News for the Church 2/27/21

Hello Church! 

What a wonderful warm, sunshine Friday we’re having today. Winter has lost its tight grip, and its downhill from here to spring! Yahooo! 

Do any of you do maple sugaring? Folks at Birdsfoot have been gearing up for tapping, and there’s much discussion these days about the joys of all things “maple.” 

This reminds me to ask– a couple weeks ago I mentioned that the Tisdales would like to purchase a sapling to plant out in the church yard this spring, to replace the sugar maple that came down last fall. They need to know what type of tree to order. A couple people have chimed in with their “vote” on which type we should plant, but I’d like to have a little more feedback from you. Would you like a white oak, a blight resistant American elm, or a sugar maple? Please email me back and let me know.

As I mentioned in an email earlier this week, George Davis passed away Tuesday night, and many of us are thinking about the many ways that he’s impacted this community. I am attaching an obituary that includes lots of fun pictures to look at and reminisce about. I hope you’ll take the time to read it and remember him

George’s children have decided to hold off on having a memorial service for him until a safer time for all of us to meet together in-person. When I know more about a tentative date I will pass that information along. What I can share, however, is that Rev. Scott Barton, who some of you may recognize as one of the former pastors here at the church, has agreed to come and participate in the service! 

Since it will be some time before we can gather together to remember George, I wonder if some of you have a special story that you’d like to share now with everyone. Feel free to ‘reply all,’ if you’d like to pass along a short memory. 

Now to other news–

Back at our congregational meeting a month ago– if you remember–

we came to the realization that our church’s financial difficulties have been put on the fast track as a result of the pandemic. At that time, a visioning committee was formed, and we’ve already begun meeting, to do the hard work of deciphering what different ways of being in the world God might be calling us to next. 

Good things are happening on the visioning committee. We have a road map now to help us begin doing this work– something I will tell you about another week. But I think it’s safe to say that the team is feeling encouraged and positive about what this process entails, and we’re all excited to see where God leads. 

What I wanted to mention to the whole church now, as we start digging into this work, however, has to do with our finances and our projected timeline. I asked Cynthia Coleman to do a little research in our finances, to come up with a more definitive idea of exactly how much money we have to lean on, as we prayerfully work towards deciphering what God might be calling us to. Knowing where we stand with our assets will help us determine how quickly this process needs to be done. 

As your pastor, I believe it’s vital for church leadership to be transparent when it comes to finances, especially in these situations. You need to know what’s going on with your church. So, I have some information to share with you. 

Cynthia explained that of our $360,000 in assets, not all of that money is available to be tapped when we find ourselves running a deficit budget. There are a couple accounts that are “designated funds,” meaning that the money in those accounts can only be used for the purpose they were originally designated for. These two designated accounts are set aside for upkeep of the organ and for building maintenance projects. Aside from these designated funds, we also have money in the Presbyterian Foundation, which only allows us to draw down from the interest of the principal, and not the principal itself. The total of these designated funds and the money permanently set aside in the Presbyterian Foundation comes to $119,000. These are the monies we do not have access to spending when we need to draw from our assets to keep the church financially viable. 

This means that we have approximately $194,000 to work with. Based on that number, I’ll make an educated guess and say that we have somewhere between 2-4 years to figure out what direction God is leading us to next. 

That’s not a lot of time to do this work, but I feel confident that we can get it done. Before I came to be your pastor, y’all had already engaged in quite a bit of identity work. And there is a strong sense of commitment around discovering what God’s way forward might look like for us. As Bob Pickard put it at this last week’s visioning committee, we are “undeterred” in our mission! 

Please continue to be praying for our church, for session, for me, and also for the visioning committee. “God, put us where you want us, and show us what to do!” 

On that note, I want to highlight one small act of what I believe God is asking us to do in this work– and that is to take care of one another. Here’s an example of what I mean: Since we’ve switched over to on-line worship services, Renee Stauffer has been deeply involved in making those services happen. She hosts and records the zoom meeting that the worship service is recorded on every Saturday, and then uploads those recordings to Facebook for us on Sunday morning. (After that, Dale Hobson then takes it and also uploads the service to our church’s webpage.) Renee works quietly behind the scenes in many other capacities at the church, too. I’ve noticed lately that she– like all of us in the middle of this pandemic– is getting tired and weary. She needs a break sometimes. So this last week I asked Dale Hobson, who has the tech skills needed to do the needed computer work, if he would be willing to spell Renee once a month, and he said “Yes!” So beginning in March, Renee will be taking the second Sunday of every month off for rest. 

Churches are notorious for being places that work their people to death— both their volunteers and paid staff. This not only stands in antithesis to Jesus’ gospel, but when we fall into those patterns of behavior, we lose out on living into the good news that God offers to us, too. 

