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Upending the bushel basket that conceals our light

‘Between Two Pulpits’ episode focuses on hope in the depths of depression

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Natalie Pisarcik, in front, is pictured with other deacons from First Presbyterian Church in Boonton, New Jersey. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Natalie Pisarcik, a member of First Presbyterian Church of Boonton, New Jersey, has already bravely shared her story of deep depression and the intention she once had to end her life before asking God to forgive her for what she called “a terrible mistake,” forgiveness Pisarcik said she did receive.

On Monday, Pisarcik and FPC’s longtime pastor, the Rev. Jen Van Zandt, were guests on Special Offerings’ weekly Facebook Live event, “Between Two Pulpits.” Watch the conversation they shared with Special Offerings’ Bryce Wiebe and Lauren Rogers here.

For the past three years, First Presbyterian Church has designated its 25% of the Peace & Global Witness Offering to the New Jersey Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Many faith communities across the country are set to receive the offering on Oct. 3, World Communion Sunday.

Last year, according to Pisarcik, who served the congregation for years as a deacon, the communities the Boonton church serves lost more people to suicide than they did to the coronavirus.

“This is such a unique and tenderhearted place,” Van Zandt said of the congregation she’s served the last 14 years. “Peacemaking got legs when Natalie was on the Board of Deacons.”

“It is such a silent story for many pastors and congregations,” Wiebe said. How, he asked his guests, did you bring the topic forward for discussion?

“I believe God saved my life. I saw the light and God saved me,” Pisarcik responded. She wrote about her mental health struggles in the church’s 2020 Lenten devotional. “Life has not been perfect since that moment, but we all have a reason to be here and to hang on. It got legs,” she said of the story she shared. “I still can’t believe we are here sharing this story with you all.”

The Rev. Jen Van Zandt

Asked to share their go-to Scripture passages on the topic, Van Zandt went with Paul’s famous reassurance in Romans 8: “ For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Then there’s Psalm 139 with its focus on the nearness of God. “I pray that psalm a lot for myself and others who are struggling,” Van Zandt said. “There’s no place we can go where God is not already there. When people are going into surgery, I ask them to imagine Jesus sitting in the operating room ready to attend to them.”

Pisarcik said she relies on the admonition in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount against putting our light under a bushel basket.

“We all have some sort of gift,” Pisarcik said. “In times of darkness, God wants us to show it in some way — that’s the message. Don’t give up and have hope. God is with you through good times and bad.”

Asked about their hope for the future of the church, Van Zandt did not hesitate.

“It’d be great if we could all get back together. We are really missing each other. That’s something we are looking forward to — being reconnected,” she said. “The ministry has not stopped, and we are grateful to do ministry separately and together.”

The church’s future, she predicted, will be marked by “appreciating each other more and realizing there is a whole lot of work to do. There are a lot of hands and hearts that need reconnecting.”

“There’s a place for everyone in the church. Natalie found a home here. It’s a place people can really experience God’s love.”

Pisarcik said she’s missed participating in monthly services offered to residents of the New Jersey Firemen’s Home, a licensed health care facility in Boonton dedicated to the care of retired firefighters. Pisarcik herself is a volunteer firefighter. “They love it,” she said of the monthly service. “It is really valued and missed.” Her face brightened when Van Zandt informed her the services have resumed.

Wiebe prayed to close their time together, including this petition of the Almighty: “If we can’t pry up our own bushel backets, sneak inside with us … to shine who we are for the sight of all people, for it is beautiful what you have made. That is your way: to join with, to gather among, to seek out, to save.”

“Between Two Pulpits” is broadcast at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Mondays. Watch it each week here.

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