News for the Church, 11/25/23

Happy Thanksgiving, Church! 

Are you wearing your stretchy pants today? I know I am! At my house, the smells of bone broth are wafting from the kitchen, and I’m hankering for another piece of pumpkin pie. Are you eating leftovers today, too? 

Here’s the news for the week: 

Jeff Mitchell to Preach this Sunday, the 26th

I’m grateful to Jeff, who will again be bringing our church a word from the Word this Sunday. 

Moving the All-Church Potluck to Dec. 10th

Betsy Tisdale noted something important the other day. We were scheduled to have our all-church potluck on the same day that Beth-El hosts their annual Food Festival at their synagogue. This is the first time they’ve had their fundraiser since 2019, and it’s an important opportunity for some of us to show up and support their community– especially in light of the fear and the sorrow that they’ve been living with this last month. 

So, we’re going to move our potluck from Dec. 3rd to Dec. 10th in order to allow some of us to go to support Beth-El. I’ll remind us again next week, but don’t bring a dish on the 3rd. We will break bread together on the 10th, instead. 

Beth-El’s Food Festival, Sunday, December 3rd

The Food Festival runs from 11am-3pm and will feature matzoh ball soup, kugel, bagels, falafel, blintzes, potato latkes, baked goods, bread sale, gifts, and a raffle. 

Pledge Time

Our congregation might be small, but we do some amazing things in the life of our church. This life we create, however, costs money. It costs money to pay our custodian and heat our building. It costs money to pay the pastor, keep the lights on, fix the boiler when it breaks, and support our missional activities. 

This coming week you should be receiving your pledge card in the mail for the 2024, and I pray that you will be prayerful about your giving. At the end of October of this year we were $20,000 in the hole, which is neither unusual, or unexpected. (We simply do not have enough money coming in to cover all of the church’s expenses.) Thankfully, we have an endowment that we can pull from to stay afloat, but the less we tap into it the longer it will last. 

Friends, might you be willing to increase your pledge for this coming year? Might you have something extra to contribute for this year, to help make up the balance? 

I know that for many of us, money is tight and we have to balance our own livelihoods with our giving. But also, if we care about our church, its important to give. 

Thanksgiving Day Joy 

Yesterday I attended the Community Supper Thanksgiving meal that our church and Trinity Episcopal put on for people in the community. I’m not much help in the kitchen, so I spent my time visiting with guests who had come to the feast. I sat with a 90 year old man named Jim who recently lost his wife of 70 years, and choked up on tears telling me about how much he misses her. I visited with a man named Jonathan who never married and whose mom passed away 2 years ago. He lives all alone and commented that if it weren’t for this dinner, he would have no Thanksgiving to celebrate. I joked with two college students who weren’t able to go home for Thanksgiving break. They were enjoying pumpkin pie before heading back to their dorms to write papers. And then I met a Bangladeshi family who recently moved here for the husband to go to Clarkson. Their two little children attend HeadStart and pre-K, and they had never had a Thanksgiving dinner before. We laughed together about how different food in the US is from Bangladesh. 

In all of this time, I saw you giving and serving– your time, your food, and your hearts. And it brought me such joy! Thank you for being the sort of church that comes together every month to feed folks who need love and attention. Thank you for being a church of action. This is the way of Christ. 

With gratitude,
Pastor Katrina 

News for the Church, 11/17/23

Good Afternoon Church,

It’s 60 degrees out there, and I just came inside from collecting pine needles underneath the red pine tree in my front yard. I’m going to try to make a pine needle basket, and the first step was to sit on the warm earth and glean fallen needles out of the grass from underneath the tree. What a relaxing and rewarding task! 

Here’s the news for the week: 

Quinn Stevenson’s Crane Recital is Tomorrow (Saturday) at 3:05pm

If you’d like to support our music students, coming to Quinn’s recital would be a great way to do it. He will be singing at 3:05pm in Wakefield, which is on the second floor of Bishop Hall at Crane. 

Mental Health Sunday

This Sunday we will be celebrating the work of Karen Easter and the Reach Out Crisis Hotline in St. Lawrence County, which connects people struggling with both mental health and physical crisis needs.

If you ever need help, you can call Reach Out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and a volunteer will talk with you and then help connect you to local resources that might be able to address your challenges in a comprehensive way. 

This Sunday I will also be preaching about PTSD, and where it manifests in the life of King Saul in 1 Samuel. We don’t honor our mental health struggles enough, and so this Sunday we will turn our focus to the topic. I hope you’ll join us! 

Tuesday, Nov. 21st is the Day for Star Maintenance

If you’d enjoy the adventure of helping to hoist our giant star down from its 60′ perch on the bell tower, so that Dick Partch can change out lightbulbs (and then rehoist it again), Tuesday is the day. We had a blast doing it last year, and I encourage you to come out and help. If you’d like more information, email Dick at

Thanksgiving Community Supper this Coming Thursday

This is a reminder to all of us who will be volunteering for this month’s community supper– this Thursday is Thanksgiving! 

A big shout out of thanks to Sharon Pickard who is organizing this month’s meal, along with all of you who are baking pies, making stuffing, and volunteering your time to help set up, cook, and then clean up. There are plenty of people in Potsdam who have nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, and this is a beautiful opportunity to be in community with people we don’t often see. 

Jeff Mitchell to Preach, Sunday Nov. 26th 

Join us for worship the Sunday after Thanksgiving as Jeff Mitchell brings us a word from the Word for the first Sunday of the Advent season. 

