Week of June 21, 2020

Welcome to 
The Church of St. Paul and Incarnation!

An Episcopal / Anglican Parish
in the Heart of Jersey City

“Always On Duty”

Maybe it’s because of graduation season or because I want to escape the present by retreating into the past, but lately I have been thinking a lot about my days as a teacher.

A couple of weeks ago I shared a memory from when I taught at St. Vincent Academy in Newark. I was young when I taught there but it was not my first teaching position. A couple of years earlier, when I had graduated from college I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, so I decided I would teach for a little while until I figured things out. I don’t know why I thought I could teach, except that I had spent most of life sitting in classrooms, taught by teachers I judged to be effective, or not so much. Maybe because I really didn’t know what else to do, I managed to convince myself that I knew how to do this!

The only problem was I couldn’t convince anyone else and so by the end of the summer I was desperate. Fortunately, someone else was maybe almost as desperate. With the school year just about to start, the principal of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Bayonne had a strong incentive to fill one last teaching position and I can only assume that during my interview she decided that I looked and sounded presentable enough to solve her problem. She hired me on the spot and handed me the teacher’s editions of the textbooks I would be using. And so, I began my adult life teaching Math (the less said about this, the better) and Social Studies to seventh and eighth graders.

Much stricter and more old-fashioned than what I had experienced in my own Catholic grammar school, Mt. Carmel was actually an excellent place to begin to learn how to teach. Freed from worrying too much about maintaining discipline, I could focus on teaching my lessons and gaining confidence as an educator, and as someone who could make his own way in the world. Although the job paid peanuts, at the start of my second year I took a big step into adulthood by moving out of my family’s house and into a studio apartment in Bayonne, just a couple of blocks from the school.

Back then anyway, living in Bayonne felt like living in a small town. Sure enough, I quickly discovered that I would run into many of my students and their parents all the time. Walking along Broadway. Riding the bus. Eating in a restaurant. And, yes, shopping in Shop Rite.  No surprise, these encounters were usually at least somewhat awkward. Frankly, there were times I just wanted to be left alone. And, sometimes my students and their parents were a little disoriented to bump into me outside of my classroom habitat, dressed more casually than my teacher “uniform” of jacket and tie. And, then there was my favorite moment: if we ran into each other in the supermarket, students and parents could never resist looking down to check out the apparently interesting items in my shopping cart! What does Mr. Murphy eat? Well, now we know!

Although, of course, everyone is entitled to a private life and times of rest, I came to understand that, whether I liked it or not, I was a teacher not only when I was in school but whenever and wherever I went out in the community. In a sense, I was always “on duty.” The same is even truer now for my life as a priest. And, I would argue, the same is true for all of us who seek to follow Jesus. We can’t “compartmentalize” our faith, trying to pack it into the time we spend in church (or, these days, when we join a service on Facebook or over the phone). We are Christians when we walk down the street, ride the bus, eat in a restaurant, and, yes, even when we make our way up and down supermarket aisles.

No question, the past few months have been very difficult – and, unfortunately, we are not yet out of the woods. But, since God never misses an opportunity to create and nurture new life, there have been abundant blessings, too. More of us have been praying and worshiping. More of us have been reaching out to each other, especially checking on those who are ill or lonely. And, I believe that the forced exile from our beautiful church building can remind us that as Christians we are always “on duty.” We cannot – must not – compartmentalize our faith.

I got to thinking about all of this because the leaders of Jersey City Together have begun reading and reflecting on The Cross and the Lynching Tree by the great theologian, The Rev. Dr. James Cone. In this book, Dr. Cone draws what should have been an obvious parallel between the brutal execution of Jesus long ago and the bloody lynching of black people in our country. He writes:

“The lynching tree – so strikingly similar to the cross on Golgotha – should have a prominent place in American images of death. But it does not. In fact, the lynching tree has no place in American theological reflections about Jesus’ cross or in the proclamation of Christian churches about his Passion.”

