News for the Church, 10/15/21

Good day to you, Church!

It’s been raining on and off this morning, but it’s still unseasonably warm– after a week of hot, sunny days to boot! It baffles my mind that we still haven’t had frost yet. Do you remember when we’d have our first frost by mid-September? I checked the current forecast and there doesn’t look to be any frost in sight until the very end of October. Wow! Climate change is showing up, even in the North Country. 

Here’s the news for the week:

Today I wanted to “introduce” you to Claire Geagan, our new office administrator. She’s been on the job for a whole week now, and is beginning to learn the ropes. Her office hours will be Mondays from 12-2pm(ish) and Saturdays from 12-2pm(ish). If you happen to be at the church around that time, pop your head into the office and offer her a hearty welcome! 

Collecting Children’s Books for a Children’s Library in Kenya

Julie Miller has befriended a minister of a Presbyterian Church in Chuka, Kenya– Enoch King is his name– who is attempting to collect enough children’s books to start a small library for young readers at his church, the Gatua Parish Presbyterian Church. (This is someone Joanina Gicovi is also friends with.) Julie is collecting well-cared paperback children’s books to send abroad, along with any postage contributions you might have to offer. If you have any books you’d like to contribute, we’d gladly accept them! Just bring them to church one of these weeks and we will see about helping out this sister church. 

Ring Out for Climate!

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Canton has invited us to participate in making some noise to bring about awareness of the climate crisis we’re facing globally. On Saturday, Oct. 30th at 6pm, churches all over Europe and the United States will be ringing their bells to draw awareness to the United Nation’s 26th annual Climate Change Conference, taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. The conference, which starts on Oct. 31st (Reformation Sunday!), will bring world leaders together for 12 days of talks. This year’s conference is particularly important because it marks 5 years since The Paris Agreement– when most of the world’s countries promised to work together to reduce global warming. At that time, each country committed to putting together a plan of action, which would be reviewed 5 years later– at this year’s 2021 Conference. 

To draw attention to the importance of this moment, we will be participating in the ringing of our bells for 30 minutes on the 30th. So far, Levi and Isaiah Stauffer and Terry de la Vega and Dale Hobson have volunteered to take a turn pulling the rope. (30 minutes is a looooong time to pull the rope continuously!!) Would you like to help out too? If so, let Terry, Dale, or Renee Stauffer know, and come at 6pm that evening with your biggest muscles ready for action. Even if you only have the strength to pull the rope one time, your contribution would be welcomed! 

As Christians, we have a spiritual calling to care for and protect the world that God created. Unfortunately, our sins of overconsumption are catching up with us, and if we don’t get serious about making changes to the ways that we live, the consequences will continue to mount. 

Perhaps as our government and business leaders meet to discuss things at the global level, we can converse amongst ourselves at the local level about what we’re each doing to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and use of plastics. What can you do differently? What are you already doing differently than before? 

I encourage you to strike up these conversations at coffee hour and at your dinner table. Let’s talk about this together! 

Men’s Lunch Set for Tuesday, Oct. 19th

Fella’s– if you’d like to join the men at The Village Diner at 11:30am on the 19th, please let Bob Pickard know ahead of time to make the reservation. 

Our Next Big Shift Conversation

We will hold our next Big Shift conversation following the Sunday worship service on October 24th. 

Challenging Times

Friends, these are still tough days. How are you holding up? And what are you doing to care for yourself with tender love and compassion? If we’re not putting in the energy to love ourselves when times are rough, what we end up giving to others is something other than our best love. I encourage you to make sure that you’re paying attention to your needs right now. You are worthy of God’s lavish grace and love in your life. It’s not just meant for everyone else. It belongs to you, too! 

In Hebrews, the author tells the believers of the early church:

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
~(Hebrews 4:16).

I believe that message is meant for us as well. I hope you will remember that this week.

Holding the faith line, while thinking about how I can reduce my fossil fuels intake,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 10/8/21

A Glorious, Beautiful Day to you, Church! 

