April 8, 2020
Dear NPPC Family,
It was only thirty-eight days ago when the first case of the COVID-19 virus was diagnosed in New York City. How quickly our whole world has changed!
As one baseball-loving writer put it this week, one of our main problems is that we don’t know what inning we are in. Are we in the first inning of a long double-hitter? Are we nearing the 7th inning stretch? Can our team hold out until the bottom of the 9th? Or is this the beginning of a subway series where a new game will pop up as soon as this one is over? We just don’t know for sure.
Many people are experiencing a new kind of grief where a loved one, a relative or co-worker has died from the virus and they can’t gather with family and friends to mourn the loss like they normally would. And all this confusion and uncertainly can lead to feelings of despair, depression, angst, loneliness or just a listlessness where we wander around the house or apartment like a zombie.
And that feeling of listlessness is something we have to fight against.
In the year 1633AD a pandemic raged across Europe. There was a little German village in the south of Bavaria that lost eighty people to the plague. Despair was settling in, but the villagers decided they were not going to be passive victims. They decided to do something about it. The people of Oberammergau made a promise to perform the Passion of Jesus – a play about the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ – as a worship offering to Christ so that no one else would die. And thereafter, they promised to perform the Passion Play once every ten years. And so for almost four centuries the people of Oberammergau have been pointing people to Jesus as a response to the “Black Death” that afflicted them.
This year an estimated 750,000 people were expected to attend the Passion Play set to run five days a week from May to October. But in an ironic twist of fate, the 42nd season of the festival was postponed due to COVID-19. “We are in limbo,” said one person. In announcing the postponement organizers said the health of their guests and performers had to be their top priority. The only other times when the Passion Play didn’t happen were right after World War I and World War II.
It would be easy to give into despair over the loss of such an inspiring spiritual witness.
But one person who had to cancel his plans to go to the Passion Play said this:
“In the end, there’s a lot more important things in life, so you’ve got to put your faith into this. It’s not just about the virus [and] the play. It’s about God’s plans and how he is at work through this…We know God is with us. He will not leave us nor forsake us. He’s the one in control. No matter how much of a blessing it would have been to see the Passion Play with other Christians, God wants us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our neighborhoods right now so that people are not scared and know they have someone to cling to in the midst of so many uncertainties.”
Doesn’t that describe our situation exactly? God wants us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our neighborhoods right now! So, don’t just be passive. Be open to how God might want to use you right now. Pray about it. Pray that you will have eyes to see appropriate opportunities. Pray that you will get a creative idea, that you will be inspired by someone else’s idea – and you will push back against the darkness.
Because Easter is coming.
“In him was life,
and that life was the light of all humanity.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Holy Week Schedule
April 9 Maundy Thursday 7:30PM
April 10 Good Friday 2:00PM and 7:30PM
April 12 Easter Sunday 9:30AM and 11:00AM
Link for worship viewing
Link for online giving.
April 1, 2020
“I feel like I’m under house arrest, but without the ankle bracelet!”
That’s what one of my neighbors said this week as I walked my dog past his yard. My heart resonates with that feeling. The sense of isolation and the disruption of our normal routines is one layer of stress, but then add on the ramped-up concerns about COVID-19 transmission and protection and that’s a whole other thick layer of worry. And all the “experts” are saying that the toughest weeks are probably just ahead.
So, as we face another week of social distancing and navigating our new reality let’s lean on the presence and strength that the Lord provides. Let’s make prayer a regular part of our daily life. That’s one way to provide some structure to your day especially if you find yourself drifting. Set several specific times throughout the day for five or ten minutes of prayer. Go outside. Sit on your steps. Soak up some sun. And pray. If you have trouble coming up with your own words try using this prayer – a version of the Serenity Prayer first penned by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1933. Reflect on the wisdom this prayer provides. Calm your mind. Get alone with Christ and pray:
God, grant me Serenity to accept
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which can be changed,
and Wisdom to know
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I miss being with all of you – so take care of yourselves until we can gather once more.
p.s. Please watch my weekly interview – this time with Al Morgan, Mayor of New Providence.