All-Church Potluck and Communion Scheduled for Dec. 3rd

For the second Sunday of Advent, we will be celebrating with food– both during the service and afterwards. 

Additionally, I plan to preach about the war in Israel on Dec 3rd– explaining the history of the situation and wondering together with you about what our Christian response calls us to do and be in this moment. I hope you’ll join us. 

Can You Help Run an Upcoming Community Supper? 

As you know, every 4th Thursday of the month we host a free community supper with our friends from Trinity Episcopal Church. In both January and March we are in need of someone willing to volunteer as the coordinator of the dinner. This entails deciding what will be on the menu, selecting recipes, and then delegating responsibility to people to purchase ingredients and make certain items for the dinner. If you’ve ever cooked for a group of people before, you are qualified to take on this job! If you’re willing, please reach out to Sharon Pickard (who can help you with what you will need to do). She can be reached at

Sanctuary Renovations Continue!

Nate LaFaver and his crew have been busy bees this week in the sanctuary. They’ve added 120 gallons of joint compound to the walls, to stabilize cracks and help patch holes in the plaster, and soon they’ll shift their efforts to painting the layer of primer. Huzzah! 

Living in Thankfulness this Thanksgiving

It’s 6 days and counting until Turkey Day! Do you have special plans for how you will celebrate this year? Do you have special traditions? I’d love to hear about what Thanksgiving looks like for you and yours. One of the traditions in my family is to set 3 corn kernels at each place setting, and during the meal, we all go around and share 3 things we are grateful for in our lives. This practice spurs joyful conversation and slows down the pace of eating (for those of us who typically scarf down our dinner). 

Today I want to remind us of something that Paul recognized in his letter to the Phillipians. He understood the connection between prayer, gratitude, surrender, and peace. He writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:6-7

For those of us who practice our faith, we already know that gratefulness brings us the wellbeing that God promises, but below I’m including a fascinating paper from the John Templeton Foundation about the science of gratitude. It examines the positive effects that being thankful has on your health. 

Read Here:

With great thanks for our beloved community,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 11/10/23

Greetings Church! 

Today is Veteran’s Day. Do you know anyone who has served in the military? If so, I hope you will extend them a greeting and offer a moment of appreciation for their life and their lived experiences. The struggles that veterans experience are real, and our support of their health and wellbeing is important. 

Here’s the news for the week: 

Nov. 19th is Community Service Appreciation Day

Join us next Sunday as we give thanks for those who offer their time and talents to our greater community. We will be remembering George Davis and all that he contributed to Potsdam, as we celebrate Karen Easter and her Reach Out Team with the George Davis Community Service Award. 

In recognition of what Reach Out does, I will also be preaching on the importance of mental health and wellbeing, in relation to trauma, on the 19th. I hope you’ll join us! 

Rehanging the Star on Tuesday, Nov. 21st

If you have signed up to help Dick Partch lower our star from the bell tower to replace lightbulbs, and then help heave it back up into place again, the day for action is Tuesday Nov. 21st! Please reach out to Dick if you have any questions or you’d like to participate. His email address is

Thanksgiving Community Supper Still Needs Volunteers

It is a joy to be able to host those in the community for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, the 23rd, and we still need a few folks to volunteer. You can bake pies or make stuffing ahead of time, come on Wednesday to help set up, or spend a few hours on Thursday helping to cook, serve and do dishes. It takes our whole community to make this dinner happen. Will you join the team? 

Jeff Mitchell to Preach on Sunday, Nov. 26th

Jeff will be bringing us a word from the Word the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I hope you’ll plan to attend!

Beth-El’s Annual Food Festival is Set for December 3rd

Our friends at the synagogue are reviving their annual Food Festival tradition this year (after a 4-year hiatus because of Covid). Helping to support their fundraiser is one way that we can let our neighbors know that we see and care about them– especially in this challenging moment in their people’s history. 

Support for Ukraine

We are still collecting hats, gloves, scarves, socks, and coats to send to folks in Ukraine. We also need monetary donations to help cover the cost of shipping. If you’d like to contribute that way, please write Ukraine on the memo line of your check and/or offer cash to Jane Wells, who is helping to send the boxes. 

Dick Partch Offers Thanks for Your Love for JoAnne

Dick Partch has sent the church a note of thanks for all of your cards, letters, and well wishes following the death of his wife, JoAnne. Dick has been taken by all of the memories and blessings you have shared with him. 

Progress in the Sanctuary! 

LaFaver’s Painting has been busy this week in the sanctuary– scraping paint, cutting out degraded sections of plaster, and prepping cracks. They’re doing a fantastic job and working hard to mend and repair our walls. When this work is complete, then the fun will begin. They should be done with painting within 3 weeks! 

The War in Israel

Friends, are you as overwhelmed, saddened, enraged, and confused about what’s happening in Israel/Gaza as I am? Do you feel uncertain or even angry about what is happening? 

This last week Session asked me to reach out to our Jewish and Muslim neighbors– folks who are aching deeply from the conflict happening halfway around the world. I wrote to our friends at both the synagogue and the masjid to ask how we might support them. 

In the coming weeks I will let you know what they ask of us. 

I also plan to educate myself on the conflict as best I can so that I can offer our congregation some insight on the history of this conflict, and to suggest some concrete actions we might take as Christians who care about the lives of people being torn apart by war, fear, and hatred. I will offer you a sermon on the matter as we enter the season of Advent. 

