To say that the year, 2020, was an unusual year would be an understatement. Covid-19 changed everything. Now that is not an overstatement. How we worshipped, met and operated on a daily basis changed. We had to get creative and adapt to our new reality. January through March 15, 2020 had its regular normal feel.
January we had our officer training, installed officers, had our Annual Congregational Meeting and celebrated Souper Bowl Sunday. We celebrated Bob Hook's life with a community-wide Memorial Service and reception at the church.
February, we welcomed the Scouts, and tried a different approach and interviewed the Scouts to hear their highlights from their year's activities. However, the big event in February was preparing for and hosting the Presbytery meeting. We had cleaning days, and many folks contributed food as well as their time to host the Presbytery. We received many compliments for our food and hospitality. Well done church!
March started with Ash Sunday preparing us for Lent, and then a week later our lives turned upside down. After mulling it over and not being able to sleep, I made the tough call to cancel the worship service for the following Sunday due to Covid-19 virus. March was figuring out how to stay connected and worship together virtually. The only safe option. Garrett (my husband and also Presbyterian pastor) and I begin co-laboring together and having “live streaming” worship services on YouTube for the Weedsport and Liverpool congregations. We would alternate between the two churches, so folks could see their particular beloved sanctuaries. My favorite Youtube service was the Sunday after Easter, Holy Humor Sunday (we got over 300 views!). Session meetings were now virtual, on a new platform that quickly became a household word, Zoom! My time in March and April was learning about “Live Streaming” technology, and attending webinars on Covid-19 protocols. In person meetings changed to phone calls, letter writing, email, texts and Zoom. A small group, (Cyndy Rooker, Marcia Baker, Deb Dennis and I) would make outdoor visits to our elder members, to let them know we were thinking of them. Westshore lunches morphed to outside, and then 'to go” lunches. Cards and flowers were delivered to our Westshore friends as well as to our youth and families thanks to the Westshore crew and Cyndy Rooker for the youth and family deliveries.
The spring brought hard decisions, like having to cancel our community sponsored Vacation Bible School as well as many more hard cancellations, like rummage sales and our annual Turkey Dinner… In the midst of these disappointments there were many bright spots. Thanks to Lori Anna we had Successful Doug's to Go fundraisers for the church, as well as being approved for the Payroll Protection Plan that Sandi Kreplin and Jean Saroodis put much time and effort in securing for the church. Your leadership was humbled by your continued faithful giving, even when we were meeting virtually.
September, we commenced meeting again for in person worship, and the safest option was gathering outdoors. James Marshall, Jennifer Braun and Laura Granger made worshipping outside a reality, with many added helpers to assist. Our first Sunday back in person we celebrated the Lord's Supper. Though it was different with pre-packaged elements, it continued to be a meaningful shared experience. There were a few chilly Sundays when meeting outside, but when it got too cold we came inside the sanctuary for in person worship as well as using Zoom for members at home.
The fall saw many hard goodbyes in terms of retirements. Martha Mills our Organist for sixteen years, Bill Smith our Choir Director for twelve and half years and Marian Weeks the church's Office Manager for fourteen years, all retired. These valued staff members left a legacy of their combined talent and love which they put in their particular positions. Martha, Bill and Marian were God's laborers in God's vineyards. The other hard challenge of the fall was the three lawsuits filed against the church. We obtained a law firm who is working closely with other churches dealing with similar sexual abuse allegations due to hosting a Boy Scout troop on church premises.
The other hard leaving was my own. I sensed that God was moving me in a new direction. I wanted to give the church plenty of time to prepare for my departure. I announced my leaving the last Sunday of September and the fall was a season of saying goodbye and preparing the church for what was next. Karen Chamis, our Resource Presbyter and Michael Depew our Committee on Ministry liaison, have worked closely with the Session to determine that after my leaving, the church will worship virtually with Sennett Federated Church. It was fitting that my last worship services with you was ordaining and installing officers and receiving Dan Sperduti and Jo-ann Griffth as new members of this congregation. New life, new beginnings sprout up from endings.
It has been my great joy and privilege to serve, first as your interim pastor, and then as your installed pastor for nine years. We had many meaningful shared experiences together. I have no doubt that you will continue to be an Ubuntu congregation no matter what the future holds. Combining our worship services with Sennett Federated Church for this Covid-19 chapter is a smart decision, and will give the church leaders time to discern what will be Weedsport Presbyterian Church's next right step.
You will be in my heart and in my prayers.
Rev. Mary Anderson