I love Thanksgiving; it may well be my favorite holiday. There is something special about sharing a meal with family and friends while taking intentional time to focus on gratitude. This year, though, things are bound to be different. The number of people gathered at the table will be smaller, less food will be cooked (or leftovers will last an extra few days), and usually loud, boisterous gatherings will be a little quieter.
Though there will be fewer people around our tables, the importance of thankfulness is not diminished during this season. In fact, this year I think gratitude may be even more important than ever. It’s so easy to think about what we can’t do and what we don’t have right now. We can’t gather, we can’t travel, we can’t have the big Thanksgiving feasts that we may be accustomed to. But we still have so much to be thankful for.
Making an intentional shift towards being grateful for what we do have won’t solve all of the world’s problems, but it can make the things that you’re facing feel more manageable. Take time this week to relax, breathe deeply, and maybe even close your eyes for a few moments. Think about all of the positive things that are happening in your life right now. Think about the things that you have learned about yourself throughout these past eight months. Take the time to be intentional about gratitude and to thank God for all that God has given.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
What are you grateful for?
I am grateful for technology that helps me stay in touch with the people I love.
I am grateful for my dog who loves to snuggle on windy fall days
I am grateful for the self care routines I have developed and been able to sustain through this stressful season.
I am grateful for the extra time I found to read during stay-at-home orders
And I am grateful to be at Derry Presbyterian Church, worshiping and serving God alongside all of you.
Derry Church is blessed by the many people who make up our church family. In addition to their roles and leadership at church, they have often played important roles in the growth and development of the larger Hershey community. Hershey Community Archives’ oral history collection holds interviews with many Derry Church members. These interviews provide information about their lives and contributions to Derry and the community. Thanks to Pam Whitenack for sharing this profile with us.
Alma Payne Bobb is Derry’s oldest member. On November 29 she will celebrate her 107th birthday.
Born in 1913, Alma spent her summers in Harrisburg visiting her grandparents and extended family. Her earliest memories of Hershey were when she would come here for a picnic on top of Pat’s Hill. In her 1988 Hershey Community Archives oral history interview she said: My grandfather would have been a contemporary of Milton Hershey. I remember my grandfather saying, “Oh, Mr. Hershey has some kind of a crazy idea of building a resort hotel up here. What won’t he think of next?” Pat’s Hill is where the hotel now has been erected, and, of course, Mr. Hershey’s dream for that hotel became a reality
Alma had a career as a professional dancer, performing across the United States and in Europe. She appeared in vaudeville, which was a big thing in those days in presentation houses. In her interview, she related
Then I went to Europe in 1935. I was working over there almost a year. I went with a [dance] partner. We appeared at the Palladium Theater in London and doubled at the Savoy Hotel in their Supper Room. Then we played the Empire Theaters throughout England and Scotland. Then we went over onto the continent and worked in Paris and Budapest and Monte Carlo.
As World War II threatened, she returned to the United States. In between bookings, she would often come to stay with her grandparents in Harrisburg. She met her husband, Jim Bobb, on a double date to go dancing. Jim was an excellent dancer and they soon started dating. They had a long courtship as Jim waited for Alma to be ready to leave her dancing career.
After they married, they first lived in an apartment building across from the Hershey Arena. Alma sought out many volunteer opportunities. During the war, she volunteered as an airplane spotter, watching from her station in the Milton Hershey School Senior Hall (now Catherine Hall) bell tower. She also trained as a convoy driver, serving in the American Red Cross Motor Corps, out of Harrisburg.
After the war, there really were not many volunteer opportunities for women in Hershey. Many women played bridge. Alma, seeking an outlet, sought out volunteer activities in Harrisburg. She remembered,
So I have always been volunteer-minded because with Jim’s work, he did a lot of local volunteer work, in addition to his job. I got started in it, and I must admit it was not really for altruistic purposes; it was for an outlet for my energy. (Laughs) But later I became very interested and committed to volunteer work and to the idea that people owe their civic duty.
Alma’s duties as a spouse expanded when her husband was elected to the Hershey Trust Company Board of Directors and the Milton Hershey School Board of Managers. Many evenings were filled with business social affairs. Alma recalled,
As Hershey became a focal point for large meetings and association meetings, they would want a company official to send greetings or something. So we did a great deal of that, and there would be outside groups, the Milton Hershey School things, commencements, homecoming, things of that sort. We all participated in that, and that was part of the men’s jobs if they were on the boards, and their wives’. All commencement weekend, all homecoming weekend, and that took priority. That went with the jobs. But the nature of Jim’s job was that we would be entertained if he were invited, because of his position, to go to a big banquet of a large convention, and I would usually go with him if the wives were involved.
Hershey Junior College offered two years of free college education and Alma took advantage of that. She was the first full-time adult day student at Hershey Junior College She completed her education at Lebanon Valley College. At that time, there were not many middle-aged women attending college and Alma’s efforts were questioned at first. Alma remembered:
It took me ten and a half years overall. What I learned was that I couldn’t do it halfway. I couldn’t go to a party one afternoon and then be in class the next, because if I weren’t in class, I had to study. So I had to set up some priorities. This gave me a complete break for a while from volunteer activities. I had paid my dues. Jim’s work took priority. Anything that he was involved in that required my presence, that came first.
Alma devoted herself to her marriage and supporting her husband in his career. Following his death in 1982, Alma continued to live in Hershey. However, her son Woody and his family were living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1988 she moved there to be closer to her son. She returned to Hershey in 2011.