Dear Hearts, let us choose to live with Christ this week– caring for our neighbors, choosing to live in hope, and actively embodying love and grace even as we work for justice and peace in the world. 

 And as Paul reminds those struggling in Rome, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” –Romans 12:12. 

In Faith, 
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 10/27/23

Good Afternoon Church!

It’s 66 degrees outside right now and we still haven’t had a hard frost. Will this be our “new normal” moving forward? Thankfully, it looks like next week we will turn towards more seasonal weather. 

Here’s the news for the week: 

Clarkson’s Green Living Fair this Weekend

Today and tomorrow, Clarkson will be hosting major events around sustainable living and climate change. Dr. Curt Stager will be the keynote speaker on Saturday at 3:30pm.

For more information

Kitchen Committee to Meet Nov. 4th

Saturday, the 4th, the kitchen committee will be meeting at 10am to begin cleaning the kitchen. It’s been a while since it’s had a good scrub down! If you’d like to join the fun, feel free to just show up. 

All Church Potluck, Sunday Nov. 5th

It’s almost time for our next potluck! Not this Sunday, but the following one, bring a dish to share and we will enjoy a meal together after worship. 

The A. George Davis Community Service Award

As a culture, we don’t tell people often enough how much we appreciate them– especially when they do things for the good of the entire community. With George Davis’ passing, Session has decided to begin a new annual tradition of giving out a community service award in his honor. On Nov. 19th, we will be honoring our first recipient, Karen Easter, who for nearly 50 years has kept Reach Out running– a crisis hotline in St. Lawrence County that helps people in both psychological and physical distress to find the services they need. I hope you will join us in worship on the 19th as we remember George and celebrate Karen! 

Holiday Wreath Sale, to Support the Hospital

Roberta Stillin-Dowman will be taking orders this Sunday for those who wish to purchase a Christmas wreath. Orders must be received by Nov. 3rd.

Staying on Budget with the Sanctuary Project

It has been brought to Session’s attention that in the past, when our church has taken on major renovation or building projects, we have blown the budget. This sort of thing can happen because of mismanagement, but it can also happen because surprises pop out of nowhere that cost extra money. 

Given this reality, I want to let you know that Session and I are being very careful about staying within the budgeted amount of money that we received from insurance to repair the sanctuary. Unless something unexpected happens when LaFaver’s Painting starts working on the plaster repair, we should be able to stay within our means. 

On Love

Friends, this last week I picked up a book by bell hooks called All About Love, and I wanted to share some things from that book with you. hooks explains that we as a society talk about “love” frequently, but most of us don’t really know what love means. We identify it as the feeling of affection or attraction, but that’s not really what love is.

That feeling we have– of being deeply drawn to someone or something– is called cathexis. But cathecting is not the same thing as loving. 

Love, you see, is an action and not an emotion. Although it often involves affection, it spreads itself deeper and wider. M. Scott Peck says that “love is as love does,” and it involves a number of different moving parts. 

Love– understood as a verb– involves trust, care, respect, truthfulness, commitment, open and honest communication, recognition, and affection. Love certainly includes care and affection, but that’s just the start! Love involves extending one’s self in order to nurture either one’s own, or, another’s growth. 

James Baldwin says it this way: “Whether we call it friendship, or family, or romance, love is the work of mirroring and magnifying each other’s light.” 

This week, I challenge you to think about the love in your life. Does it involve deep trust? Respect? Truthfulness? Open and honest communication? Do you cathect others, or do you love them? 

Jesus calls us to love, not to cathexis. Jesus calls us to action and to relationship. Friends, let us learn to live into LOVE! 

Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 10/20/23

Greetings to you, Church!

I am now home from Missouri, have unpacked my suitcase, opened the mail, and am ready to get back to life after being gone for two weeks. What’s been going on with you? I’ve missed seeing you all. 

Here’s the news for the week: 

Community Supper Set for Thursday, Oct. 26

For those of you who volunteer, don’t forget that next Thursday will be our next Community Supper. Get in touch with Sharon Pickard if you have any questions. 

Sustainability Day and Green Living Fair at Clarkson

Next weekend, Oct 27 and 28 Clarkson is hosting a sustainability fair. There will be workshops, exhibits, and posters, along with two keynote speakers.

The first keynote address will be a virtual talk on Friday the 27 from 6:30-7:30 pm. Talking Rivers, the artist and activist couple Blake Lavia and Tzintzun Aguilar-Izzo, will present a virtual panel presentation called Waters Have No Borders: Working Together for the Great River and the Great Lakes. 

Dr. Kurt Steger, Paul Smith’s College Professor of Natural Sciences, will speak about how climate change is affecting plants, animals, and people in the Adirondacks, and what to expect in the future. This keynote talk will occur in the Student Center Forum at Clarkson University on Saturday at 3:30 pm.

If you’d like to know more about it, you can check out their webpage.

Our New Entrance Ramp Has Been Completed! 

If you haven’t seen it already, please make sure to “ooh” and “ahh” over our newest update to the building. Last week Chris Willard came and repoured the ramp that leads into the building from the parking lot. Recently we learned that the old ramp was non-functional for manual wheelchair users, making it unsafe for them to enter the building. It’s imperative that we offer safe access to our building for all people, and now we have that very thing. Huzzah! 

The Sanctuary Renovations Continue 

This last week Dave Wells and Matt McKenna were hard at work in the sanctuary, removing the last of the pews and prepping the space for LaFaver’s Painting to come work on the ceiling, which is scheduled to begin the first week of November. First they will be repairing the plaster and then repainting the entire sanctuary. 