If we truly want to live the life of faith we profess, it’s important that we cultivate a culture of caring for one another in our church– especially as we engage in this hard work of moving our church into its next chapter. Now, not all of us can step into doing the tech job that Renee has sustained faithfully throughout this whole pandemic, but each of us have something that we can contribute to the whole of our community. Each of us can find a way to care for another person! It takes intentionality to build a structure of caring in an institution like a church, and even more awareness to foster a culture of caring and appreciation, but these are skills that we are going to need to get good at, if we are going to make the jump to what’s next for us. 

So– Church! This week I am asking you to think about the people in our congregation, and choose one person that you can do something kind for. Maybe it’s emailing them to let them know how much you appreciate them, or calling them to check in and say hi. You can send a card in the mail or drop a text. However you want to do it is up to you, but I’m asking that you engage in the practice of care for someone from church this week.

For as I John reminds us again– “Beloved, let us love one another!” 

God’s loving kindness is what holds us together, so this week while you are praying for our church and listening for God’s call, let someone in our church family know that you are thinking about them, and articulate your care of them. 

Appreciating you today!
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 2/19/21

A Snowy Hello to you Church!

Have you finished shoveling out from the big storm we got on Tuesday? I hope so. What a winter it’s been, huh? And they’re calling for more of the white stuff again today! If there was ever a year to get to be a little kid– to tunnel, and build, and roll around in the snow– this is the year for it! 

Do you have fond memories of playing in the snow when you were little? If so, I’d love to hear about it. 🙂 

This week I’ve got just a couple of things to tell you about. 

The Sunday after next– on the 28th– the Rev. Dr. Shaun Whitehead will be joining us in worship once again. She is such a treasure to our community, and I am so thankful that she is able to give me a rest each month. Like many of you, I struggle with my body, and having a Sunday off on a regular basis makes a big difference for me. It’s also good for all of us to have a different voice bringing us a word from the Word on a consistent basis. It helps us to remember that God speaks to the people in many different ways. 

This last week the church received a curious email from a man named Jonathan Bruce, who lives out in Eugene, Oregon. He was wondering if we have any historical records relating to Lydia (Perkins) Sayles and Nicholas Sayles. He thinks they might have been married at our church back in the 1830s. I’m wondering if any of you historians out there recognize the name, or if there are any sleuths who might enjoy going on a treasure hunt in the history closet to see if a written record of this couple’s wedding exists. The history closet is a special place, which requires patience and delicate handling, but that offers great satisfaction to wondering and curious minds. Let me know if you’d like to help work on this project! 

And speaking of history– friends, George Davis has been hanging on all week, but the end is drawing near for him. I would ask that you would continue to hold him in your prayers in his final days. I’ve spent some good time at his house this week, and enjoyed hearing many stories of George and Ann in all of their adventures– in both our Potsdam community, and in our church. For nearly 70 years, they brought joy and good tidings to our community!

Dear Hearts, even as we sit with George this week, I wonder how you are faring. Right now is such a struggle, and on some level, none of us is ok right now. Between the pandemic, winter, growing older, and wondering what is to come next for our church, the weight is heavy. Isn’t it? 

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we don’t have to carry this weight alone– that we are not designed to carry this heaviness alone. God created us to be social beings who need each other. So don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help when you are really struggling. It is not a sign of weakness to admit when you can’t bare your load alone. These last couple of weeks I myself have hit my breaking point, and found myself falling to pieces. But I have been reminded yet again, that when we can be truthful about the state we may find ourselves in, and we ask for help, God provides. 

Sometimes we need encouragement to acknowledge when we are cracking. Sometimes we need reminding that people who love us are able and willing to hold us together when we can’t do it for ourselves– if we can gather together the courage to ask. 

The book of Lamentations acknowledges that life is painful and hard– beyond what we ourselves can possibly bare alone. And/but…. God’s strength is there to uphold us in these times. If only we would be humble enough to open ourselves up to asking. 

“The Steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

Living in humility this week,
Pastor Katrina

New for the Church, 2/12/21

Hello Church!

It is sunny and bitter cold out there today! The outdoor thermometer at my house said -18 this morning. It’s definitely a good day for long johns and a sweater!

This is about the time in the season when many of us start to lose our patience with the snow and cold. How are you hanging in there right now? As for me, I am not physically well enough to be able to move around in the snow, so I don’t get to be outside right now. That makes things hard. What about for you? Are you starting to climb the walls? Is covid making the winter blues harder or easier for you? I’d love to hear how you’re doing, if you want to drop a line.

Today I’ve got a pile of things to tell you about!

Lent

Next week Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. We won’t be coming together to mark the day, but I hope that you might take some time to “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Rock Charitable Grant

We’ve heard back about the Rock Charitable Grant. I’m disappointed to tell you that we did not receive funding this year. After talking with the director though, and learning more about what they’re looking for in an application, I’m confident that we will receive funding for other building projects that will need our attention in the next year or so.

