Maurice Stinnett

Maurice_Stinnett_photo   Meet Maurice Stinnett!

At its Annual meeting, January 25, 2015, Church in the Highlands voted to honor Dr. Everett Parker by creating a Pastoral Internship bearing his name. The first annual Dr. Everett Parker Pastoral Intern is Maurice Stinnett, who will begin his duties on Sunday, February 22, preaching at our 10 am worship service, and giving the “Children’s Sermon.” A “meet and greet” with light refreshments will be held after the worship service. Be sure to come out and greet Maurice Stinnett, and welcome him to our community of faith! Maurice will also be singing with the choir!

Maurice was born and reared in Springfield, Ohio, where Pastor Gary served for many years as a pastor and community organizer. Pastor Gary and Maurice have had a long association in ministry, and look forward to serving together at Church in the Highlands.

Maurice Stinnett will preach one Sunday per month, beginning February 22, and will be available on the Saturday evening prior to the Sunday he preaches to 1) lead a bible study/film discussion; 2) work with our teenagers and young adults; 3) give the Children’s Sermon; 4) sing in the choir; and 5) perform other duties as assigned by the pastor.

Here is a short “bio” of our new intern:

Maurice A. Stinnett holds a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he examined the social and cultural changes in education and economics and how religion has addressed those changes and inequalities. He is currently pursuing his Doctor of Education degree through the Urban Education Leaders Program at Columbia University.

While at Princeton he served as student body president and was a Fund for Theological Education Fellow. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with honors from Central State University. He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and former Chairman of the World Leadership Program, an educational exchange program initiated by President Obama between Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt and several Ivy League universities.

Maurice is an experienced community organizer and faith-based advocate for justice who has held organizing positions with Prepare the Future Ohio, an NGO funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the aim of improving student achievement in Ohio, and Call to Renewal, where he helped run a mentoring program in the arts for at-risk youth. He also served as the Education and Community Development Manager for Esperanza, a nonprofit organization serving Philadelphia’s largely Latino/a Hunting Park community, where he coordinated and developed educational and mentoring programs for the community. In addition, Maurice has been involved in the world of higher education, serving as an adjunct professor at Eastern University and the University of the District of Columbia, and as invited speaker on education and diversity topics at multiple colleges and universities.

At CentroNía, Maurice currently serves as Senior Director for Community Engagement and Education and executive team member. He oversees and manages the out-of-school time programs, literacy programs, and community engagement efforts for the organization in Columbia Heights, while coordinating programmatic efforts with DC Bilingual School, a Tier 1 bilingual charter school. A strong believer in the power of education and the abilities of our children and youth, Maurice is a leader who strongly believes that “no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

On Happiness

Niagara Falls


For the past few years I have experienced what I can only describe as “immoderate happiness.”

I’m sure I have annoyed my Facebook friends with my repeated happiness updates, periodic postings that sometimes feel to me like fleeting attempts to acknowledge and preserve a passing feeling before it fades. But recently I posted a different Facebook status: gratitude. I repeated the word till it filled my page, like this:

Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.
Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.
Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.

Well, you get the idea.

It was as if I were saying to myself, maybe it is time to explore the source of this unexpected happiness. Where is it coming from? I know it is not coming from me. I’m not that good. Most days, in fact, I feel like a hot mess. And yet, this persistent happiness.


Rivers fascinate me.

I lived in Buffalo for a year. The Niagara River was a short distance from my house on Porter Avenue. Sometimes I would ride my bike alongside the river, stopping every so often to stare at it. It’s mesmerizing. Not long after I moved to Buffalo a friend took me to Niagara Falls at night. I stood in the moonlight, looking at the rapids a few feet away, to where the river made its steep descent, crashing below, white under the inky sky. My friend said, don’t even think about putting your hand in the rapids, the river will take you over. I hadn’t been thinking of that at all. Until she said that. I stepped back from the river.

I grew up on the Hudson River, in south Yonkers, a few blocks from the Bronx. When in New York, I still orient myself in relation to this river the Native Americans call Muhheakantuck “the river that flows both ways.” In seventh grade, I learned that the Hudson River is a tidal estuary. At its mouth, where it empties into the north Atlantic, and continuing upstream some fifty miles, the Hudson contains both salt water and fresh. Churning together in a volatile mix near the Battery, the southernmost point in its 315 mile journey to the Atlantic, and upstream at the roiling waters of Spuyten Duyvil, the river is restless, vast, and strong. Yet its origins are humble: a small lake halfway up the southwestern slope of Mount Marcy, 4,293 feet above sea level, that the Native Americans called Lake Tear of the Clouds. To access it, you have to hike in from Heart Lake Road, 3.2 miles east of Lake Placid off Route 73, a nineteen mile hike, round trip. Henry Hudson never made it here when he sailed northward in 1609–passing beds of oysters, coves of wild celery and rice, turtles and crabs nestled in lush marshes, and game of every kind, including herons and Bonaparte gulls–though the river and the nuptial bay bear his name.

What I think I am saying here is that if you want to understand the Hudson River you have to go to its source. The mighty Niagara has its origins in Lake Erie, and contains water from four of the five Great Lakes.

If you want to understand the quixotic nature of human happiness, you must travel upstream of where you are. Where we find that God is still, waiting. Waiting for you, in the deep waters, in the underground springs that feed the lake that powers the river that opens onto an ocean of limitless possibilities. God is the nothing that wants to become something—in our lives, in this brutal, cold world—but we must choose wisely. God is powerless, pushed out to the margins of our world by greed and fear and violence and despair. And unbelief.

All God can do is love.

The world is a frightening place. This week, a massacre of innocents in Pakistan. One hundred forty-five children and teachers, dead. Who knows what awaits us next month. Things change rapidly. We feel ourselves gripped by fear and anxiety. It is essential to choose to trust, to choose to love. For that we must travel to the source.

Peace out,


Dear friends

PastorGaryI want to thank everyone for the warm welcome you have extended to me as I settle into my ministry with you at  The Church in the Highlands.

As I said on September 21, the day that you called me to be your pastor, I have felt the clear leading of the Spirit of God to come “back home” to Westchester and to be your pastor here in White Plains. As someone born and reared in Yonkers, with family nearby, it is so special to be back here! I feel truly blessed to be your pastor, and to serving God in this place.

I have met many of you, but not all! If you are reading this, but we have not yet had the pleasure of meeting face to face, I hope that we can become acquainted soon! If you would like a pastoral visit, or simply a “drop by visit” here at the church, I would be honored to meet with you.

My office hours are Monday-Friday, 10am-2pm, but please feel free to contact me on my cell phone at (937) 215-6172.

I look forward to greeting you all in church!

I am living in the Manse at 26 Idlewood, and loving it. It is a beautiful home, and our church is a beautiful building as well. Our congregation calls our worship space the “sanctuary,” which means “a container for the holy.” It is a lovely and historic room, but it is good to know that “holy ground” can be found anywhere, and no one place can hope to “contain” the presence of God. Ordinary places become holy ground because we meet God there.

Holy ground is usually found in a crisis: Jacob running away from Esau, Moses hiding out, Joseph greeting his estranged brothers in Egypt, Paul rushing to Damascus to persecute the church, Mary & Joseph in a rude stable. Anywhere can be holy ground if we meet God there. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

But it is also true that there are “thin places” in the world, where the barriers between heaven and earth seem to lift, and we are ushered into God’s presence. Often, these are places of memory, where we have made promises, exchanged vows, experienced fellowship, felt the panoply of emotions from grief to joy, greeted old friends, and made new ones. I hope that our church is one of those thin places for you. Already, it is becoming that for me!

Christmas is a season when we intentionally remember to give thanks. Today, I’m giving thanks to God for The Church in the Highlands, a very special place, a place where we meet God and greet one another, and support one another on our journey of faith.

No matter who you are or where you are on your journey, you are welcome here, and NO ONE belongs here more than you!

Pastor Gary