It is sobering indeed to remember that most, if not all, of the people responsible for lynching, and those bystanders who were happy to watch and cheer, were self-described Christians. How is it possible to follow Jesus of Nazareth and his call to love our neighbors – to love our enemies, even – and then to hate and terrorize and kill people? It seems to me that this diabolical disconnect only becomes possible when we try to compartmentalize our faith, when there are certain times that we think we can go “off duty.”

Those white Christians should have been able to see and hear the face and voice of the Crucified Christ in the black people they hated and terrorized and killed - just as we should see and hear Jesus each Good Friday when we make our way to places in our city stained by violence - just as we should see and hear Jesus in that horrible moment when George Floyd gasps, “I can’t breathe…”

If we white people try to console ourselves by saying that we would certainly never do anything so cruel and terrible, it’s important to remember that the people gathered at the foot of the lynching trees would have surely seen themselves – and would have been judged by their white neighbors - as good, upstanding people. And, while what we do or don’t do in the world is certainly important, we would be wise to remember that Jesus was particularly concerned about what’s going on in our hearts.

And, you know, whenever I’m tempted to think that I don’t benefit so much from my own whiteness, I’m going to think back to that long-ago job interview and try to remember that a black person with the same lack of qualifications (or, probably, even with more experience) would almost certainly never have been considered for that teaching position – the opportunity that set in motion the rest of my life. Talk about white privilege!

So, this time of forced exile from our church building is a blessed opportunity to ask God to heal our hearts – to help us to see Jesus in the suffering people all around us, especially our black sisters and brothers who still, even after everything, still have to insist that their lives matter.  This difficult time is a holy opportunity to strive to be a Christian wherever we go - yes, even the supermarket. This would be an especially good time to finally knock down our “compartments” and remain on duty, in faithful service to the Prince of Peace.


P.S. You are invited to an interdenominational panel discussion about racism, white privilege and power on Monday, June 29th, at 7:00pm. Rev. Laurie and I will join with The Rev. Dr. Stanley Hearst II of Mt. Pisgah AME Church and The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Perry, Sr. of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church for what I’m sure will be a thoughtful discussion, moderated by The Rev. Shyrone Richardson of the World Outreach Christian Center. More details are below.


This Father’s Day weekend we give thanks for our fathers and all of those who have offered us fatherly love.

Please pray for all those on our parish prayer list, especially Jean, Andy, Angelo, and Richard.

Please also remember in your prayers those who have died, and those who grieve their loss:

Maxine Hodge, the sister of Eric Petersen

Donald James, the uncle of Cassandra James

Sarah Epps, the great-aunt of Elizabeth Kennedy, Cristal Stephens, Javion Kennedy, Denzel Jeter and Cedric Williams.

All of those who have died as a result of Covid -19.

When We See Us:
An Interdenominational Panel Discussion About Racism, White Privilege and Power
All Are Welcome with a Particular Request for
Attendance by White Christians
Monday, June 29, 7pm
Virtual Meeting Link TBA
African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites, are twice as likely to live in poverty and 2.5 more likely to be killed by police* While these statistics represent violence done to black people, the structural racism that created this violence is the result of the white privilege. 

White privilege divides one neighborhood from another, values the education of white children more than black children and determines the prospective of the history they learn.  There is no way for white privilege to be dismantled without white people taking responsibility for learning about it and actively fighting against it. 

Please come for an honest, open conversation about white privilege with other Christians who understand fighting systemic racism to be central to their call as disciples of Jesus Christ

The Rev. Dr. Stanley Hearst II of Mt. Pisgah A.M.E Church
The Rev. Tom Murphy of The Church of St. Paul & Incarnation
The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Perry Sr. of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church
The Rev. Laurie Jean Wurm of Grace Church Van Vorst.

Moderator: The Rev. Shyrone Richardson of World Outreach Christian Church.

All participants are strongly encouraged to prepare for the discussion by watching the Netflix Series “When They See Us” in advance of the discussion.

