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Mass. missionary to be Londonderry church guest speaker

Union Leader Correspondent

February 27. 2013 6:06PM

The Rev. Jim Gustafson has written a book condensing the 150 psalms into Tweets. The retired minister, an adjunct faculty member at Northern Essex Community College, travels regularly on missionary trips.  (COURTESY)

LONDONDERRY - A successful author and well-traveled missionary will take to the pulpit next month as part of the Londonderry Presbyterian Church's annual Easter Sunday service.

Rev. Dr. James Gustafson, a resident of Haverhill, Mass,. and a longtime staff member of the West Congregational Church in his hometown, will serve as guest preacher during the March 31 worship service. The service will begin at 10:30 a.m.

Gustafson, who is now retired from his full-time ministry post but continues to teach philosophy and religion courses at Northern Essex Community College, released his most recent book in late December.

"Psalms/Tweets: Psalms in Contemporary Style," lends a modern-day twist to some timeless Biblical lessons.

In the 175-page book, which includes plenty of spaces for readers to jot down some of their own reflections, Gustafson offers some highly abbreviated versions of the 150 verses of Psalms as an appealing option for the Web-saavy Christian on the go.

"One day I just began imagining what might have happened if all these wonderful, ancient writers were trying to get the good word out in modern times," Gustafson said in a phone interview.

Those attending Easter Sunday services in Londonderry will be offered copies of the book and they'll also have the chance to chat to the author following worship.

Gustafson's love for the written word as it relates to the "Good Book" isn't limited to his talents with the pen.

He's shared his faith with congregations in such remote locations as the Tudor Church in Mombasa, Kenya, and small Gypsy churches in rural Romania.

He's also spent time in England and Scotland, and has preached in India on at least nine occasions. Gustafson's most recent trip to India was in 2011.

"There's such a stark contrast between the oceans of people who are desperately poor to the handful of extremely wealthy," he said of his Indian adventures. "Miraculous healings take place in the most unlikely places. My theory is that God wants us to look for Him in those unlikely places. Maybe He just wants to rattle the cage just a little bit to make us stop for a moment and pay attention to Him."

An accomplished pianist and organist, Gustafson said he just might treat the Londonderry congregation to a hymn or two during his Easter appearance.

"They tell me there's an instrument there and its in good working order," he said. "So I'm hoping to try it out."

And while he hasn't yet finalized his Easter Sunday sermon, Gustafson said he has a pretty good idea on a general theme.

"The Easter season is really a time of change, a time for reflection," he said. "It's a time when we stop to think of the new life and many new prospects Jesus gave all of us. Reading the Gospels, we can refer to those and work on changes for the better."

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