In the meantime, Session has been hard at work organizing and planning out the details; the most important one this week being the selection of paint colors. Session has talked at length about the process of selecting the colors, and whether or not to ask the entire congregation to be involved in that process. Should we put together a poll and have everyone cast a vote, we wondered? We recognize how important it is for everyone to feel like our updated sanctuary belongs to all of us. 

But here’s the thing. Session is running out of energy. This project has been all-consuming for months, and we’re simply running out of steam to field all of your ideas and comments. So, we made a decision. In order to finish this project to the end and still remain standing, Session needs to select the paint colors on its own. It’s simply too much work to gather everyone’s opinions. I hope that you can understand why we made this decision. 

When considering paint colors, we realize that it’s of the utmost importance to make sure that the sanctuary is comfortable and inviting for everyone who comes to worship. Additionally, we have noted the importance of honoring the history of this space, especially since changes will be coming to the seating. 

Given all of this, and in consultation with a color expert, we are getting close to coming up with a color scheme. It’s going to be light, and bright, and airy, but with a subtle nod to our history. Would you like to know what it’s going to look like? Or should we let it be a surprise– for you to experience it in person once we reopen? What do you think? Do you enjoy the anticipation of surprises? Let me know your thoughts! 

Reaching out to The Batsons

The Batsons continue to live in an assisted living facility near their son in Syracuse, and while things are going well enough for them, they are still lonely. Might you be willing to send them a card in the mail? I know they’d appreciate hearing from some of their longtime friends. 

Gordon and Kathy Batson
830 James St. #224
Syracuse, NY 13203

A Big Thank You to All of You! 

I came home late in the night on Wednesday and have since learned that in my absence, all of you worked together to hold down the fort. Thank you so very much to everyone who stepped up and volunteered for extra jobs to cover for me while I was away. I can’t tell you how relieving it is to be able to go away and feel at peace, knowing that you all can take care of things if I’m not there. That is a true gift! 

As for my travels– I had a wonderful time with my mom, and I am very proud to announce that my step-brother, John Tate, is on the mend. A month ago we didn’t know if he was going to live or die, and today he is sitting in a chair in a rehab facility, and working on walking down the hallway. It was truly a God-sized miracle that he lived, and we are all giving thanks for his health and wellbeing! 

Friends, hug the people you love today. Tell them that they matter to you because tomorrow you might not have the chance! 

See you on Sunday,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 9/22/23

Good Day to you Church,

It’s officially a gorgeous fall day outside– we can finally say that! Happy fall y’all. 🙂 

Here’s the news for today: 

All-Church Potluck, Oct. 1st

When you come to church a week from this Sunday, plan to bring a dish to pass at our next All-Church potluck. We will enjoy food, fellowship, and camaraderie following our worship service. 

Yimei Zhu to be Baptized Oct. 1st

I hope you will be able to join us for worship on Sunday, Oct 1st, when Yimei– one of our newcomers– will be baptized. She is excited to share this moment with all of us.

Volunteers Still Needed to Help with our Star

We’ve had two people volunteer to help Dick Partch do some maintenance work on our giant blue star that shines brightly over the town of Potsdam every Advent season. Might you be willing to join them? It will take about 90 minutes to lower the star, replace some light bulbs, and then heave it back up into place at the top of the steeple with a set of pulleys and ropes. Please let me know if you’re able to help. When we get 6 people together for the job, we will find a day when we’re all available to meet. 

PIC Picnic was a Success

Thursday night, about 60 people from 8 different congregations in Potsdam and the surrounding area came together for food and fellowship at the annual Potsdam Interfaith Community picnic. I visited with people from the masjid, the synagogue, the UU Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Quaker Church, and the Russian Orthodox Church. In a time of political and theological divide, these dinners are an opportunity to remember that people we might otherwise disagree with are still our fellow brothers and sisters in God’s family. I hope that next year you might consider joining us! 

We’ve raised $600 for the Sanctuary Renovation

Last Sunday, Emmett Smith, the CEO of Northern Power & Light came to church to give us a presentation on the merits of switching our electricity from National Grid, and its natural-gas powered electricity, to this local company, which runs its electricity via sustainable hydro-power. 

NP&L is offering our church $100 for every person in our congregation (and beyond) who switches their electrical services over to their hydro-power services. So far, we’ve raised $600 through this fundraiser. Might you consider doing it too? 

The cost of your electricity will stay exactly the same. The only added requirement for you is that you will have to pay 2 bills each month, instead of one. (You will pay NP&L for your electricity and National Grid a small amount for carrying and supplying the electricity.) 

If you’d like to do something positive to fight climate change and help support the church through a $100 donation from NP&L, please go to their website and sign up. Use the promo code: SAVE THE SANCTUARY

Here’s the link:

Pastor Katrina Away for 2 Weeks

Friends, my family could really use your prayers. My step-brother is gravely ill and will likely not survive the coming weeks after a complicated heart surgery that did not go well. 

My step-brother, John, lives about an hour away from my mom in southwestern Missouri, and is currently in critical condition in the ICU in Springfield, MO. And my mom, who is his only support system and holding herself together as best she can, is in need of serious support herself.

I have made plans to fly out to be with both my mom and my step-brother in early October. I will be gone from Oct. 4th- Oct. 19th. 