*Statistics drawn from the NAACP,  the U.S.Census Bureau and Statista

Supporting Our Church:

We are aware that, unfortunately, some parishioners have been laid off or furloughed and others are in danger of losing their jobs. Please know that you are in our prayers and we are here to help any way we can. In these extremely challenging economic times, we are especially grateful to those of you who have been able to keep up with your pledges. You can still mail checks to the church or you can use online giving. Visit stpaulsjc.org and click on "Online Giving." We also have a Venmo account. Call the office or email me for more information.

Worship Schedule:

Monday through Friday: "Church By Phone"

Morning Prayer, 7:30
Noonday Prayer, 12:00
Evening Prayer, 5:30

Call: 201-433-4922 for more information.

Sunday at 10:00am

Join us on Facebook Live for a celebration of Holy Eucharist

Congratulations to Our Graduates!

Lena Jacobs has graduated from kindergarten at Hudson Arts and Science Charter School and will enter First Grade.

Glenda Galloway has graduated from MS4 and will be attending High Tech High School.

Isaiah Patterson has graduated from Academy 1 and will be attending Hudson Catholic.

Brandon McKinney has graduated from the Allison L. Steele Advanced Learning Center.

Giovanni Mulero has graduated from Lincoln High School and has enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

Karen Kwaasi has graduated from Kean University with a BA in Public Relations (with a Minor in Marketing) and plans to start her own media company.

We are so very proud of you all!

From the Diocese:

Read The Voice Online for a video message from Bishop Hughes and information about upcoming events for adults and youth:

Prayers and Reflections on Pandemic, Racism, and Protest
Online Gatherings for high school and college students:

Tuesday, June 23, 6:30pm: High School Students
Thursday, June 25, 6:30pm: College Students

Zoom Information will be sent via email.

Checking In: A Lay Conversation with the Bishop:

Tuesday, June 30, 6:00pm

Bishop Hughes is eager to once again spend time in conversation with members of the diocese, to reflect and consider what we, our churches, and our communities have learned and experienced as we have adjusted to the changes this time has demanded of us.

This second monthly Zoom conversation is open to all members of the diocese. Log-in instructions will be sent out via email.

DJ’s Free Market

Subscribe to the DJ’s Newsletter to stay informed about this exciting new ministry led by Deacon Jill:


Attention Parents!

The Jersey City Together Education Team has created a new survey that aims to capture feedback about what learning has been like for the past three months during the COVID-19 pandemic. This survey is intended for anyone who has been helping a child with COVID-19 remote learning. Alternatively, If you know someone who may be helping a child with COVID-19 remote learning in Jersey City, please SHARE this survey!

The survey is here: https://forms.gle/x1c984ZJicAH2gYU7 and it is in both English and Spanish. The purpose of the survey is to assist Jersey City Together's listening campaign centered around the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of it as it relates to education including remote learning, changes in your child’s temperament, academic flow, etc. Our hope with listening is to identify common issues and concerns that parents and caregivers may be experiencing, which can then inform our advocacy going forward.

This survey is confidential and your identity will not be shared with your child’s principal or the district. The survey was created by parents and advocates who have professional experience in public education, social work, youth organization and programming, and survey/data analysis.

If you'd like to be in the loop on updates related to this survey going forward, you can subscribe to Jersey City Together's education advocacy email list (you can do that on the Education team page here ... there is a sign-up form at the bottom of that page).

Help for Renters and Homeowners:

There is help available for renters and homeowners suffering because of the pandemic. One is the website for the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency: www.njhousing.gov. You can also call 1-800-NJ-HOUSE (1-800-654-6873).

Helpful Resources:

State of New Jersey Covid-19 Information Hub:

The Diocese of Newark posts Covid-19 resources here:

You can subscribe to diocesan newsletters here:

The Episcopal Church has collected Covid-19 resources here:

"Habits of Grace," weekly reflections from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry:

The Church of England has some wonderful prayers and other materials here:

Fr. Tom's sermons can be found here: