The following was presented at the Annual Meeting January 29, 2017
On our home turf our year began with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and the emergence of the devastating Zika virus, the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando, the Police shootings and the shootings of police, the destruction of Hurricane Matthew, the growing Opioid epidemic, and the hottest August ever recorded. Internationally, there was the Brussels airport bombing by Isis, Brexit, the continuation of the Syrian refugee crisis, with unrest, famine, and bloodshed there and in Turkey, the Philippines, and many other places in the world. But there were some bright spots- NASA discovered 1,284 new planets, Hamilton renewed people’s interest in history, Simone Biles made us all proud at the Olympics and the Cubs won the pennant after 108 years. We even had a snow day in January when we had to cancel worship when the police asked all to stay off the roads due to a massive snow and ice storm.
But through the grace of God we have Wyoming Presbyterian Church, a place where we can reconnect, recommit, and reset each week by surrounding ourselves with faith and family. We can regroup and reprioritize according to the teachings of our Lord. Where Pastor Nick leads our worship and reminds us of the perpetual presence of God in our lives.
In our church life, we started the year with a return to New Beginnings, a time of discernment where we deliberated on where we are as a congregation, where are we are going and how are we going to get there.
We have an active and passionate Mission committee and we will attempt to ramp it up a bit this year. We are devoted to supporting our surrounding communities, as well as the world. Several times during the year we participated with the Interfaith Hospitality Network supplying nutritious meals, serving and caring for the guests as they prepare for life on their own. We prepared monthly bag lunches for House of Mercy Mission to help families stretch those food dollars to the end of the month. We sent 19 deserving children to Camp Johnsonburg through our campership program. October 8th the Pumpkins arrived!! After countless volunteer hours and a slow start we ended up with a record…$29,000 to support our mission projects. We prepared and served a Pre-Thanksgiving feast at House of Mercy Mission. We sent bags and bags of warm clothing, blankets and toys to the Elizabeth Coalition, and delivered many, many Christmas gifts to deserving children through various faith partners. We became a magnet for mission when we added a monthly collection, December was warm coats and clothing month. February, we will collect Peanut Butter and Jelly, always in high demand at the local food pantry. Living Waters of the World, a mission to bring clean water to underserved countries has been put on hold as we seek to make sure our previous two installations are indeed operational. Where would you like to help this year? Do you know of an organization where you would like to serve? The mission committee would like to hear from you!
The WPC Christian Education program is for all. The Sunday School program attempts to show the 54 children of Wyoming that Jesus loves them unconditionally. This year a Halloween party was added during Pumpkin Patch, as well as a return to the Mini-Missionary program with Mission of Hope Haiti. The annual Adventfest: A Christmas Workshop, a fun family event, capped off the year with caroling, baking and ornament making. The Weekday Bible study met faithfully on Wednesdays with a study of Acts and our Adult Education explored major topics discussing the “Basic Nuances of our Core Beliefs” as well as a having a conversation about Modern Day slavery.
The Deacons are always on the job to help and serve in countless ways: delivering meals, helping with chores as well as providing shoulders to cry on and extra hands to pray. They assist with funerals to make sure all are comfortable. They held their annual Mother’s Day cake auction, with proceeds going to Sierra House, a program for young mothers. They jar soup, make gift baskets, and served a special fall luncheon to our seniors. They even served a cake to celebrate the 100th birthday of one of our members, and they send a little gift to our college freshmen who are often feeling a little homesick and alone.
The Worship and Discipleship committee oversees all things to do with the worship of this hour. They work along with Pastor Nick to make worship relevant and enriching. From a summer with the Psalms to thoughts on the first family (that would be Mary and Joseph for those that may not have been here in December) from the bells in the steeple to the envelopes in the pews, from the flowers on the communion table to the communion cups and bread, changing of the paraments to making crosses for Palm Sunday. They do it all.
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good, sing praise to his name for that is pleasant (Psalm 135.3) We thank our Chancel Choir, led by Steven Shellman, for its weekly commitment to the worship of this hour. We enjoyed soloists both vocal and instrumental and especially appreciated the gifts Victoria Cannizzo has brought to our small group. We enjoyed the beautiful flute music of the Silvertones. Under the direction of Kathy Innis, the Cherub and Junior Choirs continued to delight with heavenly and melodic voices. In the spring the children put on a fantastic musical, 100% Chance of Rain. Our Wyoming Handbells continue to enthrall us with ever more intricate melodies. And to complete the year, the annual Messiah Sunday in December accompanied by the Bravura string quartet.
SoulFood, a group for all the women of Wyoming, met regularly in the Cottage for evenings of fellowship and renewal. At the “Read Your Own Darn Book Club”, the discussions are all about what you are reading now. At our annual Christmas Party we enjoyed some fellowship and collected feminine products for Elizabeth Coalition. A hike through the Watchung reservation was enjoyed early in the year but the second hike in Jockey hollow was rained out.
The Celebrations committee creates opportunities for people of all ages to socialize. Spending some time with someone outside your usual sphere can have a profound impact on your life. It’s almost like Face to Face Facebook for Presbyterians. The committee organized the fall Ingathering and Apple Fest, a Jazz Mixer, a Congregational Brunch, and a summer Barbeque in the Cottage. In December, a group braved the cold to sing Christmas carols in the neighborhood and then returned to the cottage to share a spaghetti supper.
Open Door Nursery School continues to thrive. 2016 saw the retirement of longtime teacher, Diane Snyder and we mourned the death of Irene Dolansky. In keeping with our mission oriented focus, the parents added “Stockings for Friends” where the families made beautiful Christmas stockings that were donated to the Salvation Army. We are grateful for the caring and competent leadership of director, Alethea Randazza.
We also want to thank other staff members, Erik Dolansky who takes care of our home as if it was his own. We thank Kathy Handelman who began the year at the helm of our Christian education programs and we welcome Michelle Pourakis who took over from Kathy beginning in September. We said goodbye to our Seminary Intern, Liz Guthridge in May. We know Liz will be a welcome addition at any church lucky enough to get her. And we are blessed and grateful for the caring and dedicated leadership of Pastor, Nick Van Gombos and his wife, Franny.
We thank our many volunteers who are just too numerous to list. And to all of you…who walk through those doors each week and are committed to the life, work and worship of our church. With your time and talent you make it possible to do the work to be the change we want to see in the world.
So like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, check out the website…stay informed, stay involved, be present so as we are bombarded by breaking news, forcing us to continually reexamine our principles and our beliefs, rejoice in triumphs and achievements and finally come to the realization that we need WPC and each other, now. I always seem to hear this prayer just when I need it most so let me share the prayer of St. Francis that was part of the women’s retreat yesterday…
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace/Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon/Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope/where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy.
May God continue to bless all who find their way to our door and to our shores.