Well friends, today is my birthday, and even the sunshine is singing! (Am I a lucky birthday girl, or what?) I hope you have the chance to get outside today, soak up some sun, and enjoy the breath-taking foliage. This is a glorious day to be alive in God’s creation! 

Here’s the news for this week: 

Committal Service for George Davis

Tomorrow, Oct. 9th at 2pm we will be holding a committal service for George Davis, down at the George Davis Park on the Clarkson campus. The entrance is on Clarkson Ave., just past the main entrance to the campus, at the turn for the Riverside apartments. Please park along the roadway and then walk down the path to where the large rocks have been planted by the side of the trail overlooking the bay. (Please note: It’s a 2-minute walk, so walking shoes are recommended and high heel shoes are not recommended.)

Care Packages for Nursing Staff

On Wednesday of this week, Sharon Pickard delivered the care packages we made up for the nurses on the 3rd floor Med/Surg unit at the hospital, and we’ve already had a nurse find us on Facebook to send a note of thanks and appreciation. She was deeply touched by our care of them. Thank you for your generosity and your kindness. You’ve made someone’s life a little better this week! 

All of the other congregations participating in this effort will have turned in their care packages by this coming Monday, as well– meaning that over 145 nurses and janitors will be feeling our love and support of them. Wow! Isn’t that amazing? 

Men’s Lunch

Presbyterian Men will be holding their monthly lunch on Tuesday, Oct. 19th at 11:30am at the Village Diner. Please let Bob Pickard know by the 18th if you plan to attend. The diner has asked for a head count. 

October’s Big Shift Conversation

Mark you calendars for October 24th, for our next Big Shift conversation following the Sunday worship service. As a way to relieve worry and tension, we will spend a little time brainstorming ideas of what the future might look like. It’s too early to be putting a plan of action together, but having a visioning session will at least give us ideas to hold in our minds of what things could look like as we discern God’s call for us. 


Friends, we have good news. America is beginning to see a decline in the number of COVID cases around the country. The New York Times has suggested that there seems to be a 2-month cycle to the various variants, and it looks like we’re coming to the end of that cycle with the Delta variant. This is great news for the country as a whole. But! It’s important to recognize that we in the North Country aren’t at the end of that 2-month cycle yet– because Delta hit here later. Right now the active COVID count is still in the 400s for St. Lawrence County, with 24 hospitalizations (as of yesterday, according to St. Lawrence County Public Health’s website). What this means is that we still need to remain vigilant in mask wearing and social distancing. We’re not out of the water yet– although it does seem that a reprieve will be coming fairly soon! 

I know that we are tired and weary right now, but let’s stay strong for a little while longer. And let’s remember to pray for one another this week. At the end of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes:

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

~Ephesians 6:18

We could all use that extra grace in our lives, couldn’t we?

Soaking Up the Sunshine,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 10/1/21

Good afternoon, Church:

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! The leaves are starting to show their colors and the air is crisp and clear. I hope you take some time to enjoy the glories of the season! 

I don’t have much to share with you today, so this will be short and sweet. 

Mary Ellen Frackenpohl Memorial

Tomorrow we look forward to celebrating and remembering the life of Mary Ellen Frackenpohl. The service will be held at the church at 2pm, and include special music from Keilor Kastella, Brian Dunbar, the Lunts, and Julie Miller. And the Rev. Scott Barton will be with us as well. 

George Davis Interment 

Next Saturday, Oct. 9th, you are invited to attend the committal service for George Davis, to be held at the A. George Davis park at Clarkson University, at 2pm. 

Support for our Nurses and Janitors

For those of you joining in to help put together care packages for the nurses at CPH, we will be meeting together on Sunday following the worship service. 

I’m not sure when else in life so many different worshipping communities would find reason to come together to work on a project like this, but this is one of the silver linings of the pandemic. Nine congregations are joining in to offer support and encouragement to over 140 nurses and janitors at the hospital. Presbyterians, Catholics, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Muslims, Methodists, Jews, and Unitarian Universalists from both Potsdam and Canton are working together to make this happen! Thanks be to God! 

