THE BEACON LIGHT
First Congregational Church of Riverhead
An Open and Affirming United Church of Christ
103 First Street Riverhead, New York 11901
Dear friends and family of our First Congregational Church,
When the New Year first began, it was feeling very much like the old year. The virus was still killing thousands daily, Washington politics felt very much the same, and the divisions in our nation continued and seemed to be escalating rather than waning. Then came January 6 and the storming of the Capitol. A bad situation had gotten worse, and it looked like 2020 might just have been a prequel to a continuing horror fresh out of Steven King's machinations.
Now weeks later, it looks like a New Year has truly arrived. Rollouts continue on the vaccination, thousands have been inoculated, all threats of more violence surrounding President Biden's inauguration were thwarted, and progress on various fronts is being made. The conditions of our nation are still far from good, but it does look like we're heading in the right direction. Optimism has returned, at least in partial measure, as more of us are willing to proceed with a hope that shines bright. Hope, of course, was always there, but it was certainly well clouded by negative forces for a while.
Still, I know, we have a far way to go. Partisanship and the many -isms that divide are still with us. Vaccines, particularly here on the East End, are hard to get and have proven to be a source of frustration for many. And although the infection rate in our area have dipped some from two-digit highs, the raw number of daily new infections remains alarming. As reported in Riverhead Local two days ago, "Still, the weekly number of new cases remains higher than it was during the week ending Dec. 25 (8,268) and more than double during Thanksgiving week (4,003), which marked the beginning of the holiday season and the accompanying surge in new coronavirus infections." The call to be highly vigilant against infection remains, and that's accentuated by the discovery of new variants which have been reported to have considerably higher propensities to infect a greater number of people.
The good news is that some of our own have managed to get vaccinated and access to vaccinations is getting a bit easier with better organization. For those 75 year old and older, Suffolk County Health Department is offering an appointment service. If you call 631-854-0373, you can get on a list for Covid vaccines. The County will call you to make an appointment with Northwell. Appointments can, of course, be cancelled or changed. For those 65+, the Gruners report they were able to make an appointment by calling 516-572-0123, option #6. It is also likely that in the coming weeks we will see other avenues opening for those most at risk.
Meanwhile, at church, we remain online. Zoom Worship is offered each Sunday morning at 10:00am and the service is also mailed out for those who don't "Zoom." We also have Zoom Bible Study each Friday morning at 10:00. The account is in my name at a cost of $14.95/month. Donations to help offset that cost would be both welcomed and appreciated.
Without the Thrift Shop, the 12-Step Group donations for use of space, and without loose plate donations, the church's income is less than robust these days. Meanwhile, heating, electric, water, cleaning, snow removal, insurance, extermination fees, and other expenses continue to come our way. Consequently, I have volunteered to take a 10% reduction in my pay to help offset the costs, and we're doing what we can to keep expenses as low as possible. Our thanks to you who continue to give regularly, and if you find yourself in a position to be able to give a bit more, that would certainly help.
In spite of some shortfall for us, our Mission activities continue. Prayer shawls are still being made and offered without cost through the church office. Donations of food and household items are regularly collected and are being distributed through the pantry run by Sister Margaret. Winter clothes are regularly given to our Soup Kitchen guests as that ministry continues three times a week. Additionally, we have plans to collect cans of soup and hunger-action donations for Super Bowl Sunday, February 7. Lenten Banks are also now available for all at the church office. (Our thanks to Jane Joerchel who assembled those.) In many ways, big and small, we continue to give to our community to help alleviate the suffering of those around us. Thanks, one and all, to all who are supporting those outreach programs.
As you'll read, we also have some fellowship happening, all safely online. We have plans for a virtual soup luncheon on Super Bowl Sunday, and have been offering a virtual coffee hour after each Sunday worship service. It would be good to see more of you online with us.
Please call the church office for more information about any of the items I've mentioned. And please read on to find out more of the happenings of late.
May our God continue to watch after you, fuel your strength and generosity, and comfort all anxious hearts.
Blessings your way this day,
Please join us for worship online via zoom each Sunday at 10:00am. Those who have been gathering have been enjoying it. A time of fellowship follows the worship Sunday each week. You're welcome to share the link with friends:
Meeting ID: 853 2941 9439
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Meeting ID: 853 2941 9439
Additionally, worship is emailed to our members and friends and available on our website at:
If you're interested in serving as a reader, please let Pastor or Henza in the church office know.
Also, if you'd ever like to sponsor the flowers for the week, you can also let us know, and as always, they are yours following the service. Arrangements will be made to have them dropped off to you, or you can pick them up.
Our visits have consisted of making phone calls, mailing out cards, and occasional “drive by” deliveries to stay connected with our members. Most of us are experiencing some form of aloneness and isolation, but it is much more difficult for those living alone.
Please consider making that call or writing a quick note to your friend or neighbor who is alone. Offer to do some shopping, or drop off a magazine or special treat they’d enjoy.
Although this is not strictly a “visit,” I recently mailed off one of our prayer shawls to a family member who is presently in a rehab unit (no visitors allowed.) He was so touched by both the shawl and the accompanying card! The shawl is his constant companion, with him day and night.
Maybe you know of someone who would also get comfort from one or our prayer shawls. Please let us know and arrangements can be made.
For the committee,
If at any time a member has a good comment to share, a suggestion, concern, or if something does not feel right, please contact any member of the committee. The committee members are: Marion Maino, Jane Joerchel, Alice Summerville, and Jim Davis.
