News for the Church, 9/16.22

Good Afternoon, Church!

The sun is shining warmly on this beautiful fall day, but the nights are starting to chill. Last night I shut my window for the first time this season. And I pulled a jacket out of the closet to go to the PIC picnic last night. Fall is descending!  

Here’s the news for the week: 

PIC Picnic was a Success!

Seven folks from our church joined in last night’s fun at PIC’s annual picnic. There were well over 60 people at Sandstone Park from nine different congregations in the Potsdam area. I sat next to a man named Basel, who attends the Potsdam Masjid and is working on a PhD at Clarkson, studying space engineering. Basel is a Palestinian man who grew up in Saudi Arabia, went to college in Moscow, and is now here in Potsdam.  I also visited with his friend Bo, a Chinese-American man who converted to Islam and just moved to the area to work as a public defender in St. Lawrence County. We had a great time talking about our faith and why it matters to each of us!  

There aren’t many opportunities like this to meet people of other faiths and Christian traditions in a welcoming environment, which is why PIC is so very important. It gives us a chance to make friends with people with whom we might otherwise steer away from.  

All-Church Potluck This Sunday 

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! This is the week! Bring your dish to share this Sunday and we’ll have a special time of sharing the bread of life together after worship.  

Sanctuary Ceiling

This last Sunday, as I sat in the chancel to lead worship, I noticed something vexing. A section of plaster had fallen from the ceiling above the choir loft. This was the result of water damage from the holes we have in the sanctuary roof. (Gah!!) Thankfully, Sue Waters called the insurance company and I contacted the roofing contractor to have them come put a temporary fix on the roof– to get us through until next spring when we’re scheduled to have the roof repaired (hopefully with the grant money we’ve applied for). The roofers will be out to put a band-aid over the holes, but unfortunately they can’t come until November, which means we need to be especially careful with the sanctuary until then.  

So here’s how we are taking care: Ron has laid plastic down in the attic to try to keep the water from seeping into the ceiling. And we’ve cordoned off the back rows of pews for the time being, because no one needs plaster falling on their head in the middle of worship! And we’re going to refrain from playing the organ until the roof has been temporarily repaired. The organ causes vibrations in the plaster, which could further loosen the damaged ceiling, so for the time being we’re going to enjoy listening to the piano.   

New Youth Group Starting! 

I am tickled pink to announce that beginning September 22nd, we will be joining with the Methodist church to hold a youth group for our teenagers! Twice a month, Pastor Hattie Taylor and I will meet up with our five young people for games, fun, food, and conversation. For our first meeting we’re going to play Apples to Apples, eat ice cream sundaes, and discuss the question “Do Animals Go To Heaven?” (If only you were 13, to be able to join in the fun!) 

Rev. Rich Hinkle to Preach

Rich Hinkle will be preaching and leading worship, Sunday, Sept. 25th. I hope you’ll join us.  

Film Screening of The White Right: Meeting the Enemy, Sunday Sept. 25th at 4pm at the Canton UU Church 

Our friends at the UU church are showing the film The White Right, and they’ve invited us to attend. Deeyah Khan, a documentary filmmaker of Pakistani descent, traveled to meet with white supremacists face-to-face for the making of this film. Kahn’s skillful way of engaging with those who see her as an enemy offers an important model in our divided world. If you’d like to learn more about the Alt Right and positive ways of engaging them, this is a movie for you!   

Sarah Manley has Passed Away

If you haven’t heard, our dearly beloved Sarah Manley died this last Sunday, after a long battle of physical pain and struggle. The family is choosing not to hold a memorial service, but you are most welcome to send a card to her sister, Robin. In lieu of flowers, contributions may also be made to Massena Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. 

Robin and Brian Wilkinson
25 Prospect St.
Norwood, NY 13668 

Time for an Updated Covid Booster Shot?

Friends, the new fall Covid booster shot– the one designed to boost against the Omicron variants (as wellthe original strain)– is available in our area now. You can make an appointment at either Kinney Drugs or Walgreens. Susan and Jeff Mitchell both got their booster last week and report that the side effects were markedly milder than last year’s booster.   

Covid is back on the uptick in our area again, and getting a booster is a wise idea. Thankfully, testing positive these days doesn’t necessarily mean you will get devastatingly sick, but it does still means quarantining for a few days– and who wants to have to stay home?  

I genuinely hate getting shots, but it’s important to take our health seriously– not only for ourselves, but for those in our community. Getting a booster shot is a special way that we can offer our love to our family, friends, and neighbors. I hope you will consider joining me in this community health effort!  

The Joy of Fall

As I bring this letter to a close, I wonder if you’ll share with me your favorite sign of fall.  Do you have one? What is it that you look forward to with the changing of the season?  

This is the time of year that I love to ruminate on Isaiah:

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” 

~ Isaiah 55:12

The hills will soon be bursting forth in song and the trees will be clapping in joy,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 9/9/22

Good Afternoon Church,

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! A warm, clear, early fall day. From where I’m sitting on my back porch, I can see the goldenrod in full bloom and the aster are warming up for their own showy display. 

If you’ve got a garden, I’m guessing that your tomatoes, peppers, beans, and maybe even early apples, are in abundance. This is a beautiful time of year to be alive, and I thank God that we have the opportunity to enjoy it. 

Here’s the news for the week: 

PIC Picnic in the Park this Thursday Night, Sept. 15th!

Plan to come down to Sandstone Park on Thursday night, starting at 5:30pm for one of Potsdam’s best yearly events. We will be gathering with our Jewish, Methodist, Mormon, Catholic, Christian Science, Muslim, and UU brothers and sisters in a fun night of fellowship and friendship. The Muslims are providing the meat (both halal and kosher), PIC is buying pizza, and you are invited to bring a vegetarian dish to share. There will be games for kids and adults alike, and a chance to make new friends.

Games to Play at Coffee Hour

We’ve recently picked back up with visiting together during coffee hour, and some of us are experiencing some anxiety around it. As a way to ease the tension of conversing, especially if you’re new and don’t know anyone, Renee Stauffer suggested we have a game table. We’ve ordered checkers, Yahtzee, Uno, and Connect 4, and will have them available to play while we drink coffee and nibble on cookies. I hope this will be a fun, more relaxing way for some of us to enjoy spending time together after the service!