Saturday – Remember to come by the church (stay in your car) between 11am and 1pm, to pick up your Holy Week Survival Kits. Tables will be set up in the parking lot to distribute items through your car window like fast-food pick up. Kits will include palms for Palm Sunday, home communion kits for Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday, and a white ribbon to put on your door on Easter Sunday. We hope this will be a safe and physical way we can connect as the Body of Christ.
Sunday –This week we will have special music for Palm Sunday, a message on the crisis faced by Joseph of Arimathea as he cared for Jesus’ body, and Holy Communion. You can join in worship at 9:30am or 11:00am by going to the church website or the NPPC Facebook page:
MAUNDY THURSDAY – Join in this online worship at 7:30pm as we remember the Lord’s Supper, and reflect on Caiaphas, the High Priest, who charged Jesus with blasphemy.
GOOD FRIDAY – Colleen Fletcher and Mike Flavin will team up to present a special Good Friday service focused on Pontius Pilate who tried to wash his hands of Jesus. The service can be seen at either 2pm or 7:30pm.
EASTER SUNDAY – Great, inspiring music will lead our celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. The awe of that first Easter stunned the soldiers who guarded the grave. We should always be stunned by the reckless grace and power of God. Services will be online at 9:30am and 11am.
STEWARDSHIP – As a church we’re committed to meeting the practical needs of people in our church family. Through our Deacon’s Fund we have made mortgage payments, paid utility bills, bought groceries, provided transportation and so much more. Your regular giving sustains the Deacon’s Fund and enables us to care for each other. We are also continuing our special Easter Offering for Operation Mobilization’s bold plan to send church planters into of Iraq that were emptied of all Christians during the war with ISIS. You can give to the church’s regular operating budget and the special Easter Offering by sending a check through the regular mail:
1307 Springfield Ave.
New Providence, NJ 07974
Or you can give electronically right now through this link.
And thank you for your continuing support of your church!
March 27, 2020
To Our New Providence Presbyterian Church Community!
So much has changed so fast. We are all still a bit bewildered by the rapid way our normal routines have been disrupted, even our church routines. But the mission of the church is not canceled! We are still the Body of Christ united by the Holy Spirit even though we are not physically joining together in one space.
Here’s a good Bible verse to meditate on this weekend as we prepare for worship, from the Old Testament prophet Nahum (1:7) –
“The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him.”
ONLINE WORSHIP - The church is still the church even when we are scattered to our own homes. On Sunday you can join in worship at 9:30AM or 11:00 by going to the church website or the NPPC Facebook page:
This week we will feature traditional music from the choir, and I will preach on Simon of Cyrené whose life was interrupted by the cross.
WEEKLY INTERVIEW - This week we are also featuring a video interview I did with Christian psychologist Dr. Jim Owen. Jim shares some insights on how we can cope with the unusual stresses of this crisis. You can watch it on our Facebook page or click on this link:
HOLY WEEK - The big announcement is about Palm Sunday coming up April 5th. We want to provide you with your very own Holy Week Survival Kit which will include your very own palms for Palm Sunday, home communion kits for Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday, and a white ribbon for Easter Sunday. Here’s how it will work. On Saturday, April 4th from 11am to 1pm we will have tables set up outside by the church parking lot where you can drive by and pick up for your household your very own palms, home communion kits and a white ribbon. The communion kits look like a coffee creamer cup where you peel off the top to find your communion bread, just a wafer, and then you peel off the next layer to find your juice. These communion cups are often used in huge worship venues where other means of doing communion are not feasible. The communion kits are not ideal but your elders approved using them in these unusual circumstances. So, we’re going to try it. On Easter Sunday just tie the white ribbon to your front door or front porch as a way of proclaiming the resurrection. We’re going to offer these white ribbons to the whole community for free so that any believer who wants to join in, can, regardless of what church they attend. Wouldn’t be great to see white ribbons flying in every neighborhood! So come by the church in your car on Saturday, April 4th between 11am and 1pm to pick up your Holy Week Survival Kit. No human contact allowed. You’ll just pick up what your family needs and go on. You can also go to the store and get your own bread and juice or wine for communion. But we will partake of the elements together in worship on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday.
