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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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Quote
The Art of Happiness

The Art of Happiness (Photo credit: QueenNomad)

“If you want others to be happy practice compassion; and if you want yourself to be happy practice compassion.” — spoken by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, co-authored by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M. D.

In the Pursuit of Happiness

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2013 in Inspirational Quotes

 

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View of a Leader

“A leader is someone who unites people to work towards a common goal. A leader is someone who creates collaboration.”

“Choose your battlefields.”

–Spokesmen by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia in an interview found in How Great Women Lead by Bonnie St. John and Darcy Deane

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Inspirational Quotes

 

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Pastor’s Letter – December 2012 – First Snow

photo(3)Dear Friends,

Usually the first snow is a welcome sight, not today. Nerves are frayed as we go into this holiday season. Many people are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and now a snowstorm. It sounds as if it may be a couple more weeks before everyone has electricity. It could take well into the New Year before some experience any sense of normalcy. Yet there are people looking forward to rebuilding, to getting back to normal, to getting back all that they have lost. I wonder what that would look like. I wonder if we ever
want to return to the way things had been. I wonder if these two events have changed the way we prioritize and value our lives. Have we gained a new appreciation for what is important in life?

Over the past few weeks, I have learned it is not the quantity but the quality of our days that matters most.  The gift that Hurricane Sandy has given us in the Metropolitan New York area is that of appreciating the value of family and friends, neighbors and community. I am so glad to see the response of church members towards other church members and their families. It is heart-warming to see how you respond to the needs of others, how much you care and how far you are willing to go. In the same token, you are challenging one another to go beyond our church family through community food and clothing drives and the Adopt-a-Family Program. In the process, you are witnessing the extravagant generosity of people wanting to help other people in spite of their own conditions. At times like this, it seems that the Kingdom of God is within
reach.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I hea d a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home* of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;* he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away’” (Rev. 21:1-4 NRSV).

In spite of the events of the last two weeks, our world remains divided. There is still too much of “us” against “them” mentality. The past election proved this by the way the country divided on who they thought would be the best person to lead us over the next four years. Is there anyone who can pull us together in order to work for the common good? Will we continue to struggle against each other with our own priorities and agendas? It seems it takes a tragedy to pull us out of ourselves, out of our cocoons, our comfort zones in order to see the larger picture; what really matters. I have heard so many heartwarming stories about neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers during the past couple of weeks. I wonder how we can keep this alive even when the lights come back on, snow removed and homes are rebuilt. Will we learn from these events and covenant with God and one another that we would do better in the future?

As you can see, I have many questions as I approach this holiday season. The only answer for me lies in a manger in Bethlehem; a babe that came into this world in humble ways to parents of humble means. In the   quiet stillness of that night, hope was born, a life given, a way made in the wilderness that ushered in a new way of living with one another.

Let us find ways to give thanks for friends, families and communities this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Do something extra-ordinary, creative and generous to let loved ones know that you thank God for them. May the peace of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and forever!

I thank God for you,
Pastor Kathy Nealand

Interim Pastor

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in Pastor's Letters

 

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This Heartwarming Video will Restore Your Faith in Humanity

Things like this brings me hope that all is not lost and that God is present and actively working in and around us, bringing us a glimpse into the coming Kingdom of God!  For more inspiring videos go to GodTube.com

This Heartwarming Video Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity! from littlejoey on GodTube.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Videos of Interest

 

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