A Note about our Interim Pastor

A Note about our Interim Pastor

August 30,2015

Those of us who were here last week were witness to a Utopian version of what a pastor should be. But here is what I believe Pastor Kathy has really been to us.

About four years ago, Pastor Kathy joined us as Interim Pastor. She came here to help us down the path to finding a new Pastor. Her mission was to help us find out who we were, who we now are as a congregation and help us discover what we want for our future. NOT an easy task. But she jumped in with both feet. She came n with new ideas. Some well received, some not. She came in with sermons that inspired us, even shrugging off Larry’s tapping of his watch.

She was here for highs and for lows through our journey. She welcomed new members such as myself, Hayley, Tory, Doreen and others, as well as those confirmed like Josh, Kyle and Sam to help to expand our church family. She was also there to help us through the difficult times when our church family grew smaller due to the loss of loved ones such as Donald, Larry, Joe and Ibi. She reached out to keep in contact and visit those who were sick or those who were just in need.

Her sermons not only taught us the Scriptures, but taught us how they related to our daily lives. Some sermons were serious, some were light-hearted and more often than not included a joke or humorous story usually at John’s expense. She helped us with reading the tongue-twister Old Testament names like David, Moses and Solomon to easy ones like Abel-Meholah (AY-b’l-mee-HO-lah), Shib’bo-leth (SHIB-uh-lith), Zephaniah (zef’uh-NI-uh), or reminding me that the reading is not Genesis Chapter 1 verses 1-2a but Genesis Chapter 1, verse 1 thru Chapter 2, verse 2a. What a surprise for a Sunday morning. Today’s reading is much shorter. All the while guiding us down the path. Sometime s gently,sometimes with a hard push. She kept us moving forward.

She encouraged our outreach from food drives to manning the booth at the Farmingville Street Fair, singing at the Rehab Center or belting it out during the seventh inning stretch. She joined in at our Christmas in July and pet blessings in September.

And with all journeys down the path, we have come to a crossroads, which you have led us to. We may part ways in a physical sense, we part filled with the Holy Spirit and the knowledge that we will always be in God’s house together.

Pastor, we thank you for these things and many more and on this day in which we celebrate your time with us, knowing that a part of you will always be with us, and knowing that a part of us will always be with you.

So I am going to wrap this up, because I don’t want to take time away from your sermon and because if I don’t we will be here all day.

So will you all join me in the Call to Worship…

Written and spoken by the Lay Leader, David Bell

at the begging of the worship service held Sunday, August 30, 2015

Congregational United Church of Christ, Farmingville, NY

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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Words of Thanks


Pastor’s Letter – August 2015 – A Time to Say Goodbye

Pastor’s Letter – August 2015 – A Time to Say Goodbye

I am approaching a transition in my ministry. I am about to leave the longest pastorate I have been in since my ordination just short of my 10-year anniversary. I have been at the Congregational United Church of Christ, Farmingville, NY  for almost four years, first as pulpit supply and then as Interim Pastor. I have formed a deep relationship with this congregation. Here are my final thoughts to a great congregation: one that has grown in faith, numbers, generosity, hospitality and love.

How we exit a congregation is just as important as how we enter a new faith community. For my recommendation for saying goodbye and saying hello, see the article: Resources for saying Goodbye and Hello.

Dear Friends,

As I write this, I am remembering these words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (The Voice):

 For everything that happens in life—there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven:

A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to collect the harvest;

A time to kill, a time to heal; a time to tear down, a time to build up;

A time to cry, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, a time to dance;

A time to scatter stones, a time to pile them up;

 A time for a warm embrace, a time for keeping your distance;

 A time to search, a time to give up as lost; a time to keep, a time to throw out;

A time to tear apart, a time to bind together; a time to be quiet, a time to speak up;

A time to love, a time to hate; a time to go to war, a time to make peace.