Friends, if you are struggling this week with life– whether because of Covid or because of your own personal struggles– I invite you to bring your struggles and your sorrows to God, who meets us where we’re at and offers us comfort and strength. 

Jesus says to us:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

~Matthew 11:28-29

May you find rest for your weary soul this day. 

Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 9/24/21

Good day to you, Church! 

Happy Fall Y’all! This week marked the fall equinox– the day of the year when we experience equal amounts of light and darkness. Did you celebrate in any way? I sat outside and listened to the wind rustling in the trees, savoring the sound for just a little while longer. Soon enough, the leaves will put on their colorful display and then bid us adieu! 

Today I have just a few things to tell you about. 

Big Shift Discussion

We held our first Big Shift conversation this last Sunday at church. Twenty-two people came to participate and we had a constructive dialogue. At the end, I asked everyone to go around and give one word to describe how they felt at the end of the discussion. Many people used words like “hopeful,” “connected,” and “curious.” If we can choose to stay in this sweet spot of trusting in God’s grace for us, I truly believe that we will make it through this process of finding a new way to be church. 

Our next Big Shift conversation will take place at the end of October. I hope you’ll consider joining us!

New Office Administrator Coming

Kate Waters has served as our trusty office admin for the last couple of years, but now it’s time for us to say good-bye. Kate will be moving to Connecticut at the end of September and we wish her well! She’s kept us organized and on schedule, and we appreciate all she has done for us.

To fill her shoes, we’ve hired a young woman named Claire Geagan. Claire recently graduated from SLU and has the skills necessary to keep us on our toes. She’s currently training with Kate and will take the reins on her own at the beginning of October. If you see her around, pop in and introduce yourself! (She will likely be in on Mondays and Fridays/Saturdays). 

Rev. Montovani to Preach this Sunday

Rev. Marti Montovani will be preaching and leading worship for us this Sunday, September 26th. 

Supporting our Nurses at CPH

The Potsdam Interfaith Community (PIC) is getting close to having enough congregations involved in this service project to shower the entire nursing staff and environmental services staff at CPH with love and encouragement. 

Our church had originally signed up for the OB unit, but after having to shuffle some things around, we are now the proud adopting congregation of the 3rd Floor Med/Surg Unit, which has 17 nurses and CNAs. 

I know that some of you had planned to whip up batches of brownies and cookies to show your love, but because of concern for Covid it’s (unfortunately) been decided that we need to refrain from making home-made goodies and purchase things instead. 

To keep things from getting too expensive however, PIC has decided to put a $5 cap on each package. So we will be purchasing small things like granola bars, candies, nuts, dried fruit, and pre-packaged cookies, etc. 

If you had originally signed up to bake, but can’t afford to buy goodies instead, don’t worry. I think we will have enough people who can donate money to cover the cost of the packages. But we still need people to do the shopping, and we’ll need a group of us to come together one day to write note cards and assemble the packages– so there will still be jobs to volunteer for if you’re interested! 

Sharon Pickard will be holding a short discussion after church on Sunday to go over details. If you’d like to participate, make sure you talk with her.  

I recently spoke with a friend of mine who works on the 3rd Floor Med/Surg Unit. She said that nurses at CPH are tired and weary, stressed out, and frustrated right now. So, this is the perfect time for us to hold them in the light of God’s love!

Passing Through HeadStart Classrooms 

I received an email this week from one of the teachers at HeadStart. They’ve noticed that things in their classroom have been disheveled the last couple of weeks after we’ve passed through their space on our way to the sanctuary. Last week we had young visitors who didn’t know that they weren’t supposed to be playing in the classrooms (which explains why toys had been played with), but this is a general reminder to all of us to “keep it moving” as we walk through their classrooms. If you have a bulletin to recycle or trash to toss, please do it at either the bell tower entrance or in the Center. Thanks! 

A Word of Covid Encouragement

The other day I heard a little girl bemoan, “But I’m so tired of living through a historic event!” 