Here is the plan for the 2 Sundays that I will be away:

Oct. 8th, Raamitha Pillay, who directs our local chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign and is teaching our weekly class called The Difficult Conversation Lab, will be a special speaker during worship. 

Oct. 15th, Jeff Mitchell will preach and lead worship. 

Please pray for both John’s health, and that God’s peace will wash over my family– no matter the outcome of the next few weeks. We don’t get to know if John is going to survive this or not, and more than anything we need God’s peace. 

The Spikey Church and the Star

I thought you might get a laugh out of an encounter I had last night at the PIC picnic. I got chatting with a family that lives in Potsdam and attends St. Olympus Orthodox Church in Norwood. The father asked which congregation I’m a part of, and I told him that I’m the pastor at the Potsdam Presbyterian Church. He asked which church that was, and I started to describe our church building and its location. 

“It’s the large sandstone building tucked in the triangle between Route 11 and 11B,” I said– trying to describe where our church building sits. 

“Oh!” he exclaimed, “You mean the Spikey Church?!” 

“The Spikey Church?” I asked, slightly confused. 

“Yeah, my 6-year old refers to your church as the Spikey Church because the spires are so tall and…. well, spikey! We drive by your church every day, and every day he says, ‘There’s the Spikey Church, dad!'” 

This father and I had a good chuckle. 

Later in the evening, this same man and I were sitting with some young men from the masjid, who also asked which church I belong to. I began to say, “The Presbyterian Church,” when this father piped in.

“It’s the spikey church just a few blocks down Elm St. from your masjid.” 

All of the men at the table began to laugh and nod their heads in understanding. They knew exactly what The Spikey Church meant! 

One of these young men chimed in, “And you have the big blue star that shines brightly in the winter. I look at that star every time I walk from Clarkson, all the way down Elm St. to the masjid for daily prayers. It’s beautiful and it brings a smile to my face.” 

May the blessings of autumnal grace belong to you today, 
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 9/15/23

Good Day to you, Church!

It’s a gorgeous, early fall day and I’m sitting out on the porch watching a monarch butterfly flit and float across the grass. It’s landed on a goldenrod, stopping to eat a snack on its way south to Mexico. I hope you’re enjoying the beauty of this day with me! 

Here’s the news for the week: 

Sunday Sept. 17th

So much is happening this Sunday, you won’t want to be late for church. 

Firstly, starting this Sunday, we are meeting for worship in the CENTER, as further work is being conducted in the sanctuary. Secondly, we will be welcoming 6 new members to our congregation– Susan Dillon, Arthur Freehart, Cyndy Hennessy, John Hubbard, and Jeff and Susan Mitchell! 

Thirdly, we will be sending Heidi and Keith Jamieson off to their new adventure in Seattle with prayer. 

And fourthly, you are invited to stick around during coffee hour to listen to a presentation by Northern Power & Light about the merits of switching to local, sustainable electricity. 

I spoke with Northern Power & Lights this week, and they are setting a goal of raising $5,000 for our church in donations! For every new customer who signs up with their company (and donates their promotional gift to the church), NP&L will give us $100! Do you think we can get 50 people across Potsdam to do this? I think we can! 

Difficult Conversation Lab to Begin THIS Monday

For those of you who have signed up for this 8-week class, we will have our first class on Monday, the 18th, from 4:30-6:30pm. For this one week, we will be meeting in the conference room (as the Center had already been reserved.) Please feel free to bring snacks and drinks with you. I will do my best to buy some healthy snacks to share with everyone. 

PIC Potluck Picnic This Thursday, Sept. 21st, 5-7pm

The Pic picnic, which is held every year under the pavilion in Sandstone Park, is the best kept secret in all of Potsdam! Bring a vegetarian side dish, dessert, or drink to share. We will indulge in grilled fish kabobs, our potluck side dishes, and the fellowship of local brothers and sisters of varying faiths. 

The Star Needs Help

 Our beautiful blue star, which graces the top of our steeple is in need of some maintenance. Dick Partch is up to the task, but he needs a handful of strong people to help him– to lower the star, check the lights and then raise it back up. In addition to 3-4 people on the ground, Dick needs 2 strong people to climb up the inside of the steeple with him. (A day can be selected after volunteers reply.) Might you be willing to help? Please send me an email if you are! The whole process should take about an hour. 

Dave Wells’ Update on the Sanctuary Renovation

Here’s the latest from Dave Wells, who is overseeing the sanctuary renovation project: 

“The sanctuary will continue being prepared for plaster repair and painting by removing the remainder of the pews in the next few weeks. 18 single pews (about 9.5 ft long each) have been prepared, and will be re-fastened to the floor after the ceiling work has completed. The remainder of the pews will be removed from the sanctuary during the next several weeks. I will be removing hymnal trays and communion cup holders from some of these pews so that we have a supply of extras for repair, etc. 

Some have expressed interest in having access to hard wood that may be available from these extra pews. If you are interested, please let me know your needs and your ability to retrieve it by the end of October. A fair amount of the wood is being donated to the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, some is being used in trade for assistance in removing the pews and carpeting by a local Amish farmer, but some hardwood is still available. The portions of the pews that are hardwood include the seatbacks, which are made of ash (approximately 9.5 feet long, by about 30″ high, by about an inch thick, if I recall properly), and the pew ends (which I believe are made of 2 laminated 1″ planks. 

