Religions and Spirituality

Church is "Anchor of Hope" for Local Businesses

432b39ba26caab4757f6_anchor_of_hope_1.jpg
Members of the Westfield business community gather on a downtown sidewalk for a short service with the Rev. Paul Pritsch (center in black). To Rev. Pritsch’s left are George and Mona Aydin, and to his right are Allison Johnson, the director of Christian education at the school, and church members J.T. Bokoske and his mother JoAnne Bokoske.
432b39ba26caab4757f6_anchor_of_hope_1.jpg

If you happen to be walking on Quimby Street in Westfield between 6:30 and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 20, you will see the Rev. Paul Kritsch of Redeemer Lutheran Church hosting a service in front of the Robert Treat Deli, thanks to the generosity of Greg Kasich, one of the owners of the deli. Services are held at this location twice a month, an outgrowth of what began as a desire to connect with the community and has turned into a full-fledged outreach called Anchor of Hope.

The sidewalk service is the most recent addition to what began in the summer of 2009 as an outreach to community business owners who were suffering financial losses due to the economic crisis that hit the country in 2008. Rev. Kritsch realized that the business community of Westfield was hurting from both a financial and psychological perspective, and he wanted to find a way to help them, so he turned to prayer. He asked his Bible study group to join him on a weekly walk through the town following their Tuesday morning meeting, and consider ways they could use prayer to help.

Soon the group members were stopping to talk to people, and then the pastor suggested they go in pairs to visit local businesses and offer prayer, an occupation that caused them to be regarded with some suspicion. “At first they thought we were asking for donations,” the pastor said of the business owners and their employees. But donations were not the point. Instead, the walkers asked, “Is there anyone we can be lifting in prayer for you?”

Sign Up for E-News

Since they began two years ago, about 60 businesses got on board as regular “customers” of the prayer walkers. Relationships have developed to the degree that business owners are prepared for their visitors. “They have requests ready now,” said Edna McClure, team leader of the Anchor of Hope.

McClure said she has developed relationships with people who wouldn’t speak of their difficulties at all at first, but have found it comforting to speak to someone who isn’t family, with whom they can share their concerns without worrying other family members. “In these times, we need this more than ever,” she said.

Finding a way to serve the community is not a new idea at Redeemer, but times are hard. “With the economic condition what it was, we saw and heard a lot of people losing hope,” Rev. Kritsch said. What the walkers wanted to do was give people a sense of caring and hope that was lacking, to raise their spirits.

The business owners and workers have been remarkably accepting of the outreach, with only one incident in which they were turned down. The religion of the recipient is of no consequence, and the group has received requests from people of various religious backgrounds. “Whether you are a believer or not doesn’t matter,” said Gerard Verdugo, owner of the Gallery, an art gallery located right next to Robert Treat. He is not religious, but he enjoys the visits and the prayer.

Verdugo said he often has visitors who ask for donations. “I don’t mind,” he said. He would buy the raffle tickets or donate to whatever cause was laid before him, so he would have been okay with making a donation to Redeemer, and was a bit surprised when that wasn’t on the prayer walkers’ agenda. “They asked if I wanted them to pray for something,” he remembers, “and that was something not usual—nothing that happened before.”

Business owner Mona Aydin goes to the Church of Virgin Mary of Paramus, an Assyrian Orthodox Catholic church, but she agrees with Verdugo that it doesn’t matter what faith you practice. She and her husband George are the owners of Robert Anthony Jewelers on East Broad Street, and they enjoy it when the walkers visit their store. They also like attending the Tuesday evening service. “It’s interesting to have this for the business owners,” Aydin said. “You need to have faith because the economy is not helping.”

In addition, Aydin said, it’s friendly and she believes that it is natural to feel better when people talk to each other. “It’s healthy; they ask about family, they know my kids, and it’s just like how you feel better when you talk to other people.”

The Aydins were not skeptical when the walkers first approached them with the offer to pray with them. “We are religious people; we go to church every Sunday, so it’s familiar for us, and our priest would do the same thing. He would go to people’s houses and pray.”

That was not the case for Verdugo, who was born in Ecuador and grew up in Spain and France. He is not a man given to religious activity, and is not a person who prayed, though his wife Mary Ann, a nurse in pediatric oncology, is religious. “I didn’t do these things before,” he explained, “but I began to get interested.”

