Come Lord Jesus! “Come Lord Jesus” has been the cry of the Church ever since Jesus ascended into heaven. It is a hopeful, faith-filled cry. It is not a cry for escape but rather a cry to be united with the one we love. There is no doubt that at times we look at our world, shake our heads, and wonder when it will all come to an end. Certainly, it can’t be much longer. When we see the war and rumor of wars, economic turmoil, disease, lawlessness, and division at levels beyond what we thought could be, we may be tempted to pray for escape. We may be tempted to cry out for the Lord to come and just take us away. But at second thought and with reflection on God’s Word we remember that God has placed us here to be salt and light in a deteriorating world. We are God’s agents through whom he works to accomplish his purposes. There must be more that God wants to accomplish since he allows this world to continue and withholds the second coming of his Son. So, we dare not pray to escape but turn back toward the world and seek God’s purpose for us in this moment. At the same time, our hearts do yearn to shed this sinful flesh, to receive our resurrected, restored, and glorified bodies. We yearn to live in closer proximity to our Lord. This is the joy of the last weeks of the Church Year when we focus on the Lord’s return. As you gather together to worship and care for one another, may the promises of our Lord Jesus fill you with all hope and love.
Our 50th Anniversary! What a marvelous day Saturday October 29th was as many from the District gathered to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the NJ District! Our special guests included Rev Dr. Donald Sandmann (2nd Pres of the NJ District) and Marilyn, Rev. Robert Beinke, DP New England District, and Rev. Derek Lecakes, DP Atlantic District and Amy. Rev. William Klettke (3rd President of the NJ District) and Val intended on being with us for the day but heath concerns prevented them. We thank all of them for helping to make our celebration a special day and pray God’s blessing upon them and their ministries. The service followed the Order of Vespers and featured marvelous music on the Princeton University Chapel pipe organ before, during, and after the service. We thank Scott Sadlo for his direction and marvelous play. A brass ensemble accompanied the lively congregational singing and a choir, primarily from Circuits 1 and 3 led by Joan Holsten, led us in worship and enriched our service with a number of beautiful pieces. Rev. Sandmann brought some reflections on Christ Our Past and shared stories from our past that helped us remember God’s blessings through the years. Rev. Gewecke brought reflections on Christ Our Future and reminded us that our purpose, as it always has been, is to seek and save the lost. Rev. Beinke and Lecakes, Presidents of our sister Districts, born at the same time out of the old Atlantic District, reminded us of our connectedness and joint mission in the northeast. Both the 25th Anniversary Service and the Inaugural Service of the NJ District were held at the Princeton University Chapel. I remember well the 25th Anniversary since I was a pastor eight years already in NJ. I have a vague memory of the Inaugural Service to which my parents took me when I was barely a teenager. Honestly, I only remember it and know what it was because they reminded me recently that we had attended. And, if God so pleases, it will be very special if we get to celebrate our 75th Anniversary at the Chapel too!
Hurricane Ian A word of thanks to those of you who gave so generously to Hurricane Ian Relief in Florida. Our NJ District congregations and people contributed $6,053 toward the relief effort and we were able to match it dollar for dollar. Thus, $12,106 was sent to the Florida Georgia District. These gifts will be especially helpful as our churches and church workers rebuild after the devastating effect of the storm many of whom had no flood insurance or very high deductibles. District Short Clips After a little over a year in office I have been able to visit over 40 of our congregations. My goal for the rest of the year and early 2023 is to visit the remaining congregations. I have enjoyed these visitations, seeing our congregations in ministry, and getting to meet many of our members. As our connections grow I hope to be able to bring the resources of the District to bear upon the health and well being of our congregations and pastors. Thank you for welcoming me and for your prayers. The following congregations are in the call process: Prince of Peace, Hamburg has received an acceptance of their call to Rev. John Babbitts. Somerset Hill, Basking Ridge and Camino de Fe have received an acceptance of their call to Rev. Daniel Fenco. Bethlehem, Ridgewood has a call list. Calvary, Verona and St. John, Bloomfield have a call list NJ District pastors: Rev. Brian Handrich has declined the call to St. Paul, Tunkhannock, PA Rev. Dan Schmalz has moved to Maine The NJ District is seeking to fill the position of Director of Education. This position involves working in a wide range of aspects of education in the District. It especially focuses on helping the nursery schools of our District regarding change, compliance, and development. It is also responsible for the annual NJ District Educators Conference. This is a part time position. For a fuller job description please contact the District Office. Congregational Lay Deacon Program We began the training for our Congregational Lay Deacons this past September and those enrolled should have completed their first course! Many expressed interest in entering the program but to date few have actually done so. Participation in the program, however, can happen at the beginning of any course. Depending on the credit value, courses run either one or two months. That means there are many opportunities throughout the year for students to enter the program. Please contact the District Office if you are interested and we’ll get you enrolled. We anticipate these Lay Deacons being a great blessing to our congregations. Initiative for Ministry Development (IMD) Update Small Church Clarity (SCC). The first offering of SCC for churches along the I-80 Corridor was completed and those churches are now into the coaching phase. These congregations are working on the completion of their plans and the beginning of their implementation. Coaches are working with pastors to lead their congregations in ministry development. We are anxious to see the fruit of tis work. A second offering of SCC began in September and is now three sessions into the schedule. The fourth and final session will happen in January. We will then have 14 congregations who have fully engaged in the SCC process, completed the four sessions, and are implementing their Master Plan! NJD University. The next phase of IMD is NJDU which is a more in-depth version of Small Church Clarity. This is the flagship component of IMD and meant for congregations that are a bit further along in their ministry development than the churches in SCC. So, if your congregation was not invited to SCC then you can expect that you will be invited to NJDU. We anticipate NJDU to start in February. Again, the purpose is to help congregations to manage well the planning and ministry development portion of their work. This is not a program where we tell you what to do. Rather it is a process that helps you to develop ministry plans and create a ministry plan unique to your congregation and community. Congregations that participate are expected to bring a team of 4-6 congregational leaders to each session. Information with more detail will be forthcoming or you can contact the District Office. NJDU is for congregations of any size who want to revisit or more fully develop their ministry plans. Recently while in St. Louis for a Council of Presidents meeting I worshipped and at a large congregation with a well-developed ministry program. I was interested and excited to hear to hear that they were involved with LCEF in Ministry Clarity! Ministry Clarity is the cousin to our NJDU. The point is that congregations of all sizes and at various points in their ministry development can and will benefit from NJDU. I pray that you will entertain seriously and prayerfully an invitation to participate in NJDU. Conclusion As we work our way toward the end of the Church Year, I pray that the return of our Lord Jesus Christ will fill you with hope and anticipation. Our God has a great inheritance waiting for us. May we always be ready for his return, eagerly work while we wait, and rejoice in his promises. God bless you, Bishop/President Gewecke