Practical Spirit, a column previously published on Long Valley Patch.com

While I write about a great range of topics and people, I have two weekly columns that I write for AOL Patch.com, one is about business and entrepreneurs, the other is called Practical Spirit.

My purpose for writing this column is to explore the many faith traditions in the area and how people are putting their spiritual beliefs to work in the world.  Most recently, as part of the column, I have developed a series called “Exploring Faith” which has taken me to a different faith organization each week.

By MaryLynn Schiavi

The worship team at Mendham Hills Community Church takes the stage before Sunday's sermon.
This Sunday marked the eighth week of my journey to explore the many houses of worship in the area for a series called ‘Exploring Faith’ but which I now affectionately refer to it as my ‘House of God Tour.’ On Sunday, May 22, in the wake of the Rapture that never came, I visited a church in Mendham and found myself saying over and over again, amen, amen, amen as Pastor Doug Welbourn delivered his passionate plea to the congregation urging them to “Stop the insanity.” He was driving home the point that we have become…
Located only 15 miles northwest of Long Valley is a beautiful and inviting gateway to the East. Perched atop a mountain just north of the town of Washington in Warren County is the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center (TBLC) established in 1958 by Geshe Ngawang Wangyal, a Kalmyk-Mongolian guru. The TBLC was the first Tibetan Buddhist dharma center in the West, and since then has received His Holiness the Dalai Lama six times since 1984 when he first visited to consecrate the temple built on the property. During…
Andria Kwasnicki, 16, sang a special song for Mother's Day at St. Mark the Evangelist on Sunday, May 8, 2011.
With a voice that angels could only dream about, 16-year-old Andria Kwasnicki filled the enormous church with her rich mezzo-soprano voice, singing a special song for Mother’s Day at St. Mark the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Long Valley Sunday, leaving not a dry eye in the house. (A rendition of the song, called “A Mother’s Love” and written by Amy Sky and Steven MacKinnon, can be heard on YouTube, performed Mark Masri and Jim Brickman). In addition to the traditional religious songs led by the…
Sitting in the massive Emmanuel Bible Church with its two-story high arched windows, through which one can view the leaves and branches of towering trees, it is easy to feel a sense of renewal, rebirth and community. Located on the corner of Pleasant Grove and Schooley’s Mountain Roads, in Long Valley, Emmanuel Bible Church was incorporated in 1971 and is a non-denominational local church that is based on Christian fellowship taught through Bible study, community prayer, and participation in the Lord’s…
More than 200 members from five congregations joined the Cross Walk for Peace on Good Friday, April 22.
Though the skies were a pearly grey with the potential for rain hanging in the air, spirits were high, as more than 200 residents joined in the Annual Cross Walk for Peace on Good Friday, April 22 in Long Valley, an ecumenical event that drew members from five congregations in the area. People of varying ages walked with families, friends and pets, stopping at six locations for prayers led by members of the Long Valley Clergy Association which sponsored the event. Several members carried a large, wooden cross,…
Valley View Chapel is an Evangelical Protestant Church with over 300 members. The church is located on Route 24 near Bartley Road in Long Valley.
It may look like a quiet, conservative chapel on the outside, but within the first few minutes of entering Valley View Chapel on Route 24 in Long Valley, I realized I was about to participate in a very high-spirited worship service and enjoy a sermon delivered by a pastor with a sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic.    The musicians and singers were so impressive and full of energy and enthusiasm, I felt like I was attending a professional musical concert rather than just a regular worship service.   The contemporary…
What are we going to choose? Should we run as far away as we can from the great challenges before us or endure whatever is necessary to meet our obligations and achieve the extraordinary results we desire?    These were the questions that we pondered during the sermon and afterward listening to the soothing rain of melodious voices from the choir at St. Luke Parish. The Roman Catholic church, established in 1982, sits in the middle of a wide open plain with mountains in almost every direction on West Mill Road in…
How far into the world do our words reach? And once uttered, can we ever take back what we have said? These questions were central to the the lesson that I encountered during my visit to Temple Hatikvah, a Conservative Jewish Temple in Flanders. I participated in my first Shabbat on Saturday, April 9. In Christianity the day of rest is referred to as the Sabbath. In Hebrew, the day of rest is called Shabbat and is celebrated on Saturday.   While much of the ritual was spoken and sung in Hebrew, I was inspired and…
Over the next ten weeks, Long Valley Patch’s MaryLynn Schiavi will analyze and discuss what goes on in different religions’ houses of worship in our Practical Spirit: Exploring Faith column. Schiavi will attend services of different religions in the Washington Township area. Check back each Tuesday for the latest installment. Outfitted in a blue-plaid uniform, a navy blue beret, and a book bag filled with text books that weighed as much as I did, I began my journey into studying the religions of the world when I entered…
Rabbi Moshe Rudin of Temple Hatikvah, with his daughter Sophie.
An old Native American saying goes, “Do not judge a man until you’ve walked in his moccasins for two moons,” meaning, to understand another, you must share the experience of another. In keeping with this idea, Temple Hatikvah in Flanders is offering an opportunity to share in the experience of Passover with a Passover Boot Camp to be held on Sunday, April 10 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Passover–or Pesach–is one of the most commonly observed Jewish holidays and is celebrated by more than 80 percent of Jews with a Pesach…
