News for the Church 11/28/20

Good Afternoon Church!

After a wet and chilly morning, the clouds are clearing off and the sun is peeking through. What a lovely surprise after a few days of grey skies! 

How did Thanksgiving go for you this year? Was it enjoyable? Or a struggle? Or maybe both? It was certainly different this year. This was the first time I’ve ever been in charge of cooking the turkey. All of my life there has always been someone more “senior” than me around to take on that responsibility. But not this year. I was worried about how it would go, but somehow I pulled it off! I remembered to start the thawing process on time, and got it in the oven early enough to pull it out fully cooked for the planned festivities. It was good practice for someday in the future when become the matriarch of the family and all the relatives come to my house for holidays. 

What interesting or different things did you do at your house this year? I’d love to hear if you want to share! 

Now that Thanksgiving is over, let’s talk Christmas! Did you receive your special Advent star yet? The church elves are driving around today delivering them to your doorstep! (Or, for those of you who live further away, they’re coming via the USPS.) You don’t know this about me yet, but I have a really hard time with surprises. Not because they’re not exciting, but because they’re too exciting. I struggle with the waiting part– both when I know a surprise is coming to me and when I have to keep my mouth shut about what’s going to be given to someone else. Well…. you wouldn’t believe how hard it’s been to keep my lips zipped for an entire month about this surprise while members of session and ladies in the knitting circle spent 4 weeks whipping up these fun surprises. It’s been torturous! But now that you’ve received them I can shout YAYYYY! I am so grateful to all the crochers and knitters who helped on this project. A big thank you to Sue Waters, Renee Stauffer, Jane Wells, Vernice Church, Marlu Peet, and Jean Dawson. And another big thank you to the delivery elves– Sharona and Bob Pickard, Sue Waters, Jane and Dave Wells, Juster Gichovi, and Renee Stauffer. These stars may be just a little token, but they’re meant to remind you that your church family is helping to hold you together right now with God’s grace and strength. 

Just like Thanksgiving has been, this year Christmas is going to look different, but even while our traditions are going to have to change some, we need to make sure that we continue to engage with them. This includes our holiday giving. This year the Giving Tree is going to be collected in a different way. Instead of taking a tag off of the Christmas tree that has the gender and age of a young child in Potsdam, and then going out and buying a gift for that child, we are being encouraged to give monetary donations directly to the Potsdam Holiday Fund. And they, in turn, will buy gift cards to be distributed to children in need. 

If you’d like to participate, there are two different ways you can send in your donation. 

1. You can give online by going to, or…

2. You can write a check and send it to them in the mail at this address:
The Potsdam Holiday Fund, PO Box 827, Potsdam, NY 13676

If there’s ever been a year that you’ve thought about participating in the Giving Tree, this is the year for it because there are so many extra families who will be struggling to find a way to make Christmas joyful for their kids this year. When my younger brother and I were kids, we were often on the receiving end of gifts like these, and I’ll share with you a short little story about their impact. A few years ago my brother sat down next to a man he’d never met before at a luncheon that followed the funeral of an elderly woman at the church we grew up in. He and the man greeted each other, exchanged names, and started chatting while they ate their lunch. All of a sudden, my brother recognized the man’s name. Decades earlier, he and his family had chosen to sponsor Christmas presents for my brother and me. That was the year my brother received a pair of soccer cleats, which allowed him to join a local soccer team. We had never had the money to be able to afford to be on sports teams, and this was a really big deal for my brother. Sitting at that table with this stranger, my adult brother broke down in tears as he told the man the story of those soccer cleats. He never went on to become a star soccer player–he was not very good at soccer, even– but the chance to play on a team with other kids, and participate in something bigger than he was made a lasting mark on my brother’s life. And it happened because a total stranger, who had more than he needed, decided to share what he had with a little kid who did not have enough.  

Even if you do not get to know the outcome of your giving, someone is still benefiting. So please, if you have extra, be generous with those who do not have enough. 

On another note, let’s discuss Christmas Eve. I know that some of you are wondering (and worrying) about what Christmas Eve is going to look like this year, but take heart! Session and I have a plan. We won’t be able to join together in our sanctuary to sing our favorite Christmas hymns, take in the view of beautiful Christmas decorations, and snuggle cozily into the people standing next to us as we light candles and sing Silent Night, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get creative! Instead of coming together in the building, we will plan to meet up in the front yard of the church that night. We will all have to bundle up with our warmest boots and mittens, and our trusty masks, but we will gather together on that special night to greet one another and sing! Here’s how we will do it: There is a sidewalk that runs around the entire periphery of the triangular front yard of the church. We will meet there on Christmas Eve with our flashlights and/or candles, and we will s-p-r-e-a-d out across the length of the sides of that large triangle, and we will sing Silent Night together. It will have to be short and sweet for those of us who struggle with standing out in the cold, but we will make it happen, ok? We can even bring a few chairs out for those who cannot stand for that long. (And I have a wheelchair, if someone needs transportation from the car to the front yard.) [If we get a rainstorm or a huge blizzard we may have to wait a day, but I promise you that we will figure out how to gather together to celebrate and sing (a tiny bit).]