During our three plus years together, we have probably experienced almost everything on the list. I remember the baptisms, weddings, funerals, brunches, auctions, street fairs, Lenten studies, Christmas plays, singing, praying, preaching, fellowship, and friendship. I remember it all! There was some tearing down of old ideas and planting of new ideas, some disagreements and some resolutions, some remembering and some forgiving, We have collected car loads full of food and clothing for the Veterans and local Food Pantries, as well as, adding a new donation box for the Brookhaven Pet Shelter. We have laughed and cried, mourned and danced and ate way too many desserts and breakfast casseroles! But never too much carrot cake!  We have said goodbye to beloved members who have moved or went onto the church triumphant and we have welcomed new people as well. We acquired a new electric piano, made the basement accessible, bought new hymn books and replaced the handrails on the ramp. We have survived raging storms, shoveled much snow and spent many more days in the sun.

Throughout it all, we have bonded and grown in wonderful ways while experiencing a great deal of mercy, grace, joy and love! The Lord has blessed us in more ways than we can count. The Lord has certainly been with us and has shown us that what we think is impossible, God makes possible.

I have always believed that a pastor is called to a particular place, for a particular time, with a particular purpose to a particular group of people in a particular community. We may have not accomplished everything that I had hoped for; yet still much was accomplished. It was always my intention and my covenant with this church and the New York Conference (United Church of Christ) that I would serve you in a particular way which included preparing you for your next pastor. The new pastor has been chosen and so it is my time to exit.

When Jesus prepared to leave his disciples, he found three promises to share:

  • First, Jesus promised to make a home in his disciples’ hearts. (John 14:23),
  • Second, Jesus promised to fill the disciples with a spirit of courage and comfort. “The Holy Spirit…will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you”. (John 14:26).
  • Finally, Jesus promised to sustain his disciples with a special kind of peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” (John 14:27).

So as Mary Lindberg says (from The Graceful Exit), “So we’ll open the gifts Jesus gave us—a home in him, the courage to move The Graceful Exiton, the peace that will get us through many unknowns. And we’ll trust that God is staying with those we love for many more seasons.”

The thing you need to remember is that you will always be a part of me and I will always be a part of you. Thank you for all of your patience, kindness, mercy, grace, generosity and love that you have shown me! You are a great group of people and I wish you all the best in this new season that you are about to begin. May you continue to grow in faith, hope and love, worshipping the Lord with your whole heart, mind, body and soul and remember to do everything for the glory of God!

I thank God for you,

Rev. Kathy Nealand

Interim Pastor

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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Pastor's Letters


Pastor’s Letter – April 2015 – Rooted in the Lord

Pastor’s Letter – April 2015 – Rooted in the Lord

Dear Brothers an Sisters in Christ,

Everything on Earth is rooted. Now that spring is breaking into our lives, we may be preparing to plant flower and vegetable plants in our gardens. Normally though I doubt we spend too much time thinking about the roots, only the beautiful foliage that those roots help to create. However, we do know that well established roots are needed for anything to grow. Roots though are not pretty to look at. They are long and stringy with many tentacles that reach deep into the soil to draw nutrients and water up to the plant above ground.

Human beings have roots, too. During one of the Lenten Study evenings, we talked about our roots, our family backgrounds. It was interesting to learn more about the people we came from and to see the roots of our ancestors crisscrossing our own. In the midst of these sharing moments, as well as, the sharing that goes on during our fellowship and worship times, we have grown deep roots that connect each of us to one another deep in our souls. A member mentioned to me recently that she could see how the congregation is more deeply rooted to one another. It may be that during my tenure, the congregation has come to understand that there is a need to continue to add to the root system by welcoming in new people to our faith community, as we did on Palm Sunday when three people professed and reaffirmed their faith in Jesus the Christ. The church is also, becoming more connected to the wider community through our food drives and support of organizations like the Brookhaven Pet Shelter.

Maybe, as roots are essential for plants to bear fruit, so we must have a strong root system to form deep and lasting relationships. These relationships continue on even when someone uproots and goes to plant new roots in another community. It is certainly true when we consider our relationship with our Creator, Redeemer and Encourager.

“Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.’ Colossians 2:7 (The Voice)

It seems as though the church I serve has strengthened their root system by not only growing in a deeper relationship with one another but with their Lord and Savior! This has caused them to  be a stronger and more effective congregation. This reminds me of a book that I shared with this church early on in my ministry (See Pastor’s Letter – September 2012) with them. In the book “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations” whereby the author lists them as:

  1. The Practice of Radical Hospitality
  2. The Practice of Passionate worship
  3. The practice of Intentional Faith
  4. The Practice of Risk-Taking Mission and Service
  5. The Practice of Extravagant Generosity

Robert Schnase writes, “Vibrant, fruitful, growing congregations don’t stop at practicing friendly hospitality, helpful service and mission, or prudent generosity. Their practices are extraordinary, exceptional, thorough, and extreme, they are radical, passionate, intentional, risk-taking, and extravagant. Effective congregations change, improve, learn, and adapt to fulfill their mission.”

It appears that this faith community has grown in their understanding of what it means to “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers” (James 1:22). The key to revitalizing congregations could well be found in the root system of the congregation. A strong foundation needs to be established form which the congregation can grow in their relationships with one another  so that they can bear good fruit beyond their walls.

I thank God for you,

Rev. Kathy Nealand

Minister of Revitalization




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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in Pastor's Letters


The Power of Prayer

Karl Barth Quote (2)

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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Inspirational Quotes


Who are the emerging leaders of our time?

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger

A colleague of mine continually refers to the emerging leaders in the church. When he speaks of them, he is referring to those under 40 who are finding their voice in the church in new ways. In a recent meeting, I challenged him on his definition, because I believe that people of all ages can be emerging leaders in the church and in the world.

It seems to me that there are many churches and people whom are stagnant, frozen in time of a day gone by, but when anyone begins to understand what God requires of them, they come alive! The church I am serving now has been set on fire by the power of the Holy Spirit! They are mostly people over 50 years old, but they are emerging, just like the butterfly from a cocoon! It is amazing to see! Anyone of any age can discover their passions and purpose and emerge as new creations. As a second career pastor, I know this is possible. We are never too old to make a difference in the world and there is no foul if we should not realize our full potential until later in life. God has a purpose for us all of our days and does not show partiality to only the young. God’s grace and mercy is with us always and forever.

Consider Pete Seeger, who recently passed away at the age of 94 years young. He never stopped influencing people nor did he stop reinventing himself. He always found ways to be active and involved. I recently found out that he had been encouraging a group of young children between the age of 8 and 12 to sing. Pete actually won a Grammy for the album that the children and he produced entitled “Tomorrow’s Children”. The video below is of one song he did with them when he was 91 to honor the life of Bob Dylan. He participated in the event because he was a close friend of Bob Dylan but also because it benefited Amnesty International. His singing voice is gone but he still found ways to give back. When you watch this video, listen to what one young person says about Pete at the end.

For me, we have the potential at any age to be emerging leaders! Yes, it is great when young people find their voice, but do not discount the value that the older generations can still bring to our church and our world!

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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Videos of Interest


Pastor’s Annual Report – January 2014

It is typical in the church to put together an annual report to the congregation. It is a way of looking back so that we can see more clearly how to move forward in the coming year. Below are my renderings fo the past year and what I look forward to in 2014.

As I begin this report to the congregation I serve, two scriptures come to mind.

shutterstock_44647378The first is from Hebrews 1:1-2a, it was written, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith

This first verse is for the members of the church, because they are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, both visible and invisible. Particularly, I am thinking about the two members who moved onto the church triumphant this year: Donald Millikin and Ibi Hermanovski. Donald was with the church for a very short time and Ibi for several decades, yet they both taught the church something about perseverance, strength of character and faith. Both had crosses to bear, yet they lived lives that are worthy of our aspirations. The church will carry them in their hearts and minds forever and always.

Then there are the visible witnesses that I see when I look out at this congregation. There are the women, men, youth and children that the church nurtures and cares for every day. This was the year the congregation decided on a statement that articulated what the church value most, “Everyday people sharing faith, friendship and fellowship!”

This year the church baptized four young people: James, Thomas, Owen James and Victoria Lynn. Two young people made their first communion, James and Jack. One young man was confirmed, Joshua. The church also had two people become members, David and Tracy. These are all signs of the growth that has taken place in this congregation over the past year.

