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Pastor Katie’s Weekly Letter

UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Levittown Campus Massapequa Campus 474 Wantagh Avenue, Levittown 150 Pittsburgh Avenue, Massapequa

March 26, 2020

Weekly Pastor’s Letter…

Dear Church, I hope this letter finds you safe and healthy and sheltered in your homes. As we go through this time together, please reach out if you have any needs. We know that many people in our church have underlying medical conditions, and we are urging our “older” folks to use caution about even going out to the stores for supplies. Please reach out to your deacons or elders, call the church office, or call me at (805) 448-9641 if there’s any way we can be of assistance.

I am sad to share that Eleanor Novotny passed away on March 23. Eleanor was a long time member of the United Presbyterian Church, Levittown Campus and lived to be 101 years old. Please say a prayer for Eleanor and her family.  Eleanor requested that there not be a service. When we gather in person again we will honor her during our regular Sunday worship service. If you have stories or memories of Eleanor, please take a few minutes to email them to the church office and we will make sure Janice Newsome and the family receives them.

I’m happy to share that Wendy is home from her surgery and is recuperating. She is grateful for all of your prayers and hopes to join us for the Zoom calls again soon.

I’m also happy to share that Wayne is doing well. He joined our worship call on Sunday last, and I look forward to working with him in April to add more music into the worship services!

We continue to meet daily by Zoom conference calls (M/W/F at 12noon and Su/Tu/Th at 7pm), and we will be worshiping on Sundays at 10am, also by Zoom conference call. Thanks especially to Feiona, Ella, Stella, Robin, Joan, Sharon, Paul and others who made worship possible last week and this week! If you are interested in reading scripture, singing, or participating in other ways with worship, please contact Sharon or myself.

To join the zoom calls from any phone, cell phone, tablet or computer:

Call in by phone: (646) 558 8656 when prompted, enter the meeting number: 832 316 0543
-or-
Using the Zoom app join with the meeting number: 832 316 0543
-or-
Using a computer, click on this link:
https://zoom.us/j/8323160543

Sunday’s sermon will be on the valley of the dry bones depicted by the prophet Ezekiel. I hope you’ll join us for worship as we figure out how to do this without our buildings…

We expect that we will not be gathering in person for Holy Week. However our Worship Committee will be meeting next week to talk about some ways to celebrate that time through our conference call gatherings. We know that not everyone has the technology to see video, so we are committed to creating worship services that are accessible by a regular phone. We will also be working to create some video content to compliment the audio. If you are interested in being part of that conversation, please contact Sharon or myself and we’ll add you to the call.

Many thanks to our Deacons and Elders who have made it possible for UPC to pivot on a dime and keep our community connected, even as we cannot gather physically. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with in the first month of my ministry as we navigate a global disaster together!

Finally, in this time of enforced isolation (even as some of us are isolated in larger groups!), I offer you this reflection by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan:

“I am not a quiet person. But I can use quiet. To let myself choose quiet is to value my voice, my time, my energy, my words. It is to know that if the words are not there, they will come. To let myself choose quiet is to know that, sometimes, the most important thing is not to change or teach unwilling others, but to take care of myself. Sometimes the loudest thing we can do—the most generative, most disruptive, most rambunctious, most radical, most revolutionary thing we can do—is give ourselves what we need. Time. Space. Rest. Energy. Love. Quiet.”

No matter where you are right now, no matter who you are with, take some time to be quiet as the world is shutting down temporarily. There will be plenty of time to be productive, make noise, celebrate, be LOUD. But for right now, rest and refresh. Regain lost energy. Allow yourself to know who you are when everything slows down.

And for those of you who are still working, essential personnel who are keeping the world alive right now, you have our deepest gratitude for that work. If we can be helpful to you, please let us know. If we can treat you with dinner or supplies or a friendly ear, please let us know.

Blessings to all and I hope to see you soon…

Rev. Katie Mulligan

Pastor, United Presbyterian Church (805) 448-9641 katiesmulligan@gmail.com

March Pastor's Post

Dear Church,

It is good to finally be with you! If we haven’t yet found time to meet up in person, please email me at katiesmulligan@gmail.com or call me at (805) 448-9641 and let’s make that happen. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and your families over the coming months and working together to continuously create a vision for United. This is a time of change for many of us personally and professionally, for our church(es), and for our communities and nation. Octavia Butler wrote in her Earthseed series: “All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you.” This is both exciting and terrible at the same time! For many of us, change brings anxiety and worry and grief as we cling to what we’ve known. It can often feel like the foundations of all that we trust are dissolving out from under us.

One of my favorite television series, Mr. Robot, shared this observation: “Every day, he said, we change the world. Which is a nice thought, until I think about how many days and lifetimes l would need to bring a shoe full of sand home until there is no beach. Until it made a difference to anyone. Every day we change the world. But to change the world in a way that means anything that takes more time than most people have. It never happens all at once. It’s slow. It’s methodical. It’s exhausting. We don’t all have the stomach for it.”

As we go through Lent, I invite you into the centuries old ritual of Lenten practices. Traditionally the three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Many people choose to give up something for Lent (chocolate, coffee, meat, etc). Others choose to add a something to their routine (prayer, exercise, volunteer time). One year I gave up Lent for Lent. Another year I gave up a person for Lent. There are so many ways of observing this time, and I invite you to choose some way to honor God and your own humanity, some way of addressing brokenness within or out in the community. It’s a time of recognizing brokenness and seeking healing, a time to seek after wholeness and health.

I am grateful to be walking with you this year during Lent. I hope you’ll join us for meals and gatherings in addition to Sunday mornings, and I look forward to becoming a regular part of the community.

Blessings,

Pastor Katie

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. ~Mark 12:30-31

From Pastor Katie

Hello everybody! I am looking forward to meeting everybody in the coming months. It was a delight to be with you on January 19th, and I am grateful and excited to accept the call to be your pastor. I will be traveling the first half of February, and I covet your prayers for safe travels. I will be praying for all of you, and if you have specific prayer requests, please feel free to email them to me at katiesmulligan@gmail.com and I will add them to my prayers. I’ll be with you all again in worship on February 23rd, and then I expect to dive in to our ministry together. In the first few months, I am looking forward to meeting with each of you individually and hearing your stories of how you came to be part of this church, your joys and concerns, your memories of the past and your hopes for the future. My cell phone is (805) 448-9641 and you are welcome to reach out any time after February 23rd! Text, email, Facebook, phone calls, in person, video chat, however it works to connect, let’s do it!

A good friend of mine once told me, “I don’t want to be church without you.” So I pass that greeting on to you: I don’t want to be church without you. I’ll see you very soon!

Blessings and Joy,

Katie

Pastor’s Post – May

Pastor’s Post

For the next six months we will be worshiping not in our sanctuaries but in the social halls of both campuses.  First, we will be in Massapequa social hall until the end of June, then in Miles Hall in Levittown during the summer.  These settings offer an opportunity for us to try different things with worship.  The atmosphere is more social and more conducive to communication between the worship leaders and the people and also allows for better communication among those in attendance.  Worship can be more interactive and multi-dimensional.  I encourage you to offer your own thoughts and proposals about our time with God and each other on Sundays.

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I urge more of you to stay for the Gathering, our hour of study and reflection that follows worship.  You don’t want to miss Larry Rugen’s presentation on the Oberammergau Passion Play this Sunday, May 5.  The play is performed during the summer in Germany, only once every decade, and 2020 is the next scheduled time.  On May 26 we start a series on The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, a recent publication by Matthew Kelly that helps us understand how our faith can be strengthened and shared in the current climate of secularism and cynicism.  Thanks to Marilyn Rodahan for finding this book and to Janice Kincaid for organizing and leading our discussions.

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On Sunday, May 19 the congregation will host the Rev. James Rea of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Huntington Station.  Rev. Rae is a    long-term pastor who has served in many different capacities in the Presbytery of Long Island.  Currently, Rev. Rea is a member of the Merger Commission that provides a liaison for us with Presbytery.  He will preach on the 19th and then stay for a discussion with the congregation during the Gathering hour.  This will be a good opportunity for all of us to learn more about what Presbytery can do to assist us as we start out on a new congregational life.

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Tuesday, May 28 at noon we are invited to the third in a series of four lunches at Sweet Hollow Church with national Presbyterian workers on the subject of regenerating congregational life in aging churches.  This time we will be looking at case studies of congregations that have found successful pathways into renewed life.  Rev. Flannagan always likes to know the numbers who are coming, so please tell me by May 21 if you can join us.

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Finally, thank you to all those of you who made Holy Week and Easter so successful.  I know there is a lot of work that goes into making these services so special and memorable, and I realize there are fewer hands than their used to be to share in the preparation, so thank you so much all you good and faithful servants!

-Pastor Lou

Pastor’s Post

Dear Members of United Presbyterian Church:

What a joy it is to address you in this new way!  We have traveled a long way over the past three years, we have gotten to know each other well, and we have learned to worship and work as one body of Christ’s followers.  Now, our shared experience is being validated in official unification of the two historic churches.

I am thankful that the ecclesiastic and legal processes of unification have synchronized, so that we can move in coming weeks to consolidate our legal and financial management even as our new, unified session will begin to make decisions.  We need to work on creating a new system of committees, being clear about the tasks each committee is assigned, and appointing chairs.

 

Most important, I believe, is that during the next several months, we need to systematically think about the nature of our life together and our mission in this new era.  In 2016, almost three years ago, a joint committee wrote a “Plumbline Report” to assess the community we serve and the direction we wished to take in congregational life and mission.  The Report was accepted by both sessions.  Now, we need to re-visit that report, and see if we can develop a more specific set of goals as we consider where we are now.

To assist with this new process of discernment and planning, I am organizing the Gathering sessions for the Lenten season Sundays of March 17, 24, and 31 and April 7.  We will meet in Miles Hall (4/7 will be held in the Massapequa Social hall) following a brief coffee hour.

