Week of August 30, 2020

Welcome to 
The Church of St. Paul and Incarnation!

An Episcopal / Anglican Parish
in the Heart of Jersey City

Resident Aliens, Living in a Shredded Civilization

Back in 2014, The New York Times published a story* about the Iraqi railway system, or what was left of it. Just a few decades ago, it was possible and common to travel from the central station in Baghdad to cities across much of the Middle East. When the article was written, some of the signs pointing to faraway locations were still hanging in the terminal, but there was just one line still operating, from the capital to the port city of Basra. Years of war, invasion, corruption, and neglect had destroyed most of the rail system and much else in this long-suffering and deeply disunited country,

Ahmed Ali, a railroad employee for over thirty years, remembered that he used to meet all sorts of people from Iraq and elsewhere on the trains, but no more. He said, “Now, everything is gone.”

This story is a reminder of how easily we can shred the fragile fabric of civilization. During much of the last century, I’m sure that people in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East saw their efficient and modern rail system as a powerful sign of progress. Wouldn’t it be natural to assume that the trains would run forever? Yet, that was not to be. And, if it’s even possible to weld the pieces back together, it will surely take a very long time. (While not as dire as the situation in Iraq, riders of NJ Transit trains have firsthand experience of just how quickly service can decline due to neglect and a lack of political will.) 

A few weeks ago, I began noticing that we were no longer receiving mail every day and, in fact, now mail seems to get delivered about twice a week. I’m sure you have heard the accusations that the Postmaster General made a deliberate political decision to slow delivery, dismantle sorting machines, and cart away mailboxes. He denies any such intent but has pledged to stop these changes until after the election. (However, he has refused to undo the changes already made.) No matter why this is happening, the apparent end of daily mail delivery (a service dating back to the days of Benjamin Franklin) and the images of chopped up sorting machines in dumpsters and mailboxes piled like junk, remind me of the Baghdad terminal, haunted by the memories of all those trains that no longer run.

How easily we can shred civilization.

And, unfortunately, it’s not just the US Postal Service or NJ Transit. These past few months of pandemic and economic collapse have revealed longstanding weaknesses and inequities in our country. We’ve been told for years that we have the best health care in the world, yet many of our hospitals turned out to be so poorly equipped, lacking even basic supplies. No matter how much we want to get back to “normal,” it’s dangerous for children and teachers to return to often overcrowded and antiquated schools. Many of the most essential workers – the people who kept us going during the worst days of fear, sickness, and death - are in fact some of the lowest paid and least respected. Even with all the cries of “Black Lives Matter” and so much media attention, even with all the videos made by frantic bystanders, unarmed Black people continue to get shot by the police. White members of “militias” can dress up in camouflage and arm themselves to the teeth and even shoot and kill people, as we saw just a few days ago, while at least some in authority look the other way or perhaps even approve. Gun violence, including right here in Jersey City, continues to trap young and old in their homes. Bizarre conspiracy theories run wild on the Internet and are starting to gain respectability from some of our leaders. Each week seems to bring another environmental catastrophe: record-breaking heat, wildfires, hurricanes, and more. And, the gaps in wealth and incarceration between white people and Black people, especially here in New Jersey, are astonishingly wide – so vast that it’s like we live in two different worlds.

How should we Christians respond to the shredding of our civilization?

Some might suggest circling the wagons, retreating behind the church walls (even virtual walls), remaining silent about the issues of the day, focused on looking after ourselves and our own as best we can, kind of how monks enclosed in monasteries preserved as much of Western Civilization as they could after the collapse of the Roman Empire, waiting and hoping for better days. I get the appeal of that approach. I’ve been a voracious consumer of news since I was a kid, but nowadays I mostly just flip through the news sections of the paper and spend most of my time with the crossword. Unfortunately, we may choose to tune out the news, but the reality is the shredding of civilization’s fabric means suffering for countless people, especially those already most vulnerable.

Christians are meant to be “resident aliens,” people who live in the world but are not of the world. Getting too cozy with worldly power, no matter who is in charge, is a sure sign that the church has lost its way. Instead, we should be engaged in the issues of the day but always with a critical eye, knowing that no politician or political platform will perfectly align with our faith. And, as seems to be happening more and more these days, when the world chooses hatred, cruelty, selfishness, and destruction, we must choose a different way, the way of Jesus: the way of love, compassion, generosity, and service.  This is not an easy way – it would be far easier to just go along with everybody else – but for us it is the only way.

Walking the way of Jesus looks a little different for each of us, but there are some actions that we all can and should do, including working together with other Christians and people of other faiths or no particular faith, to not only sew our civilization back together, but weave the pieces into a fabric even stronger and more beautiful than what was before. That’s what New Jersey Together will be up to on Monday night at 7:30, when something like 2,000 people from across the state will gather on Zoom to press our leaders to stop shredding and to start sewing. I hope that all of us resident aliens – all of us who try our best to walk the way of Jesus - will attend: https://www.njtogether.org/action2020

Prayers and Thanksgivings:

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

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

Chester Belenke, brother of Paul Belenke

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

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


From the Diocese:

Read The Voice Online for all the latest news, including an inspiring message from Bishop Hughes:

Mark your calendars! Bishop Hughes will make her official visit (via Zoom) with us on Sunday, September 27 during the 10:00am Service and “Coffee Hour.” More information to come!

New Jersey Together Statewide Action, THIS Monday (8/31)!

Recently, over 400 people from across New Jersey met on Zoom to ratify an agenda for much larger action THIS Monday (August 31), from 7:30pm-9:00pm. We are hoping for a large turnout from St. Paul and Incarnation as we join with thousands of other people from over 140 congregations and non-profits, pressing for concrete actions and commitments from decision makers, including Governor Murphy. The focus will be on a set of specific issues related to racial equity, criminal justice, and the current pandemic.

Click here for more information and to register: https://www.njtogether.org/action2020

North Porch at Triangle Park Community Center

As many of you know, North Porch offers diapers, formula, and other assistance to families with infants and young children. Since the need continues to grow, North Porch is asking for financial donations through a GoFundMe campaign. Please consider supporting this beautiful ministry:


DJ’s Free Market

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

The Arts at St. Paul & Incarnation:

The virtual opening of ASPI’s new show “UpRooted” was a big success! Many thanks to all the members of the Arts Council, especially Amy Neufeld and Sarah Ibrahim. If you missed the opening, you can visit the virtual gallery to see the beautiful art:

And, mark your calendars for our annual Choral Festival of Peace on Sunday, September 13, at 4:00pm. This year’s festival will be live-streamed on our church’s Facebook 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: