Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 29
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
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First Female Senior Pastor, Purkis-Brash, Installed at United Methodist Church

Dilshanie Perera

Jana Purkis-Brash, who was appointed Senior Pastor of the United Methodist Church on July 1, is the first woman to occupy that position in the history of the church in Princeton. Former Princeton Township mayor and current co-chair of the United Methodist Church Council Michelle Tuck-Ponder remarked, “we are very pleased that Jana is here and we’re looking forward to the new beginning.”

Over 200 people were present for last Sunday’s installation ceremony, during which members of the congregation presented the new pastor with various gifts, including a Bible, a globe, and keys to the church, each symbolizing a different aspect of religious life.

Saying that she is “excited about the possibilities that lie ahead,” Ms. Purkis-Brash spoke about her vision for the future in a recent interview. “I feel so much openness and excitement, enthusiasm, and energy from the congregation, which means that we can, with God’s guidance, do ministry that we haven’t done before …. One of the areas in which I have a great passion is youth ministry. With all of these college-age students around, I hope we can find a way for them to know that God loves them, and that this church is a place where they’re welcome.”

She also spoke of the Latino population in Princeton. “This congregation already has a Spanish-speaking Sunday school class, but I hope we’ll be able to broaden our outreach to that community. In that there’s a language barrier, I hope that we can find some ways to help connect, meet needs, and welcome that population here at the church as well.”

When she was a teenager, Ms. Purkis-Brash became involved in the local United Methodist Church after friends invited her to join them at their youth group. Remembering the time of her confirmation (“I was baptized and confirmed on the same day, when I was 13”), she said, “it was in preparation for membership in the church over the course of a year that I was beginning to sense that God was moving me in a particular direction.”

Attending Drew Theological Seminary was a “wonderful experience” for Ms. Purkis-Brash, “both in terms of learning and growing, but also in terms of the relationships. I made friends with people who have been my colleagues all of these years, plus I also met and married my husband while I was there.”

Her husband, Donald Brash, is an ordained American Baptist minister and is currently an associate professor at the Palmer Theological Seminary. They have a 19-year-old daughter, Leah, who just finished cosmetology school.

Ms. Purkis-Brash and her family recently moved to Princeton. She is enjoying the town, namely, “the fact that it’s not quite a city, but has the hustle and bustle feel.” She added, “I really like that Princeton, which is different from other communities where I’ve been, has a more cosmopolitan feel in terms of diversity. To get to meet people from all around the world is very exciting.”

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