All-Church Potluck, Sunday Sept. 18th!

Just a quick reminder– we will be eating our first meal together since the pandemic in a couple of Sundays. I’m excited to see what sort of spread we end up with! What are you bringing? 🙂 🙂 

Food Pantry Temporarily Closed

Perhaps you’ve been to church this week and noticed that the food pantry in the breezeway is missing in action. I’m very sad to say that for the moment, the pantry is closed. We have been having serious troubles with a single couple who have been coming in regularly and cleaning out the pantry. We’ve spoken to them numerous times about changing their behavior, posted signs, and spoken to the couple again, but they have not complied with our requests to take only what they need and consider others. We are hoping that taking a break for a while will send the message that they cannot treat this emergency food pantry like a free grocery store and leave bare shelves for our other guests. We deeply apologize to our other guests for this action and hope to be back soon. 

Community Supper Set for Sept. 22nd

If you’d like to join in the fun of helping to prepare and serve a meal to our greater community on Thursday the 22nd, please get in touch with Sharon Pickard. 

Mitchells Looking for a Place to Live

Perhaps you met Susan and Jeff Mitchell last week at church. They have been joining us online for most of this past year from their camp in North Bangor. The Mitchells are from Maryland, but after their house was struck by lightning in a hurricane, they were forced to move. Since moving to their camp this past spring, they have decided to move permanently to the Potsdam area (and get involved in our church!), but they aren’t able to buy a place to live until their Maryland house has been fixed and sold. Thankfully, they’ve been able to live in their camp. The problem with this is however, that winter is too cold. 

Do you happen to know of snowbirds who fly south from January to March, who might want a responsible couple to house sit while they are gone? Or do you happen to know of a suitable short-term rental in the Potsdam area for those months? 

Even if you don’t have any ideas, let’s make sure to make the Mitchells feel welcome in our congregation when they come in person again! 🙂 

Changing Seasons

I always start to experience stress and anxiety in the fall season. Do you happen to have the same problem? I love fall, but there’s something about it that induces a touch of panic in me. Perhaps it’s residual muscle memory from going back to school as a kid, or perhaps it’s my psyche’s fear of winter, but there’s something unsettling about autumn. It means change is a foot! 

If you experience similar feelings of discomfort– whether it’s because your schedule has changed with this new season or because you just feel the new weather patterns in your bones– I invite you this week to pay attention to your body. Listen to it. What is it saying to you? Is your stomach in knots? Are you breathing faster? Are you feeling snippy with others and short on patience? Do you have the urge to hide under the covers and sleep for hours? 

If so, I encourage you to think about what you would do for someone else if you noticed them having these same problems. Would you give them a hug? Bring them a cup of tea or take them out for a beer? Send them a note of encouragement in the mail? Whatever it is that you might do for someone else in this situation, I invite you to do that very thing for yourself. Ask someone for a hug. Invite a friend to have a cup of tea with you. Write yourself an encouraging note and then be silly and send it to yourself in the mail (so that you forget about it for a couple of days and have a surprise waiting in the mail.) 

When life feels topsy turvy, this is an important time to be gentle and compassionate with yourself. It’s a time to invite God’s comfort to surround you and uphold you. The 23rd Psalm reminds us of this. It says:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me … Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 

~Psalm 23:1-4,6

May you find God’s goodness and love following your every step this week,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 8/26/22

Good Day to you, Church!

It seems that summer is still hanging on here at the end of August. Are you enjoying these warm sunny days, amidst the downpours? I certainly am. I’m back from vacation this week and so glad to find that I don’t have to pull out long sleeves and pants quite yet. 

As for church news– after the summer lull, things are beginning to pick back up in September! Check out the latest—

No Bible Study This Saturday, Aug. 27th

Our weekly Bible study will not be meeting this week, as both Ivette and Diamante are away. We will pick back up with the book of Phillipians next Saturday, September 3rd at 6:30pm.

Dale Hobson to Preach this Sunday

Please come out and support our very own “preacher Dale,” as he takes the pulpit this Sunday. While I am back to work this week, I am extra busy putting our grant application together for the Rock Charitable Grant, and am grateful to not also have to prepare a sermon as well. Thank you Dale!  

Free Concert Friday, Sept. 2nd, Sponsored by the Orchestra of Northern NY

Friday, September 2nd at 7pm, you are invited to attend a concert of popular classical music by a string quartet right in our sanctuary! Ken Andrews, Liesl Schoenberger Doty, Scott Woolweaver, and Karen Kaderavek will be providing an evening of beautiful music for all of Potsdam to enjoy. (See the attached flyer below.)

Potsdam Interfaith Community Picnic, Thursday, Sept. 15th

The annual Fall Interfaith Picnic, sponsored by PIC, will be held Thursday, Sept. 15th at 5:30pm at Sandstone Park, 43 Pine St. in Potsdam. Pizza and grilled meat (both halal and kosher) will be served. Attendees are encouraged to bring a vegetarian dish to share. The picnic will also include games and activities for all ages. 

PIC is composed of more than 10 religious communities in the Potsdam areas and sponsors this picnic every year to welcome new people to the area. Our church is a big part of PIC and your presence will support the interfaith work that we engage in. 

All-Church Potluck Set for Sunday, Sept. 18th

After 2 1/2 years of avoiding eating together because of Covid, I am delighted to announce that we will be fellowshipping together as a church family over food once again! Bring a dish to pass on Sunday the 18th following the worship service, and we will revel in the joy of sharing a meal. 

*If you plan to come, we do need volunteers to stay after and help clean up. If you’re willing to jump in and wash a few dishes, please let me know! 

Rock Charitable Grant

Dave Wells and I have been busy crafting our church’s application for the Rock Grant, which gives away $100,000 each year to churches, cemeteries, and veteran organizations in St. Lawrence County. We are seeking funds to repair leaking spots in the sanctuary roof, repair slate tiles on the turrets, replace soffitting and molding, construct a heavy-duty gutter system to divert water away from the bell tower doors, and replace the failing bell tower doors. Our application is due on 9/2, and the awardees will be announced at the end of 2022. 

