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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- 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

 
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Posted by on March 4, 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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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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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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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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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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