 March 17         How we worship

March 24         How we govern ourselves

March 31         What is the future of our buildings?  Issues and ideas.

April 7              What is our Mission both local and global?  How do we achieve It? 

These sessions will be planned and led by me with input from elders and other members.

I will create a summary of points made and ideas brought forward.  This will become a background paper for a one-day member planning retreat I hope to organize sometime in May.  (I should add that this plan of mine will be discussed at the first meeting of the unified session, so it is subject to change.  Stay tuned.)

 

-Pastor Lou

 

 

Pastor’s Post – February 2019

From-the-Pastor-2

A few days ago, members of Session and I attended a lunch with representatives of a new program of the Presbyterian Foundation called “Project Regeneration.”  Along with people from several other Long Island congregations, we listened to a presentation that provided information about congregations around the country much like ours:  that is, established churches that once had hundreds of members and now are much smaller and struggling to maintain their ministry.  This lunch was designed to be the first of four gatherings to be held over the next year on Long Island to explore ways churches are responding to their situation, especially financial strategies.

Although it was not said in so many words, the theme of this first lunch seemed to be: “You are not alone in your experience of decline.”  Here are just a few of the facts that were shared with us:

The national Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) has lost over a third of its membership in the last fifteen years and has 13% fewer congregations.

A “typical” Presbyterian is 63 years old.  The average American is 38 years old.

The median Presbyterian congregation has 81 members.

85% of mainline Protestant churches (Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian etc) have plateaued in membership or are declining.

If the sanctuary is less than 40% full for worship, visitors are much less likely to return.

Congregational mergers are rare.  (Nice to know that we here are special!)

In the face of these sobering facts, churches around the country have found ways to re-define their mission and to maintain their financial viability.  I am hoping that over the course of the next three lunches, we will learn about creative and inspiring examples that will help us to think “outside the box” in terms of continuing ministry in these difficult times.  Our guests from the Foundation provided this helpful thought:  “The situation you and your church find yourself in is not your fault, but it is your problem.”   I would only add: “It is our problem but also our opportunity.”  Although our situation may not always feel hopeful, I believe we have the resources to fashion a new way of being a Christian church here and now.  God is challenging us to use our creativity and to gather our courage.

Please let me know if you would like to be included in the next lunch, which will take place on Tuesday, March 26 also at Sweet Hollow.

Pastor Lou

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Pastor’s Post January, 2019

Now that Christmas, 2018 is behind us, it’s time to close the books on our poet friend, W. H. Auden and his long Christmas poem, “For the Time Being.”  Here are some of his final words as he brings the story to an end:

Well, so that is that.  Now we must dismantle the tree,

Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes—

Some have got broken—and carrying them up to the attic.

The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,

And the children got ready for school.  There are enough

Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week—

Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,

Stayed up so late, attempted—quite unsuccessfully—

To love all of our relatives, and in general

Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again

As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed

To do more than entertain it as an agreeable

Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,

Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,

The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.

Sort of captures the mood of the days just after Christmas, doesn’t it?  Those feelings of joy, love and warmth wear off, and we are back in the rut of everyday existence before we know it.  As Auden says, “we have failed to do more than entertain it (the spirit of Christmas) as an agreeable possibility.”  Auden says we are like children who can’t keep a promise for very long.

Does Christmas simply offer a momentary respite from the ordinary?  Or, can we learn to live the whole year in the spirit of that special day?  You may read this after January 1, but there is still time for a resolution or two.  I would suggest more regular attendance at church—try to be present at least three out of four Sundays.  Don’t get upset if we are worshipping in “the other” church building.  All the buildings, all the meeting rooms are now “ours.”  Nothing is “theirs” any more.  The more time we spend together in worship and prayer, the easier will be our transformation into a united congregation.

Here are some special dates that I would like you to put in your appointment calendar:

Sunday, February 24.  We are planning to hold the final annual meeting of the two historic congregations and also the first congregational meeting of the new United Presbyterian Church. The session of the new congregation will be elected that day, along with its board of deacons.  This will take place immediately after the worship service.

Wednesday, March 6.  Ash Wednesday.  Please plan to attend the traditional evening service.  This is the beginning of Lent, and this will be an important season of prayer and re-commitment for all of us as we begin the adventure of being a revitalized, unified congregation.

Thursday evenings in Lent, March 7, 14, 21 and 28 and April 4 and 11.  These evenings will be dedicated to the study of our church’s mission in community—our relationship as a congregation of Christ’s followers to the social issues that affect us and those around us.  We will also spend some time at each meeting in group prayer.  Time and location to be announced

Sunday, April 21.  Easter.  We will have our third annual “sunrise” service on the lawn at Levittown and our 10 a.m. service at the Massapequa campus.

I hope you will be present for these events.  Please be a part of this new enterprise of the spirit as we begin life as a new church!  As poet Auden said in the closing lines of his Christmas poem:

“He is the Way.

Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;

You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.”

 

-Pastor Lou