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23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham [and Sarah’s] offspring, heirs according to the promise.

(Galatians 3:23-29, NRSV)

Here gathered in unity,

Blessed community,

Gifts to each other,

A blessing from God.

With joy, grace and love,

And hope from up above,

We share with one another,

A blessing from God.[1]

On April 17, 1941 The Congregational Church of Manhasset, New York was officially incorporated. On April 10, 2016 our congregation celebrated our church’s 75th anniversary. The Reverends Maurice and Sara Fetty came from Michigan for the festivities. Rev. Maurice Fetty, one of our former Senior Ministers, gave the sermon during the 10 AM service. Rev. Freeman Palmer, a New York State UCC Associate Conference Minister, also participated in the festivities. I wrote my first hymn, “Blessed Community,” to celebrate the day. At 12 noon, we gathered for a celebratory brunch at the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club in Port Washington. (A very big thank you to Marie Horowitz who did all of the organizing and leg work for the brunch.) As a part of the festivities, we encouraged members to write a short piece, 75 words or less, about what the church means to them. The responses were moving, funny, poignant, sweet, and uplifting. We used excerpts from these mini essays in a variety of ways throughout the celebration. Our plan has been to collect all of the writings in a commemorative booklet for distribution to the congregation. Hopefully we’ll get the piece published before the church turns 76!

A special thank you to those who underwrote specific portions of our celebration including Betty DeVries, Nancy and Charlie Gilman, Marie and Red Horowitz, Beth and Mike Miller, Joan and John Walter, Carolyn and Ed White. Many thanks to our 75th Anniversary Committee: Marie Horowitz (chair), Betty DeVries, Nancy Gilman, Beth Miller, Nancy Nevins, Craig Tocher, Joan Walter, Carolyn White, and yours truly. Finally, many thanks to everyone who donated to the 75th Anniversary Fund to help support our big day.

Our church’s 75 year milestone is a good time to take a step back and assess our past, present, and future. Fortunately for us, the New York State Conference of the United Church of Christ has developed a program called “Ministry Vitality” to help us with this task. The conference explains that, “This [program] provides both clergy and lay leaders the opportunity to assess their churches’ strengths, envision new mission opportunities for their congregations, and work toward vitality goals to enhance their ministries for years to come.” This year 5 New York UCC churches are participating including ours. Throughout the process we are working with church consultant, Paul Nixon.

As a part of the program, in September we conducted an online church-wide survey called Readiness 360. On Sunday, November 6, the Ministry Vitality Committee had a marathon session with Paul Nixon. He attended worship that morning and was in fellowship time. Paul was very impressed with all facets of our 10 AM service and fellowship time with the exception of our sound system. The Trustees are actively discussing the need for a new sound system, as well as video equipment so that we can stream and post our 10 AM services online.

We began several new events and programs in 2016 including our October 23 Blessing of the Animals Service, which proved to be wild, wooly, and wonderful. We had a snake, a guinea pig, and numerous canines of every shape and size. Another new program for 2016 was our yoga class, which is going well. A very popular first-time event was a February bulletin board covered with wedding photos and couple pictures of our church members. Also, at 9:30 AM on Palm Sunday, we held a joint Palm Sunday Service with our neighbor, Church of Our Savior Lutheran. The festive gathering was complete with waving palms and a real live donkey, which landed us on News Channel 12, donkey and all.

In 2016 we continued two relatively new worship experiences. We hosted our Second Annual Blue Christmas Service on December 11. We had 26 in attendance this year (18 last year). On January 22, Baptism of Christ Sunday, we once again offered attendees the opportunity to reaffirm their baptisms, which we just did for 2017 a couple of weeks ago.

When people are aching,

Their hearts nearly breaking,

We’ll reach out to help them,

A blessing from God.

Compassion and kindness,

God’s Spirit will reminds us,

We’re sisters and we’re brothers,

A blessing from God.

In the spring of 2016 the Board of Missions and Outreach and Board of Christian Education, challenged the congregation to make a sizeable donation to Kwetu Faraja, the boys home we help support in Tanzania. By the end of our effort we raised enough money to build a large chicken coop, which is currently under construction. We also provided enough money to fill the coop with chickens. The boys are looking forward to fresh eggs and fresh chicken. In May, Missions and Outreach sponsored a food sorting project with Island Harvest. In June, church members participated in a hands-on project with Rebuilding Together Long Island to build two wheelchair ramps for a man with ALS.

In 2016 we continued our informative and inspiring adult education programs. Our Lenten Theology Class watched DVDs and discussed the topic, “From Christ to Constantine.” In January our Sunday Seminar began a new study called “From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians.” In the spring and fall, the Sunday Seminar enjoyed a DVD series on “Comparative Religion.” This year our 12 Noon Wednesday Fall Theology Class explored “Walking the Bible: A DVD Journey From Eden to Egypt.”

This year’s April 9 Spring Retreat entitled, “Experiencing God Through Meditation,” was led by our own Rev. Maureen Kessler. In 2016, church member, April Lindevald, published her first novel entitled, The Last Wizard of Eneri Clare. On November 13, April treated our congregation to a reading and book signing.

Our church is most fortunate to have a wonderful music program. The three annual concerts are a highlight for many of us. The spring concert featured works by Vierne and Faure. The fall pops concert was entitled, “A Disney Spectacular,” and lived up to its name. The traditional Christmas concert is a much loved tradition in our church and was as beautiful as ever.

For the sixth year in a row, our Mother’s Day speaker was a layperson from the congregation. This year’s speaker was Janie Peterson. Our Father’s Day service featured Dr. David Dorman as the guest speaker. On the Sunday before Memorial Day we remembered the men and women in our nation’s military who died while serving our country. August’s Vacation Bible School transformed our building with the theme “Surf Shack: Catch the Wave of God’s Amazing Love.” In September we enjoyed our annual Kick-Off Brunch. In a continued celebration of our 75th anniversary, we expanded the menu to include omelets, waffles, and pancakes. The response was overwhelmingly positive!

A church is only as strong as the commitment of its members. We are blessed with many members who deeply love this church. People who make the effort to show up for worship Sunday after Sunday. People who volunteer their time to do the work of the church by serving on boards and committees, teaching Sunday School and chaperoning P.F. Mission Trips, singing in the choir and attending seminars. Not only do many of you give your time to this church, but you generously invest your money in the ministry of this church and the upkeep of our facilities. A heartfelt thank you for the many ways you support our Church Family. 2016 was a good and significant year in the life of our church and 2017 is off to a promising start.

Hearts gathered as one,

We shall ne’er be undone,

Connected together,

A blessing from God.

Here dwelling in peace,

Forever to increase,

A Family of Faith,

And a blessing from God. AMEN.

Written by Rev. Jimmy Only

Annual Meeting Sunday

February 5, 2017

The Congregational Church of Manhasset, New York (UCC)


Most merciful God, we thank you for our church, for all that we have accomplished this year through your guidance and wisdom, and for all that you have yet in store for us. Help us as individuals and as a congregation to emulate the life and teachings of Christ. Give us clear sight that we might know what to do, courage to embark upon it, wisdom to navigate obstacles along the way, perseverance to complete the task, and strength to resist the temptation to give up. So help us to begin, to continue, and to end all things in the power of your life-giving Spirit.

Through Jesus we pray. AMEN.

Portions of this prayer were adapted from A Barclay Prayer Book, p. 190.

[1] “Blessed Community,” lyrics Jimmy Only, arrangement Craig Tocher

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