Oh dear Hearts, this is so hard. It’s painful, actually, isn’t it? But each day we come one day closer to the end of what we are dealing with today. We may not know what the future holds exactly, but we know that what this is…. “this too, shall pass.” 

The book of Lamentations discusses the deep strife that comes with being alive in this world, but it holds darkness and despair in tension with the hope of God’s loyal love and graciousness. For millennia people have suffered, and for millennia God has been present. So do not lose heart. 

“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

Holding my star and thinking of you,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church 11/20/20

Hello Everybody,

How are you holding up these days? Are you feeling grey and overcast today like the sky? Are you dragging across the finish line of the work week? Or are you holding together pretty well? 

Even when we are healthy, the pandemic takes more energy from us just to get through a regular day, so if you find yourself feeling extra tired right now, be gentle with yourself. 

Today there are just a few notes to mention: 

Last week I gave thanks for a couple of folks who worked on the church grounds, but I was missing the bulk of those who contributed time and effort. A big thank you to Bob Pickard for organizing the event, as well as Dave Wells, Roy Schaberg, and Neil Johnson. Thanks fellas! 

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, the Rev. Shaun Whitehead will be preaching and leading worship for us. Please plan to join us for worship that Sunday! 

Work is scheduled to be done on the Community Center by the Trillium entrance in the next couple of weeks. Pat Rhoda’s son Patrick, who owns Northern Seamless Gutters, will be installing a gutter system around that end of the building to draw water away from the entrance, which becomes dangerously icy in the winter. And Chris Wallace will be doing work on the door of that entrance, because it currently does not latch when it closes. I am very grateful to the session for staying on top of this project, and to all of those who have given money in the past, which is helping to pay for the work now. Thank you for your faithfulness to your church! 

Friends, if you are struggling to stay above water right now, remember this: we hold our faith together collectively. God’s kingdom is not made up of a collection of individuals. We are one whole body, and we need each other. When one part of us is aching and having a hard time, the rest of the body holds things together. 

Do you remember a while back, I told you a story about my farming friend Dulli, who is part of the Birdsfoot Community with me? 

I told you the story of a day when I was having a hard pain day and I couldn’t help out with a project, and Dulli told me, “Today I will work for you and you will rest for me.” Do you remember that?

That’s how God’s body of believers works. We hold each other up with the gifts we each possess. Sometimes those gifts are strong faith, which we use to cover over those who are struggling. Other times, the gifts we bring are our doubts and our troubles. 

Whatever we are, we bring to the body to share. 

If you are bringing your weariness, today I will be strength for you. Another day I may be the tired one, and need you to help hold me together. But for today, I will hold the faith line while you collapse for a spell. 

Ecclesiastes reminds us– 

     “Two people are better than one, for they get a better return for their work. 
     For if one flags, the other gives support; but woe to the solitary person who falls and has no one to provide support.
     And if two sleep together they keep each other warm;
how can a person stay warm while alone?
     One alone is easily overpowered; two provide protection for each other; 
     and a rope of three strands is not easily broken.”  

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

As Thanksgiving draws near– a day that will likely be hard for some of us– if you have extra positive energy to share with your brothers and sisters, offer it up. Hold the faith while someone else falls apart. And if you’re having a rough day, make sure you reach out to someone for help. It’s ok to say that you need some love and encouragement. A body needs to be able to communicate within itself, if it is to stay whole. 

Holding the faith line for us today,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 11/13/20

Hello Dear Hearts,

It’s Friday the 13th, and a chilly one at that–well, at least by the standards of that delightful warm spell we had for nearly a week! Wasn’t that something? I hope you were able to get out and enjoy some of it. We’ve been discussing at my house that even though climate change is frightening, sometimes it can have silver linings– like those delicious warm days. 

A handful of volunteers took advantage of the weather this past week to work on putting the church grounds to bed for winter, and to plant over one hundred daffodils and tulip bulbs for a celebration this spring! A big thank you to Dick and Joanne Partch for the bulbs, and to Brian Wilkinson and others for your raking, clipping, and pulling! I can’t wait to see what joy those flowers bring after the end of this difficult winter. 

Along with the yardwork, Ron and Dick took down the large Black Lives Matter banner that Renee Stauffer had made and wrapped around the large maple tree in the front yard. The tree, which is almost entirely dead, will be coming down within the week. I will be saying a prayer of thanks for all of the decades it has lived, and breathed, and brought life to the corner of Elm St. and Lawrence Ave. 

Also, a thank you to Dale Hobson for offering to serve as our church’s newest commissioner to Presbytery. He joined me this week at the November Presbytery meeting.

Continuing on with the spirit of thanksgiving, I am overjoyed to let you know that Father Rocker, the priest serving at St. Mary’s Catholic church, is sending a $200 donation to put towards the Free Little Food Pantry. Last week I had explained to you about how all of the congregations involved in the Potsdam Interfaith Community had volunteered to collect donations for the pantry each month, and how overwhelmed I was by the grace of it all. But this gift from St. Mary’s will be on top of their food collecting efforts. 

