From your supply minister of word and sacrament

“O Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.”  (chorus of Epiphany hymn “We Three Kings of Orient Are”)

Epiphany: (Miriam Webster definition) “1. Church festival of the coming of the Magi to the Christ Child. 2. an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking. 3. an illuminating discovery, realization or disclosure.”

The Star leads to Bethlehem. The Magi (wise men) from the east following the star came to honor the infant Jesus, who by the time they arrived, was in a house, probably two years old.  Herod, the Gospel of Matthew records, ascertained from the wise men the exact time they first saw the star.  When Herod determined that he had been tricked by the wise men, because they did not come back to him saying where they found the child, he ordered all the children around Bethlehem who were two years old or under be killed, “according to the time he (Herod) learned the (wise men) astrologers had seen the star” (Matthew again).  We celebrate the visit of the Magi (wise men) to Bethlehem on Epiphany, January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas. We are expecting to observe Epiphany in worship on Jan. 3, with the sacrament of Holy Communion.  

In three congregations I have encouraged, and in fact removed, the wise men and their camels from manger scenes.  Going back to visit those congregations at Christmas, or driving by their outdoor stable displays soon after I left as pastor, the wise men were back at the manger.  That experience has been an awakening, an epiphany.  The epiphany being “don’t mess with Christmas tradition, even if the tradition is not biblically accurate.”


Thanks to:

  • The donor(s) and workers who have winterized the outdoor pulpit.  On Dec. 20, even with the 28-degree temperature, there were 26 cars in the parking lot, and at last look, 57 views of the service FRCB Facebook.
  • Rev. Matt for setting up the recording of services when I have been the worship leader.
  • Brian Clary and Rev. Matt for the recording and posting of indoor virtual services.
  • Diane Kempf for accepting the office of Deacon.
  • Mary Jane Brown, Rev. Matt and the Sunday School for the on-line virtual pageant.  See it on FRCB Facebook, 135 views at last count.
  • The many who sent Christmas greetings and presented to Eileen and me gifts of cookies, bread, and jelly plus more.
  • The Consistory for a generous Christmas gift.
  • Those who volunteer and support the ministry of the Venture Churches Food Pantry, housed at FRCB.
  • All who remain faithful in worship attendance in the parking lot or on-line, and are loyal with contributions of time, talent, and treasure.
  • The many others whose efforts make the ministries of FRCB real.

Rev. Dr. Gregg Mast

It is with a profoundly broken heart I share the news with you that Rev. Dr. Gregg Mast entered the nearer presence of God today.  I’ve been told he had a heart attack last night and then a second one today.  They believe the Corona virus had affected both his heart and brain.  

Gregg was a very prominent, influential member of our denomination.  He was a significant figure at New Brunswick Seminary playing a vital role in the strengthening of the Seminary so that it could serve generations to come.   This is just devastating news.  

Please pray for Gregg’s wife, Vicki, his children and their families and all the many people who are grieving the loss of Gregg. 


Nancy Landrigan

In Memoriam: The reverent gregg alan mast, ph.d

In Memoriam
The Reverend Gregg Alan Mast, Ph.D
The Reverend Gregg Alan Mast, Ph.D., president emeritus of New Brunswick Theological Seminary (NBTS) and General Synod Professor emeritus of the Reformed Church in America (RCA), died on Monday afternoon, April 27, at Albany Medical Center Hospital, Albany, New York, after being ill with the COVID-19 virus for several weeks. 

Gregg Mast was born on February 7, 1952, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the son of Corneal and Stella Mast. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hope College in 1974, he attended NBTS, receiving his Master of Divinity degree in 1976. After being licensed and ordained by the Classis of South Grand Rapids, RCA, Mast served as assistant pastor at Andrew Murray Church in Johannesburg, a congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, for one year at the height of the struggle against Apartheid. He then joined the pastoral staff of North Reformed Church in Newark, New Jersey for a year before spending seven years as pastor of Second Reformed Church of Irvington, New Jersey.

While he was at Irvington, Mast studied in the liturgics program at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, studying under its founders—Bard Thompson, Erik Routley, and Howard Hageman—and earning his Master of Philosophy in 1981 and his doctorate in 1985. During that time, he served as Hageman’s informal teaching assistant, occasionally filling in at classes at Westminster Choir College in Princeton and NBTS. He then served as Minister for Social Witness and Worship for the RCA from 1985 through 1988, before accepting a call to be Senior Pastor of First Church (Reformed) in Albany, New York.

Dr. Mast considered his fifteen years in Albany as his most fruitful time of ministry prior to his return to NBTS as its president. He served as president of Albany Classis, moderator of its Vocational Development Committee, and a contributing editor of The Church Herald, RCA denominational magazine. He published, with Randy Weiland and L’anni Hill-Alto, And Grace Shines Through: A Journey of Faith Through the Ordinary Stories of Our Lives (Reformed Church Press, 1977) and a new edition of Our Reformed Church—a short book for new RCA members originally written by Howard Hageman. He also completed In Remembrance and Hope: The Ministry and Vision of Howard Hageman and Raising the Dead: The Sermons of Howard G. Hageman and also published his doctoral dissertation as The Eucharistic Service of the Catholic Apostolic Church and Its Influence on the Reformed Liturgical Renewals of the Nineteenth Century (Scarecrow Press, 1998).

After serving the RCA again, as Director of Ministry Services, from 2003 to 2006, Gregg Mast was called to serve as the fourteenth president of NBTS. He and his wife, Vicki, came to New Brunswick in a time of financial and staffing instability along with growing concerns over issues of race in the life of the Seminary—which had moved from a mostly white, mostly RCA, almost all-male student body to a fully coeducational, multicultural student body, representing a variety of denominations. Dr. Mast guided the school through a return to financial stability, the creation of a Doctor of Ministry degree, and the move into a new physical plant with the building at 35 Seminary Place. He also began a long run of teaching worship for the annual intensive courses for the RCA’s Ministerial Formation Coordinating Agency. 

As President, Dr Mast also gave expression to his longstanding passionate interest in global Christianity, and his commitment to the future of the Christian faith as a global reality. He had travelled widely, visiting, preaching and teaching in Christian churches around the world, not least during his term as General Synod president, but throughout his years of ministry as well.  At NBTS he experimented with a program to bring scholars from abroad, especially from the two-thirds world, to join the faculty, and established another program to bring seminary students from churches outside America to NBTS for a portion of their studies. He also took the lead in establishing the Underwood Center for Global Christianity, which cultivates relationships between the seminary and churches abroad in a variety of ways; and, in partnership with the Saemoonan Church of Seoul, Korea, he began the annual Underwood Symposium each spring, introducing American and European scholars to Korean Christian audiences.  
Dr. Mast also had a deep commitment to racial justice, from his days as a seminary intern in inner-city Philadelphia, through his time in South Africa and throughout his career. At NBTS, the achievement he was arguably most proud of was the initiative to dismantle institutional racism at the school, through many student and faculty dialogues, major curricular changes, and the creation of the Anti-Racism Transformation Team. This Team, in turn, with his encouragement and participation, opened the way to a number of fundamental structural and policy changes at the administrative level, to a transformation of the daily culture of the school, to the establishment of annual anti-racism trainings that are still required of all students, faculty, staff and board members, and to the adoption of the Anti-Racism Statement of the Board of Trustees:

"We, the Board of Trustees of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, have decided to take a stand against racism and insidious structure of privilege and power. We are committed to identifying and dismantling all such structures in this Seminary. We make this commitment in full knowledge and understanding that it will involve uncomfortable and painful self-examination, both personal and corporate, and that it will require deep and difficult changes at all levels of our beloved institution, including this board. We are humbly yet firmly convinced that in making this commitment we are being led in Spirit, we are demonstrating obedience to God’s will and plan, and we are following the example of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. 
We pray that God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer will redeem our sins and guide, bless and help our creative efforts to let God do a “new thing” at New Brunswick Theological Seminary."

Faculty, staff, administration, students, and trustees in the time of his presidency not only found inspiration in these deep commitments and visions that he brought to his work; they also came to deeply trust his leadership itself. He led by cultivating relationships throughout the seminary community, bringing his ideas and passions into conversations with others, listening to their responses as well as their own ideas and passion, thereby building community and, at the same time, engaging everyone in the process of shaping the school’s life and mission. As he nurtured that process, which had its moments of uncertainty and frustration, he remained patient and wise. A consummate leader, he saw it through.  
As soon as plans for a memorial service are determined, we will post them here and on our social media.
If you would like to make a memorial gift to the Seminary in Gregg’s name, please use The Pilgrimage Fund, established upon the occasion of his retirement for gifts in his honor. Gregg wanted all students at NBTS to have the opportunity to travel for a cultural immersion experience, giving them greater insight as they serve the Church. Gifts to The Pilgrimage Fund will be distributed them at the discretion of the Scholarship Committee and Dean of the Seminary to NBTS students participating in off-campus NBTS educational experiences outside or inside the United States. Please click here for more information and to make a gift.

In Memory of The Rev. Dr. Allan Janssen    Pastor FRCB Sept. 1978-Sept. 2000

He was out of Iowa by way of Central College.   After Seminary he became a Minister of Word and Sacrament,  an office of the church he fulfilled to the end of his days. He went beyond being a parish pastor,  attaining advanced degrees while authoring numerous books and articles. He went beyond expertise as an authority of Church Order to be regarded as an ecclesiastical statesman, striving to mitigate fractious elements in the Body of Christ. He went beyond church politics to become a professor in Seminary helping to train future Ministers of Word and Sacrament.  Upon retiring from that career he returned to his first calling, being a gifted interpreter and example of the Word. He went beyond being a Sunday preacher in congregations, to become senior pastor for retired Ministers of Word and Sacrament. Now he has gone beyond all, gathered into the inheritance of the saints who from their labors rest. 

Rev. Glenn Van Oort

View Dr. Jansen's obituary

Al Janssen was a gift of God to the church
    and to Colleen!
Al Janssen was a gift of God
    to hosts of parishioners and students, and
    to countless colleagues and friends!

On the day you gather to honor Al's life and memory,  
may there be a thousand prayers of thanks lifted up to God, 
the Giver and Author of life!

Yes, thanks and praise to God for the gift that Al Janssen was,
and will long continue to be.   Amen.

Rev. Ron Stockhoff

Jerusalem Reformed church

          My memories of Pastor Al are of a wise man, a faithful servant to our Lord, and a true friend. I first met Pastor Al through the Albany Classis several years ago and that friendship continued throughout the years.  I personally took pleasure in his compassion for his faith, and his personal insight into the Bible which he so generously shared through teaching, writing, and from the pulpit.
           I remember what a loyal friend to Jerusalem Reformed Church he became giving very generously of his time whenever called upon. In fact, before his untimely death on April 3, 2020 he was scheduled to be our Guest Pastor for two worship services on April 12 Easter Sunday.  He never rushed out of church when the sermon was over. He would sit with us during fellowship time.  With humor and friendship he would encourage conversation and laughter around the table. I will truly miss the time I will no longer be able to spend with Pastor Al.  

Virginia Fissette
Elder, Jerusalem Reformed Church

Onesquethaw Reformed Church

I am the chair person for the Worship Committee at Onesquethaw Reformed Church.  One of my main responsibilities was to find pulpit supply while we were without our own shepherd.  Rev. Janssen graciously came many times to lead us in worship.  We were always so blessed by his wisdom, knowledge, guidance and patience as he assisted us during a very difficult time.  He had such a wonderful way of relaying peace, calmness and hope during a time of uncertainty. At that point in time, we did not know what God had planned for our church family.  I can honestly speak for our congregation in saying Rev. Janssen blessed all of our lives in so many ways.  We were shocked by his passing.  He will be dearly missed.  But we know he is now at peace with our Heavenly Father with many stars in his crown!  He was an amazing "Fisher of Men".  

In Christian Love,

Linda Bathrick; Chair
Onesquethaw Reformed Church