One of the reasons I became a Presbyterian is because Presbyterians take educational mission seriously. The Presbyterian tradition values the importance of helping people to think for themselves so that they can form a relationship with Christ in a unique and personal way.
We are not a tradition that tells people what they must think. Instead, we teach about God and help people learn how faith touches every part of their lives. Christian Education helps us understand who God is and how God is with us and for us. It teaches us God’s better way to live and thrive in this world by being in right relationship with each other and with God as we follow God’s will and ways.
As Presbyterians, we believe that education is part of the ministry of all members, that every person has the duty to be a teacher as well as a learner. When members join Derry, they promise to participate in some form of education. Membership is ministry for all of us, and being a Christian requires the sharing of our faith in God and Jesus Christ wherever we are, through our lifestyle, the way we spend our money or give it away, by living responsibly in our private and public lives, and by deliberately allocating time to make the world a more peaceful, just, and human place.
We are all called to become a beacon of God’s truth, whether we are sharing a meal at home, living out our vocation or avocation, or enjoying life with friends and family. Wherever we find ourselves, we are teaching others about Christ as we provide living lessons about what it means to be beloved children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.
I invite you to take advantage of the educational opportunities at Derry Church to learn more about God, the Bible, the church, and the world that we live in:
11 Minute Lessons: If you don’t have a lot of time, 11 Minute Lessons is a great educational option. Join me in the Chapel after both worship services or watch the videos on Facebook or YouTube. This year we’re going through the books of 1 and 2 Peter verse by verse, 11 minutes at a time.
Sunday School: Classes for all ages meet 9:15-10:15 am. Sunday School is a chance to learn about life together with God and connect with one another. I’m teaching Sunday School for the 6th-12th grade youth this year along with volunteers, and we have a great team leading our children’s classes for Pre-K, K-2nd, and 3rd-5th grades. The adult Issues Class meets in room 7 and is live streamed. A Bible Study class will meet weekly in room 2 beginning Oct 8.
Sunday School is one of the earliest memories children have of church, and these memories can last a lifetime. Will you join our wonderful team of Sunday school teachers who are making a difference in the lives of Derry’s children? Taking a turn once a month or every other month would be a huge help in support of our Christian Education program. Just reach out to M.E. Steelman and let her know your availability.
Tuesday evenings are another opportunity to invest in the children of Derry and participate in their education as they learn stories, express their faith through art, and learn about the history of Derry through the 300th Anniversary book they will be creating together.
Small Group Studies: Choose from groups that meet weekly or monthly:
- A weekly Monday morning group meets at 11 am
- A Thursday group meets at 10:30 am
- Presbyterian Women offer a study on the third Wednesday of the month at 1 pm
- A monthly Monday evening women’s group meets on the first Monday at 7 pm
- A once-a-month Bible study for our Prime Timers meets on Mondays at 12:45 pm
- Men’s Breakfast, which includes devotions, meets on the first Wednesday of the month at 7:30 am
- A Women’s Journey in Faith and Friendship meets twice a month on Sunday evenings
I’d love to add at least one more small group this year. If you are interested in helping start a small group discussion/study group or being a part of a new one, please contact me. I’d be glad to help you get started and suggest some discussion guides or studies to direct your time together.
Education is a gift that no one can take from you. Education has the power to inform and transform our lives. It can help us build stronger relationships with each other and with God. I encourage you to take advantage of Derry’s many educational opportunities as we grow in faith together this year.
I admit there are times it’s hard for me to talk about my faith. I’d like to blame it on my stoic Lutheran upbringing, but I think it’s really because I’m not sure what kind of reaction I’ll get from whoever I’m talking with: what if they give me a funny look or ask me a question I can’t answer? Do I want to put myself out there in that risky way? I know I should, but it can be hard and awkward.
If only there was a way to introduce Derry Church in a non-threatening, easy way.
But wait, now there is!
This summer the Communications & Technology Committee (CTC) partnered with our Vacation Bible School leaders to create a Derry Church tote bag, enough for all the VBS families to have one and to make freely available to everyone in our church family who wants one.
As print advertising opportunities become scarcer, it’s on the CTC to find unique and engaging ways to make the church’s presence known in our community. Why not put our advertising dollars toward a nice item that people will use when they’re out and about? It’s exciting to think that this sturdy, simple bag could be a conversation starter. Or that people will see the bags all over town, in the grocery store or drug store or farmer’s market, and with repetition and familiarity, may think, “I keep seeing those bags. There must be something going on over there at Derry Church. I should check them out.”
If you don’t yet have a bag, I invite you to stop by the welcome table in the Narthex and get one. Don’t leave it in your car: use it on your errands and shopping, and make it visible in your shopping cart. But be prepared: anything could happen, from funny looks to faith questions.
My bag’s ready, and this time I’m not going to wimp out. Bring on the sideways glances and questions: I’m carrying my bag proudly, and I’m glad to be an ambassador for Derry Church.
PS: Later this fall, the CTC will be offering an opportunity to purchase shirts featuring Derry’s tree logo. It’s another way you can be an ambassador for Derry Church, especially as we head into our 300th anniversary year. Keep an eye on the eNews for details.
Dear Derry Church Family,
As summer comes to a close and fall swiftly approaches, I hope this letter finds you well and you are enjoying these warm days and beautiful blue skies. Where has the time gone? As you may imagine, our August has been chaotic and unpredictable. However, during these past weeks, there has been an overwhelming outpouring of prayers, letters, cards, flowers, offers of meals, and care embracing Sarah and me. Your unwavering spiritual strength and support have touched our hearts beyond what we can put into words. You have surrounded us in love, lifted us up, and encouraged our faith throughout this journey; thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
An update: my medical team has scheduled bypass surgery via laparoscopic robot for October 17 at UPMC Harrisburg. The prognosis is favorable, and recovery is roughly six weeks. My cardiology and transplant teams feel that despite the narrowing in my heart from nearly eight years of dialysis, I will live a long, healthy life after two stents and this upcoming bypass. Praise God, my gratitude to all who have overseen my medical care. In the interim, my cardiothoracic surgeon has cleared me to be back at the organ console and piano, directing and staying active to keep my heart healthy until the 17th. Thank you for your continued prayers throughout these next months.
On August 24, the Sanctuary Choir began rehearsing for the fall season and will sing for the first time on Sunday. Repertoire ranges from well-known hymn arrangements to Mendelssohn’s Verleih uns Frieden (sung in German), Look at the World by John Rutter, and a world premiere of Psalm 13: How Long, O Lord, by composer Yakov Lychik, on September 24. If you’d like to join the Sanctuary Choir for an exciting season of great music, please contact me or speak to any choir member on Sunday mornings following worship!
Terrific Tuesday kicks off next Tuesday, September 12, with dinner beginning at 5 pm in Fellowship Hall, followed by rehearsals for our children’s and youth music and God’s Hidden Hands Puppet ministries. Tuesday evening worship moves to an earlier time, 6:00-6:45 pm in the Chapel. Derry Ringers rehearse in the Music Room from 7:30-8:30 pm, and we need two more ringers to fill out the five-octave choir. If you can read music and are interested, please contact me!
At 4 pm Sunday, September 24, Tyler Canonico, nationally acclaimed organist and Minister of Music and Organist at Market Square Presbyterian Church, and I will present an Arts Alive concert of piano and organ duets in the Sanctuary. The concert will feature works of classical composers, hymn arrangements, and movie music including Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, and more! Come hear our Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ and Steinway & Sons concert grand piano in action for an afternoon of exciting music!
Christmas at Derry concerts are set for Sunday, December 10 at 2 pm and 5 pm. The concert entitled “Gaudete!” meaning Rejoice, will feature the Sanctuary Choir, Derry Ringers, acclaimed tenor Christyan Seay, lyric coloratura soprano Nina Cline, soloists from Derry Church, orchestra and percussion, with harp, organ, and piano accompaniment. Join us as we paint the scene of the manger, bright shining star, wise men from afar, and angels singing on high as Mary and Joseph adore the newborn babe, wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger!
As we look forward to this exciting season ahead, I ask for your prayers for a speedy recovery and for God’s healing hand to be upon me. Once again, thank you for your love and unending prayers; words may never fully express my gratitude.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In September we’re lifting up the Peace & Global Witness Offering, and YWCA Greater Harrisburg, the organization that will receive a portion of the funds collected through this special offering of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The YWCA Greater Harrisburg’s vision of creating a just community for all began 130 years ago. As the role and the needs of women adapted over time. The YWCA has historically expanded its impact, becoming a driving force that transforms lives.
We embrace a cultural commitment to our core values, through our leadership staff and volunteers, exhibiting respect, accountability, and inclusiveness. We are dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
Founded in 1883 to create a safe place for young working women to live and gather, the YWCA Greater Harrisburg focuses on five general program areas:
- Housing and homelessness
- Violence intervention and prevention
- Legal and family visitation
- Children and youth
- Employment readiness and support.
In its 130-year history, the YWCA Greater Harrisburg has maintained its dedication to the provision of quality programs and services that meet the needs of women and families. Providing service to individuals living in Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry Counties, the YWCA actively serves as an advocate and resource to the community.
The YWCA is working as the crossroads of society’s most pressing issues. We are providing critical health and safety needs by housing and case managing hundreds of individuals who may otherwise end up in emergency rooms. We are providing court accompaniments, so our victims receive justice. We are operating a full-time daycare to provide individuals the ability to return to work.
We are doing this work through the lens of our vision, mission, and purpose. The YWCA is on a mission to eliminate racism and empower women. We work at the intersection of gender, race, age, ethnicity, and orientation.
Today, we combine programming and advocacy to generate institutional, systemic and individual change, by impacting one life at a time.
The start of a new program year is exciting in so many ways, especially here at the church. The month of September will have our building buzzing with excitement as we welcome everyone back to our classrooms, small group gatherings, and fellowship opportunities. I have no doubt that God’s presence will be felt by all as we continue to prepare for and enjoy the start of another program year at Derry Church.
Not only will the life of the church feel more vibrant with the program year getting under way, you’ll likely feel the rest of your life coming alive as everyone moves away from the slower pace that summer typically brings. So how do you choose what to join, how to fit in, and where to find information on church life and programming? Read on for answers to some of those questions.
What types of programs can I expect?
Derry’s planning teams are working hard to provide a variety of learning and gathering opportunities for Sunday mornings and throughout the week for all ages to enjoy. Sunday mornings this fall will include Sunday School for all ages, choir rehearsal, and 11-Minute Lessons.
Throughout the week we offer a variety of small groups studies so that you can find a group that fits your schedule. You can find fellowship on Monday afternoons, Tuesday evenings and Sundays after worship as we offer opportunities for church and community members. Tuesday evenings include delicious hot dinners in Fellowship Hall for all to enjoy, music and creative arts for our children & youth (preschool-12th grade), and worship in the Chapel.
How can I learn more about all of the different programs Derry Church offers?
The best resource is our church eNewsletter. We try to include all that is happening in this weekly publication. We have also been adding the schedule to the Sunday bulletin and have printed copies of the eNews available on the information desk in the Narthex.
If you are looking for information specific to youth, contact Pastor Stephen. For children, email me and ask to be added to the regular newsletters we share with all that is happening for these specific age groups.
Why is it important for me to be involved in more than Sunday worship?
Growing your faith is a lifelong journey. Our faith experiences become greater and more meaningful when we gather with others to learn, share, wrestle and prepare for the ups and downs of life. Gathering for worship can help us feel ready to face the start of a week with new thoughts and good intentions. But often life can quickly overtake those thoughts and intentions, and before we know it we are sitting in worship again and realizing we haven’t invited God to join us throughout the week. There are also times when life’s ups and downs will leave us needing or craving help and care from our church friend. Derry’s various programs are not only created for learning and sharing, they are designed to help us strengthen our relationships with one another.
How do I get involved?
Simple: come! Whether you are a parent who wants to help your children or youth grow their faith, or you are an adult looking to challenge and explore your faith, or you are looking for connections with others, all of our programs are designed to welcome you when you are able to join us. I encourage you to step out from the craziness or loneliness of life and carve out time to explore your faith and grow your relationship with God and with your church family.
What if I’m just too busy right now?
We all go through seasons of life when time works against us and keeps us from being able to be more involved. That does not mean our faith journey needs to be put on pause or moved to the back burner. We can still explore our faith. Over the last few weeks, we have begun to include faith questions in the bulletin and eNews and at the start of staff and committee meetings. These questions are designed to help us pause and reflect as we spend a few minutes with ourselves to discover how God is finding us in our daily lives. Questions can be answered while sitting alone, sitting in worship, or talked about at church and family gatherings. We hope they spark something within you that allows you to open your heart and mind even more.
What if I have questions about Derry’s various programs or want more information about how to get involved?
Please call (717-533-9667), send an email, stop by the church office, or talk with our staff members on Sundays to learn more about any of our church programs and how you can get involoved.
I look forward to seeing you soon!
On May 14 I had the honor of being commissioned as Derry’s first Faith Community Nurse. What an exciting day! I had always dreamed of doing some sort of health ministry with my nursing skills, and now I’m on my way.
Many of you may be wondering about the role of a Faith Community Nurse (FCN). What are her responsibilities? How can she help me?
A FCN Is a subset of nursing like pediatrics, medical surgical, women’s health, cardiovascular care, and more. This speciality is subject to its own Scope and Standards of Practice and is required to adhere to these standards including confidentiality. I will soon be taking an extensive course for FCN and will receive my certification.
A FCN works within a faith community and incorporates health, wellness, and spirituality into her practice. I can do this by teaching about different health topics, teaching and encouraging wellness practices, acting as a resource person, and incorporating spirituality into these teachings. I can also help you navigate today’s complex healthcare systems. In my role as a FCN, I can provide counsel on a variety of issues and help to seek solutions, and offer a listening ear. Home and long term care facilities visits, hospital visits, as well as phone calls and follow-up calls after surgery are also a part of my duties. If you need community resources, I can help guide you to those services.
I can review medications with you and make suggestions on how to take them. Nursing assessments of different situations are also part of my role. If you have a health question, I can help with that and I can do some health assessments and screening tests, such as take blood pressures and offer advice. Some of the things that I cannot do are hands-on nursing care (things like basic physical care or placing meds into containers for ease of remembering to take them).
At Derry, I am partnering with the new Health and Wellness Committee, using their knowledge to act as a health and wellness guide for our church family. “Health Time with Nurse Beckie” is a new educational program I’m offering on Zoom on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Join me as I present a health topic followed by discussion and questions. The first session is Wednesday, August 23 at 1 pm. I’ll be talking about ticks and lyme disease. Click this link to join the conversation.
I am very excited about this new role at Derry Church and I look forward to meeting each and every one of you and getting to know you. Please reach out with your suggestions and any questions. I’m happy to take calls and make visits. You can contact me through the church office (717-533-9667) or reach out by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I feel so blessed that God and Derry Church have called me to this ministry, and I thank you for the opportunity to serve this congregation.
Editor’s Note: Last month a group of Derry Church youth and leaders spent a week in Niagara Falls, NY on a mission and fellowship adventure. What follows are Kate’s reflections on that experience.
What was your impression on what you saw in Niagara Falls?
I did not expect Niagara Falls (the city) to be so run down and deserted. Leaving the amazing falls and then driving down an abandoned Main Street is something I will never forget.
What did you do on the mission trip?
We had the chance to work at Community Missions in their soup kitchen and food pantry. It felt really good to talk with people who came to pick up food for their family and to help them load everything into their cars. I will never forget the smile on one woman’s face when I handed her a bouquet of flowers. Everyone was so thankful for our help.
We also served at Center City and got to assist people at their homes. We met a woman who had a fire in her home and we were able to help her work in her yard to make it look nice even though her house was still being fixed up after the fire. We also met a man who needed help cleaning up his property and we worked to transform all the overgrown gardens and make the yard look really nice for him.
Some of our group spent two days at Holy Trinity, a former Catholic church that is now a historical site. The church was built in the early 1900s by a Polish community and has so much amazing history. Marge, the lady who now cares for the whole property and runs the mission organization that is housed there, very much appreciated our help with the yard work and preparing it for their upcoming Polish Polka Festival fundraiser that raises the funds needed to keep the historical site going.
What is your favorite memory from this youth mission trip?
Our last night in Niagara Falls our group had free time together and we had a lot of fun exploring the falls. We visited a park and took sunset pictures, did some souvenir shopping, saw Niagara Falls lit up at nighttime and saw fireworks over the falls. It was a super fun way to end our mission week.
How do you see your life differently now that you are back home?
I look forward to helping others more than I did before. I hope that our youth group will find ways to help make a difference in our own community.
Would you want to go on another trip? Why or why not?
Yes! I enjoyed this mission experience and having the opportunity to meet youth from other churches. I look forward to going on more mission trips in the years to come.
In case you missed it: click here to watch a short video of the group’s adventures in Niagara Falls.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article showcases one of our mission partners. In August we’re focusing on Education of Children and the good work happening at Logos Academy Harrisburg.
Kirk Hallet, founder of the Joshua Group, often said that education is the best anti-poverty program. Statistics bear that out. A study by the American Educational Research Association found that a student who can’t read on grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who reads proficiently by that time. Without a high school diploma, a student is twice as likely to be in poverty as one with a high school diploma and more than five times as likely as one with a college degree, according to a recent UC Davis study.
Derry Church’s partnership with Logos Academy Harrisburg enables us to provide a quality and compassionate education in a Christ-centered environment, thus addressing poverty and equipping tomorrow’s leaders. With 43% of our students (Pre-K to third in 2022-23) in poverty and another 22% near poverty, we are seeing the impact. Grayson has grown from a struggling student in first grade to excelling in second grade, far exceeding his growth and stretch goals. He has become such a good reader that his grandmother says she has to hide her phone, because he “reads over my shoulder.” Further, she adds, “he has come out of his shell.” She credits his school for this growth. She is rightfully proud of his academic growth but equally proud of his growth in character. That is the goal of true education, according to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Logos Academy Harrisburg’s math and reading test scores are good and helpful indicators, but this is not the only important or even the most important priority in education as a predictor of future success, according to Ross Wiener of the Aspen Institute (USA Today.) Being creative and critical thinkers with a high degree of integrity and character is a much better indicator of long-term success in life.
The education model of Logos Academy Harrisburg is designed so that every student grows. As with many other schools, our students are at varying levels of academic proficiency and social/emotional development. Our individualized approach allows all students to experience success. “Elaine” is several grade levels behind. Math is challenging; reading is challenging; but she is growing. Testing her simply for grade-level proficiency would be discouraging, at best. However, testing her for growth is motivating, because she is growing. She is succeeding because she is meeting her growth goals. The result? “Elaine” is learning to love learning.
We are thankful for our partnership with Derry Church, whose investment in our students is already paying dividends and will continue to do so for these young learners for years to come.
“We proclaim God’s word, share God’s love, and practice God’s justice.”
These are familiar words to those of us who are members of Derry Church. However, I believe that the words that often follow our mission statement are absolutely as important, and they are the reasons that we can boldly act on our mission.
“…through being an inquiring, inviting, and inclusive Christ-centered community.”
In 2004 when I moved with my young family from Virginia to Hershey, one of the most important things for us to do was find a home in a community of faith. As one does when moving to another area, I began attending Sunday mornings at different churches. I will never forget the sense of welcome that I felt at Derry on that first Sunday. Not only were so many members friendly and kind during the passing of the peace, but afterward several folks came to say hello to me and my two young daughters (it is hard to believe that Gillian and Rachael were four years old and one year old when we arrived here). Then one day later that week as I was unpacking boxes in our new house, there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, there were two smiling people standing on my porch, thanking me for attending church the prior Sunday. Then they offered me a delicious loaf of Irish soda bread. I had never had such a warm welcome from any other church.
The community of Derry Church is so much more than people who all attend the same church. Not unlike prehistoric humans who discovered that once they lived together they also shared each other’s work and joys and sorrows, we who worship together at Derry experience very much the same support of one another. But it doesn’t stop there. Derry allows us to grow together in place, and out into the broader community of our town, and our state, and in the world.
I have found that it is so important to be a part of the programming of our church, because in these acts of service we also find community that perhaps we didn’t know we were missing. Over the years, the communities that have meant the most to me (and in fact, drew me to the church initially) were children’s ministries, and music. But my daughters and I have been fortunate to serve in other ways too, and all along the way we also felt nurtured and loved.
I encourage all of us to continue to listen to God’s call to us to share God’s word and love, and to practice God’s justice. Be inquiring: ask what you can do to be a part of mission and ministry. Share ideas you have to serve others. Be inviting: welcome newcomers to our church community, and be a model for Christ’s love in all that you do. Be inclusive and share community: bring about positive change, and show love to our neighbors – all our neighbors.
Derry Church, thank you for the faithful and loving community that you are for me, my family, and so many others throughout the world. I look forward to worshiping and serving our communities with you for many years to come.
Church libraries were never something that caught my attention. Growing up, the library in our church was just a big room our parents used for meetings. I remember liking the soft carpet and thinking the wallpaper was weird. I don’t remember ever checking out a book or considering the possibility.
In my six years at Derry Church, I had a similar relationship with its library. No weird wallpaper, but it was just sort of there. A space I crossed through to get to other places or maybe stopped in to use the tables or soft chairs. I grabbed a couple Faithful Readers titles when I couldn’t find them at other libraries, but never looked or borrowed beyond that. Besides, the books had to contain heavy religious topics that would depress me, confuse me, or put me to sleep, right?
A library epiphany was coming.
It was January, and Tuesday night fellowship was bustling. The parents had a few hours to wait, and I realized idle hands could be doing something helpful. I asked committees and staff for things we could do.
One evening, Kristy Elliott approached me and asked if we’d be willing to do something to promote the library. She is part of the library committee (did you know there was such a thing? I didn’t!) and they had been working diligently to modernize and zhuzh up the space and its collection. Now they needed people to notice. Why not? I could throw together some signs and face some books with neat looking covers out towards the passersby.
Since it was almost February, I decided to focus on books about Love. I googled famous literary love quotes and was pleasantly surprised that our library contained many of the titles and authors I was seeing. C.S. Lewis, Maya Angelou, Anthony Doerr, Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, Elie Wiesel, Dr. Seuss, the list went on and on.
I became well acquainted with our online catalog, which I didn’t realize had been featured on the homepage of Derry’s website all along. It holds electronic, searchable records of EVERY title and produced 55 titles for my “love” keyword search. I was impressed.
I quickly realized this library space wasn’t just a few dusty old books about the Protestant Reformation. There was good stuff there, and lots of it! Biographies, poetry, new fiction, local history, cookbooks, children’s picture books. Books for everyone, even lovers of literary fluff like me. And the shelves on religion weren’t just full of dated or overly cerebral topics (but those are there too if that’s your bag). There are stories and studies of faith from varied perspectives. And not just our protestant faith, but of religious thoughts from around the globe.
Heck with those few signs I promised Kristy. People needed to get in here to see this, to check out these books that Kristy, Courtney McKinney-Whitaker, and Chris Gawron had so lovingly gathered and organized for us. This stay-at-home mom/professional volunteer, lover of Derry Church, quirky theme and décor enthusiast (and creator of self-imposed titles) would be the (un)official Ruth Codington Lending Library Advocate. And I would drench that library in eye-catching thematic fun so it would blend into the background no more!
My initial promise of two monthly themes has turned into seven, and I have plans for more. I am having a great time decorating, featuring book categories, and actually reading what I recommend (our book on Phillis Wheatley is pretty great. Thanks, biography month).
I love watching books disappear off the shelves, seeing congregation members interacting with the space, and getting to know the staff better when they graciously answer my questions for the Staff Shelf. And who isn’t loving the anticipation of what the library-user-driven sermon is going to be when the summer reading challenge winner is crowned?!
The library has reminded me about the greatness of our building and its people. Our building has an amazing book collection, a room full of yarn, gardens to tend, bells to ring, children to teach, a nook stocked with free greeting cards, a full kitchen that produces tons of food and fellowship. There is something for everyone in these walls, a bounty we are so lucky to have. Explore it. It’s for you.
And while you’re at it, talk to the people you find. They’re great, and interesting, and you’ll probably find someone that will enrich your life somehow. That small interaction with Kristy last January gave me a fun new purpose, new knowledge, new insight, and new friends. I love being a part of this place and its people.
What a gift we have in our library. A quiet space to sit or visit with others. A place where kids can play and read together. Walls of diverse titles that entertain and inform us and remind us that it’s ok to doubt, to question, and to imagine. It is yet another reminder that we strive to be an open minded, curious, welcoming group here at Derry Church. You will know we are Christians by our love, AND by our cool set of books.
As Property Manager, I am proud to partner with Derry Church’s team of great volunteers that work with me and other staff to continually improve and maintain the church property and buildings.
Since last year, many projects have been completed and even more have been started:
- Late last fall we completed the dismantling and total rebuild of approximately 150 feet of the stone wall surrounding the cemetery that was leaning and falling apart.
- The Session House, built in 1732 as a log cabin meeting place, has been leaning for probably over 100 years, and the bottom log on the north side had rotted. The Building and Grounds committee and others had concerns about it. We hired British Masonry and Restoration, a local specialty contractor, to stabilize the structure. The heavy old brick chimney sitting in the attic was removed and the north wall was lifted to allow the base of the wall to move out approximately nine inches. The bottom rotted log was replaced with an 1800s log beam, and it was supported with limestone slabs. The west wall had supports added and was re-sided with aged barn siding. This will protect the future of this historic structure for a hundred years or more.
- The second phase of the spouting and gutter guard project has been completed with only one more phase to complete the entire building.
- I have worked closely with other committees on projects like upgrading all the signs outside the building and adding the Zoom Room to room 7. With that project we also moved the large screen to Fellowship Hall to make presentation setups much easier in that space.
- The building known to most of us as the Scout House at the rear of the property needed maintenance and repair. We contracted to have a portion of the stone basement wall repaired that was near falling apart, then we had all the wood siding repaired and the exterior painted. Now the building has many more decades of life ahead.
We are always looking at short- and long-term needs and planning the best fix for the problem. A few current projects include the improvement of rainwater drainage in front of the Chapel and the whole rear of the building: that will happen this fall. A contractor is set to repair the inside of the Chapel bell tower and add a safe stair/ladder for future inspection and maintenance of the bell.
We are also adding and improving the lighting in the atrium library to make this a more welcoming reading area.
Next week rooms 4 and 5 will be opened up into one large room as requested by Christian Education. Contractors will move the folding wall from 7AB into rooms 4 and 5 to allow flexible use of that space. The space where the dividing wall was stored in 7AB will become a storage closet.