This, I Believe

Last week on vacation, I spent time visiting with a dear friend of mine from seminary. My friend Brae is pastor of the UCC Church in Worcester, MA, and while I was visiting her there, we spent hours catching up on our lives. We talked about family, friends, church, and of course, our own personal faith. In our conversations, we took stock of how much we’ve grown in our faith since we started seminary and we laughed at how different we are now, from the people we once were. 

While we were chatting, Brae recalled that every year in seminary we were required to write a personal credo. These personal faith statements were meant to keep us aware of our own personal faith journeys– to wrestle with what we really believed and to reflect upon the people we were growing into. Brae noted that as people of faith, God is always calling us into deeper relationship, and the growth we encounter as we live more deeply aligned with God impacts how we see the world and what we believe about God. 

As Presbyterians, we say that God is always reforming us, and so today I wonder what “reforms” God has brought you to. Do you ever stop to think about what you believe? Or don’t believe? Maybe your faith is the same as it was 20 years ago, but if you’re engaged in growth, it’s probably going to look differently.  

If you have any interest in this spiritual practice, I invite you to take some time and write out a personal credo. Keep it short–no more than a page. And use your own words. It doesn’t have to sound “professional”. Who is Jesus to you today? What does it mean that God is Creator? Who is the Holy Spirit? What does grace mean? What do you believe about heaven and hell? Why might social justice be important (or not) to your faith? What does it mean to walk with God? Where do you see God? What does salvation mean? What is forgiveness? What is love? What exactly do you believe? 

There’s no right or wrong answer to any of these questions– if we’re being honest, that is. Faith is something that we share together in community, but each of us understands it in our own way. It’s taken me a long time to come to this, but believe that since God has created us all as distinct conscious beings, I don’t think our unity must be dependent upon uniformity. So I wonder what you think in your own thoughts. 

One thing I love about our Presbyterian faith is that we proclaim that “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” This means that at the end of the day, what you believe in your heart sits between you and God. Your conscience and your faithfulness belong to God first, even while we hold our faith together communally. 

So, here it is: If you were going to tell God about what you believe to be true in the world, what would you say? 

Wondering about Faith,
Pastor Katrina

p.s. If we all wrote down our credos, would we have the courage to discuss them together some day? 

News for the Church, 8/12/22

Good Afternoon, Church!

Well, we made it through this week’s heat spell and have returned to pleasant August temps. How did you hold up in the heat? I was so grateful to have the opportunity to go swimming a couple of times. It’s not often that you can sink into a North Country river without gasping from the shock of cold, so I relished dunking down into the tepid temps!

The news this week will be short and sweet.

Monica Sandreczki to Preach 8/21

I’m headed out on vacation on Monday, and I’m very excited that Monica will be stepping into the pulpit with her very first sermon on Sunday, the 21st. Come support her as she preaches a word from the Word! 

Ukrainian Benefit Concert August 21st at 3pm

Two weeks from now, our very own Keilor Kastella will be joining another Crane professor, Christine Hoerning, to offer a music concern at our church to support Ukraine. They will offer selections for clarinet and piano, with all donations going to the Atlantic Ukrainian Association. The concert begins at 3 pm. Come enjoy some beautiful music and lend your support of a country in need!

All-Church Potluck Set for Sunday, Sept. 18th

I’m excited to announce that we’re going to give eating together (for the first time in 2.5 years!) a try. Bring a dish to pass on 9/18 and we will break bread together after the Sunday service ends.

To make the potluck work, we need a couple of people to step up and volunteer to help with set up and clean up. This will likely require your presence 30 minutes before the service starts and about an hour at the end. Work includes helping set out plates and utensils and then washing dishes and wiping down tables at the end. If you’re not someone who usually helps with this sort of thing, would you consider giving it a try? It would be a lovely gift to the whole church! Just email me back if you’re willing to be on the team.

Life and Death Perspective

I don’t often talk about my family, but will you be praying for us right now? My stepdad, John Tate, contracted spinal tuberculosis 4 years ago and has been in agonizing pain ever since, as a result of lesions on his spine. This week he will enter hospice care. It comes as a huge relief in some ways but is grievous in others. 

The last few days I’ve been in constant contact with my mom and stepdad, and I’ve realized how important it is to express to him (while he’s still cognizant enough to follow along in conversation) what he has meant to me for the 30 years that he’s been in my life. Melding two families together in a second marriage was not easy– especially with 4 teenagers in the house– but we muddled through it. And now, all these years later, I see the impact he has had on my life. 

Friends, we don’t often spend time thinking about what people mean to us until they’re no longer with us, and so we don’t get a chance to communicate that to them. My invitation to you this week is to become aware of how the people around you impact your life and let them know! Convey to them why they are important. Do you appreciate how dependable they are? Do you love that they make you laugh? Are they good listeners? It’s a very special gift to give someone you love recognition for what they mean in your life. It may very well be the most important gift you ever give them! 

My stepdad taught me some very valuable lessons about grace and I’m going to make sure to tell him this week. Join me in this adventure, will you?

Tenderly,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 8/5/22

Good Day to you, Church, 

August has arrived! If you have a garden, are your zucchini and summer squash beginning to pile up? A neighbor of mine jokingly mentioned that if we don’t want to find surprises left in our cars, we’d better make sure to lock them for the next month or so. She’s got more zukes this year than she knows what to do with, and she loves to leave “presents” for people in their cars, where they least expect to find a giant zucchini waiting for them! 

Here’s the news for the week: 

Bible Study, Saturday Evenings

Last Saturday we started our new weekly Bible Study, which meets at Ivette Herryman-Rodriguez’ house in Potsdam. (8 Hillcrest Dr.) Last week, four of us gathered to sing, visit, pray, and begin exploring the book of Philippians together. We had a wonderful time! If you’d like to join in some week, please feel free. We’re meeting from 6:30-8:30pm each Saturday night. 

