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Memorial, Ringoes, New Jersey, USA
Memorial, Ringoes, New Jersey. USA.
A 19th century neo-Gothic brownstone building with tower and
pointed steeple. The interior is open and airy but the paint
is peeling and it smells a bit musty, especially the rooms at
the rear of the sanctuary that are used for offices and classes.
The church is named for the Revd Jacob Kirkpatrick, who served
for 56 years at the three Presbyterian parishes in the area
until his death in 1866 and who championed the founding of a
church in Ringoes.
They sponsor men's and ladies' prayer groups and Bible study,
as well as youth ministries for children in all age groups.
Of special note are Sunday night house parties for high school
students, held at parishioners' homes on a rotating basis. They
also rotate a lecture series with other churches in the area.
Ringoes is a small rural community in the western part of central
New Jersey, near the border with Pennsylvania. The town is named
after John Ringo, who in colonial times owned a tavern in the
area that attracted such clandestine groups as the Sons of Liberty,
who advocated the independence of the American colonies. Kirkpatrick
Memorial Presbyterian Church is the last remaining church in
the town's historic district.
The Revd Ryan Balsan, pastor.
The date & time:
August 30, 2009, 9.30am.
What was the name of the service?
Combined Contemporary and Traditional Service.
How full was the building?
The attendance started out fairly light when worship began,
but by the time the service had been underway for about 10 minutes
the sanctuary was about half full. The church community tended
to be on the older side, but there were some young families
Did anyone welcome you
No one welcomed me at the door or handed me a bulletin to use
in the worship. I searched the tables at the entrance for what
I might need. No one spoke to me as I entered the sanctuary
or as I took my seat. I was, however, stared at by three young
children who turned out to be the pastor's children. They did
not smile or give any friendly gesture. I know they are young,
but being stared at is uncomfortable as well as rude. A smile
would have been nice.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews are old, short and narrow. They do have pads on them
that add to their comfort. The windows were open so the temperature
was very pleasant. There were boxes of tissues in every pew.
How would you describe the pre-service
The atmosphere was on the quiet side, with light murmurings
as people spoke to each other upon entering and sitting down.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning and welcome to Kirkpatrick Memorial Presbyterian
Church." This was followed by announcements. The service started
with "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice
and be glad in it. Let us pray."
What books did the congregation use during the
The Holy Bible, New International Version, and Hymns
for the Family Of God.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and keyboard.
Did anything distract
Doors to the sanctuary were open so that you could hear the
traffic going by, especially the motorcycles. A little old man
came in after worship had started and said very loudly to a
gentleman already seated, "Where's your pants!?" (The gentleman
was indeed wearing trousers well, shorts, I should say.)
I couldn't help but chuckle. There was a computer set up to
project the words to some of the songs on the wall, but it kept
going into screen saver mode.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The worship was on the casual side. Pastor Balsan did not wear
a robe, but rather a shirt, tie, and slacks. He walked up and
down the aisle as he took prayer requests and called most people
by their first name. He also walked around the front of the
sanctuary while giving his sermon. Singing was not that exuberant
from the congregation, but the choir and soloist were very enjoyable.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 There were no distracting eccentricities. I felt Pastor
Balsan had a good strong voice and presence.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The sermon was based on Luke 19:11-27 (the parable of the ten
minas) and titled "Taking Risks." The nobleman took
a risk when he gave his servants money to invest for him. Some
of the servants risked investing the money in order to increase
its worth (although one servant did not, and suffered for it).
God wants us to take risks to live in a Godly way and to spread
his teachings. However, I'm not
sure I agree that the parable is an allegory for
how God wants us to act. The nobleman in the parable was greedy;
God is not. And what about verse 27 (the nobleman orders his
servants to kill his enemies in front of him), which Pastor
Balsan admitted up front that he wouldn't be addressing?
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
A gentleman from the congregation sang a solo, that old standby
"I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked," and he sang it with passion!
During the passing of the peace, I was greeted warmly by the
pastor and his wife as well as others in the congregation near
me. I know that this can be a very uncomfortable time for a
newcomer, but it made me feel very much welcomed.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The prayers of the people. A member of the congregation would
state a request out loud, and then the pastor would repeat it
and write it down on a clipboard. This continued through dozens
of requests. Then, as prayers were offered, each request was
repeated yet again. There must be a better, less time-consuming
way. I believe in people requesting prayers, but the repetitions
were too much.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A woman approached me after the service and invited me to coffee
time, showing me the way. Each time it seemed like I would be
left standing alone, a member of the congregation would come
over to me with introductions and information about the groups
and happenings at the church. One couple even invited me to
go with them to a baptism that was taking place at a member's
house on the river. A complete reversal of the non-greeting
I received upon entering!
How would you describe the after-service
The coffee was set up in one area, tea across the room, and
a table in the middle with lemonade and different foods. Some
of the carafes weren't labeled so you needed to ask questions.
The hot drinks were hot. There were Wasa crackers on offer,
those thick, dark, crunchy rye crispbreads, with jam available
to put on. There were also donuts, mini coffee cakes, and even,
I believe, pretzels. But I did not see any type of plate or
napkin to use.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 All told, I did feel comfortable. The people were warm
and friendly, even if not at first. It seemed as thought the
congregation is an active one.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, I enjoyed the service. I felt that this church has a lot
to offer its members as far as small groups, Bible studies and
youth activities go.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The soloist and the welcome I received at the coffee time.
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