SOUTH RIVER – After the recent high school shooting in Parkland, Florida as well as the countless other school shootings that have taken place, Conklin UMC members in South River were reminded of the firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical technicians, teachers and school staff who put their lives on the line each day to keep children and their communities safe. In particular, Conklin UMC lay members Linda Razzano, a retired teacher, and Jennifer Herrick, a teacher, noticed heightened emotions and fear in local schools and community after the Parkland shooting. They wanted to know how the church could offer hope. The two women brainstormed and soon decided to spearhead a “Blessing of the Badges” event as a way to help and to heal their church members and community members.
“This is the first time we have had such an event,” said Rev. James Lee, Lead Pastor of Conklin UMC and GNJ Manager of Visual Arts. “The blessing of the badges took place at our 10 a.m. Sunday service on March 11 with about 50 people in attendance. Our mayor, John Krenzel, was there along with South River police officers, firefighters, school employees and teachers. Krenzel began with an opening remark to celebrate the hard work and dedication of the police officers, firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical technicians and school employees of South River.”
Lee continued that during the service he preached on the passage from Mark 14 “where a woman poured ointment of nard on Jesus’ head and how the oil is to remind us today that we are set apart for greatness.”
“I blessed every officer, firefighter, and school employee in attendance at the service with the same ointment of nard,” Lee said. “This blessing was inspired by Dobbins UMC in Delanco’s ‘Blessing of the Badges’ event held in 2017. Our blessing was a way for Conklin UMC to express gratitude for the endless dedication of these people. Fire trucks were parked outside of the church to announce to the town that something special was happening at our church. After the service, all were invited to a light reception with coffee and bagels.”
Lee said that the importance of the “Blessing of the Badges” event was immeasurable as one of his church members later stated, “I was reminded that the church isn’t isolated from the town, but a pivotal part of the community.”
Conklin UMC is located at 82 Main Street in South River, NJ. For more information, click here.