Sermon on a Bible Passage about Homosexuality this Sunday 

This Sunday I will be preaching on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, a passage often used to disparage gay men. This passage is not as straightforward as the English translation suggests, and we will explore what Paul might be saying in the Greek. Because explicit sexual content will be addressed, this sermon may not be appropriate for all young listeners. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. 

Pastor Katrina Away 

The last two Sundays in August I will be away. I am going to visit a friend in Boston! While I’m gone, I am thrilled to announce that Monica Sandreczki will be preaching August 21st– her first sermon ever! And August 28th, Dale Hobson will be filling the pulpit. It is a beautiful gift when people in the congregation are mature enough in their faith, and brave enough in their spirits, to lend their hand at crafting a sermon and delivering a word to the people. Please be praying for Monica and Dale, and come out to support them at the end of August. 

Gordon Batson has Moved to Assisted Living in Syracuse

As some of you know, Gordon and Cathy Batson have both been in ailing health for some time, and as of this last week, some major changes have occurred in their lives. Their son Andrew had been living with them for a number of years, but recently took a new job down in Syracuse. Because of their health issues, it was determined that it was not safe for them to remain in their home alone, so Gordon has moved into an assisted living facility in Syracuse near his son. At the moment, Cathy is still convalescing in rehab in Ogdensburg, but they are both hoping that she can join Gordon soon. If you have a minute to send Gordon a note of encouragement in this abrupt and challenging transition, I’m sure he would appreciate it.

Gordon Batson
The Hearth on James
830 James St. Apt 224
Syracuse, NY 13203

Caring for our Bodies

Friends, a number of us are struggling with our physical and mental health right now. If this is you, I hope that you will give yourself permission to be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to not be ok, and when we aren’t okay, it’s important that we do what we can to honor our needs. 

For some of us, it’s hard to say “no” to social engagements, even if we don’t have the energy for it. When your habit energy tells you to commit to things you’re just not able to do, I hope that you will be as gracious with yourself as God is with each of us. It’s ok to need a little extra love for yourself sometimes. It’s ok to say ‘no.’ 

Dear Ones, what do you need today to find wholeness? What would bring healing into your life? We spend a lot of our spiritual energy seeking to meet the needs of others, but it’s important to remember that you count too! In God’s eyes, you are just as important as the people you seek to bring comfort and care to. 

In his first letter to the Corinthians, who were struggling with caring for their bodies in the manner that God calls us to, Paul offers these words:

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

~1 Cor. 6:19-20

The context of the Corinthians’ struggles was different than it is for most of it today, but Paul’s exhortation still speaks. Our bodies are precious to God, and so we are to treat them as such. 

What might glorifying God in your body look like today? 

Praying for your health and your wellbeing,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 7/29/22

Good Day to you, Church,

What an absolutely lovely day it is outside today. Warm and slightly breezy, after a good soaking rain yesterday. You can almost see the plants smiling from their lush drink. 

Here’s the news for this week: 

New Bible Study on Phillipians to Begin TONIGHT! 

For those interested in digging into the word and sharing life together, we will be singing, opening the book of Phillipians, discussing, and praying at 6:30pm at Ivette Herryman-Rodriguez’ house at 8 Hillcrest Drive in Potsdam every Saturday night starting this week. If you have questions, please feel free to contact Diamante Maya at (213) 880-4642.

This is the sort of Bible study where you can come once in a while and not feel left out when you show up, so feel free to drop in from time to time. 

Coffee Hour Hosting

Both this coming Sunday (7/31) and next week we do not have coffee hour hosts. If you’ve got extra cookies in your cupboard that you’d be willing to share and want to learn how to make a pot of coffee, this is your chance to host! 

Anyone Want to Cantor?

We’ve got room for someone to come up and lead our singing during worship through the end of August. If you’ve always wanted a chance to sing in public, this is your opportunity! Just email me and let me know. (Cantors typically come in at 9:30 to practice the hymns with the pianist, so they know what they’re doing.) 

Community Suppers

Yesterday afternoon I walked into the church and heard peels of laughter coming from the kitchen. Then I took a sniff of the delicious wafting scent of chili in the air and I knew who it was! Our Community Supper workers were at it again– making chili, cabbage salad, corn muffins, and brownies for nearly 60 people for our monthly Community Supper meals. This is them looking cute for the camera. (Ling Zhang was there too.) I know it sounds crazy, but you’ve never helped out with an event like this before, you wouldn’t know what fun it can be.

If you find yourself lonely and wishing for more connection in your life, this is an easy way to increase the abundance of joy in your life. Next month’s supper will be held on September 23rd at the Episcopal Church (we take turns back and forth). Email Sharon Pickard if you think you’d like to give it a try!

A Note from Linus

One of the high school students we support in Kenya, Linus Kukathe, wrote a note to Joanina telling her about school. I thought you might like to hear what he wrote: 

“Hi Joanina, how are you? Is my hope that you are carrying on well under God’s protection. I Linus, I am fine by God’s grace. Morever, my heart Is covered with a cloud of happiness due to the support that I get through you. l take this opportunity to thank you for it. Surely you made my life very bright. If not for you, Dave and the church l could have faced a lot of challenges in my academics but via your efforts I take my learning smoothly. For now, surely I have no doubt to prosper in my life. All my dreams will come to reality by God’s favor. l am trying my best to achieve my goals. In my academics, I’m working hard to make my life prosperous. We did our end of term exam of which I tried my best, although I did not achieve my target which is a A plain. Although I expect to achieve it because I have understood the exam language and my weaknesses. After the exam, here are the results I managed to score” 

(Remember that Linus is writing in English– a second, or perhaps 3rd language, and typing on a computer, no less!) Way to go Linus!!

Please be praying for Linus, Annicy, and David– our three students! 

Applying for the Rock Charitable Grant

On our marks, get set, go! In the next five weeks, Dave Wells and I will be working on compiling our church’s application for grant money given out by the Rock Charitable Grant to churches in St. Lawrence County for the upkeep of their buildings. If you’ve noticed, we’ve got roof tiles missing on the north side of the sanctuary as well as on the turrets, and we’re hoping to garner the $26,000 needed to fix them. 