I have served in churches in the past where bad blood lived between Protestants and Catholics. It brings me great joy to know that in Potsdam, we support one another. If any of you have any ideas of how we might be able to offer a bit of grace back to St. Mary’s, do please let me know! I haven’t been around long enough to have even had the chance to meet Father Rocker, so your input is most welcome. 

It helps me to hold onto my faith on my dark days, to know that God’s beloved community is at work in the world right now. My gratefulness for the kindness in our community is helping to hold me together right now. 

As we grow closer to Thanksgiving, I would encourage all of us to sprinkle some form of gratitude into our Pandemic Soup Pot. Even just a pinch will season the flavor. I know that things are hard right now– and getting harder with each passing day– but this is the funny thing about the life that God gives to us: We can be stressed out, and worried, and filled with sadness, and still find room in our hearts for giving thanks. It’s possible to do both things at the same time! So, even while we might be grieving the fact that we won’t be together this Thanksgiving with the people we love, we can also hold space for other goodness that surrounds us. 

Can you pay extra attention this week to discovering what you do have? Is your car in working order right now? Can you feel the air filling your lungs? Did you have a chance to laugh at a good joke today? Or maybe you had yourself a good cry and were able to let it all out. Maybe you got a hug from someone this week, or you found delight in sending a note card to someone in the mail. Did you get your yard put to bed or listen to a spectacular piece of music? Maybe you just barely made it through the day, but you did in fact make it (and tomorrow will be a new day). 

When we can find the secret joys that live hidden in the cracks and slivers of what is hard, God strengthens us anew. This is why Nehemiah told his weary and grievous people, as they returned to the rubble of Jerusalem after having lived in exile for 70 long years, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” 

Joy gives us strength. Gratitude gives us strength. They’re God’s secret sauce for making soup taste good– even a Pot of Pandemic Soup. 

So…. may you be mindful to find the secret sauce this week!

In God’s joy,
Pastor Katrina 

p.s. If you haven’t already sent it in, please remember to drop your pledge cards for 2021 in the mail to:
First Presbyterian Church, Potsdam
42 Elm St., Potsdam, NY 13676

News for the Church, 11/7/20

Hello Church! 

Have we all survived the election (thus far)? As of the date and time of this email, we still don’t have a clear winner for the presidency, but it’s looking like Biden will win in the end. I have to say, I am feeling very grateful that there hasn’t been violence in the streets while we wait for all of the votes to be counted. Our democracy is holding steady thus far. 

And what a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Have you been out enjoying the mild weather? This afternoon both Julie Miller and I were down at the Black Lives Matter rally. They’re being held from 4- 4:30pm now, while it’s still light outside. We had a great time chatting with the new friends we’ve made, and hearing from Jen Baxtron about the racial equality work that still needs to be done in our corner of the community. 

Sometime in the last week you should have received a letter from Dale Hobson, along with a pledge card for 2021. Dale was writing to all of us to let us know that we’ve fallen behind in our regular giving in 2020. For some of us this will be because the pandemic is squeezing our finances, but for others of us it’s because we’ve simply forgotten to send in our pledges. (It’s not so easy to remember when there isn’t an offering plate being passed around every Sunday!) If you are not able to meet your pledge because of financial reasons, please just send a note to the church to let us know. There is no need to feel shame for having to say that times are tough right now– most of us are feeling the pinch in one way or another. Just let us know what you can or can’t commit to for the rest of the year, so we know what we have to work with. But if you’ve simply forgotten, tie a red ribbon around your finger! Our church needs us right now! Like all other organizations, we’re feeling the squeeze.

This is why I urge us all to spend a little extra time praying about what we might be able to afford to pledge for 2021. Don’t just ask your pocketbook what the numbers look like. Spend some time in prayerful consideration with God about what God might be needing from you right now. At the end of the day, our giving to the church is not just about keeping the lights on and the services running. It’s about our faithfulness to God’s call in our lives. What is God saying to you? 

Now for the exciting news! Some of you may (or may not) know, but our church participates in what’s called the Potsdam Interfaith Community. I just recently started attending the meetings (COVID had shut things down for a while), and I’m getting to know folks. We had a meeting this last week, and I’ll tell you the truth– I was in tears by the end of it. PIC has helped to support our Free Friday Lunch program in the past, but while it’s down for the count because of the pandemic, the other congregations in PIC wanted to know how else they could be faithful. Our Session discussed it some after talking with some of the folks who used to come regularly for Friday Lunch, and we decided that the best way for PIC to support us is to help keep the pantry shelves filled. So each congregation will focus on collecting certain non-perishable items for each month, and bring them in for us. Do you have any idea how many people are going to be sending in their love? Folks from the Christian Science Church, and the Methodist Church, and the Catholic Church; people from the synagogue, and the local mosque, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the Lutheran Church! Can you picture this in your mind– this beloved community, made up of people who sharply disagree on many things, choosing to come together to share what they have? If that weren’t enough, the Mormon Elders– the three young men who are serving their mission through the Potsdam LDS church– are going to help us do the grocery shopping each week for the perishable food items that we keep stocked in the fridge. (Yup, there I go getting teary eyed again…)

In a country where we are divided right down the middle by bitterness and suspicion of each other, I find myself groping around in what feels like darkness, to catch even a sliver of the light of hope. I cannot see how God is going to lead us to a place where we can call ourselves the United States of America, but I have a hunch that the light shining from within PIC has something to do with it.