STEWARDSHIP - So the mission of the church continues. And so should your good stewardship so that we can continue to minister to our community. You can give electronically right now through our website, thecornernj.com – you’ll see a big button you can click and it will walk you through the process. Or use this link:
And, I forgot to mention previously that you can send your donation by check to the church office. The Post Office still works! We are picking up our mail several days a week.
And remember if you have any specific needs that your church family can help with either contact your deacon or email the church at email@example.com.
Let’s keep praying.
“The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him.”
March 20, 2020
How are you holding up?
Working from home – schooling from home – isolating at home – these things are all harder than they first appear. And we’ve got a long road ahead. But remember, we are all in this together and we will get through it.
As followers of Jesus we want to be prayerful, peaceful and practical as we settle into this new reality. Your church is here to help you on all three levels.
Though, for the time being, all of our public events are canceled we still want to connect with you and encourage you.
· Participate in our online worship this Sunday. Mike Flavin will be preaching and you can join in at 9:30AM or 11AM on our Facebook page or on thecornernj.com.
· Many of our small groups are meeting online via video or audio chats. Our student ministry is also connecting online. We are developing online programs for our younger children to participate in as well.
· Our deacons are ready to assist if you have a practical need. If you’re a church member you have a deacon – so don’t be shy in reaching out if you need help in any way.
· Watch my interview with Su Wang, a physician from our church who specializes in internal medicine. Su shares her insights into what is happening here in New Jersey and how we can respond to our situation as followers of Christ. You can see it on our Facebook page or follow this link:
· Please remember that while you are not physically coming to church we need you to continue to donate to the church’s mission online. Your on-going financial stewardship is very important. It’s easy and convenient. Just click the follow link:
Let’s do what we can to encourage each other and to care for people in our community. Remember to get outside and walk or ride your bike every day. Greet the people you see on the street. Yes, now is the time to be friendly with strangers even here in New Jersey!
We have the unique privilege of being a non-anxious presence to the growing anxiety we see around us. Our posture should be based on faith, not fear. As Su Wang mentions in our interview, let’s remember this powerful verse from the Bible:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Yours in Christ,
March 16, 2020
Over the weekend someone said to me that this current crisis feels like a slow moving 9/11. And I think that’s right.
We haven’t had anything since 9/11 that has disrupted the whole nation like the COVID-19 pandemic. The sense of confusion, discontinuity and fear. Travel bans. Schools and businesses closed. The stock market in freefall. Airports empty. Supermarkets depleted. Racial profiling. People on edge. Hoarding.
We will also hear of selfless acts of kindness. The best and the worst of humanity are exposed during times of crisis.
The main difference in our current crisis is that after 9/11 we were able to come together. We gathered in homes and in churches to weep and pray. We joined hands in community groups to comfort and encourage each other. We came together in worship across denominational lines and united as Christians and as Americans. That togetherness sustained us.
The current crisis causes separation – social distancing – and that’s going to make the next few weeks harder. We are denied our normal human way of supporting each other. We now have to rely on social media tools to connect with each other that were in their infancy back during 9/11. And for many folks, especially our seniors, these tools, though helpful, seem insufficient.
So, please don’t forget the human side of this crisis. Go outside. Get some sunshine and walk in your neighborhood. Greet people. Call your elderly neighbor and see if they need anything. Read a good book. Spend extra time in prayer. Ask the Lord to show you how you can “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31).