We think the latest holes emerged in the sanctuary roof in the big wind storms we had earlier this summer, and one of them leaked rain into the sanctuary yesterday in the big thunderstorm we had. (If you see a bucket in the sanctuary on Sunday, that’s why!) 

Keep your fingers crossed for us! Our application is due September 2nd, and the grant winners will be announced at the end of December. 

Upcoming Sermon on a Bible Passage about Homosexuality 

For those who might want to attend, Sunday August 7th I will be preaching on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, a passage often used to slander gay men. This passage is not as straightforward as the English translation suggests, and we will explore what Paul might be saying, as well as what he is not saying. 

Prayers for Vernice Church

I spoke with Vernice this week and learned that her doctors have found cancer in her colon once again. Will you be praying for her? She’s living in the limbo period right now of not knowing anything more than that it’s “there.” Hopefully the doctors will have more definitive news soon, but in the meantime she waits. 

If you’d like to send her a note of encouragement, email me and I’ll pass along her mailing address. 

What Do You Do for Joy and Rest?

Friends, this is the time of year to kick back a little and have some fun. When was the last time you laughed– I mean, really laughedWhen was the last time you let yourself rest– I mean really rest? When was the last time you had some fun? It’s sort of breath-taking to realize that the opening story in our Bibles– the story of creation– is built around the idea of rest; of working for a time and then taking it easy. It’s something that God does for himself, and asks regularly of us too! We were not built to be serious workers all the time. We were designed to enjoy play time! And down time! And good times! 

Psalm 98:4 tells us, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” 

So I’m curious to know– what does joyful noise sound like at your house? What does “taking it easy” look like for you? What does enjoying the art of being alive mean to you? Email me some pictures and send me your stories! I’d love to hear.

As Linus says, “May your heart be covered with a cloud of happiness,” 
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 7/8/22

Good Afternoon to you, Church!

It’s a beautiful summer day today– light, warm, slightly breezy, and clear as a bell. If that isn’t enough to make your heart sing, there are the song birds to enjoy right now too. I was listening to the veeries this morning with their liquid silver flutes for a song. Magnificient. I hope that you are enjoying summer as much as I am!

Here’s the news for the week: 

Coffee Hour on Sundays

Well, we’ve kicked coffee hour off to a good start. This last week a number of us shared life over Oreo cookies, coffee, and tea in the Community Center, and I dare say we had a good time doing it. Sharon and Bob Pickard hosted last Sunday, but we will need all of us to join in to keep it going. Thankfully, this last week a number of you stepped out of their comfort zone to sign up to host in the coming weeks (including some of our newer folks). Huzzah! All it takes is stopping at the grocery store to buy a couple boxes of cookies, crackers, or veggies, making coffee sometime before 11:15am, and washing a few cups afterwards. 

If you’d like to volunteer, and haven’t already done so, the sign up sheet is hanging on the bulletin board in the hallway leading towards the Center. Or, you can just email me and I’ll add your name to the list. Right now we have holes for 7/10 (this Sunday), 7/24, 8/4, and 8/21. If we don’t get folks to take those weeks, it’s ok. It’s perfectly fine if some weeks we have coffee hour and other weeks we don’t! (Also, if you’re single and don’t want to take this on alone, we can find a partner to make it easier.) 

Eric Carlson to Cantor

As they do every summer, the Lunts have gone to Maine, and we were about to be without a cantor to help lead our singing on Sundays. But one of our college students rose to the occasion and said he’d take it on. A big thanks to Eric Carlson for offering to sing! 

New Bible Study Coming!

If that isn’t enough good news of people stepping in to be the church, there’s more! This week Diamante Maya emailed me with an exciting idea. Since moving here from Texas and becoming part of our congregation, she misses having Bible study in her life– something she facilitated for many years previously. As a way to both fill this hole in our church’s spiritual life and to help foster deeper relationships in our congregation, she is offering a weekly Bible study with Ivette’s help, at Ivette’s house on Saturday night from 6:30pm-8pm. While the main focus of this time will be on digging into the Word, Diamante also suggested that if people are interested, one Saturday a month we could play games or attend an event in town together for some fun. (Perhaps when Covid settles down again, we could think about eating a meal together that week?) 

Diamante facilitates a type of Bible study called inductive bible study, where we pick a passage and let the passage speak to each person through the help of the Holy Spirit. This means that you can come once in a while and not be left hanging in the wind the weeks you don’t attend. At the start of each week Ivette will play the piano for us to have a chance to sing(!), and at the end we will have a time of prayer. 

To get things started, we will crack open the book of Phillipians– a short, joy-filled letter written by Paul packed with words of encouragement and an uplifting message. 

The study will start July 30th at 6:30pm at Ivette Herryman-Rodriguez’ house at 8 Hillcrest Drive in Potsdam. If you’re interested or if you have questions, please feel free to contact Diamante at 213-880-4642.

George Davis Memorial Service, Friday July 15th

If somehow you hadn’t yet heard the news, a memorial service for George Davis will be held Friday, July 15th at 3pm with a catered dinner reception following in the reception. George died a year and a half ago during the worst of Covid, and we’ve been waiting to celebrate and remember him until a safer time when all of his children could be present. If you knew or appreciated the many gifts that George brought to our church, to Clarkson, or to Potsdam, you are welcome to come. 

Congrats to Liv Gonia– Malone’s New Elementary Art Teacher!

If you haven’t met her yet, you’ll want to. Liv Gonia just became the newest art teacher in the North Country. After graduating from SUNY Potsdam in May, Liv accepted the job as Malone’s elementary art teacher. She and her partner Quinn Stevenson live in Potsdam and have been coming to church for a few months now (and bravely signed up to host coffee hour next month!). Congratulations Liv on your new job! May God bless you as you bring the joy of art to children.

