All Posts By

Rick Morley

5,000 Meals Served in Keansburg

By | Outreach

15318718214_bc457225b9_hAs the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy recently passed, so did a major milestone in our ministry with the people of the Center for Community Renewal in Keansburg: We’ve served 5,000 meals in their soup kitchen.

In the days right after Sandy, as many of our homes were just beginning to warm up again, we saw a plea on the Diocese of New Jersey’s Facebook page looking for help in the Soup Kitchen in Keansburg. Keansburg was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, and there were many, many people looking for food and shelter. St. Mark’s sent a team down to Keansburg one day, driving the nearly hour commute to Keansburg, not knowing exactly where we were going, or what was in store for us.

What was in store for us? An incredible new relationship and partner in ministry. We went there to serve one meal, and we’ve been back twice a month, serving meals and making few friends, ever since.

The ministry in Keansburg isn’t slowing down either. They are up to serving 6,000 meals a month to people who are hungry and searching for a meal, support, and community. They were recently featured in an article in USA Today.

St. Mark’s in Basking Ridge serves meals the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of every month. If you’d like to contribute to this ministry, help provide some of the food, and/ or help cook and serve the meal in Keansburg, please let us know. The need is great, and being a part of this wonderful, creative ministry helps feed us all in more ways than one.

How can you help? Click here for more information.

How can you help? Pray:

Gracious God, whose heart is always for the poor and the hungry, lift up the people of Keansburg, and all hungry people, especially those still suffering from Superstorm Sandy; give them your presence, your blessing, and send us, your children, to help our brothers and sisters, that all might be nourished. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

the shape of dinner+church

By | Parish Events

10407963_10152326260176707_7093548872023951694_nThe Last Supper wasn’t just a gathering where the disciples had a small piece of bread and a little sip of wine. It was a full meal. They gathered around a table to pray, talk, laugh, and cry. Near the beginning of the meal Jesus took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it and gave it to them to eat. Then after the meal Jesus took the cup of wine, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them to drink.

We know from the biblical record, and other ancient documents, that the first Christians followed this example of celebrating the Eucharist in the context of a full meal. Some of these gatherings they called “Love Feasts,” so we know that they weren’t somber affairs!

One of the aspects of dinner+church is the harkening back to this ancient origin of Christian Worship, by putting Holy Communion back in the context of a meal.

It’s also a meal where everyone gets a chance to participate. While there’s a dedicated cook or two making sure the meal is ready, there’s also time for everyone to help set up the tables and chairs, get out the tablecloths and plates, mix up a salad, etc. Everyone gets to have a part, whether it’s your first time at dinner+church, or you’re becoming a regular.

We begin our worship with the lighting of candles, a song, a prayer, and the blessing of the Eucharistic Bread. Then we sit down to enjoy the main course. When everyone is finishing up, we read a scripture lesson from the day, and we have a discussion period about it after a short sermon. We pray for the needs of the church and the world. Like the Last Supper we wait for the blessing of the Eucharistic cup after dinner.

Then we all jump back into action! It’s time to get things cleaned up. Again, everyone can participate — putting away the tables and chairs, washing dishes, or wiping down the tablecloths. When everything has come together we sing a closing song, we share in the passing of the peace, and we have a little sweet treat.

It feels very “new”. And, at the same time there’s something very “old” about it. Sharing a meal, sharing the Bread and Wine, sharing the song and prayer, and sharing the prep and cleanup helps us also to remember to share our lives together in a beautiful gathering that can certainly be described as a “love feast.”

looking across the table

By | Parish Events

Our dinner+church begins this Sunday night at 5:30PM in the Parish Hall. This is a short reflection written by Fr. Rick on the experience of dinner+church in Brooklyn.

St. Lydia's in Brooklyn - the "mother" of all dinner churches

St. Lydia’s in Brooklyn – the “mother” of all dinner churches.

The concept of worshipping around a table with food and drink, prayers and song, and conversations informal and deep is nothing new. In fact, it’s exactly how the first generation of Christians worshipped: a sacred meal held usually in someone’s home. It was the confluence of hundreds and hundreds of years of seder worship in the Jewish tradition and the Last Supper of Jesus, which brought disciples, seekers, and pilgrims together.

Eating. Praying. Sharing. Certainly laughing and crying.

When the Romans sniggered at the Christians about how they “loved one another,” Christian table fellowship was probably their chief evidence.

As the years passed on the table got smashed up against a wall, and everyone ended up facing the same direction as holy stuff happened “up there.” This development, while probably pretty practical and perhaps even helpful in some instances, did one thing: it kept people from looking at each other, talking to each other.

Connection. We crave it. And yet, it can be so illusive.

One of the things we’re learning over and over again, by nothing more than experience, is that what we think connects us doesn’t always do so. In fact, sometimes we think we’re so hyperconnected with text messages, Facebook, tweets, Instragrammed filters, and chats that are snapped and snapped and snapped…and yet really we’re just drowing in lonliness.

What I found at St. Lydia’s, a dinner church in Brooklyn, is a community that connected across the table and over a meal that could only be described as sacred. I was a total outsider and newcomer, and yet from the moment I walked in the door I was invited to start chopping some onions. Over my tears (caused by the onions, of course) I was able to talk with the member of the community who was in charge of preparing the meal for the night. I got to hear a little bit of his story, and I got to share a bit of mine.

I was an outsider when I walked in the door, but from the moment I filled a bowl with my chopped onions I was all of a sudden a member of the community. I had played a part, albeit small, in the production of this dinner. I wasn’t just an outsider. I was instantly connected to the food that we would all share.

When the candles were lit and the chanted prayers began to ascend into the vesper light, I was blown away by how ancient it all felt. Sure we were in uber-trendy Brooklyn, but all of a sudden we were connecting not just with each other, but with The Other, using a language that I felt I hadn’t spoken for aeons.

It was beautiful. Achingly beautiful.

And when we began singing the oldest Christian Eucharistic Prayer, from the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (The Didache), I experienced Eucharist in a similar old-and-yet-new way. In the Body of Jesus we were being connected to the fullness of Christ, crucified and risen, but we were also being connected to each other, brothers and sisters who I had only just met.

Most churches I’ve ever been a part of do “fellowship” well. Potluck suppers. Talent Shows. Wine and cheese gatherings at people’s homes. Picnics and hikes. It’s all good.

But, the thing is, most churches gather on Sunday morning… and everyone faces forward to see what’s going on “up there.” And, THAT’S the very time that people usually visit us. THAT’S the time when we come with our hopes and dreams; those realized and those crushed. THAT’S the very time when we could could use some connection. Yes, of course, connection to God, but also connection to each other—and perhaps even connect to God IN each other.

I think going back to the church of the First Generation of Christians, gathering around a table, praying, singing, talking, laughing is exactly what the world needs right now. I think it’s exactly what we’re so craving for.

Real connection.

The Gondoliers!

By | Parish Events

3-Gondoliersreduced1-1024x691This Friday the lights will go up on Light Opera of New Jersey’s (LONJ) production of The Gondoliers!

We are incredibly proud of our relationship with LONJ, our opera company in residence. And, what a thrill to be celebrating 20 years of “September Song!”

Bill and Lauran Corson, and LONJ, have produced 20 September Songs (of course this year it’s in October…), which have for twenty years supported the Chittick Fund, which in turn supports our music ministries at St. Mark’s. This work has richly blessed our worship, our song, and our prayer for two decades. For that we are profoundly grateful.

And so, on this weekend, we invite you to think of that storied city where there’s another “St. Mark’s” and enjoy this exciting rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers!

Purchase tickets at LONJ.org

Blessing of the Animals

By | Parish Events

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 1.31.57 PMOn Sunday at the 10AM service we will have the annual animal blessing. The service will be held in the parish hall, and you’re welcome to bring whatever pet whom you belong to. There is no Sunday School this week, as we like to have the kids with us—and more importantly—with their little fluffy (or scaled) friends.

This service is a celebration of St. Francis Day, but even more than that, it is a reminder of God’s Creation and how God’s unconditional love for us is sometimes best reflected in the unconditional love that our pets have for us.

If your animal does not “play well with others,” you’re welcome to let Fr. Rick know and he can do a more personalized blessing at your home.

If you do not have a pet, you are welcome to bring your favorite stuffed animal to church! (They ARE a little quieter than the other kind…but they are just as much fun to cuddle.)

The 8AM service will be sans non-hominids.