First Presbyterian Church of MetuchenClick here for more information


Pastor's Peace December 2022

by Rev. Dr. Fred G. Garry on December 01, 2022

A good friend of mine was an Executive Director of a YMCA. Peter oversaw five branches, a day care, afterschool care, and so many programs I just stopped listening when he would name them all. I was not only his friend, but also a Board Chair and thus saw the working of the YMCA from the inside - from policy and finance, from the membership side and the staff side. One thing that always stuck from this time and friendship was how the month of January changed for me. In the Y, January is not only the beginning of the new year, it is free money.
“I love January,” Peter would always say. People sign up for the year; they become Y-members in January as part of the “new me” or a New Year’s resolution. By people, I mean a lot of people. The free money is that none of these people last the year. In fact, most don’t make it past January, some only come once. No matter how many times you come, the monthly dues drawn directly from your account are the same. The value is up to you; the income, on the other hand, is all done. Free money.
To be fair, Peter and the Y tried their best to woo the well-intended. I once came to the Y day after day, week after week for about three months because if I did, I got a free t-shirt. I will do just about anything for a free t-shirt. Yet, once I got the shirt . . . Yup. Stopped coming. Still I paid my monthly dues, but since there was no hat or mug to be given out next, I gave up.
My son, who worked for the Y for quite some time, would see me walk in the door and announce to the staff, “there must be a board meeting. My father is in the house!” And it is true I spent much more time sitting in a chair at the Y than I did on a treadmill. You would think that after giving up so much of time and energy to help the Y, I would not be one of the “free money” members. But I was. And for all intents and purposes, I still struggle with this one.
The struggle is to change my habits, my day, my lifestyle from the slovenly, sloth of reading books in the morning to the engaged, enlivened spirit refreshed by a morning jog. If it were up to me, I choose poetry over exercise. I know I can do both; I know it is not an either/or, but I can only keep to the path of physical health for so long. Good habits are hard to keep, just as bad habits are hard to break.
Right now our congregation is, unfortunately, reflecting my exercise habits more and more. If given the choice to stay at home on Sundays and watch the service live or later in the week, there are a number of people choosing the virtual path. And virtual is good and comfortable and enjoyable. I love reading a book in the morning much more than I will ever love jogging in the cold and the rain. But the truth is this: virtual worship is much like virtual exercise, there is something missing.
The missing part is fellowship and song and the passing of the peace and welcoming of strangers. Consider this: you might not need to be welcomed on Sunday morning, but the new person coming to church who finds a pew in front of you does; you may find worship at your kitchen table with coffee and the Ipad in PJs to be a blessing, but the stranger, the new family, the person who is hurting cannot share in your blessing. And we need to share.
So here it is: set a goal, make a plan, commit to returning at least twice a month. Every Sunday may not have been your habit in the past, so don’t sabotage yourself with such a lofty goal. But make a goal of increasing your in-person attendance. You may not feel like you need it right now. I get it. But you are needed. I hope you get that.

Previous Page