Due to health concerns and the need to protect each other from the Covid virus, the Sunday School has not met in person. We hope that with increased opportunity to get vaccinated, we may be able to meet sometime in the future. In spite of the lack of in person lessons, we are proceeding on two fronts. Souper Bowl Sunday has always been a time to collect cans of soup to be donated to the local food pantry. You may also help by donating money via cash or check. Souper Bowl Sunday is February 7th, and donations of soup or money can be dropped off at the church office any time before that. A second tradition that we are maintaining is the use of Lenten banks. Ash Wednesday is February 17th. Lenten Banks are available in the church office. While the children will not be able to go grocery shopping with the funds, we will donate the money to our soup kitchen and Sister Margaret's food pantry. You have always made this a successful project and we thank you in advance for your generosity. Adult Bible Study is currently meeting via Zoom. If you'd like to join us, please let Pastor Sean know and he'll send the link. Please keep safe and pray that it will be safe to be together soon.
PRAYER SHAWL MINISTRY
Even through these awful times, the Prayer Shawl Ministry still meets and creates beautiful Prayer Shawls for those who are in need of our prayers.
We have received many wonderful notes and comments from the congregation and recipients of these Shawls. Some people pass them on to others when their prayers have been answered. Some keep the prayer shawl with them at all times to help comfort them.
Since Covid, members of the ministry have brought some to the shawls to Peconic Bay Medical Center and Arcadia Nursing Home. Since the church has been closed for so long, perhaps members of the church have not been able to obtain them. To make it easier for the congregation, Prayer Shawls can be gotten from the church office Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the morning. If that is not convenient, please contact LuAnn Seaman 516-445-9493 to arrange for a shawl.
The Prayer Shawl Ministry continues their fellowship through a weekly Zoom Meeting where we crochet, knit and laugh a lot. We support each other in our daily ups and downs and have grown very close. Several of the members no longer live on LI, but that doesn’t stop us. We continue to meet and create shawls in the name of the church.
Each Prayer Shawl has a label which reads:
"This was handmade for you by the Prayer Shawl Ministry of our church. As it was created, we prayed for you. We asked God to give you courage, strength and the knowledge that your friends at First Congregational Church of Riverhead are thinking of you and that God loves you. Know that when you pull this shawl around your shoulders, or lay it across your lap, you are similarly covered by our prayers and surrounded by God’s love."
If you can knit, crochet or just need a good laugh and some fun company, please let Barbara Parsons know, (631-727-3106). Barbara is the leader of our Zoom Meeting and she can allow you access.
The members of our ministry are: LuAnn Seaman, Barbara Parsons, Marion Maino, Bunny Burns, Pat DiScioscia, Ginger Duvall, Sandy Daniels, Jane Jones, Fran Nill and Marion Stark. Feel free to contact any of us if you have any questions.
BREAD AND MORE
Bread and More continues serving takeout dinners on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 6:00. The number of guests has ranged from the 20s to 50. The Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve dinners were well received. On Mondays, we are providing a takeout dinner for Maureen’s Haven which can be served as needed. Dinner is also provided for Maureen’s Haven on Wednesdays to be served at the overnight program. We have been offering warm clothing such as jackets, hats, scarves, shirts etc. to guests in need, thanks to our thrift shop. These items are much appreciated by our guests. We continue as a 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. 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. All of the guests are very appreciative of the meal received. ~ Jane Kulesa
Throughout the pandemic our congregation has continued to give generously to our various missions. Our special mission for December, known as The Christmas Fund brought in a total of $240.00. At the same time we donated to what is and will be known as Deedee’s Angels, giving clothing, gifts, and food to two needy families in our community.
Special thanks go out to Nancy Repp who coordinated the program and to Collene Richardson who made the necessary connections for all this to occur.
Also for our Christmas giving we participated in a Reverse Advent program in which we donated specified food items to our local food bank for the entire Advent period, and in the past month, we contributed $12.00 to our Pennies for People program.
Super Bowl Sunday is coming up on Feb.7th, so get ready to pick up some extra cans of soup when you are doing your grocery shopping. These can be dropped off at the church office, or you may want to write a check which will also be donated to our local food bank
Our next project will be the Lenten banks; please see the Christian Education article for details.
~ Janet Sanford, Deacon Co-chair
~Shirley Bergman, Benevolence Secretary
It is likely those church members and friends who each year pledge to support God's work here at First Congregational, have already done so. If you have not pledged your support, please do so now. Some pledge cards with return envelopes are available in the church office. At this point, most members and friends have mailed in their pledge cards, but total pledges are about $6,000 short of last year's totals. We need a pledge from you in order to develop a realistic budget for 2021. Thank you to all those who have fulfilled their responsibility. Please call 631-722-3248 if you have questions.
~ Dave Gruner, Stewardship Chair
Although our thrift shop has remained closed due to COVID restrictions, we have given away warm winter clothing items---jackets, vests, hats, gloves, scarves, and boots to Sr. Margaret’s outreach program, to our soup kitchen guests, and to Maureen’s Haven. At Christmas we included holiday decorations and items from our ample stock into our two adopted families’ gift baskets.
If you have any suggestions for giving away more of our thrift shop stock, please let the church office know. Since we really don’t know when it will be safe to reopen, we would like to share what we have in the shop presently with our local community.
~Shirley Bergman and Janet Sanford
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