Never Say Never

Dear Saints,

It is our privilege to write this portion of The SPIRE for the next two issues, while Rev. Jen is away. Last month, she introduced us with brief bios for each of us. We’d like to share with you how we found First Church. We moved here in June of 2013. After getting settled, we started our “church shopping.” Having moved from a community in Northern New York that had just two year-round churches—one Roman Catholic and one Presbyterian—we were kind of overwhelmed when we discovered that within a half hour of our home, at Franciscan Oaks in Denville, there were eight Presbyterian Churches. So we started our search. First we went to the Morristown church because of some exciting adult education offerings. Then, because we are a clergy couple, we attended two churches in our area that had clergy couple pastors. Wanting to be as open and fair as possible, we attended four more churches before finally coming to Boonton.

What we found here, and what kept us coming back, was creative and meaningful worship and preaching that truly spoke to us. We would find ourselves discussing the sermon in the car as we drove home after worship. And it wasn’t just occasionally. Many were the times when we would just look at each other after the sermon with a “Wow!” kind of expression.

Well, it wasn’t long before we were hooked! And then we began to get to know some of you in the congregation and we discovered a joyous warmth that seems to pervade this group of God’s people. You began to make us feel more and more at home, which helped us realize we could easily make this our church home.

So here we are, not only in a new church home, but going back to work! God certainly works in mysterious ways. We failed our first retirement, helping our church in Old Forge, NY through a pastoral crisis before serving there as parish associates, and then serving for three months at Sherm’s former church in Dayton, OH while that pastor was on sabbatical. So, as we prepared to make the move to New Jersey—to our second retirement—we were certain we would not be doing this sort of thing again, so we got rid of most of our ministerial resources—books and worship resources and old sermons! What’s that old saying?… never say never?

We’re learning that you just can’t predict what God might have in store for you. But we’re happy to be here and happy as well, that we can help out in some small way as Jen takes a greatly needed respite leave. And we’re honored by the faith and trust the Session has exhibited in us by inviting us to help out in this respite time. Our goal is to make this a seamless transition for these nine weeks, and to serve you, the congregation of FPCB, as faithfully and lovingly as possible. If there is anything we can do to make that a reality for you, anything that we might have overlooked or missed, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Our hope is that, as Rev. Jen experiences refreshment and renewal during her respite time, you, the congregation, will have your own sense of renewal and re-energizing for the work of ministry that lies ahead of us this fall.

With great thanks for your friendship and trust in us.
Lorrie and Sherm Skinner

Looking towards a Skinner Summer

If you were blessed enough to experience Music Sunday this year you were reminded and likely awed at the amazing depth of talent we have among our worshiping community. The ‘embarrassment of riches’ that we have however, does not stop with the bells, the choir, individual soloists, musicians, artists (!) and readers (and their leaders). It includes people who are terrific planners and leaders of meaningful events from coffee hours to comedy nights, financial experts and fun-loving Sunday school teachers, devoted Deacons and enthusiastic Elders, mission-minded hearts and hands and grateful gardeners and skilled and devoted staff who manage all the important details to keep this church so
fresh and vibrant!

We are also quite blessed to have retired clergy who worship among us.We are honored to have four who worship with us when they can and/or when they are not called away to help another church who
needs their gifts.

This summer this church will also need the gifts of seasoned, skilled and faithful pastors to companion and help lead the church while I take some much-needed time away for respite and rejuvenation. If
you haven’t yet had a chance to get to know the Revs. Lorrie Rowland-Skinner and Sherm Skinner, you’re in for a treat. Here’s a brief bio of them both:

The Reverend Sherman Skinner
Sherm grew up in Pennsylvania, the son and grandson of Presbyterian ministers. A graduate of Wesleyan University and Princeton Theological Seminary, Sherm also served for three years in the U. S. Army. Sherm served three churches over a span of 37 years; First Presbyterian Church of Chili, Rochester, NY; Sugar Creek Presbyterian Church, Dayton, OH; and the Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church, Lawrenceville, NJ. He also served as a commissioner to the General Assembly in 1978 and as moderator of the New Brunswick Presbytery in 1999.

The Reverend Lorrie Rowland- Skinner
A life-long Presbyterian, Lorrie is originally from Yonkers, NY and her church experience there informed and shaped her whole ministry. A graduate of Dickinson College and Union Theological
Seminary in NY, Lorrie has served churches in Bedford, NY, Stamford and Wilton, Ct., Dayton and Yellow Springs, Ohio, and Trenton, NJ. Lorrie was the Associate Executive Presbyter of New
Brunswick in Urban Ministry and was inspired to work with churches in various stages of transformation. She also pursued post-graduate work at McCormick Seminary in Executive Leadership.