Planting a Sapling

The Tisdales have offered to purchase a sapling tree to be planted in the front yard of the church, to replace the beautiful old maple that graced our presence for so many years and Betsy is inquiring about what we would like to see planted. Another sugar maple? A white oak? A blight resistant American Elm? What are your thoughts? Drop me a reply if you have a particular wish, and we’ll see what everyone thinks.

What a special day that will be this spring, to be able to gather together in the yard for the planting. Perhaps that can be the day we sing together. 🙂

Revisioning Work– “Change or Die”

This last week a core group of 10 of us zoomed together to start our re-visioning work on where God is leading us in this next chapter of our church. As you know, we are living in serious deficit spending, and we have before us the need to rethink how we live in the world. During the meeting we talked about how scary it is to be forced to change, and even how uncomfortable it can be to simply talk about changing. Even while acknowledging these fears, I was quite pleased to see a willingness in folks to meet our fears head on. Laughing out loud someone spoke up and said, “Yeah, we should call this work ‘Change or Die!'”

Recognizing the motive we have to change is helpful, and/but focusing on the financials must play second fiddle to the more important work of listening in for what purpose and mission God might have for us in this next stage of our church.

Since we know and believe that we serve a God who provides for us, focusing our attention on what God’s call is for us will lead us to the right solution to our sustainability problem.

But the question is, “How do we know what God is calling our church to?”

There are many different ways to approach that question, and so we will use a number of different strategies to figure out an answer. Firstly, as I mentioned last week, all of us need to be engaged in daily prayer for our church. Prayer opens up our hearts and invites God to speak– especially when we pray that powerful prayer, “God, put us where you want us, and show us what to do.”

Prayer is our first approach, but we also have another helpful way of engaging that question. It’s fair to say that when God calls us to something, the Spirit provides us with both the energy and the excitement to bring about that calling. So a great guiding question on this treasure hunt of ours is to ask ourselves, “What generates energy and excitement in our church?”

At our meeting this week I asked people to share what has generated energy and excitement in our church in the past. As people began talking and sharing, you could feel the energy rising. “Music!” someone said. “Caring for the world around us,” another voice added. “We always get excited about sharing food,” someone else laughed. “Youth!” someone added. “And social justice work,” another voice chimed in. The more examples people gave of times that energy and excitment was felt in our congregation, the more we began to see certain themes popping up.

Music— both making music and sharing it with others has created energy and excitement for us consistently throughout our life.

Mission/Community Outreach– sharing what we have with others in need has consistently sparked joy and rallied energy in our church, whether the need was felt among our own people, within our community, or around the world.

Fellowship— sharing experiences together and eathing food with others has always brought us together in positive ways.

Social Justice— Throughout our church’s entire 210 years of life, engaging justice work– as opposed to charity work– has sparked and rallied energy and excitement. (Even back in 1837 our church was on the forefront of social justice. That was the year we organized an anti-slavery society and spoke out strongly for abolition, even in the face of unpopular social pressure.)

Youth— Engaging with, teaching, caring for, and feeding our community’s young people has consistently brought joy and excitment to our congregation.

These were the examples our group came up with this week. But I’m curious to hear from you too! When you think back to times that you have felt energy and excitment stirring in our congregation, what comes to your mind? (Please respond with a Reply All if you share!)

Friends, God has something exciting in store for us in this next chapter if we choose to be open to where God might be leading.

Finding out what that calling might be will take–

  • Vulnerability
  • A willingness to practice trusting (God, ourselves, and each other)
  • Discovering joy-filled curiosity
  • Using our imagination muscles.

Are you ready for this adventure? I am! 🙂

“God, put us where you want us, and show us what to do.”

Warming up my Curiosity Muscles,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church 2/5/21

Good Day to you Church!

It is wet and I-C-Y out there today! I had a close encounter with a tractor on the road this morning on my way into the church office. I was coming down a hill on my way to a stop sign when I realized that braking wasn’t slowing the car down at all. I could see the scenario playing out in front of me– of being hit by a tractor as I careened into the intersection in front of me. At the last minute, however, my tires found enough friction on the road to bring me to a stop and the John Deere peacefully passed by in front of me. Phew!! That was a close one. All that to say– be careful out there today! 

If you weren’t able to make it to our congregational meeting last Sunday, I thought I’d take this chance to catch you up on the latest news. 

As many of you already know, our church has been struggling with financial difficulties for quite some time now. There simply hasn’t been enough money coming in to cover all the costs of what has to be sent out. This is why, 3 or 4 years ago, the church made some major changes: the pastor’s hours and salary were reduced to half time, the office administrator’s position was reduced to 1/4 time, and other cost saving measures were taken. All of these changes helped with lowering the deficit budget, but they did not eliminate the financial strain entirely– much in part due to the fact that we live in a huge, old (beautiful) building.

