THE STATE OF THE CHURCH 2019
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 3:26-29, NRSV adapted)
In 2018, our church was blessed with 10 new members: Taya and Evan Bartell (children Luke, 5, and Cole, 3), Lisa Larsen Hill and Roger Hill, Dr. Jennifer Wei Liao (Bell), Louise Rosete, Jennifer and Lenny Pereira (children Lenny, 4, and Landon, 2), as well as Sherry Huber and Roman Jaworsky. We also had seven young people confirmed on May 6: Katharine Bell, Logan Boiko, Jack Carrozzo, Devin Kantu, Luke Miller, Owen Miller and Maddox Nesterczuk.
We continue to make our building more inviting for visitors and members alike. This year we created an art gallery and sitting area located across from the Parish Hall. We are very pleased to have our first real art show, “Scenes of Winter,” with works by church members Linda Collins, Janet Dansbury, Betsy McMahon, and Connie Knies. We are also showing a piece on loan from Pat Pryor Bonica.
Our Center for Wellbeing is going strong with numerous mindfulness classes led by church member, Rev. Keith Fiveson. We are grateful for Keith’s many contributions to the life of our church through our Center for Wellbeing. In 2018 we also welcomed Author Lorraine Miller who led a Gratitude Workshop, Teri Trotta who led a Journaling Workshop, Kathleen O’Kane who hosted a Stress Management Workshop, MaryAnn Jones who led a Fix Your Food Habits: Holiday Makeover, and Ann Abitabilo who ran a two month Tai Chi Easy class.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love music of all kinds. In 2018, I finally became the concert promoter I had always hoped to be with the creation of our new occasional series, “Concerts For A Cause.” We began with a bang on three subsequent Friday nights, June 1, 8, and 15. The events were a great success on many levels. The performers (Chely Wright, The Wineskins, and Raffi Froundjian) put on great shows that were fun and meaningful for everyone in the Parish Hall. We were pleased with the attendance and pleased that many non-members attended the series. And, thanks to a generous couple who underwrote all three concerts, we were able to raise money for 3 different charities with a connection to our church—Adventures in Learning, the Katie Oppo Research Fund (ovarian cancer), and the Gay Straight Alliance Clubs at Manhasset High School, as well as at Port Washington’s Webber Middle School and Schreiber High School. Through the years, we have had students from our church participate in both high school GSAs. Lori, Amy Karriker, and I visited all 3 GSAs fostering good connections and goodwill between our church, the students, and their faculty advisors. And what can I say about Chely Wright? Her heart to heart connection with the GSA students was as joyful as it was moving. We set up tables for the GSAs to explain their mission. The students were so excited with posters and rainbow flags on display. As much as the night was about Chely’s music and message, the night was also a celebration of these LGBT kids and they felt the love! After the concert they were hugging us and thanking us for hosting the evening. One exuberant student said, “This was the best night of my life.” The night was even better because after the concert, Chely posed for pictures with the GSA students. She then took her seat behind a table to sign CDs and books. As the GSA students went through the line, Chely had each of them pull up a chair beside her for a conversation. A trans student was so moved that he went through the line three times to talk to Chely. Those of us who looked on were deeply moved as well. It was one of those nights when I was so proud of our church’s bold stance in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. It was one of those nights that I felt with all my heart that we were doing God’s work trying to create the beloved community with room for all of our sisters and brothers.
These undertakings need many hands on deck. Many thanks to new member and event planner, Tina Tonorezos, for conceptualizing the decorations and set-up for the concerts. (We had candles and twinkling lights throughout the Parish Hall and a huge paper maché birch tree that we found standing in a forgotten corner of the stage.) Thanks too for all of the other volunteers who helped make it happen especially Dave Meyer (brought his sound system and expertise), David James (lights), Nancy Nevins, Amy Karriker, Jacob Burgess, and Colleen Only. I also greatly appreciate the extra work done by our custodians, especially Luis and Bryan. Oh yeah, and I heard that The Wineskins’ guest drummer wasn’t half bad, though he shouldn’t quit his day job anytime soon!
On November 4, we hosted our first Classical Concert For A Cause to raise funds for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation in memory of our own A. Scott Collins and all those who are hoping for a cure. The concert featured The St. John’s Chamber Players (a quartet of strings) with Scotty Collins on clarinet. The concert took place in our sanctuary and featured works by Brahms and Haydn. Many thanks to Linda Collins for conceptualizing the concert and working so hard to make it happen. Our Concerts for a Cause series rolls on and we already have two concerts scheduled for 2019!
Our April 14 Spring Prayer Retreat was on the topic “Humor, Hope and Healing” and led Rev. Susan Sparks, comedian, author, lawyer and minister. The retreat was well received with 60 participants—the biggest crowd for the spring retreat that anyone could remember. Thanks to Rev. Maureen Kessler for bringing Susan to us.
We are indebted to Dr. David Dorman who continues his monthly “Current Events in Perspective” discussion series. In addition to current events, David helps lead our weekly 9 AM Sunday Seminar with its focus on world religions and historic religious leaders.