Friend, how can you be a light of hope this week in our country? How can you shine the love of God on people you find yourself cursing against under your breath? Will you light your own candle from the flame being held by the Potsdam Interfaith Community, and carry it out into the community? If there’s ever a time for courageous compassion and kindness in the world, it’s today. 

The writer of First John knew this well. He writes, 

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day– our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”

I John 4:17-18 (Message Version)

Come take your candle, and spread the light of God’s love this week!

Holding onto hope,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 10/30/20

Hello Dear Hearts,

Today is a beautiful, crisp, sunny afternoon and my houseplants and I are soaking up the warmth shining through the windows. It feels so good to feel the sunshine on your skin after so many dreary, grey days, doesn’t it? And tonight is supposed to be as clear as a bell– with a beautiful moon to boast!

Well, I’ve got a few announcements for you this week.


I am excited to announce that this Sunday we will be celebrating communion together– via the interwebs! I doubt any of us has ever celebrated communion together in this way, so we’ll have to ride a little loose in the saddle with it, but that’s ok. If you remember ahead of time, bring a cup of grape juice (or whatever substitute you might have in the fridge) and a piece of bread when you turn on the service. If you forget though, don’t fret! When it’s time for communion, all you have to do is hit the pause button and I will freeze in motion until you return and hit play once more. Ok? We’ll give this a shot this week and see how it turns out. If you have feedback for me afterwards– on what it was like on your end–just send me a note.

“There’s a Star in the East”

I don’t know if you remember or not, but early on into the pandemic we decided that our beautiful, blue advent star– the one that Dick Partch and Ron wrangled to the top of our steeple, should stay lit at night during the pandemic– as a light of hope in this troubling time. Dick set it on a timer, and now that we will be “falling back” an hour on Sunday (don’t forget!), keep your eyes peeled for it out in the evening hours. It will be coming on at 5:15pm and going off at 10pm. 

Every time I see it lit, I start singing the Christmas hymn, “There’s a star in the east on Christmas morn’. Rise us shepherd and follow!” What do you think of when you see the star? I’d love to know! 


If you somehow escaped the media blast over the last few months, this Tuesday is also election day. Some of you, I know, have voted early, but if you weren’t aware, the polls will be open at the county building in Canton every day from now up until election day. My daughter Lexi and I voted this past Tuesday afternoon and we made it through in 40 minutes– so it’s not too terrible. Just know that the line takes you up 2 flights of stairs, to the second floor where the Board of Elections has their office space. If you cannot climb the stairs, you can tell the polling people and they will let you use the elevator. 

And now for the fun news! (They always say to save the best for last, right?)

Wassail Wednesdays

This last Wednesday, Renee Stauffer, Julie Miller, the Stauffer kids, and T-Rex showed up to bring a little extra cheer to Crane Students who attend Dr. William Lake’s Wassail Wednesdays. T-Rex had made a tasty batch of wassail and goodie bags to share with the students. A big thanks to all invovled for bringing some love and laughs into the world! 

Friends, on a more serious note, we are coming down to the wire for this election. Four more days. Will we make it? I can see how the contentiousness and vitriol of this particular election cycle has taken a serious toll on all of us. No matter which side of the political divide you stand on, the split down the middle feels deep and cavernous, and it grieves my heart. 

If you’re anything like me, you may struggle with the temptation to think of people in an opposing political camp as an “enemy,” or with harboring bitterness in your heart against them. 

So I will remind you of what I have to keep reminding myself: God knows there’s more to the “them’s” (and yes, to you too) than the judgments we make about each other. My prayer for us moving forward, is that we will remember that our “enemies” are still our neighbors, and our family, and perhaps even people we called friends. We certainly do not all agree on some really important matters, but until we can see the humanity in one another, it’s not possible to live as “one nation, under God.” And without that, working towards “liberty and justice for all” becomes much more ellusive. 

With that said, I will leave you with one final thought: God is bigger than the outcome of this election. Whether you find this election to end in a “saving grace,” or “a nightmare scenario,”– whatever the results may be– God is still the creator and governing presence of the universe. And God’s ways are not our ways. 

Let me say that one more time. God’s ways are not our ways. 

So come what may, let us remain focused on the ways of God– on The Way of Jesus. 