This month’s mission focus is on elder care as provided by Christian Churches United (CCU) and its partner agencies. From its earliest beginnings in Harrisburg in 1866, Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area has evolved to a partnership of over 100 Christian congregations in Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry Counties that work together with concerned individuals, public and private funders, and numerous partner agencies like Derry to support our neighbors in need.
CCU provides a continuum of programs seeking to address both crisis housing situations and chronic causes of housing and financial instability. While motivated by Jesus’ love and example, CCU aids clientele without regard to religion or creed. CCU is united in service and love to those facing homelessness, poverty and incarceration.
One area of service provided by CCU is their HELP Ministries. Through HELP, services are offered to provide shelter, rental and utility assistance, as well as medical or other basic needs. For instance, families under threat of eviction can work with HELP to resolve the issue and remain in their home. During the winter, if a family has exhausted all other fuel assistance programs, they can receive a one-time supply of heating fuel through HELP.
HELP is the point of contact for those needing an emergency shelter as provided by the YWCA, Shalom House, and Interfaith Family Shelter. They then work with the shelter and client to find permanent housing in the area. Financial counseling may be needed to save for a security deposit and to make the initial monthly rental payment. This can lead the family to a long-term solution out of homelessness. In addition, HELP provides aid to those in need of medical, transportation, or food assistance. Thus, a one-time need for a life-sustaining medicine can be met. HELP can also arrange for emergency transportation in specific situations, such as a stranded traveler. Clients in need of food are referred to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s reference guide. Derry’s support of HELP Ministries enables them to provide a vital link with other social services to form a safety net for those in need in the Tri-County area.
The 2022-2023 school year at Derry Discovery Days just concluded and it was one of our best years yet! We were blessed to have hired five new staff members and their strong backgrounds in education greatly enhanced our program.
In September, we re-opened our Ladybug 1s class led by Miss Jen. This classroom had been closed since March 2020. Twelve students under age two arrived on the first day, having barely been away from their families, if at all, during the pandemic. The growth in these children in even just the first weeks was incredible and it was amazing to see the love they received from their teachers, the friendships formed and their confidence stronger as a result of this warm classroom environment.
Our Turtle 2s led by Miss Morgan and Busy Bee 3s taught by Miss Rachel, also grew tremendously throughout the year, learning through play, working on fine and gross motor skills, early math and literacy concepts and being surrounded by lots of creativity and communication!
25 students completed our Butterfly 4 programs, taught by Miss Jill in the mornings and by me in the afternoons, graduating on May 25. These children enjoyed many engaging units of study throughout the year including space, community helpers, and insects, and focused on all aspects of kindergarten preparation as well as on character traits such as kindness, generosity and teamwork. The students performed several songs at their graduation ceremony. One of their favorites was called “Ready to Go” and they certainly are READY for Kindergarten!
Together we all enjoyed many fun activities including our Halloween parade, a visit from the Hershey Fire Department, our Christmas concert, Ash Wednesday service, Teacher Appreciation Week where we were spoiled by our amazing families, and our annual picnic in May. We also had our second 3.21 for Life Day on March 21. All DDD staff and students received a mismatched pair of socks courtesy of Hayden and Lauren Talhelm and the classes learned about celebrating differences and how all of God’s children are unique and special.
We have openings in our Ladybug 1s class for the upcoming school year. If you are interested in learning more about enrolling, please contact me.. Children must be one year old by September 1 and walking.
We wish everyone a terrific summer.
For the last several days Facebook has been reminding me what I was doing seven years ago and last year. Seven years ago, I visited Scotland for the first time and fell in love with the country, culture, and history. We visited Edinburgh, St, Andrews, Glasgow, Iona, Skye, Loch Ness, and more. The trip helped pique my curiosity of the world and my love of travel. Last year, I was in Ireland at this time, exploring the country and learning more about reconciliation and living well together.
I love Scotland and Ireland. I love the landscape and the legends, and yes even the food: Sainsburys grocery stores are the best! I enjoyed the historical sites and appreciated discovering the roots of Presbyterianism, and in many ways the roots of America.
I’m looking forward to returning to Northern Ireland and Scotland next spring with more than 40 friends from Derry Church. I hope they fall in love with these countries as I did, but more importantly come away with a greater appreciation of Celtic spirituality, the roots of Presbyterianism, and the complicated history of the Scots Irish in the British Isles and in America. As a congregation, we’ll explore more about Celtic spirituality next spring during Lent leading up to the trip.
I think the Derry 300th Heritage trip will be an educational, fun, and memorable trip for all. Courtney and I will be leading some classes for the participants leading up to the class about Scottish and Irish history, but anyone can come who may be interested in learning more.
While I’m excited about the April 2024 trip, I may be even more excited about taking our youth and college aged students to Northern Ireland in June next year. We’ll spend a week at Corrymeela where they will lead us in a program about peace, reconciliation, and living well with difference. We’ll take a day trip to Belfast and learn the history of the Troubles as told by both an Irish Republican and a British Loyalist. We’ll spend a day in Derry and worship at First Derry Presbyterian Church, tour the city, and learn more about the Troubles and the peace process. We’ll also have time for some fun, like visiting Giant’s Causeway, Rathlin Island, and Carrickfergus Castle.
This will be a once-in-a-lifetime — and hopefully a life-changing opportunity — for our youth. They’ll not only get to explore a new part of the world, they’ll learn about the history of the Scots-Irish and the difficult societal divisions in Ireland and how they began to heal. They will be given tools by one of the most respected reconciliation ministries on how to live well within a world of difference and be peacemakers themselves.
Youth who are attending will participate in educational classes before the trip so they can get the most out of it, and will need to complete 25 hours of mission work through the church.
This is one way they can more deeply connect with our 300th anniversary next year as they learn the history and visit places like Derry, Northern Ireland.
We hope to significantly offset the cost of this trip so it’s possible for as many youth and college students to attend as possible. If you would like to donate to help make this youth trip possible, please reach out to me or donate to our Empower Youth Fund or through checks notated Empower Youth.
2024 will be a special year for Derry, and not only because of these trips. We will be looking back and looking forward all year with special music, guests, classes, and worship. Even if you won’t be taking one of these trips, you can keep up with the travelers through pictures and stories, and you can participate in all the classes and our Celtic Spirituality worship series next Lent.
As I see the old pictures I took on Facebook, I am filled with anticipation for my next trip and the experiences we will have together.
Many of you know our daughter Lynn works as the director of communications at Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Chester. When she comes home for a visit, she and I can’t help but talk shop: how’s the livestream going? How’s the new pastor? What new technology is Westminster using that we should try at Derry? Sometimes we get so excited talking and sharing ideas that Jim has to go into another room and shut the door for some peace and quiet.
There’s one area we talk a lot about but haven’t yet come to any good conclusions: how do we help our live streaming friends stay connected and involved in the life of the church? It’s exciting that our in-person community is growing, yet there continues to be a respectable number of Derry members and friends who participate by live streaming, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. It’s what works for them, and I’m really glad we can offer a robust and welcoming online worship experience for families like the Plassios, new members who live in Texas and worship online with us each week. We may not see these folks in the pews, but they are as much a part of our congregation as those who attend in person.
So how can we extend the warm and welcoming Derry community to these good folks beyond Sunday worship?
We already offer Tech Time on Zoom and Issues Classes to watch live or recorded later. The Communications & Technology Committee has its monthly meeting on Zoom, and the Monday night study group gathered on Zoom regularly this year. While some people could care less about ever meeting on Zoom again, there are others who prefer this format, or because of their circumstances, are grateful for the option. And those are the folks we can’t forget or leave behind even as many return to in-person church.
As Lynn and I scratch our heads over what kinds of virtual gatherings make sense in a post pandemic world, it occurred to me that I could ask you good eNews readers what would be of interest. A prayer group? A class? The ability to attend an existing class or program that is not yet offered in hybrid format? Let me know by sharing your suggestions:
You can be sure I’ll be sharing your ideas with Derry’s staff and with Lynn. She has given me so many good ideas that I’d like to share a few of our good ones with her and the Westminster congregation. Yet I am very much aware that what works in one place may not make sense somewhere else. I’m looking to extend Derry’s offerings in a way that makes sense for our congregation, so that we can continue being the church that proclaims God’s word, shares God’s love, and practices God’s justice.
This spring my children’s music groups and I had the gift of time. We sang in worship on Palm Sunday, April 2 and not again until Music Sunday on June 4. Without the time pressure of getting a song ready in a few weeks, we had time to play! And play we did.
On Tuesday nights, my preschool and kindergarten group used their loud and soft voices to help one child find Queen Caroline’s royal scepter, tried to guess who stole my dog’s bone based on the voice who was singing, and flew around like butterflies or crawled like monsters depending what type of music I was playing on the piano. Also on Tuesday nights, my 1st-5th grade group used forte or piano singing to help one child find the “anel” (Portuguese for ring), made sure they DID NOT sing my “poison pattern,” and got a hand clapping pattern faster and faster while singing “Aqua qua” (a nonsense song from Israel). On Sunday mornings, the kids came up with new verses for “This Little Light of Mine” by imagining different places their light could shine and motions to go with them. Some examples include “with my friends” “while climbing trees,” and “on a roller coaster.” I’ll let you imagine the motions!
Yes, this play was fun, and honestly, I’m not sure we need more of a reason than that to keep doing it, but more was happening than fun that only lasted for the 30 minutes I was with them. The kids’ community was slowly deepening. They were learning that here was a group who would cheer for them when they found Queen Caroline’s royal scepter or the “anel”— even the child who hid the scepter or ring cheered, especially if they thought they had found a “super good spot.” Here was a group that if they accidentally sang the “poison pattern” would say, “don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.” Here was a group that when the clapping game got so fast, they couldn’t possibly keep up and would simply collapse onto the ground in a fit of giggles. In other words, we’ve created a space where the kids feel safe enough and are confident enough to take risks and make mistakes because they know the other kids will support them.
Did you notice how many kids sang a solo verse on Sunday in the anthem “Over My Head”? There were FIVE. Not only did they sing a solo, but they each wrote the words to their solo verses. In addition to the five you heard, every single child in my 1st-5th grade group wrote at least one solo verse and sang it on Tuesday night for the group. I doubt I would have had nearly that many volunteers to sing their solo verse in worship, nor would every child have happily written a solo verse (or three) if we hadn’t had time to play together.
As we enter the summer months, we take a break from our weekly gatherings. But the kids continue to see each other. The community we have formed through musical play doesn’t go away, it simply becomes a little less structured. I can’t wait to continue building this community alongside the kids in the fall.
In 2024, Derry Presbyterian Church will celebrate its 300th anniversary. As part of this celebration, the Mission and Peace Committee, with Session approval, has accepted a unique opportunity to partner with the Veterans Outreach of Pennsylvania (VOPA) in a unique local mission project.
Who is the Veterans Outreach of Pennsylvania?
VOPA is an organization founded with the goal of “combating homelessness among Veterans by providing support and services needed to promote an empowered life filled with strength and purpose.” Their intent is to meet the needs of veterans by creating a stable support network similar to that which they had prior to entering the armed services.
What is this local mission project?
VOPA intends to build a central community center surrounded by 15 “tiny houses” for homeless veterans on a 5-acre tract of land along the Susquehanna River in South Harrisburg. The site is above the 100-year flood plain and site preparation has been completed. Each tiny house, of about 200 square feet, will contain a bed, toilet and shower, a desk, sink, and an under-counter refrigerator. In the community center, veterans will be able to prepare meals, do laundry, and receive professional educational, job training, and counseling services. Veterans will re-enter society when they feel ready, and the home will be readied to again provide a safe shelter for another homeless veteran.
How will Derry help?
Derry has an opportunity to assist at several levels. We are responsible for the cost of one of the tiny houses. In addition, we will be able to help with the construction of this house. When the project has been completed, Derry members and friends will be able to assist with some of the social programs offered to the veterans.
How much is Derry’s share and how can we help?
The cost of a house is $50,000. Since VOPA expects to begin construction in January 2024, our campaign to raise the funds will be for six months, from June to the end of December 2023. Contributions can be made by check to Derry Presbyterian Church notated “VOPA.” Watch for future announcements to volunteer to help with the construction, or any of the social service programs to be offered.
To learn more about VOPA and this program, join the Issues Class at 9:15 am Sunday, June 4 in Room 7 and live streaming: presenter John Hickey is a VOPA Board Member and Governance Committee Chair.
Why do this project?
Homelessness among veterans is a national and local concern. We all have benefited by their sacrifices. Whether you have served our country or not, this is an opportunity to assist those who have served and who struggle to adapt to our current culture. It is a project worthy of our 300th anniversary celebration as we continue to proclaim God’s Word, share God’s love, and practice God’s justice into Derry’s future.
“Let every instrument be tuned for praise! Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise! And may God give us faith to sing always: Alleluia!”
With hearts and minds centered on our Awesome God, we will rejoice with voices lifted in singing this text from the final stanza of our closing hymn on Music Sunday, June 4. There is one service at 10:30 am in the Sanctuary, where the choirs of Derry Church will share their talents in praise to God as we celebrate the gift of song in worship.
Derry Ringers will begin our service with a lively prelude written by Dan R. Edwards entitled Resounding Jubilation. The Youth Vocal Ensemble and Sanctuary Choir will sing together an arrangement of the well-known contemporary hymn, Lead Me, Lord. Celebration Singers will share a traditional African-American spiritual, Over My Head, led by Claire Folts, our Director of Children’s Music.
Claire and Debbi Kees-Folts will present a children’s message with a song of mystery – come and find out what song they will play during the children’s message! The Sanctuary Choir will offer Gilbert M. Martin’s stirring arrangement of When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, which begins contemplatively and crescendos to the complete resources of the organ as the choir paints the picture of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and finally, building to the full “Amen.”
All of our ensembles join together in leading the congregation in our closing hymn, number 641 in our Glory to God hymnal: When In Our Music God is Glorified. Under the direction of Scott Ramirez, Derry Brass will conclude the service with Charpentier’s Te Deum, written for brass and organ. Following the worship service, the congregation will enjoy fellowship at the annual Derry Church picnic on the church lawn.
As Music Sunday is the close of our church academic year, the choirs will have a break for the summer until they return after Labor Day weekend. There will be three opportunities this summer to join the Sanctuary Choir in the open loft – you don’t have to be a great singer, just come to the rehearsal at 9 am and learn an easy anthem to sing at the 10:30 am service.
Summer special music begins on Sunday, June 11, with members of Derry Church and the surrounding community sharing their many gifts for praise and adoration given to God. Some highlights include trombonists Tracy and Nicola Burke, sopranos Janice Click Holl and Julie Miller, a quartet from the Susquehanna Chorale, soprano Sasha Piastro-Tedford and violinist Jeffrey Tedford, harpist Marilla Clay, Piper Stagg (one of our graduating seniors), and cellist Mike Klucker. The Derry Brass will lead us in Tuesday evening worship on the church lawn once a month over the summer.
Music serves an essential role in our worship; whether we are ringing bells, playing an instrument, or singing the hymns of faith: we express what cannot be spoken, pour out what is weighing in our hearts, and invite the Holy Spirit to move in and through this Holy place. We are incredibly blessed at Derry to have so many musicians willingly sharing their musical gifts with us. My deepest gratitude to our choirs of all ages and soloists who have graciously given their time and talents for God’s glory this past year. Come, rejoice, and sing as we celebrate the gift of music in the life of our church on June 4!
Derry Church is a family, with members who play many different roles. Many of our members are essential to our success but make their contributions quietly and steadfastly, while avoiding any recognition for their contributions.
We, as a church, are beholden to those quiet members who contribute so much to making Derry Church a welcoming, caring, and strong congregation.
For Mary Jane Mease, who passed away this past January, Derry Church was at the heart of her life. As she noted in a 2003 oral history interview, her parents met each other in this church, married in this church, and had all nine of their children baptized and confirmed in this church. Mary Jane’s father, Ivan Mease, was one of Derry’s strong leaders and served as the Clerk of Session for 45 years.
Mary Jane was born on November 21, 1927, the fifth child of Ivan and Minnie Dressler Mease. At that time, Derry Church consisted of the original 1884 Chapel, the 1732 Session House (that had not yet been enclosed by the glass structure), and the cemetery. Reverend Taylor (1916-1932) married Mary Jane’s parents in 1920 and baptized all of the Mease children.
Before the Chapel was enlarged (with an east transept, classrooms and social hall on the lower level in 1935), Sunday School was held in the west transept of the Chapel. There were separate Sunday School classes for boys and girls. When Mary Jane was a teenager, the girls’ class was held in one transept and the boys’ class was held in the other transept. One of Mary Jane’s favorite memories of Derry Church was coming to church each Sunday. Her parents gave each of the Mease children two nickels, one for Sunday School and one for the church offering. The nickels would be laid out on the table and the Mease children would pick them up on their way to church. The Mease family took up an entire pew in the Chapel
Growing up in Hershey, Mary Jane attended the Derry Township schools, graduating from Hershey High School in 1946. She also attended the Hershey Junior College before going to work for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. She spent her working career there, retiring as a Budget Supervisor. Mary Jane never learned to drive a car, relying on public buses or friends to provide transportation when needed.
Mary Jane always lived with her parents. After her father died in 1965, she and her mother moved from 111 Cocoa Avenue to an apartment on W. Granada Avenue. After her mother died in 1985, Mary Jane continued to live in the apartment until months before her death.
Throughout her life, Mary Jane was an active if quiet participant in the life of Derry Church. Mary Jane began singing with the Derry Church choir in 1948. During the early years of the choir, the numbers were small: four men and four or five women. The men sat in the west transept and the women sat in the east transept. Mary Jane continued to sing with the choir until the early 2000s. When a separate choir was established for the 8 am Chapel service in the early 1990s, Mary Jane sang with both the Chapel and Sanctuary choirs. Mary Jane also served as the choir librarian, keeping the music library well organized and the choral music properly filed.
From 1952 to 1967 Derry Church sold dinners during Pennsylvania Dutch Days as a fundraiser. Every year, Mary Jane, along with her mother, helped prepare and serve hundreds of meals on each of the five days Dutch Days was held.
After Mary Jane retired from work, she spent many hours each week volunteering at Derry Church. She took on the responsibility of tidying the pews in the Chapel and Sanctuary, collecting discarded bulletins, making sure the hymnals were properly stored, and that welcome cards and pew offering envelopes were stocked and pencils sharpened. For many years she completed this task on her own. Later she was joined by Marguerite Hunchberger and then Jill Campbell. She also worked in the church office, helping fold the weekly bulletins and filling each one with inserts. She helped with the monthly newsletter mailing and other clerical tasks. Mary Jane enjoyed helping wherever she could and never wanted to be recognized.
At home, Mary Jane enjoyed working on jigsaw puzzles and always had a puzzle in progress. She took responsibility for the flower bed in front of her apartment building, carefully planting the impatiens and vincas each year, making sure that they were kept watered throughout the growing season.
Editor’s note: Thanks to Pam Whitenack for preparing this week’s feature article.
Have you seen “Prime Timers” in the bulletin or church emails? Are you curious what Prime Timers is all about? Wondering if this new program is worth checking out? Want to learn more? Please read on and discover all that Prime Timers hopes to offer to our church family and to the community.
What is Prime Timers?
Prime Timers is Derry’s newest adult fellowship program. The program has been established to help strengthen the connections between the adults of the church, and our community, through times of fellowship, learning, faith and fun.
Who can attend Prime Timers?
ALL adults are welcome to join us! Prime Timers gathers on Mondays from 12:30-2 pm in Room 7. Prime Timers is open to both our church family and the surrounding community, so we encourage you to share this group with others who may be looking for a way to engage with other adults, meet new friends, expand their knowledge, or feel more connected to their community.
Where did the name, Prime Timers, come from?
Prime Timers meets during the “prime time” of the day, the early afternoon. Our time together is during daylight hours and when most roads are less traveled, making it a “prime time” for all to gather.
What can you expect at a Prime Timers gathering?
Each week will offer a new topic or activity. Our weekly programs rotate between guest speakers, intellectual discussions, engaging bible studies, games & trivia and mission projects. Each program is designed to offer a time for learning and a time for fellowship. On the first Monday of each month we expand our time and offer a $5 soup and salad lunch at 12 noon and then move into our program.
Do you have to attend every Prime Timers gathering?
No! While Prime Timers gathers each week, the program was designed so folks can “come when they can”. While we would love to have you with us each week, we understand that other commitments will make that difficult. We chose to have the program meet weekly to ensure that folks have ample opportunities to gather together, something we know many look forward to doing.
Who leads Prime Timers?
I’m the coordinator of this program and I work closely with both our Membership Connections Committee and Christian Education Committee to create programs that are diverse and dynamic. Guest speakers, church staff members and various committees will help lead individual programs.
How can I learn more about Prime Timers?
Email M.E. Steelman and share that you would like to receive a weekly Sunday email sharing more about the upcoming Monday program.
What’s coming up for Prime Timers?
Monday, May 15 – Hershey Gardens: What’s new? Fun History. Gardening Tips.
Monday, May 22 – Patriotic Trivia & Games
Monday, May 29 – Happy Memorial Day! NO SESSION
Monday, June 5 – Bible Study with Pastor Stephen
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In May we’re lifting up the Pentecost Offering: 40% of gifts received will support the good work of the Community Check-Up Center in Harrisburg.
On behalf of the Community Check-Up Center (CCC), thank you for the very generous donation from the Derry Church congregation. Your support helps CCC to continue to provide free and/or low-cost health care to Harrisburg’s diverse and underserved children and adults. All are welcome, respected and treated regardless of their ability to pay.
Located in Hall Manor, CCC was founded through a request from Head Start mothers and South Harrisburg women to provide support and medical assistance to infants and their families. Over the years, CCC has expanded to provide health care to those from baby to adult. Through generous supporters like Derry Church, CCC is able to enhance and expand patient services.
CCC currently serves a population that self identifies as 53% Hispanic, 36% African American and 6% White. Our clients’ ages range from newborn to over 85 years of age. To date in 2023, the Center has provided over 600 patient visits with access to preventative health screenings, vaccinations, health education, cancer screenings, acute care, hearing, and vision screenings and much more. With our focus on pediatrics, women’s health and family practice, our doctors and nurse practitioners are able to serve the needs of our community.
While our staff is small (two doctors, two Nurse Practitioners and three Medical Assistants), we are able to see patients three days a week from 8 am to 4 pm. We continue to look for highly qualified medical providers to help meet the ever-changing needs of our clients.
Community Check-up Center is fortunate to partner with UPMC, Penn State Health, Dauphin County, Harrisburg Housing Authority and numerous free and low-cost clinics throughout the area. These partnerships ensure that our patients receive timely and professional health care with dignity and respect.
Your financial support helps us as our major sources of income are grants and contributions. Patient payments only account for 18% of our annual budget, but we never turn anyone away regardless of income or ability to pay.
The Community Check-Up Center welcomes volunteers and visitors. Click to learn more.
There is nothing permanent except change. These words are true today as we witness changes occurring in almost every aspect of our lives including religious practices, economic and governmental systems, educational focus, social values, cultural norms and of course physical structures. Our physical church is no exception and this article seeks to briefly explore the evolution of our church buildings over the past 300 years.
Worshiping in this place occurred around 1724 as frontiersmen and women gathered near a spring and pool of water. Other local churches were founded near a spring, so this watering source must have been an important location to gather and perhaps refresh themselves and their horses. Minutes of New Castle Presbytery in 1729 record a request from Derry Church for a supply pastor and Rev. Anderson was appointed to minister these settlers every fifth Sabbath. An actual building did not appear until Derry called its first minister, Rev. William Bertram (1732-1746). The Session House was built in 1732 and served the church and the local community in a variety of purposes including as a pastor’s study and meeting place for church officials, a classroom, a lending library, and community post office. By early 1741, Rev. Bertram and some Derry Church members petitioned the sons of William Penn for the land upon which Derry Church would be built.
Our second pastor, John Elder, became pastor in 1746 and served until 1791. As the congregation grew, the need for a larger structure was recognized and “Old Derry” was built in 1769 and later underwent repairs in 1831 costing $500. This structure served the congregation until 1883. We have seen photographs of this clapboard structure with the communion table and chairs located outside the building, along with a pewter communion set. Today the pieces of furniture have been in continuous use and are used in our Chapel. The pewter communion set is still present at our worship services. When “Old Derry” was renovated in 1831, a new pulpit was installed. That 1831 pulpit is now restored and hanging on the wall of the east transept in the sanctuary.
In the 1870s, after the Civil War, church attendance began to drop. Frequently Derry was without a pastor and very few services were held in the church building. Maintenance on “Old Derry” was minimal at best. The church leaders decided that it was too expensive to restore the building, so in 1883 “Old Derry” was demolished. With a very small membership, future looking church leaders organized a Sunday School. Classes were held weekly and attendance began to increase with an average of 59 students per class. But, since there was no main church building, the church records were relocated to Paxton Presbyterian Church’s manse for safekeeping, but that backfired. In August 1894 there was a fire at the manse and most of Derry’s records were destroyed.
Since membership at Derry was very low in 1883 and there was no pastor, the building of a stone church was truly an act of faith. The community recognized the historical importance of Derry Church, so the Dauphin County Historical Society was instrumental in establishing a building committee for a new church building. The cost of this endeavor was estimated to be $7,000. To raise funds for this project, Mrs. Charles Bailey of Harrisburg and Mrs. G. Dawson Coleman of Lebanon, along with descendants of former members, led this effort with assistance from Henry B. McCormick, member of Pine Street Presbyterian Church and a member of the Harrisburg Historical Society. Neighboring churches also contributed by donating funds for the Chapel’s stained-glass windows.
Derry broke ground in 1884 and by October of that year the cornerstone was installed. Construction delays were common due to slow fundraising, but the leaders persisted and the church was dedicated on January 6, 1887 during an 11 am worship service led by Rev. Albert Williamson.
The original Chapel consisted of a bell tower, a west transept which held the choir, a sanctuary with chancel and a rear entrance. Beneath the Chapel (on a lower level) was a furnace room and classroom. Later in 1917, the women of the church (Ladies Guild organized in 1910) paid for the first indoor toilet located on this lower level. By 1928 the church leaders began to make plans to expand the Chapel. Plans included breaking through the east wall and adding an east transept and four classrooms on the first floor (our present Hammond Library and John Elder Classroom) with an assembly room and kitchen on the lower level.