The walkers look forward to Tuesdays, visiting the friends they have made over the last several years, but the first visit was a little intimidating for walker Bill Donoch. “You never know how people are going to take it when you approach them,” Donoch said, “but we just go out with a Christian mindset and see if we can lift up these people and their fellow business partners in prayer.”

Donoch hasn’t run into anyone who was rude or unkind. “There are people who don’t practice any religion and there are people who practice other religions,” he said. “They’ve all been very nice. Sometimes people are a little cold initially, but they warm up. Who wouldn’t want people to pray for them, unless they’re atheists? So basically we are really welcomed and people look forward to our visits.”

It has been personally successful for Donoch, who is partnered with McClure. “I feel gratified now,” he said. It is particularly satisfying for him to know he is missed during those times he is away. “Every once in a while I go away, and when I come back, I find people have been looking for me, asking where I’ve been and how I am.”

The only thing Donoch would like to see change is an increase in the number of available walkers. There are about eight walkers now, including Rev. Pritsch, and there are many businesses the small group just can’t get to, Donoch said.

Westfield is a vibrant community, the downtown bustling with people getting ice cream, taking a walk, or dining al fresco. As Rev. Kritsch speaks in his gentle voice to those in attendance at the deli service, normal downtown life goes on all around him--people pass by with their children, a guitarist at the restaurant adjoining the deli quietly sings some familiar Bob Dylan tunes, someone walks his dog. It’s a peaceful half hour.

The popularity of the group is obvious: it has grown from a stroll through town to visiting upwards of 60 businesses, a church service two nights a month, and visits from other churches to see what the group is doing. The Tuesday services will now include activities to keep children occupied while their parents enjoy worship. Alison Johnson, the church’s director of Christian education, will be on hand to keep little ones busy.

Verdugo isn’t able to attend the Tuesday evening services often as he spends so much time in New York on business, but he has come to be comfortable with the prayer and attends services when he can. He also donates his space for the communion portion of the evening service. “I’m not religious,” he said, “but the energy that is there—it’s something hard to put a name to, hard to define, but it’s something that gives you peace.”

Rev. Kritsch never expected such a response. “What we have been doing is being prayerful and following Jesus,” he said. “He has twists and turns.”

Some of those twists and turns include getting to know people that have been acquaintances for several years, but are now friends. It also includes much longer workdays than the pastor already faced. His Tuesdays are dedicated to Anchor of Hope, but that’s fine with him.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Westfield

Westfield Firefighters Give Assist at Overnight House Fire in Garwood

July 12, 2018

GARWOOD, NJ - The Westfield and Clark fire departments were on hand to assist at a house fire early Thursday morning in Garwood.  The fire was in the upper levels of a vacant home on Willow Avenue, according to officials.

Clark Fire Chief Frank Cerasa confirmed that five Clark firefighters took one engine to the site. One witness reported seeing emergency responders from ...

Change The Early Morning Timing on Central Ave. Traffic Light

July 12, 2018

In connection with asking Union County to review the signal timing, PLEASE also consider the timing early in the morning. I frequently am heading south on Central to Metropark Station to catch the 6 a.m. train. Whenever I am at the intersection prior to 5:30 a.m., the timing is such that a green light (going south) lasts for less than the amount of time it takes to get one car through the ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_ba9c4627da28fb176206_mini_magick20180618-30381-9jxo6y

Tue, July 17, 6:00 PM

Westfield Presbyterian Church, Westfield

Youth Mental Health First Aid

Education Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_ba183db7fcc1f0f9f274_1d4v9034a

Wed, July 18

Westfield Area YMCA, Westfield

Westfield Area YMCA Wellness Wednesdays

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_6bb3683d2a03ed40d943_scan0046

Thu, July 19, 7:30 PM

Mindowaskin Park, Westfield

Free Swing Band Concert in Mindowaskin Park

Arts & Entertainment

Westfield Police Blotter: Car Scratchings, Car Burglaries Continue & More

July 11, 2018

July 2, 2018 11:37 p.m.

Chad Doriral, age 32, of Brooklyn, NY was arrested for possession of CDS pursuant to a motor vehicle stop. Subject was processed and released on summons.

July 3, 2018 11:08 p.m.

Divine Kennedy, age 19, of Newark, NJ was arrested on the strength of an outstanding warrant for his arrest from Westfield Municipal Court in the amount of $1,000.00. Further investigation ...