“…let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. “

Hebrews 12:1-2

Saints, let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Holding the faith line,

Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 10/23/20

Indian Summer Greetings to you today, Dear Hearts,

Can you believe the weather today? My outdoor thermometer says it’s 78 degrees! It’s so warm, I had to dig out some summer clothes, and I didn’t have to make a fire in the woodstove this morning, either. I just threw open the windows and all the doors. What a fun, wonderful surprise! 🙂 

I have a handful of things to share with you today. 

A number of months ago, I had asked you about your interest in sharing communion together some Sunday. At the time, we were all still struggling to figure out how to live in a pandemic, and the idea of dealing with the logistics of serving communion felt overwhelming. Now that we have a rhythm down however, I’m wondering how you might feel about celebrating communion during our on-line service. If I presided, would you be willing to gather a little bread and juice (or whatever substitutes you might find at your home) and celebrate with me through the nebulous ether? If communion is important to you, will you drop me a line and let me know?

On another note, Session will be meeting tonight to discuss our plan regarding in-person worship. A big thank you to all of you who have responded with your thoughts, concerns, and opinions! It will make our job much easier tonight. I will make sure to send out an email in the next few days to fill you in on the details. 

Dr. William Lake, who teaches at Crane and has played piano and organ for us from time to time, has continued throughout the pandemic with a tradition he started for his students last year called “Wassail Wednesdays.” On Wednesdays at lunch, he and his students gather over zoom to sing and make merry. Last year, William provided his students with the other key ingredient for making the event merry– the actual wassail itself. Because they are now coming together remotely, the students haven’t had wassail to sip between songs– that is, until Renee Stauffer offered for our church to supply it! She will be setting up a station in the Snell Circle for students to drop by and pour themselves a cuppa of this flavorful drink before they head off to sing. There are so many fun, creative ways for us to “be the church” in our community right now. I invite you to put your thinking caps on for other imaginative ways that we can be present to our neighbors during this stressful time. 

In other good news… the organ has found relief! Last week we had an electrician come take a look at the motor, and he figured out that the problem was coming in from the power lines. This week National Grid came to work on the problem. It turns out, the 3-phase electrical lines simply weren’t delivering adequate voltage to run the motor– likely a problem related to the fuse-outage across the street that resulted from the construction project. But lickety split, National Grid fixed the voltage problem, and we are back in business once again! Hallelujah! Now all we have left to do is have the organ tuned, and it will be ready to make lovely music once more! 

Ivette Haryman-Rodriguez, one of our professors from Crane who has played piano and organ for us some, has been in Texas weathering the pandemic with her family there and teaching her classes remotely. Since she doesn’t see herself returning to the North Country at any point soon, and while she also continues to pay rent for the apartment she has here in Hannawa Falls, she wondered if any of us might know someone who would be interested in subletting it– even if it’s not for the full amount of rent. If you have someone in mind, please send her an email at

Friends, on the national front, the pandemic seems to have taken a serious turn for the worse this week. I don’t know about you, but alarm bells started going off for me again. This is the beginning of the next severe wave and things are going to get much worse before they get better. So even as we find ourselves experiencing “pandemic fatigue,” I ask you to remain loyal to your health. Keep wearing those masks! Stay as close to home as you can! Avoid spending time in large groups– including with your own extended family! When we begin to grow weary of the separation, we need to take our minds back to the root of why we are practicing social distancing in the first place. We take these measures seriously because we love one another. And we love ourselves. The motive behind our collective focus on public health and safety is really, when we boil it down, a matter of love. When you are sitting on the fence about making Thanksgiving plans, and you make the decision to not spend Thanksgiving with your family, you are siding with love and care. Remember that, ok? It goes completely against our instincts, I know. And it is painful. But the most basic decisions we make in the next 2 months may have serious repercussions. So I ask you to keep in the front of your mind the love and care you feel for your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your community. Let your love lead you. 

And let us end with a poem by John Updike. Please read it out loud to yourself, for the full effect. 🙂

Wind has shaken autumn down,
left it sprawling on the ground,
shawling all in gold below,
waiting for the hush of snow. 

John Updike

May God bless us and keep us,
Pastor Katrina

p.s. If you haven’t ever tried wassail, it’s made from apple cider, cranberry juice, orange juice, cinnamon, and mulled spices. If you ‘d like to try some, hit William up for the recipe. 🙂

News of the Church, 10/16/20

Greetings on this Water-Logged October Day!

Even with the rain, the effervescence of autumn is still on display for a few more days. I hope you’re tuned into the final verse of the forest’s unique rendition of Ode to Joy. The shimmery yellows are my favorite, and there are still plenty of trees showing them off!

This week I stopped in to see Lynn Warden, and learned that this Saturday (tomorrow) at 2:30 pm a family friend will be presiding over a graveside service for Shirley at Bayside Cemetery. They’d like to keep the gathering small, but I think they’d be open to a few folks from our congregation attending, if you’re wanting to go.

