News for the Church, 7/14/23

Good morning to you, Church! 

What a week of weather we’ve had! I went swimming a couple days ago in the Grasse River and I’ve never seen the water this high– ever. It’s unfathomable to think how much water fell on our region this week. Our weather patterns are definitely shifting, aren’t they?

Here’s the news for the week: 

Need Coffee Hour Host for the Next Few Sundays

If you’re up for making coffee and bringing in a few cookies to share, we need coffee hour hosts for this Sunday and the following two weeks to come.  If you’d like to volunteer, send me a quick email to let me know!

If we don’t get anyone though, we won’t worry about it. We still know how to visit with one another without a cup of coffee in our hands, right? 

Welcome Home to Jean and Francoise! 

After many months of house hunting, Jean and Francoise have finally moved into their new home. Blessings to you both, as you begin to settle in! 

Celebrating Sabrina Petrie

Sabrina has been coming to our church for the last couple of years, but often watches online because of her health situation and work schedule. But soon, Sabrina will be packing up her bags to move to Buffalo to begin her Master’s of Social Work program at UB.

This is a huge undertaking for anyone, but for her it has extra meaning. Sabrina grew up in foster care, and it was out of these difficult early childhood experiences that she has decided to give back and become a social worker.  

Sabrina lives on a shoestring budget and does not have family support to bolster her in this major life change, so she’s put together a wish list of school items she will need in this new chapter of her life. Might you consider supporting (and celebrating) her by contributing something? 

*A gift card would also be welcomed, and her address is below.

Here’s the link to her registry:

If you’re sending a gift card, here’s her address: 

Sabrina Petrie
8 Cedar St. Upper Level
Potsdam, NY 13676

Major Changes Coming to the Sanctuary

As you already know, we are awaiting the repair of damaged plaster in our sanctuary, followed by a complete, fresh, new coat of paint to brighten things up. Thankfully, this work is being paid for by insurance money we received as a result of last summer’s leaking roof. The work will begin in November, and during that month we will have to move into the Community Center for worship. 

But! Before that…. more changes are coming that you need to know about. After many back and forth conversations with the insurance adjuster, it has been determined that to do this work, the pews will have to be replaced.

Here’s the backstory: When our pews were installed about 150 years ago, they were not designed to be taken out and then re-installed. They were custom built to stay put. 

Over the years, this has not been a problem because any time the sanctuary needed to be repaired or repainted, scaffolding was used to reach the ceiling above the pews. Fast forward to the year 2023, though– when scaffolding is no longer the way construction repairs are accomplished. These days, you can’t find scaffolding to rent because everyone uses scissor lifts (which reduce labor costs and make the job easier). This is all fine and dandy, except for one thing in our situation. In order to accommodate a scissor lift in our sanctuary, the pews have to be taken out, but to re-install the pews is going to be an effort of exponential proportion. 

To re-install the pews means labeling every single piece that comes apart, it means storing the pieces in the exact order that they come out, and then it means making sure that every single piece is put back exactly as it came out. And this, the insurance company determined, is not cost-effective.  

I’ve spent a lot of time talking through this situation with Brotherhood Mutual, and because they do not want to pay to have the pews re-installed, they are going to give us an additional $11,330 to purchase new seating. 

Dave Wells, Ron Kaiser, Session, and I have been discussing how to proceed with the seating, and we have decided that the best option for our 21st century congregation is to buy chairs that can be moved around, rather than have new pews built. 

The downside to this is that we will no longer have beautiful, wooden pews to sit in– which makes me sad. But there are many, many good reasons to opt for chairs instead. I’d like to explain these reasons to you so that you can understand the choice that’s been made. 

Firstly, even with cushions to soften the landing, pews are uncomfortable to sit on. The chairs we’re looking at purchasing are much more comfortable and relaxing to sit in. Secondly, some people are allergic to the cushions we currently have (which are filled with horse hair), and these new chairs do not cause allergic reactions. Thirdly, putting in chairs that do not have to be fastened to the floor gives us versatility. It means that we can move our seating around! We could set the chairs in a semi-circle and worship in the round–so that we can look at one another while we sing and pray. We could arrange the chairs facing each other, for a more intimate setting for chamber music concerts in our sanctuary. And we would be able to set the chairs up in a circle for group discussions, if ever we wanted to meet in the sanctuary for meetings. 

Right now, Session is in discussion with a company in Florida that custom builds these church chairs. They will have a rack underneath the seat to hold Bibles and hymnals and a pocket on the backside to hold a pencil and envelopes for offering. They’re going to be great! Here’s a picture of what they look like: 

Thankfully, Dave Wells has made an agreement with a local Amish farmer, who is willing to take our pews out in exchange for keeping them. Next week I will have him give us a short report on how that process is going to happen. 

I know this is going to be a major change for us in worship. We’ve been sitting in these pews for generations! But we can do this. We can do things differently– that’s something we learned during the pandemic. 

There will be more to share about this project next week, so stay tuned for further installments of our #Sanctuary Update! 

Our Church is ALIVE!

I have been smiling to myself all week, filled with gratitude for our congregation. Last week I visited with other pastors in Rochester who are struggling mightily with their congregations– with people who are afraid to grow and change, and with people who want to sit on their haunches and do nothing but be served by others. Our church is not like that, and I have a new-found appreciation for you this week. So many wonderful things are happening right now in our congregation, and you are the ones making them happen.  

Here are just some of those things: Dave Wells has been instrumental in the work being done on the building. Beth Grace stepped up and offered to organize food for Helen’s memorial service. Sue Waters volunteers her time in the church office every week. Keilor plays the most beautiful music for us in worship. Ivette and Diamante host Bible study each week. Brian Wilkinson, Bob Pickard, and Dave Wells make sure the lawn is mowed. Countless numbers of you show up to work in the church yard on a regular basis. Jane Wells runs our dedicated knitting group. Renee Stauffer keeps our food pantry running, and many of you donate to it on a regular basis. Sharon Pickard and half a dozen of you work every month to pull off our Community Suppers. Dale Hobson is always working in the background to keep our sound and technical support up to date. Terry de la Vega keeps Trillium on track. Joanne Hubbard helps out with potlucks. Robin Wilkinson sends cards to people in the mail. Cynthia Coleman and her crew keep the treasurer’s job up to date. A handful of you have offered to share your stories during Cloud of Witnesses or have offered to sing a song in the future. Dozens of you sign up for coffee hour and to be our liturgists each week. Jeff Mitchell pitches in to preach when needed. So many of youreach out to each other in loving concern on a regular basis. You all pledge financially to keep our church afloat. And our college students even care enough to write and check in from time to time while they are gone!

Dear Hearts– we are a church alive in the world and your presence among us makes a difference! A church is only as alive as its people, and I am so proud to be the pastor of a church where people show up to serve, rather than expect to be the ones served.  I am proud to be the pastor of a church where people care for one another and spend time together outside of worship. I am proud to be the pastor of a church where people desire to grow and learn. And I am proud to be the pastor of a church that honors God through its commitment to social justice. 

I thank God for you, Church! You are a blessing in this world. 

In gratitude for you all,
Pastor Katrina