There are nails along the edges of the wood, but the wood is generally in good condition. The seat bottoms are of pine, or some other softwood, and they split and splinter easily, so they are not really useful now for much other than firewood – for which the Amish have use. If you have questions or comments regarding the availability of wood, please let me know by email at

Additionally, we are working on the possibility of having Matt McKenna available for anyone who would like to have one of the pews refurbished for your home. You would be responsible for the cost of his time and labor to take a pew apart and size it to your desired length, but I think this is a possibility. If this is of interest, please also get into contact with me. 

Work items to complete prior to plaster repair and painting include:
1. Removal from floor and disassembly of the remaining pews.
2. Transporting all but the 18 single pews off site (current plan is to an Amish family in exchange for their help).
3. The 18 unattached single pews, already assembled, will be stored out of harm’s way until the plaster repairs and painting are complete.
4. Carpeting will be left in place until after all overhead work is complete. 
5. Plaster repair and painting should occur starting in late October and last for about three weeks.

Once all painting and overhead work is finished, the next tasks will include:
1. Remove & discard all carpeting.
2. Remove and discard all carpet nailing strips.
3. Install wood pieces in slots left by removed pews.
4. Sand the entire sanctuary floor.
5. Stain and finish the entire sanctuary floor.
6. Mount single pews. 
7. Lay down floor runners along the aisles.
8. Dust.
9. Be thankful

Dave Wells

The Last Days of Summer

Friends, it’s that time of year again– when the seasons are changing. The air feels different. We start off in the mornings wearing long sleeves and sweaters, shed them by mid-day, and put them back on again by the evening. The aroma of fresh apple sauce and tomatoes cooking on the stove fill the house. A few trees are beginning to change colors. Butterflies and moths float through the air and the sounds of honking Canadian geese can be heard high in the sky. The children have returned to school. Pumpkin spice lattes, apple cider, and apple fritters begin to appear in coffee shops and grocery stores. 

The rhythms of life are beginning to shift.

I wonder what this time of year feels like for you? Do you love this time of year? Does your subconscious send you into a panic because winter is coming? I feel a mixture of both elation for these warm, late summer days and a sense of dread, knowing that soon enough snow will be on the ground. 

What are your favorite fall memories? What are your favorite fall traditions? 

These are the days that God has made, and I pray that we will rejoice and be glad in them! 

With gladness in my heart for all of you,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 9/8/23

Good Day to you Church!

Well, after the hottest week of the entire year, we’re back to more seasonal weather. Did you survive the heat? (The day we hit in the 90’s, I noticed that 10 years prior, I had written down that we had frost in the sheep paddock that same day in 2013. Wow! What a difference a decade makes.) 

Here’s the news for the week:

Rummage Sale Fun Today and Tomorrow!

Come on down to the Center– today until 4pm and tomorrow from 9am-12pm– to find rummage sale treasures galore! Beth Grace and her crew of volunteers are ready to wow you with special one-of-a-kind finds. 

And Saturday, there’s a special offer. ALL CLOTHING IS FREE! And everything else will be 50% off!  

Communion Sunday

We will be celebrating communion together this week, now that I am back from Covid. 

Climate Justice Summit Kicks off at the UU Church, Sept. 15th

Friday, Sept. 15th at 7pm, the UU Church in Canton will be showing the first film in a series of climate justice events. They will be showing the film Arctic Summer, which highlights the life of the indigenous acrtic community, the Tuktoyaktuk, as they navigate the effects of climage change. A community discussion will follow the film. 

Here’s the link to all of their upcoming events:

Sunday, Sept. 17th at our Church

Next Sunday, the 17th, we have more excitement coming. Our monthly choir will be back to offer special musical selections, and after the service Northern Power & Light (our new, local electricity company) will be offering a presentation on why you should consider switching your electricity to this local, sustainable source. 

As a promotional gift, Northern Power & Light is offering our church a $100 donation for every new person who signs up for their electricity (if you specificy that your promotional gift should go to the church). 

Folks, it does’t get better than that! Competitively-priced electricity from a local, sustainable hydro-damn and a $100 gift to the church! 

If you’re not going to be there this Sunday, but you’d still like to sign up with Northern Power & Light, here’s the link to their website. You can sign up from there.

*Also of note: Sept. 17th we will be moving worship over to the Center, while renovations continue in the sanctuary. 

 Potsdam Interfaith Annual Potluck Picnic, Sept. 21st

Come one, come all to the best kept secret in all of Potsdam! Thursday, Sept. 21st, folks from 9 different congregations in Potsdam will gather together at Sandstone Park from 5pm-7pm for the best potluck of the entire year. 

This year the masjid is bringing fish kabobs to grill, and we are asked to bring vegetarian sidedishes, desserts, and drinks to go with the fish. (Because Muslims and Jews eat halal and kosher, we let them bring the meat.) 

Last year I tried freshly made baklava and other middle eastern desserts I’d never had before, along with other amazing foods. And folks from the synagoge, the Methodist church, the Mormon church, the majid, the Catholic church, and other communities played games out on the lawn. It was marvelous, and you won’t want to miss the fun this year.

Help for Humaira

Do you remember the young, Afghani woman who came to Clarkson in 2021? Some of us helped support her in her endeavors to earn a computer science degree that year, and a couple from our congregation have been hosting her in their home while she attends school. 

This will be Humaira’s senior year, and because of rising tuition costs, she is in need of assistance this year. Might you consider sending in a contribution for this brave, intelligent, hard-working woman who wants to change the world but does not have the financial resources that many of the rest of us have? 

