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Youth embrace congregation’s Matthew 25 calling

Beginning Sunday, a New Jersey church will take a pass on a mission trip to work right at home

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Last year’s visit to Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia helped convince youth and leaders at First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna, N.J. to hold their mission trip in their own community. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Next week, First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna is putting on a mission trip for the youth of the church without leaving the cozy confines of this unincorporated community in northern New Jersey.

The church’s week-long Summer Mission Adventure “Staycation” will give youth and college-aged members one day each to focus attention and efforts on a different community organization. They’ll decorate, give gifts and put on a yuletide dance party for residents at a senior care center during a Christmas in July event. Older youth will help construct a Morris Habitat for Humanity home while the younger ones work at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They’ll play games with other youth who are staying at a homeless shelter, serve lunch at a soup kitchen, work at a community garden and do yardwork and paint at Family Promise of Morris County. They’ll spend each night at church talking about what they’ve experienced and what’s up next and solidifying their bonds with one another while they’re at it.

First Presbyterian is among the more than 100 churches and mid-councils to accept the Matthew 25 invitation since the invitation was extended across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on April 1. Summer Mission Adventure will help the youth and the adults supporting the stay-at-home mission trip to build congregational vitality and help eradicate systemic poverty, the two Matthew 25 focus areas the church has agreed to address. The third Matthew 25 focus area is dismantling structural racism.

Church members got excited about mission opportunities close to home after visiting Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia last year, said the Rev. Carie Morgan, the four-year pastor at First Presbyterian Church.

Rev. Carie Morgan

“A couple of our adults said, ‘Let’s pay attention to what we are doing there and see if we can replicate that when we get home,’” she said. “We went over there almost as spies, but we came back with great energy after getting a taste of urban ministry.”

Since January, a team has been shaping plans for the Summer Mission Adventure. With nearly half of the church’s 171 members at or past retirement age, “we can’t all do a Habitat house,” Morgan said. “But older members can use their gifts to cook us dinner and join us for worship” planned on three occasions during the mission adventure. “We wanted to give everyone in the congregation a chance to give of themselves,” she said.


Each fall, youth at First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna collect school supplies for students who need them. (Contributed photo)




A male high school student who’s part of the church’s youth group “loves to cook,” Morgan said, and so he’s helping to plan the menu, shop for groceries and help cook. Along with Morgan, college students are selecting music for use during worship.

“They are all so excited. They’ve been begging me for this,” Morgan said. Parents and other church adults “have been bending over backwards to ensure we are nurturing them in the faith and in our love. This church is a community that comes together as a family and is judgment free. They love (the youth) as they are.”

Using Matthew 25:31-46 as a scriptural basis, Morgan is putting together devotional booklets and journals for each Summer Mission Adventure participant. She also plans to set up prayer stations at the church around the same passage.

To raise money for mission experiences, First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna held a historic cemetery tour at the town’s centuries-old cemetery. Church members took roles as people buried in the cemetery. (Contributed photo)





Morgan said she believes a byproduct of a Matthew 25 focus will be growth — not only spiritual growth, but numeric growth as well.

“I feel like we are that bulb in the winter waiting to break forth from the ground,” she said.


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