Then, the pandemic hit. The economic impact of Covid-19 has been harsh for our church. Our pledged giving was down significantly in 2020, and we lost rental income, building use income, and fundraising opportunities. Looking into 2021, as we continue into the second year’s effects of the pandemic, our financial situation gets even tighter. Session is projecting a $84,000 deficit for 2021, depending on how long the pandemic lasts. 

This is a serious issue, I know. Give yourself a minute to catch your breath. 

That’s the hard news. The good news is that there is definitely enough money socked away in our assets to survive this year, and likely another year or so beyond that (depending on how much principal we have access to tapping). *This is something Cynthia Coleman is looking into.

This means we’ve got some time to listen in– to hear and understand what God might be calling us to in our next chapter, and then, to figure out how to financially make that a reality. 

Thankfully, there’s more good news. One of the other pieces ofgood news is that I have done this sort of work before. Both of the congregations I worked for in Rochester were dealing with these same issues, and I spent gobs of time learning how to engage in this process– of determining what God might be calling us to as we lean into this particular financial situation. 

You’re probably going to think I’m nuts for saying this, but the position we find ourselves in right now is one of the most exciting opportunities our congregation will ever encounter to grow in our faith, knit the bonds of our congregation tighter, and learn to trust God.

I’ve seen first-hand what this opportunity can yield in the lives of two different churches– when the process is done well. I won’t kid you. The work we have to do in the coming months is hard work. But if we can practice living into the beliefs we hold dear to our hearts– about having faith and trust in a God who is making all things new, this may turn out to be one of the most rewarding faith experiences you will ever encounter in your lifetime. (I kid you not.) 

Starting this Tuesday, a core group of church members and I will begin this work. In the beginning, this visioning team will do a lot of the “heavy lifting,” but that does not mean that the rest of you are off the hook. It’s going to take all of us engaging in this process together– talking together, listening together, and praying and meditating– to come out the other end in a healthy, revitalized way (assuming that God is calling us to remain as a living, breathing entity). 

Recognizing that all of us need to take part in this process of growth and change, I’m going to give all of us a little homework to do this week. 

The first request I have might be challenging for some of us, but that is ok. It is ok to do hard things. For the next 6 months, I am asking that each of us pray daily for our church body. Feel free to pray for our congregation in whatever way you feel led (it might not hurt for a couple of us to ask God for a winning lottery ticket, for instance), but in addition to your own prayers, I need to ask you to start praying a particular prayer: 

“God, put us where you want us, and show us what to do.” 

This prayer is important because it puts us in a posture of both openness and awareness to God’s leading. Yes, it is necessary that we work towards “fixing” our financial problem, but our most important job in the coming year is to discern what God is calling us to be, and to do. If we do this most essential task well– of learning to hear and to follow God’s beckoning– I can tell you that the important financial decisions will flow naturally out of the other work. 

Praying for our church must become one of our daily spiritual habits. I’m serious about that. We’re all going to have to step up our prayer life. (Remember I said that this is going to be hard work? Daily prayer is hard work.) 

The second request I have of you, is that you read the following article. It’s a short piece written about South Presbyteryian Church and their call-seeking journey. After four years of deliberation, prayer, and discussion by members regarding their grim financial situation, in 2014 they opted to gain financial stability (and freedom) by selling their building. 

God may, or may not, be calling us to a similar situation– that is something that we will have to discern together-– but I wanted for you to see an example of how special and invigorating this process can be. 

OK, that’s all for now, dear Hearts. 

“God, put us where you want us, and show us what to do.” 

in faith,
Pastor Katrina

p.s. I almost forgot to mention! We will be celebrating communion together this coming Sunday. So, on Sunday morning, pull out a bit of juice (or coffee, or whatever you have on hand) and some bread (or a cracker or, truly…whatever you have), and we will remember and celebrate Jesus together. 

News for the Church: Annual Meeting 1/31

Good Afternoon Church!

What a glorious but chilly today we are having! Sunshine– yay!! 

Today’s email will be very brief. 

If somehow you hadn’t received the news earlier, this Sunday will be our first-ever Congregational Meeting held via Zoom. Please plan to come to the meeting at 11:30 am.

Congregational Meeting Agenda.

If you’re joining us via the internet, you’ll need this link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85095954834

If you’ll be joining us via telephone, call the appropriate phone number listed below, and when prompted, use this Meeting ID#:

Meeting ID: 850 9595 4834

Dial by your location
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID: 850 9595 4834

On Wednesday you should have received all of the documents needed for the meeting. 

Please read them through before we start the meeting so we can jump into conversation.

While I expect there to be good discussion regarding the budget and our financial situation, our “work” will be short. 

There are only two items that we need to vote on– the pastor’s terms of call and the proposed 2021 budget. 

There will be time for adding new business at the start of the meeting, but if there is any new business you know ahead of time that you’d like to include, please email me back with a description. 

