Grief Group will meet Thursday evenings at 7pm. Participants must register w/Pastor Katie, limited to 10. The group will meet for 6 weeks, beginning April 15.
Praying with the Body Meditation (these sessions will be recorded and available to the congregation) (6 weeks, beginning April 14) these sessions will be recorded and available to the congregation) (6 weeks, beginning April 14)
Sunday Supper at Six April 28th. 6-8pm at the Massapequa Campus in the fellowship hall.
All Members, friends and family of our congregations are invited to attend. We will enjoy dinner by candlelight and music. Please bring your favorite CD as well as covered dish of your choice. Setup.
Sharon Slade and Keith Holman will provide the setup, beverages and desserts for this dinner. Please RSVP to Sharon Slade.
Stewardship resources from the national PCUSA
Along with Maria Studer, Marilyn Rodahan, Carol Teta, Stella LaMassa, Phil Machmer, and Sharon Slade, I attended a second lunch at Sweet Hollow Presbyterian Church on March 26 with a representative of the Presbyterian Foundation. The lunch was also attended by people from several other PCUSA congregations on Long Island. We received information about the “life cycle” of congregations and trends in giving among Presbyterians and church people in general. The leader shared many ideas and strategies for improved stewardship programs.
One idea I liked: to present the annual budget to the congregation as a “narrative” explaining which mission goals were supported by which line item expenses. For example: meeting space for x number of “anonymous” groups, playing space for y number of athletic teams, z number of boy scouts, x number of pre-school children, and weekly worship will be supported by $_____ in heating costs.
The next lunch, third in a series of four, will take place on May 28, also at Sweet Hollow Church. For those of you who can get away for a Tuesday lunch, these are good chances to see what resources of knowledge and techniques the Presbyterian Foundation can offer to us. For example, they provide a service that could equip us to accept on-line gifts through the Foundation. They can also be helpful in setting up a wills and bequests initiative.
Moral support for those who worship
The right to worship as each individual and every religious body sees fit is a founding principle of our great nation. In recent years, acts of violence motivated by insanity and/or political extremism have been directed at worshippers of many faiths, including our own. Such incidents have created an atmosphere of unease and fear that must be addressed by active expressions of solidarity and caring.
In response to the recent terrible shooting incident at a mosque in New Zealand, I received an invitation from Rabbi Howard Nacht of Temple B’nai Torah to join the “Wantagh Interfaith Clergy Council” in a show of support and concern for Muslim worshipers at the Islamic Center in Westbury. I accepted the invitation and a small delegation from Wantagh joined a crowd of maybe 70 or 80 people who gathered outside the Center before their 1 p.m. worship service on Friday March 22. The crowd was made up mostly of people from Long Island Jewish congregations, but also included Episcopalian priests, Lutheran pastors and other clergy and laity. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and County District Attorney Madeline Singas were also present. The Nassau police provided security. We carried signs with sentiments such as “We Stand Together with the Muslim Community.” We greeted worshippers as they arrived and some people made statements to the press.
Let us pray for an end to the long series of violent incidents, and when called on, let us show our support for those who seek only to worship in peace.
I have been serving as your pastor since the summer of 2015, now almost four years ago. This time has been a pleasure for me as well as a special challenge, as we have gone through a gradual process of uniting our two historic congregations into one new church. During my service here, I have learned a lot about Long Island, its beauty as well as its challenges, and I have also been schooled in church governance and administration—a subject there is always more to learn about. I gained an overview of Presbyterian activity on the island through serving on the Presbytery Committee on Ministry.
It has been wonderful getting to know you all and making many friends that I hope to stay in touch with for the rest of my life. Now, I must announce my retirement from the active ministry as of June 30, 2019. I am making this decision mostly for personal reasons such as my age (way beyond traditional retirement age), but also because with your new church now in place, you deserve a younger pastor who can lead you with energy and creativity for many years to come. Guadalupe and I have arranged for a home in Albuquerque, New Mexico and we will be moving there this summer in time for Velma and Louis E. to start public school in August.
This is a time for you to dwell not on the downside of things but on the positive potential that still can be found in your congregational future. It is easy to be consumed by worry, since the congregation has only gotten smaller in recent years and decades. However, you are a church still blessed with many active, thoughtful and virtuous members, and you are together responsible for millions of dollars in assets (mostly now in the form of buildings and grounds) that can continue to be put to good use in Kingdom work even if the nature of that work changes over time as your understanding of mission changes. You have many friends within the bounds of the Presbytery of Long Island who can stand with you through the difficult times as well as celebrating the high points. Because you are a congregation in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, you have a pathway to international mission and to a national network of like-minded Christians who have a vast treasury of wisdom and spiritual insight to share with you.
I pray that God will richly bless you and that our final quarter year together will be productive and memorable.
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.)
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.