RSS

Tag Archives: God

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Pastor’s Letter – April 2013 – It Only Takes A Spark

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Lobby card for The Jackie Robinson Story

Lobby card for The Jackie Robinson Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new movie came out April 12 (“42”) about Jackie Robinson.  If you are not old, enough to remember the Brooklyn Dodgers or what it was like to live in the midst of segregation in the 1950s, you might want to go see it.  It might just inspire you.

For a large part of the population, it might be hard to imagine a time when blacks and whites were segregated.  They did not go to the same schools, they did not live in the same neighborhoods, they did not eat in the same restaurants and they did not use the same public toilets.  This is only a few ways that society separated out the people who inhabited the United States in those days.  Baseball was no different because they had their own leagues.  Jackie played baseball for the black teams but one day a white manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers dared to recruit Jackie for his all white team.  The movie depicts the challenges and difficulties of taking such a bold step and the courage it took to face the “Giants” of prejudice in the world.  This action set off a domino effect that would begin to break down the barriers that existed at that time.  There is a line in a song, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”  A spark was struck that day!

In a sermon recently, I spoke about how Jesus fought against the wrongs of society and was willing to take his fight all the way to the cross.  I asked the congregation if everything was good and right today, if there were no injustices in the world.  All were silent at first and then someone said of course, there are things that are wrong about our current world.  We do still have our own giants to conquer.

I could then point to the barriers that exist today.  We could talk about the treatment of immigrants in this country.  We could talk about tax laws that favor the rich and discriminate against the middle class and the poor.  What I did talk about is the discrepancy of providing services to the poor.  Our rules and regulations seem to make it difficult for people in need to get assistance.  Even food pantries limit the amount of food they can give to a family.  Could part of the problem be that our food pantries have limited resources and so need to give out small amounts in order to make it last longer?

Hebrews 13:16: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

A miracle happened…on Saturday, April 6, members of this church went down to the local Stop n’ Shop for six hours to collect food and other items from shoppers.  People were so generous.  As I said on Easter morning, “God showed up!”  Many people helped to fill up ten (10) shopping carts of food.  We packed up three cars and delivered all of it to Smithhaven Ministries in Coram.  The people there were overwhelmed.  We give thanks to all the people who helped to make this a very successful food drive and we ask for blessings on their lives always and forever.

Al congregations, in order to do the work of Jesus, to stand up to the injustices and giants of the world, needs to be fortified, encouraged and empowered for the work.  We need to strengthen our leaders and members physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  We accomplish this through community and worship.  This leads me to the injustice small congregation’s face.  This injustice comes from external forces but also internal forces.

With limited resources of time, talents and treasures small congregations feel the need to pull back, to do less than they would if they were in larger congregations.  However, I realized during my first year as a pastor that regardless of the size of the congregation, the people deserved the best of what I could give.  Therefore, I have to put in the same amount of effort whether I have 2 people in front of me or 1,000.  The people of God deserve nothing less; you deserve nothing less.  I believe this because we all struggle against the giants of the world.  We all need courage to fight the good fight.  Therefore, I believe that we need to provide the best uplifting worship we can so that we are empowered to do as Jackie Robinson did during his lifetime.  I would hope that you would want that, as well.  Jesus expects nothing less.  Trust that God will make a way.  May God bless every congregation’s worship and ministry today and forever!

I thank God for you,

Rev. Kathy Nealand

Interim Pastor

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Pastor's Letters

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pastor’s Letter- January 2013 – The Inaugural

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,shutterstock_125929850

Inauguration Day felt like a day that God has wanted for all of its creation and creatures. It felt like a day that Jesus prayed for when he helped a Samaritan woman, healed a cripple, touched the eyes of the blind and allowed officials to nail him to the cross. It felt like a day that the apostle Paul worked towards, when Jew or Greek, rich or poor, free or slave, women and men could stand together in peace. It was a day that Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of when he fought for equal rights for all people of the world. It was a day as Alex Haley said, “A day to recognize good and praise it.”

