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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 – 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

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

 

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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

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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Tools for Ministry

 

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