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Despite Summer Slowdown, Ridgewood Religious Groups Remain Active

Talking with several village religious institutions about summer plans.

Sticky summer days and nights in Ridgewood have a tendency to slow things down. Schools are vacant, people vacation, and some businesses adopt seasonal hours. For the village's religious groups, activities may ease but the groups are hardly inactive.

"Yes, church attendance decline, but that doesn't mean we take a hiatus. I don't think you can ever apply that mindset with God. We stress that we don't put our faith on the shelf," said Rev. Gregory Lisby from Christ Church.

The newly installed pastor at the Episcopal church on Cottage Place, Lisby reflects similar sentiments as his colleagues throughout town. Each group changes its offering slightly—whether altered worship times, decreased programming or suspended religious education schedules—but still are available for the community. 

Rabbi David Fine of Temple Israel said the synagogue capitalizes on the smaller crowds to create more intimate settings.

"We'll have small Sunday gatherings at people's homes, or have our Saturday evening sessions outside," Fine said.

Although the rabbi, like his village counterparts, will take a much deserved vacation this summer, he's working full-time throughout the season.

"Every summer I make a list of extra projects I want to do, but I still struggle to find the time to do them," he said.

Both Fine and Lisby said they use the summer to plan for the rest of the year. From the Old Paramus Reformed Church, Rev. Thomas Marsden is laying out curriculum for the fall Sunday school and organizing larger church functions—including a European trip.

"Twenty-one of us are going to Germany for a world famous Passion Play, and it's really gearing up now," he said.

Started in 1634, the Oberammergau Passion Play occurs every 10 years and expresses the small Bavarian town's gratitude for good fortune during the Black Plague. The six-hour solemn ceremony depicts the death of Jesus Christ, Marsden said, and is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see.

Aside from organizing the trip, Marsden has enough to daily keep him busy.

"I continue my pastoral calling—visiting hospitals, nursing homes, shut-ins, which are only a few," he said. 

Old Paramus moves its worship time from 10 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Sundays, and its Spirit Hour school does not meet in the summer.

Christ Church similarly runs its school on the Ridgewood district's schedule, but maintains its two Sunday services at 8 and 10 a.m. The service is different, though, as the choir—which utilizes the Gothic building's massive pipe organ—doesn't meet, and Lisby said a smaller table replaces the high altar.

"It's less formal. It's not exactly casual, but [the smaller altar] is a reminder that the sacrament doesn't occur in a far off location. It's amongst us," he said.

Possessing one of the biggest congregations in town, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church continues many functions year round, Rev. Ronald Rozniak said.

"The parish is so large that it makes it difficult to eliminate our 12:30 p.m. mass. We have a 6:30 p.m. Sunday mass, and we find people will come to it when they get back from a vacation," he said.

The religious education program, comprised of about 1,700 students, still holds some classes in the summer.

"We just finished our religious ed. for the summer. It runs two weeks, and is three-and-half hours a day," he said. Students receiving sacraments must attend during the school year, but the summer program is an alternative for others, he said.

Expressing the theme from his peers, Rozniak said it's slower but still busy.

"Day to day, it's a little quieter. The number of meetings or groups I have to talk to decreases. I'm not invited into the classroom," he said, but he must prepare for sermons and pastoral counseling.

The two-month or so decrease in activity is probably a needed time for these leaders to clear their heads. When the fall comes, it starts quickly. Fine must prep for the High Holiday in September, and Lisby will hold a "Welcome Sunday" Sept. 12 to usher in the school year.

"We need the time to clear off the desk, as once the school year starts, I won't have a half-hour in my office," Fine said. 


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