I’ll see you on Sunday! 🙂
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church 1/22/21

Good afternoon Church!

This afternoon as I write, the snow is gently falling from the sky–coming to blanket us in the peace-filled hush of winter’s embrace. Can you hear the quiet? Do you enjoy this silence? 

This has been a pretty quiet week, all around. I emerged from a second round of quarantining a couple days ago, thankful to find that all has been well at the church building in my absence. 

Looking at the next couple of weeks: 

This Sunday the Rev. Dr. Shaun Whitehead will be leading worship for us. 

The following Sunday–January 31st– we will be holding our annual congregational meeting over Zoom, beginning at 11:30am. Look for an email from me mid-week with annual reports for you to read prior to our meeting as well as the invitational link you will need to use to access the meeting. 

For those of you who are unsure of how to navigate Zoom, please feel free to practice “zooming” this week by joining Lora and Dick Lunt at our weekly Zoom coffee hour, which begins every Sunday at 11am. Lora will send you the email invitation on Saturday, for you to be able to participate. This weekly Zoom is a nice way to get to “see” each other, and to hear how others are fairing. 

With our congregational meeting coming upon us next week, I’d like to take a moment today to ask you to consider donating the per capita amount our church is required to pay for our members, for the services our denomination and our presbytery provide to us. This year the amount is $31 per person. For those who don’t know, per capita is money churches are required to pay to help support the governing infrastructure of our presbytery, synod, and General Assembly. This money is also used to create educational and missional services for us to use all year long. Each church covers this cost for its members, but if you are able to contribute towards it, it is greatly appreciated. If you send in a contribution, either for the entirety of the $31, or some portion of it, just write “per capita” on the memo line of your check. 

Friends, please continue to be praying for Seth Chichester and family, as they mourn the loss of Marlene. Due to the pandemic, the family is holding off on a memorial service until spring. In lieu of sending flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made in Marlene’s name to either The Alzheimer’s Association or United Helpers. 

A Word of Encouragement

As COVID ravages around us, and we find ourselves hunkering down even tighter for winter, I wonder what sort of opportunity this might lend for us to turn inward– to do the sort of work on ourselves that can only be done in the hush of darkness and the stillness of winter. It is a time for us to take stock and ask ourselves the hard questions. “Is the person I have become, the person I want to be?” we might ask ourselves. “And who am I, exactly?” As we dig down into the layers of our identity, we can also sit with the deeper question, “Who is God calling me to be right now?”  

Every day we have the fresh, new opportunity to make choices for ourselves– to keep living the path we forged the day before, or, to shift our energy, habits, and awareness to become something different. 

If there is one thing that the pandemic has shown us, it’s that change is all around us–something God purposefully built into creation! If, upon reflection, you are not happy with the person you have become, God created you specifically with the ability to grow and adapt. We may never possess the power to change those who are around us, but every moment of every day we have the power to open ourselves up to becoming a new creation.

In the book of Ezekiel, God tells the prophet to prophesy to all of the people of Israel. In the past the people have hardened their hearts against God, but God promises them, “I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

~Ezekiel 36:26 

Dear Hearts, if in the snowy silence of January you come to know that you need a change for yourself, God’s mercies are new every morning. 

When the student is ready, God provides the teacher. 

Sitting in the hush,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 1/15/21

Good Afternoon Church!

We’ve hit the middle of January, and have yet to experience a stretch of real cold. Having lived in the North Country for a few years, I can think back on one time that it got down to -38 degrees Fahrenheit. That has been my coldest North Country experience, but I wonder about yours?! What’s the coldest day you’ve felt on record? Do you have any good stories to share about your experiences in plunging temps, of what might very well be becoming a by-gone era? I’d love to hear! 🙂 

Last night, Session met over zoom to put together the proposed budget for 2021, which we will present for your consideration at our upcoming congregational meeting on January 31. This was a challenging task, given the unknowns of how long the pandemic will last into 2021.

Consequently, I need to tell you what a bang-up job this Session is doing right now. Trying to keep our congregation, the building, and its many users safe and healthy has been a Herculean effort, but the folks on Session have stepped up to the plate as dedicated, thoughtful leaders. They have offered their time, money, researching skills, encouragement, and decision-making abilities on a weekly, and sometimes even, a daily basis. The next time you see Sue Waters, Terry de la Vega, Renee Stauffer, or Alicia Newcombe, please let them know how much their pastor appreciates them! 

Congregational Meeting

As for details of our church’s first-ever Zoom Congregational Meeting, here is the plan: Sometime in the week leading up to the meeting, you will receive an email from me with the packet of information you will need for the meeting– our annual reports, the 2021 budget, and the pastor’s terms of call. (For those of you who do not have email, we will send the packet to you in the regular mail.) In that email you will also receive a link to join our zoom meeting.

