Week of September 6, 2020

Welcome to 
The Church of St. Paul and Incarnation!

An Episcopal / Anglican Parish
in the Heart of Jersey City

“It Should Sound Like You’re Praying”

It’s been more than twenty years since Sue and I first walked through the red doors of St. Paul’s. That first Sunday, we were moved and impressed by so much: the beauty of the church, the warmth of the welcome, the authenticity of Fr. Hamilton’s preaching, the exuberant passing of the peace, and also the excellence of the music. Nothing in our background prepared us for the central role of music in the life of this church. Previously, I hadn’t given much thought to church music, hearing it as a kind of underscore meant to cover otherwise quiet parts of the service. That was definitely not the case at St. Paul’s! While the choir was quite good, I was even more impressed to see and hear that most people in the pews sang the hymns, maybe not always on key, but with reverence and joy. And, maybe most surprising of all, everyone seemed perfectly happy to sing every verse, no matter how long it took!

Over my years as a St. Paul’s parishioner, I came to know and love many of the hymns in The Hymnal 1982 and Lift Every Voice and Sing, gradually discovering church music’s power. However, not being much of a singer, I was content to offer just a quiet voice, easily drowned out (I hoped) by the rest of the congregation. That was more than enough for me.

When I was discerning a call to ordained ministry, I don’t think I gave much thought to my vocation’s musical aspects. But, when I arrived at General Seminary, I discovered that many of my classmates had sung in choirs for years, and some even had professional musical training. It quickly became clear that, musically, at least, I was way out of my depth. Occasionally at chapel services, what I had thought was my quiet singing voice would draw sideways glances from classmates. That was bad enough. Worse was the fact each of us seminarians had to audition with David Hurd, the brilliant, but (to me, anyway) pretty intimidating professor of church music (and organist, choir director, and composer). I remember waiting outside the classroom where the auditions were happening, listening as my classmates sang for him one by one. To my ears, they all sounded great, pushing my already high anxiety through the roof. By the time it was my turn, I felt like I was going to pass out. Professor Hurd asked me for my favorite hymn. In my moment of panic, I couldn’t think of even one hymn. As I looked at him blankly, he said, “If you don’t pick something, you’ll sing ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’.” I said that was fine, found the page in the hymnal, and we began.

I don’t think I made it through “glory to the newborn king” before Professor Hurd stopped playing, waved his hands in the air, and said, “I think we have a problem.” My stomach dropped. It felt like a waking nightmare. I was ready to be sent packing, but, instead, he patiently played notes, asking me to listen and try to match pitch. After I finally settled down, I was able to do that, and the professor concluded that I was not tone-deaf, just a really bad singer!

Over the next few months, Professor Hurd generously worked with me one-on-one, focusing on chanting, which I would need to learn for the final exam. At home, I spent hours chanting along with a recording of the Thanksgiving Over Water from the Baptism service. In the end, I did OK, though, despite David Hurd’s best efforts, I could never quite manage to chant the word “water” without a Jersey accent.

Anyway, I felt a great sense of accomplishment – and a great relief to be done. And, I remember thinking that I probably would never serve in a church where I would be required to chant.

Wrong. I began my ordained ministry as a deacon at Grace Church in Madison. I had never expected to serve in a large suburban church like Grace, a place with many vibrant ministries, most especially an extraordinary music program led by the brilliant Anne Matlack. The adults, teenagers, and children in the choir were amazingly talented, singing lots of different music so very well. In my first few months, I was dazzled by it all, but gnawing at the back of my mind was the knowledge that once I was ordained a priest, I would stand at the altar in front of the choir (not to mention the congregation) and have to chant the Sursum Corda and the Preface.

When that moment arrived, just as I was about to begin, I looked out at the faces of the choir, little kids to senior citizens, most of them watching me with what seemed like a mix of curiosity and encouragement. Then, I stretched out my arms, took a deep breath, glanced down at the altar book, and began to chant, The Lord be with you…

Later, Anne Matlack helped me finally lose my nervousness about chanting. More than that, she reminded me of what all church music is supposed to be about, reminded me of what the church is supposed to be about, reminded me of what I am supposed to be about. I forget how it came up, but one day she commented about my chanting, “It should sound like you’re praying.” In the years since, I have often thought of those words, remembering that, while hitting the right notes is important, my responsibility - and our task together - is to pray.

Of course, everyone who knows the incomparable Gail Blache-Gill knows that she sees her work as ministry. No one can hear her sing without also hearing profound prayers offered to God. For many weeks now, Gail has been organizing our first musical event since the start of the pandemic: the Sixth Annual Choral Festival of Peace. Each year, this gathering of our own musical talent, joined by choirs from near and far, has been a deeply moving event, truly music as prayer. This year, we won’t be able to be together in person. That’s too bad, but it also frees us from worrying about transportation, parking, and getting home before dark. And, by presenting this year’s festival on the church Facebook page, our whole extended congregation, stretching from here to California, will be able to join us!

So, please mark your calendars for NEXT Sunday, September 13, at 4:00 pm. Join us on our church Facebook page for a time of beautiful music that will open our hearts, helping to create desperately needed peace. It will definitely sound like we’re praying!

Prayers and Thanksgivings:

Please pray for:

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

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

On Labor Day weekend, we offer special prayers for the unemployed, the underemployed, and all those who unfairly compensated for their work.

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

Bertha Rieling, former longtime St. Paul’s parishioner

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

Jonathan Leonardo, the brother of Yonar Candelario, in whose memory the altar flowers are given.

And, we give thanks for all those celebrating birthdays and anniversaries during September

First Sunday Parish Get-Together

Join us this Sunday at 1:00pm on Zoom for our monthly parish get-together. It’s a wonderful chance to see, and catch up, with fellow parishioners. This month we will reflect on these two questions:

What is helping you cope during this time of much fear and division? Are there particular practices you have taken up or lifestyle changes you have made?

Share a story about a time you saw God in someone who was created very different from yourself. How did this experience change you?

Contact Fr. Tom at tmurphy@stpaulsjc.org for more information.

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:

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

Thank you to the more than 25 parishioners who joined with over 2,000 people from across New Jersey at the New Jersey Together action on Monday evening. It was a powerful event, revealing just some of the deep inequities in our state. Several elected officials pledged to work on these issues, but we know that it will require persistence and pressure on our part.

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:

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: