For St. Peter and Paul Parish in Turnersville, their Christmas miracle came three months early.
At the end of August, Hurricane Irene’s impact was felt at the parish, as its parish center suffered extensive water damage to walls, ceiling tiles and carpeting.
Some 800 students were scheduled to start religious education classes there in the fall, but extensive clean-up and mold issues rendered the center unusable. St. Peter and Paul pastor, Father Edward Lipinski, and director of religious education, Kathleen Johnson, scrambled to find a location for the program.
Enter St. John’s United Methodist Church, a mile away.
“When we heard the need, we wanted to help them,” said Pastor John Koch of St. John’s.
From October to last month, Pastor Koch and his community accommodated the students and teachers in the church basement, four days a week.
As St. Peter and Paul’s parish center has been restored after the hurricane damage, classes resumed earlier this month there. However, the parish has not forgotten the actions of its Christian neighbor.
“Pastor Koch’s caring and compassion are what the true meaning of Christmas is all about, taking that extra step to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Kathleen Johnson.
Father Edward Lipinski agreed.
The Methodist Church’s aid was “an unexpected miracle,” he said.
Although two different denominations, Pastor Koch emphasized the two Christian communities’ main similarity, in speaking of the partnership.
“We both love the Lord; we’re a team,” said Pastor Koch.