We tapped another retired Manhasset High School teacher on October 28, when Dr. Joe D’Angelo, church member, choir member, and beloved Manhasset High School English teacher, brought poetry to our church, illuminating “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Joe told us about Tennyson’s life and explained that “Ulysses” can be interpreted in a variety of ways. He also encouraged our own creativity.
In 2018 we continued innovative adult education programs. Our Lenten Theology Class watched DVDs and discussed the topic, “Painting the Stars: Science, Religion and An Evolving Faith.” In October, our Fall Theology Class discussed “Ottomans, Christians, and the Struggle for the Mediterranean.” Margot Kramer continued leading our 9:30 AM Monday women’s prayer gathering, which meets at the church. Margot, Sue Getting and others lead the Thursday morning Bible Study.
For the eighth year in a row, our Mother’s Day speaker was a layperson from the congregation. This year our speaker was Regina Green Rule. On the Sunday before Memorial Day, we remembered the women and men in our nation’s military who died while serving our country. Our Father’s Day service featured Doug Stebbins as the guest speaker. The success of August’s Vacation Bible School every year can be attributed to our enthusiastic volunteers.
A high point every fall is our Chancel Choir’s fundraising pops concert in the Parish Hall. This year’s September 30 event was entitled, “Razzle Dazzle: A Tribute to John Kander & Fred Ebb.” As in years past, we held the Chancel Choir Christmas Concert during the 10 AM service. Both the choir and the congregation enjoy this tradition. A highlight every year is our Spring Concert presented by the Chancel Choir and Soloists. This year’s April 29 concert featured Songs of Praise in celebration and remembrance of John W. Walter.
Ours is a caring congregation and 2018 found our Family of Faith engaged in numerous outreach efforts to bring hope and healing to our all-too-broken world through our Board of Missions and Outreach (MOB). In May, the MOB again sponsored a food sorting project with Island Harvest. The food donations had been collected by USPS letter carriers (including our own George Cox) through their annual Stamp Out Hunger food collection. Also in May, church members participated in a hands-on project with Rebuilding Together Long Island to build a wheelchair ramp and do other work for a woman living in Freeport. This project was co-sponsored with Manhasset’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
Throughout the year Lori, our Board of Christian Education, and our Sunday School teachers provided nurturing and informative Sunday School classes for our children. The Children’s Choir continued to enhance worship on Family Sundays (thank you Christy Weppler and Cindy Frey). Our youth program offered numerous opportunities for service including tutoring children at Adventures in Learning and the week long Service Trip every summer. Thanks to everyone who helped chaperone this trip and other outings.
Many thanks to those of you who make the effort to show up Sunday after Sunday, who serve on boards and committees, teach Sunday School, sing in the choir, attend seminars, and give financially. Our church remains strong and vibrant thanks to you.
Thanks as well to our church staff who are absolutely amazing. We are fortunate to have each of them. Thanks to Donna Marchese who keeps the church’s finances in the black, and who comes to the rescue when a copier or computer stops working, Craig Tocher who brings a symphony of sound from our magnificent organ and always finds the perfect piece of music for every service that brings out the very best in the Chancel Choir and Soloists, Joyce Domanico, our Nursery School Director who inspires our continually creative and loving teachers—including my wife, Colleen, Marge D’Ottavio whose gatekeeper skills surpass those who guarded Checkpoint Charlie and who finds a way to work in all of my last minute changes to the Spire and order of worship, and Valerie McDermott my organizer in chief whose archeological skills have been pushed to the limit digging through the papers on my desk and whose compassion extends to the many people in crisis who phone the church and walk through our doors week in and week out.
Our head sexton, Henry Nowicki, retired after serving our church for 34 years. We wish him well. Now our longest serving staff member is Luis Abrego who has been with our church since 1993. In the wake of Henry’s retirement, Luis became our new Facilities Manager and Bryan Perdomo became our Facilities Administrator. We continue to appreciate the hard work of Ivan Barrera, Chris Lopez, Antonio Hernandez, Jo-el Penado, and Carol Hornowski. They keep our building and grounds in ship shape. Many thanks to Sue Fodera and Sybil Schaffrath for nurturing our little ones in the Church Nursery. A heartfelt thank you to church member, Rev. Maureen Kessler, who time and time again saddles her white horse and comes to our rescue in a crisis.
And a thousand thank yous to my partner in crime and fellow minister over these last 11 years, Rev. Lori Burgess, who does a wonderful job with our children, youth, and young adults. She preaches great sermons and offers loving pastoral care to young and old alike. Lori also leads our hugely popular women’s group, Women at the Well, which she founded several years ago. Without a doubt, Lori and I make a great team. We both know how lucky we are!
And last but certainly not least, I want to thank you, my beloved Church Family, for your unwavering friendship, for your varied and enlightening responses to my sermons, for your willingness to take a chance time and again when I’ve wanted to take our congregation in new directions, and for allowing me into your lives in the best of times and the worst of times. Together we’ve become a close knit and supportive family and I love you for that most of all. AMEN.
Written by Rev. Jimmy Only
Annual Meeting Sunday
February 3, 2019
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.