Plans went forward but the stock market crash of 1929 temporarily suspended this project. In October 1934 Henry McCormick again stepped up and offered Rev. John Corbin a donation of $5,000 to help with the expansion plans. Non-member friends of Derry also donated over $6,000, so with construction loans from the Presbytery and Synod and pledges from the congregation, money was raised to cover the entire project’s cost of over $25,000. In addition, in 1935 Milton Hershey gifted each of the community’s five churches $20,000 each to help defray financial difficulties caused by the Great Depression. Since Derry was already expanding, the gift from Milton Hershey allowed Derry to add a vestibule to the Chapel entrance as well as improvements to the chancel and choir section, new chancel furniture, new carpet, and furniture and equipment for the newly added classrooms. A new pulpit was also built, its design inspired by the original pulpit from “Old Derry.” On December 8, 1935, Derry Church conducted its first worship service in its newly renovated and expanded building, now called the John Elder Memorial Chapel.
By 1950, the church Sunday School was well established and well attended. Church growth resulted in the need to expand the church building. Rev. Sheldon Blair was called to serve Derry (1950-1959) and during his tenure ground was broken on October 29, 1950 for an addition to the east of the Chapel. On November 11, 1951, the Christian Education Building was dedicated. This building added a new entrance and foyer, a nursery and children’s classroom, and office space on the main floor. The new lower level included a large social room with a raised platform at one end and a modern kitchen at the other. Today this space is known as rooms 6 and 7. Additional classrooms filled the rest of the lower level.
When Rev. Ira Reed was called as pastor (1959-1987), the need for a larger sanctuary was soon evident. The Chapel had room for 135 congregants and membership was growing. Although a new sanctuary was a few years away, improvements to the Chapel were made. Rev. Reed did not like preaching at the existing pulpit as his back was to the west transept and choir so a lectern was installed at the back rail in the center of the chancel and space for 40 more seats was found. This brought the total number that the Chapel could hold to 175 people. This expansion was still not sufficient, so a Building Committee was established. Groundbreaking for this Sanctuary occurred on March 7, 1965 and on February 13, 1966 the Sanctuary was dedicated along with its new organ. Significant features of this new building were an A shaped rear entrance facing East Derry Road and a long rectangular sanctuary with a center aisle. The chancel area was raised and faced with wood. The choir loft and organ were located above the chancel. The pulpit could be in the center of the chancel or moved to one side. This large sanctuary allowed Derry to grow its membership and church programs.
Rev. Dr. Richard Houtz was installed as pastor on May 6, 1990, and shortly thereafter the church leaders began considering how they might enlarge and improve the church facility. Rev. Houtz thought there were so many nooks and crannies and stairs connecting the various areas of the church due to additions and renovations over the years. He felt that there was room for improvements that would facilitate better use of the building. Before anything could be built, more land was needed so the manse had to be demolished. This three-story home with 18” limestone walls was used as a residence for ministers since 1924. Demolition was accomplished in 1993.
After rejecting one architect’s proposal, the architectural firm of Alexander/Muelken Studio submitted a proposal for the expansion. The church accepted the proposal and Chuck Alexander, son of church members Bill and Marion Alexander, served as design architect for the job. As someone who grew up at the church, he was able to keep the original orientation of the sanctuary, adding east and west transepts and a larger chancel area to facilitate Derry’s investment in its numerous music programs. The choir loft and organ were lowered to the chancel floor, a narthex area was created before one entered the front of the sanctuary, the main entrance to the church building was relocated to this narthex area and a lounge was added to the west transept. This expansion also included new offices, choir room, bathrooms, nursery, the atrium and a new Fellowship Hall. Interior designs were also implemented to accommodate this larger sanctuary. This remodeled sanctuary was dedicated on January 29, 1995.
Since then there have been additional interior and external cosmetic redesigns. In 2015 interior design renovations and a new exterior courtyard and walkways were added to our main entrance. Rev. Dr. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker was installed as pastor in 2017. The need for a larger, more powerful organ for the sanctuary was soon recognized. A new-to-Derry 1951 Aeolian-Skinner Organ was installed and dedicated in 2021.
As Derry approaches its 300th anniversary, it is important to remember the history of the people who worshiped here and the buildings that they created. Derry’s history is filled with productive times, and times when as a church it almost folded, but dedication, faithfulness and strength of our early friends and congregants have given us a legacy that we should cherish, uphold and adapt to our changing times. Our church is steeped in history and tradition, but it is also flexible, warm and welcoming, reflective of those who now call this our church home.
Editor’s note: To learn more about the evolution of Derry Church’s buildings, join members of the Heritage Committee at 9:15 am Sunday, April 30 in the John Elder Classroom and streaming.
Have you ever experienced a “God Wink”? What’s that, you say? It is a message from God that comes through life circumstances, and that we can choose to learn from, if we open our hearts and minds to the fact that God has a hand in the circumstance.
Once I had a very dear friend who gave me a book about “God Winks.” This simple but enlightening book opened my eyes to a powerful concept that I had been experiencing for a long time, but to which I had not given a title.
“God winks” happen when you open your mind to the concept that God speaks to us and shows us how God’s guiding principles become real in our lives, as we are faced with everyday situations and circumstances. Through these situations we are “nudged” into contemplating what message God is trying to give us, and how we can best live our lives in service to God and to each other, if we follow that message.
“Give me an example,” you say. Well, one that happened to my husband and me in the summer of 2021 involved Derry Church.
Our good friends, Susie and Dean Haine, asked us if we wanted to go with them to the Mt. Gretna Tabernacle to hear Dean’s pastor, Stephen McKinney-Whitaker and members of Derry Church lead worship that Sunday evening. Since the Mt. Gretna Tabernacle holds a special place in my heart from the days when I went to church camp there — plus the fact that we enjoyed sharing in activities with Susie and Dean — we said “sure.” We were blown away by the service, Pastor Stephen, and the friendliness of the Derry pastor and members who introduced themselves to us. They responded to our compliments on the service by inviting us to join them at Derry for other worship experiences.
It wasn’t long after that when Dean called and said, “Do you want to go along to Derry next Saturday night to participate in a worship service utilizing the songs of Billy Joel?” “How intriguing” we thought, and we joined them in that adventure as well. After those two experiences (God Winks), Ron and I decided that we needed to more intently explore a “pull” that we were feeling from Derry Church (a fellow Presbyterian church of the Synod which is located four miles from our home rather than the 20 miles from our home church at that time).
We attended Derry Church on a Sunday morning and didn’t even sign the visitor registry because we wanted to remain “anonymous.” However, we did greet Pastor Stephen as we were leaving that morning and reminded him that we were Dean’s friends, to which he replied, “I remember.”
Much to our surprise, the next day when coming home from an errand, we found a loaf of Irish soda bread and a welcome package from Derry on our doorstep, with a note from Linda Chidester. The next day in our mail was a note from Pastor Stephen inviting us to call him for a “getting to know you” chat! We hadn’t even given them our name or address, and here Derry was, giving us an invitation to get to know the congregation better. How could we deny the opportunity? Another God Wink!
A visit with Pastor Stephen, an invitation to join the choir for at least the Christmas season, and regular attendance and interactions with the Derry choir and other members of the church – including Linda, who lives in our neighborhood and always greets us warmly when we see each other on Sundays – slowly led us to make the decision to take the New Member Classes in April 2022, and ultimately change our Presbyterian membership to Derry Church.
“God Winks” don’t just happen to Ron and me. They can happen to everyone, in all aspects of their lives if they choose to embrace this concept. If we are open to seeing how God provides us with opportunities, through real life circumstances that impact our lives — and many times the lives of others with whom we interact — we constantly can receive spiritual uplifts (“faith boosts”) through these “winks” from God.
Since 1993, Derry Church and its members have been the cornerstone of my faith. My family and I are so thankful for the friendships, support and Christian leadership that Derry has provided us.
Hard work and faith were the cornerstone of life in the small West Virginia community where I grew up. Blue collar jobs in the mining or oil and gas industry provided income that supported our families. We learned early in our lives that hard work would usually bring positive results, success that carried over to the athletic field, wrestling mat and in the classroom.
Church life was very important. We attended church services faithfully every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and prayer meetings on Wednesday night. We were taught that even in tough times faith in God and God’s plan for us would carry us through. My life has always been a balance between these two principles. I worked hard and had much success in sports and academic endeavors through high school, college, medical school and professionally, but encountered times when I had to rely on God’s plan for me.
There have been times in life both personally and professionally that hard work just wasn’t enough. I failed my first major medical school exam and thought this just was not going to work. Our son was born prematurely and had only a 20% chance of survival. Professionally, as an orthopedic oncologist, I cared for patients, who no matter how hard we worked, succumbed to their diseases. When my father and then my wife were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease within five years of each other, we searched high and low for treatment options even though we knew there was no cure.
It is in these most difficult times that my faith, even if I could not understand it, carried me and I was confident that everything would be ok. Professionally, as an orthopedic surgeon, I can objectively see the results of the work I do. Faith is a bit of a mystery to me because it cannot be seen or touched. I cannot explain why it brings me peace in difficult times but I am so thankful for my faith. It has brought me to a very happy place in life.
Since 1993, Derry Presbyterian and its members have been the cornerstone of my faith. My family and I are so thankful for the friendships, support and Christian leadership that Derry has provided us.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In April we’re lifting up community involvement and the good work of Love INC of Greater Hershey.
I became involved with Love INC over the past few years. The first time I volunteered was with the Sneaker Drive for students at Derry Township and Lower Dauphin school districts. I helped with the children’s sizing and trying on sneakers. The kids were so excited that it gave me joy just watching their reactions as they tried on new sneakers that they would have to start a new school year.
God puts us where we are needed, but God also lets us be a part of a miracle. One of the students was so excited that he told me he looks forward to this week every year, otherwise he wouldn’t get new sneakers for school. Someone once said that it is better to give than to receive and I sure got a lot from giving in this situation – it was very rewarding.
I have been helping with the Sneaker Drive for a few years and look forward to helping again in August. I enjoyed helping the students and their families so I decided it was time to look for more work with Love INC. I wanted to help at other times during the year. I checked with Scott Ramirez, also a Love INC volunteer, and was able to add the Personal Care Closet (PCC) work to my duties.
I began helping with the PCC work last year and continue to support this ministry. We stock shelves with supplies and make bags for each family from the food bank who has requested personal care items. The PCC items include toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, body wash, deodorant, band-aids, cleaning supplies, diapers, trash bags, etc. Whatever the family has requested on their checklist, we put it in their bags and the bags are grouped together by food bank locations and taken there.
This year I have extended my commitment to Love INC to include being on the Board of Directors. I look forward to giving my input and helping out as part of a team to lead Love INC and working toward their goals throughout the year. I will also work with the board to make sure their vision and mission are known by the area communities. As a member of the Board of Directors I will continue supporting the programs of Love INC with my time, expertise, resources and commitment.
Please continue to pray for Love INC, their staff and volunteers, and programs. If any of this information sounds like something you would like to be a part of, please contact me or Dale Forshey, Executive Director (717-835-0101).
LACE UP WITH LOVE INC SNEAKER DRIVE provides new, name-brand sneakers to qualifying school-aged students at Derry Township and Lower Dauphin school districts. Sneakers collected June 4- Aug 2.
RUN YOUR RACE 5K + 1K FUN RUN on Saturday, June 24
LACE UP WITH LOVE INC SNEAKER DISTRIBUTION Thursday, Aug 3- Saturday, Aug 5
LOVING OUR COMMUNITY ONLINE AUCTION Thursday, Oct 5-Tuesday, Oct 10
Love INC of Greater Hershey serves people in need who either worship at one of its partnering churches or who live within Hershey, Hummelstown, or the Dauphin County portion of Elizabethtown. Programs include:
- THE CONNECTION CENTER: Receives, validates, and refers clients to appropriate services) Over 1,400 requests for assistance in 2022!
- THE PERSONAL CARE CLOSET: Supplies items not covered by food stamp benefits to those certified with the Hershey Food Bank, Hummelstown Food Pantry, and the Hershey Free Food Bank.
- HOMES OF HOPE: 24-month transitional housing program for those facing or at risk of homelessness.
- PARSONAGE MINISTRY: A warm place to stay at no cost to family members of adult patients at the Penn State Health Medical Center who travel 50+ miles to receive care.
- FAITH AND FINANCES: Financial mentoring through a 10-week course offered twice a year.
- TRANSPORTATION: Coordinating necessary rides for those who need it.
- LACE UP WITH LOVE INC SNEAKER DRIVE: provides new, name-brand sneakers to qualifying school-aged students at Derry Township and Lower Dauphin school districts
Needs unable to be met by these programs may be referred to a local agency or a partner church, depending upon the circumstances of the request and the resources available.
When Sue George asked me to write this week’s long read, admittedly I struggled to find a topic. So many things have happened over the last two-three years in the world and my own little corner of it that it’s hard for me to quiet my brain long enough to write anything more than a scientific manuscript or a standard operating procedure.
I decided to focus on a topic that has been important to me for years: disability and inclusion.
My exposure to disability and inclusion started early — my dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis years before I was born. Although the 1970s were a wonderful time for music, movies, and lack of “helicopter parenting,” unfortunately, science was not able to provide many treatment regimens for MS and there wasn’t a lot of consideration of access to public places, including the church I grew up in, which was built in the 1960s. As the 70s progressed, so did my father’s illness. His need for mobility accommodations — first a cane, then a manual wheelchair and eventually, many years later, an electric wheelchair — were a part of his everyday reality.
Church was very important to my parents. To get into my parent’s church, you either had to go up or down. There were two entrances plus a few egress exits from the basement, all with at least five steps each. The ADA was not a thing yet and “Universal Design” wasn’t either, at least in our small church, so the church had no elevators or ramps. Church dinners, for the most part, took place in the fellowship hall, which like many churches of that era, was in the basement. As you’d imagine, at a certain point, and after more than a few close calls regarding safety, the church decided to install a ramp at one of the entrances, and years later, they installed an elevator so that my dad (and only my dad at that time) could access the first floor classrooms and fellowship hall like all the other congregants. Those decisions, made in the 70s and early 80s, were certainly ahead of their time, but have come to be important in that church as the congregation has continued to age and they have an increased need for accessibility accommodations.
Fast forward to 2006. Wally and I found our own church home and Kate, our older daughter, was being baptized. It was so wonderful that my dad was able to join us in the church and sanctuary without issues in his very large, reclining electric wheelchair and that there were pew cutouts so that he was able to sit with our family for that service. Little did we realize at the time that we, as a family, would go on to experience a whole other world of disabilities – invisible disabilities. Invisible disabilities are defined as physical, mental or neurological conditions that are not (easily) visible from the outside, and yet can limit or challenge a person’s movements, senses, or activities. A lack of an obvious disability can easily lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions and judgment. Our experiences with invisible disabilities in our family have been a learning experience for us and those around us. As the years have progressed, we have made connections at Derry that are invaluable. We have found people who embrace the commitment we all make when a child is baptized to support, care for, and nurture those we present or who present themselves to God.
Just before the pandemic, I became involved in Derry’s Diversity and Inclusion subcommittee that has focused on identifying and providing accommodations that allow many kids and adults to continue to worship and participate in programming held here at Derry. We’ve been able to provide education for the staff of Derry Discovery Days regarding diversity and inclusion, as well as specifically provide individualized support so that members and visitors in our congregation can participate in Terrific Tuesday, church school, and youth activities.
If you are interested in learning more about Derry’s Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee, please feel free to contact me or Kristy Elliott. Just like in my dad’s case, accommodations and inclusion will certainly help others beyond those you see and help today.
Last Wednesday, the Session approved creating a Faith Community Nurse (FCN) position at Derry. A FCN is a licensed, registered nurse with specialized education in integrating faith and health. They serve within faith communities to build on and strengthen the capacity of individuals and families to become stewards of their health as guided by their faith tradition.
I worked with a FCN in my previous congregation and it was such a valuable ministry to the church and its members. The position is a pastoral care resource I’ve really missed since coming to Derry. There have been numerous times in my ministry here when I wished we had an FCN. In fact, I journaled a long list of those times over a 45-day period that I shared with the Session as we discussed this new role. I believe a Faith Community Nurse will be a huge asset to our staff and church community.
Derry’s FCN will be a:
Health Counselor: Listen to and speak with persons regarding their health issues and problems. Make home, hospital and nursing home visits as needed. Offer presence and prayer during times of crisis and celebration.
Health Advocate: Assess/observe individuals for any health-related needs and interests. Speak up for individual needs and offer possible solutions (i.e. accompanying to medical appointments).
Health Educator: Provide health information and health awareness including educating people about different chronic conditions and diseases. Emphasize preventative health care through education, screening and assessments. Promote the understanding of the relationship between faith and health. Facilitate educational workshops, support groups and free clinics as developed within the FCN health ministry (i.e. Blood Pressure Screening Sundays, education events).
A Link to Resources: Help congregation members navigate the healthcare system and connect them to local resources as well as other Derry members who are experts in specific medical fields or other health care areas.
A Spiritual Presence: Work in conjunction with the Derry pastoral care team (pastor, Deacons, Shepherd Group leaders) in the care-giving ministry of the church. Listen, pray, support and encourage through personal visits, telephone calls and other means of contact.
The FCN will NOT provide invasive/hands-on skilled care or provide medical diagnoses, replace regular medical appointments, maintain medical records, or fill pill dispensers. The FCN is a resource, educator, and advocate and not a nurse who will treat medical issues.
The FCN will start out as part-time (15-18 hours a week) as we assess how this new ministry is working and what the needs of the congregation are.
The Session also approved the creation of a Health and Wellness Team to support the work of the FCN. The Health and Wellness Team encourages wellness — physical, spiritual, relational — as a faithful response to God, and as a commitment to a healthy congregation as well as healthy families, and communities.
The Team carries out its task by assessing the wellness needs of individuals, families, and the congregation at large. It meets those needs through health promotion, the Faith Community Nurse Program, educational programs, dissemination of information, referral services, and periodic health screenings such as monthly blood pressures with the Deacons. The work of the Health and Wellness team supports the pastoral ministries provided by the Board of Deacons, the Membership Involvement Committee, and the staff.
The Team will work closely with the Faith Community Nurse (FCN) by providing support, oversight, and a team to help facilitate the health and wellness ministries of the church. The FCN will provide direction and leadership to the Team to carry out its purpose, and the Team will help connect the FCN to needs in the church and potential volunteers.
The Health and Wellness Team will be comprised of representatives from the Deacons, Personnel Committee, Membership & Involvement Committee, and members in health-related fields.
I am excited for the gifts a Faith Community Nurse will bring to Derry. We are already advertising the position and hope to have interviews in April. Please be in prayer for the church and the search team as we discern who God is calling to serve Derry in this important ministry of health, wellness, and care. If you have any questions about this position, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Gregg Robertson, or Julie Yutesler.
Looking back on the past three years since COVID-19 came to the US, it is hard to measure the impact of this pandemic. There are the statistics; more than half a billion cases worldwide and almost seven million deaths; although actuarial models based on estimated “excess global mortality” place the number closer to 20 million deaths. Numbers allow us to compare and analyze tragic events, but they are an incomplete measure. To put things in perspective it is estimated that the bubonic plague of the 1300s resulted in close to 200 million deaths, wiping out half of the European population. In terms of deaths, COVID-19 doesn’t even rank in the top five deadliest plagues. Just in recent times HIV claimed more than 36 million lives.
It is empowering to think that our knowledge, and technology helped to reduce mortality from COVID. It certainly did. But COVID highlighted our vulnerabilities, and if we are to learn from this experience we must acknowledge our flaws. History teaches us that another pandemic will occur. We just don’t know when. The question is, can we be better prepared from our experience with COVID-19? Here is my personal list of lessons learned:
Lesson 1: Transformation of the vaccine development paradigm. A major success story of COVID-19 was the development of an effective vaccine. In 326 days, we were able to move from discovery of a new genomic sequence to authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine by a stringent regulatory authority. Subsequent to the initial roll out, the industry has quickly developed and delivered modified vaccines with high efficacy against new severe COVID-19 variants. All of this with an outstanding safety profile. This would not have been possible without investment in research on mRNA and genome sequencing technology decades ago. We should not minimize the incredible impact vaccination had on our ability to respond to the COVID pandemic. It is remarkable that despite a series of mutations that increased the transmissibility, COVID has become a very manageable illness for most of society. In large part this is a result of an effective vaccine and our commitment to invest in basic research. In anticipation of the next pandemic, the industry needs to build on this success and develop an even more efficient process to identify emerging viruses before they spread and then have the infrastructure and processes in place to develop, test, and distribute new vaccines in under 100 days.
Lesson 2: We have a remarkable ability to innovate and adapt in a crisis. The early phase of the COVID-19 response was a period of tremendous innovation. Seemingly overnight we shifted to remote work, education, and worship. Zoom became part of the everyday vernacular. Disrupted supply chains spawned new sources of products and resources. We began 3D printing of personal protective devices such as face shields and masks. Distilleries shifted from vodka to hand sanitizer. Virtual doctor visits — a concept that for years was bogged down by regulatory and financial bureaucracy and poor IT infrastructure — became widely available in a matter of weeks. New technologies were adapted for surveillance of local outbreaks. Thermometers linked to a web-based platform were shown to be able to predict local outbreaks several weeks before there was a rise in positive cases and hospitalizations. Wastewater treatment plants began testing for viral antigens to identify early introduction of new variants into communities. In the later stages of the pandemic technologies for home testing were developed and became widely available.
A common theme that drove this innovation was that it came from the bottom up, through interdisciplinary teams that were motivated to cooperate to solve common problems. Barriers were removed and those most closely involved with the problem were empowered to create solutions. We need to find ways to encourage and sustain that spirit of positive innovation, creativity, and collaboration. We live in times of rapid change that will continue to challenge our ability to adapt and respond to emerging challenges.
Lesson 3: Trust forms the basis for an effective pandemic response. Trust is the social contract that allows individuals to work collectively to achieve the level of commitment and resilience necessary to persist through the challenges of an ongoing pandemic. In a 2022 study published in the journal Nature researchers found that all countries where more than 40% of survey respondents agreed with the statement “most people can be trusted” achieved a near complete reduction of new cases and deaths following the first peak in COVID-19 cases. More trusting societies were able to bring down cases and deaths faster and implement containment efforts more effectively. Societal trust is more closely correlated with better COVID-19 outcomes than a country’s wealth or public health infrastructure.
In reflecting on our own response, a decline in public trust in science and government impaired our public health preparedness and response. The politicization of our response to COVID-19 led to mistrust in vaccination and public health policies. The low level of health literacy in the US population compounded the problem as even major media outlets were challenged to differentiate data produced by rigorous science from poorly substantiated or false claims. The scientific community must be more transparent in communicating the science that drives policy and rigorously review the outcomes of policy decisions based on prior assumptions. Oftentimes in hindsight well intentioned policy can be wrong.
For example, a recent 2023 systematic review of 12 randomized clinical trials with 276,917 participants was unable to demonstrate that masking made any difference in the transmission of respiratory viruses. Systematic reviews of randomized clinical trials are generally regarded as the highest level of evidence in measuring the effect of an intervention, and this one was published in the Cochrane Library, generally regarded as the gold standard for systematic reviews. Science can be humbling. Some may say that these results indicate masking mandates were flawed, which may be true. A critical review of the original studies used in the analysis highlights how difficult it is to perform a rigorous experiment on mask effectiveness. Unlike a drug trial where you can measure drug levels, it is difficult to ensure people are following the experimental protocol and actually wearing (or not wearing) a mask.
The important lesson to be learned is that science is not truth. It is an ongoing formal process that gets us closer to the truth. If we are to be more successful in the next pandemic, we must improve scientific literacy in the population, be humble, and be honest and transparent in communicating the results. Having mutual respect, understanding, and the humility to accept results that may challenge our personal biases is a critical first step in developing trust as we navigate the next pandemic response.
Lesson 4: We lack justice in delivery of healthcare. COVID-19 highlighted the impact of social determinants of health tied to the longstanding impact of poverty and racism. With the exception of the first COVID-19 surge, U.S. counties with the lowest median income had death rates at least two times higher than that of the counties with the highest income. Individuals in poorer communities were more likely to be uninsured and have less access to high quality health care. They are more likely to have conditions that increase the risk of death from COVID-19 such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and pulmonary issues. They were more likely to have occupations that made it more challenging to adopt behaviors that reduced exposure, such as remote work.
Significant disparity in COVID-19 outcomes were correlated with race. Data from the CDC show that Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN), and Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander people experienced higher rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths than White people when data are adjusted to account for differences in age by race and ethnicity. Globally disparities in wealth and public health infrastructure led to persistent pockets of high virus transmission contributing to new more transmissible and virulent variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that then returned to reinfect wealthier countries that seemingly had the pandemic under control. A key lesson from the pandemic is we are all as vulnerable as the least among us.
Lesson 5: Adjusting to the long-term impact of the pandemic will be challenging. COVID will have long-term socioeconomic consequences that will remain with us for many years to come. Humanity has been traumatized and we will need to accept that the recovery will be slow. The social isolation of the pandemic has strained our support networks and social norms. It has brought to the surface the strain on mental health in modern society. Many are suffering from the effects of burnout, depression, addiction, and other mental health problems. It has forced us to reconsider our relationships to work and society, and reset our expectations of what is normal. Whether it is the “great resignation”, “quiet quitting”, or early retirements, 2021 and 2022 saw close to 100 million Americans quit their jobs. Inflation resulting from higher competition for trained employees and supply costs seems to have temporarily peaked, but we will continue to feel the impact of these factors in many industries reliant on a trained workforce.
Health care has been particularly hard hit. A survey by the consulting firm Morning Consult reported that one in five healthcare workers quit their job since the start of the pandemic, and that up to 47% of healthcare workers plan to leave their positions by 2025. This is resulting in substantial staffing shortages in many rural and underserved urban hospitals. Data from the HHS Department indicates 25% of Pennsylvania hospitals are facing critical staffing shortages leading to reduction or closure of patient services. Given the aging population of the healthcare workforce and smaller numbers of individuals entering the profession, these staffing shortages will likely worsen at a time where the demand from healthcare is increasing. Time will tell how these factors will impact future access to healthcare.
As with many life changing events, COVID-19 brought out the best and worst of humanity. Hopefully we can build on our successes and find the resolve to fix our flaws. There are several themes in the lessons learned from COVID-19. We must have mercy for each other, even those with whom we have disagreement. We must practice justice and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society. We must be humble. These are not new lessons. They have been with humanity throughout time. The lessons from COVID-19 are written in Micah 6:8 “what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Hopefully when faced with the next pandemic we will practice justice, mercy, and humility. That will prepare us well.