You can send a donation to: 

The Humaira Project 
1227 CR 25
Canton, NY 13617

Make a donation to the Humaira Project

Giving Gifts of Gaiety 

This week I was the recipient of an unexpected gift, which tickled me pink with surprise to receive. And it prompted me to want to share the love around. So today I offered someone else a gift– out of the joy I felt for the love I had received earlier this week. And can I tell you– I have been walking around all day with a huge grin on my face! 

None of these gifts were fancy. They were just little things, but the impact they made on me– from both the receiving and the giving– have been huge. 

Riffing off of this experience, I want to challenge you today to try it too. What if you found a small gift to give a way each day for the next 7 days? It could be an object, a compliment, a helping hand, or even a hug. Who could you surprise? A loved one? A total stranger? A neighbor? If you try this exercise, watch for what happens next– look for the surprise and the joy you stir up in the other person. And notice the feelings of happiness that this acts brings about in your own mind, body, and soul. 

What fun we can have this week with one another– playing the role of flitting fairies of merriment and delight? What wonder and joy can we bring to this world that did not exist prior? I dare you to give it a go and see what happens next! 

Yours in Christ’s Love,
Pastor Katrina 

News for the Church, 7/28/23

Good Day to you Church! 

What a soggy, wet day we had yesterday. The rivers are full, cold, and running swiftly on this hot, late July day. 

Here’s the news for the week: 

Jeff Mitchell to Preach this Sunday

I will be away this weekend for my family reunion in New Hampshire. I hope you have a lovely Sunday of worship together without me. 

Concert Featuring Adirondack Songs and Tunes, Aug. 11th

Join us in the sanctuary for the 3rd in a 4-part series of concerts being sponsored by the Orchestra of Northern New York on Friday August 11th at 7pm. Peggy Lynn and Dan Duggan will be playing Adirondack tunes on guitar and hammered dulcimer respectively. 

This Week’s Sanctuary Renovation Update

I spoke with Brian Baker this week, the contractor out of Connecticut who uses scaffolding to work on sanctuary renovation projects. His son happened to be in the area at the beginning of the week, so he stopped into our sanctuary to put together a ballpark estimate of what it would cost for them to do our project with scaffolding. After running some numbers, Brian said the price for using scaffolding would start at $150,000, but would likely be higher than that. This is because scaffolding is so time-consuming to set up, and because insurance costs for scaffolding are high. 

We received $75,000 from the insurance company to fix the roof, repair and repaint the ceiling, and buy new pews or chairs. Given this reality, Session has decided to stay with our original, local contractor, LaFaver’s Painting, whose estimate for the ceiling work is less than $30,000. Given our financial situation, Session feels that it would not be a faithful use of our church funds to hire Brian’s company in order to save our existing pews.

As I noted previously, however, going with our local contractor means that we will have to remove our pews to bring in the scissor lift. And because the pews splinter when taken out, we are going to have to (….gulp…) let go of our current pews. 

After you take a deep breath, and let all of that settle in, let me now tell you about where we’re at with our seating situation: 

Renee Stauffer has started contacting Amish builders this week to get quotes for having new pews built. We have our fingers crossed that perhaps they might be able to reuse the endcaps of our existing pews with these new pews, but we will have to wait and hear the verdict on that later. 

We’re also still scouring the internet to see if we can find historical used pews to purchase and have transported here. 

In the meantime, Dave Wells has contracted with a local Amish builder to come and remove our existing pews (in preparation for the ceiling work). The pew removal will happen slowly– with 2 rows of pews being taken out each week. They will start sometime in August with the back rows of pews and move forward with their removal. 

Then, sometime into late September or early October, when we start to have fewer and fewer rows of pews to sit on, we will bring in the black chairs from the Center to use in the sanctuary. And when the repair work begins in November, we will shift back to worshiping in the Center until the work is completed. 

Friends, I know that this is a lot to take in and process. Big changes–both temporary ones and long-term ones– are coming our way. But we can do this. We can adapt and change! And when it’s finished, we are going to have a beautiful, bright, clean sanctuary to worship in. It will be a different sanctuary experience than the one we currently have, but it’s going to be lovely. 

Now, with that said, we will still need to grieve the loss of our faithful pews. They have been our trustworthy companions in worship for over 150 years– literally bearing the weight of our burdens and sorrows and echoing out our songs of praise and gratitude! 

I hope to spend one of our Sundays together in August really looking at our pews, and offering gratitude for their presence in our lives. Will you be thinking about any stories you might have to share that have something to do with our pews? Maybe you remember long-lost friends who used to sit in a certain pew. Or perhaps you have a funny story to share about your kids sitting in our pews. I hope that we can take a moment during a Sunday service to share some of these memories and stories. 

To draw this letter to a close, I’d like to share with you Dawn Bartow’s thoughts about all of this change in the sanctuary. In her wisdom, she emailed me this note last week: 

Katrina…I’ve been meaning to write to you about the pews. When I read your message last week my first thought was “Ohhhh. The sanctuary and worship won’t be the same!” 

Then, I stopped and thought…what am I thinking? The reason Gary and I selected the church was the people that attended the worship services. We felt at home! It wasn’t the building, or beautiful windows, or the location…it was the people! And that hasn’t changed! The service of worship has changed over the years, but it’s the people that make us what we are in the community.

And then I began to think…why do I like our winter services so much? They are in the Center and we are relaxed! Could it be that the sanctuary is too formal??? Something to think about.

