Are you anxious yet? There were also many rays of light… Seattle banned plastic straws, the world rallied around a Tawainese soccer team trapped in a cave, Team USA brought home 23 medals from South Korea, the Eagles finally won a Super Bowl, a record number of women were elected to public office and babies appeared on the Senate floor.
Now, look around you at this place, this sanctuary, your church. As it says in John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. All of this can be your shining light. We come here as often as we can to find that light and reconnect with our faith family, recommit ourselves to a better path, and reset for a new week of doing “what is right and good in the sight of the Lord”. (Deuteronomy 6:18)
We are a mission church. We have an active and passionate Mission committee, good people focused on supporting our surrounding communities, as well as the world. We began the year with a celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on what was the 50th anniversary of his assassination. The Rev. Mike Capron as our Coordinator of Congregational Mission was with us until June. His legacy to us was CLB, The Church Has Left the Building, a new concept for a new era of church. We briefly worshiped then left the building to serve in many areas, from animal welfare to cooking for women in a shelter, collecting food to fill a big green bus to cleaning up the reservation.
We invited Interfaith Hospitality Network families into our home in July and prepared nutritious meals, served and cared for our guests as they prepared 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 when public assistance is all but gone. We sent many deserving children to Camp Johnsonburg through our campership program and bought them supplies to level the playing field. October 6th the Pumpkins arrived!! After countless volunteer hours we ended up with just shy of last year’s record $31,659 to support our mission projects. We prepared and served a Pre-Thanksgiving meal complete with stuffing and potatoes at House of Mercy Mission. We sent bags and bags of warm clothing, blankets, toys, even furniture 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. We participated in PI day at the detention center. 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 continued our connection to MEND (Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity) by collecting change for them on Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday and we welcomed the new “Green Bean”, a mobile food collection vehicle to our church lawn as part of CLB. Team Refugee, continued their work to try to help with the resettlement of unsettled people at a time when asylum seekers are in the news daily. We are now working together with First Friends of NY and NJ. Team Refugee sponsored a Syrian Supper Club and collected items for One World/One Love to help those in refugee detention centers. Where would you like to help this year? Do you know of an organization where you 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, Bible stories come to life each week as the children live the Bible stories through creative and inspired means. Mini-Missionaries and their support of a child in Haiti also fall under Children’s ministries. The kids held a flower sale and a very successful bake sale at Sights and Sounds to raise money for this worthy cause.
For families…The annual Adventfest is a Christmas Workshop and a fun family event, with caroling, baking and ornament making. Added this year, a reimagined, Sights & Sounds of Christmas, a Living Nativity on the lawn complete with baby animals, a horse and carriage ride around the neighborhood and more caroling. I have to say the empty stable created quite a sense of anticipation in the neighborhood.
Our 2nd (we hope it will be annual) Mission trip left for Kentucky in June. They raised money for the trip with a very successful Fish Fry dinner and served up pancakes for our first Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. Once in Kentucky, not only did they have an awe-inspiring week but they came away with some very valuable life skills. I’d love to have their carpentry skills.
Education for adults is also a top priority. The Weekday Bible study, led by Pastor Nick, met faithfully on Wednesdays and continued with the study of the Exodus and exactly who God saved and why. In the fall, the Messiah and its foundation in scripture, was the focus. During Lent, all adults were invited to go “In Search of Historical Paul.”
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 Christmas tea to our seniors.
The Prayer Shawl ministry met once a month to create beautiful pieces created from yarn but really made with coziness and love, to be given to those who need to be surrounded by prayers and comfort.
The Worship and Discipleship committee oversees all things to do with worship, from the bells in the steeple to the envelopes in the pews. As Pastor Nick announced his retirement, he focused his sermons on Doing a New Thing as our New Beginnings study showed us. What is God calling us to be and to do? We had a few Café style services, a more relaxed and informal worship. We had a Women’s Sunday in March. And on November 4, we began worship at the Rock where, Wyoming Presbyterian held the very first worship service and then we processed up the street to worship in the place where we have been worshipping and servicing the community for 145 years.
They ministered with song…We thank our Chancel Choir, led by director of music Steven Shellman, for its faithful weekly commitment to worship. A Men’s Quartet was added to the mix of musical offerings this year. Throughout the year we enjoyed soloists both vocal and instrumental, the Men’s choir, the Praise ensemble, and the Wyoming Handbells. And to complete the year, the annual Messiah Sunday in December accompanied by the Bravura string quartet. Hallelujah!
Under the tutelage of Ebony Wiggins, the Director of Children’s Performance and Music, the Children’s Choir continued to delight. In the spring the children presented a fantastic musical, Soul on Fire.
SoulFood, a group for all the women of Wyoming, met monthly in the Cottage for evenings of fellowship and renewal. The “Read Your Own Darn Book Club” produced lively discussions about the books that we are currently reading.
The Celebrations committee created opportunities for people of all ages to socialize. The committee organized the fall Welcome Back reception and AppleFest, a Progressive dinner, a summer get together, and all the retirement activities.
During the week, little voices and tiny steps can be heard throughout the halls from the children of Open Door Nursery School. In conjunction with our mission-oriented focus, the parents got together to assemble packages at Christmas, collected toys for the Salvation Army and donated countless goods to our many drives. They are swift and responsive to any immediate needs coming from the Elizabeth Coalition. We are grateful for the caring and competent leadership of director, Alethea Randazza.
And last but not least, we want to thank our Sexton Erik Dolansky who takes care of our home with great care.
We are blessed and grateful for the caring and dedicated leadership of Pastor, Nick Van Gombos and his wife, Franny for the past eight years and wish them well in retirement. In October, The Celebrations committee planned a wonderful and touching farewell dinner for Pastor Nick and Franny and a family Brunch for his final Sunday.
And in November we welcomed The Rev. Caroline Unzaga to be our Interim Pastor. We look forward to this next leg on our spiritual journey with Pastor Caroline as she shares her spiritual gifts with us during this transitional time.
We thank you who go about your daily lives living your commitments and lifting your hearts to God, in these pews and in the many hours you give to volunteering with the work of this church. So be present, stay involved and share…share… share …the good news that is Wyoming.
I will close with words spoken at the royal wedding earlier this year by The Rev. Michael Curry…
“I know for a fact that the way of love can work. The truth is, it’s the only way that works, that provides lasting and durable and healthy change. There has never been any kind of change for the good of human society that hasn’t been shaped by the people who passionately believe in doing the good, not just for themselves, but for the wider good — and that’s love, in a social context.
Whether it’s Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt — you can go through the list of people who have shaped human history for the good, and they’ve always been moved by a love for the common good, a love for humanity, a love for people, a love for the planet. If you believe we can be better, that’s a form of love.”
May God continue to bless all who find their way to our door and I wish you love Wyoming Presbyterian Church. Amen.
Respectfully submitted, Sandy Kramer