Friends, are you feeling downcast right now? Maybe you’re feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed. Maybe you’ve lost your energy and you’re experiencing a case of the “blah’s” right now. If this is you, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Many of us are having a hard time at the moment. We’ve run out of steam. And that’s normal. 

When we get this way, however, it’s important to notice what’s happening to us and make it a priority to take care of ourselves. 

A good question to ask is, “What do I need right now?” 

Do you need a hug? Or a visit with a friend? Maybe you need to get out of your house and breathe some different air. Perhaps a long walk or some exercise would help. Do you need to turn the news off and watch a funny movie? Or get on your knees and offer your burden to God? 

Someday things won’t be this hard, but for right now we need to be serious about having tender, loving care for ourselves. And this is the time to surrender our needs to God and ask for help to see us through. 

Psalms reminds us:

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Psalm 32:7-8 

This week, I encourage you to ask God for help when you need a hiding place or a song of deliverance. And remember that God gives us what we need to get by– we only need ask for it. 

Holding the faith line,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 9/17/21

Good afternoon, Church!

Have you been enjoying the lovely fall weather we’re having? The sun’s been shining and the air is warm and inviting. I hope you’re soaking up these beautiful days! 

I want to remind you that we will be having our very first Big Shift conversation in the Center following worship on Sunday. We’ll have a few minutes to chat and visit right after the service, and then we’ll head over to begin our work. To kick off such a special and important event, session has been working on a fun project that will be unveiled during the worship service. I hope you plan to join us! 

Also, as quick reminders:

— Rev. Marti Montovani will be preaching and leading worship Sunday, September 26.

— A memorial service for Mary Ellen Frackenpohl will be Saturday, October 2 at 2 pm.

Today I want to tell you about an exciting opportunity we have to be part of supporting our greater Potsdam community. If you weren’t already aware, our church participates in the Potsdam Interfaith Community (also known as PIC). PIC includes a group of 7 to 8 worshiping congregations in Potsdam who are committed to supporting one another, teaching each other about our particular faith/denominations, and working on service projects together.

After talking with local nurses at the Canton-Potsdam Hospital, some of us at PIC have come to learn that morale is low and exhaustion is high as a result of the continuing pandemic. So at our latest PIC meeting, we discussed collectively supporting both the nurses and the environmental services staff at CPH. 

The idea is for each congregation to “adopt” a unit/department of nurses or janitors at the hospital, and offer notes of encouragement and small care packages while Covid continues to carry on— to let them know that we care about them.

This is a gargantuan undertaking, given how many people work at the hospital, and it’s why the whole PIC community is needed to pull off this project. Thankfully, nearly all of the congregations involved in PIC are participating— some taking on large rolls and others small rolls. 

Since we are a small congregation at the Presbyterian Church, I signed us up for one of the smallest units, the obstetrics unit. The idea is that once a month (during this time of Covid) we would make care packages for the eight nurses that work on this unit and deliver them to the front door of the hospital. We can make cards, perhaps include a picture of our congregation waving our thanks, and include both homemade treats and store-bought goodies.

Would you be willing to help with this effort? Might you be willing to make a batch of cookies? Or go to the store and buy chocolates, fruit, or nuts? Would you be willing to write a note of thanks and gratitude? If so, will you email me back and let me know that you’re willing to participate in some way? 

I’m really proud that we can be part of this effort. We will be joining the Catholic Church, the Methodist, the Mormon Church, the local Majid, the Christian Science Church, the Lutherans, and the UU church in Canton. 

It’s not every day that people with such differences in faith choose to work together for the betterment of our community, but this is something we can all do together to support our healthcare workers. 

On another note, Gail and Roy Schaberg recently let me know that a former member of our church, Floyd Callahan, has passed away. Perhaps some of you knew him and have fond memories. I have an address for Floyd’s family if you’d like to send a card. Just email me back and I’ll forward you the address.