So back to the pews… the padded chairs sound great! Yes, it would change things from a formal setting to a somewhat informal one. Perhaps one that would lead us to worship in today’s world a bit more meaningful to those who now worship with us? A change of scenery might bring with it renewed interest in updating other areas and bring some folks back.

So, this brings me to say…the pews are only a wide chair that will seat four people!


As I stated earlier, Session is going to try its best to make (new) pews work in the sanctuary, but no matter what the seating ends up being, Dawn is right.

Our church is not the building. Our church is the beautiful people who come together each week in worship and service. Our church is held together by friendship, and through our faith in God. Friends, WE are the church! 

Even as we sort through our feelings and take in all of this change, let’s keep in mind the bigger picture. God does not require a beautiful building in order to receive our worship. In fact, God made it clear to his people– when they were crying out that theywanted a fancy temple to worship God in– that God actually preferred tents to a fancy building. For God, it’s not what’s on the outside that counts. It’s what’s inside that matters: Our faithfulness. Our love. Our kindness. Our humility. Our work towards justice. These are the things that matter to God. 

This does not mean that pews and buildings don’t matter. They do. We still need a place to gather together, don’t we? But let’s keep “first things first” in our priorities. 

Being the body of Christ comes first. 

Remaining faithful in our call to serve God’s people comes first. 

Living into the hope of God’s kingdom comes first. 

Remembering the first things first (even at the same time as we care about the “second” things too),
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 7/21/23

Good Day to you Church!

Looks like we will be getting some big rain again this afternoon and into the night. Here’s to praying we don’t have major flooding that takes roads out again. 

Today’s newsletter is going to mainly be dedicated to discussion around the sanctuary renovation project. But first, the news.

Community Supper Next Thursday

Our next Community Supper will be held Thursday, July 27th. If you’d like to help out, contact Sharon Pickard. 

Jeff Mitchell to Preach Sunday, July 30th

I will be away at my family reunion next weekend and I’m grateful that we have an in-house preacher. Thank you Jeff for your service!

Sanctuary Renovations

Last week I reported to you about where Session was at with the sanctuary renovation plan, and explained that scaffolding has fallen out of favor with both insurance companies and contractors alike because scissor lifts are so much more economical. 

I also explained that because of using a scissor lift, the pews would have to be taken out, and because they were cheaply made, it’s not going to be possible to put them back in again once they’re taken out. (Did I mention that when we took out the back two pews to make the “kid corner” a few years ago, in the process of taking them out as carefully as possible, the seats–which are made of rough cut pine–splintered into pieces?) 

Because of this, our insurance company has given us extra money to replace the pews, and up until last week, Session had been leaning towards replacing the pews with comfortable padded chairs. 

A number of you were distraught at the idea of getting rid of our pews however, and so this week at our Session meeting, we circled back to looking at different options. 

Here’s where Session is at this week: 

1. We are looking harder at what it would actually cost to have a contractor use scaffolding. I’ve made phone calls to other churches around who have had their sanctuaries painted in the last 10-15 years, and it looks like the main contractor people use, who is willing to use scaffolding, is based out of Connecticut (because no one locally will do it with scaffolding). From what I’m hearing, he’s quite expensive, but I don’t know what this means exactly. I’m working to find out exactly how much more scaffolding would cost. Once we know the cost difference, we can decide if it’s worth the extra money to be able to keep the pews we already have. 

2. We’re looking at the possibility of having the Amish build us new pews. In our dream world, we’d like to keep the end caps on our existing pews and have them used to make new pews. 

3. We’re also looking at purchasing used pews from other churches and having them shipped here. (We priced out having brand new pews made from a company that builds them and it was going to cost $34,000 for what is equivalent to 5 of our current rows of seating. We have 17 rows at the moment, so you can see that this is not a viable option.) 

Session is eager to make sure that whatever we end up choosing (in the case of new seating), that it be movable.  Last week I mentioned that this will give us versatility in the sanctuary, but I forgot to mention another very important reason for selecting movable seating. If and when we can no longer afford to stay in our building, choosing seating that is not nailed down to the floor means that we can take it with us when we move. This will save us big money in the long run, and will give us some of the “comforts of home” when everything else will be new and different. 

Friends, that said, I know that no matter what decision Session makes about the seating, someone is not going to be happy. I want to assure you however, that Session cares deeply about our sanctuary. We’re doing our best to weigh options, take in the big picture, make sure we’re being good stewards of the money we have been given, honor the historic beauty of the building, and keep in mind both our present and future situations. 

This week we received the (free) sample chair that the chair company sent to us to look at. It’s currently in the sanctuary for people to both sit on and examine. Even if you’re dead-set on us keeping pews, I hope that you will at least sit in the chair out and try to imagine what it would look like to have chairs in the sanctuary.  Being able to see things from a different perspective is an important skill for all of us to practice (even if we’re going to do our best to make pews happen).

Once we have as much useful information together as possible, we plan to have a meeting after church at coffee hour some Sunday to make sure you are up-to-date on where things are at, can give us your thoughts, and walk through this process with us. 

What’s YOUR Favorite Hymn

The other day I got an email from Heidi Jamieson. She was reaching out to request that we sing her favorite hymn some Sunday. Having her send in this request made a lightbulb go off in my brain. 

I’d love to learn what your favorite hymns are and incorporate them into our worship services when they fit thematically with a particular Sunday’s scripture reading.  So…. lay it on me! Email me back and tell me what songs you love best (and even why, if you’d like to explain.) 

There are so many beautiful hymns in our hymnal, but they’re extra special when they mean something to us. 

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Katrina