Since most of us won’t be there to participate however, I wondered if we could offer Lynn and his family a different type of gift. If you knew Shirley, would you think about what she meant to you and send it to me in an email? Or, perhaps, recall a special memory you have of her and send it to me? They can be long stories or short quips, but what I’d like to do is to collect all of your individual offerings and format them together into one single document that we can then give to Lynn. I think this would mean a lot to him, and it will give those of us who won’t be able to grieve our loss of Shirley together a small chance to honor her memory. 

I will set a deadline for your submissions for 10/30– two weeks from today. Hopefully that will give you enough time to write something down. Then, after I’ve put the whole thing together, I’ll deliver it to him when I stop in to see him again in a handful of weeks. 

Also on my mind this week is Thanksgiving. Believe it or not, it’s right around the corner! From what I understand, the distribution of Thanksgiving boxes for those who need them will be done a little differently this year. In the past, St. Mary’s Church, the Methodist Church, and our church participated in these efforts, but this year Helping Hands (in Hannawa Falls) will be the organizing force. 

For those in need of a Thanksgiving meal, your box must be reserved through Helping Hands. Food boxes are limited in number, so you will need to reserve one soon. To place your order, please call Linda at (401) 465-1752 by November 1, 2020

Pick-up of food boxes will take place at Helping Hands of Hannawa on November 21, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Pick-up will be a drive-through format. Please wear a mask when you come to pick up your order. Helping Hands is located at 5868 State Route 56 in Hannawa Falls, New York.

For those of you who would like to donate items for Thanksgiving meals, these are the items being requested at this time: 

  • Canned vegetables–beans, corn, mixed vegetables
  • Evaporated milk
  • Pie crust– refrigerated or a mix
  • Canned apple pie filling
  • Gravy
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Turkey

Please bring any donated food items to Helping Hands, Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.. Helping Hands is located at 5868 State Route 56, Hannawa Falls.

Also of importance this week– this next week, Session will be looking at the survey results you’ve turned in concerning when we should return for in-person worship. As I mentioned earlier this week, I failed to include one of the most important questions on the survey itself– what is your preference for when we return to the building? Thankfully, some of you have responded to me in an email with your answers, but I’d like to hear from a few more people. If you haven’t yet replied via email, will you do so to this email? 

Please select your most preferred option for returning to in-person worship:

  1. Waiting until a vaccine is available. 
  2. Waiting until spring to return to the building for worship.
  3. Returning to the building once a month, beginning in November.
  4. Returning to the building for the season of Advent (Nov. 29 – Dec. 24), and then waiting until spring. 
  5. Returning to the building after the holiday season is over, in January.
  6. Returning to the building every Sunday beginning in November.

I have a sneaking suspicion that in the next few months, the impact of being apart from one another is going to hit us especially hard. Not only are we having to grieve the loss of one of our members differently, but the holiday season is going to look drastically different too. Even as we ache from the consequences of social distancing during this season, I wonder if it will also be an opportunity for us. If you can’t revel in the ways that you normally do, I invite you to put your creative hat on and consider doing something out of the ordinary to make this year meaningful. What can you do for Halloween this year? What is something special you can try at Thanksgiving? Or Christmas? What can you do to feel especially connected to your family, your church family, or your community? Maybe you send Valentine notes for Thanksgiving– letting people know why they are important to you. Or cut jack-o-lanterns out of paper and secretly tape them on people’s windows for Halloween (and leave them guessing about who it was that left them a surprise). Or??? This year there are no rules, so you get to decide how to engage joy! 

Since it’s only the middle of October, you have plenty of time to start imagining and planning, but I’m going to double-dog dare you to do something wonderful each month between now and New Year’s. That’s one creative thing in October, November, and December to welcome in the playful presence of the Holy Spirit into our community. Are you up to this challenge?! I can’t wait to see what you come up with! 

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

–Isaiah 55:12

…even in the time of a pandemic…..

Grinning from ear to ear,
Pastor Katrina 🙂 🙂 🙂

News for the Church, 10/9/20

Hello Everybody,

Happy Friday to you! This afternoon has clouded over some, but this morning was another glorious fall day! Did you spend any time soaking up the sun? Speaking of autumn weather, I’m curious to know something– how do you celebrate the coming of fall at your house? What are some of your traditions? Do you decorate? Rake leaves together? Go apple picking? I’d love to hear if you have any special rituals to mark this time. When things are tough, I often find that leaning into the comfort of certain traditions helps me to stay grounded, and the turning of the seasons is a great time for honoring ritual.

The News For This Week!

Coffee Hour— As long as the weather stays nice, we will plan to host one more outdoor coffee hour on the lawn this coming Sunday, 10/11. Come at noon with your mask, a jacket, and a lawn chair, and we’ll visit over coffee and cookies! The temperature is only supposed to reach 52, but it should be mostly sunny skies, so we should be ok if we dress appropriately. 

Survey— Quite a few people have filled out the survey about returning for in-person worship, but we’re waiting to hear from a few more folks. If you haven’t already done so, please click on this link and let us know what you’re thinking.

