THE STATE OF THE CHURCH 2020
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)
Before saying anything else, I want to say thank you for the June celebration of my first 25 years at our church. It was a perfect day with my parents here from Tennessee and my college campus minister, Rev. Ken Watkins, here from Ohio. It boggles the mind to think that I have been with our church for 25 years. What I learned on my first day is still true today, our church is a loving family who sticks with us through thick and thin. We’ve walked beside each other through tragedy, celebrated together life’s peak moments, and shared everything in-between. I look forward to walking with you for many years to come.
In 2019, our church was blessed with 5 new members: Joyce and Gene Domanico, Immeke Grimme, Suja Johnkutty, and Doug Weston. We are in the process of finishing up our part of the new pictorial directory with Lifetouch. As soon as we have an approximate date, we’ll let you know.
I’m happy to report that the Congo Art Gallery and Coffee Room are enjoyed by members and visitors alike seven days a week! We have an amazing number of artists in our church. I enjoy seeing their work as the exhibits change with the seasons. In addition to art, we are indebted to Lori and Jacob Burgess for creating and maintaining the church website and Facebook page.
Several times in 2019, our Wellbeing Committee met to plan events for our Center for Wellbeing such as January’s Open Group Monday Mindfulness led by church member, Rev. Keith Fiveson. Keith also led a Health & Wellness Workshop on April 27. Other events included two sessions of Fix Your Food Habits 2019 led by MaryAnn Jones. In the fall, Chef Nancy Ferraris led a two session event called Fresh Food for Families. Stacey Kelly’s yoga classes continued on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Center for Wellbeing’s biggest event to date was the three hour Family Health & Wellness Expo on November 9 that brought in a variety of health and wellness practitioners from Manhasset, Port Washington, and Roslyn. I met a number of new people in the health and wellness community as well as attendees with various interests and needs. I also tried acupuncture for the first time and came away feeling more…holey!
On November 10, we hosted Trans 101 to help us better understand the T in LGBT. The afternoon featured Juli Grey-Owens, the Executive Director of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition, whose mission is to advocate for the transgender, non-binary, and intersex communities. She was an excellent speaker and facilitator. In addition to bringing her wife, Juli brought a panel of four people who shared their experiences, both good and bad, on their LGBTQI journey. Thanks to our Board of Deacons and Center for Wellbeing for cosponsoring this inspirational afternoon. We are so fortunate that Dr. David Dorman has continued his “Current Events in Perspective” discussion series. David also helps lead our 9 AM Sunday Seminar.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love music of all kinds. In 2019 we continued our “Concerts For A Cause” series. In February, we had an Opera and Broadway Concert to benefit Sandy Hook Promise in Newtown, Connecticut. In May, we had Broadway performers in a concert to benefit One World Girl. Our May 18 Spring Prayer Retreat was on the topic of “Love and Destiny” and led by Tessa Afshar, a published author.
Ours is a caring congregation and 2019 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. In December, we kicked off a new event, a coat drive in cooperation with New York Cares. It was a huge success!
Also, we regularly change the messages on the church signs facing Copley Rd. and Northern Blvd. Sometimes the signs are humorous as well as inspirational. At other times, we use the signs to advertise upcoming church events. Church members have told me how their friends and co-workers enjoy seeing the messages.
In March, we had an All-Church St. Patrick’s Day party after the Valentine’s party was snowed out. In the fall, we had our All-Church Congo Campfire and Chili Cook-off in the courtyard. It was both fun and delicious! Our All-Church Christmas Craft Workshop on December 15 attracted a nice group of visitors and a cross-section of the congregation.
In 2019 we continued creative adult education programs. Our Lenten Theology Class watched DVDs and discussed the topic, “The Story of the Jews.” In January, our Sunday Seminar began a DVD study of “Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammad.” For six Wednesdays in October, our Fall Theology Class discussed the DVD “The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud.” The class was great and sparked some amazing discussions.
Once again church members participated in our 24-Hour Prayer Vigil to begin the Lenten Season. Our Ash Wednesday Service and Holy Week Services proved moving and meaningful. We had good attendance at our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services. On Easter, our sanctuary was full of Easter lilies, inspiring music, and numerous joyful worshippers.
A highlight every year is our Spring Concert presented by the Chancel Choir and Soloists. This year’s May 5 concert featured the Mass of the Children in celebration of the life of Andrew McMorris. Every fall, we look forward to our Chancel Choir’s fundraising pops concert in the Parish Hall. This year’s October event was entitled, “Something’s Coming: A Tribute to Leonard Bernstein.” As in years past, we held the Chancel Choir Christmas Concert during a 10 AM service. Both the choir and the congregation enjoy this tradition. Other December highlights included the PF Christmas Tree Sale and Flower Committee Poinsettia sale.
For the eighth year in a row, our Mother’s Day speaker was a layperson from the congregation. This year our speaker was Lisa Larsen Hill. 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 Kevin McGrath as the guest speaker. August’s Vacation Bible School transformed our building with the theme “Who Is My Neighbor?” Hats off to the numerous volunteers who make VBS special year in and year out.
I want to say a special thank you to our Flower Committee and friends of the Flower Committee who pitched-in to make our sanctuary beautiful with lilies at Easter as well as candles and poinsettias for Christmas.
Four times in 2019, Lori, Maureen, or I brought Communion to our members who are physically unable to attend worship, as well as our members in hospitals, rehab centers, and nursing homes. I look forward to these visits throughout the year.
During the program year Lori and our Board of Christian Education provided nurturing and informative Sunday School classes for our children. The Children’s Choir continued to enhance worship on Family Sundays. Under Lori’s leadership, our youth program offered numerous opportunities for service, from monthly trips to feed the hungry in NYC to last years’ service trip to Frakes, Kentucky.
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.
And last but certainly not least, I want to thank you, my beloved Church Family, for your unwavering friendship, 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 for that I thank you most of all. AMEN.
Written by Rev. Jimmy Only
2020 Annual Meeting Sunday
February 2, 2020
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 loving life and teachings of Christ. Give us clear sight that we might know what to do, give us courage to embark upon it, give us wisdom to navigate obstacles along the way, give us perseverance to complete the task, and give us 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.