Four GNJ districts celebrated Christmas together in December, sharing a spirit of joy and peace, with a good measure of feasting and frivolity, during this happy and holy season. Those who came visibly enjoyed their holiday fellowship once again, with pandemic gathering restrictions a thing of Christmases past.
The Meadowlands District launched the Advent celebration on Saturday, December 2, at Arcola Korean United Methodist Church in Paramus, welcomed by the Rev. William Williams III, district superintendent. After brief worship and Williams’ homily, district clergy and church lay leaders, along with their families, friends and Superintendency Committee members, all got the party started.
Attendees dined on a sumptuous midday feast prepared Arcola Korean United Women of Faith members, while enjoying sweetly melodious Christmas tunes played by guest harpist the Rev. Frederick Boyle. Lively games ensued, prompting interaction among guests—especially in the Human Wrapping Challenge to see which groups could most creatively cover volunteers in Christmas wrapping paper. Attendees also signed and wrote greetings on 120 Christmas cards for the Angel Card Project, “sending joy to those who may be experiencing heartache this season.”
The Raritan Shore District party followed on Sunday, December 3, at Milltown United Methodist Church near East Brunswick. Dozens of clergy came with families and friends to enjoy an evening of music and mirth, a meal and messages of encouragement and enlightenment briefly shared by fellow pastors.
The Rev. Sang Won Doh, superintendent, welcomed the festive crowd, which included a trio of Christmas song leaders and several local seminary students. Both district parties also provided illustrated photo booth backdrops to enhance family and group photo- taking.
The Glenn Conaway, superintendent of the Delaware Bay District, welcomed clergy to a Christmas gathering under the stars at the Edelman Planetarium on Rowan University’s campus in Glassboro. Gazing up at the indoor, winter solstice, starlit sky, they learned from live narration about planets, constellations and other celestial wonders. And then they viewed the planetarium’s special, recorded program “Season of Light.”
The program explored our fascination with astronomical meanings, seasonal traditions and endearing religious and holiday customs around the world, including the celebration of Christ’s birth and the star that guided the Magi to witness the Nativity.
“Some 70 clergy and family members gathered for a fun star-gazing night,” Conaway recalled. “It was a fun evening just to relax, forget about all our to-do lists, enjoy our fellowship, and have someone share with us the importance of searching for Jesus in our everyday life.”
Skylands District clergy and guests enjoyed their Christmas celebration December 8 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown.
“We had around 70-75 people between pastors and their families.,” said the Rev. Eunice Vega-Perez, superintendent. “After children had dinner with their parents, they had a special time with crafts, songs and games, while the adults enjoyed singalongs and games themselves. We are so thankful for the hospitality of the Trinity church.”
“Pastors and families enjoyed the joyous celebration,” said the Rev. Gina Yeske, Metro-Highlands Region Director of Resourcing. “The event offered a rare chance for these spiritual leaders to relax and enjoy each other’s company, strengthening bonds and building a supportive network beyond their professional roles.”
It has been suggested that the other two GNJ districts—Central and Cape Atlantic—may plan gatherings in January, during the season of Epiphany, to continue the celebration and proclamation of Christ as God’s joyful gift to the world.