Dear friends and family of our First Congregational Church,
Although Halloween is long past, it's still tricky. But now even amid the troubling news, there is hope that is shining brighter than it has in a while.
This year Thanksgiving will be much different than it's been in years gone by. Rather than the usual company around our tables, our celebrations will be considerably more intimate. Yet Thanksgiving still comes, and an attitude of gratitude is perhaps more important this year than it has even been. When things are bleak and we take to doing more griping and grumbling than cheering and celebrating, it's hard to shake the dark cloud around us. But that's precisely when the gratitude list, the active thanks-giving, needs to come in. We have to take stock in what we've got, and rather than shake our heads at what isn't this year, we need to thank our God for the beauty and bounty that is.
As I write this, cell phones have been sounding with warnings to the local residents. The Supervisor has reported that Riverhead's infection rate has been higher than 4% for the last 10 days, and County Executive Steve Ballone has just announced that Riverhead's COVID test positivity rate in Riverhead has averaged 5.6% over the past five days. Most of the churches in the Suffolk Association are only worshiping online, and even Old Steeple in Aquebogue has now closed its doors. We've also been warned that it is likely to get worse before it gets better. So how do we plan; how do we move ahead with as close to best practices as we can?
We'll have service the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We'll celebrate and give thanks. We'll smile and laugh and pray. We'll remember and thank our God for the goodness we have known and the safe journey we've had to date. Then we'll close our doors, celebrate Thanksgiving at home, and take the following Sunday off. I'll still offer church online. If there is another bump after Thanksgiving, we'll learn about it that week, and will plan accordingly. Yet frankly, Christmas is looking to be more of a very abbreviated outdoor service than anything else. The closer we get, the more we'll know.
Yes, things are different this year, and less than wonderful. It all takes, and has taken, some serious adjusting, but we need not surrender everything. There is still goodness to be known, still gratefulness to lift up.
Regardless of whether we're meeting in person or not, Advent is still coming, and we are still planning Advent and Christmas outreach to bring some cheer and hope to others. We're working on "adopting" a family for Christmas as was our tradition in years gone by (something that Deedee Newcomb had started). More information on that is included in this issue.
We're also planning on doing a more intention food drive. The notion is for each family to put together a donation box each week through Advent, and we'll donate the collected goods to the local pantry. (See the article below.)
The hope remains, too, that we'll all stay connected, in spite of any distance or added restraints. And the hope of return to more normal living certainly is shining bright with news of coming vaccines. It all just takes a bit more patience. As is written, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts....and be thankful." Thanks-giving is never out of season.
A Happy, Healthy, and Blessed Thanksgiving to us all.
We've been worshiping on the inside for the last several weeks, but now with the increased infection rates of Covid-19 in our area, worship has returned to online worship only. Our thanks go out to Marc Greene who has been playing the piano for us during the interim. We will keep you informed as plans get set in place for December. Given the current situation and the predictions, we may need to continue refrain from gathering as we move forward.
BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS
Continued thanks go out to Alan and Nancy Repp who have been looking after our gardens and grounds. In spite of the season, the place is still looking good. Irrigation is off, and things have pretty much been put to rest for a long winter's nap.
In this difficult time of very limited interaction, in-person visits are not occurring. However, our phone calls and cards to those in need have continued. For Thanksgiving, we sent out twenty cards, just to let people know they are in our thoughts and prayers as we continue to give thanks for our many blessings.
Please keep in mind those who are unable to join us in the sanctuary for worship, and reach out to them with a phone call or card to let them know they are not forgotten.
For the committee,
The committee members are: Marion Maino, Jane Joerchel, Alice Summerville, and Jim Davis. If at any time a member has a concern, a good comment to share, or if something does not feel right, please contact any member of the committee.
The first day of Sunday School, traditionally Rally Day, was celebrated downstairs in the big room to assure that social distancing was possible. The children and the teachers all wore masks as we began our year of study. To make the day a special one, we began by making a necklace of beads and a cross. The girls did a great job sharing and following directions. We listened to a story about how your reputation follows you, when it's good as well as when it's bad. This will carry over to our learning about Joseph and his reputation for being able to interpret dreams. The children also designed cards for two of our members and will be doing this periodically to coordinate efforts of the visitation committee and the Christian Education Committee. We heard that the cards were warmly received. To end our time together, we shared apple cider and donuts.
The lessons will follow Joseph into Egypt as he learns to trust God and the gifts God has bestowed on him. Jane Kulesa and I are currently the only two teachers we have. We would very much like to have a third teacher. If you are interested, please see Jane or myself. It would involve teaching every third week. A possible solution to the teaching shortage would be to have Sunday School twice a month instead of every week. Please consider joining us and a lively group of children on a path to Christian Education.
Adult Bible Study meets on Friday at 10:00 am in the Fellowship Hall although we are currently on break. The class lasts an hour and is studying Hebrews. All are welcome to attend. For additional information, please contact Pastor Sean.
PRAYER SHAWL MINISTRY
Our prayer shawl crochet group has continued weekly meetings via zoom. Although the size of the group has shrunk because some members have moved away either permanently, or temporarily, they continue to bring to church many lovely prayer shawls ready to be shared by those who need the loving comfort provided by these beautifully crafted pieces. If you know of someone who needs such a reminder that others care for them, please let the Church office know, or help yourself to one as you attend worship service.
