RED BANK, NJ - As the new senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church at Red Bank (Tower Hill), Jason Tucker was enjoying a warm welcome from his parishioners. And then came Hurricane Sandy. After relocating his family to the home of relatives, Tucker focused on ministering to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of church members and the greater community.
First Presbyterian Church at Red Bank (Tower Hill) Pastor, Jason Tucker.
“It was an about-face into the reality of pain and loss,” said Tucker. “The church had planned a series of ‘meet and greet’ parties at members’ homes, and now some of those homes are uninhabitable or simply gone.” In the days after the storm, the pastor led his 1,000-member church in coping with the trauma of devastation and with practical needs. Tower Hill opened its church hall as a warming center and offered kitchen and laundry facilities, a shower, and Wi-Fi. “But now our community is facing the long haul, and it will be difficult,” Tucker said.
Approximately 20 church families have been dislocated by the storm and nearly as many have experienced significant damage. A church member coordinates communication with them and within the congregation. Tower Hill has both short-term and long-term plans for disaster relief. “Members are caring for each other. It is happening organically,” Tucker said. The congregation is also providing help in collaboration with local organizations, and over the long term through the national Presbyterian Disaster Assistance fund.
Tucker postponed his planned sermons for the first two Sundays in November in order to reflect on the soul-searching questions that arise when disaster strikes. In a sermon entitled “Where is God in All This?” Tucker said, “God does not have to be the cause of storms. Storms are caused by low pressure systems. God is found in the silence that follows.” He added, “Where is God in all this? Right here—with us—holding us through the love and compassion of others.”
Tucker, who is 39, came to Tower Hill as senior pastor on Sept. 1, and will be formally installed at a service in January. He was previously senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Avenel, NJ. Earlier, he was a teaching assistant in New Testament Greek at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, and director of youth ministries and contemporary worship at the First Presbyterian Church, Ambler,