Friends, Covid numbers are still very high in our county and the hospital is filled to near capacity. Even if you do not choose to help support our nurses with care package items, please keep them in your prayers. Whether or not they work directly with Covid patients, they’re tired and weary. So let’s hold them in the light of God’s love. 

And finally, for those of you who are also tired and weary, I will offer this word from the Word: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.“

Psalm 31:24

Yours in Faith,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 9/10/21

Good Day to you Church!

It’s a true fall day outside– oscillating between sunshine and clouds. When the sun peaks out it’s warm and cozy, but when it disappears the air is cool and breezy. Do you love this weather? Does it make you anxious? Autumn has a certain set of feelings that accompanies it. I don’t know how to describe the stirrings that it creates within, but our bodies definitely absorb the change in seasons with mixed emotions. What are your favorite aspects of fall? I’d love to hear, if you have the desire to share. 

Here’s the news for this week: 

1. This coming Thursday, the 16th, at 11:30am, the men’s group will meet for lunch at the Potsdam Golf Club. 

2. Next Sunday, September 19th will host our first monthly all-church discussion around our church’s forthcoming “Big Shift.” We will meet following the worship service in the Center for this discussion. 

As you know, we are living under deficit spending, and will likely run out of money within the next 2-3 years if we do not make an intentional shift in how we live as the church. (The short story is that our congregation is too small to support our old, expensive building.) So what might God be calling us to next? What could “church” look like for us in the future? None of us knows the answer to these questions right now, but together we will begin to decipher God’s new vision for us through these Big Shift discussions. 

Now, some of us get a lump in our throats even thinking about this topic, but I want to assure you that even though this can be a scary experience, God is going to be with us. And it’s OK to be going through this process. Before I came to be your pastor, I worked for two different congregations in Rochester that both went through this experience. It was hard work for them to face their reality and look to a new (and different) future, but by the end of their process, more than one person had decided that this challenge was the best thing that had ever happened to their congregations. It brought them together as a family, it revitalized their commitment to living the gospel, and it created new energy and excitement for being God’s church. 

Sometimes, the hardest, most terrifying things we might ever do in our lives turn out to be the best things that could have ever happened to us. I feel confident that this could be our story, and I believe with all my heart that God will carry us through– no matter what happens next. So, no matter how worried, scared, angry, or distraught you are at our current situation, I hope that you will be brave enough to join us for these conversations. Our church needs you right now– we need your listening ears, your thoughtful ideas, and your faithful commitment. Together we will discern God’s new chapter for us. 

3. Sunday, September 26th, the Rev. Marti Montovani will be preaching and leading worship. 

4. Mary Ellen Frackenpol’s memorial service will be held Saturday, October 2nd at 2pm in the sanctuary. The Rev. Scott Barton will be co-officiating with me, and we will have special music to commemorate Mary Ellen’s life. 

5. Saturday, October 9th, at 2pm, there will be a small gathering to inter the cremains of George Davis down at the A. George Davis Park, on the Clarkson campus (down by the river). You are invited to attend. *Please note that we will be having a full memorial service for George next July at our church. 

6. Here is an Update Regarding Progress of High School Students Supported in Kenya, by Dave Wells.

It is a pleasure to report progress on the following Kenyan high school students supported from Potsdam. These students were identified by Joanina Gicobi some time ago and we have been able to continue support for their education since they commenced high school.

1. Eric Nyaga Njagi was a senior this past year at Tharaka Boys High School and successfully completed his studies. He is now a high school graduate and no longer requires our support!

2. Stella Kainda Charles was a senior this past year at Rubate High School and successfully completed her studies. She is now a high school graduate and no longer requires our support!

3. Christine Kawira Njeri is currently a senior at Rubate High School and her annual fee of $388.00 is in the process of being met. This will be an important year for her to earn excellent grades if she is to pursue further education following high school, however she is expected to satisfactorily earn her diploma this year.

4. Caxton Koome Kiura is currently a senior at Tharaka Boy’s High School and his annual fee of $405 is in the process of being met. His academic progress continues to be excellent and he is expected to earn his diploma this year. We are hopeful that he will continue his pursuit of education following high school.

