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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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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 – February 2013 – Beloved Community

Jumpng for JoyDear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The church was closed Sunday, February 10 due to a record-breaking snowstorm that hit Suffolk County and the area around Farmingville hard. As Newsday reported, according to the National Weather Service in
Upton, “The blizzard unleashed up to 33 inches of snow as recorded in Medford, and wind gusts to 75 mph.  The storm total of 30.9 was the highest in Upton since records have been kept beginning in 1949, breaking the December 2009 record of 26.3 inches, officials said.” The storm left many of our roads and highways closed for several days.

The decision to close became much clearer when I read that the Long Island Expressway was going to be closed on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., from Exit 57 to Exit 73 for snow removal. Later, I would hear stories from members who were not able to leave their homes for some four days after the storm ended.

It bothered me to close the church on Sunday, even though it is best to ask people to stay home while the streets are cleared of snow. Governor Cuomo urged Long Islanders to “stay home unless you have urgent business to be on the roads.” For me, I consider it “urgent business” to feed our souls on a regular basis.

That morning, I sat in my house realizing how much I missed the community, the gathered children of God for the praise and worship of our Lord and Savior. I thirst for it like a deer thirsts for water. I need it, you need it, we all need it!

I know a person who understood the need to be in community. Donald Millikin came to Farmingville in May 2011 after the passing of his wife that February. He had been church shopping; we were one of a few that he checked out and it was this church that he chose as his House of Worship.

In Peter Block’s book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, he writes, “Community as used here is about the experience of belonging. We are in community each time we find a place where we belong. The word belong has two meanings. First, to belong is to be related to and a part of something. It is membership, the experience of being at home in the broadest sense of the phrase. It is the opposite of thinking that wherever I am, I would be better off somewhere else, or that I am still forever wandering, looking for that place where I belong… to feel isolated and always (all ways) on the margin, an outsider, to belong is to know, even in the middle of the night, that I am among friends.”

This describes the type of community that Donald found in your midst.

Block continues, “The second meaning of the word belong has to do with being an owner. To belong to a community is to act as a creator and co-owner of the community. The work, then, is to seek in our communities a wider and deeper sense of emotional ownership; it means fostering among all of a community’s citizens a sense of ownership and accountability.”  .

The first thing that drew Donald to this church was because he noticed the well-maintained grounds andDonald Millikin buildings. This is a sign of ownership for those who care for the buildings and grounds.

The second thing that drew Donald and others who have come into the church during my tenure, was the strong sense of community not just for those who have been here for a long time; it is available to all who enter your doors. Is there room for improvement?

Regardless of the community that you are a part of, I ask these questions. Do you not only notice the stranger but also attempt to get to know them? Do you invite new people through the middle door of the church? I might have to explain that one. It is one thing to welcome a new person on Sunday mornings. It is another thing to invite them to join the Choir, Prayer Group, Women’s Fellowship, clean-up crew, fellowship events or to invite them out for a cup of coffee.

After you have pondered these questions, you might want to covenant with God to find a way to help the other “Donald’s” that you encounter to find a place of belonging and community. This is the work of everyone.  To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen!

I thank God for you,
Pastor Kathy Nealand

Interim Pastor

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2013 in Pastor's Letters

 

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Pastor’s Letter – September 2012 – Staying Connected

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 “Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the {person} who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather.”  (Psalm 1:1 Amplified Bible)

Blessed, happy, fortunate, prosperous and enviable are great words to describe how I am feeling today.  The last two weeks exemplifies for me just how blessed we all are!  It is the first time I have experienced the return to church after a summer of trips to parts beyond Long Island.  It was great to see all the church families returning for Sunday school, to listen to them playing the bells and their sharing during the Children’s time.  We experience showers of blessings through the young people who call this church “Home.”

 “But his/her delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he/she habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.”  (v. 2)

As the children return to continue their studies, I pause to consider our own studies.  The Psalmist understood that happiness is a matter of finding good instruction (while avoiding poor instruction) and living by it.  The Biblical understanding of happiness involves being in relationship with God, who teaches, guides, and directs our paths.  This is why the Psalmist speaks to ponder and study by day and by night.  This is something that continues throughout our lifetime and we are blessed for continuing this practice beyond our confirmation.  It makes for a purposeful life, one that is ever-growing and expanding with each day.  Moreover, it is even better when we do this in community.

 So how can we maintain and build on the happiness we have experienced during the first couple of weeks in September?

The answer lies in the third practice of fruitful congregations.  In July and August, I spoke about the first two, which were Radical Hospitality and Passionate Worship.  The third is Intentional Faith Development.  All three requires the church to consider hospitality, worship and faith development in intentional ways.  When we consider hospitality and worship, we take a good look at everything that is involved in those areas with the goal of doing church in such a way that church is an uplifting experience for all people present.