January brought lots of excitement in the music corner of Derry Church with the arrival of the Lee Ann Taylor Steinway. At the same time, the Communications & Technology Committee (CTC) celebrated another achievement: the installation of a Zoom Room downstairs in Room 7.
The Zoom Room makes it possible for us to host first-rate hybrid meetings, a capability we’ve never been able to handle well until now. The setup consists of two screens: one on the left allows a presenter to share a Powerpoint or use the screen as a whiteboard that can be seen in the room and by Zoom participants. It has a built-in camera and microphone that allows those on Zoom to hear the presenter and the people attending in Room 7. The screen on the right displays everyone who is joining by Zoom. They can be seen and heard by everyone in Room 7 and take an active part in the discussion.
The best use of the Zoom Room is for meetings like Session and Deacons. Both of these groups used the Zoom Room in February, giving us a chance to learn how the technology works. Every use teaches us something new and as we learn and improve, my hope is that more groups will discover and find benefits from using this technology and extending their gatherings to those who can’t attend in person. Let me know if you’d like to use the Zoom Room for your next meeting: it’s easy to learn.
Derry’s new outdoor signs are now in place across the church campus and I hope you are pleased that the signs provide a cohesive, unified look and clear directions. The staff likes being able to tell vendors and guests to “enter the building at door #1” — it’s so much easier than trying to explain how to drive around the building to the office entrance.
Recently a change was made to the large monument sign along East Derry Road: the original dimensional letters that looked great in the daytime cast shadows from the uplighting at night, making the sign hard to read. So the dimensional letters came off and were replaced by flat surface signs. This change saved us about $2,000, a happy benefit and win all around, and the sign is much easier to read at night.
In case you haven’t already heard, here are more recent changes you should be aware of:
- The WiFi upgrade throughout the church building was completed in December and tweaked in January to fix a few glitches. We now have a faster, more secure network and a stronger firewall to protect staff computers and copiers. Visitors to Derry Church should have an easier time connecting to the “Derry Guest” network and enjoy faster speeds and better coverage through the building. A new access point was added in the Lounge.
- New choir monitors have been placed in the Sanctuary to make it easier for those in the choir to hear anyone speaking from the pulpit or the other microphones.
- Along with the choir monitors, four new condenser microphones and a new pulpit mic have been installed thanks to the generosity of Derry members who gifted this equipment to the church. It’s great to have better quality mics for the choir and our musicians. The new pulpit mic has been more temperamental than we expected, so we’ve added an extension to bring the mic closer to those speaking from the pulpit.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In March we’re lifting up the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s One Great Hour of Sharing offering.
Received between February 22 and April 9, the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering is the single, largest way that Presbyterians come together to work for a better world by advancing the causes of justice, resilience, and sustainability. For over 70 years, these efforts of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have provided relief from natural disasters, food for the hungry, and support for the poor and oppressed.
OGHS is administered through three programs:
PRESBYTERIAN DISASTER ASSISTANCE (PDA) is well-known for its rapid response to natural and international disasters by supplying funds to help initiate the recovery process. Through its long-term partnerships with several Middle East church councils, PDA has been able to rapidly respond to the recent devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey. PDA also continues to support relief efforts in the US related to recent hurricanes and flooding, as well as aiding refugees resulting from the conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine.
PRESBYTERIAN HUNGER PROGRAM (PHP) works to alleviate hunger and eliminate its root causes. Some of this is accomplished through providing animals, bees, and seeds, promoting better crop selection and agricultural methods, fair trade practices, and family gardens. They also seek to supply better and more nutritional foods, secure loans for income-producing projects, tree planting, and establish wells and sanitation systems, as well as addressing labor and environmental issues.
SELF-DEVELOPMENT OF PEOPLE (SDOP) works in partnership with people in economically poor areas in the United States and around the world. The aim is to invest in communities responding to their experiences of oppression, poverty and injustice, thus helping them develop solutions to their particular problems in areas such as cooperatives and workers’ rights, farming, skills development, and immigration/ refugee issues.
This year our OGHS Offering will again be divided equally between PC(USA) and Bridges to Community (BTC), the non-profit organization which has coordinated Derry’s mission trips to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic for over 20 years. In June we will return to the Dominican Republic to help build a house for a needy family. By working with the family, local masons, and community members, a safe and secure house can be completed in about one week. With the BTC model, new homeowners are encouraged to pay into their local community fund, which can then be used by the community at their discretion for selected improvement projects.
The Mission and Peace Committee has set a goal of $18,000 for this year’s OGHS Offering. You may give online or by check made payable to Derry Presbyterian Church notated OGHS. Enclose it in the OGHS envelopes located in the pew racks. Taken together, your contributions to the OGHS Offering, with our goal of $18,000, will enable both PC(USA) and BTC to assist many people in need, improving their quality of life. Thank you, Derry, for your generous support!
This past Sunday we were led in worship by our talented youth, and as we finished the postlude, I couldn’t help but leave worship feeling uplifted, enriched, and overcome with joy and feeling that I had been in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We were blessed by their singing, the spoken word, choreographed dance, and God’s Hidden Hands Puppet Ministry. Mayangela Speicher eloquently spoke on joy and the more profound meaning within this three-letter word. Where do we find joy in our own lives and faith journey? Where do we look for assurance and peace that God is with us, working through us, and present in our lives? Where do we see joy in our church? What does it mean to be joyful in the Lord?
Since being called to Derry Church in September as your Director of Music and Organist, life has been a whirlwind of change and adjustment, growing in faith and trust, learning new schedules, memorizing many names and faces, keeping many to-do lists and checking them twice. The vibrant music ministry of this church is a dream come true and an answer to many prayers, made so by each member of the many choirs. I have found fulfilling joy in working with the Sanctuary Choir and Derry Ringers, welcoming new members, and watching the choirs grow in number, musicianship, and faith. Their passion for ringing and singing is inspiring, and their care and support have brought joy each week as we pray together and become a musical family of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Terrific Tuesdays have become a highlight in my week: working with the youth singers brings joy through their energy, spirit, and laughter. Our children’s music ministry is growing through the leadership of Claire Folts and Debbi Kees-Folts. What a joy to see classrooms full of children singing, playing drums, and ringing handbells and chimes!
As a congregation, you have brought incredible joy in your appreciation and support of this church’s arts and music ministry. The Lee Ann Taylor Memorial Steinway and Sons Concert Grand Piano has been a testament to that unwavering support. Thank you for appreciating the value of the music in worship and the impact and mission that this new piano will have on future generations. February 12, 2023 was memorable as we dedicated this incredible instrument in Lee Ann’s honor. We were privileged to have Ruth Slenczynska play in worship and sign our new piano. Ruth is a joy!
As I have come home to my faith tradition in the Presbyterian church, I am seeing God anew in innumerable ways, and Derry Church has been one of the greatest joys in my life. When Sarah and I announced our engagement in early February, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from our church family in cards, letters, emails, and well wishes, always followed by a hug. We have found joy in the warmth of Derry Church, a church with the sweetest people on earth, nestled in the heart of the sweetest place on earth.
Thank you for sharing the light and love of Christ and for bringing joy as we share this faith and music journey together, giving God glory, praise, and adoration while giving thanks each day for all the joys God has showered upon us.
The joy of the Lord is our strength is the theme for Youth Sunday 2023. Joy is mentioned 430 times in the Bible and happiness only 10. In the book of Galatians 5:22, joy is included in the gift of the Spirit. But what is joy?
When we think of joy we first think of smiles, happiness, and Christmas mornings. Joy is not just happiness; it can exist with a myriad of other emotions. Joy can coexist with sadness and sorrow. Joy is not the absence of grief or pain or challenge.
One of our definitions of joy is the feeling that the Lord is with you and knowing that God helps you through the bad times. We are reminded of God’s love, strength, and presence in our life and that brings up joy. That joy strengthens us for the good times and the bad times we know we will encounter. Through the joy of the Lord we have confidence that everything is going all right … or in the words of St. Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be made well.” It doesn’t mean everything will always be okay or work out the way we desire in this life, but the joy of the Lord gives us strength to persevere and find the blessing.
On Youth Sunday, joy will be expressed with song, dance, worship, puppets, and an awesome sermon by Mayangela Speicher.
We invite you to come and experience the spirit of the joy of the Lord of Sunday, February 19. We hope you enjoy the service as much as we will enjoy leading you in worship!
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. Matthew 18:20
I love this scripture verse and the truth of these words. One of the great blessings Derry Church offers is the ability to gather. Yes, we gather for weekly worship, but we also gather to eat, talk, play, plan, create and dream. Our times together lead us to wonderful discussions, learning experiences, stories we never knew, and a chance to pause, reflect and maybe even see things from another perspective. This is true not only for the adults of our church, but for the children as well. Derry’s Children’s Ministry programs have so many of these amazing moments happening, and I am excited to share some of them with you.
Our Sunday mornings are full of energy and excitement as we gather together with friends to sing, learn, explore, share and play. We begin our morning with songs of praise and thanksgiving. This time gets the blood flowing through fun sounds and movements and paves the way for our story of the day. We then move to our classrooms…
Preschool (ages 2-5) gather in the Nursery Suite
Kindergarten – 2nd gather in Room 3
Grades 3 – 5 gather in Room 5
…where the learning continues through story, creative exploration and games.
Our KIWI (Kids In Worship Instruction) class has had a wonderful time learning more about worship through exploring common symbols of faith, the words and meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, and the importance of confessing our sins and giving thanks for our many blessings. This time together also allows this group (ages 4-6) the opportunity to build friendships with their peers.
Our Kids’ Fellowship (grades 2-5) has been so fun to work with! These kids have a wonderful connection with one another and enjoy all kinds of activities as they simply love hanging out together. Our gatherings have included a “beach party,” a chair volleyball tournament, and a mission project day. Later this month we’ll have a pancake breakfast and silly fun in our PJs. This time together lets us continue to build relationships, something that helps make our faith journey stronger and more meaningful.
Terrific Tuesday is back and better than ever! Fellowship Hall is packed with families and friends of all ages enjoying the opportunity to eat and have fellowship. Adults have the chance to talk and get to know one another better, and the children are filling our classrooms and making Tuesday evenings fun and engaging for all. Our Tuesday evening programs of music and creative arts are designed to help the children connect more with one another as the evening gathering is more relaxed than Sunday mornings, but it also offers the children a chance to dig deeper and learn through a variety of creative techniques. It is truly a wonderful evening for all ages!
Now that I share about all the excitement and fun, I also need to share that we are looking for more helping hands to keep it going! We have wonderful leaders for all our programs, but need volunteers to help in each classroom and support the children. I would love to welcome more adults into our Childrens’ Ministry spaces as I know you will love joining our faith filled adventures! Each volunteer will need to complete the following before working with our children or youth…
- PA Child Abuse History Clearance
- PA State Police Criminal Record Check
- FBI Criminal Background Check and History Record, required if the volunteer has lived in PA for less than 10 consecutive years; this also includes fingerprinting
- Derry Church Safe Children Training class (approx. 45 min and can be done in person or via Zoom)
- Children Volunteer Application and Disclosure Statement every five years, which needs to be signed and witnessed by someone other than a direct relative. This form also satisfies the requirement for volunteers who have been residents of PA for 10 consecutive years or more to affirm that they are not disqualified from service based upon a conviction of an offense under Pennsylvania Title 23 Chapter 63 Section 6344(c)
I encourage you to join us. Please email me with any questions or to get started with your clearance paperwork.
Now that our programs are running strong, our Christian Education committee and Children’s Ministry Team members have discussed the Sunday morning schedule and how to structure it moving forward.
Starting Sunday, February 26 (as Lent begins), Sunday School for ALL AGES will be held 9:15-10:15 am.
- Children will gather in Room 4 (then proceed to their classrooms after music time)
- Youth will gather in the Youth Room
- Issues Class in Room 7 and on Zoom
- Bible Study in Room 2
**Coffee is always available in the coffee nook just outside the church kitchen**
I look forward to watching our programs continue to grow. I look forward to welcoming many more children into our spaces to learn and grow closer to God. And I look forward to having more adults join us to help our programs continue to meet the needs of this growing ministry.
I hope to hear from many of you soon!
On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In February we’re lifting up homelessness and our partnership with our across-the-street neighbor, Love INC of Greater Hershey.
Love INC would like to thank Derry Church for your partnership as we serve the local community. During the past few years, low-income families have been struggling to make ends meet. Local housing prices have soared, which has caused rental housing prices to also go up. When leases are ending, landlords have raised the rental prices. For a low-income family, this can be devastating and could cause a homeless situation. Inflation has caused the prices of necessities (heating costs, utilities, food, gasoline) to go up while the family income stays the same. This can also lead to a homeless situation.
Love INC supports people in need that live or attend a church in the Hershey and Hummelstown areas as well as the Dauphin County portion of Elizabethtown. Love INC’s Connection Center has seen a large increase of calls relating to rental and utility assistance. The Personal Care Closet partners with the Hershey, Hummelstown, and Hershey Free food pantries to supply personal care items that families cannot buy with their government assistance programs. During 2022, the number of Personal Care Closet orders has doubled, which emphasized the need in our community. The Homes of Hope program is designed to help a family that is homeless or soon to be homeless by providing temporary housing, a case manager, and advocates that can provide support and assistance to the family. This program can support two families at the same time. Love INC utilized one of our family homes to provide housing for Derry’s refugee family for six months.
Love INC’s Parsonage ministry partners with Penn State Health to supply free housing for families with loved ones in the medical center. It is very rewarding to be able to support these families as they go through a very tough time. Love INC’s Faith and Finances class provides education on spending and savings plans, managing debt, and working toward long-term financial stability. Love INC’s Sneaker Distribution ministry provides new sneakers to low income students in Derry Township and Lower Dauphin School Districts before the start of the new school year.
Love INC truly appreciates the partnership that we share with Derry Church. Numerous Derry members volunteer to support Love INC ministries, provide items for our fall auction or the sneaker distribution, and donate financially. Currently, there is not a Derry Church member on the Love INC Board of Directors. Love INC’s Board is very active and meets monthly. If you would be interested in being a board member or becoming a volunteer to help with one of the Love INC ministries, please reach out to me at email@example.com.
When I was a child, every Christmas Eve was spent at Grandma Esther’s house. For that matter, so was every Thanksgiving, Easter, and many other evenings throughout the year. Grandmother Esther was the matriarch of the Hempel family. She grew up on the family farm in the wake of the Great Depression and, like many others, her family often struggled to make ends meet during her youth. Thus, a party at Grandma’s was never a showy or extravagant affair, but instead it was centered around family, community, and God. Grandma would spend all day in the kitchen preparing a simple feast made with love, while we played in the yard or watched the football game. In the evening, we would gather around the big table where she would lead us in prayer, and we’d go around the room sharing what we were grateful for. Then, we would dig into the delicious food and catch up on the family news. The night would end with everyone singing songs and playing games in the living room. These evenings were where some of my fondest childhood memories were made. Grandma Esther continued to host events well into her 80s, until her dementia forced her to pass the torch on to my parents. Little did I know that my grandmother had been planning one more family get together…
Like many other people who make it into their 90s, my grandmother attended numerous funerals over the years. Unlike most, though, she would keep the program from every one of those celebrations of life, scrawling notes on the edges that would later be used as inspiration for her own funeral service. Over time, she compiled a list of passages she wanted to be read and songs she wanted played, and created a general outline of her ideal service.
When she passed late last year from advanced Alzheimer’s at the age of 94, her five children got together and reviewed her notes to finalize plans. They also used the stories she’d written about her life to put together a video that highlighted what an amazing person she was. Eliana, the twins and I were able to go to Chicago to attend that service last week. The church was filled with children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, cousins, church family, and friends from all over the country. Though our family is large, busy, and spread out, there was no question of missing this chance to celebrate Grandma. I was honored to fulfill one of her wishes and opened the service by playing “On Eagle’s Wings,” one Grandma’s favorite hymns. Each one of her children read some of her favorite passages from the Bible, and the pastor shared some stories which reminded us how special Grandma was. It was the perfect service.
Later that evening, the entire family congregated at my parent’s home. After sharing a meal, the adults sat around catching up with one another while the kids played Survive, a favorite board game in our house. We ended the evening gathered around the piano in my parents’ living room singing everything from Piano Man to Amazing Grace loudly, and sometimes a little off key. Somehow, Grandma got us all together doing exactly what she loved, one last time.
If you are interested in learning more about Grandma Esther, click here to watch the video about her life.
I’m not sure if this ever happens to you, but every so often I stop and take a retrospective look at the life I’ve known. The look takes in the faces of people I’ve loved and known; the places I’ve lived and been privileged to visit; books I’ve studied and read for pleasure; places I’ve worked and lots more. This adventure can sometimes leave a bittersweet afterglow, but mostly I am humbled, surprised and grateful.
In the first letter to the church in Corinth there is a verse which reads, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” I am not sure what version or translation of the Bible this comes from, but it works for me. When I look back, I am stunned at those experiences that I’ve had that nothing could have prepared me for. I definitely consider these God-experiences and I imagine you’ve had them too.
One thing that I couldn’t have expected was Derry’s response to helping the ministry of the Presbyterian Education Board in Pakistan. It slowly happened over the 10 year period from 2009 to 2019 and is still growing. I am simply amazed at the generosity of time and treasure that quite a few people at Derry have shared.
For instance, in 2022, Derry members and friends gave approximately $17,500 for scholarships through our annual Shares for Scholarships campaign, participating in March Madness, online giving, the purchase of Mark Smith’s Christmas ornaments and Claudia Holtzman’s greeting cards. All together, Derry Church supports 50 students with scholarships so they have the life-changing opportunity to go to school. Further, our contributions to the General Scholarship Fund allows PEB to answer the call to need as it arises and even more children become students.
That sounds like a lot and it is, but there is more! The Mission & Peace Committee, other Derry members, and the Session are contributing to the building of a new wing of the Boys’ School in Sargodha. These numbers boggle my mind. Truly, nothing and no one but God could have prepared all of this to happen.
Derry’s 2023 Shares for Scholarships campaign is under way now and continues through February. Previous scholarships can be renewed and new scholarships can be added! This year the cost of scholarships has increased slightly, the first such increase in the dozen years since I’ve been involved. An annual scholarship costs $400 for a day student and $800 for a boarding student.
I invite you to consider allowing God to do with you something you never imagined. If you have an amount in mind, you can click this link to go directly to the online giving portal. For more information about the 2023 shares campaign, click here.
And then, in the fall of 2024, maybe you can be among the travelers journeying to Pakistan in celebration of Derry’s 300th anniversary and to dedicate the school building. You can witness with your eyes, ears and heart the work being done. Together, through education, we can partner with God and help change the world. I guarantee you would have a lot of experiences for later reflection, too!
In 2019 when I was asked to serve as an elder for the following three years, I accepted knowing I would be retiring at the end of 2019. I felt I would have more time to give than the last time I served, and I enjoy being involved in the church on a deeper level than attendance. Who would have known that two months later we would be plunged into a world-wide health crisis that would last for the entire three-year session term and beyond? Decisions had to be made that were never dreamed of before the pandemic, all while trying to keep the physical and emotional well-being of the parishioners — and Derry Church’s future — under consideration.
Beyond the ‘topic of the century,’ our church is so many things to the folks who worship and participate inside and outside the church walls. It is a business which operates to serve its customers and members. And along with serving on Session comes the responsibility to make decisions regarding the success and the future of the church, the happiness and inclusion of the members as they choose to participate, and the strength of the buildings and grounds with which we’ve been entrusted. The behind-the-scenes workings of the church really come to light as a Session member, and we are all charged with the decisions which can affect all these things, and more.
I found joy and peace, stress and disagreement amongst members of Session. I also found respect for one another and resolution amongst differing views. I felt extreme responsibility to read each session packet from beginning to end so I could comment and/or vote appropriately when topics arose at the meetings. And I held close the responsibility to question and discuss all topics as I felt warranted. Without committing to these things, I felt I was doing a disservice to the church at large.
I developed a deep respect for each Session member, and feel my time was well spent for this reason alone. But beyond that, I came to realize how complex running the church is, and how fortunate we are to have a loyal and dedicated staff with only the best interest of Derry Church at heart, and so many committee members, chairs and volunteers who are equally committed. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve on Session, and to anyone who may be asked to serve, I think it is worth careful discernment and a willingness to say ‘yes’ if the path be cleared.
Happy New Year to all!
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In January we’re lifting up Women’s Equality, Justice, and Opportunity. The Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews always includes the mission focus for the month.
Eliminating racism. Empowering women. Our mission lives in the soul of everyone here at YWCA Greater Harrisburg because we demand a world of equity and human decency. We envision a just community for all and we commit ourselves to the work of transforming lives.
For more than a century, the YWCA has been an integral part of the Greater Harrisburg community. In 1894, during the Industrial Revolution, a group of women came together out of concern for girls who were flocking to the city to find employment. These community leaders wanted to ensure that young women had safe and suitable conditions under which to live and work with access to activities and education that would help them better their lives.
The YWCA Greater Harrisburg’s vision of creating a just community for all began 125 years ago. As the role and the needs of women adapted over time, the YWCA has historically expanded its impact, becoming a driving force that transforms lives.
In our community and beyond, we answer the cry for justice by serving more than 35,000 individuals each year. We offer housing to women seeking safer lives. We provide child care, so their families can build their futures. We dismantle systemic racism because the future deserves all of us. From emergency shelter and a legal clinic to supported employment services, supervised visitation, and Veterans programs, we could not do this important work without the generosity of our supporters.
Our community demands justice in a thousand different ways. Our power comes from the women and girls we serve and those who support us. We are thought leaders. We are fearless movers. We are innovative shakers. We move justice out of our doors and into the power structures that determine the future. Our voices rise together to do the work. Here, a woman is empowered to leave an abusive relationship. Here, students of color capitalize on their brilliance. Here, a young woman cracks the glass ceiling to achieve the promotion she earned.
Here, we bear witness to their dignity, and celebrate their victories. They keep our commitment to justice strong because we know first-hand how much more work there is left to do. At the YWCA Greater Harrisburg, we are eliminating racism and empowering women.
It is only with the support of community-minded individuals — and organizations like Derry Church — that we can continue to fulfill the immediate needs and provide comprehensive services that support women, children, and men as they regain their self-esteem and independence. On behalf of the YWCA clients who will benefit from this generosity, we thank you!
As we continue on, we will get up and do the work until injustice is rooted out, until institutions are transformed, until the world sees women, girls, and people of color the way we do: Equal. Powerful. Unstoppable.
YWCA Eliminating racism. Empowering women.
I am excited to announce that the Session has approved creating a new full-time position at Derry to help us meet our ministry needs. The Director of Church Life and Connection (DCLC) will help create fellowship opportunities for all ages and age groups within the Derry Church community and cultivate connections between church members of all ages.
M.E. Steelman will be transitioning from her current part-time position as the children’s ministry coordinator to the Director of Church Life and Connection in January. Her new position will allow her to continue some of the great work she has been doing with the children of the church. She will continue to lead children’s fellowship in her role as the DCLC and help plan and oversee Terrific Tuesdays. She will partner with a new Associate Pastor to assist with other areas of children’s ministry like worship and education.
M.E. will be focusing on fellowship for all ages, and part of her new duties will be to work with the Membership Involvement Committee to plan and lead our big annual fellowship events like the Corn Roast, Church Picnic, Square Dance and Chili Cookoff, and seasonal events like Trunk or Treat and the Easter Egg Hunt. She’ll also work with the committee to help re-start and reimagine a Derry Seniors program.
As the DCLC, M.E. will be a staff resource for fellowship groups like the Derry Day Trippers, parent groups, supper clubs, the golf group, and any other fellowship groups we create in the future. M.E. will help the church dream together about new ways to share life and connection together by age, interest, life-situation, and need.
M.E. will take the lead in many of the programmatic elements of church life and fellowship, but she will also invest in congregational connection. M.E. will help foster intergenerational relationships within the church through mission projects, retreats, and special events. She will also spend time with our senior members who are homebound or in retirement communities and work with our Membership Involvement Committee and Deacons to find new ways to keep them connected to the Derry Church community.
M.E. has the wonderful ability to create meaningful programs and connect people to one another. She is creative, organized, and passionate about the Derry community. I am looking forward to continuing to work with her in this new role and I’m excited about the future of church life and connection at Derry.
We will continue to share news and information about the Director of Church Life and Connection in the new year as M.E. begins her work. The Personnel Committee and Session believe this position will help fill in some needed gaps in our staff, continue areas of energy and success at Derry, and create new ministry opportunities that will make a difference in the lives of our members and the community.
This fall and winter I have had the privilege of making music with the kids of Derry Church. I work (play really!) with them in four different settings:
- On Sunday mornings from 9:00-9:15 am, I make music with preschool through 5th grade children.
- On Tuesday nights from 5:45-6:15 pm, I make music with preschool and Kindergarten children.
- From 6:15-6:45 pm, I make music with 1st-5th grade children
- From 6:45-7:15 pm, I ring bells and chimes with 2nd-5th grade children.
Some kids I only see in one setting. Others I see at two or three. Some are there every week. Others only drop by occasionally. I am thrilled to work with all of them!
Throughout this fall, the kid’s musical skills have improved immensely. Children who could only use their talking voice in September have now found their singing voice. 1st-5th grade students who could echo rhythmic patterns with only partial accuracy are now reading rhythms on their own. Second grade students who struggled to get a bell to make a sound in September are ringing songs with multiple bells. Everyone’s singing range is expanding. Their pitch accuracy is solidifying. Their blend is improving. We’re singing in canons! It’s really, really exciting!
As exciting as developing musical skills together is, that’s not our primary focus. Where we have really focused is using music to explore our relationship with God.
For example, we’ve spent almost half our time singing songs that have Alleluias or Hallelujahs. We talked about Alleluia being the way we say “Yay!!!” in church. Then we went on to discuss that Alleluias and Hallelujahs are used in many countries and in many languages.
If you were in church on December 4, you heard two songs that were from opposite sides of the world but each used Alleluia to celebrate. “He Came Down” is a lilting song of praise from Cameroon in West Africa sung by the Preschool-Kindergarten group (Joyful Noise). “Jubilate Deo/Raise a Song of Gladness” is a song of praise from the Taizé Community in France that the 1st-5th grade Celebration Singers sang in Latin, English, and as a canon!
We’ve explored many other songs with Alleluias from other parts of the world that haven’t made it to a church service. We’ve also discussed that sometimes we don’t feel like saying “Yay!” to God. Sometimes we want to cry, ask for help, or scream at God, and there are songs for those times, too.
