he would sleep in the little shed at night and spend his day out, panhandling, eating and, unfortunately, drinking. After his presence was discovered and it started to get cold outside, the staff of the childcare center and members of St. Paul’s began to provide Brian with food, hot coffee, clothes, a jacket. We also started to work with him to take a start into a shelter and rehab program. For a couple of weeks, Brian was part of our coffee hours and even one of our midweek Advent studies. I was impressed by St. Paul’s hospitality, love and acceptance. Someone even remarked, “Maybe this is Jesus … here with us.” That certainly is true. Jesus himself said that when we serve, clothe and feed our neighbor, we serve, clothe and feed Jesus. Thank you for your faith and love, following the example of Jesus.
Witness, Outreach, Evangelism
St. Paul’s started on a path of using electronic tools for witness this year. We recreated the St. Paul’s Website and more regularly made use of our Facebook page. These are areas we are continuing to grow into, and in the coming year hope to use to their full potential. Thank you to Tony Gruenewald and Chris Richter for their work and insight in these areas. Thank you to Denise Orcutt, Billy Orcutt, Tony Gruenewald and June Cuzzo for their keeping our Facebook page active and telling God’s story.
We held a series of Open House meetings in May 2013 and invited St. Paul’s own people, especially those who worship less regularly, to come and talk about their faith and St. Paul’s.
For the first time, St. Paul’s took out a booth at the Metuchen Country Fair. From our booth on New St. and wearing our new God’s work; Our Hands T-Shirt, we told the story of ELCA’s World Hunger ministry and asked the fair-goers to help us provide sustainable income and food to people around the world. Thank you to Elaine Peterson for organizing our group and creating our display and thank you to all who staffed our booth and shared the story.
We got together with the members of the three other area Lutheran Churches — St. Stephen, Edison; St. Stephen, South Plainfield; and Our Savior, Edison — to explore ways we can serve and witness together. We started the process of sharing creating a common calendar and looking for common serving events. At the heart of our understanding of God’s mission we discover our calling to share the good news of God in Jesus Christ. Like stewardship, witness is not the work of one committee or team, but the work of the all the people. In 2014, we will work together to equip all of us to better witness to what God is doing in our lives, our church and our world. That is why our partnership with the New Jersey Synod and the ELCA is so important.
In addition to our partnership with local Lutheran Churches, we work closely with the New Jersey Synod, ELCA. The work of our bishop and her staff make a difference in my ministry and our life together in areas as diverse that range from stewardship and evangelism to personal care and support.
Through the New Jersey Synod Fund for Mission, we received an $1,800 grant to strengthen our relationship and explore partnership opportunities with the other congregations meeting in the building on Old Post Road.
In 2013, I served on the Synod’s Resource Development Team and on the Transformational Ministry Team
Toya Sommer, Kelly Lubonsky, Jesse Cuzzo and I attended the Synod Assembly where we elected the synod’s new bishop Rev. Tracie Bartholomew.
In June, the ELCA paid for my travel to Chicago for a continuing education workshop on stewardship ministry.
Your Story … God’s Work in the World
This report has given a rundown of some of things we have done this year to share the good news of God in Christ in word and deed. But this report is just a small part of the larger story of what God is doing in the world. Your story, how God is working in and through you, out where you live and work and play, that is the real, ongoing witness of the good news. So tell me your story when you get a chance.
In all that we do together and God is doing through us as a congregation, it’s important for us — for me — to remember that we are not organization, a budget or even a set of goals, but a community of people. In that sense, I am your servant and friend, and I have tried to be present for you, to love and care for you as God has given me the ability. You can reach by phone call or text, send me an e-mail, drop by the office (best to call first), send me a Facebook message or tell your friend to tell me whenever you are in need of pastoral care, conversation, prayer, counsel or even an ear. I can come to you or you can come and see me in my office.
I have tried to maintain a regular office schedule that has me in the office most mornings. I usually schedule meetings and visits for the afternoon. So, if you want to drop by, the mornings are usually the best. In addition to daytime hours, I also schedule office visits for the evening for people who are at work during the day.
This year, I have set up a regular visit schedule for shut-ins, which thankfully are few in number. I have made hospital visits, and I have met with some of you in my office. In addition, our food pantry has given me the opportunity to talk with some of our neighbors and respond to their spiritual and material needs as well. If you are in the hospital, planning on being in the hospital, having surgery or undergoing a procedure, give me a call so we can talk, pray and schedule a visit. In case of emergency — you or a loved one is rushed to a hospital, a member of your family dies or is seriously injured, you are experiencing a crisis — call my cell phone anytime, night or day.
Rev. James R. Krombholz, pastor
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