During this season of giving, the group has been able to coordinate donations of the shawls to the Peconic Bay Medical Center and Acadia Nursing Home facility for patients who find themselves in care away from home at this time.
We thank our members who contribute their time and talent to create such beautiful gifts, and then graciously and generously donate them. The shawls are appreciated so much by all who receive them.
PUBLIC REALTIONS AND EVANGELISM
Gift Cards for our College Students: A warm and heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed to the gift card collection for our four college students. Thanks to your generosity, each student will receive a $60.00 gift card. The four students who are currently in college are AJ Walker, Matthew La Combe, Kiersten Corwin and Bridie Raustiala. If we have missed anyone, please let us know for next year. Congratulations and best wishes on your college career.
BREAD AND MORE
Bread and More continues serving takeout dinners on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 6:00. We average 40 to 60 guests coming to the door each evening. On Monday, we are providing a takeout dinner for Maureen’s Haven which can be served as needed. There is a dedicated crew of 5-6 people per night, some coming all three nights, so that we remain a contained group. At this point there is no plan to start serving dinner in the fellowship hall. With the change of seasons and weather conditions, adjustments have been made so that the food can be kept hot, while the guests remain outside.
St. Mark’s Catholic Church of Shoreham continues to provide “take-home” peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for guests each Thursday. Beach Bakery in Westhampton and the Riverhead Stop & Shop continue to donate baked goods. Anderson Farm has been providing fruits and vegetables. Windy Acres has provided pies and cider. All of the guests are very appreciative of the meal received.
~ Jane Kulesa
Thanks to so many generous donations we raised $525.00 with our "virtual" quiche luncheon. These are some trying times and we have to be creative and flexible to help the church financially. Perhaps by the fall we will be able to once again come together in fun and fellowship to have this fundraiser the traditional way. This spring, we will do another virtual quiche luncheon. We are so very appreciative of everyone's generosity. God has given this church so many blessings.
As the year 2020 draws to a close (thank goodness!) we look forward to our final special mission offering of the year—The Christmas Fund (formerly known as Veterans of the Cross.) This mission supports retired clergy and church lay workers who may be facing unforeseen financial hardships. These are people who have given of themselves tirelessly throughout their lives to help and support us in times of our need. This year during the pandemic, the assistance is more needed than ever before.
The collection will be taken during the month of December, either in the sanctuary during worship service if we are able to remain open, or by mailing a check to the church office designating the amount to the Christmas fund. I sincerely urge you to give generously as you always have in the past.
We continue to bring in food donations for our local food bank. In addition, during Advent, we will be participating in a “reverse Advent” food offering. There is another article in this issue of Beacon Light with further details spelled out.
Also, our church will be adopting a family in need for Christmas. Please look for further details on this project
~ Janet Sanford, Deacon Co-chair
~ Shirley Bergman, Benevolence Secretary
Thank you to all who have turned in their pledge cards for 2021. This makes completing a responsible 2021 budget possible. If you have not yet filled out your pledge card or have lost it, additional ones are available in back of the sanctuary or in the church office. This prayerful consideration is greatly appreciated. If you have questions or concerns before you pledge, please let a Trustee know. Thank you. ~ Dave Gruner, Stewardship Chair
Thanks continue to go out to all our thrift shop volunteers who have been doing a remarkable job. We are currently on break until the 10th of December. Please hold on to your donations until then.
~Shirley Bergman and Janet Sanfordq
Advent Hunger-Action Calendar
This year, given the hunger that surrounds us, we thought that a more intentional approach to our giving would be most appropriate for our Advent celebrations. Each family is invited to fill bags or a box with items to be donated to our local pantry which Sister Margaret coordinates. Your collection can be brought to church on a weekly basis, during the week or on Sundays (which ever works best for you), or you can wait until Christmas and donate it all then. If you'd rather drop it off at the pantry yourself, you're also welcome to do that. The pantry is located at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, at the end of Fifth Street off of Roanoke; it's in the buildings to the south of the church, at the far door which is painted blue.
Here's the suggested shopping list, but you can substitute as you see fit...
December 1 - box of cereal
December 2 - peanut butter
December 3 - stuffing mix
December 4 - boxed potatoes
December 5 - macaroni and cheese
December 6 (SUNDAY) - canned fruit
December 7 -canned tomatoes
December 8 - canned tuna
December 9 - dessert mix
December 10 - jar of applesauce
December 11 - canned sweet potatoes
December 12 - cranberry sauce
December 13 (SUNDAY) - canned beans
December 14 - box of crackers
December 15 - package of rice
December 16 - package of oatmeal
December 17 - package pasta
December 18 - spaghetti sauce
December 19 - chicken noodle soup
December 20 -(SUNDAY) - tomato soup
December 21 - canned corn
December 22 - canned mixed vegetables
December 23 - canned carrots
December 24 - canned green beans
Happy Advent. And thanks for doing your part to make the world a bit more reasonable for others. Blessings!
First Congregational Church of Riverhead 103 First Street
Riverhead, New York 11901
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