At times like this, many of us may wonder in fear and in terror what it would be like for our entire world to change in just a few moments as it has for the people of Northern Japan, who are now the latest victims of an unprecedented natural disaster, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by a devastating tsunami. What would we do if we lost those we love and everything we own? What would we do if our entire world was ripped apart in a matter of seconds? How do you even begin to make sense of such tragedies? Do we believe that…
Participants at a recent interfaith breakfast at Temple Hatikvah in Flanders included both members of the clergy and congregants.  From left, Reverend Paul M. Ingeneri, Rabbi Moshe Rudin, Speaker MaryLynn Schiavi, Reverend Rick Oppelt, Reverend Margaret Otterburn and Jim Hackett of Chester's Senior Resource Center.</p>
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Practically speaking, what do the major faith traditions around the world have in common? This was the central question posed at a recent interfaith event held at Temple Hatikvah in Flanders on Feb. 23, when I was invited to speak about my Long Valley Patch column, Practical Spirit and its intent. Rabbi Moshe Rudin, temple members, and clergy and members of a number of faith traditions in the area attended the breakfast meeting held each month at temple, which features a variety of speakers and programs. Rabbi Rudin…
Sue Freeman of Long Valley is sharing her heart through a mind, body, spirit center that she established in Chester, NJ.
Exchanging her career in the corporate world for her own business didn’t happen overnight, in fact it took about 15 years, but Sue Freeman, a resident of Long Valley decided to follow her heart and create an environment that she and others could enjoy–and she has found success with her Chester-based business called Art of the Heart. When Freeman’s work in human resources for a Fortune 500 company had ended due to downsizing, she said she wasn’t heartbroken. She had begun to raise a family and wanted to shift her…
Rev. Margaret Otterburn with members of the Interfaith Dialog Center, a non-profit organization based in New Jersey dedicated to promoting friendship, dialogue, and peace. From left, Ercan Ozgencil, Fatih Murat Kaya, Mehmet Baserdem, Rev. Margaret Otterburn, Mehmet Unver, Faruk Apaydin, Fatih Baysal, Ercan Yarendeli, Emrah Cetin, and Engin Akhoroz.
Through a special interfaith program, members of the Church of the Messiah in Chester shared home-cooked Turkish cuisine and engaged in a lively discussion about prayer practices and the common threads between the Muslim faith and Christianity on Sunday, Feb. 6.  “I found it fascinating. I am sorely under-educated when it comes to the Muslim faith, and I think many of us soaked up the information like sponges,” said Church of the Messiah member Frank Fila. “I thought it was wonderful and I really appreciated the…
Seniors participate in the Healthy Bones program at Church of the Messiah in Chester.
Among the many ways that faith organizations are reaching out to meet the needs of the community, programs for seniors are high on the list. In the Washington Township area, there are plenty of activities and support groups to help seniors who might otherwise feel lonely, isolated, depressed or bored.   Church of the Messiah’s Senior Resource Center, located at 50 Route 24 in Chester, offers a wide variety of health and fitness activities, entertainment and support. All of the programs are free, but donations are appreciated.…
From left, Long Valley residents Peggy Delong, Co-Founder of Heartworks, with members Beth Paulino and Meg Marino.
Imagine sifting through the apple bin at the grocery store and finding a tiny note with a positive saying that, in an instant, uplifts you and reminds you that there is hope. Imagine finding at your door a basket of goodies such as spa items or much needed kitchen staples or receiving a check out of the blue to help pay your rent. Some might call these random acts of kindness, but these are not really so random–these are the intentional acts of a group of 45 women in Long Valley called Heartworks, formed in 2008. The women-only…
Do I want to be cremated, have a traditional wake, funeral and burial or do I want a green burial? Do I want prayers recited or poetry–or both? Do I want the funeral parlor to pipe in elevator music or my favorite jazz musician or singer-songwriter? Granted, this experience is not like shopping at Macy’s for a new spring wardrobe, but in the end, who is better suited to make these choices? Many people bristle at even the thought of planning one’s funeral in advance. It could easily be considered morbid, and macabre. But a number…
An incredibly sensitive subject and not-so-subtle topic of conversation, death and the issues surrounding it are necessary to explore in advance, according to clergy and healthcare professionals. “The subject of death is very difficult for our culture, we are a culture that puts a high value on youth and beauty and therefore there is a strong fear of aging and death,” said Michele Cameron, M.A., B.S.N., R.N, manager of business development and community outreach for Atlantic Home Care and Hospice, “And because we…
It is clearly the most inevitable event we face: our own death. And yet, for many, it is the event for which we are the least prepared. Why is discussing death so taboo? Why are so few Americans prepared with an advance directive or living will? Why do we know so little about wills and estate planning? To help those in the Washington Township community and surrounding area begin the dialogue and gain an understanding around end-of-life issues, Church of the Messiah in Chester is offering a one day forum…
Ray Chimileski, left, Founder of Operation Chillout and volunteer John Nalisnik sort through donated items to be distributed.
