NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – When news of the death of Pastor Murdoch “Mac” MacPherson reached the residents of the borough, the reaction was swift and heartfelt. The long-time pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, Pastor Mac not only was loved by many, his absence leaves a hole in not just the borough, but in the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of lives, from all over the world.
The Reverend Jane McCready of Faith Lutheran Church called Pastor Mac, “Faith Lutheran’s spiritual, inspirational and loving leader of the past thirty-five years.” His unexpected death has shocked the community and “Members of Faith are feeling a devastating loss. “
Rev. Dr. Murdoch MacPherson–Pastor Mac–passed away peacefully on Sunday, August 13, 2017, surrounded by his family and pastor at Morristown Memorial Hospital. He was 74. The Resurrection Liturgy will be on Sunday, August 20th at 3 p.m. at Faith Lutheran Church, 524 South Street, New Providence.
For the Rev. McCready, the most powerful thought about Pastor Mac she has is of his “unrelenting commitment to social justice, his compassion for all people and his efforts to meet the needs of people so often overlooked.’
In particular, she noted the “number of outreach programs that we have at Faith, many inspired and nurtured under his leadership, that continue to exist decades after they were begun.” One of those, but not the only one, the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which later became Family Promise, is flourishing 32 years after Faith became the first congregation to host homeless families. These programs, which have expanded across the country, “continue because of his commitment to the church and the passion in which he lived his faith, feet on the ground, showing us how to care for all of God's children,” Rev. McCready said.
“Because of Pastor Mac's belief that leaders of different church traditions should develop closer relationships and better understand each other's creed, Faith has decades of rich relationships with the interfaith community. These will continue to grow and flourish for years to come,” she concluded.
It was his ability to reach beyond the boundaries of his church and his faith to others that made the largest impact on the community and could be seen in comments made on Facebook by members of the New Providence, NJ Community Forum.
Mayor Al Morgan broke the news to many residents when he posted, “I had to leave work early when I heard about the sad and unexpected passing of Pastor Mac. I love that guy. Pastor Mac had real vision and an even bigger heart. He was the kindest and most generous person I know. Pastor Mac was the heart and soul of our community, with an unwavering spiritual compass. He was a true role model of everything that is good and right with the world. Mac will not only be sorrowfully missed by our community, but especially by this man who was proud to call him my friend.”
His wife, Christine Chromowsky Morgan posted, “Completely crushed by the passing of Pastor Mac…” Later she added, “Devastated. Shocked. Sick. Heartbroken....” Many of her friends added their condolences.
On the Faith Lutheran, New Providence Facebook page, members and friends of the church added their thoughts on the loss of Pastor Mac. One called him a “Teacher, shepherd, leader, giver, steward and servant of Christ.”
Another wrote, “Close to perfection. A beautiful man.”
Claas Ehlers, wrote on the Family Promise Community Blog, “I don’t know how many people have come through Faith Lutheran since they first hosting started in 1986. It must be thousands. But if Mac hadn’t hosted Karen and those compassionate, questing people, if he hadn’t shown them hospitality, I don’t know that Family Promise could have changed the lives of any of them, or of the 750,000 people that have been served since.”
Pastor Mac’s accomplishments are many. Outreach programs which he created and/or motivated Faith’s members to support include: the St. John’s, Newark soup kitchen, a children’s day camp and housing rehabilitation in the Appalachian town of Cosby, Tennessee; New Providence Fall Food Collection; Imagine, a center for young people coping with loss; Knit, Purl and Pray; winter coat collection; Christmas Sharing Tree; backpack collection filled with school supplies for needy children; Broadway House for Continuing Care, a specialized care facility for persons living with HIV/AIDS; a twenty-eight year partnership with Masama Mboreny Lutheran Parish in Tanzania; ARC home in New Providence; Habitat for Humanity, communion wafers from Lutheran Deaconness Institute in Tanzania; Kiwakkuki, an organization of women in Tanzania, devoted to eradication of HIV/AIDS; Pedals for Progress, which recycles bicycles for persons in developing countries, tutoring in Newark of children, whose second language is English; the Children’s Winter Clothing Drive and Green Team.
Pastor Mac’s efforts on behalf of the interfaith community extended to Jewish congregations in the area and included lighting of a candle of the Menorah on the lawn of Faith Lutheran for the past 10 years with members of three synagogues in Summit, Temple Sinai, Ohr Shalom-Summit Jewish Community Center and Beth Hatikvah. Members of Ohn Shalom-Summit Jewish Community Center and Faith have a continuing dialogue with each other to increase the knowledge and understanding of each other’s faith.
Similar dialogue continues with members of Little Flower Church in Berkeley Heights. The relationship has included programs to discuss the history that Roman Catholics and Lutherans share, as well as Faith’s and Little Flower’s understanding of ministry, especially focusing on those subjects where the Lutherans and Roman Catholics are in agreement.
Pastor Mac has invited leaders from the following organizations to speak at Faith’s Sunday morning educational forums; Garden State Sikh Association, Islamic Center of Basking Ridge, Bahai’s of New Providence and Garden State Equality, NJ’s advocacy organization for the LGBTQ community.
These are but a few of the memorable areas in which Pastor Mac and his congregation have reached out to others.
Pastor Mac and his wife Carol led trips, seven of them, to explore the history of Christianity and the Lutheran Reformation.
The church has a partnership with Masama Mboreny Lutheran Parish in Moshi, Tanzania. The pastors and members from both churches have exchanged visits and Faith has contributed funds to build a nursery school, kindergarten, a church roof and even secondary school scholarships and more in the 28 years of their relationship.
The help extended by Faith Lutheran Church also goes to hurricane and tsunami relief, medical aid and, to others, closer to home. For decades, members of Alcoholics Anonymous have met at Faith Lutheran six days a week and on special occasions.
As Ehlers wrote in the Family Promise Voices blog, “I know that my life was changed because of Mac. He will be missed so tremendously,” by people around the world and right here at home.