As we develop our musical skills and explore our relationship with God, a community is being formed. On Tuesday evenings, I watch preschoolers who cried in September pause at the door to the music room, give their adult a quick hug and then, beaming, skip/gallop into the room to hop on my train—named “Engine No. 9”—that everyone is riding. 1st-5th grade children who were nervous to sing at all in September shoot their hands into the air when I ask if anyone wants to lead the sung greeting on their own; then cheer for each other when they get it right.
In Sunday School, I see 2nd-5th grade students patiently help the younger ones navigate a hymnal, their fingers carefully following the words. Before worship, after worship, and in the fellowship hall the kids wave at me or prance up to have a conversation. These kids feel safe and welcome at our church, both among their peers and with at least one adult. They are confident, they are comfortable, they are excited. Most importantly, they love being here. What more could we ask for our kids as a church?
On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In December we’re lifting up the Christmas Joy Offering.
Have you ever searched for the perfect gift? Our scriptural theme notes, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us…” (John 1:14), reminding us that the only perfect gift ever given is the one we receive in Jesus Christ.
The Christmas Joy Offering is one of four special offerings received by the Presbyterian Church (USA) during the year. This special offering is shared among two PCUSA programs and a local ministry supported by Derry Church. The two PCUSA programs support our past, present, and future church workers and their families through the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions and our Presbyterian-related schools and colleges who are equipping communities of color to prepare future leaders.
Through the Board of Pensions, current and retired church workers and their families can receive critical financial assistance to support them during unforeseen circumstances. This support could involve supplements to their income, housing assistance, or for an emergency medical situation.
The PCUSA has long supported programs of higher education. Thus, the Christmas Joy Offering will also be used to support three PCUSA-related institutions: the Menaul School in Albuquerque, NM; the Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville, TX; and Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, AL. Funds can provide students with much-needed assistance while they pursue their professional goals, perhaps as future church leaders.
Derry Church will share a portion of our 2022 Christmas Joy Offering receipts with Christian Churches United. Steve Schwartz, Director of Development, has provided us with this update:
Christian Churches United rallies the community to love our neighbors facing homelessness, poverty and incarceration. Through their HELP Ministries program they provide rental assistance, utility assistance and other tangible aid to people who are in danger of becoming homeless to prevent homelessness, or to people who are currently homeless to help them get off the street into long-term housing.
Susquehanna Harbor Safe Haven is a long-term residential program specifically designed to help chronically homeless men—those on the street for a year or more with a mental health diagnosis—obtain and maintain long-term housing. Their Street Outreach Team operates two winter overnight shelters, one for men and one for women, and develops relationships with guests in these shelters and others on the street with the goal of helping them overcome challenges and obtain long-term housing.
All of these programs are funded by a network of local churches in partnership with concerned neighbors, businesses, and other funding partners. All donations provide help and hope to our neighbors facing significant challenges in their lives.
Gifts to the Christmas Joy Offering are being received now through the end of the year. Please give generously to this special offering. Thank you, Derry, for your support!
Christmas is a time of hope, peace, joy, and love centered around the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I invite you to experience the wonder and excitement of Christmas this Sunday, December 4 at 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm as the Derry Ringers and Sanctuary Choir lead us on a journey to Bethlehem to celebrate the babe born in a manger, Jesus the Messiah: The Promise Fulfilled.
The program, a musical tapestry, weaves Isaiah’s vision of seeing God, a peaceable Kingdom, and the messenger to come bringing light, love, and peace to the scene at the manger. The choirs will sing of Jesus in His mother’s arms, Joseph beside them, shepherds coming from their fields to see this Holy Child born in an oxen stall, the Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us.
The repertoire presented by the Sanctuary Choir will range from In Dulci Jubilo from the Medieval period to modern arrangements of hymns and spirituals, such as Sweet Little Jesus Boy featuring soloist Julie Miller, soprano.
The choirs will be accompanied by brass and percussion, with Dan Stokes at Derry’s Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ and Mary Lemons at the grand piano. The choirs and congregation will have the opportunity to lift their voices in praise to the well-known and beloved David Willcocks’ arrangements of O Come, All Ye Faithful and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.
The Derry Ringers will present Arnold B. Sherman’s Laudation and Paul McKlveen’s, The Hills are Bare at Bethlehem featuring Claire Folts on viola. Janice Click Holl will present Dan Forrest’s See Amid the Winter’s Snow. We welcome back to Derry mezzo-soprano Amy Yovanovich, who will share Pietro Yon’s Gesù Bambino. Mitchell Sensenig-Wilshire will join Amy in the beloved carol, O Holy Night. He will also sing the classic Christmas song, The Birthday of a King.
Join the choirs of Derry Church as they worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who has come to bring light and peace to this world! Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
For the past six months, it has been my joy and honor to be Derry’s Administrative Assistant in the church office. For those of you who have ever wondered, I can confirm that the church office is a very busy place!
I was fortunate to have started in April, as we were easing into the summer months. While the office was active, the steady workflow allowed me time to become acquainted with the responsibilities, procedures, and machinery associated with this position. Now that we are into fall programming with Derry Discovery Days in full swing and Advent just around the corner, the pace has definitely picked up.
I’m sure many of you have wondered what it’s like to work in the Derry Church office. To give you some insight, I thought it would be interesting to answer a few of the burning questions that I’m sure you’ve always wanted to know but were afraid to ask:
- What has been the most challenging thing to learn in your new job?
Definitely using Adobe InDesign software. This is the program used at Derry to design most of our print and digital media, including the weekly bulletins and eNews. Sue George is a skilled teacher, and with her guidance I’m becoming acquainted with some of the tools and layout capabilities of this robust program.
- What do you like least about the job?
There really is very little that I don’t enjoy doing, however, the saddest part of my job is preparing funeral bulletins when a member of our congregation passes away. Each one of you is a blessing and joy, so it’s with a heavy heart that I prepare the programs for the memorial services.
- What has been an unexpected bonus associated with your new position?
At the end of every day (or most days), I turn out the office lights and move into the sanctuary to play the Aeolian-Skinner organ. What a beautiful instrument this congregation has dedicated to the glory of God. No matter what type of day I may have had, playing this rich instrument brings peace.
- What is the most surprising duty you have?
One duty I was not expecting is overseeing the use of the church van. With the purchase of the new van, several new policies were put into place. To reserve the use of the van or to become qualified to drive the van, I’m the contact person in the office.
- In what ways has this position impacted your role as Clerk of Session – does it make it easier or harder?
I think being in the office makes my job as clerk easier. Being on staff helps me keep up to date with activities at church and how they impact the various church committees. I have access to Derry’s minute books and membership registries so I can include any changes as they occur. Having access to the computer and copier makes preparing the minutes, session agenda, and other documents very convenient.
- What is your favorite office machine?
Definitely the folding machine. It’s one of the oldest machines in the office but it makes quick work of folding letters and other types of printed paperwork. It’s a unique machine that is just plain fun to use!
- What is an unexpected joy associated with your job?
I love greeting all who enter the building and working with other staff members. Derry is rich with talented, generous people who are dedicated to supporting each other and our community. I love spending time with every one of you. Feel free to stop by, grab a piece of chocolate, and say “hello!”
It is hard to believe that Advent is right around the corner, but in a few short weeks we’ll see the world around us transformed with lights, decorations, commercials for the latest toys and gadgets, parties & social events, festive music playing everywhere we go, wonderful concerts & performances, favorite holiday traditions carried out, gatherings with family & friends, visits with Santa, creating and checking off our shopping lists, wrapping all the presents, sending out holiday messages & cards, and probably so much more that I can’t think of in early November.
As the person in charge of children’s programming at the church, I imagine you all assume that the Steelman family practices our faith nonstop. Maybe the image you have is a family gathered in prayer before each dinner, ending each day reading stories from our many childrens bibles, or talking to each other with great kindness and love. I’ll let you in on an honest assessment of our faith formation at home… it is struggling. We are in the phase of life that has us running seven days a week to all kinds of programming and by the time we get home, stop running, and finally gather as a family, we are lucky if we are able to include a blessing during our mealtime. I am sure many others can relate.
Being “in the trenches” with our church families helps me stay real when offering new faith formation opportunities for folks to try at home. Before sharing a family faith formation idea with you all, I have a few rules that I have set for myself: opportunities must be realistic, they must be fun and a way to bring family together, they need to include messages that all ages can relate to at their developmental stage of life, and they need to be something that I will do with my own family.
The other day I was looking at one of the many Facebook pages I follow that have ideas for children’s ministry, faith formation and/or Christian education. One of the pages posted about the return of the “Wandering Wisemen” and it caught my attention. I started to read a little and quickly realized this was a wonderful idea. The concept is simple… the Three Wisemen spend the season of Advent wandering around preparing for the birth of Jesus. The journey of the “Wandering Wisemen” will conclude on Epiphany (January 6), the day they meet the Newborn King.
This Advent season I invite you to join our family as we have fun following the Three Wisemen. This will be fun for ALL ages! All you need is a creche, or nativity set. You will use the Three Wisemen from your set and you can either create your own journey, find “Wandering Wisemen on Facebook and follow along with their suggestions, or you can email me and be put on our “Wandering Wisemen” email list. I will send an email each Saturday morning with ideas for the upcoming week, including a description of what the Wisemen see/endure/do each day. Your family can then enjoy going on a hunt each day to find your wisemen and talk about what happens along their journey.
Don’t have kiddos living in your home? No worries! You can do this as adults or you can make this activity a fun new holiday experience to do remotely with your grandchildren. With the use of video messages and live video conversations, you can have fun with your grandchildren’s faith formation this Advent season by talking with one another each day and going on a hunt together in your home to find the wisemen. What a great way to connect with one another and also learn from each other as you journey along with the “Wandering Wisemen.”
I invite you to join us for a fun adventure as we journey along with the “Wandering Wisemen” to help bring the Christmas story new meaning and also welcome it into our daily lives as we enjoy this year’s Advent season. Joining the fun is easy: make up an adventure of your own, follow “Wandering Wisemen” on Facebook for ideas, or email me and I will add you to our email list.
Another fun way to celebrate this Advent season is joining us for Advent Wreath making on Sunday, November 27 after 10:30 am worship in Fellowship Hall. Click here to RSVP and join us. This is a wonderful opportunity for all ages to gather together for fellowship and create an Advent wreath to use in your home to help make this holiday season more meaningful.
“Called to make a difference.” You have heard this message to be Derry Church’s stewardship theme for this year. I would ask you to think about the meaning of these words and how they might relate to you.
I believe that I was called to make a difference when I started a term on Session in 2021. With this Session appointment came a committee assignment, Stewardship & Finance. I would have been happy to serve any of our committees, but Stewardship & Finance seemed to make sense. I like numbers. balance our checkbook at home. While I’m not a banker, per se, I work in the banking industry so I’m around numbers for a living. And, I’ve led stewardship campaigns at a previous church. All of these things seem to have pointed me to where I would make the most meaningful difference as a Derry Church volunteer.
Now, I will be honest: I had not anticipated being called to make a difference as the Chair of the committee at my first meeting, but as we know, God works in mysterious ways. And so, I write to you today asking that you think about the ways in which God may call on you to do something of meaning—something of difference.
There are many ways that we can make that difference at Derry. Just read the eNews on Thursday to see all of the wonderful things that our congregation is involved in, from helping individuals and families in need through our various mission initiatives to facilitating multiple study groups for spiritual nurturing and delivering critically important youth programming and children’s ministry. And everything in between.
I encourage you to give of your time and of your talents as volunteers. There is a place for all of us to accept this invitation.
As you think about the leadership role that Derry Church takes in our community, we can only do so because of generous financial giving by the congregation. Year after year, the congregation responds during our stewardship campaign. You are called to make a difference, and you do so by sharing a significant piece of your personal treasure.
We have tremendous pastoral leadership, the highest caliber of music programs, mission initiatives that literally change people’s lives for the better; and so much more. Now more than ever, we need to recognize that these programs don’t just happen on their own. They happen because of the congregation’s financial commitment—a commitment that results from our love of God and the pride in which we all feel about our Derry Church home.
Derry does so much for so many. And, we can do even more. We are all called to make a difference during this stewardship campaign. I hope that you will join Kristen and me as we increase our pledge for 2023. But most importantly, I hope that you will give what you can, whatever that may be. Together, we can make a difference.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In November we’re lifting up access to health care in the Harrisburg and tri-county areas.
For many years Derry has supported Hope Within Ministries, Christ Lutheran Church Health Ministries, and the Community Check-up Center.
Hope Within Ministries, founded in 2002, is a volunteer, donation-based organization which serves Dauphin, Lancaster, and Lebanon Counties. Hope Within offers free, primary health care services for medically uninsured, low-income residents (250% of the federal poverty level or less). Appointments are required: this is not a walk-in clinic. As one of the few providers in the region, Hope Within offers counseling services on a self-pay, income based sliding scale, and in 2020 dental services were added. Hope Within was very helpful in supporting Derry Church’s efforts in the early stages of resettling our Syrian family by providing necessary physicals and immunizations.
Christ Lutheran Church Health Ministries in Harrisburg provides a free, nurse-run, walk-in clinic Monday-Friday. Patients have access to simple lab tests, basic physical evaluations, health education, and some social services. For three days/month with an appointment, patients can receive dental care and a weekly, walk-in oral hygiene clinic. A prenatal clinic for low-income, low-risk women is available, and a partnership with Holy Spirit Hospital provides advanced care and labor and delivery. A free, non-emergency urgent care clinic run weekly (by appointment only) is available.
The Community Check-up Center in Harrisburg’s Hall Manor area is another health care provider supported by Derry for many years. This non-profit organization provides services to men, women, and children in acute situations and to those managing chronic illnesses. Preventive health screenings, and immunizations are available. The Check-up Center also provides free gynecological and family planning services for women who are uninsured and meet age and income eligibility requirements.
These non-profit organizations are heavily dependent upon contributions for the support of their programs. Derry Church provides assistance to all three of these essential ministries through our Mission & Peace Committee, which receives a portion of the church’s annual budget. Thus, your pledges and contributions are essential in helping to support a variety of health care services to those in need across the Central Pennsylvania region.
One of the duties of the Deacons is caring for members in need. As a Deacon at Derry, I was offered the opportunity to accompany Pastor Stephen on his monthly visits to homebound members to serve them communion. I was grateful for the opportunity since COVID had impacted our in-person contact with many Derry members.
We set out on the Tuesday morning after Labor Day. We were warmly welcomed into the members’ homes and, for those I knew, it was a chance to renew friendships or to make new acquaintances. Each visit was filled with easy conversation, listening to their news about family or hearing about any concerns they had. At one home we even sang a favorite hymn together. It was a joy to see their smiles as we chatted at leisure. Then Pastor Stephen opened his traveling communion kit and we shared the “bread of Heaven” and the “cup of salvation.”.
Many of our homebound members live stream the Sunday service but cannot share in taking the sacrament of communion in person with others. It was clearly a joy to take the bread and cup with them and see how delighted they were to receive us in their homes.
It was a fulfilling experience for me, and I hope other Derry Deacons will choose to accompany Pastor Stephen on these monthly visits. If you’ve ever served as a Deacon (or an Elder), you can participate: just contact Pastor Stephen and let him know you’re available.
I was asked to write this article back in early August. I thought I had a good idea for things that make a difference here at Derry and I chewed on this idea a bit. Being fresh off the Youth Group trip (in full disclosure, two of the young people were my daughters), this would fall right out of my fingers and onto my screen, right? Not quite. It is now September 1 and one of you, without even knowing I was asked to write this, sent me a very nice card, with a brief message about a youth activity that let me know that my thoughts had congealed and I was headed in the right direction.
Here is my working title for this piece: Do You Make a Difference in the Lives of Our Youth? That question and my message here is not an appeal for new sign-ups for Sunday School teachers or Youth Leaders (although none of us would say that is a bad idea and we can tell you that the process of getting your clearances is not that bad at all), but this article is a call for reflection on the difference you make in the lives of our youth.
So what are the elements of our youth program here at Derry?
Sunday School? Check.
Youth Group? Check.
Food? Devotions? Check! Check.
Fellowship and Activities? Check.
So much more? Check, Check, and Check again.
Are you part of Derry’s Youth program? Check! You are!
Do you make a difference in the lives of our youth? Check! More than you know!!
My argument here is based on my observations at Derry and a reflection on my experiences growing up. You provide significant and valuable things to our youth and probably do not even realize it. You are just doing the things that you do as a person of faith. I recall attending church with my family and I remember those worshiping around me — even as I start to receive offers in the mail for senior discounts, their names and faces are still vivid in my mind. I still remember where most people sat each Sunday. I remember being led in hymns by Mr. Shebelsky in our gathering before Sunday School, and finding passages in the Bible with Mrs. Unger. Ushering with Mr. Edmands, the singing voice of the scout leader, who would later become my first boss. Other times, I remember smiles and kind words, or the good food that people shared during turine dinners (it took me a long time to figure out what turine meant). I was given the gift of experiencing the love of Jesus Christ in the people I met. They showed me what that looked like and what people living their faith meant, all without doing any one, particular thing. All these things are still part of me today.
It is a privilege to be involved with the youth here at Derry, and, I am certain others would tell you the same thing. I probably do not have enough space here or time to fully share what impacts me (and how), but here are the first things to come to mind from recent youth gatherings/events:
It is a gift to watch youth get to know each other over the course of a week, when packed in a van for at least 25 – 30 hours over the course of a week, needing to share bathrooms, walking in the woods, taking off across a lake in a kayak or on a paddle board, getting sand out of their shoes, helping to cook meals, and getting help finding the sunscreen. I am moved by their participation in devotions and worship planned by them. I often am given pause as I hear them sing the hymns I remember singing when I was growing up. I take so much from them when I hear their expressions of the intersection of their lives and faith when we go around the circle offering prayers, and it is particularly poignant when their prayers are heard by adults or they hear the prayers of adults. At other times, I am not looked at too weirdly when I join in a music experience that requires a stand up and clap, move to your left, turn around and jump required along with the singing, taking me back to memories from my younger years.
More and more each day, I realize how much I appreciate the involvement of others in the church as I was growing up and the experiences I have here at Derry. I not only appreciate the gifts that were given to me (and continue to be), I rely on them. The older I get, they are a comfort to me, but also provide a foundation for what I need in this world that seems to challenge us more each day. I suspect many of you feel the same way and rely on the gifts you have received and still receive. They make a difference.
Believe it or not, you make a difference to our youth program and are a vibrant part of it. By being here, worshiping, welcoming, expressing your faith, singing, eating together, working, or just chatting with others, you make a difference. I am pretty certain that our youth will reflect on what they have received from you in years to come, even the littlest thing may be significant to them. They will come to the same conclusion that you made a difference to them, I just bet, and will later make a difference to others, too.
I recently had my hearing tested. The audiologist asked me how my summer was going. I told her that, quite suddenly, I was very busy. My church had become involved with a Syrian refugee family and I was drawn to become involved. She thanked me. Thirty years ago her family was sponsored by a church when they were refugees after the Vietnam war ended. She said most refugee families do not have sponsors. Because hers did, they were able to survive and thrive in the new country where they knew little of the language or the customs.
Syrians have fled by the millions since the Arab Spring 12 years ago was violently quashed. Russia has armed the suppression of Syrians wanting a more democratic government. Derry Church was made personally aware of the Syrian refugee crisis in January when Church World Service (CWS) Lancaster gave a presentation at Sunday school (watch part 1 and part 2).
The Mission and Peace Committee (MAP) took note. Some contact was maintained over the months. CWS opened a new office in Harrisburg in preparation for resettling refugee families, including several Syrian families. We received word in July that partners were desperately needed to help with families. Pete Feil and Marilyn Koch, with the encouragement of MAP and Pastor Stephen, put out the word. Derry Church had been called. But did we want to answer? Could we answer on such short notice? It seemed impossible.
They needed a place to live, help to access the seed benefits the United States makes available to the small number of refugees each year. They would need help to become independent: get jobs; enroll their children in school; access medical care; have access to transportation; learn English, and so much more. MAP and a number of interested Derry and All Saints Episcopal Church members, despite this seemingly impossible mission, said yes. We would commit to help resettle one family.
The Mohamad Haikal family arrived on July 27. The parents and four children, ages 4-12, traveled over 24 hours. Each had a duffel bag with their worldly possessions. They’d been waiting in Egypt for 10 years to come to the United States. Since then, our band of volunteers have been part of the adventure of a lifetime.
Many people have been involved in resettling this family. Surprisingly we have encountered a number of Arabic-speaking people who have helped us navigate various situations. We now have a dedicated English as a Second Language (ESL) group, headed by Sue Whitaker, and augmented by members of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Hershey. The school district also provides ESL support. Love INC has provided transitional housing for the family. Hope Within provided initial medical treatment. The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, the Hershey Food Bank, and Cocoa Packs have provided food and clothing. Many other donors from both churches have provided funds, food, clothing, household goods, bicycles, and transportation to the mosque, as well as a variety of appointments for health, school, job, and social assistance programs.
All of this has made a huge impact on the Haikal family and the volunteers. None of this would’ve been possible had the call not been answered. And because we answered, mini miracles, if there is such a thing as a “mini” miracle, have occurred. Mohamad has a job but more support will be needed. Permanent, affordable housing and a car large enough for the family of six are needed.
God has brought us this far. God will continue to call. Will Derry Church continue to answer? “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In October we’re lifting up efforts to fight hunger in our community and around the world.
Did you know that last year 828 million people around the globe went to bed hungry?
Did you know that 13.5 million households in the United States were food insecure?
Did you know that right here in Central PA, 153,000 individuals visited the Central PA Food Bank every month?
Statistics like these can be overwhelming. It can seem like an impossible problem to solve. However, there are steps that can be taken that will help those who are hungry. Consider these mission opportunities:
- Serve breakfast or lunch at Downtown Daily Bread. Contact Craig Smith for details.
- Donate Giant or Walmart gift cards to the Hershey Food Bank and the Central PA Food Bank.
- Serve dinner to workers at the Racetrack. Derry is scheduled to provide dinner on Monday, Oct 31: contact Craig Smith to volunteer.
- Hold a food drive in your neighborhood to benefit the Hershey and Central PA food banks.
- Celebrate a birthday or anniversary by asking friends and family to donate to one of Derry’s missions that support feeding programs.
- Organize a team to walk in the CROP Hunger Walk at 2 pm on Sunday, Oct 23. Sign up online to walk or to make a donation, or stop by the table in the Narthex on Sunday morning.
- Find out what the Presbyterian Church (USA) is doing to combat hunger: check out the Presbyterian Hunger Program. Support their work by writing a check or giving online.
Each of us in small ways can make a real difference in fighting hunger. As the CROP Walk slogan so aptly puts it, Help End Hunger One Step at a Time.
We have reached September and are entering budgeting season. It is time for the annual update on how the church is doing financially and my projections for the rest of the year. Before I begin, I would like to thank Steven Guenther for his service as past treasurer. I wish him well in his new endeavors in Pittsburgh.
As of the end of August, we have received income contributions that are 74.4 % of our budgeted $1,250,000 income and approximately 10% ahead of 2021 contributions Y-T-D. Expenses are at 58.5% of budget. That is expected as many of our expenses are paid at the end of the year. If our contributions continue as they have in the first eight months of the year, and our expenses do not exceed the budgeted $1,293,937, we should finish the year in a break even to a positive position.
As the Session, the Stewardship & Finance Committee, and the other committees look forward to the 2023 budget and the future, we are working to ensure that Derry Church provides for the current needs of our church members and the community as well as the financial stability of the church. By planning for the future, we can make sure we are managing our resources responsibly.
Because of the generous support of the congregation, we have been able to do capital projects such as the refurbishment of the cemetery walls and planned improved signage around the church. The sound system upgrades are continuing. Lighting improvements around the church have also been accomplished and are continuing. We have been able to sponsor and support a refugee family. We have been able to do mission work in our community and throughout the world–whether it be helping youth with college scholarships or building a new wing on the school in Pakistan.
I would like to thank the congregation for your continued support of the church and its mission work in our community and the world.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything related to Derry’s finances, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The one who sings prays twice,” a phrase written more than 1,600 years ago by St. Augustine, is still well-known today. The word “sing” appears more than 400 times in the Bible, 50 of which are a direct call to action. As Christians, we take comfort in the words of our beloved hymns: they help us express the gamut of every human emotion, calm our fears, uplift our souls, and share the message that God is with us. They give us the charge to live as Christ calls us and are the prayers of our faith set to melody and enriched by harmony. For millions of Christians worldwide, the great hymns of faith and songs of praise permeate every aspect of our faith journey.
When I met with members of the Derry choirs during my job interview, a great question was asked of me: “What do you envision for the future of the music program of Derry Presbyterian Church?” This question is one that I ponder each day as I drive from Boiling Springs to Hershey. What first came to mind is that Derry is a singing church, a congregation that loves and cherishes music in worship. It’s a church that worships with various styles and genres centered on its mission and vision: to proclaim God’s word, share God’s love, and practice God’s justice. To be an inquiring, inviting, and inclusive Christ-centered community.
In the tradition of a singing church, Derry offers many exciting opportunities to join singing and ringing choirs. My vision is to have a full choir loft each Sunday to lead the congregation in inspiring, uplifting, and meaningful praise, reflecting the message of the Sermon, scriptures, and worship service. The Sanctuary Choir is back in full swing, and I invite you to join us as we grow in faith, music, and fellowship. Rehearsals are held at 7 pm Thursdays in room 7.
The Derry Ringers are rehearsing on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 pm, and I invite you to ring with us! You don’t have to be great at reading music to ring handbells, and it’s never too late to learn. It would be wonderful to have a full five-octave bell choir, and you can help make that possible.
Youth and children can participate in choirs that sing and choirs that ring. Claire Folts, Mark Verner, Debbi Kees-Folts, and I are working together to nurture and cultivate community and growth in our young believers because they are our future.
It is a gift to worship with you each Sunday as you lift your voices in adoration, prayer, and praise for all that God has done for us. My vision for the music program of Derry Church is to lead a community that rings and sings for God’s glory. Come, and be a part of the music and the worship! Reach out to me and let me know how you’d like to participate. I look forward to singing and ringing God’s praises along with you.
Back in 2015, when I was working part-time as Derry’s Communications Coordinator, the Communications & Technology Committee embarked on a five-year technology plan. With former Derry member Dave Sweigert taking the lead, the committee worked to replace aging AV equipment and infrastructure throughout the church. I’m happy to report that we completed all the items on that five-year plan, and now that we’re out from under the heavy AV demands that the pandemic brought, we’ve begun work on the next five-year plan. One of the first things we’ll be addressing is the church’s aging and vulnerable WIFI network, which will improve connectivity, add security, and provide faster service for everyone who joins the Derry Guest WIFI.