Remember, simple acts of caring have great power to show the love of Christ. Let’s use this situation to bring a positive witness to our community about our faith in Jesus. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “You will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of life.” (Philippians 2:15)
This Sunday we will again do an online worship that you can watch at 9:30am or 11:00am on our Facebook page, or on our website, thecornernj.com. More than 200 people joined in this past Sunday. Let’s try for 300 this week!
Also, remember that while you are not physically coming to church you can continue to donate to the church’s mission online. Your on-going financial stewardship is very important. It’s easy and convenient.
Later this week we will also post online an interview that I will conduct with Dr. Su Wang, a physician from our church who specializes in infectious diseases. Su will share from her experience as a doctor, a mom, and a believer in Jesus on how we can all best cope with our on-going situation.
So, let’s pray for each other, for our nation, for the world, and for opportunities to have a positive impact on our community. Imagine all across the country millions of Christians checking on their neighbors this week! Sometimes just letting people know you are there and available to help should they need you goes a long way. Practicing social distancing doesn’t mean we have to be isolated or alone.
Let’s stay connected.
March 14, 2020
The President has declared tomorrow, March 15, a national day of prayer. As Christian citizens, we should take this responsibility seriously. Jeremiah 29:7 "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have sent you as exiles. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper"
March 13, 2020
In light of ongoing developments resulting from the COVID-19 virus, and on the advice of trusted medical experts on how we can best serve our community, we are canceling our Sunday worship services for this weekend (March 15).
Instead, we will provide an online worship that you can experience at home. Just follow these links and you will be able to participate in our online worship services.
Also, remember that if you are not physically coming to church you can continue to donate to the church’s mission on-line. Your on-going financial stewardship is very important. It’s easy and convenient.
The health and well-being of our church family and the wider community has to be our top priority. So, in an abundance of caution, we are taking the following steps.
· On Saturday the whole church facility is undergoing a deep cleaning and sanitizing process.
· The Youth Club retreat scheduled for this weekend has been canceled.
· The men’s breakfast scheduled for Saturday March 21st has been canceled. Hopefully, it will be rescheduled for later in the spring.
· The church office will be closed all next week and all church activities that use the building are canceled.
· We are encouraging all small groups to take a two week break from physically meeting together. Now would be a good time to experiment with virtual meeting
tools like Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Facebook Group, etc.
On the positive side, during this time of uncertainty…
· Our wonderful deacons are still on the job. If you are a church member, you have a deacon who is ready and willing to help you, pray with you, connect with you. Don’t be shy. Reach out to them if you need to.
· As a family or with your house mates do a prayer walk around your neighborhood.
· As a family (or couple of families), spend some time reading Scripture and in prayer and then go do a "random act of kindness".
· Continue to pray that God will use this crisis to open hearts to the Gospel.
As far as what will happen with church activities in the coming weeks, we will continue to monitor what is going on and will stay in touch with you via email and updated information on this website. We will also post updates to our Facebook and Instagram accounts.
If you have any crucial questions, needs or concerns please contact me personally on my cell phone at 908-337-0038.
As I said in a previous communication, let’s join in prayer that the coronavirus advances no further. As followers of Jesus let’s differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world in our response. Let us be the voice of peace in the midst of panic. Let us be the ones who serve one another and share our resources, and not horde or stigmatize others. Let us care about our neighbors in practical ways. Let’s check in on each other and offer your ‘extras’ – like your toilet paper and cleaning products – to those in need.
Simple acts of caring have great power to show the love of Christ.
We’re all in this together!!
Jeff Ebert – Senior Pastor
March 12, 2020
- Youth Club and Online are cancelled until further notice.
- Youth Club Retreat is cancelled.
- Tapestry is cancelled for the next two weeks.
- Friday Movie Night (March 13) is cancelled.
- SALT is cancelled until further notice.
- Wholeness is cancelled.
- The church will be closed on Saturday for a deep cleaning.
- Weekday Babysitting will not meet beginning Monday, March 16 until further notice.
- NP Preschool and Kindergarten will not meet beginning Monday, March 16 until further notice.