On Inaugural Day our children were safe at home. I have prayed that no one harms another, whether by their fist or with words or with a weapon. Inaugural Day was a day to hold each other in solidarity. Within each one of us, we have the power to make this day a reality, not just every four years but each day we wake from sleep and before we lay down at night. God needs all of us to be our best and to do our best in every situation that we find ourselves by using the gifts that God has given to us.

It may seem that we are out of the season of gifting; in actuality, we never are. We are always a gift to our families, workplace and community. The key to a joyful life is to discover your personal gifts and put them to good use in the service of the Lord.

Recently I heard an interview with Bette White, who turned 91 in January. Whenever you see her, she is so happy. Nothing seems to get her down except when she thinks of her husband, who has been gone a long time. She says that what she does is not work because she loves what she does.

“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles?
Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:28-31, NRSV)

Not many of us will be in a position to be president but in each of our own ways, we can make a difference. The apostle Paul reminds us that we are all part of a body and within that body, there are many parts/ all have value, all have particular gifts. The key is to discover our gifts so that we can use them in the most powerful way.

Each person’s particular gift enhances the whole. The goal is to put people in the places where they can best express their gifts in a positive way. The key to living in community is to understand that no one person can or should do it all. Every organization works best when each person understands that we are part of a team. In my mind, we could never have too many people who are organizers, musicians, cooks, repair persons, computer experts, financial experts, writers, artists, scientists, singers, philanthropists, introverts, extroverts, thinkers, doers, nurturers, caregivers, teachers, bookkeepers, directors, actors, evangelists, prophets, apostles and healers. We are not just ordinary; we are extraordinary in God’s eyes! Our Inauguration Day could be the day when we make a new commitment to serve the Lord with all that God has given to us so that we could work together in peace, love and faith. May our work together in 2013 be a blessing to us and be a glory of God!

I thank God for you,
Pastor Kathy Nealand
Interim Pastor

Resources

Discover Who You Are for use with teenagers and adults.by Jane A.G. Kise, David Stark and Sandra Krebs Hirsh

Equipped for Every Good Word; Building a Gifts-Based Church by Dan R. Dick and Barbara Miller

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Review – What I Have Come to Know

E-book available at Amazon.com

The family of Rev. Tang recently notified the Congregational United Church of Christ, where I currently serve, that his book has been published.

The book consists of a series of reflections by Rev. Tang concerning the illness and passing of his beloved wife, Poey Sim on April 24, 2010.  He uses this medium to discuss the epiphanies (visions and dreams) he experienced that helped him to know that Poey Sim was near.  Further, he speaks of his struggles dealing with grief and how the Holy Scriptures, as well as, other devotional books helped him to deal with his loss.

He cites 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 as the verses that gave him the inspiration to write this book:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of al comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

He writes, “In my deepest desire to share what I have come to know as the way to find comfort and peace— that of going into the Word of God.  I pray and hope that this sharing will, indeed, be received by fellow travelers who continue their life journey under the same circumstances that pertain to me.”

After reading this book, I believe he has achieved his purpose.  It is an inspiring story of faith, hope and most of all – LOVE. It clearly demonstrates that nothing can separate us from the love of God and those whom we have loved while on this earth.  In addition, he gives some good advice and resources that can assist anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one.  I believe that I have found it to be beneficial as it provides insight into the struggles that people go through when they suffer a great loss.  Whether you know someone going through a time of loss and grief or you are going though this yourself, this book may be of benefit to you, as well.

I thank God for you,

Pastor Kathy Nealand

Interim Pastor

RESOURCES

One resource mentioned that was given to him by his church are a series of books designed to help those grieving.  Each book is given to a grieving individual or family at a particular time during the first year.   It is published through Stephen Ministries and available on Amazon.com.  It is:

Journeying Through Grief by Kenneth C. Haugk

Some of the other resources referred to in the book may be helpful for anyone going through difficult times.  They are:

Facing Our Giants: A David and Goliath Story for Everyday People by Max Lucado

The Vanishing Power of Death: Conquering Your Greatest Fear  by Erwin Lutzer

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

The Upper Room Daily Devotional for 2012

Related articles
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Tools for Ministry

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,