In June the team that installed our live stream equipment drove in from Malvern to make adjustments to the sound system in the Sanctuary. If you’ve attended 10:30 am Sunday worship in person, tell me what you’re experiencing as you worship in that space. The AV crew is pleased that the nagging problem with feedback has been resolved, and some in the congregation have told me they can tell the sound is clearer. If the congregation is satisfied, then we can turn our attention to other projects.
In March I reported on the outdoor sign project and now we’re just weeks away from installation. Beginning in October, new signage will be appearing on the church campus and on the corner of Mansion Road and East Chocolate Avenue. I’m looking forward to having numbers on all the outdoor entrances, making it easy to direct everyone to the correct door — especially delivery people and guests. We’ve done some preliminary work on the indoor sign plan and we’re waiting for the first round of designs to be delivered for review.
Tech Time on Mondays at 1 pm continues to be a bright spot in my week. A handful of Derry regulars and many new faces drop in on Zoom for an hour for conversation and sharing tips and tricks on high-tech and low-tech devices. Whether or not you have a question, you’re welcome to join for a few minutes or the full hour as we learn and laugh together. It’s the one Zoom meeting that has continued weekly since launching in May 2020 as a way for friends to practice using that brand-new Zoom technology. Let me know your ideas for other Zoom gatherings the church could offer this fall.
I’ll close with a brief update on attendance. In 2022 we’re welcoming on average 32 people at the 8 am service, and 149 at 10:30 am. Live streaming brings an average of 151 IP addresses, which translates to about 225 people. Thanks to everyone who signs the guestbook and lets us know who’s out there worshiping with us. Pastor Stephen, Dan Dorty and I read all the comments and feedback you submit. Whether you join in person or by streaming, we’re glad you’re a part of the Derry Church family.
PS: Following the 10:30 am service on Sunday, the AV crew invites you to stop by the control center at the back to check out what they do on Sunday mornings. If you like what you see, we’d love to have you join the crew to run audio, video, or content added with the computer. Open calls to learn more about AV operations are held monthly.
I love stories: reading, watching, singing, telling stories that entertain, educate, shape, and transform. Everybody has a story: ordinary stories, extraordinary stories, stories that delight, entertain, and educate … stories that make you laugh, think, hope and cry. Stories are the raw material from which we live our lives.
I understand stories as the space where I can speak my questions, express my uncertainty and brokenness, the hurt done to others by me, and the hurt done to me by others.
In our diverse and divided nation, shaped by the ebb and flow of mutual fears and antagonisms, stories can be uncomfortable or discomforting. They can also be restorative and transformative. Each can hold a surprise that opens up life to me and allows me to know and learn about other experiences and ways of life.
I believe we need to create more spaces for storytelling and listening, because a space of stories becomes a space of engagement, and engagement and experience precedes understanding. We cannot reconcile and move forward living better lives together without on some level understanding one another. This is why I’m excited about Derry Church embarking on a new experience together called ENGAGE STORIES.
ENGAGE STORIES is a storytelling event where five people have up to ten minutes each to tell a true story from their own lives, and then the audience gets to ask curious questions. Our first event’s theme is “Once in a Lifetime.”
Everybody has a story that deserves to be heard. Our first group of storytellers will be:
- George Porter is going to tell a story about how a fractured jaw helped to repair a fractured relationship.
- Sara Woodbury says, “When I was 11, I took a trip that changed me in ways I could not have imagined before boarding the plane from Cleveland to Paris. I’ll share with you some of the things I found beautiful, funny, curious, and shocking during my once in a lifetime adventure.”
- Natalie Taylor will share about her recent experience traveling to Poland to teach English to Ukrainian refugees.
- Frances Mohler will share a story about being caught in a scary and dangerous situation on a church mission trip.
- Dan Dorty is going to tell about his 2020 life-saving and life-changing kidney transplant.
I hope you’ll come to the ENGAGE STORIES event at 6:30 pm Saturday, Sept 10 in Room 7. Come prepared to listen, to learn, to ask questions, and grow closer to one another through the power of stories.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In September we’re lifting up the PC (USA)’s Peace & Global Witness Offering, and our local offering recipient, Hope Within Ministries.
Hope Within Ministries is a community health, counseling, and dental center located on Route 230 (Harrisburg Pike) in Elizabethtown. Hope Within’s mission is to share God’s love with people in need through the provision of health care services, dental care, sound counsel and related education.
Their vision is to be a local community in which:
- Physical, spiritual, and emotional needs are met;
- Real hope is prevalent;
- Love for one another abounds; and
- Healthy, wholesome lifestyles are the norm
Hope Within was founded in 2002 to provide primary health care to uninsured, low-income residents of Lancaster, Dauphin, and Lebanon Counties. Through the grace and goodness of God, they are excited to share God’s love by offering excellent and free primary medical and donation-based dental care via the hands of more than 30 volunteer medical and dental providers, therapists, and nurses. Derry member Larry Espenshade is one of Hope Within’s volunteer medical practitioners.
Hope Within offers healthcare services for medically uninsured low-income residents in Lancaster, Dauphin, or Lebanon Counties whose household income is at 250 percent of the federal poverty level or less.
Derry’s Mission Committee is grateful for the Hope Within staff and volunteers who are providing primary medical care and immunization services to the Syrian refugee family we are sponsoring through Church World Service. Hope Within has supported many of the refugee families that have relocated in the Harrisburg/Lancaster region.
Hope Within relies on and is immensely grateful for generous support from medical and non-medical volunteers. Volunteer opportunities exist for health care providers, reception/front office services, nursing, help with fundraising and community outreach events, and miscellaneous ministry projects and needs. They would love to hear from you as to ways you would like to get involved.
In 2009, Rev. Marie Buffaloe asked me if I would be willing to embark with her on a new program for Derry Church. She had in mind a way to assist people dealing with the loss of a loved one. She explained to me that she had found a program entitled “Grief Share,” a nationally recognized Christian based bereavement program.
At that time our church had suffered the losses of several members, and a few of our members had other personal losses in their lives. We began meeting on Tuesday afternoons and our first group consisted almost entirely of Derry members. The idea was that they could attend Grief Share, then stay and enjoy fellowship around the table at Terrific Tuesday meals.
Since then, with outreach and advertising, our groups often have community members outnumbering our church members. People can visit GriefShare.org to learn where the program is being offered. They come from a variety of faith traditions and some travel quite a distance to reach our church. We have faced unique challenges with those we seek to serve.
Knowing that Marie would not be with me this year, I asked God and my prayer warriors for direction in discerning if I could do this as the leader. In the late winter, the answer became clear that “yes,” needed to try. I was fortunate to have a woman who had gone through the program with us two times and had become a leader with us. Bonnie Landes from Palmyra Church of the Brethren was committed to making the program a success and has worked closely with me this summer to accomplish that goal. I am grateful to Bonnie for her informed guidance and compassionate heart.
We are now meeting on Monday afternoons and are privileged to gather each week with a group who have suffered profound losses in their lives. It is an honor to be a part of their shared experience. In these two hours they find acceptance and a safe place for their pain and their tears. These are times of affirmation of God’s love and God’s care for us. We look forward to being with them each week and providing the opportunity for them to try small steps, which often lead to bigger steps and deeper understandings of a God who never leaves us.
Editor’s note: The 13-week summer GriefShare series concludes in September, but they’ll be back next year. Watch the eNews for the 2023 schedule.
This summer, the youth got the opportunity to travel to Maine for a summer retreat. Our week consisted of lots of exploration, service, and adventure. After a long car ride accompanied by Harry Styles and filled with Claudia’s fun facts from her book about all the ways to die in Yellowstone, we arrived at our house and prepared for a busy trip.
Throughout the week, we spent a lot of time visiting places in Acadia National Park. We saw the waves crash in Thunder Hole and watched the sunset from Cadillac Mountain. We hiked through trails of the forest and swam in the freezing water of the ocean. Some of us went rock climbing for the first time, while others enjoyed the carriage roads throughout the park.
We got to serve in Acadia by weeding the carriage roads through “flossing.” We worshipped on Sunday morning at a service inside of the park. When we weren’t in Acadia, we were exploring the rest of Mount Desert Island. We received lessons on how to be lumberjacks and watched a show of the professionals competing with each other. On another day, many of us tried paddle boarding or kayaking for the first time. Other times we would just drive around and stop whenever we saw a great view of the mountains and lakes.
These stops often led to some of the best moments of the trip. Mr. Steelman became the fastest human as he clocked in at 29 mph while running past a speed radar sign. At another stop, we jumped between rocks on the beach and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Between all these activities, we got to hang out as a group at the pool or basketball court at the house and enjoy Mr. Patton’s incredible cooking. After dinner each night, everyone looked forward to what game or activity we would be doing. These games produced some of my favorite moments of the trip. We got to pretend we were on TV with Family Feud or order each other to do whatever we wanted when we were the Great Dalmuti. Our non-talent talent show featured everything from Yar singing Christmas songs while doing a handstand and shaking maracas with her toes to Claudia performing a puppet show with her knees and feet.
The campfire in the backyard made for the perfect spot to have devotionals and make s’mores. We shared our favorite experiences from the day while debating if it was normal that people like their marshmallows completely burned (It’s not). On Friday night, we finished our trip around the fire with Mr. Steelman’s incredible parody of Bohemian Rhapsody. And after another long car ride again filled with random Claudia trivia and even more Harry Styles, we all made it back to the church safe.
This trip was probably my favorite I have been on with the church. I can’t thank Claudia, Mr. Steelman, Mr. Patton, and Pastor Pam enough for the zesty time that was the Maine trip!
Editor’s note: Jacob is a 2022 graduate of Hershey High School. He is now attending West Chester University to pursue a degree in business. Jacob is the son of Greg Taylor and brother of Emma and Natalie, AKA “The Taylor Tribe.”
Can you believe it is almost half-way through August? Time sure does fly by during the summer months. As we continue preparing for the change of seasons and the start of our next program year, the Christian Education committee is hopeful that we will see the return of a consistent schedule!
The last two years have taught us many important lessons and also helped us see the value of things we often take for granted, things as simple as the consistency of a schedule. Our Christian Education team has had to remain fluid for the last two program years. We desperately wanted to set a schedule for our programs and activities for everyone to enjoy, but we knew our plans would likely change before the event occurred.
We are all hopeful that this year will be different now that we are learning to live with Covid as part of our normal way of life. As we work hard to create programming that is dynamic, meaningful, educational and fun, we are hopeful that our church family members will make these activities part of their consistent schedule each week.
Here is a glimpse of what you can expect to enjoy this year…
- Weekly Sunday School from 9:00-10:15 am
- Tuesday evening KIC Club beginning September 20 at 5:45 pm
- Fellowship Fun for children in grades 2-5 from 11:30-1:30 on select Sundays
- Weekly Sunday School from 9:00-10:15 am
- Weekly Youth Group activities
- Tuesday Evening programming
For the Church family…
- Adult Sunday School programming from 9:00-10:15 am
- Vocal and Bell Choirs
- Terrific Tuesday dinners at 5pm each Tuesday starting September 13
- Special programs throughout the year
We hope you will find a program or group that fits your needs and helps your faith grow and be challenged in meaningful ways. We also hope you will make it a part of your consistent schedule 🙂
We look forward to gathering with you soon!
On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In August we’re lifting up Education of Children. The Mission & Peace Committee has supported Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) for many years. They value PPC’s continued advocacy for the health and education for the children in our state. This letter from Kari King confirms the value of Derry Church continuing its support of the organization in the future.
As the statewide, nonpartisan, nonprofit child advocacy organization with a vision to ensure every child living in Pennsylvania can thrive and reach their full potential, PPC focuses its efforts on ensuring that:
- Children and their families have access to affordable, high-quality child care and pre-k.
- Children can access an adequate and equitable high-quality public education.
- Each pregnant woman and child has access to affordable, quality health care.
- Children can grow up in a home where they are safe and protected from abuse and neglect.
Our work across policy issues is centered in four key strategies: analyze and interpret data to inform our policy work as well as conduct high-quality research; work with stakeholder partners at various coalition tables to raise advocate voices; serve as an objective resource for the media on policies impacting kids; and educate policymakers at the state and federal levels on both sides of the aisle.
We are especially proud of recent accomplishments achieved through our advocacy work, including:
- A total increase in funding for pre-k of $79 million in the 2022-23 state budget – the largest in its history since the Pre-K Counts program was enacted in 2007. In the past eight years, pre-k programs have seen 187% growth in state support, currently serving over 65,000 eligible children statewide and over 1,600 in Dauphin County.
- For child care, funding in the 2022-23 state budget to support the sector’s workforce with $2,500 one-time recruitment and retention bonuses (using $90 million in federal stimulus funds) and an additional $25 million in state funding to increase eligibility for the Child Care Works subsidy program up to 300% of the federal poverty level, helping working families afford child care.
- Historic investments for K-12 education funding, which in addition to a $750 million increase for basic education also included additional support for special education and career and technical education, as well as $200 million for grant programs split between school-based mental health services and physical safety needs.
In the remaining months of the year, we are excited to focus on some federal work, with reauthorization needed of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, or MIECHV, in US Congress. Often referred to simply as “home visiting,” these programs pair families looking for additional support and mentoring with their parenting skills with trained professionals such as nurses or social workers. These customized services impact outcomes ranging from improved child health, improved early childhood literacy, and improved family economic self-sufficiency to reduced instances of child abuse and neglect.
PPC truly appreciates your support of the work we do. Without it, we would not be advocates on behalf of Pennsylvania’s children.
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 elder and retired Archives Director Pam Whitenack, who compiled Lee’s history for this week’s message.
Daniel Lee Backenstose was born in Schaefferstown in 1915. He grew up in a farming community, often helping his grandfather with a wide variety of farming chores.
Lee attended Penn State University, graduating in 1936 with a degree in agricultural education. That same year, he was hired as Derry Township’s teacher of agriculture. In 1942 he was drafted by the army and served four years in Europe both in combat and later with the Army Judge Advocate’s division.
Seeing soldiers wounded during the war greatly influenced Lee’s plans for his future. While he had not had the financial resources before the war, the G.I Bill opened the door for Lee to pursue a medical education. He attended Jefferson Medical School, graduating in 1951. Interested in private practice, Lee considered establishing an office in Hershey or in Lebanon. He met with Jim Bobb, manager of the Milton Hershey School Farm Division, who encouraged him to set up an office in Hershey. While initially slow, the practice gradually grew. Lee saw patients in his Hershey office, and for additional income, also assisted a surgeon at the Lebanon Sanitorium on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Lee also remembered,
In those days, I had some patients at Lebanon, I had some here in the Hershey Hospital, and I was on the Harrisburg Hospital staff. At times I used to visit all three places in one day.
His practice also included delivering babies at Hershey, Harrisburg and Lebanon hospitals as well as home deliveries.
Lee was ambitious and blessed with boundless energy. In addition to his private practice, he also served as the HERCO (now Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company) doctor, including caring for the Hershey Bears, the Medical Director of Milton Hershey School (1968-82) and shared weekend duty and covered vacations for the chocolate company doctor.
When the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center opened, Lee opted to not join its medical staff, whose doctors were paid employees. He preferred the independence of his private practice. However, when Charles and Irma Millard established the Four Diamonds Fund in honor of their son, Christopher, following his death from cancer in 1972, the Medical Center asked Lee to serve as the first chair of the Fund. The Four Diamonds’ mission was to provide financial assistance to children battling cancer at the Hershey Medical Center.
A critical step in making the Fund successful was Lee’s efforts to engage the Penn State Interfraternity Council (IFC) in raising monies for the Four Diamonds fund. As Lee related in his oral history, he worked with Herbert Kraybill, from the Penn State gifts and endowments office. At the time, they were competing with other charities to get the IFC to lend their services to the Four Diamonds Fund.
And in those days it was really a touch-and-go, because you had multiple sclerosis and the Leukemia Society and everything else that were trying to get those students to lend their efforts and their performance to their cause. So we were really in competition up there a number of years before we established our dominance in having the Interfraternity Council put all their efforts behind the Four Diamond Fund down at Hershey… This year  the IFC may have raised $600,000 for the Four Diamond Fund. It turned into a tremendous thing that we started. At the beginning we started with something like $50,000. That was the IFC goal. Now the IFC is up at $600,000 a year. It’s the biggest fundraiser we ever had. They raised a tremendous amount of money for the Four Diamond Fund. We couldn’t do what we’re doing today if we wouldn’t have the benefit of the Interfraternity Council from Penn State.
[Before the IFC involvement] in those early days, I used to go around to Lions Clubs and 4-H Clubs and give talks for benefiting the Four Diamonds to raise a dollar here and a dollar there, something like that, talk to schools and all that kind of business, which isn’t even done today anymore. But that was the beginning. That’s where we started. And look where we are now. Whew!
In 2022, the IFC THON raised $13,756,375.
To read the entire transcript of Lee Backenstose’s interview, click here.
Fun fact #1: Lee and Dottie Backenstose (pictured) were the parents of Derry member Amy Backenstose and grandparents of Auggie, Grace, Mavis, and Georgia.
Fun fact #2: Did you know that another Derry member has a connection to the origin story of the Four Diamonds Fund/THON? Click here to read the article first published in the Derry Church eNews in 2013.
It’s great to see people coming back to church and enjoying food, fun and fellowship. Speaking of food and fellowship: there are opportunities coming up that you and your family can enjoy and participate in here at Derry Church.
Take the night off from cooking and enjoy a meal at the church. Terrific Tuesdays return on Tuesday, Sept 13 starting at 5 pm. We generally are able to serve until close to 6 pm. The meal includes an entrée, vegetables, salad, drink and dessert, and the cost is just $5 for ages 6 and over while children age 5 and under are free. We are always looking for help to serve and then clean up after the meal. If you are interested in helping, get in touch with me by sending me an email.
Post Worship Fellowship following the Sunday (10:30 am) church service has started up again and is going well. This is a great time to catch up with fellow church members and friends and have a couple of cookies and an iced tea or lemonade. There are also opportunities for you to assist with “hosting” Post Worship Fellowship on Sundays. Click here to sign up or give me a call if you are interested. The cookies and drinks are supplied: all you have to do is stop in the kitchen at about 10:15 am to get instructions. You will be helping to plate cookies and other snacks, serve the drinks and assist with cleanup afterwards. If you have a special occasion such as a birthday, anniversary, homecoming or other special event you want to celebrate, feel free to provide additional refreshments.
Since the spring of 2020, we’ve added some equipment to the kitchen. We replaced our aging Vulcan gas stove with a new, more efficient model with six burners, two ovens and a griddle. The new gas stove saves gas, is more efficient and has more safety features than our old oven. It’s been working very well since it was installed almost two years ago. This spring we obtained a slightly used 20-quart mixer. Through the generosity of Susan Hines, owner of Steve Hines General Store on the road to Elizabethtown, we accepted this special donation. It’s already been put to good use in mixing up cookie dough as well as a real nice batch of twice baked potatoes. This makes mixing a large batch so much easier.
In the near future I’m looking forward to starting a group to make cookies for Post Worship Fellowship. Keep an eye on the weekly eNews for further information.
I have been blessed with an active committee and members who bring their knowledge and skills to constantly improve and maintain our beautiful church.
Since last years’ update article, we have been very busy. A short list includes managing the building needs and working with contractors to install the new organ, repainting the Chapel exterior doors and the exterior of the church’s garage near the railroad tracks, replacing the broken glass on the south side of the Session House’s glass enclosure, fixing and painting three rooms including the church secretary’s office, the office now used by Sue George, and the Heritage Room inside room 6.
Our maintenance team has changed with the retirement of Jeff Miller as custodian after many years here at Derry Church. That position has been filled by Josh Pearson who is bringing his energy, knowledge and personality to the team. We are lucky to have him constantly moving throughout the whole property checking for issues, fixing and cleaning where needed, and then working on the ongoing list supplied by staff and others.
Here’s a list of a few of the larger, ongoing items the committee and I have been planning for, working on and constantly monitoring:
- Planning for the 300th anniversary revealed some long-term maintenance and repairs were needed for our cemetery. A specialty contractor has been here repairing and resetting damaged and fallen headstones. I am also working with the stone masonry contractor on removing and rebuilding approximately 150 feet of the stone wall that was close to falling over. This work should have the cemetery in very good condition for a very very long time. Take a look over the stone wall next time you’re at the church – I think you’ll be very pleased with progress made to date.
- The stone work in the cemetery required removal of several old spruce trees and two memorial Dawn Redwoods. The largest parts of the redwoods were taken to a sawmill and cut into lumber. Portions will be made into benches by church members: the benches will be placed in the cemetery. There is much extra wood to be used later, and the mill generously donated all their work to the church.
- The second phase of the lighting project is under way as we improve the lighting and reduce the operating cost with long-lasting LED fixtures.
- Later this year we will replace the rest of the spouting on the north and west sides of the building. This will improve drainage away from the building and prevent spouting from filling with leaves from our beautiful trees, and reduce annual and long-term maintenance costs.
We are also working on the building most people know as the Scout House. A small part of a stone wall is being repaired before it falls in, and some exterior wood is being repaired before the exterior is painted.
I would like to thank the many members that we see very often doing so many things around the church, even without being asked.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In July we’re lifting up elder care. You can always check the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews for a quick reminder of the month’s mission focus.
About 25 years ago (maybe more!) I heard about the Meals on Wheels program from a friend, and went to shadow her to see what the volunteer commitment entailed. I discovered this was a way I could help others in need of food — even with my preschooler in the car!
Meals on Wheels is a program provided and funded by the Dauphin County Department of Aging. The meals are prepared, under contract, by the Nutrition Kitchen of York. They deliver meals Monday through Friday mornings to the Church of the Redeemer United Church of Christ on Chocolate Avenue, which is the focal point for the Derry Township program.
Chester Rose has been coordinating the Derry Township program for seven years. Five local churches are responsible for providing delivery drivers on the four routes. Spring Creek Church of the Brethren delivers on Monday, Redeemer Church on Tuesday, Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church on Wednesday, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Thursday, and Derry Church on Friday. The number of meals delivered daily varies from 45-55.
Our Derry Church coordinator is Mary Day. Each of Derry’s four teams covers one Friday of the month, and all the teams are assigned one of the fifth Fridays during the year. Our church members who volunteer have a strong commitment to this outreach service. There is even a list of volunteers who will substitute in the event a team member is unavailable.
The recipients in their homes are always grateful for the food and your smile and conversation. And for me, delivering has been a rewarding experience. If you’d like to volunteer on Derry’s Meals on Wheels team, contact me, Lynn Porter or Mary Day.
Editor’s Postscript: Meals on Wheels in Derry Township has been around for decades, but we don’t know the exact history. If you can fill in the blanks, please contact Sue George.
2021-22 was a very special school year at Derry Discovery Days Preschool!
We concluded our school year on May 26 when 22 of our Butterfly 4s students graduated at a ceremony in the Sanctuary followed by a reception and art show. The children performed several songs for their families and it was wonderful to have everyone gather together to celebrate these amazing students. Each student received a diploma and award that highlighted a character trait they exhibited throughout the year. Jill Felter and I loved teaching these students and are so proud of them for all of their hard work during another year impacted by COVID-19. We wish them the best in kindergarten!
In year two of operating a preschool during a pandemic, we continue to be blessed by having so many dedicated staff members who truly view their students as their second family. This year we re-opened our Turtle 2s class and Morgan Smink led this adorable group, many of whom had very limited previous social interaction due to the pandemic. These shy, nervous children quickly became a family and confident little learners. Our Busy Bee 3s class led by Rachel Bullard was full of vibrant and fun personalities and their energy and excitement was evident daily as they learned, played and made special friendships.
Other highlights from our school year included a visit from the Hershey Fire Department during Fire Safety Week, our annual Halloween Parade with a special visit by Pastor Pam in her dinosaur costume, our Christmas concert, weekly yoga and soccer classes, Lunch Bunch, Mystery Reader visits, holiday parties, our end of year picnic at Patriot Park and our Summer Camp week. Many thanks to our incredibly special families who blessed us with their beautiful children and were beyond generous with many donations and fundraiser support. Lastly, we want to thank the DDD Board for showing our staff such love during Teacher Appreciation Week. We loved the daily treats!
We look forward to the 2022-23 school year starting on September 6 with the reopening of our Ladybug 1s classroom and the return of our enrichment program for pre-K students. Our afternoon Butterfly 4s class has a few openings: contact me for more information. We hope everyone has a great summer!
I’m writing to you from Ireland during my sabbatical in which I’m focusing on the power of story and relationships in the work of reconciliation. I’ve been asked by several people, “What exactly is reconciliation?”
Throughout my time in Ireland I’ve asked peacemakers and reconcilers how they would define reconciliation. You can read more of my in-depth daily notes about those conversations and more. Here are a few of their definitions:
Dr. Jin Kim says, “Reconciliation is building relationships between people who were oppressed because of the conflict structure so they can achieve peace with justice.”
Joe Campbell responded that reconciliation is a journey that takes courage and requires a willingness to let go of old hurts and both accept and give forgiveness. Joe said that reconciliation begins “with me and not the other person.”
Derick Wilson believes reconciliation is the overcoming of enmity and hostility between people, but it’s also about the relationships and structures through which we are at ease with one another. Reconciliation is based upon our relationships and the structures that maintain those relationships. It’s the central message of the gospel, but churches have too often seen it as peripheral.
Jenny Meegan defined reconciliation as forming relationships with people, listening and sharing stories, and meeting people where they are without expecting them to change. Reconciliation often happens by accident, but you have to be open to it and the possibilities of new relationships.
Rev. David Latimer (shown with me in the accompanying photo) insists reconciliation requires risk. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby defines reconciliation as the “art of disagreeing well.”
As I’ve listened, read, observed, and discussed, I think I’ve settled on a definition of reconciliation that works for me and the work I want to do. I define reconciliation as “mending the tears in society caused by broken and fractured relationships.”
I like the idea of mending because it fixes what is broken, but it doesn’t completely erase the tear or wound. I think of mended pants after I rip them because of some act of carelessness. The thread closes the hole, but the scar remains. Reconciliation helps close the wounds in society, but it will not magically erase histories of trauma and scars of conflict. I don’t think it should. Reconciliation is not about everyone agreeing or even approving of each other. It does not magically solve every problem to everyone’s satisfaction. It begins the process of stopping the bleeding and closing the wound.
