2017 Began with the inauguration of a new president who broke with tradition both big and small causing controversy and division but afforded us many opportunities to come together as one people and show our strength as a nation. Internationally, the year began with a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert, a car killed pedestrians on London Bridge, a bombing at a mosque in Egypt and the attempted annihilation of Rohingyas as well as unrest, famine, and bloodshed in many other places in the world.  Nationally, the mass shootings continued even in a church leaving us all wondering if we are safe anywhere.  In July, the Juno spacecraft sent back pictures of the giant Red spot on Jupiter and then in August, a once in a lifetime view-a total eclipse.  Mother Nature rained down her own form of terror in the form of Wild fires on the west coast, and three devastating hurricanes in Harvey, Irma and Maria. A bright spot there was that the Houston Astros managed to win the world series amid all the destruction and despair. The year ended with the #METOO movement, a Leonardo Da Vinci painting selling for a jaw dropping $450 million and a tax reform bill.

One newscaster said her goal was to carve out calm in her life. Look around you. This can be your calm. Wyoming Presbyterian Church, a place where we can reconnect with our faith family, recommit ourselves to a better path, and reset for a new week of doing right by our fellow human beings as each week Pastor Nick reminds us that “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” Philippians 4.13

We want to be a mission church.  We have an active and passionate Mission committee, a committee devoted to supporting our surrounding communities, as well as the world.  In an attempt to ramp up our programs, The Rev. Mike Capron joined our staff as Coordinator of Congregational Mission. He is tasked with synchronizing our efforts among families and individuals to advance our mission out to the community.

Several times during the year we participated with the Interfaith Hospitality Network in fact, starting today, supplying nutritious meals, serving and caring for the guests as they prepare for life on their own.  We made 2400 sandwiches and distributed 1200 bag lunches for House of Mercy Mission to help families stretch those food dollars to the end of the month.  We sent many deserving children to Camp Johnsonburg through our campership program and donated to their current building program. When you are at the camp next, look for our 12×12 brick with our name on it. October 7th the Pumpkins arrived!!  After countless volunteer hours we ended up with a record…$31,951 to support our mission projects. We aren’t known as the Pumpkin church for nothing. We prepared and served a Pre-Thanksgiving meal with all the fixins 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 The Greater Abyssinian Baptist church, House of Mercy, and Elizabeth Coalition. Our Magnet for Mission is going strong. The magnet designates each month as a specific collection.  December was warm coats and clothing month.  February, we collected Peanut Butter and Jelly, always in high demand at the local food pantry. We rekindled our connection to MEND (Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity) by collecting change for them on Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday.  We continue to support the Slave-Free Community effort and a new group emerged, Team Refugee, to try to help with the resettlement of unsettled people.  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, led by Director of Children’s Ministries, Michelle Pourakis, has seen a transformation this year. Over the summer the Sunday School rooms on the third floor were transformed into a Computer lab, a movie room with a stage and a large screen and an arts and crafts room. The Sweets & Treats Auction in June benefited the new computer lab. Bible stories come to life each week as the children reenact the crossing of the red sea, baked manna and discussed the finer points of a Charlie Brown Christmas. Mini-Missionaries and their support of a child in Haiti also fall under Children’s ministries. The kids held a used book sale as well as a bake sale in the pumpkin patch. The annual Adventfest:  A Christmas Workshop, a fun family event, capped off the year with caroling, baking and ornament making.

Our Children’s Ministries organized a Mission trip for the first time in several years. The group went to Kentucky for a week near the end of June. They raised money for the trip with a very successful Beefsteak dinner. They hammered and hauled their way to a very inspiring week of wonder.

Education for adults is also a top priority. The Weekday Bible study, led by Pastor Nick, met faithfully on Wednesdays with a study of Romans with an eye to the Protestant Reformation. And in the fall “God Saves a People”, a study of the Exodus and exactly who God saved and why.  Our Adult Enrichment started the year with a talk by Kevin Bales of the Slave-Free Community. During Lent, we discussed “Spiritual Disciplines, Practices and Gifts”.

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 jar soup, make gift baskets, and served a special fall luncheon to our seniors. Lastly, they are called upon to comfort the grieving. They serve at funerals and were called upon to serve when longtime member Evelyn Burd passed at the end of August.

The Worship and Discipleship committee oversees all things to do with worship. The summer sermon series “The Gospel According to Popular Culture showed us how pop culture classics such as Blowin in the Wind, May You Stay Forever Young, and Eleanor Rigby can bring us Gospel messages in surprising ways. In the fall we enjoyed a series entitled “500 years reformed and still reforming” as we prepared to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation when the Protestant church led by Martin Luther split from the Roman Catholic Church. A Café style service, a more relaxed and informal worship complete with a cup of coffee and a doughnut was introduced.  We had a Men’s Sunday in April and a Mission Sunday in May. From the bells in the steeple to the envelopes in the pews, from the flowers that decorate the sanctuary to the ushers who guide you to your seat, from the heavenly music to the coffee that greets you downstairs, this committee handles every detail of what happens each Sunday morning.

Sing a Joyful noise to the Lord…We thank our Chancel Choir, led by director of music Steven Shellman, for its faithful weekly commitment to worship.  Throughout the year we enjoyed soloists both vocal and instrumental. The Men’s choir sang and the Praise ensemble gave us ever more musical avenues with which to praise the Lord. Our Wyoming Handbells continue to enthrall us. And to complete the year, the annual Messiah Sunday in December accompanied by the Bravura string quartet.

Under the direction of Kathy Innis, the Children’s Choir continued to delight with heavenly and melodic voices.  In the spring the children put on a fantastic musical, The Tale of the Three Trees. In May Kathy Innis laid down her baton to spend more time with grandchildren and take some well-deserved r and r.  In the fall, Ebony Wiggins joined our staff as the Director of Children’s Performance and Music. She has done a fantastic job with our young voices so far and we are looking forward to her first musical coming in Spring 2018.

SoulFood, a group for all the women of Wyoming, met monthly in the Cottage for evenings of fellowship and renewal.  A women’s retreat was held in January entitled The Power of Circles. 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 hygiene products for the Elizabeth Coalition.

The Celebrations committee creates opportunities for people of all ages to socialize. The committee organized the fall Welcome Back reception and AppleFest, a February Congregational Brunch with that delicious French toast, a Progressive dinner in March, a Celebration Tapas dinner in November and in December, a group of families braved the cold to sing Christmas carols in the neighborhood and then returned to the cottage to share a spaghetti supper. Joy to the world!

Open Door Nursery School continues to be a cute and positive presence in the building on weekdays. 2017 saw the retirement of Berit Peri after 32 years of devotion and dedication to the youngest ones in the program. She will be missed. In keeping with our mission-oriented focus, the parents got together to assemble shoeboxes for a women’s shelter, collected toys for the Salvation Army and donated countless goods to our many drives. We are grateful for the caring and competent leadership of director, Alethea Randazza.

We also want to thank other staff members, our Sexton Erik Dolansky who takes care of our home as if it was his own. 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 go about their daily lives living their commitments quietly in the background. And to all of you…who walk through those doors each week and are devoted to the life, work and worship of our church. We strive to be the change we want to see in the world. We could not do that without you.

So like us on FaceBook, follow us on twitter, check out our NEW website and our new Instagram and share…share… share …the good news. Stay informed, stay involved, be present.  And finally come to the realization that WPC can be your calm in a crazy world where we are constantly bombarded by breaking news of the next crisis.

May God continue to bless all who find their way to our calm and make us an instrument of your peace. Amen.

Respectfully submitted, Sandy Kramer

(1-28-18)