5. David Mutugi Macharia is currently a junior at Tharaka Boy’s High School and his annual fee of $405 is in the process of being met. His academic progress continues to be excellent.

6. Annicy Kaimuri Gichovi is a junior at Njuri High School and her annual fee of $406 is in the process of being met. She is working very hard to improve performance so that she will be able to continue her education following high school.

For obvious reasons such as Covid, this has been a most difficult year for each of these six students and we are so grateful that they continue to make good progress with their education.

These students have come into our lives as a result of the relationship we have built with Joanina Gicobi and her younger sister, Juster (who is currently a student at Clarkson). We met Joanina through Bob Donaldson, whom some of you may remember. Bob Donaldson graduated from Clarkson in chemical engineering in 1951, and attended our church during his time in Potsdam. After graduating, he went on to serve in the Army, worked in industry, and became involved with mission work through the Presbyterian Church congregation where he was living. That connection took him to Kenya a handful of years ago, where he was introduced to a young, promising student named Joanina. He made it possible for Joanina to attend Clarkson, and she attended our church and sang in the choir during her four years in Potsdam. As you may be aware, Joanina is now in the middle of her PhD pursuit at the Mayo Clinic working in immunology.

Since then, Joanina has helped our congregation identify other Kenyan high school students worthy of support in their pursuit of a diploma. A few years ago, Joanina gave us a presentation on how enabling a Kenyan student to attend high school can raise the standard of living for that student’s entire family. Currently, a group of us are supporting four students as they continue to progress toward graduation from high school in Kenya. 

Additionally, we also have Juster Gichovi commencing her junior year in Chemical Engineering – she is a younger sister of Joanina and attends our church. You have seen updates regarding her progress as she completed last semester with a course overload on Dean’s List!

September 18th-19th, Bob Donaldson will be in town with family members, along with Joanina and her husband Chris, to celebrate Bob’s 70th class reunion, and also to further promote the Bridges to Africa program at Clarkson. Bob and some of his family will be worshiping with us that Sunday. Please come and welcome Bob back and take a moment to consider how careful efforts can have such a long-lasting positive impact.

Dave Wells

Friends, be safe this weekend as you enjoy the fall weather! I look forward to seeing you in church!

Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 8/19/21

Hello dear Hearts, 

This is some serious muggy weather we’ve been having. Are you holding up OK?

News for the week:

Rev. Shaun to Preach

Rev. Shaun Whitehead will be preaching for us this Sunday, as I will be away at my family reunion in New Hampshire.

Heating System

Merkley’s Brothers are working this week to fix the heating system in the Community Center. So far, things are going well!

The Roof

Dave Wells met with the owner of RSI construction this week to get an estimate together for a galvanized roof on the sanctuary. A couple of years ago Bob Pickard had gotten estimates to replace the roof with copper or slate, but we didn’t have an estimate for metal roofing. 

According to RSI, the good news is that the roof is in pretty good shape and does NOT need to be replaced at this time. That said, some of the shingles on the tourettes and the decking beneath them do need to be replaced. (If you’ve noticed, we have a few missing shingles in places.) RSI will put together an estimate for us for this work. 

Depending on when we get the estimate in, we may be able to apply for funding from the Rock Charitable Grant for this work— for this year’s grant cycle. (If the timing doesn’t work out well for this year however, we will definitely be able to apply next year.) Given the specifications of the grant, I am hopeful that we have a decent shot at getting funding! 

An Update on Humaira: 

As you are aware from the news, the situation in Afghanistan grows more intense by the day. Humaira is currently safe in Islamabad, Pakistan, but has grown very concerned about her family, whom she left behind. Her parents and seven younger siblings live in Kabul and cannot easily leave Afghanistan.

After being denied a visa to study in the US, Humaira put in a new visa application and received a new interview date of August 24. Senator Gillibrand’s office said they would write urgent letters to support Humaira’s application to the embassy and the State Department, but we don’t get to know right now if that will be enough to grant her a visa. Please continue to pray for Humaira, her family, the Taliban, and the whole of Afghanistan, as they all move into the next, new chapter of their history.