Being the Church

Friends, if there’s one important lesson I hope that we’ve started to learn throughout Covid, it’s that the church is not a building. A church is the people! And we get out of it what we put into it collectively. One thing I love about our church is that when people see a need, or when they have a passion for something, they offer themselves, and the church comes to life! This last winter Monica desired to have more spiritual connection with people and started a book group. The Lunts and the Tisdales knew that we needed singing leaders during Covid and stepped in to help. Brian and Bob see that the lawn needs mowing and they come with their lawn mowers. Dale is good with IT and takes care of our website. Sharon desired to resurrect community suppers, and we’re doing that now. Renee loves running the food pantry and brought that to life. Cynthia is good with numbers and has been our faithful treasurer for many years (and Dave and Roberta are helping now as assistants). Jane loves to knit and started a knitting group. Bob cares deeply about the earth and organized our Invasive Species Awareness events. Beth Grace loves rummage sales and has organized and directed them faithfully for a long time. 

I don’t know what your passion is, or what needs you see that require tending to in our wee kirk, but there’s room for you to share yourself– your time, your talents, your hair-brained ministry ideas, and your faith. All you have to do is speak up! 

As the Apostle Paul notes in 1 Corinthians, the body of Christ is made up of all of us playing our own special role. He said this:

“For just as the body is one and has many members… so it is with Christ…. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And… the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” ….If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

~1 Cor. 12:12-26, excerpts

You matter here. What you bring to the table counts! Thank you for participating in this body of Christ in the world. We would not be who we are without you!

With tender thanks for Us, a special body of Christ in the world,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church 7/1/22

Hello Church,

A warm, sunny summer day to you! I’ve been back from my family reunion for a few days now after having had a wonderful time seeing my aunts, uncles, cousins, and all of their kids. There were 47 of us who gathered at my aunt and uncle’s camp on a lake in New Hampshire to swim, fish, kayak, lounge, laugh, eat, and visit. That’s a lot of family(!) and I was absolutely tuckered out by the time we got home. 

 Here’s the news for the week: 

Difficult Conversations Lab

For those taking this class, this is a reminder that we won’t be meeting again until Wednesday, July 13th at 3:30pm.

Memorial Service for George Davis

The memorial service for George Davis will be Friday, July 15th at the church at 3pm. A catered reception is to follow and you are welcome to attend. 

If you were at church on Sunday, you will have heard Sue Water’s announcement that there will be wine served at this reception. George’s son Rick owns a vineyard in California and asked if we would allow his wine to be served at the dinner. For many years the church has prohibited alcohol on the premises but Session felt that this particular occasion merited its presence. I wanted to make sure you know about this beforehand however, so that you wouldn’t be surprised to be offered a glass of wine if you come to dinner. 

Community Suppers

Sharon Pickard has let us know that the monthly community supper we’ve been offering in conjunction with the Episcopal Church is picking up steam! Last week they had over 40 take-out dinners served! July’s supper will take place on the 28th, and will be offered at our church. If you’d be willing to help out with making food, please contact Sharon. 

Special Offering for Buffalo

I wanted to let you know that last Sunday we collected $533 to send to Mt. Olive Baptist Church, a sister church in Buffalo doing important community service work, following the racially-motivated mass shooting there. Thank you for your generosity! 

Supporting Students in Kenya

In a few weeks I will be reaching out to you once again concerning another special offering. It’s nearing the time for us to send our church’s donation to help make education possible for a handful of selected students in Kenya who show promise in school but don’t have the financial means necessary to attend. Will you be praying about what you might be able to give? Gifting children education is an effective way of pulling an entire family, for generations, out of poverty. 

Many Hands Make For Light Work

This last Sunday we resurrected coffee hour, and I hope you enjoyed yourselves! Having time to share together after the service is an important part of the worship experience because it allows us to be relational with one another. In the past, coffee hour has been an elaborate affair, and perhaps you have shied away from volunteering because it seemed too daunting a task. Because of this, in the past, a handful of people took on the majority of the work of putting on coffee hour. But those folks simply don’t have the energy to “be in charge” any longer. 

Being a smaller congregation now, and as we start over again with many of our traditions following the pandemic, we get to redefine what coffee hour is. Moving forward, we get to decide how important coffee hour is to us. Is standing around with a cup of coffee and a cookie in our hands something we want to hold onto? The next few months will be an experiment for us. Coming out of Covid, we don’t have to abide by the old rules that say, “Well, we have to do it this way because it’s how we’ve always done things.” We get a fresh start to figure out what’s important and how much energy we’re willing to spend. 

It may be that after a month or so, we realize that no one actually has the energy to bring cookies and brew coffee, and that standing around in the sanctuary after the service to chat and visit works well enough for us. We may also find that we love being able to visit afterwards with that coffee mug in hand. If it is something that we love, more of us are going to need to volunteer to help host it– to bring cookies, learn how to brew a pot of coffee, and be willing to do a few dishes afterwards. Is this something you’d be willing to do? Will you think about it? And will you pay attention to what you think of coffee hour in general? 

If it’s not valuable enough to us in this present moment, it’s ok to let it go. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that this isn’t the time for it, and allowing ourselves to be at peace with that decision. 

In the fall I hope to have a “check-in” Sunday one week after worship. I’d like for us to talk together as a group about how we feel that church is going and check in about our financial situation. I’d like for us to discuss what we think is going well with our church, what we’d like to focus our energy on, and continue to talk about what’s important to us as a congregation. 

The State of our Nation

Friends, this week more big decisions have been handed down to us from the Supreme Court. In the last 8 days we’ve had major decisions made about religion in public spaces, abortion, gun rights, and most recently about the EPA’s ability to regulate large companies and the pollution they produce. Perhaps some of us are feeling huge relief at these decisions, but I’d hazard a guess that many of us are feeling scared, lost, angry, and/or worried about the state of our nation and its effects on the world. 

Today I want to remind you that whatever your emotions may be, they’re not “wrong.” Our emotions are part of who we are, and they express what’s deepest inside of us. If you’re really struggling this week, I encourage you to do a couple of things. First, sit down and pray– not a “you need to fix this right now, God!” sort of prayer. (At least not to start.) Instead, I encourage you to follow in the footsteps of the psalmists and become a lamenter. Figure out what you’re feeling and share that with God. Are you angry? Offer that. Are you afraid? Feeling hopeless? Powerless? Lay out for yourself and for God what’s rumbling around on your insides. That’s the first step. But there’s more to it as well. Can you sit with God long enough to figure out why you’re feeling the way that you do? What is prompting these feelings? What’s underneath them? Are you angry because you feel betrayed? Are you feeling powerless because someone else is making a decision for you that you don’t agree with and you don’t know what to do next? Whatever that slimy thing is at the bottom of your pot– the IT stirring up your emotions– what would it mean to offer that slimy IT to God? 