The last eight months have reminded me of the beauty of change. Looking back to the beginning of March, I see our tried and true structure of Children’s Ministry here at Derry. We gathered weekly for Sunday School, worship and KIWI, biweekly for Pilgrims, every Tuesday for choir rehearsals, and occasionally on other days for special events and fellowship opportunities. Life was good. We had things under control. We lived with a comfortable, routine schedule.
Fast forward eight months and here we are. We still have worship and Sunday School and fellowship opportunities, but they certainly are different. We are slowly starting to have more routine weekly events at Derry. Worship and Sunday School have a new feel, but are happening. Pilgrim Fellowship is now an outdoor ministry in the late afternoon on Sundays. KIWI no longer happens during worship time: instead it has expanded and our time together is Sunday afternoon. Choir rehearsals are not a weekly event for families right now, but we are including music in our fellowship times. And we are now offering a variety of worship services, including a special service for families to come and enjoy together.
While so much has changed for Derry Church, and specifically, Derry’s Children’s Ministry over the last eight months, that change has offered us the chance to really look at ministry programs and appreciate all the wonderful blessings they bring to Derry Church, our congregation and our families. Change is HARD! The last few months have been a wild roller coaster ride, and Mrs. Steelman is NOT a roller coaster person. However, this ride has been special.
When we are in our comfort zone and keep with our regular routine, we often find ourselves feeling busy and not having the time to pause, reflect and evaluate how things are going. When life came to a halt in March, I found myself with a lot of new, and quite honestly scary and overwhelming, free time. That free time gave me the chance to dream and plan. That time gave me the chance to evaluate how each program was going. That time gave me the chance to answer the question of “Why?” for each of the many pieces of Children’s Ministry at Derry.
The “Why?” is easy… God. Each Children’s Ministry program that Derry is blessed to offer gives families and children the opportunity to grow their faith. The last eight months have offered me, the church staff and the Christian Education Committee the gift of time to think about our programs and learn what programs are needed for TODAY. Often we find ourselves keeping programs going simply “because we have always offered them.” But is that what Derry needs?
I look at these last eight months and am thankful for the chance to actually pause everything! We finally have time for meaningful conversations with planning teams and members of Derry to learn what Derry Church desires as we help one another grow our faith. We have time to think about each program we have at Derry and determine if it fits for Derry Church today. We have time to create new programs to help one another grow our faith. We have time to figure out what WE, as individuals, need to grow closer to God.
I pray this time apart from one another has offered you the chance to reflect and learn what you need for yourself and for your children as you grow closer to God. A friend recently reminded me that at times life can be like a junk drawer. Our lives become overwhelmed and cluttered with “junk” — things we hold on to or do just because we always have or feel we have to. These strange days are blessing us with time to declutter our lives and start fresh with activities and programs that bring us true joy and bring us closer to God.
I look forward to gathering with you soon, either online or in person, to continue on our faith journey together. Until then, please know that you are surrounded by my thoughts and prayers.
Right now, our lives are filled with hope! Hope is something that we both know a lot about.
Many of you know that in 2009 Jim was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that we never heard of and we bet many of you probably never heard of, and in September of 2013 Jim received a single lung transplant.
During this period of time, we have done our share of hoping. Hoping that the doctors were wrong with his diagnosis, hoping there was a cure or some magic pill he could take to get this disease in remission, hoping that his time on the lung transplant list would not be long and hoping that the transplant would be successful. These were just a few of the things we were hoping for.
Our hoping did not stop when Jim had his transplant on September 22, 2013. We hoped that our post-transplant journey would be without problems, and for the most part they were, until 2019.
In August 2019 Jim’s body had finally figured out he has an organ in his body that did not come with the original package, and now is trying to reject that organ. He is going through chronic rejection and again we are hoping the doctors are wrong… they aren’t; hoping there is a cure or some magic pill available… there isn’t. Our hopes now, have reverted back to another successful lung transplant.
We hope that by sharing our story about our transplant journey we can help others deal with their own transplant journey and make others aware of what this disease really is. We continue to hope for a cure for this disease so others will not have a similar journey.
We have been fortunate, not only to be able to share our stories locally, but also have been able to travel to other states with the hope that sharing our stories may have helped others.
There are many other things that we have hopes for, not just from the medical/health areas. We have hopes for our country, hopes for our families, hopes for teachers and students as they strive to keep their students safe. We have hopes that we may be able to travel again. We even had hopes that the Phillies would have a good season.
We have hopes that we are all able to remain safe and healthy. We even have hopes about church.
It has been almost eight months since we walked through the doors at Derry. None of us had envisioned that this pandemic would have or could have lasted this long and that our new normal had been drastically changed.
We have hopes that we will soon be able to meet in person as a congregation to hear God’s word. Watching a service via live stream is not quite the same as sitting in the pew. We hope that we as a church are able to uphold our commitments to our mission partners during this Covid-19 pandemic.
Although we are not able to be together, we hope and pray Derry will continue to find innovative ways to continue to grow as a church until such time that we can all be safely together again.
Next Sunday is National Donor Sabbath and we hope that as a congregation we all might be organ donors! If not, we hope that you might consider becoming one.
We hope that we as a congregation will be able to continue our financial commitments to Derry so that these many programs and more will be able to continue.
Although we shared many of our hopes without using the word wish, we don’t want you to worry. Closer to the time, we will … WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS!