Laity Spotlight: Iona Harding

Come to walk the Labyrinth during Holy Week, chances are Iona Harding is there to help. Come to the office during newsletter prep, chances are Iona Harding is there stuffing envelopes. Come to services on any given Sunday, chances are Iona Harding is there reading the liturgy or warmly greeting her Princeton UMC family. For this past year Iona has also served PUMC as a member of the Central District Multi-Site Ministry (CDMSM) Design Team and as Chair of the Leadership Board.


Last year, Pastor Jenny asked Iona to join the team which consists of clergy and lay representatives from Princeton, Kingston, Hopewell,
Penningon, and Titusville. As envisioned by then-District Superintendent Hector Burgos, under Pastor Jenny the team would “consider
and discern creating something new and exciting, something that would join into one, various UMC campuses in our geographic area,” explains Iona. In addition to sharing resources, systems, and programs, the CDMSM would “grow all of the churches in number, financial health, discipleship and impact,” she adds. To date, PUMC has partnered closely with Kingston UMC, sharing many resources and programs. Hopewell and Titusville UMCs remain in the CDMSM discussion. For Iona, the work of the Design Team “is guided by listening for and aligning ourselves with God’s direction and purpose.”


While the CDMSM Design Team looks to do more with many, PUMC’s Leadership Board is designed to do more with fewer meetings, better decision making and better communications. “We aim to involve more people in ministry and outreach without having to be on committees; getting people to serve on committees has been a big challenge,” Iona explains. The creation of this new board resulted from discussions last year on how to streamline the existing leadership structure to maximize lay participation by focusing on specific tasks and ministries. The Leadership Board has nine members with Pastor Jenny in a non-voting role and brings under one umbrella the Finance, Endowment, Trustee, and Staff-Parish Relations Committees. “We now function as one, making church business decisions together” clarifies Iona. Under the new board structure, lay involvement no longer requires serving on so many committees and attending numerous meetings. Previously, PUMC had so many committees that it took more than 100 people to fill all the slots. “Now you can share your skills and talents, learn new skills, meet and have fun with people on short-term projects that don’t require endless meetings,” explains Iona, adding, “I hope everyone who reads this will be excited to learn more and ask to join a task force!” (The nine-member Discipleship Board accompanies the Leadership Board in the planning of ministries and outreach.)


Since much of Iona’s professional life has been in planning and human resources, it is no surprise that much of her volunteer work over the years has drawn on those skills. When she joined PUMC 20+ years ago, she had a busy career in financial planning and human resources, first at AT&T and later at Lucent Technologies, ending her career with them in Beijing as interim H.R. Executive for Lucent China. Though she retired in 2005, she has been “doing her own thing as an H.R. and organization consultant for the past 18 years,” she says. More often than not, she donates her time and skills to service organizations in the area, sitting on the Board of the Princeton Senior Resource Center, and on the Finance and Administration Committee for the GNJUMC. She is also a Commissioner for the Human Resources Standards Institute.


As a lifelong Methodist, Iona lives the promise she made at her confirmation: “to share my gifts and to give of my time and service.” But for Iona, service is more than a responsibility to be fulfilled. Service draws her closer to God. It is where she experiences joy and where she finds grace. “I find grace in the faith that is shared among the Leadership Board. I find grace through worship, and I find grace through working, sharing, and having fun together with the amazing people at [church],” she says. Simply put: “I find grace in the family that is PUMC.”