The practice of Intentional Faith Development realizes, as the Psalmist points out, that abiding in the Word of God causes us to have a happier life in relationship with the Creator, particularly when we intentionally study and ponder the Word of God within community.  The Psalmist continues:

“And he/she shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity].”  (v. 3)

Our children look to the adults in their life to set the standards for their life.  Intentionally planning to come to worship on Sunday mornings begins to set an important foundation for them.  However, it is not just about them, it is about maintaining our own foundations.  It is about staying connected to the life-giving waters of God so that we can continue to be prosperous and bear good fruit for the Lord.  In addition, I believe that during this time of discovering God’s vision for the church, we need to be firmly planted in the Word of God at all times.

 This is why I am initiating two things this fall.  Beginning the first week in October, I would be available between services (9:15 to 9:45 a.m.) for prayer and study.  Anyone who wishes to join me is invited.  Second, I am providing a daily devotional entitled “Disciplines” for members to take home with them.  We may use this as our guide for Sunday mornings but we can use other materials as the group desires.

May we be nourishing and drawing nourishment; giving, yet maintaining identity; growing and reaching, while remaining firmly grounded in the Lord.

I thank God for you,

Pastor Kathy Nealand

Interim Pastor

Congregational United Church of Christ, Farmingville, NY

www.friendlychurchli.wordpress.com

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Pastor's Letters

 

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Pastor’s letter – August 2012 Imagine the Limitless Possibilities!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I witnessed a great joy this summer!  I felt this joy on the last Sunday in July, on the grounds of the Congregational United Church of Christ in Farmingville, NY.

The day started out grey and bleak.  The skies were laden with dark clouds and there was a light drizzle.  It appeared that rain was going to spoil the plans of an outdoor worship service followed by a barbecue and activities.  In spite of this, teams of church members and friends began to transform the front yard of the church.  In one corner some people were setting up the barbecue and food, along the driveway others were digging holes for posts that would define the game areas and in the center, another team was putting up a tent and setting up tables and chairs.  Meanwhile, others were moving out items for the church for worship purposes and all was going well.  The member who had the vision to vamp up the Christmas in July event and invite the community sat in the midst of the lawn and just watched.  He was pleased at how well everyone was working together to get everything set up.  It was a joy to watch.

The worship and picnic went well.  The drizzle stopped around the time worship began.  Moreover, the sun came out just as we were starting to cleanup.  We were grateful for the clouds because they kept the temperature cool, which added to the enjoyment of the day.  My husband believes that there were 63 adults and children present.  It was a good day!

However, there was another joy that day that came with a great surprise, for not only was the church yard transformed but the Parish Hall, as well.  In the afternoon, some members offered a tour of our buildings for the guests present.  After going through the church main building, the tour headed to the Parish Hall.  A few weeks ago, I had gone over there to take pictures for the website.  My pictures showed a blank canvas waiting for someone to use in a special way.  That afternoon a family had rented the space for a baby shower and they were in the process of decorating it as we walked in.  We could not believe our eyes; the decorator had transformed the room in a way that I had not seen before.  It was amazing!

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When we look at the before and after pictures, we have to think that if human beings could make such a difference, have such imaginations and creativity, imagine what God can do in and around us to transform the world!  In many ways, the church is a blank canvas, on which God is longing to use his imagination and creativity to transform the world and we could be part of that plan.

Sydney Carter, who wrote the hymn “The Lord of the Dance,” proposed that we could live our Christian lives in one of three ways: inertly, reluctantly or freely.  Our lives can be inert, uninspired, a passive going through the motions with no thought or choice of our own that thrusts us forward.  Or we can make the choice to be willing and engaged participants and dance with the stars.”

On the last Sunday in July, we experienced what it might feel like to be willing participants in the plans of God to transform our world.  We experienced the possibilities, of what can happen when we focus ourselves and work together for the common good.  May we continue to dance and move to the new things that God is doing in and around us!  Moreover,may we continue to imagine the limitless possibilities!

I thank God for you,

Pastor Kathy Nealand

Interim Pastor

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Pastor's Letters

 

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Pastor’s Letter for July 2012 – Refresh, Renew and Respond

English: Confluence Park, Binghamton, NY

English: Confluence Park, Binghamton, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rev. Freeman Palmer

Dear Sisters and brothers in Christ,

I just returned from a trip to Binghamton, NY where the ministers and lay leaders from the United Church of Christ in New York gathered to refresh, renew and to respond to the new thing that God is doing in and around them.

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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Pastor's Letters

 

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Greystone Presbyterian Church, Oklahoma City

Greystone Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City is experiencing transformation. Around 2008 Greystone was considering closing the church, due in part to dwindling, graying membership. At that same time they call a young pastor, Timothy Blodgett. What happened next was a lot of conversation, prayer and an unexpected offer from a neighboring church to buy the Greystone property for a sizeable amount.

Watch the video about Greystone Presbyterian Church.

Find more videos like this on Deep and Wide

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Videos of Interest

 

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