Westfield Memorial Library Presents Keepsake Box Craft for Adults and Talk on NY Skyscrapers

July 17, 2018

The Westfield Memorial Library is excited to offer a craft for adults on Wednesday, Aug. 1 at 2 p.m. and a program on the Skyscrapers of New York at 7 p.m. The library is located at 550 East Broad St.

The craft is the creation of a keepsake box, presented by librarian Marsha Bryant. The library will provide a tin box and other decorating supplies for each participant. Using paint, ...

Big Changes in Store for New Jersey’s Employers and Employees

Big changes are in store for New Jersey’s workplaces, with dramatic legislation aimed at improving conditions for New Jersey’s workers. These changes include the enactment of New Jersey’s Equal Pay Act, a new law to help the unemployed, and passage of New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Act. Most likely one or all these laws will impact you or someone in your family.

New ...

Understand NJ's Shared Responsibility Act

Last year, the President signed legislation that repealed the “penalty tax” for not having health insurance for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

 

On May 31, Governor Murphy signed into law the “New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act,” which establishes a “shared responsibility tax” for state residents without ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...

26 Homes Sold July 8-15 in Westfield and Surrounding Towns

There were 26 homes sold between July 8 and July 15 in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford and Mountainside`

TOWN          ADDRESS    STYLE            RMS   BRS BTH   GAR   Sale Price

Cranford  115  Bryant Ave ...

Dog Found in Garwood

UPDATE: Reunited with owner.

ORIGINAL POST: Dog found on Pine Avenue in Garwood. He was given food and water. Garwood police now has him. Sweet and friendly. Contact the Garwood Police Department.

It's Not What You Are Eating, It's What's Eating You

EMOTIONAL EATING: FEEDING YOUR FEELINGS

Emotional eating can be described as episodes of binge-eating, grazing and/or eating when not hungry to soothe feelings. Emotional eaters have a pattern of eating to cope with stress, emotional conflicts and problems of daily life.

Emotional eating is eating for reasons other than hunger. Instead of physical symptoms initiating the eating, ...

What Is Your Bottom Line?

This week's Parshah (Torah reading) is the Parshah of Pinchas the Zealot: the courageous young priest who stood up against idolatry and immorality and, in the end, saved Israel from a devastating plague.

While Pinchas' radical response made him a hero worthy of having a Torah section named after him, we wouldn't necessarily suggest to our children ...

'Servant of Two Masters' exudes foolish fun

‘Servant of Two Masters’ makes for foolish, frivolous fun

By Liz Keill

MADISON, NJ –Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters,” in a rousing translation and adaptation by Bonnie J. Monte, has the outdoor audience at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey laughing and clapping all the way through.

The yearly production, held at the amphitheatre on the ...

ELL Summer Experience at Westfield Public Schools

Westfield students representing six different languages recently enjoyed a weeklong summer camp focused on providing meaningful enrichment activities for students to continue their English language acquisition while having fun.

The ELL (English Language Learners) Summer Experience ran from July 9-13 at Wilson School, welcoming students in grades 1-4 whose native languages are Russian, ...

Westfield Area YMCA: Take Swim Lessions This Summer

The Westfield Area YMCA is providing a free one-week guest pass to non-members which will also enable access to purchase a week of swim lessons at full member rates during the summer.  The one-week guest pass includes use of the Y’s fitness facilities, land and water group exercise classes and open gym/swim.

“Our goal is to have people of all ages and skill levels grow to ...

Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper Welcomes Stephen A. Timoni to Firm

Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper P.C., announced that Stephen A. Timoni has joined the firm in its Westfield office. Stephen will focus his practice in the areas of Corporate and Health Care Law.

“Stephen brings additional depth and experience to our firm. He has tremendous experience in complex corporate, M&A and health care areas of practice. We anticipate that Stephen ...

Woman Struck by Car in Bridgewater Mall Parking Lot Dies

July 12, 2018

Bridgewater, NJ - A Bedminster woman has died from her injuries after she was struck by a car in the parking lot of the Bridgewater Commons Mall Monday.

Marion Kelley, 62, was struck by a vehicle while walking in lot four near the Macy's merchandise pick up area at around 3:20 p.m. Monday.

The 2017 Mazda was driven by Chinmayi Parikh, 33, of Piscataway.

The crash is still being ...

Obituaries

Eric Lieberman, 47, of Scotch Plains, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly Tuesday, May 22, 2018 ...
Read more