President's Message - January 2023
What a busy December we had! Thanks to all who participated in the Paul Nixon marathon five-session focus group process on December 3 & 4. Please read his Reflections in the January 2023 edition of Cross Currents.
The Cantata Singers concert on December 10th filled the sanctuary with music- new works created by a collaboration of director Will Wickham’s music and an historic narrative composed by poet Edward Dougherty. One piece told of the story of Rev. Thomas K. Beecher and the members of The Park Church who in December of 1864 were concerned for the welfare of the Confederate soldiers overcrowded into the Civil War Prison Camp:
It’s Christmas in Elmira, Park Church is decked with joy and festive cheer. Out in Wisner Park are carolers bringing Christmas ever near.
Yet further up, at Foster’s farm the looming stockade walls contain ten thousand lonely men for whom no Christmas falls.
The Reverend Beecher preaches to us, “Give to all the poor. These southern soldiers, new to winter, always will need more.”
We oft times took them blankets and socks to warm their toes, We also wrote them letters, to ease their lonely woes:
“To my little life outside the wall I have a kind heart for you, and will always do all I can for your comfort and cheer too.”
“And have you friends within those walls for whom I could do well? Some books, an apple, Christmas treats, in baskets for you all.”
It’s Christmas in Elmira, the snow lays deep all ‘round, on Water Street treasurers and sweet gifts abound.
All giving hearts on Christmas Day wish to share some comfort with captive soldiers within those walls, who from home are far away.
Reverend Beecher tells us of God’s Son, sent from above, on Christmas Day and through the year we too should share our love.
In fall we tossed them apples o’er the twelve-foot stockade fence. At first snow we took them great-coats, and mittens, and pants.
Reverend Beecher’s Christmas sermon talked of sharing joy, God’s gift to us of a savior for both sides in this war.
We are warm and safe here, with friends and family
, While trapped within those prison walls they know hunger and misery.
It’s Christmas in Elmira, Park Church is decked with joy and festive cheer. Out in Wisner Park are carolers singing, “Christmas Day is here!”
This example of our justice-seeking ancestors reminded me that we 21st century progressives can seek meaningful ways to bring justice to bear on difficult situations in our community.
Holiday activities from Hanging of the Greens on December 2nd to taking poinsettias to our home-bound members by the caring tree committee members remind me of cherished traditions we look forward to each year. And the opportunities to hear great music that Charlotte Cook brought us this month were phenomenal! the How good it is to be able to gather again to listen, sing and ring those bells. A special note of recognition goes out to Linda Couchon and her stunning violin solos that she has brought us almost every Sunday this year. We are so lucky to have so many who love to perform during worship.
Every new year, we gather for our annual meeting in the fourth week of January. This year the date is Sunday, January 22nd at 11 AM directly following worship. We will gather with our coffee cups in Beecher Hall. A quorum of 25 members is needed for this in-person meeting. Agenda items will be report of the 2023 pledge campaign, presentation and approval of the 2023 budget and the circulation of the 2022 Annual Report. We will have a chance to augment our 2021-23 strategic goals with some new ideas that come from Council’s work this fall with church growth consultant Paul Nixon.
Five new members joined the church in December! Please welcome Robyn Cheplick, Paul Janowski, Wendy Ligouri, Jimmy Russell and Renea Stermer.
A new initiative begins in January with a church sponsored weekly “Tuesday Game Night in the Rainbow Room.” This new program of creating a safe space for LGBTQI+ adults to gather is an idea brought to us by someone who found Park through the weekly Thursday evening NA meeting. We were asked if Beecher Hall could be used for a game night and Council approved its initial charter so that it could begin on January 4th, from 6-9 PM. Please spread the word, fliers are available in Beecher Hall.
See you on January 22nd (if not before!)
Yours in action, Jenny