Week of September 13, 2020

Welcome to 
The Church of St. Paul and Incarnation!

An Episcopal / Anglican Parish
in the Heart of Jersey City

“Holy Ground”

As the summer draws to a close, I find myself thinking back to all that we have missed during these long months of the pandemic. It has been such a strange, challenging, and frightening time. We have endured the sadness of being apart and somehow survived the anguish of losing loved ones without the chance to say goodbye in our usual way. Some of us have lost jobs and some are on the edge of eviction. At the same time, we have remained close to one another through frequent and fervent prayer, united in heart and faith.

I have missed gathering with you in our beautiful sacred space, praying and singing together, exchanging the peace, sharing Communion, enjoying coffee hour, and all of the many other activities that we took for granted. Out of all our special events, the Good Friday Stations of the Cross Procession has been the hardest to give up. I believe it’s our most important event of the year, drawing together the suffering of Jesus long ago and the suffering that occurs daily on the streets of Jersey City. If you have walked with us, you know that at each station we pray, we hammer a nail into a battered wooden cross, and, in one last gesture, we sprinkle Holy Water, symbolizing that God has restored holiness to the ground that had been profaned by our hatred and violence.

Holy ground.

Throughout history, people have sensed that certain locations are particularly holy – special places like islands, rivers, or mountains – places where God seems to be so present that we can almost step through the usual boundary between now and eternity. For example, two Sundays ago we heard the story of God appearing to Moses on Horeb, “the mountain of God.” It’s there on that holy ground that God reveals God’s name and announces that the cries of the longsuffering people have been heard, and liberation is about to begin.  

And then there are places constructed by human hands that have been made holy by what has happened there. After twenty years of deep connection, our old wood-frame Victorian church is my holy ground. When I’m in there, surrounded by walls washed by over 150 years of prayers, I feel close to the many who have gone before us. It’s there that I feel closest to God.

Today, on the nineteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, our minds turn to the holy ground of Lower Manhattan. In just a few horrific minutes, what had been a marvel of human ingenuity and engineering, a transportation hub, and a place of business, was transformed into an inferno of terror and heroism. Today it is holy ground where we remember the thousands of people whose lives were cut short by hatred and violence, and where we especially honor the valiant firefighters and police officers who raced into danger and sacrificed so much. For those of us who witnessed this catastrophe, the shock and pain will linger forever. Frankly, I still avoid the World Trade Center. And, even after all these years, on the rare occasions when I take the PATH train over there, I’m still momentarily surprised that the old station with its brown and gold earth tones is gone, replaced by something very different, sleek and white. I’m not sure if this was the architect’s intention, but whenever I walk through the cavernous Oculus with its marble floors and whitewashed walls, it feels like I’m in a mausoleum, walking through holy ground.

Over the past two decades, we have shed precious blood in unending wars and have had livelihoods and hopes upended by economic downturns. We have watched great American cities swamped by “once in a century” storms and, as we saw just a few months ago in Australia and see now in our own West Coast, many millions of acres of land containing innumerable trees, animals, and homes have been lost to wildfires. And, here in Jersey City, and all across our heavily armed country, there is the steady bloodletting of gun violence. Just the other day, a JCPD officer shot a 21-year-old young man. As usual in cases like this, the truth is in dispute. The police say he was pointing a gun at the officer. Community members have doubts and demand proof. This incident took place at the Salem-Lafayette housing complex – a place that our police chief described as “notorious” – a place where several of our parishioners live – and a place where we stop every year on Good Friday, remembering yet another act of violence, mourning yet another victim.

It seems to me that, as fire and rising tides, and poverty, racism, and violence continue to make more and more places nearly unlivable, as many of us refuse to take the steps necessary to stop the spread of Covid, and as we allow partisan politics to tear us apart, we desperately need to widen our vision of holy ground. Yes, we may sense that certain locations are particularly holy, either because of natural beauty or the lasting memory of prayer, suffering, and sacrifice. But, the truth is, the whole earth is holy.  As the psalmist declares:

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world and all who dwell therein.
(Psalm 24:1)

So, California’s magnificent redwood forests and the gleaming white PATH station and, yes, the glass-strewn streets around Salem-Lafayette are all holy ground. If the whole earth belongs to God, then it is all holy. In fact, there are no “bad neighborhoods,” no matter how “notorious” they may be. When we sprinkle Holy Water on places of violence on Good Friday, we’re just washing away a temporary stain on God’s good earth, restoring the holiness that sin had hidden from our eyes.

I don’t need to tell you that we are in big trouble. And I wish I could say that it looks like things will get better soon. But, if we are going to get out of this mess, if we are going to find our way to living the way God has always intended, then we must ask God to give us eyes to see the world as it was always meant to be, as it really is – to see the world and all who dwell therein, as holy and worthy of deep love and great care.

Prayers and Thanksgivings:

Please pray for:

All those on our parish prayer list, especially Jean, Andy, Kit, Julio, and Joe.

Students and teachers, as they begin a new school year under very difficult circumstances.

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

Francis Villa, shot in her apartment on Forest St.
Hart Stringfellow, father of Tina Stringfellow

All of those who were killed in the attacks on September 11, 2001

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 a message from Bishop Hughes on praying for our country:


Lay Conversation with the Bishop

Bishop Hughes is eager to once again spend time in conversation with the 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.

On Thursday, September 17 at 6:00 pm we will hold the monthly Lay Conversation with Bishop Hughes. Scheduled for 90 minutes, this Zoom conversation is open to all members of the diocese.

instructions will be sent out on Monday, September 14.

The Bishop’s Visit

Bishop Hughes will make her official visit (via Zoom) with us on Sunday, September 27 during the 10:00am Service and “Coffee Hour.” Stay tuned for more information about this joyful event!

New Jersey Together

After NJT’s statewide event two weeks ago, learn more about next steps here: https://www.njtogether.org/fall2020

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 Choral Festival of Peace

Join us at Facebook.com/StPaulsJC for the Sixth Annual Choral Festival of Peace on Sunday, September 13, at 4:00pm.

This year’s festival will feature music by composers:

Shelton Becton
Colin Britt
M. Roger Holland
W. Mark Howell
Tash Neal

And, performances by members of:

The Mark Howell Singers, Harlem
St Peter’s Prep “VOX”
New Jersey City University Music Department
Old Bergen Church, Jersey City
St. Paul & Incarnation Choirs
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Englewood


Visit our virtual gallery to see our latest exhibit:

Journal Square Community Association

The JSQCA September meeting will be this Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 am to 12 noon. It can be viewed on here : https://www.facebook.com/jsqca
The speakers will be:
Franklin Walker, Superintendent of Schools;
Deja Anderson, aide to Mayor Fulop, on the Census;
Robinson Holloway of the Jersey City Arts Council on the arts funding referendum;
Michael Harper, Hudson County Board of Elections Clerk, on voting procedures.

Also, next Monday, September 14th, 7-8:30pm, the History Committee of the Journal Square Community Association will host a virtual forum to consider the question: Should the statue of Christopher Columbus be removed from Journal Square? Those wishing to participate must register by sending an email to thenewjsqca@gmail.com with the word “statue” in the subject line by midnight September 11th. Registered participants will receive an email with the Zoom meeting information by the morning of the 14th. James Dievler, chairman of the JSQCA History Committee, will be the moderator.

NJ Voter Registration

Register to vote (or confirm your registration) here: https://nj.gov/state/elections

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: