The Voice of


January  2021
Pastor: Jill Fenske
Editor: Lin Hart
Historian: Jeff Grieco
Website Editor: Tricia Gambaro
Email Distribution: Linda Ribaudo
From the Pastor’s Desk:

                      I have observed the business that God gave to us to be concerned with. God brings everything to pass precisely at its time; God also puts eternity in our minds, but without our ever guessing, from first to last, all the things that God brings to pass. Thus, I realized that the only worthwhile thing there is for us, is to enjoy ourselves and to do what is good in our lifetime; also, that whenever we do eat and drink and get enjoyment out of all our wealth, it is a gift of God.

                                                                                                                     Ecclesiastes 3. 10-13


          So, it’s a new year! Do I hear a collective sigh of relief that 2020 is now in the history books, or will this year warrant a book all of its own? It has been a challenging year, no matter what your circumstances. We have all faced loss, fear, a sense of being out of control.

          I was reading an interesting article in the New York Times Science section this week (To be honest, the Science section isn’t my usual go to...). It chronicled a mathematician named John Conway. One of the theories that he advanced, and is best known for, is called “the Game of Life.” It is described as an elegant model of computation - a cellular automation, a little machine of sorts, with groups of cells that evolve from iteration to iteration, as a clock advances from one second to the next (The Lasting Lessons of John Conway’s Game of Life, New York Times, December 28,2020). Now even after reading the article I’m not quite sure that I get the mathematical theory, but there are a few things that catch my attention as being pertinent as we enter the New Year.

         First the article states that John Conway’s creation confirms that “uncertainty is the only certainty.” We cannot know what this year will bring, only that the events of this new year are today “uncertain.” Will we gain enough immunity to the Covid-19 virus to be able to once again, live without masks, without fear that our family members, neighbors, or friends are contagious? Will we be able to gather once more not only to worship, but to celebrate, grieve, go to the shopping mall (if that’s your thing), have fellowship over coffee, or any of the many things that our physical distancing currently restricts? Will people get back to work, to school, to social gatherings? None of these things is certain - even the scientists aren’t sure.

         Conway’s theory goes on to state that there are certain properties in the Game of Life that can never be predicted even in principle. Those who work with this theory have concluded that you just have to do the work step by step to see where it all leads. Like our living day to day, one step at a time, is the only sure way to know what this year might bring.

         This theory gets permutated by the times in which we live. “In normal times things are stable - we can build one thing on top of another - in harder times we need something that is more resilient to prepare for the unpreparable.” This year of all years in most of our memories, is like no other - these are not normal times. We are called to be resilient, to be willing to face each day as it comes and engage the changes that it creates in the world in which we live.

         There is only one thing that is certain for us, those of us who have been given the gift of faith. There is yet one thing that is sure: God is with us. That is the fact that we anticipate during the season of Advent and the knowledge that God is with us in the birth of Jesus! Emmanuel.

          There is a poem, a portion of which I often use at internment services. It was written by Minnie Louise Haskins in 1908. I’m not sure how it first came into my hands. In popular circles it is entitled “Gate of the Year,” but the title that the poet affixed to it is “God Knows.” While it is a bit lengthy, I leave you with her words in full:


          And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year; “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.

          So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.


          So heart be still;

          What need our little life

          Our human life we know,

          If God hath comprehension?

          In all the dizzy strife

          Of things both high and low,

          God hideth His intention.


          God knows. His will

          Is best. The stretch of years

          Which wind ahead, so dim

          To our imperfect vision

          Are clear to God. Our fears

          Are premature; in Him,

          All time hath full provision


          Then rest: until

          God moves to lift the veil

          From our impatient eyes,

          When, as sweeter features

          Of life’s stern face we hail,

          Fair beyond all surmise

          God’s thought around His creatures

          Our mind shall fill.  



Christian Education

In Discovering God, our adult Christian education program, we are “Seeking the Holy Spirit Together” as we look primarily at New Testament texts that can lead us to a better understanding of this third person of the Trinity.

We continue our schedule of meeting on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sundays of the month at 10am. For the time being we are meeting on ZOOM. There will be one ZOOM session on Sunday mornings, going forward, beginning with Discovering God at 10am and welcoming others to
Worship at 11am. Join us! In December (13th and 20th) we will look at

Luke 1. 26 - 38; the Annunciation and the conception of Jesus by Mary.

For a list of what's going on at our church please check out the "Schedules and Events" page on this website!

Thank you from Pastor Jill

  I give thanks to God for each and every one of you. Through the pandemic, I have found the most solace in my life in the gathering with you (via ZOOM) for worship and Bible Study. While many in the ministry have found this year challenging, and it has been, I have found my rest in God’s community known as the Franklin Reformed Church. I am indeed blessed!

          As many of you know, the denomination invited congregations to do a financial ingathering in order to “bless their pastors.” Added to that was a program through the RCA that offered to match funds up to $2,000 in order to address outstanding debt,

and a $250 Amazon gift card. What a gift to me that close to $5,000 of out-of-pocket expenses from my two cataract surgeries this year have now been covered. So, I am doubly blessed by God’s church here in Nutley. Thank you for your ongoing support and care that goes far beyond what the dollars alone may have revealed.

Boiler Fund Update

       Over the past few months, we have been challenged to raise funds, first through the Boiler Fund, and currently through the Capital Improvement Fund to replace the steam boiler in the Community House. I am excited to report to you that as of today we have reached total contributions of $34,554. towards our goal of $40,000. Contributions have come from members, former members, and friends, at a time when the economy is struggling, and our neighbors’ needs have increased. We are SO close to reaching our goal. Our friends at People’s Heating have coaxed yet another heating season out of the old boiler, thus far. Come spring we will be poised to replace the boiler.

       Thank you if you have already contributed! If you have not yet contributed, we hope that you seriously consider doing so. Or you might even find that you are able to make an additional contribution.  Every gift no matter how small (or large?) makes a difference.   

Thanks to Diane Merle and Jeff Grieco for creating and organizing the church’s Christmas card this year. There are more copies available at the church if you would like to send one along to others.

Speaking of Christmas greetings, the church received greetings through Christmas cards this year from: Gene and Carol Roberts, Ron Hathaway, Hope and Robert LeFrances (Ron’s sister and brother-in-law), Ray Shulte and the staff of the Center for Parish Development, Jim Cramer and the staff at Edward Jones in Pompton Plains (our financial advisors) and John and Jane Dinan.

  After several years as the Treasurer of the church, Diane Merle has decided not to “renew” her position at this time, in order to allow more time to spend with her Dad, Arty. Without any previous experience Diane felt God “call” her to this work. She has served us well over these years!

          So, we are in the position of seeking a new treasurer. Most of our banking is currently done electronically; we have a payroll company that takes care of our payroll, entering of financial contributions is done by our Financial Secretaries Team. Finally, the Treasurer works with the Consistory in creating a budget each year. Diane will be available to assist with the transition. Please prayerfully consider if God is calling YOU to serve God’s church in this way. It is our hope to make this transition as soon as possible. 

On Sunday, October 18th a small group gathered with the Mission Church Team to continue to seek God’s leading as we evaluate and re-evaluate our understanding of being God’s church in the world at this time. Interestingly several of the things we have been discerning over the past 18 months are differently pertinent to our engaging ministry in the “pandemic” world. Continue to pray for the Mission Church Team, as well as God’s leading this congregation in this time of change. 

Thanks to those who contributed to our Advent and Christmas activities. A small group became the “worship team” with ideas and direction. There were many contributions of homemade Advent Wreaths posted on our Facebook page. Jainie led us in our simple song each week. Jainie and Tricia, Lin Hart, Gail Morchel and Linda Ribaudo contributed with readings from Romans 8, and lighting the candles each week. Thanks for those who bravely gathered on Christmas Eve for a brief welcome to Jesus, and for those who came together to hear the old, old story from the Gospel of Luke on Christmas morning. It was certainly different than the ways we have celebrated in the past, but God never disappoints when we focus on God.

We are grateful for the continued financial support of our members and friends. You may donate to the church by sending your offering to the church; someone is checking and taking in the mail Monday through Saturday. The church has also joined which allows you to donate electronically. There is information on the website, under the tab DONATE. There is an option to donate by credit card or as an ACH (transfer) directly from your bank account. This is a safe way to donate that some people are already using. 

While current circumstances have certainly brought down some of our costs, we continue to have financial obligations that need to be met: insurance, utilities, ongoing leases of office equipment and the Pastor’s salary and health insurance.

From the Historian

Women's Guild on November 13, 1974 at 8 p.m. celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the organization. Corinne Zachgo was the current President and with three past Presidents, Edna Stoddard, Corinne Porper and Bessie Kohler, led the singing of hymns: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded Beneath the Cross of Jesus, Blessed Assurance and Just as I am.

The evening opened with 15 minutes of social time followed by Devotions, a reading of Romans 12:3-12 by Betty Gambaro. Dale Cocchiola introduced the members. A presentation of "Project Phillip" sponsored by the Reformed Church Women was given by Almeda Hoarle.

            Under the name of Women's Guild four charter members were recognized: Edna Stoddard (an Aunt of Betty Drummond), Elsie Weischedel, Dina Romlein and Mildred Riddle. Edna Stoddard was also recognized as the longest continuing member. The newest member, Ruth Horak, was introduced. 

The evening closed with refreshment and fellowship time. Looking ahead to 1975, the motto was to be: "Each One - Reach One".


1974 at Franklin Reformed Church: Consistory had 9 Elders and 9 Deacons.

Elders: Joe Ebert, Hugh Gambaro, Fred Heidt, Donald Clarke, Doris Epworth, Allan Riddle (V.P.), Bob Fitton (Clerk), Ida Cone and Fred Mitschow..

Deacons: Corinne Porper, Loretta Taylor, Ray Wilson, Marie Edmunds, George Horak, Susan Reilly, Florence Bowkley and Warren Reiners.

Treasurer: Cal Sargent assisted by Marie and Corinne.

Loretta Taylor was President of the Flower and Christian Service Guild.

Organist and Choir Director: Chester Fell.

Custodian and Church Master: Donald Baumann.

Allan Scorso was President of the Men's Association.

The Community School Representatives were: Jim Lind, Florence Bowkley and Donald Baumann.

Loretta Taylor and Allan Riddler were members of The Nutley Lay Ecumenical Council.

So many names of people who have served our church faithfully and have been a blessing to the congregation with their service!

From the Hart

Well, I didn’t plan to sit up last night to see 2020 disappear into history. But, perversely, I couldn’t sleep, and then suddenly all the neighbors were setting off firecrackers. So, in spite of my best efforts, I was awake to welcome in the new year. I have been trying very hard not to pin my hopes on 2021 being a better year. That’s just too much pressure. I know that today is just another day, really. No different from yesterday except for the date I will write on my checks. And there are still a lot of “dark days” to come before life gets appreciably better. But there is something to be said for starting afresh, and hope is what keeps me getting up every morning instead of staying buried under the covers.

So, with that in mind, I am going to embrace the day, and dive into the New Year. I have had my herring, and the lentil soup is made. The sun is shining, and I think I will go for a walk. Also, I dyed my hair purple – it’s just temporary, but I kind of like it!


Happy New Year, my friends. May this year be everything we hope it will be.


Till next month,