This past year, I have seen the church throw off those things that were hindering them, making it possible to begin to run the race with perseverance, strength and courage and to live into the race that has been set before them. There has been more outreach into the community. The highlights were that the church participated in a coat drive, set up a booth at the Farmingville street fair and visited a nursing home twice to sing to the residents. In addition, once again, the people of the church helped to make Christmas very special for two families.

Music was a big theme this year. The choir shifted to singing from one Sunday a month to two Sundays. Women’s Fellowship replaced the old piano and organ with a new electric piano that sounds wonderful! The church did say goodbye to Ling, who moved to Maryland but the church continues to be blessed by the ministry of music Maria, Jim and Luiza bring to worship services.

The second verse is for me. In the Book of Acts 20:24, Paul said, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

This will most likely be my last report to to this church as the Interim Pastor. The congregation formed a Pastor Search Committee and they will be getting ready to circulate the church profile. The committee has done some good work in just a few short months. Therefore, it seems that the task that I came to do is almost completed.

Yes, there are things that I would like to see the church do in the coming year. I pray that the church could find the desire to do spiritual work in small groups outside of worship. I believe there is a hunger for this but also, it is necessary to feed the fire that burns within the church. There are more work to do to build the church community, but it will come in God’s time not our own. Remember to pray that God’s will be done. All any of us can do is to stay focused on the task that lies before us—“the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

I thank the church for a year that is well worth celebrating! It continues to be my joy to be with this church during this time in its history!

I thank God for you,

Pastor Kathy Nealand
Interim Pastor

A note to my followers: I agree with the Apostle Paul, when he says, “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” For me, answering the call of God has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It is most satisfying to me to see a church blossom and catch on fire as this one has over the past two years. Change can happen, people can be transformed, churches can be revitalized,not through our own human attempts but through the grace of God.and the power of the Holy Spirit, who works through us, around us and in spite of us for the glory of God!

I am looking forward to the new things that God will do in 2014!

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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Pastor's Letters


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Pastor’s Letter – September 2013

shutterstock_37490122Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This September is a big month for me. It is the month that I enter the third act of life. I have been thinking about this important milestone for the past year. I have moved through times when I just wanted it to pass unnoticed to throwing a big party with friends and family. I have chosen the latter option. Yet I still move forward with trepidation. Therefore, I sought out some people who could give me some insight.  I turned to my Kindle and found a piece written by Henri Nouwen on the “Challenge of Aging” in his book Bread for the Journey. He wrote:

“Waiting patiently in expectation does not necessarily get easier as we become older. On the contrary, as we grow in age we are tempted to settle down in a routine way of living and say, “Well, I have seen it all…There is nothing new under the sun…I am just going to take it easy and live the days as they come.” But in this way, our lives lose their creative tension. We no longer expect something really new to happen. We become cynical or self-satisfied or simply bored. The challenge of aging is waiting with an ever-greater patience and an ever-stronger expectation. It is living with an eager hope. It is trusting that through Christ “we have been admitted into God’s favor…and look forward exultantly to God’s glory” (Romans 5:2).

I certainly do not see myself “settling down” and I hope I never lose that “creative tension” that continually urges me to learn new things and to experiment with new things. Yet older people are considered unable to “think out of the box” and that we are “stuck in our ways.” Yet I know people who are in their eighties and nineties who are still having an impact on the people that they meet. I want that for myself as well. Inevitably, it is all in God’s hands, but that has been the case since the day we were born.

My hopes extend to the church. I hope that the church does not slip into a place where it believes that it has done everything and seen everything. I hope it does not lose that creative tension between what has been and what is about to happen. I hope that as the church passes into its third act, it continues to believe that what we have seen up to this point is only the tip of the iceberg for humanity.

At the Farmingville Congregational United Church of Christ, we may be witnessing their next act taking shape. In August, a dozen of us went to a local nursing home to sing for the residents. We did all right but the people really enjoyed it! We reached out, for an hour or so, where we had the opportunity to enter their world and they entered ours. Maybe the new motto for the church fits regardless of age, “Everyday people sharing faith, friendship and fellowship.” If I can do just that for as long as God allows, I would have a very satisfying life.

To God be the glory forever and ever!

I thank God for you,
Pastor Kathy Nealand
Interim Pastor

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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Pastor's Letters


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