Rev. Paul G. Janssen
Born in South Dakota, Pastor Janssen was raised in the parsonage of a country church with his five siblings. He graduated in a class of 38 students of Titonka High School, Iowa and followed his brothers and sisters attending Central College of Pella, Iowa. After four years in an intensely Dutch environment, Paul felt it time to broaden his horizons, and he enrolled at New Brunswick Theological Seminary. Between Central College and New Brunswick, Paul fell in love with the Annette Giles; they were married on January 1, 1983. After four years in seminary he served an internship at Brighton Reformed Church in Rochester, New York, then – he was called to serve Third Reformed Church in Hackensack, New Jersey. While there, Paul and Annette adopted their first child, Samuel. In 1991 Paul accepted a call to Pascack Reformed Church in Park Ridge, New Jersey, where he served for 22 years. Emma entered the Janssen family in 1994. Paul began his service at United Reformed Church in Somerville in April, 2014. Once in Somerville, Paul and Annette “up-adopted” their dog Tucker.An avid but decidedly amateur musician, Paul enjoys singing in the choir, playing several instruments, (guitar, keyboard, penny whistle and others) and occasionally writing hymns and choral pieces for the choir. He has been active in ecumenical circles at the local, national, and international levels.
Paul is a “pastoral progressive” voice in the Reformed Church in America – not a strident, polarizing presence, but at the same time an open promoter of the cause of racial justice, ally for LGBTQ community, and advocate for the poor. The core of his pastoral sensitivities stems from the point of view of Jesus: “looking at the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) His progressive inclinations arise from the prophetic text: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6)
Director of Music
Justine joined our staff as Director of Music in January 2020, although she has regularly played for us on Sunday mornings since September 2019. Justine is a sought-after collaborative pianist, chamber musician and teacher in the central New Jersey area. After graduating from Rutgers University in 2016 with her B.S. in Mathematics with High Honors, she was hired as a staff accompanist at Mason Gross, becoming the first person without a music degree to do so. Her former teachers include Zitta Zohar and Elizabeth Difelice, and she currently studies with Eileen Buck. She is proud to be the pianist of choice in the studios of esteemed musicians from the New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
Carlos was born in El Salvador and has been a faithful, dedicated member of our staff for over 20 years. In addition to tending to the daily upkeep and maintenance of our building and grounds. Carlos is our on-site food safety handler and general handy-man. He is also responsible for the care of vestments and sacred vessels and prepares the altar and sanctuary for our services.