Getting to Know NP: Fr. Daniel Gunn


Jack Cropper, staff writer

When you first became a priest at Saint Andrew’s, I know that people that go to St. Andrew’s are not exclusively from New Providence, but were you welcomed by the church community and other leaders in the town?

Generally,  yeah. You know, one of the first things that I did when I came is was I made an appointment to meet  the mayor, to meet the chief of police, and to meet the congressman, New Jersey legislator. And so the chief of police and the captain actually came to meet me. I met the mayor at something shortly after I got here. And Bramnick, who was the representative,  invited me to his office, and Tom Kean also reached out to me and said hello, and the people just within the church and in the community, generally have been very welcoming. There’s only been a couple of exceptions and I won’t go into that. Yeah, I won’t go into it. I fully understand why, you know, those welcomes weren’t as as warm as others. 

So is it possible that you could characterize your role in the community?  Do you consider yourself like exclusively a spiritual leader, or do you think you’re like more than that in terms of New Providence or even the county?

I’ve been at St. Andrew’s for four and a half years now and I have been more a priest for St. Andrew’s, than I was at other places where I’ve been. So in other churches where I’ve served I’ve really been, well I would term it as village priest, or one of the village priests. And lots of people got to know me and, you know, there was always something going on in town in which I was engaged. That’s been less the case at St. Andrew’s. And so most of my time, and most of my focus has been primarily with the people of St. Andrew’s. There isn’t a strong ecumenical and interfaith tradition, where clergy get together and do things like there is in a lot of other communities. And so I think that’s part of why I haven’t been as integrated into the community as I felt in other places.

Do you think it’s hard to coordinate with other leaders of the community, like other leaders of the various churches to organize things?

Yeah. Yeah, it really is. Not only that, I like to be connected with the Jewish community, with the Muslim community, with all faith communities. And I have found that to be difficult at St. Andrew’s. More difficult than I have found it at other at other places. When I was in Pennsylvania at that church, we had an Interfaith Council and I was the Vice President of the Interfaith Council. And you know, we had events throughout the year when I was interim at Christ Church in Ridgewood, we got together every month with community clergy, not just Christian, every representative from Christians from various communities, faith communities. We got together every month for breakfast, and usually the mayor and the chief of police would come and join us. So yeah, it’s been harder in New Providence.

When you work here and just kind of operate from within New Providence, does it kind of give you a different, less personal feeling or does it give you a unique perspective?

That’s a tough one. Part of me wishes that I did live there because it does have its advantages. However, I like the distance that I have. So I kind of like that, you know, I have a little bit of a commute. And in some ways I can understand  a lot of the people in New Providence because everyone commutes for work. Mine’s just a different type of work. And when I commute,  I actually commute into New Providence while most people are commuting out of New Providence. So I kind of understand that you know, the whole concept of commuting to work. But then, you know, I also can understand New Providence because I’ve lived in communities like New Providence, very much like New Providence so so there’s part of me that really wishes I did live there because I do think I would have have some advantage. But on the other hand, I kind of understand a lot about the community and in some ways, I don’t know that people nowadays really expect their priests to live, you know, around the corner. There was a time when they would have expected that, but nowadays, it’s less likely. In fact, most priests I know, don’t live, well I shouldn’t say most many priests I know, but they don’t actually live right in the community where they where they serve. They live in neighboring towns.

I want to try and focus on New Providence here, but this is more like just the geographic location of the surrounding area: do you think  the location of New Providence and the distance from New York gives any sort of advantage to help organize food drives or like charitable organizations, like food banks? 

I think many people in New Providence, appreciate the blessings that they have in life. So I don’t know that the location has as much as much to do with it as the relative affluence of the community. I find that many people do appreciate the fact that that they are better off than people in other areas. So for example, we are part of Union County. Technically we’re on the higher end of the income spectrum, especially when you consider that we also have Elizabeth in Union County. And I think a lot of people really do appreciate the status that they have and I find them to many times be quite generous because of that, and they’re willing to help out charitably. You know, we always have everything we need for the breakfast run because people donate. For, for example, the mission trip that we’re going on, a couple of people have just donated very generously to make it possible. When we do the pumpkin patch, because we give that money away, we don’t keep that money, many times people will will donate extra because they know we’re going to give the money away. So I do find that people are quite generous. I don’t know if it has to do with the location as much as it just is an awareness of of their relative affluence. 

Have you ever gotten like anything to eat in New Providence? Like, have you ever had lunch or anything like that?

Yeah, yeah, I’ve been to Prestige Diner several times. I’ve been to Old Glory a number of times. I’m trying to think where else I’ve been. I know we’ve been to a couple of other places. There’s this Italian place next to the Post Office. I don’t remember the name of it, but I’ve been there, but mostly Prestige Diner and Old Glory.  I’ve never gotten anything bad either place. So I don’t think I have a favorite, but it’s  sometimes easier to get a seat at Prestige than it is at Old Glory. 

All right. And finally, how are your chickens doing?

Oh, they’re good. I was just out there with them. Just a few minutes ago. I ran in and took a shower before I got on the call with you. Yeah, they’re good. They’re upset because I let them out sometimes because the weather’s nice, and I didn’t let them out today and they saw me outside today. They were fussing at me and yelling at me. You see my screenshot or my screensaver? You can see it there. Yeah. That’s one of the girls,  I think that’s Glenda.  So, yeah.  Anything else?