At 11:30am on January 31, click that link, and it will take you to the Zoom website, where we will all be gathering together. *For those of you who don’t have internet access, there is an option to call into the meeting from a telephone, as well. 

If you have never zoom-ed before (that’s becoming a common verb in our lexicon, isn’t it?!), or if you’re not very adept at navigating into the world of Zoom, we can schedule a mock-run of the meeting sometime the week prior. Please just reply back to me and let me know if this is something you’d like to be able to practice beforehand. We can definitely make a practice run available! 

Getting Vaccinated

If you’re over 65 and/or have certain health conditions, you may qualify to receive the new COVID vaccine soon. Dave Wells sent me an email saying that he had just signed both Jane and himself up to be vaccinated at Maxcy Hall at SUNY Potsdam. To get the vaccine, you have to register at the web link below. 

Dave did say that the website is experiencing high volume right now, so it is functioning slowly, but if you are patient, you should be able to register. 

The Web link is: https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/

A Word of Encouragement 

Friends, if you are feeling down in the doldrums right now, and perhaps your pants are too tight (because, like me, you find yourself eating all of the chocolate in the house), I want you to know that you are not alone. If you find yourself feeling short on patience and long on your list of complaints about the world, you are not alone. If you are overwhelmed by politics and slip easily into a state of anger these days, you are not alone. If you are frustrated with and irritated by those you live with, you are not alone. 

What we are doing is hard. It is not easy to live in the middle of a pandemic. It is not easy to be an American right now. It is not easy to stay healthy and whole at this time.

Near the end of our Bibles is a tiny letter, the Second Letter written to Timothy. At one point, Timothy was struggling mightily with the world, and the author had these encouraging words to offer to him specifically–

“I am thankful to God, whom I have served with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am sure is in you. Because of this, I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess… For God did not give us a Spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control.

— 2Timothy 1:3-7 

Friends, those of you with deep faith–whose mothers and grandmothers have gone through hard times before you with their own faith intact– let me remind you of the gifts of God that you possess. Do not lose sight of the goodness, and the strength, and the faithfulness that lives inside of you. Lean into those gifts. For “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control.” 

We can do this. We can. 

Holding the faith line,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 1/8/21

Hello Church,

We haven’t seen the sun in almost 2 weeks, but it is shining brightly today! (Hallelujah, thank the good Lord!) Sometimes, when it’s been so long since we’ve seen it, I almost forget what sunshine feels like. Do you too?

Now for the news: 

For those of you who are Presbyterian down to the marrow of your bones, you will already know intuitively that our annual Congregational Meeting is coming up! On Sunday, January 31st, following the worship service, you will be invited to our zoom congregational meeting. 

Sometime earlier that week we will send out an email to everyone with the invitation to the zoom meeting. Then, you will be able to join us “live”(!) to discuss the going’s-on of our congregation in 2020 and to discuss what 2021 might look like. I hope you will join us!

Also of note for January, the Rev. Dr. Shaun Whitehead will be preaching on Sunday, January 24. Shaun has become a beloved preacher for us, and brings uplifting messages to our weary souls. I give great thanks for her ministry! 

Since this is the beginning of a new year, and many of us are cleaning out the old to make space for the new, I wanted to ask if there is anyone who would like to be taken off this weekly email list. Email is one of those places where it’s easy to get inundated with an overwhelming amount of notices, newsletters, and well, junk! If you need to declutter some, please just email me back, and I’ll be happy to honor your request. 

For those of you who have been attending our worship services online, you will know that for the next while or so we have to let go of having someone be our song leader when we sing hymns. Keilor, our new musician, is there to play the songs on the piano, but I wanted to offer you access to another way to listen to the hymns. Starting this week, I will include in my weekly email to the church the list of hymns we will be singing and links to Youtube that have people singing these songs. That way, if you need someone to sing along with, you can! 

This week we will be singing: 

“Rock of Ages” 

“How Firm a Foundation”

“How Can I Keep from Singing?” 

Friends, this week I have some hard, difficult news to share. Terron Baxtron, the 20-something year old son of Jennifer Baxtron–the woman who has organized and led the Black Lives Matter movement in the town of Potsdam– has died. 

Some of us know Jen well, but others of us don’t know her at all. Since BLM became active, she has been on the periphery of our church family– organizing events with us to teach people about the racism that has existed in our neck of the woods, and helping me to learn more about how our church might be able to bring the love of God to the town of Potsdam. 

Jen has not had a church family to call home for quite some time, but has wondered about coming to our church with her three young grandchildren when the pandemic is over. And she often reaches out to me as a minister. 

Tonight I will be going over to her house to sit a spell with her, and to find out if there are any ways that we might be able to serve as her church family. 