Bottling up our emotions on the inside and doing our best to ignore them has never been an effective way of facing troubles. Bottling up our emotions causes paralysis, which is neither healthy nor helpful. Instead, it robs us of our ability to find peace within ourselves and makes it impossible to work towards effective change. 

I don’t have any helpful answers on “what the world needs now,” but I do know that if we can sit quietly enough– for long enough– with God, with each other, and with ourselves, perhaps God will reveal the next step forward in this life we share together on earth and make peace possible for us in whatever shape we need that to be in this moment. 

 Isaiah reminded his people, who were chin deep in serious peril, this truth from God. I think it fits for us today as well:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 

Hold onto God, dear Hearts. Keep holding onto God. 

Sitting with God,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 6/25/22

Good Day to you Church,

Well, today is a big day in the Hebb house.  My son Henry is graduating from high school today and then we’re packing the car and heading to our family reunion in New Hampshire for a long weekend!  My mama’s heart is overflowing with joy, but also with some twinges of sadness for the end of an era.  I’m about to become an “empty nester,” as they say.

For these reasons, I’m going to keep this email short.

Here’s the news for this week:

Coffee Hour This Sunday at Church

Drum roll please…… I am elated to announce that beginning this Sunday we will be returning to regular coffee hour in the Center. 

Session met this week, and as we do every month, we looked at Covid in our county. This last week SLC has been oscillating back and forth between “moderate” and “low” levels. Consequently, Session decided that it’s time to bring back coffee hour– obviously without masks so that we can enjoy drinking coffee and eating cookies.

That said, we will continue to require masks during worship on Sundays (for at least until our next check in next month). Session feels that worship needs to be accessible to everyone in our congregation without fear of contracting Covid (including people who are immuno-compromised)– especially since we are singing hymns. When levels are consistently low, we will be able to make masks optional. This is a way that we can love and support our people who struggle with health issues.

Special Offering for Buffalo

This Sunday we will be taking a special offering at church to support the grieving Black community in Buffalo, following the racially-motivated mass shooting at the Tops Market there. Whatever we collect for this offering will be sent to the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Buffalo, a Black church that does extensive community outreach.

Marty Weitz to Preach

Also, Rev. Marty Weitz will be preaching and leading worship this Sunday.

Celebrating Ivette Herryman-Rodriguez’ Music

A few weeks ago Ivette received one of the highest honors you can receive as a music composer. The renowned music director Gustavo Dudamel, who conducts the LA Philharmonic, the Paris Philharmonic, and the philharmonic in Argentina, selected one of Ivette’s pieces to be played at the Walt Disney Concert Hall by the youth orchestra, and it will be played there again by the philharmonic in the coming weeks! Her piece is called “A Danzon Done My Way” and is a take on a danzon from her native Cuba. 

I’ve included an article from Crane about the event and another link that allows you to listen to the piece. I hope you enjoy listening!  

Listen to Ivette’s piece here:
http://ivetteherryman.com/a-danzon-done-my-way/

Read more about it here:
https://www.potsdam.edu/news/IvetteHerrymanRodriguez

Friends, I could use some of your prayers this weekend with my family. One of my aunts has been fighting cancer, and it’s looking like this might be our last family celebration with her. Additionally, my mother will not be joining us because she is recovering from cancer surgery herself. This is going to be a weekend of both joy and sorrow for us.

I know that I am not the only one facing grief, struggle, and sorrow this week.  May God hold all of us in tender care, as we live out the tension of life’s joys and sorrows.

In this light, I will leave you with a few lines from last week’s Psalm, Psalm 42-43:

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep
    at the thunder of your torrents;
all your waves and your billows
    have gone over me.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life….

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise him,
    my help and my God.

If your soul is cast down this week, may you find hope and help in God,
Pastor Katrina

News for the Church, 6/16/22

Good Day to you Church,

It’s shaping up to be a hot one today. For saying we’ve been having such cool and rainy weather the last couple of weeks, it looks like summer is now upon us! A few days of this and the river will be warm enough for swimming! 

Here’s the news for the week: 

The Rummage Sale is On! 

Friends, the rummage sale is shaping up to be a success, but we still need help with set up and clean up. If you have an hour or two in the next couple of days to help out, it would be much appreciated. Just drop in and ask Beth Grace what you can do to help out. She’ll put you to work! 

And don’t forget to tell your friends about the sale itself. We’ve got a lot of items to sell, but now we need people to come and buy them! 

Rummage Sale:

Saturday, 8:30am-3:30pm

Sunday, 12pm-3pm– WHATEVER ISN’T SOLD ON SATURDAY WILL BE FREE FOR THE TAKING ON SUNDAY!!!! 

Juneteenth Celebration!

This Saturday is shaping up to be a busy day. After the rummage sale is over, make your way over for one of the best community events in Potsdam at Ives Park! The whole town will be celebrating Juneteenth from 4pm-9pm, with free food, singing and dancing, storytelling, a fashion show, merch and craft tables, and more! Bring a picnic blanket or a lawn chair for the festivities. 

Marty Weitz to Preach, June 26th

Marty will be preaching and leading worship next Sunday, the 26th. After pastoring churches in the Caribbean, Oman, India, and Scotland, Rev. Weitz is now back in the North Country for retirement. He’s a dynamic preacher and you’ll enjoy this Sunday with him. 

Special Offering June 26th

As a way of acknowledging the racism involved in the tragic mass shooting in Buffalo last month, we will be collecting a special offering to support the work and mission of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Buffalo, NY as they work to support the grief stricken, carve out economic improvements in their city, and work for racial reconciliation. Please pray about what God might be asking you to give. 