Peace on earth–it’s a lovely thought and a lofty vision, but are we any closer to it today than we were a thousand years ago, or even one hundred years ago? At this juncture, just barely in the doorway of the 21st century, one might expect more. One might expect that we should have at least established some sort of common ground among the religions and spiritual traditions of the world. So practically speaking, what steps can we take to establish a greater sense of unity among the many spiritual and religious organizations…
From left, "Coach", a homeless Vietnam Veteran and peer counselor, Robin Reilly, coordinator of the FAITH Foundation and Deacon Ray Chimileski, Operation Chillout Founder.
There are those whose journey through this world includes living in mansions and castles. For most people, less impressive, yet comfortable structures are the places where they reside. And then there are those, an estimated 30,000 people in New Jersey alone, who have no place to call home. About 7,500 of those without homes are war veterans, according to Deacon Ray Chimileski, a Long Valley resident, and the founder of Operation Chillout. The organization, established 11 years ago, offers hope in the form of a backpack…
From left, "Coach", a homeless Vietnam Veteran and peer counselor, Robin Reilly, coordinator of the FAITH Foundation and Deacon Ray Chimileski, Operation Chillout Founder.
What began as a one time gesture of good will has grown into an organization that has helped thousands of homeless in New Jersey over the last 10 years by offering them a backpack filled with some of the necessities for daily life that include toothpaste, shampoo, warm gloves, a hat, and other items that most take for granted. More than 600 of these backpacks will be distributed by Operation Chillout beginning Dec. 17 throughout nine counties in New Jersey which include: Morris, Warren, Somerset, Hunterdon, Bergen, Newark,…
Tim Kocot (front) and Joe Metz help paint the fence that lines Route 24 in preparation of this year's ICOWTA Holiday Wreath Fundraiser.
There are many ways of celebrating Thanksgiving. Some will be cooking sumptuous meals for their families and friends, and others will be giving to those beyond their immediate family, and some will do both–and not only during the holiday season. The faith organizations throughout the Washington Township area celebrate Thanksgiving all year long through service to the community. In fact there is a veritable cornucopia of service offerings that are available for those who find themselves in need this year, and for those…
From left, Roberta Diament, Rabbi Moshe Rudin and Pauline Hahn.
It was a discussion heard around the world last week as 450 Jewish communities took part in the Global Day of Jewish Learning interacting via the Internet “to discuss, debate and explore life’s big questions,” said Rabbi Moshe Rudin, leader of Temple Hatikvah in Flanders. Temple Hatikvah is a Conservative synagogue with approximately 40 member families from Washington Township. “Everyone responded enthusiastically and enjoyed this unusual worldwide meeting to discuss and debate topics ranging from…
“Let’s face it, we’re all just one bad quarter away from unemployment,” said Michael Weinstein, a volunteer coach for the Career Transition Ministry (CTM) offered by St. Luke Parish in Long Valley. The CTM is a structured, comprehensive career transition program that helps parishioners find new jobs and careers. “When I heard Bob, the coordinator, speak about the program at a mass one day, I thought, this is a very Christian thing to do.” While so many are being tossed around in the turbulence of the current…
The crisp white church sits at the base of Schooley’s Mountain Road. Its tall, dramatic spire reaches upward jubilantly toward the sky. This is the home of the Zion Lutheran Church that has been celebrating its 250th anniversary this year with a series of special events. For its final celebratory event of the year, a service delivered entirely in German, except for the sermon, will be offered on Sunday, Oct. 31 at 10 a.m. to celebrate its Germanic roots. Reverend Peter H. Froehlke, a native of Wisconsin, who has served as pastor of the church…
Tim Kocot (front) and Joe Metz help paint the fence that lines Route 24 in preparation for this year's Holiday Wreath Fundraiser.
Driving west from Chester to Long Valley on Route 24, the view is a spectacular one that becomes even more scenic in December and January when crisp green wreaths with bright red bows decorate the long white fences that flank the roadway into town. While this bounteous display of holiday wreaths is a feast for the eyes, their true purpose should warm the heart and offer some solace to residents in need. They represent the care and support of the community and contributions of thousands of dollars to the the…
This is a country that was founded on rugged individualism and fierce independence. So what happens when people who have been doing quite well find themselves in a position of having to ask for help? Spiritual leaders like Reverend Margaret Otterburn, Pastor of the Church of the Messiah in Chester, believe that now more than ever the camaraderie and support of a community is vital to surviving in these difficult times. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Sept. 3, the unemployment rate is…
Original Image at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigrhys/4852175016/. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
“The wheel is always turning,” said Rabbi Moshe Rudin, leader of Temple Hatikvah, a Conservative synagogue in Flanders which emphasizes education and social action. “Sometimes we’re at the top of the wheel, sometimes at the bottom. In our tradition we try to be mindful of the fact that no matter how bad things may be, they never stay that way and circumstances will change.”      Approximately 40 families from Washington Township are members of Temple Hatikvah. Rudin said he has noticed an increase in people seeking…

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