Organ News– Have you ever had something break, and you fix it, only to find out there’s more to the problem than what you first anticipated? About a month ago we learned that the controller for the organ wasn’t functioning properly. Thankfully, we were able to have it fixed quickly and the bill was nothing significant. This last week however, when the controller was re-installed, we learned that there’s something wrong with the motor as well. We’re having it looked into, but Ron tells me this motor has seen a lot of use over many decades, and it’s possible that we’re going to need to purchase a new one. At one time we had an organ fund that paid for things like this, but as the world turns, that well has dried up. We don’t yet know exactly what our situation is going to be, but if any of you have money tucked away in a rainy day fund just for the care and upkeep of beautiful organs, we may need to call on you. More on this developing situation soon…

David Bennett to preach on 10/18– This month our presbytery resource leader, David Bennett, has graciously offered to preach and lead worship on the 18th. David played an important role last year in helping our session and the pastor’s nominating committee figure out what the next chapter of the Potsdam Presbyterian Church might look like, and the end result of their work (with a little bit of the Holy Spirit thrown in there, too) was me coming to be your pastor! We haven’t seen David since then, so it will be nice to welcome him back! 

Friends, don’t forget to look up this week as you go about your regular routine. Not only is the beauty of God’s glorious creation in the midst of a grand symphony, but so is the world around us. Our teachers are teaching their hearts out right now, our young people are learning as best they can, medical workers and first responders are busy doing their work to keep us safe and as healthy as possible, our grocery store clerks are working doubly hard to keep the stores wiped down for all of us during the pandemic, and our postal workers keep delivering the mail. Take a moment this week and notice the good work that someone in your life is doing, and offer them the gift of gratitude, will you? This pandemic is rough stuff, so let’s be on the lookout for what goodness we see, and celebrate it.

The Apostle Paul once said to the believers in Phillipi:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse…. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

-Phillipians 4:8 (The Message version)

Sounds about right to me!

Keep looking upward,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 10/4/20

A blustery, soaking wet day to You, dear Church! 

Fall is a time of both glory days and glum days, and today is definitely on the wet and soggy end of things. I hope you’re warm and cozy inside, or have mud boots to keep your feet dry if you venture outside today. 

This last Sunday I had the day off, and you worshiped with the Ogdensburg congregation for our Sunday service. How did it go? You had a bird’s eye view of what an in-person service can look like, and I wonder what it was like for you. Session met last night and we took up discussion about the possibility of our own return to the building for in-person worship services. We agreed that when we come back we, like the Ogdensburg church, will have to adapt our services. We talked about a number of things that we will need to change, and we put together a plan for what our services might look like. But we currently don’t have a timeline for when we might return because we want to hear from you first. This coming week I will send out a short survey to ask for your opinion about when coming back to the building makes the most sense for our people. 

To prepare you ahead of time, however, I will tell you about a few things that we already know will be different while we continue to live with Covid-19. When we come back, we will:

1. Worship in the Center, rather than in the sanctuary. 

We will do this for a number of reasons. It will be safer for us to meet in the center because we have a special filtration system installed there that filters our viral particles from the air. It will maintain a more sustainable schedule for our custodian Ron to keep, while he is required to disinfect everything to the Nth degree. It will keep both us and Head Start families safer because we will not be traipsing through their classrooms each week and using their bathroom. It will also protect our organ, which cannot be disinfected with strong cleaning agents. 

2. We will not sing any hymns together until a time when it is safe to do so, but we will have music for our prelude, anthem, and postlude (and hopefully some other special music!). In like manner, we will also wait until a later time to pass the peace with one another. 

3. We will set up chairs in the center so that we are appropriately socially distanced from one another, and we will wear masks while we are in the building. 

4. We will not have coffee hour in the building after the service until a time when it is safe to do so.

These are important measures that Session felt we need to enact to keep our people safe, but we also know that we cannot make these important decisions entirely without youWill you be thinking this week about the safety needs of your family? Hopefully I’ll have the survey out to you by this coming Tuesday, so that you can communicate what your particular needs and opinions are on the subject. 

Speaking of coffee hour– we will attempt to hold one last coffee hour in October out on the lawn, but we will write it in pencil on the calendar rather than in pen. If the weather is warm and dry for Sunday, Oct. 11, we will meet at noon. If not, we’ll try again for another Sunday.  

Later this month we will also continue on with learning more about racism and how it functions in our society. Our denomination is in the process of putting together a series of documentaries on the subject, and the first one has recently come out. Later in October (date still to be determined), we will gather together over Facebook to watch the first movie in the series, and then the following week we will host a discussion about the movie over zoom that you will be welcome to join. 

Friends, with the election bearing down on us, concern for the safety of our country’s minorities at an all-time high, so many of our citizens out west and down south struggling with disaster, and Covid still an ever-present danger, there is much to weigh us down. But let us not lose heart. God is still on the throne! And we know that nothing can separate us from the love God has for us– not death, nor hardship or distress, not persecution and peril, neither the present or the future, nor the powers that be. Nothing can part us from the love and care of God! 

So, in the words of the writer of Hebrews:

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

~Hebrews 10:24-25

Keep breathing in the Spirit!

Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 9/24/20

What a gorgeous day today was! Were you able to be outside at all? The leaves are beginning to turn, and it’s already a spectacular show of color. It’s a great time of year to remember to look up and around you as you go about your daily life. So often we get stuck in the world of our daily “schedule” and forget to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, which lives outside of our clock-structured life. 

While you’re out there enjoying the foliage, if anyone has pictures of the beauty they find this fall, please feel free to share! 🙂 

Just a couple of things to note for this week:

The Rev. Shaun Whitehead had been scheduled for preach and lead worship this Sunday, but she had an unexpected family need pop up, and she won’t be able to be with us. Because this all happened so last minute, I wasn’t able to find someone to fill in, but we have something else wonderful happening instead! Rev. Laurena Wickham Will and the Ogdensburg Presbyterian Church returned to their sanctuary this last Sunday, and they are streaming their service live from the sanctuary to Facebook. I spoke with Laurena about our need this Sunday, and she has graciously offered to welcome us in for their service. And it will be “easy, peasy, lemon squeezy” for you to attend. 

All you need to do is go to our church’s Facebook page and look for the service there like you do every Sunday. Just like ours does, the Ogdensburg service starts at 10am, and Dale Hobson will be hosting a “Watch Party” on our church’s Facebook page of the worship service. This means that for those of you who like to watch at 10am, the service will be there for you, and for those of you who like to watch at a later point, it will still be there to find whenever you’re ready for it. 

This will be a chance for you to get an idea of what an in-person service might look like for us when we return to the sanctuary. Laurena said that last week they played pre-recorded music at the beginning of the service, but that was the only music they had. There was also no passing of the peace or offertory. (There were offering plates by the doors, where you could drop your pledge on the way out the door.) And they kept the amount of congregational response in the liturgy to a minimum. 

I’m not sure yet how our services will be structured– session and I will need to discuss that when the time is right for us. But it will be good to attune our expectations ahead of time to the fact that an in-person service won’t look like what we’re accustomed to. When we return to the sanctuary, we will be coming home to a “new normal.” 

We have come so far on our pandemic journey– adjusting and readjusting our patterns and customs. This will be a change, for sure, and probably also painful in some ways. But even as we hold all of that in one hand, we will hold in the other hand the fact that we’ve gotten good at adapting ourselves to new landscapes. And we know that God will be with us! (Which is the most important part.) 

Speaking of adjusting ourselves to new “normals”– the other day I read something on Facebook that I wanted to share with you. I wish I could say that I was paying close enough attention to copy the link, or even remember the name of the doctor to be able to credit her properly, but I wasn’t. So I will simply do my best to present to you the heart of what she shared. (Also, since I don’t remember her name, I will simply call her Dr. Patel.) 

Dr. Patel has spent blocks of time over the last few decades working in refugee camps around the world, providing health care to people who live in a constant state of crisis, worry, trauma, and grief. One of the important things she has learned from these experiences is that when she’s living in a place of true groundlessness, somewhere around the 6 month mark, she hits the wall. “It happens every time,” she said, “like clockwork. After the initial shock wears off of being somewhat powerless in the world you find yourself in, you somehow manage to find a rhythm to this new way of being in the world. Even though you might not enjoy this current life you’re living, there’s comfort to be found in having routine– of knowing what to expect. Out of nowhere, however, around the 6-month mark, the wall comes and hits you dead on. In this period of time (which can last for weeks or sometimes even months), you begin to lose hope. You begin to lose focus. A type of apathy sets in that makes it difficult to do anything besides put one foot in front of the other.” 

“When this happens,” she said, “don’t expect too much from yourself. It’s enough simply to get through it.” 

“Eventually, at some point, the wall will dissipate and you will find that you have the energy and the grace to absorb more than the bare minimum. But until that day comes, give yourself permission to acknowledge that the wall is real, and that it is hard like concrete– unforgiving and nearly impenetrable. While you’re in the middle of it (however hard it is), keep in mind that it is a season. It is not permanent. At some point, it will soften, and you will begin to feel more human again.”

Dear hearts, this year may very well be one of the hardest years we ever experience in our lifetime. The weight of this world feels crushing. But we are not alone in this experience. Throughout the ages, millions of others have traversed waters like these, and always, God has been beside them wading right along. When you find yourself “hitting the wall,” know that you are not alone. When you feel fear and uncertainty for the future, remember that in other places and other times, people all around the globe have lived in groundless before you, and the arch of God’s faithful and abiding love has endured. 

The writer of the book of Hebrews helps put all of this into perspective:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible…. 

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.”

He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, “bowing in worship over the top of his staff.” By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial. 

By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. 

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.  – Hebrews 11:1-2, 11:17-12:2 

Friends, what we face is difficult, indeed. And yet, the great cloud of witnesses shrouds us, even as God leads us. We may be living in an unknown world, but we are not alone. Never have we been, and never will we be– for we belong to the God of the Ages. 

Hold firm in our faith as we take on the weeks still before us,

Pastor Katrina