It reminds me of Kintsugi. This traditional Japanese art uses a precious metal – liquid gold, liquid silver or lacquer dusted with powdered gold – to bring together the pieces of a broken pottery item and at the same time enhance the breaks.
The mended cracks become part of the object’s design, reflecting symbolically an event in the life of that object, rather than the cause of its destruction.
When practicing reconciliation, we may end up highlighting the broken places in our society and relationships, but we will mend them and perhaps they can become something beautiful in our life together in the end.
When I think about the friendship between Rev. David Latimer, retired pastor of First Derry Presbyterian Church, and Martin McGuinness, the former IRA leader, I see this principle at work (read more in the June 9 Sabbatical note). Many people didn’t want them to be friends and for a while it highlighted differences and struggles, but in the end, it brought healing to both men and the community. One man — whose son was killed by an IRA bomb ordered by McGuinness — eventually shook Martin’s hand after he spoke in the church one day. He told David he was proud of him for doing this work, because if he and others like him had done it 20 years earlier, his son might be alive. The crack remains, but it’s more than a broken shattered place now, it’s part of a story of wholeness.
Reconciliation is about mending the broken places so we might become whole; as individuals and as a society. My hope is I can participate in the work and in mending the tears we’ve seen and experienced in our community and nation through the power of story and relationships.
Thursdays are busy days in my corner of Derry Church as I finalize the eNews for you and prepare the content that’s needed for Sunday morning worship and live streaming. Thursdays are also when I look forward to two fun treats: it’s the day many of us on staff order a take-out lunch* and it’s the day I post one of Pam Whitenack’s delightful “Heritage Notes.”
You may not know that before she retired, Pam Whitenack was in charge of the Hershey Community Archives. Now Pam spends a day here at the church just about every week, sorting and organizing materials in our church’s historical archive. Not only is she preparing for our 300th anniversary in 2024, she’s also looking for little gems of history to share with all of us. If you follow Derry Church on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably seen and read many “Heritage Notes.” An easy way to find them is by searching for the hashtag #derryheritage (most of the posts are ours, but you’ll also find posts from a few other sources that have used that hashtag).
As we draw closer to our 300th anniversary, these glimpses into Derry’s past have been good for me to read and ponder. Looking back across the centuries, I’m reminded that times haven’t always been easy for our church and this community. The sepia photo of “Old Derry” with broken windows and holes in the siding is just one example. There have been years when this church has had no pastor, and times when the congregation was so small that others from the community stepped in to keep the church going: when “Old Derry” was torn down In 1884, a group of people, many of them descendants of early church members and former pastors, came together to support the construction of the Presbyterian Memorial Church of Hershey (our current Chapel). It would be many more years before Milton Hershey returned to this area and not only the town, but our church, grew and prospered.
It has helped me to reflect on Derry’s history as we live into this post-pandemic time. In the past two years, much has changed in all of our lives, and that includes our church family. There has been sadness and loss. Ways of doing things have changed. Not everyone has been excited about technological advances and hybrid meetings. I know who’s missing when I scan the pews and see empty spaces instead of familiar faces. I have to be honest and say there are times I walk these halls and my heart just hurts.
Then a note from Pam pops into my feed to remind me that the long arc of Derry Church history always bends back toward hope. I know we have been here before, and it’s not the end but a new beginning. I have faith in this church, this congregation, and the God who has seen us through the past three centuries, and I can’t wait to see where God takes us next.
* Long-time readers will remember that the staff used to get pizza every week. I’m happy to say we’ve branched out to other local restaurants: let me know if you have a favorite place we should check out.
As we exit the COVID lockdowns and restrictions, now is a good time to re-engage Derry’s commitment to our mission partners. The Mission & Peace Committee invites you to participate in Mission Week Lite. In conjunction with the Dominican Republic international mission trip, these close-to-home volunteer opportunities have been organized to support our local mission partners:
7-10 PM FRIDAY, JUNE 10
Work at the Bethesda Mission Mobile Mission
Distribute food, coffee, and supplies to homeless individuals at locations pre-determined by the Mobile Mission Coordinator. Meet at the church and carpool to Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg. Five volunteers needed, age 12 and older.
10:30 AM – 1:30 PM SUNDAY, JUNE 12
Bag Lunches for Downtown Daily Bread
Meet at the church kitchen to assemble and then deliver and distribute lunches at Downtown Daily Bread in Harrisburg. Supplies and transportation provided. Age 14 and older.
4-6:30 PM TUESDAY, JUNE 14
Serve Dinner at Bethesda Mission Men’s Shelter
Serve prepared soup line dinner to Bethesda Mission clients. Meet at church and carpool to Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg. Five volunteers needed, age 12 and older.
6:30-8:15 AM FRIDAY, JUNE 17
Serve Breakfast at Downtown Daily Bread
Help prepare, serve and clean up breakfast at Downtown Daily Bread in Harrisburg. Up to two volunteers age 16 and older.
JUNE 19 – 26
Volunteer to Help Families in Transition
Help homeless families by preparing meals, driving the van, or spending the night at Seventh Day Adventist Church on Chocolate Avenue in Hershey when they host client families sponsored by Family Promise of Harrisburg Capital Region. Learn more in the announcement in this week’s eNews.
1 – 4 PM WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29
Pack Food at Central Pennsylvania Food Bank
Pack food boxes at Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg. Meet at church and carpool to the Food Bank warehouse. Five people needed, age 14 and older.
To participate in any of these activities, add your name to the signup sheets on the Mission & Peace bulletin board in the Narthex or contact Craig Smith at (717) 574 9296.
The Mission and Peace Committee thanks the congregation for your generous support to Derry’s local mission partners throughout the year.
When you have ambitions, there are usually three stages I’ve noticed. First, you are young, naive, and start your journey believing that you will absolutely reach your goal. Second, after progressing for a while, you soon realize that there is a chance of failure. This could be due to seeing others fail to achieve similar goals, or it could just be due to yourself maturing. Either way, you now know that this goal you seek will be a lot more difficult than you originally thought.
This can be a scary thought for some, but it is important. Accepting that you can fail makes succeeding all the more triumphant, because when success requires your own effort, rather than being a guarantee, it emphasizes that YOU earned it.
This was how I viewed my journey to becoming an Eagle Scout, and as I look back on it, I love to observe how my peers and I grew over these years. We made so many fun memories in events like the Pinewood Derby and the Scout House sleepovers and went on so many fun outings like sleeping on a 19th century sail-only warship, sailing on the Chesapeake, and whitewater rafting in the Poconos. But finding safe spots to pitch tents, going on high-adventure ropes courses, learning new cooking skills, and acquiring merit badges… that is only a fraction of how scouting affected me. To say that scouting influenced my life would be an understatement.
I have been with scouts since I was a Tiger Cub – nearly a decade. It has most definitely played a role in shaping me as a person. Overall, I would say that scouting was a very positive experience for me (after all, I’ve stuck with it for all of these years), but… it’s a very complicated journey – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Becoming an Eagle Scout and actually finishing this seemingly out of reach goal feels nothing but utterly surreal. Even now, as I am writing this, I think to myself… “Wow… this actually happened… I actually made it this far…”. It’s a truly incredible milestone.
If you can only take away one piece of information from this message, let it be this: It is impossible to accomplish certain things on your own. And that’s okay. Achieving a goal this large is something that you cannot do by yourself. I certainly couldn’t make it without the support of my friends and family, and there should be no shame in seeking out that support. Humans, like many other animals, have evolved to be a social species. We rely on each other to help each other. So help others, but more importantly, accept help from others!
If you know any boys or girls ages 5-17 who are interested in joining the Scouting program or learning more about the opportunities, here is some helpful information. Derry Church sponsors three scouting units: Pack 200 Cub Scouts (for boys and girls grades K-5), Troop 200 Scouts (for boys grades 6-12), and Troop 2200 Scouts (for girls grades 6-12).
It’s always fun when you come across a line of scripture and it speaks right to you. Years ago I wrote down the following words as I was working on Sunday School lesson plans…
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)
I often find myself reciting these when I hit a roadblock in life. You know, those times when you think you have a great idea, one that will surely be loved, only to find that the timing for such an idea is all off. Or maybe during times when circumstances are outside of your control and cause you to rethink and rework all your plans. Or maybe you just don’t have all the pieces needed, but you don’t realize that and it makes you want to simply give up. No matter what the reason, these words bring me comfort and remind me to focus on what is most important: if I am committed to living and sharing the works of God and Jesus, I will be led to where I am needed.
As Sunday approaches,, I can’t help but give thanks for these words from Proverbs, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” After years of questioning, trying, struggling and praying, I am excited to share that Art in the Grove will celebrate our very first art show for the congregation on Sunday in the Narthex! The Art in the Grove ministry was established in 2018 and has been a trying ministry to establish at Derry for many reasons, but one that Elizabeth Gawron and I are passionate about and knew could be amazing once we found the right starting place.
You might be asking yourself, “What is Art in the Grove?” In 2016 Elizabeth Gawron visited the church one Tuesday evening and Debbie Hough and I were blessed to bump into her and talk briefly about the art that is all around our building. That conversation led to the creation of an art program here at Derry, called Art in the Grove. This program was created on three principals… Rooted, Giving and Growing. In the beginning we thought this would be a wonderful new intergenerational ministry here at Derry and for the first summer it was. We then tried a variety of different programming options from Friday Night Women’s Bible Study & Art to paint nights, but we struggled to find a true path to follow.
Fast forward to 2021 and our hope to rebuild some of Derry’s beloved programming after more than a year apart from one another. The programming team began talking about Terrific Tuesdays and children’s music and we quickly realized it would take more than choir practice to bring kids back together on Tuesday evenings. This led to the creation of K.I.C. Club (Kids In Christ Club). We decided to make our Tuesday evening programming a collection of Derry’s creative ministries, which includes music, creation and fellowship. We invited Elizabeth Gawron, Claire Folts and Debbi Kees-Folts to join us, along with members of our inclusion team to help make this night enjoyable for all children. After a few weeks we realized we were creating something special. We had community friends joining with children of Derry Church and together they were creating and connecting in ways that were inspiring to us all.
We have loved watching each child become ROOTED in God’s love as they express their faith through their creations in art and music. We helped the children learn the joy of GIVING as they led us in worship with their music and we turned their artwork into cards to lift one another up. And it will be amazing to see them GROWING over the coming years as they continue to learn more about God’s love through creative expressions.
Life will certainly present us with struggles, hard times, temptations and choices to make, but committing our work to God and Jesus will help us overcome and persevere. I hope you will help us celebrate the years of patience, trials and errors, and determination this weekend as we display a beautiful collection of artwork made by many of the 1st-5th grade kiddos of the church.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In May we’re lifting up the Pentecost Offering, where your gift helps the church encourage, develop, and support its young people, and also address the needs of at-risk children. Derry Church will send 40% of its Pentecost Offering receipts to support the work of Joshua Group in Harrisburg. The remaining 60% is used to support children-at-risk, youth, and young adults through ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. You may give online or write checks to Derry Church notated “Pentecost Offering.”
For over 20 years, the Joshua Group has been providing educational opportunities for at-risk, marginalized young people living in the Allison Hill community, within the Harrisburg School District. These students are at an increased risk of falling behind their peers in school readiness skills and cognitive development. Research demonstrates that children who do not read on grade-level by fourth grade have a much higher risk of dropping out of high school, or worse, ending up in prison. Reported year after year, the Harrisburg School District continues to be one of the lowest performing school districts in the state and is failing to prepare its students academically for a successful future. We are focused on education because the Joshua Group believes that education is the anti-poverty program that works.
In Harrisburg there is a huge disparity in the Reading and Math proficiency levels of low-income minority students living in Harrisburg and their more affluent peers in suburban school districts. The PA Department of Education continues to identify Harrisburg School District as performing in the bottom 5% in the state, as well as only graduating 69% of its students compared to a state average of 86% (2018-2019 school year) and a 3.3% dropout rate compared to a state average of 1.44% (2019-2020 school year). The most recent PSSA Report Card for the Harrisburg School District indicates only 12% of the students scored proficient in Math compared to a state average of 45% and only 23% scored proficient in Reading as compared to a state average of 62% (based on 2018-2019 school year). Our Joshua Group students have limited educational opportunities and lack the family resources necessary to increase their capacity to learn.
Over the last year, with the support of Derry Church and other community partners, we provided education services to over 200 at-risk youth. Our scholarship program is providing scholarships to more than 170 students to attend private school from kindergarten to 12th grade. Those students are required to attend the J-Crew After School Program and the Summer Learning program (K-9th grade) to support their learning objectives. Our preschool and kindergarten provide students access to free early learning programs which are crucial to educational development. Our outcomes remain stellar with our program participants.
- Our Joshua K-12 students earned a 97% promotion/graduation rate.
- A 95% or better attendance record was achieved by 92% of K-12 students.
- Today there are 25 former Joshua students either graduated from or enrolled in college. None would be there today without the Joshua Group’s educational programs.
- An improved academic performance demonstrated by a 2.0 or higher GPA was achieved by 86% of Joshua Group students.
On behalf of The Joshua Group and the students we serve, a heartfelt thank you for the continued support from Derry Church to help break the cycle of poverty through education.
I have always loved and enjoyed Epiphany Sunday at Derry Church. It is a beautiful reminder of the gift of Christ to us. I remember the first time we ever received a star gift (five years ago) and wondered what effect it would have – trying to see and understand that particular word gift as special, central or important to my year. While our star gifts are obviously personal, I would like to share one of mine with you.
In January 2020 I received the word “openness.” Naturally, I was curious about this and with the subsequent turbulence of that winter and spring I continued to think of how that might be applied. One day in the early summer, I got a call from Pastor Stephen to discuss being a deacon of the church. Growing up in a small PCA church we had only one deacon. He was one of my favorite members of the church and we were very blessed to have him. It seemed amazing he could reach so many people with God’s love.
Throughout training, I learned so much from each of Derry’s pastors about the role of a deacon and what it means to be one. I was especially struck, however, during my phone call with Pastor Stephen by my word: openness. Being open to God’s call; being willing to go where God would direct us is not always clear or easy but in this case it was. The PC(USA)’s Book of Order describes deacons as being called to a ministry of “compassion, witness and service, sharing in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ…” I believe that in so many ways, we are all deacons. In the Great Commission, Christ gave us each a command for mission, love, outreach and says that He will be with us always throughout that journey. We may not always know what God wishes of us, or what our own “openness” to God’s call may be. However, God promises to guide us each step of the way.
Psalm 37 has always been a favorite of mine and in verse five it says, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass” (KJV). Commitment isn’t easy. Here, our prayerful commitment is an offering of our entirety – our “Mind, Soul and Strength” to God’s purpose. By doing this, God will establish our plan and see it through to God’s glory. We may not all be ordained deacons, but we are each encouraged to live the life of a deacon in our own ways: by being open to God’s call and by trusting in God’s plan every day.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your promises to always guide us. Please help us to always be open to your call – to trust, serve and follow you. Help us to show the world your love, with our lives each and every day. We know you will bring your plan to pass in and through us. Amen
The oldest, and only remaining original Derry building, the Session House, protected today by a glass enclosure, was built under the pastorate of Reverend William Bertram in 1732, and was utilized as a school in which reading was mainly taught so that all might read their Bible. It was also used as the pastor’s study and a meeting place.
A separate log church building had been constructed earlier near the spring. Around this time, a burial ground was laid out, recognized today as the present cemetery. A second log church, of an uncertain date, was later built and stood until 1769, after which a similar wooden building was constructed that became familiarly known as “Old Derry Church.”
In 1883, the present stone Chapel was constructed. At this time, there was no permanent pastor and the church was being served by supply pastors. The addition of the John Elder Chapel was constructed in 1935, under the pastorate of Rev. John Corbin.
In 1951, when Rev. William Blair was pastor, the education wing was added to the Chapel. In 1965, a completely new sanctuary was built adjacent to the chapel under the pastorate of Reverend Ira Reed. Many current members will remember it, and Rev. Reed.
Renovation of the Sanctuary was completed under the pastorate of Rev. Richard Houtz in 1995. Our present sanctuary was updated and refurbished in 2014, under the oversight and care of Rev. Houtz. Numerous devoted church members have participated in those efforts throughout the years.
Derry is rich in local history and has long been a place of worship. In the early days, parishioners walked or rode long distances, in some cases, ten to 12 miles, to worship on this site. As we approach our 300th anniversary (2024), it might be prudent to think upon those early worshippers, and all those who followed, who have faithfully supported, maintained and continued the vibrant life of Derry through times of travail, hardship, war, peace, prosperity and success, and brought Derry to the special and blessed place it is today.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In April we’re lifting up community involvement. You can also check the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews for a quick reminder of what we’re focusing on this month.
Over the past several months, Derry’s Mission & Peace Committee has been prayerfully considering “adopting” an Afghan refugee family as part of Church World Service’s (CWS) Afghan Refugee Resettlement Program. You are probably aware that tens of thousands of Afghans have fled their country since August 2021 in the hopes of finding safe haven in the United States. One can only imagine the hardships a family must overcome when they leave everything behind. We believe that if they are surrounded by an outpouring of loving, caring, and supportive volunteers, their transition will be much easier.
As the Afghan refugees arrive, CWS forms Welcoming Teams which are tasked with helping to make this country feel like home. Derry will be working with the new CWS Harrisburg Office to form our team of volunteers — one of many being recruited from several Christian denominations. Volunteers will help the families with their housing needs, as well as securing clothing, transportation, employment, and education opportunities. The first several months are very demanding, but the goal is for the family to become independent with the love and support of their volunteer network.
Derry has already started preparing for this process by attending briefings by CWS leadership, talking with members of other local churches who have already been called to action, applying for clearances and background checks, collecting furniture and other items, and recruiting volunteers and assessing their availability. Although the commitment is not an easy one, we believe that this is the right next step for us as a church congregation and we hope that you will be a part of this effort as many more volunteers are needed. The volunteers that we interviewed said that the experience, although sometimes demanding, is very worthwhile. Amazing connections are made as we realize that all families hold similar values.
In volunteering, you should be aware that this will require:
- A personal involvement with an Afghan family, and a flexible time commitment to include several hours of training via CWS
- A need to obtain all necessary clearance forms
- Perhaps a translation app on your smart phone to ease language barriers
The more volunteers Derry has, the easier it will be to cover the family’s needs. A chance to ask questions and obtain more information will be offered at meetings to be held Sundays at 9 am on April 24 in the Chapel and following 10:30 am services on April 24, May 1, and May 8 in Lounge. You may also contact me if you are interested but unable to attend one of these meetings.
Additional ways to help may be through financial donations to assist with food, rent, and utilities, or donations of new items or items that are in good condition to help outfit their home. Please contact Pete Feil or Marilyn Koch to donate household items.
This is a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, connect with Afghan people, and learn about another culture without leaving Central Pennsylvania! You are sure to grow in your faith journey by bonding with others through this process. This is also an excellent way for Derry to share God’s love and practice God’s justice in our community.
The journey of faith is a long and difficult road.
It begins with the innocence of a young mind learning the stories and absorbing the first complexities of belief in an unseen God. It continues with the life and death of Jesus and includes a Spirit moving across the lives of every living thing, always.
The journey of faith includes every phase of our lives. From we as children to we who have lived a lot of years. At every turn, there has been doubt, belief, doubt and belief.
I’m going to write about Walter.
My dog. Meet him in this short video.
I bought Walter as a diversion and a way of comforting my ill wife. It kind of worked. But after she passed, he became a blessing to me much more than I expected.Walter became a larger part of my life. Walter was full of love for me. He was faithful. He was calm and loyal. He taught me the value of those attributes by his example. He was accepting of my failures and celebrated my kindnesses. He taught me to be tolerant and respectful of others without regard for race, religion, gender, or status.
Walter loves everyone.
You’re probably expecting an essay on how much I love my dog. While I do, I would rather write about how much my dog loves me.
I’m not perfect, I’ve behaved badly from time to time. I have mistreated others and I’ve mistreated Walter from time to time. For others, reconciliation is often a long and apologetic road. For Walter I need only say, “I’m sorry” and I’m forgiven. Complete and utter forgiveness. While he can’t speak, he can still communicate using a combination of non-verbal gestures and sounds which focus my attention on what he wants. I have to learn to watch and listen very carefully since he is never perfectly clear with his “meaning making.”
He is always there for me. If I’m ill, he stays near and comforts me. If I’m happy he rejoices with me and starts looking for ways to spread that joy around. Racing around my home is a usual tactic.
He welcomes the adoration of others. He is especially fond of children. I’ve known unconditional love. It’s a love which springs from the heart, mind and spirit. I am blessed.
We are all blessed.
We all have the gifts that little dog brings.
When one retires and reflects on their vocation, it’s like looking at the tip of an iceberg. Some say that what is visible on an iceberg is only 10% of it. When I think about my ministry at Derry, all you can see from your perspective at Derry is the tip of my iceberg, these last 25 years where I’ve been privileged to serve as one of your pastors. Just below the water line are my previous pastorates in southern WV (Trinity Presbyterian Church, Shady Spring, WV- 1990-1996) and central Virginia (Rustburg Presbyterian Church, Rustburg, VA 1982-1990)
But that data does not tell you all. The base of my iceberg goes much deeper. It includes generations of hard-working and faithful Scottish ancestors who valued education and had a dedicated trust in a loving God and shared these priorities with their children and grandchildren. Although they did not realize it at the time, they were from a privileged, dominant group as white people, and that reality helped to create my stable iceberg.
From my generations of North Carolina farming ancestors, I learned the love of land and creation, valued hard work from each family member, including young children. I was given the opportunity to explore whatever was of interest. I thrived in a rich diet of southern farm to table cuisine when it was an ordinary occurrence of self-sufficiency. This was all covered with layers of unconditional love, like gravy on mashed potatoes. My iceberg grew and was surrounded with Presbyterian ancestors who were church leaders and thoughtful, questioning Christians. My home church and its congregation were an extension of my family and home. This is a significant part of the 90% that is below the surface.
But wait, there’s more: the gifts of people who made time to guide and mentor me over the years: a home pastor who took me on my college visit, because it was a busy farming season for my dad; a campus minister who gave me a local church job and nudged me to consider seminary; caring professors who encouraged me when I was doubting my sense of call; pastors who supervised me in church internships in Moorefield, WV and Pulaski, VA providing me with models for preaching, conducting funerals, conflict management, and pastoral care that I still use; gifted colleagues here at Derry where I learned the joy of team ministry, and presbytery staff who taught me and provided opportunities to serve other congregations. These important folks helped to broaden that iceberg of my learning and ability to answer this call to ministry. And along the way it was the many members of various congregations who added to my education and faith development. From them and you I learned and saw profound trust in God in the midst of unthinkable tragedies and shared the wonder of God’s presence and direction in indescribable joys. Through all of you, I have experienced the commitment and love of Christ and been inspired.
At this milestone of retirement, when I reflect on my ministry, I give special thanks to the many here at Derry who I have enjoyed serving alongside. Together we have been good teams in faithful service to God.
But most of all I am grateful to God who has gifted me with such abundant grace in my ministry through people like you. Retirement is a good opportunity to reflect in gratitude, but you don’t need that reason. I encourage you to pause and consider the iceberg underneath your surface and give thanks.
On March 27 we will recognize and give thanks for Rev. Marie Buffaloe’s 25 years of pastoral service to Derry Church. I invite you to join in person or by live streaming as Pastor Marie leads worship and preaches one last time. I appreciate Marie’s sermons because she speaks and proclaims the good news with such authenticity and love. I’m fed, comforted, and challenged by her words, and I know this Sunday will be no different. Her love of God and this congregation is so evident when she leads worship. I hope our presence and our participation in worship this Sunday clearly reflects our love of God and our love and appreciation for her.
Following the 10:30 am service, a post worship fellowship in Fellowship Hall will be held in her honor.
Then at 3 pm, I invite you to attend a program held in the Sanctuary and streaming. As we honor and give thanks for Pastor Marie’s ministry, Dick Houtz, Debbie Hough, and I will share our memories and reflections on Marie’s ministry. The puppets will offer a tribute to Marie, we’ll present gifts, and there will be music for all to enjoy. We’ll join together in a liturgy of thanksgiving for all the ways Marie has ministered to us. Finally, we’ll have an opportunity to give thanks for Marie and Brad’s time at Derry and bless them as they enter a new chapter of life together.
After the program, come to Fellowship Hall for a reception that will include some of Marie’s favorite foods. There will be a basket to receive cards and a keepsake guestbook where you can write a personal note to Marie. This book will be available over the next few weeks so that everyone who wants to can have an opportunity to sign it.
Pastor Marie has meant so much to all of us at Derry Church. She has been a pillar of strength, care, compassion, wisdom, and love when we’ve needed it most. She has prayed with us through our saddest and most difficult days and celebrated with us when we’ve been filled with joy and thanksgiving. She’s baptized our children and buried our loved ones. She’s united us in marriage and counseled us in distress. She’s visited us in the hospital and in our homes and shared the love of God with our congregation. She’s been the manifestation of God’s abiding love and care in our lives for 25 years, and she will be deeply missed.
I know I will miss her very much. Marie has been the kind of colleague every pastor deserves but few ever have. I count myself lucky to have been able to minister alongside her these last five years. She made my transition to ministry here so much easier, and for that I will be forever grateful. She has taught me about Derry’s history and traditions, and its wonderful people. She’s been a colleague, a counselor, a confidant, and a cherished friend. I will miss her humor, passion, advocacy, intuition, and heart for God and God’s people. While I will miss ministering alongside her, I am glad to wish her a happy and blessed retirement. She deserves it and she deserves to leave knowing how loved she is, how grateful we are, and what a difference she has made in our lives and the life of this church.
The last time I wrote to you in this space, I was focused on the Sunday morning live stream and recruiting for the AV crew. This time I’m writing about something ultra low tech: new outdoor signage for Derry Church.
If you’ve been on the church campus recently, you may have noticed that some signs are deteriorating, have incorrect information, or are missing altogether. Since 2018, the Communications & Technology Committee (CTC) has been vetting sign vendors and figuring out what signs are needed, what they should look like and what they should say. We considered an electronic sign along East Derry Road that would have scrolling text, but dismissed it when we realized it would be hard to read driving by… then we discovered our neighborhood wasn’t even zoned for that kind of signage.
We knew we wanted to incorporate the church’s new tree logo and colors into a unified brand. Working with the security committee, we also knew we needed to number all of the doors in a logical sequence that would make it easy for everyone to locate the entrance they want, especially emergency personnel.