Right now she is grieving and hurting immensely, and so I ask that you be praying for her. In addition to that, Julie Miller (who knows Jen well from going to the daily BLM rallies) is organizing a food train to bring meals to Jen and her family over the course of the next few weeks. If you’d like to contribute to that effort, please click on the link below and sign up for a day to bring a meal.

https://mealtrain.com/30llmy

This week has been one for the record, folks– and not because it has been filled with joy and celebration. Please be praying for our country– not that your’s or my will be done, but that God’s will might become manifest among us. We are living in a fractured land, where next-door neighbors regard each other as enemies, and a major split exists in how we choose to see and describe the world around us. This battle stands over the very heart and soul of our nation.

Please be praying for our current president and his wife, for our congress members, for our president-elect and his cabinet, and for our nation as a whole. 

In all of the mayhem this week, if there is anything to remember about our faith, it is these words penned from the Apostle Paul to the Christians living in Rome–

 “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

–Romans 8:38

May we find our strength in the love of God, dear Hearts. 

Standing in the light,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, Christmas Eve 2020

Hello Loves,

Merry Christmas Eve to you all on this wet and rainy afternoon! I wonder what you are all doing today. Do you find yourself doing Christmas activities, or is this just a normal day, like all the others? 

If you’d like, you are invited to tune in to our Christmas Eve service starting at 7pm. You can find it on our church’s Facebook page– just like all of our worship services. Or, it will be available to watch on our church’s webpage. 

Keilor Kastella is playing both organ and piano from the sanctuary for tonight’s service. This is the first time we will be trying to add the organ into our recordings, and we’re not sure how the sound quality is going to be. If it’s disappointing, don’t be dismayed. This is our first try at it, and every week from hereafter we will have the chance to make adjustments. 

Ranota Hewitson was supposed to sing “Silent Night” for us at the end of the recording of the service, but she had an emergency and had to leave in the middle of our recording time– before it was time for her to sing. Thankfully, we still have Keilor’s beautiful instrumental version of “Silent Night” in the service, and what’s more, Keilor, Ranota, and Renee (our wonderful tech person) all met up later to make a second recording of “Silent Night,” with Ranota singing. You should be able to find this recording in the comment section of the Facebook post containing the service. 

Do you remember how clunky our first online services were, when we were first trying to figure out how to set them up? Now that we are changing the location of the music part of our services to the sanctuary with Keilor, I need to ask you to stretch your graciousness out again and be willing to adopt a little more change. When Gui and Feryal were our music leaders, we had the luxury of having a singer who lived in the same “germ pod” as the piano player. This meant that we had a song leader to carry the tune for us, as we sing along or listen at home. But this, my dear hearts, is something else that we are going to have to give up for a little while. Ranota will be singing Silent Night for us tonight, but after that, Session has decided that it’s taking too great of a risk to have someone sing along with Keilor as he plays the piano. The Covid numbers in our county are skyrocketing at the moment and singing is a high-risk activity, and it’s not worth exposing any of us to serious illness or death. So, for the time being, we will listen to the hymns instrumentally– until a time comes when it is safe for singing.

This decision was not one that session came to easily. Having someone to sing our hymns each week is important, and it feels like a real loss to have to let this go for right now. But someone on session came up with a creative alternative. Starting next week, at the end of my emails, I will include links to recordings of choirs singing the hymns that will be played instrumentally in the upcoming worship service. That way, if you want to sing along with the choir at some point during the week, you will be able to. 

Oh friends, this is such a difficult thing we are doing. The pandemic affects our lives in major, upsetting ways, but it also changes so many of the small things– like having a song leader for our hymns. And sometimes, the small things are harder to deal with than the big things. Often, we’re able to prepare ourselves for those big shifts, but the little things we don’t see coming– they sneak up on us without warning, and hit us where we’re not expecting. 

I suspect that you will run into more of these small losses tomorrow on Christmas, when our usual traditions have been set on the sidelines. Please be willing to honor that tomorrow might be a tough day, and give yourself some space to grieve. 

On the flip side of that grief, you can also give yourself permission to take delight in something else that you might not have ever thought to try for Christmas day. I have a friend who is going through cancer treatment right now, and it is too risky for her to be around any of her family, so she will be spending Christmas alone in her house. Rather than cry over this loss for the whole day, she has decided to imagine that her little house has magically turned into a retreat house for writers, and plans to spend her day writing letters to her grown-up children. The letters will include telling her kids special stories she remembers from when each of them were growing up, and all the things she loves and appreciates about each of them now that they are grown. 

Friends, it is possible to turn lemons into lemonade. We just have to put on our creative thinking hats, and imagine what is possible out there beyond the boundaries we have always lived with. What beautiful, lovely thing might happen in your life, if you opened yourselves up to the possibilities?! 

Whatever, and however, your day turns out to be tomorrow, I pray that you know that you are loved by God and your whole church family. 

And may the grace and peace of Christ rest upon you now and always!

Resting in God’s great love,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 12/18/20

Hello Lovelies!

