A Greeting From Pastor Sara Jane Munshower

Dear People of St. James, Limerick, PA!

One of my favorite songs is “’Tis a Gift to be Simple.” Being invited to be your supply pastor while Pastor Rachael is on maternity leave feels like one of those “turning, turning ‘til we come ‘round right” experiences that appear along the way when we are open to them. I can think of no better time to “supply” than this one… watching and waiting with a young pastor for the new life that she carries. I count it as a privilege to be with a congregation who is looking forward, not only with their pastor, but within themselves, to ways of being church in the 21st Century.

It was good to be with you in worship on February 10th and I am eager to begin with you on March 17th. As some of you know, I am a graduate of Spring Ford (’66), Kutztown State (’70), and Andover Newtown Theological School (1999). My ministry path has been a long one…from active lay person in First Church of Christ, Congregational (Glastonbury, CT), to a few courses at Hartford Seminary, to a CE position in a mid-sized congregation, to seminary and a 25-hour per week position as Parish Visitor in our home church (very large). I was among the generation of students who commuted for long years while juggling family and working. Now, I am glad to say, we are seeing more young people in our theological schools.

I grew up in Oaks and my husband in Phoenixville. We moved to CT in 1973 and worked for The Travelers (Bruce still does). We have a son and a daughter who live in Baltimore and Lake George, NY, respectively. My first church was in Tolland, CT where I served as an associate for three years. Since then, I have been kept busy as an intentional interim/transitional pastor, often as an associate, but also as the pastor with St. Paul’s, Kutztown in 2003-2004. Currently, I enjoy supplying for sabbatical and medical leaves. I also have a growing practice as a spiritual companion/director. My preparation for that was completed in a program with Oasis Ministries which is based in Camp Hill (see http://www.oasismin.org). I also serve on their Board of Directors and will be somewhat occupied with them during the two months I am with you.

While in PA, I will be staying with a pastor-friend in Orwigsburg. Occasionally I will stay with family or friends closer to Limerick. My cell phone will be on to take emergency calls. I hope to be keeping a few “office hours” on most, but not all, Thursdays. Please feel free to email me at revsaja@att.net to introduce yourselves, ask questions, and/or to share your thoughts and prayers. I pray we will be blessings to each other in our brief time together through Holy week and the Easter season!

With faith, hope, and love,
Sara Jane Munshower

Quiet & A World That Can’t Stop Talking

Can the Church stand out in the time to come as a place that empowers us to say “no” in a world that demands “yes” all the time? For about a year now, a noteworthy book has been on my mind as it generated a fair amount of buzz on the radio & internet. The book’s title is Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking (it’s due out in paperback this week). You might be surprised to learn that, along with the majority of pastors, I am an introvert. We learn to function as extroverts when needed (and genuinely enjoy being around people), but much of our time is spent alone and in silence: studying, writing articles and sermons, preparing materials for worship, retreats, and committee meetings; or in one-on-one counseling settings. Author Susan Cain presents research showing that while our culture tends to emphasize the importance and success of “extrovert” characteristics, many of the world’s greatest innovators and leaders have been true introverts. But since we have learned to reward outgoing personalities (and negatively label quieter people as shy or withdrawn), Cain argues that we’ve forgotten the equal importance of silence and contemplation.

Even without Cain’s observations, we can see all around us the pressure to get involved in everything: a variety of sports, school activities, clubs, community organizations, classes, social groups, you name it. All of this is on top of a culture of workaholism, in which many Americans don’t even use their annual vacation time. We measure the rewards in job success and financial security… but what about the losses to health? To family? To faith? The Power of Introverts can be the power to say “no,” reserving the time needed for the care of quiet space in our lives. As we approach the season of Lent, I hope you will consider our opportunities for prayer (p. 6), Lenten workshops (p. 2), and the PSEC Lenten Awakenings (p. 6) as offerings that help you say no to more busy-ness and yes to some time for quiet, prayer, and self-care. Perhaps it will be the first step for us, as individuals and as a church community, to create more space for spiritual growth.
-Pastor Rachael

What To Expect When A Pastor Is Expecting

Regular readers of this newsletter will mostly be aware by now that Adam and I are expecting our second baby in March 2013. The St. James Pastoral Relations Committee and Consistory have already begun to prepare for this event. We want to be sure everyone is informed about the expectations, as this will be St. James UCC’s first experience of having a pastor take maternity leave! If you do have any questions, best place to start is the Pastoral Relations Committee, whose membership for 2013 will include Charlotte Fiedler, Jack Morris, Tony Nuccitelli, Ken Raspen, and Joy Rubeo.

At this time, we have started to address some of the logistical details. We expect a guest pastor to begin on 3/24, Palm Sunday (the week of the date), so that our regular Holy Week & Easter services and activities will run smoothly. We are planning for a maternity leave of 8 weeks total, but we are prepared to be flexible depending on potential health concerns as well as activities in the life of the congregation. Our intention is to covenant with one “substitute” pastor for the entire leave, who will lead worship every Sunday and will be available for pastoral care in case of any major crisis. Lay leaders of our congregation will assist in providing additional spiritual care.

On a more personal note, I would like to share that, while I am looking forward to the new baby, I am not a person who particularly enjoys being pregnant! I prefer to keep busy, with the same schedule and energy as when I am not pregnant. All tests indicate that the baby and I are very healthy. We will not find out the baby’s gender ahead of time, and the names we have chosen will be a surprise as well. No preference for a girl or a boy – any healthy baby will do! Otherwise, we are simply passing the weeks, very much looking forward to meeting our new infant and especially to bringing him or her to church to meet his or her church family.
-Pastor Rachael