Big Shift Conversations

Session met tonight and decided that our first all-church forum on The Big Shift will take place after church on Sunday, September 19th. I had hoped that we might be able to share a meal together before our discussion, but given the situation with Covid, it looks like we will have to stick with conversation only. 

As the date draws closer, I’ll give you more detail about what to expect on the 19th and in the months following. 

Well, I’m headed to pack my bag and wrangle the young’uns to do the same. We’re leaving at 6 am for our travels, so it’s early to bed for me! 

Pastor Katrina

p.s. Friends, please continue to keep Ron Kaiser in your prayers. He has returned back to work after a stint at the hospital in Burlington earlier this week, but he still struggles with heart issues.

News for the Church, 8/6/21

Good morning, Church!

What a beautiful summer day we’re having today. I had given up hoping that we might have one more burst of summer weather before fall sets in, so I am joyfully soaking up this week’s heat! 

Here’s the news this week:

News on Humaira

Humaira, the brave, young woman coming to Clarkson this fall from Afghanistan, left Kabul this week and flew into Islamabad, Pakistan, to await an interview with the US Embassy for her visa. She is currently staying in an inexpensive guest house. It is a relief that she was able to leave. The violence and turmoil in Afghanistan increase daily as the US wraps up its pullout from the country. Humaira and a Clarkson student from Pakistan are in contact with one another to discuss personal safety and housing in Islamabad.

Humaira filed her visa application last month and requested an interview with the embassy in Pakistan (at the time the embassy in Kabul was closed due to COVID). The embassy received the application and scheduled her for an interview on September 14. The trouble with that is Clarkson starts their semester at the end of August and it leaves Humaira in Islamabad for another six weeks. Humaira sent off a request for an emergency interview but that was denied. That said, Humaira’s supporters here in the North Country have had ongoing contact with Senator Gillibrand’s office about Humaira’s situation and they have offered assistance. Last week they sent a letter to the embassy in Pakistan stating their interest in Humaira’s case and requested an emergency interview for her. At this point, we are waiting to hear the embassy’s response. 

Humaira’s thoughts about life in Afghanistan – “I think if the Taliban come to power, there would be no chance for girls to continue their education. In regions that are under the control of the Taliban now, they have told people to not send their kids to school. However, in those areas everyone is just trying to save their life and their family by hiding or escaping so education is not a priority for them right now. Also, I have heard in the news that no women are allowed to go to work anymore in the areas under the control of the Taliban. So, it is clear that once they come to power, girls will not be able to continue their education as it is against the Taliban beliefs. And that is a big concern.” 

Please be praying for her and her situation, as she awaits her visa interview. And please be praying for the myriad of other Afghanis attempting to flee their country in the coming months. 

Please also be praying for Juster Gichovi, Lydia Stauffer, Connor Newcombe, and our other local college students, as they prepare for another potentially topsy-turvy year at school. They, along with our younger learners and our teachers continue to face serious challenges as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

Friends, the concerns we’re facing right now with the Delta variant of the Covid virus are concerning for all of us. Just when we felt like perhaps we could breathe a little easier, things are getting concerning again. I know that fear and worry tug on our hearts and our minds, but let us not give into their power. It is possible to hold onto joy, and peace, and meaning/purpose in our lives, even with storm clouds surrounding us. 

In the book of Nehemiah, the people have just been through major trauma– they have lived in exile in Babylon for 70 years and have recently made the harrowing journey through the wilderness back to their homeland of Jerusalem, which lies in rubble. They are tired, depressed, anxious, and sorrowful, and they bring this energy to their worship. Nehemiah, their leader, sees the countenance of their hearts and instructs them to “get up!” To shake off the darkness that holds them captive. 

He says, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

–Nehemiah 8:9-10

It reminds me of a poem by Jack Gilbert called A Brief for the Defense.

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. 

With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine.

