Last call at the Piano Bar: St. Peter’s says goodbye to Rector Janet Broderick with tears, toasts

The Rev. Janet Broderick delivers her last sermon at St. Peter's in Morristown, June 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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With tears and toasts, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown said goodbye this weekend to a rector who comforted, challenged and inspired parishioners for a decade.

“Together, you helped us dream about new possibilities, and open ourselves to the community. And then you helped us take the risks to make them real. You helped us share the Holy Spirit with our neighbors,” church Warden Matthew Stephens told Broderick at her farewell service on Sunday. “You will always have a place in our hearts.”

The Rev. Janet Broderick is heading for the hills–Beverly Hills. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The 63–year-old minister, who hails from a theatrical family that includes actors Matthew Broderick and their late father, James Broderick, has accepted an invitation to become rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, CA.

She planned to drive there from Morristown with her grown children, James and Hannah Kraft, in her son’s RV. But first came a weekend of sendoffs, starting with Friday night’s Piano Bar, a monthly parish hall event Broderick introduced to the church.

Choir member Kevin Kelly, Music Director Josh Stafford and departing Rector Janet Broderick sing at Piano Bar, June 7, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Gathered around a piano played by Broderick’s star recruit — internationally acclaimed organist Joshua Stafford — parishioners and choristers belted out show tunes and movie favorites, including some composed by a family friend from Broderick’s youth, the late Oscar Hammerstein II.

The evening ended with So Long, Farewell from The Sound of Music.

Video: So Long, Farewell…

Parishioners again raised their voices, and glasses of champagne, for a hearty chorus of She’s a Jolly Good Fellow at a bacon-and-eggs reception following Sunday’s lengthy service.

Broderick’s last sermon from the pulpit of the Gothic church challenged parishioners to trust their hearts when choosing her successor. The parish will convene later this month to discuss the search process.

St. Peter’s choir sings at farewell service for Rector Janet Broderick, June 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Wearing red robes for Pentecost, a Christian holy day, the rector gave thanks “for the way you have loved this poor sinner. With all of my troubles and problems, what an astounding thing that you all summoned someone like me to be here with you.

“I have very few merits of my own, truly. I didn’t learn to read till I was 13. I still have to have everything proofed every day, or it comes out like I didn’t go to school. I have all the problems that anyone’s ever had, and some worse than most.

St. Peter’s vestry members staff the bar at Rector Janet Broderick’s farewell brunch, June 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“But because of your faith, and because of your love, you allowed this church to begin to risk, and to expand into the community, to take risks with our space, with our people, to welcome all sorts of folks who have made our lives so much richer and better,” she said.

Broderick said she considers these acts gifts from St. Peter’s, for herself, her children, “and even, God help him, for my ex-husband, James. Amen!”

Parishioners laughed, then gave Broderick a standing ovation.

‘WE’VE BEEN THROUGH PAIN’

On most Sundays, the rector had help administering communion. But on this day, Broderick handled the rite herself and quietly delivered personalized blessings. Two long lines queued at the chancel. A few of the faithful choked back tears.

Early in her tenure at St. Peter’s, Broderick was tested by the sudden deaths of two beloved parishioners.

Rector Janet Broderick, left, listens to proclamation declaring ‘Janet Broderick Day,’ read by Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“We’ve been through suffering and we’ve been through pain,” she acknowledged. Sounding one last serious note, she asked congregants to pray for Mayor Tim Dougherty, who had a heart attack on Saturday.

Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty, back from a red-eye flight from a funeral in Arizona, stood in for her husband to read aloud a proclamation proclaiming Sunday as Janet Broderick Day.

The document cited many highlights of Broderick’s tenure: An after-school program and summer Bible camp for disadvantaged children; advocacy for reduced fees at the town pool for low-income families; a thrift shop for charity; and flourishing 12-step programs.

Goodwill wishes to the Rev. Janet Broderick at her farewell reception, June 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

At Broderick’s urging, a once-insular parish offered respite to residents pounded by hurricanes Irene and Sandy, shelter to Afghan refugees, and refuge and encouragement to many others–including this reporter when he was contemplating the risky venture that became MorristownGreen.com.

Broderick served as a trustee of the Mayo Performing Arts Center, helped establish a Morristown Cultural District, and staged holiday readings with her famous brother.

She “will be missed by us all,” the mayor said from Morristown Medical Center. (He was discharged on Monday.)

‘WHAT’S THE BEST YOU CAN DO?’

With humor, Pastor Gilma Vargas-Ramos of the Living Waters Church recounted how Broderick welcomed immigrant families to hold worship services at St. Peter’s–after some negotiations.

“We don’t have much. We can only pay a fraction of what you’re asking,” she remembered telling Broderick.

“Well, what’s the best you can do?” came the reply. And then: “How am I going to explain this to the vestry?”

St. Peter’s Rector Janet Broderick, left, gets goodbye hug from Pastor Gilma Vargas-Ramos of the Living Waters Church, June 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The vestry came through.

“You have been a vessel that the Lord has used to bless the Latino community here in Morristown, and we are forever grateful,” Vargas-Ramos told Broderick on Sunday.

“We love you and will always pray that God opens doors for you wherever he might lead you.”

As the service drew to a close, Broderick solemnly relinquished her church keys, and gave a Bible, a prayer book and other religious items to congregation leaders.

Warden Nerissa Boccino announced plans to name a proposed preschool for under-served children for Broderick, and the parish presented the departing rector with a gift purse with money.

Parishioners Kim and Finn Wentworth are funding the planting of an evergreen near the rectory. It will be illuminated for Christmas, and a plaque will read:

Janet Broderick, in appreciation of our esteemed leader and pastor for seeds planted and deep roots established in our community.

Cake for departing St. Peter’s Rector Janet Broderick, June 9, 2019.
‘I SAID: ‘I’M CONTROLLING THE PLAYLISTS ON THE DRIVE TO CALIFORNIA!’ Departing St. Peter’s Rector Janet Broderick, center, prepares to cut cake with her children, Hannah and James Kraft, June 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Well done, Rector Broderick, your impact will remain long after you’ve settled in your new home. Well done, Kevin for another fine article.

  2. Betsy, why would you think that naming a proposed preschool in honor of Rev. Broderick a joke? Rev. Janet is mo0st deserving of such a tribute!

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