In 2000, Sherm and Lorrie retired and moved to the Adirondack Mountains. There they each moderated Sessions of “summer parishes” and served as Parish Associates at Niccolls Memorial
Presbyterian Church in Old Forge. They moved to Franciscan Oaks, in June of 2013.

Since David Letterman is now officially off the air, I will steal his ‘Top 10 List’ to share with you why the Skinners have been, are and will be such a great asset to our church this summer.

#10…When they visited us to ‘kick the tires’ they never announced they were clergy, they just said they were seeking a vibrant place to worship and grow

#9…They are highly experienced with all types and sizes of churches and have a combined experience of 69 years!

#8… After volunteering at Vacation Bible School last year they signed up again this year and agreed to lead it!!!!

#7… They sing in the choir and love it!

#6… They are deeply passionate about our church, THE church, and the un-churched

#5… At least one of them went to Princeton…

#4… They are local residents; Franciscan Oaks is their home

#3… They are a lot of fun!Where’s there’s laughter, you’ll find Sherm and Lorrie

#2… They get the challenge of family/work/life balance; they have 8 children and 16 ‘grands’ between them

#1… They have become great colleagues and friends of mine and I confidently entrust You…my dear Saints…comfortably to them.

Thanking God for abundant talent
and respite with you, Jen

Flags for Prayers

https://www.flickr.com/photos/39483037@N00/6209440218

Dear Saints,

While we are enjoying a glorious and much-awaited spring, I am also aware of the suffering that is occurring around our country and our planet. I am concerned about California’s unprecedented drought. I am deeply concerned the about the increasing gun violence in communities and schools and shockingly regressive riots as a result. I am highly disturbed about the growing instability within the Middle East and the ever-changing relationships with the US. I am shocked at the rapidly-spreading influence of ISIS, and I am also alarmed, as I learn how technology that is both helping teenagers learn, as well as carry out, inappropriate behaviors.

Henri Nouwen, a prolific author once wrote “When God looks at the world…God must weep”

Adding, now to our list of grief is the devastation in Nepal after an enormous earthquake — leaving (at this writing) over 5,000 people lost. At least we can take some heart that we are donors to “One Great Hour of Sharing” (again this year $3500 strong!) which funds Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Here’s what the PC(USA) website posted the day after the quake:

“Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s (PDA) local partners through ACT Alliance have been working in Nepal for several years and are on the ground assisting many who have survived the quake by distributing immediate life-saving supplies such as water, food, shelter and medication.”

WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANTS….

Crises and disasters ‘hit us’ all differently depending on our familiarity, locale, and personal connection. We may have family of friends who live where the trouble occurred. We may have traveled there, studied it, know someone who is a native, or just been intrigued by a culture so different than our own.

For me, Nepal and the Nepalese culture has always been a place and a culture I am drawn to. I am intrigued by the work of the Sherpa’s and their spiritual and physical strength. I am drawn to the Dalia Lama’s wisdom and the monastic life of Tibetan Monks.

Weirdly, just a few weeks ago, I received a mailing from the “Campaign for Tibet”. I don’t know how I got on the mailing list and I almost tossed it, but since I have a heart for this culture I opened and read the enclosures. There was a plea letter asking to support religious and cultural freedom of the Tibetans and a ‘personal’ letter from the Dalai Lama. There was also…a gift for me to keep.

No doubt many of you have received these types of pleas. Often the ‘gift’ is a sheet of return address labels, a sticker for your car or a pen. Not this letter. This gift was unique, and something I have been curious about, for a really long time. I’ve seen (it) them often in films or in photos and even in person.

They were the Tibetan prayer flags. I now understand that they are tangible prayers reminders of what Tibet desires for themselves and the world; peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. They are visible reminders of what God desires for us, ALL OF US.

We may not have ‘prayer flags’ but we have a chance every moment of the day to pray. When you water your garden, pray for California. When you watch a violent TV show, turn it off and pray for our schools and our communities. When you see your child replace relationships with technology, have a family dinner. When you start to malign others, don’t be part of the problem…be part of the prayer.

I think if we flew flags for the world to see, they would say “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Is 2:4)AND…

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together… and a little child shall lead them. (Is 11:6)

Praying with you for God’s world,
Jen