The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. 
The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, 

smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick.
There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, 
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. 

To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

May we remember this day that the joy of the Lord is our strength, and may we risk delight and accept our gladness… even in the ruthless furnace of this world! 

Laughing with the poor women at the fountain,
Pastor Katrina

New for the Church, 7/13/21

Good morning, Church!

I’m headed off on vacation in a bit, but I wanted to drop a quick line and let you know the results of our rummage sale. 

Beth Grace reported on Sunday morning that we made $2,025!! Wowwieee! Isn’t that amazing? What a gift! 

I want to give a shout out to everyone who came and helped make this possible. Beth Grace and Sue Waters– thank you for your organizing power and dedication to see this through. 

Thanks to Ron and Beth Grace’s son and grandsons, who set up tables and hauled things from the basement. Thanks to Lynn (Beth Grace’s daughter), Sharon, Renee, Gail, Terry, Dale, Robin, Pat, Lydia, Sarah, Isaiah, Levi, Katrina, Cyndy, Julie, Cynthia, and others for coming to get things organized, to work the sale, and then to help take everything down. (Am I missing anyone?) 

It takes a village to pull off a rummage sale, and this week the whole village showed up! 

Friends, some of you are feeling frustrated that we’re still wearing masks during Sunday worship, so I wanted to bring those frustrations to the light and explain why Session has not yet changed our mask policy. To date, St. Lawrence County is only at a 60% vaccination rate, which isn’t at the level needed to reach herd immunity (experts say we need to be at 70-90% vaccination rates to achieve that). The Delta strain is causing a rise in cases in places where herd immunity has not been reached, and while we have folks in our congregation who haven’t received the vaccine, and because we also have folks who are seriously immuno-compromised, Session feels strongly that we need to continue to mask during worship. 

As the body of Christ, it’s our collective job to make sure that church is a safe place for everybody to be. I know that it’s frustrating to have to don a mask if you’re vaccinated, especially if you’ve grown accustomed to not wearing one in other parts of your life. But our region is not yet out of the woods, and so the needs of the whole still outweigh the needs of the individual. 

Does that make sense?

Alright dear Hearts, I’ll be back in two weeks. May God bless you until I see you again!

In Faith,
Pastor Katrina

p.s. A happy birthday to Helen Brouwer, who turned 90 this last week! 

News for the Church, 7/9/21

A soggy “good morning” to you, Church!

It’s been a wet few days with cool temps. Have you been enjoying these cooler days? If you’re like me you had to pull out a sweater and turn on the heat in the car! 

Rummage Sale Saturday 8:30 – 4:30

I’m headed off to help out with the rummage sale again today. Yesterday the Center was like a small beehive with people buzzing all around. It was so much fun to get to be with everyone working on a project together! And we have so many things to offer, it’s amazing. We even had to borrow a couple tables from the sanctuary, there’s so much stuff! There’s a beautiful queen size bed frame, lamps, pottery, a canoe, sporting equipment, toys, books, CDs, a sewing machine, crafts, kitchenware, baby gear, and clothes for the whole family. Whooie! 

If you have an hour to spare today, come on down to help unpack boxes and organize things. Or, come tomorrow and help manage the traffic. Or help on the other end of the weekend with cleaning up. There’s plenty of ways to help out! (And we need it. Beth Grace and Sue can’t do this alone.) 

The sale will be held on Saturday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. 

Wells 50th Anniversary

In other news, today I’d like to offer a big shout out of joyful celebration to Jane and Dave Wells. They’re celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with their kids and grandkids this weekend! 

Let’s remember to offer them our congratulations when we see them next. 

Have you been married for 50 years? Or close to it? I’d love to hear any advice or wisdom you’d have to offer to the rest of us. What’s gotten you through those years?

Friends, even with this wetter weather, I hope that you are reveling in the joys of summer. LIfe is still wearisome and hard some days I know, but it’s a good day to be alive! 

“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

Psalm 118:24

Savoring raspberries and the sound of rustling leaves in the wind,
Pastor Katrina