Can you even believe it? The sky is blue today!! After weeks on end of dreary, grey skies, we get a perfect, wonderful day of sunshine. My heart is soaring!

Today I am in my 8th day of quarantine, stuck in my bedroom until December 23rd. Unfortunately, I don’t have any south-facing windows in my room, so I’ve had to wait for my scheduled “yard time” to feel the sunshine. But the wait was worth it. The warmth on my skin was heavenly!

I haven’t started climbing the walls quite yet, but I can feel it coming on. There’s only so much computer work, knitting, and embroidery a person can do in a small space before she starts to go nuts. LoL! Have any of you had to go into isolation? I’d love to hear what got you through your two-week stint.

Here’s the news for this week:

The Sunday after Christmas, Dec. 27, Dr. William Lake (beloved professor at Crane) will be leading worship, and he has a special request! He has asked me to request that, if you are able, please watch the movie entitled “Jingle Jangle” before December 27. It is available to watch on Netflix.

Here is the link to check it out: https://www.netflix.com/title/80232043

Friends, I also have some bittersweet news to share. This coming Sunday, Dec. 20th, will be the last week that Gui, Feryal, and Leila will be providing music for our worship services. Gui and Feryal are both working 7 days a week right now, and it’s too much for their family. I think we all understand that having a day of rest is really important, so we will wish them well on their adventure down in South Carolina, and give thanks for the time we’ve gotten to share with them during our pandemic worship services. (If anyone would like to send them a card, email me and I’ll provide you with their address.)

That is the bitter half of the news. The other part– the sweet half– is that while we are saying goodbye to Gui and Feryal, Keilor Kastella will be taking over as our music leader. Keilor has already substituted in for us, so you might recognize him when you see him. And some of us have had the joy of actually meeting both him and his partner, Brian, in person at our monthly outdoor coffee hours over the summer. Both Keilor and Brian started at Crane this semester, and we are delighted to have this opportunity to have Keilor join us for worship. He will be the one playing for our Christmas Eve service–and in the sanctuary, no less!

Which reminds me–you are invited to join Keilor and I at our first-ever online Christmas Eve service at 7pm next Thursday evening. Like usual, it will be aired on our church’s Facebook page and at our church’s website– potsdampresbyterian.org

This week we also said goodbye to the large maple tree that has graced the front yard of the church for more than 100 years. As I had mentioned previously, it has been dying for some time and needed to come down before the wind caused a calamity. Thankfully for us, Mike Cliff and Mike White of Paradise Valley Tree Services dropped the tree for us gratis. This is a significant gift considering the costliness of tree removal. So we offer a major shout out of gratitude to these fellows, along with Ron Kaiser, Bob Pickard, Rick Waters, and Dick Partch, who helped with the clean-up effort. Thanks fellas! You are much appreciated!

And thank you, big beautiful Maple, for sharing shade, oxygen, and beauty with us across the years. For so many decades you watched over our church building– from the days when people came by horse and buggy, and lit lanterns and candles for light, through two world wars, a flu epidemic, and many other difficult times. We offer our gratefulness to you for the life you shared with the world.

Dear hearts, I have been reminded today by my 5-year old niece that Christmas is exactly 7 days away. Are you prepared? Not only for the joy of that day, but also for the twinges of sorrow, or anger, or frustration that it will most likely stir up in us? We often experience more than one emotion at a time, and I hope you will give yourself permission to acknowledge all of the “feels” as we make our way through the holiday season.

Joyfulness usually makes it easy for us to get along with the people around us, but when we experience challenging emotions–and we don’t recognize what’s happening to us–sometimes those difficult emotions end up coming out sideways as anger and frustration, directed at the people around us.

I hope that you will hold grace for both yourself and those in your life in these coming weeks, and learn to pay attention to what your heart needs. If you need some “time out” from your family–because they’re driving you bonkers– give yourself some quiet space. If you’re isolated and alone, make it a priority to find a safe way to connect with people you love– whether it’s over a phone call, a zoom chat, a written letter, or standing in the front yard waving a big hello.

When we are able to honor our heart’s deepest needs, we create the space for God to restore our souls and rejuvenate our spirits. And this, in turn, opens us up to the strength of joy and gratitude, which God provides to see us through difficult times like these.

What does your heart need right now? I invite you to spend some time with yourself, discerning, and some time with God in prayer. How can you meet these needs right now, so that you will have the energy and strength to care for those around you in the days ahead?

In his letter to the believers in Philippi, Paul reminded them (and now us, as well)–

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

–Phil. 4:5-7

If we pay attention to what our hearts need this week, and ask God for help, we will likely find in the very midst of what troubles us, this peace which surpasses all understanding.

Sending Christmas Greetings of Love and Joy to You (from my bedroom)!
Pastor Katrina

p.s. Next spring the Tisdales have offered to have a sapling planted in the front yard. Maybe that will be the day we find ourselves gathering together to sing! I will hope….