Invasive Species Awareness

A big shout out of thanks to all who came and participated in our invasive species awareness events last week. We learned a lot and had fun doing it! 

Also: Renee is still missing some of her books that were on display. If you took them home to read, please just let her know that you have them. 

Rock Charitable Grant

Have you noticed that the turrets on the front of the sanctuary are missing roofing tiles? Dave Wells will be collecting estimates on the work in the next few weeks, for us to be able to write up our application for the Rock Charitable Grant, which offers $100,000 every year to churches and cemeteries for the upkeep of their buildings and land, and for veterans organizations. We’re hoping we have a chance of being selected this year! (Grantees will be named on 12/31/2022.) 

Prayers for Julie Miller

We offer up prayers for Julie Miller, who is undergoing surgery today for her 3rd port for chemo. If you’d like to send her a card in the mail, email me and I’ll send along her address. 

National Gun Violence in Perspective

Friends, I’m still thinking about gun violence in America. Are you? This morning, the New York Times posted an article that helps shine a light on an ignored and overlooked issue around gun violence in America– something white, middle-class Americans are often uncomfortable with acknowledging or addressing because of how it focuses on our systemic racism. If we’re serious about loving Jesus and following his Way, this is something we need to start addressing in ourselves as a culture and as a society.

Here are excerpts from the article entitled Highly Concentrated, by German Lopez in today’s NYT’s. I’m including them to get us thinking and talking together.

“Thirty-five people were killed in mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and Tulsa over the past few weeks, focusing national attention on America’s unique gun problem.

In that same time, around 1,800 people were killed and almost 500 wounded in nearly 1,600 other shootings in the U.S…. 

Mass shootings account for less than 4 percent of gun homicides in a typical year, and most gun violence in the U.S. takes a different form. So I went to Chicago, where shootings are a daily occurrence in some areas, to see what more-typical gun violence looks like.

There, I met 24-year-old Jomarria Vaughn. After spending time in jail on domestic violence and weapon charges, he has tried to rebuild his life. But his past haunts him.

The last time he was on Facebook, he found out his best friend had been shot to death. He now tries to stay off the site, out of fear that posting the wrong thing could anger the wrong people — and make him a target.

In his neighborhood, he tries to avoid spending too much time “out on the block,” he said. Even if he is not a target, violence is so common there that Vaughn worries he could be hit by a stray bullet.

“I’m scared,” Vaughn told me. “I have my guard up all day.”

This is what daily life looks like for many Black Chicagoans. Across the city, the murder rate for Black people is higher than it was from the 1980s through the 1990s — a violent period that drove a nationwide push for mass incarceration. Black Chicagoans are nearly 40 times more likely to be shot to death than their white peers, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

….Similar disparities exist across America. Black and brown neighborhoods suffer higher rates of poverty, and violence concentrates around poverty. The violence is so intensive that a few neighborhoods, blocks or people often drive most of the shootings and murders in a city or county. And this is true in both urban and rural areas, said Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at Princeton.

The disparities have held up as murders have spiked across the country since 2020. So while the numbers are typically reported through a national lens, the reality on the ground is that a small slice of the population — disproportionately poor, Black and brown — suffers the most from it.

The concentration of violence has another effect: It pushes violence out of sight for most people.

In Chicago, 51 people were shot in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend — a five-year high. Almost all of the victims were on the city’s South and West Sides, which are mostly Black and brown.

Only when violence hits closer to home does it typically grab more people’s attention. That happened nationwide this year after mass shootings in schools and grocery stores, where Americans can imagine themselves or loved ones falling victim. In Chicago, public outrage over a shooting last month that killed a 16-year-old boy downtown — a richer, whiter area — prompted the mayor to impose a curfew for minors.

But that is the kind of violence that poorer, minority communities deal with daily, with little to no public attention. The vast majority of shootings never make national headlines.

Speaking to Black activists and residents in Chicago, I was struck by how they spoke almost dispassionately about the violence around them. They all had stories of dead friends and family members killed in gang shootings, episodes of domestic violence or road rage, or during petty conflicts over women — the shootings sometimes just days or weeks apart. Outside their homes, the sound of gunshots is common.

As I traveled around Chicago, the two worlds were clearly visible. Wealthier parts looked like a modern, rich city — parking meters and payment terminals built for smartphones, bustle around packed businesses, and residents on electric bikes and scooters. Poor areas were marked by disinvestment: homes in disrepair, boarded-up buildings and few to no stores.

What I saw exemplifies a vicious cycle that causes the concentration of violence in an area, experts said. Poverty leads to violence, which leads to disinvestment, which leads to more poverty and violence. Coupled with a police force that fails to solve most murders and shootings, the cycle becomes difficult to break.”

By contrast, other communities have a host of social supports keeping violence at bay, including good jobs, better schools, well-kept parks and recreation centers, and responsive police.

For most Americans, violence is something they may hear about on the news but do not deal with on a regular basis. But for people in the hardest-hit communities, violence is a fact of daily life. Like Vaughn, they come to expect it — and worry that they could be the next victim.”

Friends, as a predominately white, middle class church, it is not our place to solve what has often been referred to as “black-on-black” crime. The actual violence taking place in places like Chicago, Rochester, LA, and Buffalo is for those communities to work on healing. What is our responsibility, however, is to address how our accumulated white affluence has created the circumstances for such violence to take shape in poor Black and Brown communities. 

On average, a white American holds 13 times more wealth than a Black American. That doesn’t happen by chance. And the ripple effects are real. 

Jesus made it clear to his followers that we are to take care of one another– not just through charity, but through justice; through shifting our systems of economic and social engagement with one another. 

The racial and economic injustices that live in our country are easy for us to ignore when we stay in our regular ol’ patterns of community engagement, but what if we stepped out past the comfortable boundary lines we make for ourselves? How can we do this in our current situation? How can we address systemic poverty and racism here in Potsdam, NY? We are not immune to poverty or racism where we live. 

My prayer is that as a church, we might find ways of living deeper into God’s call to follow Jesus– even when it takes us into uncomfortable territory. Because when we do, we find ourselves living in the Kingdom of God. 

God, be with us and lead us, I pray!
Pastor Katrina