ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ – The Rev. Michael Riley will lead a special service Sunday as members of the First Presbyterian Church prepare to decorate the sanctuary for the Christmas season.

Riley, regular guest minister and newspaper columnist, will lead the short Hanging of the Greens service following the regular 10 a.m. worship service. Immediately thereafter, members and church youth will decorate the church for Advent and Christmas. When that is accomplished, the church’s Board of Deacons will serve lunch to all the participants and guests.

During the regular 10 a.m. service, Riley will conclude his series of sermons on the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Sunday’s sermon will be entitled “Everybody Safe at Home: The father and the prodigal sons.”

The sermon, the fifth consecutive on the subject, is inspired by Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming,” which, in turn, was inspired by Rembrandt’s painting of the scene, a copy of which is in the church sanctuary.

During Sunday’s service, Riley will continue his “mystery bag” children’s sermon series in which youngsters try to “stump the pastor” by putting a small personal “treasure” in a brown paper bag. He then picks one and creates a children’s message from its contents.


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Regular Sunday School classes, which are open to all youngsters, begin after the children’s sermon.

Riley will also preach on Nov. 28, the first Sunday of Advent, and again on Dec. 12, Dec. 19, Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) and Dec. 26. The annual Christmas Eve candlelight service will begin at 7 p.m.

The Rev. Barbara MacFie will be in the pulpit and service Communion on Sunday, Dec. 5.

Riley, a South Amboy resident, is an ordained minister and served as a Baptist pastor for over 20 years.

He is a staff writer, editorial writer and columnist for the Asbury Park Press. His weekly column, “Only Human,” appears on Friday in The Press.

All area residents and visitors are invited to worship at the 120-year-old handicapped accessible church at the corner of Third and E. Highland Aves. A new municipal parking lot is available next to the Christian Education Building on E. Highland avenue.

Child care for four-year-olds and younger is provided during the regular 10 a.m. Sunday worship service.


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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...