As we met with sign vendors, shared our ideas and listened to their proposals, one company rose to the top, offering a great combination of thoughtful design and competitive pricing: Stoner Graphix. If you’ve been to the Hershey Story Museum, Chocolate World or Hersheypark, you’ve seen their work. They’ve been in business for 30 years and even better, their Hummelstown facility is practically in our back yard.
Their package includes a new sign at the corner of Mansion Road and Chocolate Avenue, a new sign that offers clear directions when you’re at the T by the Session House and don’t know if you should turn left or right, and an illuminated tree logo over the courtyard entrance that effectively bridges our outdoor and indoor spaces.
In January we presented Stoner’s proposed sign package to the Session, and in February it was approved with minor modifications. You can expect to see the signs installed later this year, while the CTC turns its attention indoors to begin the process of updating interior signs. Our goal is to have all the new signs in place in time for Derry’s 300th anniversary in 2024.
While the sign project isn’t as glamorous as live streaming, it’s a key element in making our campus more welcoming. We want to make it easy for everyone to find their way around and let them know we’re glad they’re here. Stay tuned: exciting changes are on the horizon!
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In March we’re lifting up the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. You can also check the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews for a quick reminder of what we’re focusing on this month.
Received during the season of Lent (March 2-April 17), the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) Offering is the single, largest way that, for over 70 years, Presbyterians have come together to work for a better world by advancing the causes of justice, resilience, and sustainability. These efforts of the Presbyterian Church USA to provide relief from natural disasters, food for the hungry, and support for the poor and oppressed are administered through three programs: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA); Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP); and Self-Development of People (SDOP).
PRESBYTERIAN DISASTER ASSISTANCE (PDA) is well-known for its rapid response to natural and international disasters by supplying funds to help initiate the recovery process. In recent years this has been readily apparent following Hurricane Ida, tornados in the midwest, California wildfires, typhoons, and several earthquakes. With the pandemic, this year’s efforts have been directed toward providing grants to communities pushed to the margins by COVID-19. PDA is also involved in programs supporting the refugee crises in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, and the southern US border.
PRESBYTERIAN HUNGER PROGRAM (PHP) partners with various food and farming projects to alleviate poverty, hunger and its causes throughout the world. Some of this is accomplished through providing animals, bees, and seeds, promoting better crop selection and agricultural methods, fair trade practices, and family gardens. They also seek to supply better and more nutritional foods, secure loans for income-producing projects, and address local environmental and labor issues.
SELF-DEVELOPMENT OF PEOPLE (SDOP) works in partnership with people in low-income communities in the United States and around the world. The aim is to invest in communities responding to their own challenges of oppression, poverty and injustice, thus helping them to develop solutions to their particular problems in areas such as youth-led activities, disabilities, farming, skills development, and immigration/refugee issues.
This year our OGHS Offering will be divided equally between PCUSA and Bridges to Community (BTC), the non-profit organization which has coordinated Derry’s trips to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic for the past 20 years. Following a two-year pandemic hiatus, we will return in June to the Dominican Republic to build a house for a family in need. We will work with the family, local masons, and community members to provide safe and secure housing in this poor area. We’ll also participate in Bible School activities in the afternoon. Under the BTC model, new homeowners are encouraged to pay into their local community fund, which can then be used by the community at their discretion for selected improvement projects.
The Mission & Peace Committee has set a goal of $18,000 for this year’s OGHS Offering. You may give online or by check made out to Derry Presbyterian Church and notated OGHS, or use envelopes in the pews. Taken together, your contributions to the OGHS offering will enable both PCUSA and BTC to improve their quality of life for many people. Thank you, Derry, for your generous support!
As long as I can remember, I have been a part of Derry Church and all the programs it offers. Since I was a little girl, I participated in the singing choirs, bells, puppet ministries, Pilgrim fellowship, reading liturgy, and of course being a part of the youth group since sixth grade.
Participating in the youth group has been a fun, rewarding, and educational experience. I was so excited to finally join youth group when I reached the age to join. Youth group offered me so many fun opportunities to share friendships, learn more about the teaching of the Bible, and being able to play such awesome games like finger rockets or the weirdest games that Pastor Stephen is somehow able to come up with.
Before COVID, youth group obviously looked and felt a little different. We were able to go to fun filled retreats in the fall and summer which involved messy games but great inspirational readings, moments to be able to bond with each other, and the new friends you make. Another occasion to meet new people is by attending the Unite Youth events. I always had such an amazing time going to those kinds of activities with our Youth Group.
I definitely want to talk about the amazing youth group leaders that I have had the honor to know and appreciate their passion. The first youth group leader I had was Jackie. She was such a nice person and made youth group the most fun it could be. She always had engaging lessons planned out mostly about how you can use the teachings of Jesus Christ to use in the real world that can make an impact on society.
Then Pastor Stephen came in to help out. He is such a great pastor and from time to time youth group leader. He has amazing energy that brightens up youth group. I always love playing his games and hearing him speak his sermons and devotionals. And now Pastor Pam. She is such a nice and funny person that always lightens up the room. She has great knowledge of the Bible and has really good lessons. She has such a fun personality that ties in with the youth group.
I love how Derry Church has more than a youth group. I have participated in the music aspect for a long time. Bells and singing have been a very educational experience for me. Puppets with Claudia are a joy. Claudia Holtzman has very talented creative skills that she can tie in with sharing the stories of the Bible. I have learned so much from her and how to be as creative as possible. God’s Hidden Hands is such a great way to express the teachings and I am glad I am a part of it.
In ninth grade I was fortunate enough to be involved in confirmation before the coronavirus hit. I learned so much and I am finally able to be a member here at Derry Church. Now during COVID we are not doing as much due to the virus but we try to do as many fun activities as possible. I went whitewater rafting with the youth group and Pastor Stephen which was incredible! We are also finally doing a youth group trip which is taking place in Maine, which is very exciting!
All these memories I am able to share with amazing people and the church I really care about. Hopefully, when there are less restrictions we are able to still have such a fun youth group and make more memories and friendships along the way.
Editor’s Note: Mayangela is a junior at Hershey High School, the daughter of Doug and Cenaida Speicher and the granddaughter of Fred Speicher. Mayangela has been involved in the Hershey High School theater productions since 9th grade, and you can see her in the 2022 production of Beauty and The Beast as a “Silly Girl.” She has been dancing with Frances Mohler for about four years, and is a member of Derry’s Youth Leadership Committee. In her free time, Mayangela loves to watch movies and sing.
There is nothing more comforting than being greeted with a “Welcome Back!” smile, wave, hug or conversation. Whether you last saw one another a day ago, a week ago, a month ago or two years ago, when you are greeted with warmth, energy and care, it feels good!
Over the next few months we will continue to “Welcome Back!” more of our congregation and “Welcome!” new visitors to Derry.
I know our congregation will welcome everyone with genuine warmth and care, and hopefully a lot of grace. Each friend and visitor is joining us with a different worship background. Some may have been consistently participating through live streaming worship, while others may not have worshiped for a long time. No matter their experience, we want to help each person connect with the Derry Church family and feel supported and encouraged as they gather with us.
While this message probably sounds obvious, it is important for us to do a “self check” to be sure we are ready to say “Welcome Back!” What does a worship self check look like?
- When saying hello, offer a friendly greeting and smile. Help each person feel truly welcomed to Derry Church.
- When greeting a family with young children, be sure to talk with everyone. Children love to feel included.
- When talking to young children, resist the urge to reach out and touch. Many children have not interacted with large numbers of adults over the last few years. Instead, simply talk with the children.
- When sitting near someone who is struggling to sit still and remain quiet, remind yourself that this may be the first time they are joining us for a worship service in quite a while. Sitting still in a pew for an extended period of time takes practice. Try to reserve judgment and, instead, offer them grace and encouragement.
- If you don’t know a person, a couple or a family, take a moment to introduce yourself. If they are new to Derry, ask if they have any questions and encourage them to fill out an information card from the pew and place it in a collection box. This makes it easy for the staff to then reach out to our visitors.
The next few months will be exciting here at Derry Church as we welcome more friends to worship. For some, the return to in-person worship will be easy, but for others it will be more of a challenge. Our ability to offer support, patience, love, and encouragement during this time of transition will help them return to worship each week. I am hopeful that Derry Church can make this transition joyful to everyone by extending a wonderful “Welcome Back!” to all.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In February we’re lifting up homelessness by sharing an update on Bethesda Mission, our mission partner for more than 30 years.
The wait is over! The Bethesda Women’s Mission has a brand-new and beautiful building that was completed in August 2021. The women and children moved into their new sleeping quarters with the help of many volunteers and groups. Now, with living and sleeping space expanded, we are able to accommodate 51 women and their children. The staff, too, is excited about the new surroundings. In addition to living space, we house classrooms, a chapel, several children’s nooks, an exercise room, a computer lab, and a beautiful new professional kitchen. While our outside grounds are still under construction, come spring we expect to see the finishing touches on parking spaces, a playground, a garden, and the completion of a sunroom overlooking the green space in our front yard.
This is possible because the OLD Women’s Mission, located at 818 N. 20th Street, was demolished in December 2021, to make room for all of the upcoming outside activities.
We are thankful for your continued care and support. Spring tours begin in March: we’d love to have you come and visit!
I find myself quite reflective these days remembering how ministry and I have changed these last four decades. Now thinking back over my sermons, leadership priorities, pastoral care and ministry at Derry and my two previous congregations, I have a few regrets. I guess it’s time for confession.
I wish I had addressed environmental concerns as Christian issues. I grew up learning about environmental concerns and tried to always recycle, but I seldom connected and saw my consumer lifestyle as sin. All we need to do is look at bundles of plastic water bottles that we’ve been convinced are essential for us, as well as our indifference to the fossil fuels we use for our comfort and convenience. Each of those actions, big and small, make a difference. Being a Christian commands us to be good, responsible stewards. It’s part of loving our neighbors as ourselves. I wish I had preached and done more to address how our choices in living with comfort and ease affects others on this planet. I wish I had connected the dots more for all of us.
I wish I had been a more vocal advocate for the voices of those long silenced. I have tried to be a pastor of all those within the congregation, even when I disagreed with their conclusions and assumptions about those who are different. My decision was not to entirely disclose my personal opinions and values, for fear that I would be discounted as their pastor if they knew my personal stance. And for that, I regret not being a more vocal advocate for gays, lesbians, bisexual folks and transgender people. I have friends, family and clergy colleagues who identify as those who question and challenge the binary traditional understandings of sexual orientations. In these years, I’ve learned so much and expanded my own knowledge and understanding. I regret not having taken a public stand in support and calling us to be more inclusive in the Christian family.
I wish I had gone on more mission trips. My first trip outside the US was to Haiti in my first year of ministry. Nothing could have broadened my world view more and challenged my first world perspective. Each additional mission trip to Zambia, Kenya, and Honduras added another chapter and spiritual learning. I regret not going more often as I always seemed too busy, felt too unsafe, and talked myself out of it. What I did learn was that mission work — even for a day to muck out flooded homes in WV, Harrisburg, and central PA — showed me more about God’s love and abundance. Every time I volunteered at Downtown Daily Bread, Grantville Racetrack Ministry and various food pantries, I glimpsed a little more clearly God’s kingdom as I met people I would not otherwise have encountered. Those experiences have been profound for me and as I reflect now, I regret not taking advantage of more opportunities.
Is it too late to address my regrets? We’ll see. But just in confessing my laments, I hope to open up more opportunities for conversations and actions.
I was baptized and raised as a Catholic. I attended parochial school and served as an altar boy at St Joan of Arc. At that young age I never thought much about God’s work in my life.
I first attended a Christmas Eve service at Derry Church in 2000 while visiting with my wife’s family. Cynthia had joined Derry in 1961 and my mother-in-law, Jo Baum, was the first female Elder at Derry Church. We were living in Minnesota but attended services whenever we were in town visiting family. On our first wedding anniversary, we renewed our vows at Derry Church. When we retired in 2012 we moved to Hershey and I became a member.
Since then, I feel God has instilled in me a will to help others. Prior to being installed as an Elder I volunteered as an usher and greeter. I also volunteered on the G.O.D. Squad, as a Meals on Wheels driver, and serve as treasurer for Derry’s golf league.
In the fall of 2018, I was asked to be an Elder. I attended officer training and was installed as a ruling Elder in January 2019. Serving as an Elder gave me insight into the importance the Session plays in planning and managing the church’s direction. During my three years on Session I served as a financial custodian, usher captain recruiting ushers for church services and serving communion. I was also involved in many important church decisions. I feel the most important of these was approving the COVID team’s recommendations to keep our members safe during the ongoing pandemic.
Other actions the Session took during my term included approving our new Vision and Mission statements, hiring an interim music director, approving the purchase and installation of the Aeolian-Skinner organ, approving the addition of accessible seating in the Chapel, installing tempered glass at the Session House, purchasing a new oven for the church kitchen and approving the restoration of the cemetery for our 300-year anniversary.
During my term as Elder, I served on the Building and Grounds Committee. As a member of this committee I volunteered to be part of the Rental Property Subcommittee and the subcommittee to purchase a replacement church van. Even though my term as ruling elder has come to an end, I will continue to be part of the Building and Grounds Committee and the Rental Property and Van Purchase Subcommittees.
I enjoyed my time serving on Session. It was a great experience working with staff and other Elders on Session.
Last year Derry Church offered the opportunity to buy shares to support a child’s education in Pakistan through the Presbyterian Education Board (PEB). A remarkable $6,649 was raised for the PEB General Scholarship Fund in 2021.
In addition, there were 10 Derry families who took the extra step and chose to purchase 10 shares and support a child’s education for the entire year. When asked why they made this commitment, we received the following responses:
- There are lots of opportunities to support great causes, but few that have a direct impact on the life of one individual. Funding a scholarship offers that student the opportunity for a great education and hope for a brighter future. Sue and Jim George
- We chose to provide a scholarship for a Pakistani girl because as educators we believe in the transformative power of education. I do not know where else we could make such a difference in someone’s life for such a small contribution to fund a scholarship. Sue Whitaker and Al Reed
- In 2020 I chose to sponsor a child’s education through PEB in Pakistan. I do this to honor my own grandchildren, who have the luxury of living in a country with free public education – my wish is for all children to be blessed with knowledge through education. Kristy Elliott
- We are supporting this fund because we feel strongly about supporting the education of girls in a country where they may not otherwise have the same opportunities as they have here in the United States. James and Ellen Mosher
- Jay & I have chosen to support this program because it is a priority of our church and we believe in it. It is so important to help educate children, especially in places where there is great need. They are our future. Jay and Carol Carr
- We chose to support a child’s education through a scholarship because we believe everyone deserves the opportunity to learn in a safe and supportive environment. Education has the power to change a life, a community, and the world, so we are thankful to have the opportunity to help others receive the gift of education that will last a lifetime. Much of our own education was funded through scholarships, and we wanted to pass that gift along to someone else.
Courtney and Stephen McKinney-Whitaker
- We chose to provide support for the children/schools in Pakistan for several reasons. Education is the way out of poverty and to a better life. We believe in the partnership with PEB and the work they have done. We look forward to Veda’s updates and visits. We will continue to support this program as we are strong believers in its mission. Mike and Tracey Kinney
For 11 years, Derry Church has maintained a partnership with PEB. PEB operates 25 schools, primary through high school, including some boarding schools, that serve more than 5,900 students. Derry, through our Friends of Sargodha group, has a particular relationship with the schools in Sargodha. Our goal is to provide ten scholarships every year. You can help.
A full scholarship for a day student is approximately $370 a year, about a dollar a day. We are dividing that amount into ten shares, $37 each, to offer you the opportunity to support a portion of a scholarship.
You can purchase one or more shares by writing a check to Derry Church notated “Pakistan Scholarship” or giving online through the church website and selecting “Pakistan Scholarship.”
Whether you are able to give one share, three, or 15, together we can fulfill the dreams of more students in 2022. PEB students will thank you for the precious gift of education that will help them contribute to positive changes in society as citizen-leaders in their communities, churches, their country and the world. Who knows? Your student may one day be the one to change the world.
It is estimated that more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States will experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime (CDC).
A November 2021 report by UN Women found that since the start of the pandemic, violence against women has become more severe across the globe. The report finds that women have experienced more violence since the start of the pandemic and they feel less safe overall. While COVID-19 has taken a psychological toll on all of us, women who are also exposed to violence, particularly physical violence, experience increased stress and anxiety.
Since 1975, Derry Presbyterian Church has supported the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg. The YWCA’s Violence Intervention and Prevention programs provide free and confidential crisis and counseling services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, including a crisis hotline, safety planning, individual and group counseling, medical and court accompaniments, and referrals to local services. The YWCA also provides a shelter for women and their children who are experiencing domestic violence, as well as a legal clinic. To raise community awareness and to prevent domestic and sexual violence before it happens, the YWCA provides free, age-appropriate workshops for preschools, schools, colleges, youth groups, community groups and workplaces.
While domestic and sexual violence disproportionately affects women and girls, we all play a role in prevention and supporting survivors. In addition to supporting Missions at Derry, you can help by taking the following actions:
- Educate yourself. Start by checking out the resources at Presbyterian Mission, Faith Trust Institute, RAINN and Love is Respect. Attend the January 23 Issues Class and learn from a YWCA prevention educator about domestic and sexual violence and how you can help.
- Believe survivors. If you know someone experiencing domestic or sexual violence, believe them. Understand that it can be hard to seek help and to leave abusive relationships. Ask how you can support them and let them know about the services that the YWCA provides. The 24-hour crisis hotline is available at 1-800-654-1211.
- Talk about this issue. Invite a prevention educator from the YWCA to speak at your workplace, school or community group. Talk to the children and teens in your life in an age-appropriate way about body safety, consent and healthy relationships.
- Speak up! When you hear someone make a sexist, homophobic or racist joke or a comment that minimizes domestic or sexual violence, say something. These small, seemingly “minor” comments contribute to an overall culture that perpetuates domestic and sexual violence.
Through Derry’s support of the YWCA Greater Harrisburg and each of us taking the steps listed above, Derry members and friends contribute to a safer community for all.
Last Christmas … it seems longer than a year ago. So much has changed over the course of the past year. It’s felt like a roller coaster of changing situations, emotions, challenges, and blessings. Last Christmas we weren’t able to gather together as we’ve done so many times before. Last Christmas was the first Christmas of its kind for most of us; participating in virtual Christmas Eve services, not traveling to be with family, opening presents on Zoom. This Christmas may be different for you, it may be brand new, or it may be much like last Christmas, but every Christmas IS last Christmas.
“Every Christmas is last Christmas.” I didn’t get it when I first heard it on an episode of Doctor Who several years ago, but I do now. Every Christmas is a last Christmas.
Perhaps looking back you’ve realized that last Christmas was your last Christmas: last Christmas with a loved one, last Christmas in a home, last Christmas when your child made you a present, or your last Christmas together.
This Christmas is going to be last Christmas. We know it will be the last Christmas we are blessed with Pastor Marie as one of our pastors leading us in worship, but we can’t know all the things that may change over the next year to make it last Christmas. The same is true for each of us. We may have an idea of how this may be a last Christmas because you may be aware of transitions in your own life, but we can never know the full extent of change a year can bring. But we do know change is inevitable: it will be last Christmas. Enjoy it, love it, cherish it, and take it all in. Every Christmas is last Christmas.
And yet every Christmas is also first Christmas. Do you remember your first Christmas as a couple, in a new home or city, with a new child, even your first Christmas at Derry? Last Christmas was also first Christmas: the first Christmas pre-recording services and having livestream only, the first Christmas with Pastor Pam and Grant, and for me it was the first Christmas as a family of four. This Christmas will also be first Christmas. This is Derry’s first Christmas with our new organ, it’s the first Christmas for Pastor Pam and Grant as we gather together in the sanctuary and for Eric Riley as our Artist-in-Residence. It’s the first Christmas at Derry for new members, even the first Christmas we’ve decorated with purple poinsettias.
Christmas is a microcosm of the changes in our lives. There will always be lasts and there will always be firsts. We will mourn and miss; we will change and cheer. Things will end and new things will begin as they have at Derry for nearly 300 years. Just imagine all the lasts and all the firsts this place has seen since Scots-Irish pioneers first chose to worship under the oaks in 1724.
The year ahead will be no different. There will be lasts and there will be firsts. Some things will come to an end, but new and exciting things will begin. My favorite Scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation, the old life has passed away and the new life has come.” I experience that every Christmas, every year, every day, and so does Derry. It’s one of the many ways the Gospel fills me with hope. God says to us again and again, “Look, I am doing a new thing (Isa. 43:19).” While I know this Christmas will be last Christmas, I can hold on to the hope of first Christmas. And while this year will be the last year, it will also be a new year and a first year.
So together, let’s make this Christmas and the coming year special. Let’s honor the lasts and celebrate the firsts in faith and thanksgiving. God is doing something new in our lives and at Derry. I can’t wait to discover it with you.
Derry Church has had the opportunity to connect with many amazing people over the years. Our church family has benefited from learning from world-class theologians, musicians, and composers, as well as world political leaders. How Derry was able to connect with these remarkable people is often serendipitous.
In 1998 Derry Church began making plans to celebrate its 275th anniversary the following year. Reverend David Birch (retired) who had served as Derry’s interim pastor before Reverend Dick Houtz was called and who regularly worshipped at Derry, served as the 275th Anniversary Committee chair. Remarkably, one of Dave Birch’s neighbors was Tom Foley, who was active not only in Pennsylvania politics but was also deeply interested and involved in efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland, something that he begun during a graduate fellowship at University College Dublin back in 1975-1976. He later took a two-year leave from Yale Law School in 1979-1981 to serve as a full-time volunteer with the Nobel Prize-winning organization Peace People in Belfast. Following law school, Tom worked with two US Speakers of the House, Tip O’Neill and Tom Foley (no relation), and for Senator Joe Biden on Irish issues in Washington. When Northern Irish peace leaders traveled to the United States, Tom Foley was often called on to host them during their visits.
That neighborhood friendship led to some amazing opportunities for Derry’s heritage trip. Throughout his life, Tom Foley had worked closely with leaders of the Corrymeela Community, a peace and reconciliation group dedicated to bringing all sides of the political conflict to the table. As part of the Derry Heritage Tour, plans were made to stay at Corrymeela to learn more about its work.
Tom Foley also helped Derry connect with the world events. John Hume, the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner, had been invited to be a speaker at the March 1999 Congressional Retreat that was held at the Hershey Lodge. Hume, a Roman Catholic, along with David Trimble, a Protestant, won the Nobel prize for their efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland. Their work resulted in the Good Friday Peace Agreement, signed on April 10, 1998. The agreement ended most of the violence of the ‘Troubles,’ the political conflict in Northern Ireland that had ensued since the late 1960s. The agreement was a major development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s.
John Hume was a native of Derry, Northern Ireland. During his March 1999 visit to Hershey, he became aware that ‘Derry’ was the name of the township and this piqued his curiosity. His host, Tom Foley, told him about Derry Church and the origins of the township name. Tom brought John Hume over to Derry Church so that he could learn more about the history of our church. They had an impromptu meeting with Pastor Dick Houtz and Pastor Marie Buffaloe under the oak trees by the cemetery. When John Hume learned of our plans to visit Derry (Northern Ireland) he wanted to know the schedule so that he could meet and worship with the group when they visited the First Presbyterian Church (in Derry).
When the travel group arrived in Derry, they were met not only by John Hume, but also the Mayor of Derry, who joined them for Sunday worship and then hosted the travel group at Derry City Hall following worship. It was a truly memorable event for the Derry Church travel group, made possible by a chance, serendipitous meeting.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In December we’re lifting up a recipient of this year’s Christmas Joy Offering, Church World Service Lancaster. You can find the current month’s mission focus in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.
Church World Service (CWS) Lancaster continues to help resettle refugee families from around the world to the Central Pennsylvania area. After strong travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we started receiving families back in May 2020. Since then, we have received 92 individuals (consisting of 16 families and some individuals) from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Myanmar, and most recently, Afghanistan.
After a 20-year military occupation in Afghanistan, the longest running war in American history concluded at the beginning of September. What ensued was the largest humanitarian evacuation in American history. Over 65,000 individuals from Afghanistan were airlifted out of the Kabul airport after the Taliban regime overtook the capital city in 11 days. Those Afghan families were then taken to various military bases across the United States. From there they have been processed for resettlement with the nine resettlement agencies in the US, and CWS is one of them.
CWS Lancaster has begun to receive some families from Afghanistan to the Lancaster area, and we plan on helping to resettle many more over the coming months. The Presidential Determination (the amount of refugees allowed in the US in any given federal fiscal year) was set at 125,000 allowed into the United States beyond the 65,000 from Afghanistan.
This clearly presents not just a challenge, but an opportunity. This dramatic increase in refugee arrivals, after several years of federal budget cuts, has prompted CWS to open a satellite office in the Harrisburg area. We hope to open the office and to start resettling families to the Dauphin and Cumberland County areas in January 2022. This will give CWS the ability to service and resettle more refugee clients to the Tri-County area than ever before. And we can only do this work with the continued support of the local faith community, mobilizing churches to be a welcoming presence for all who want to start new lives in America after fleeing from violence and war.
CWS, along with churches like Derry Presbyterian, continue to form sponsorship groups (called Welcome Teams) for small groups of people to walk along side of our refugee friends and neighbors during their resettlement and integration period. This program lasts for approximately six months as families look to get settled to the area, learn a new language, enroll their children in school, secure housing and employment, and continue to flourish in our community.
We are so thankful for churches like Derry Presbyterian for their willingness to walk alongside CWS in this exciting time. The goal is to serve as many refugee families as we can with dignity and compassion, love and grace as God calls us to continue to welcome the stranger in our midst.
When the program year began in September, I had no idea what would happen. In my own mind, I was consumed by questioning each program and decision. Would we have families attend Children’s Ministry programs? Is it too soon to start? What spaces should we use? Would we have enough volunteers to help lead our programs? Would we be shutting things down frequently? I found myself talking to God frequently and ultimately following my heart and moving ahead with our normal programming, just doing so in a NEW way.
September saw a return to Sunday School and KIWI. Derry was once again blessed with incredible support from our church families. We have an amazing team of adult teachers/helpers who are filling our classrooms with joy, love and energy each Sunday. COVID gave us a reason to pause and ultimately gave us time to look at our programs and ask what we could do better or different. This led us to add an element of music to our Sunday School time, led by Mr. Grant and Pastor Pam. Children are learning some of the beloved Sunday School songs that many of us grew up singing. Our new curriculum, Spark Activate Faith, has us “Trekking Through the Bible” and having a lot of fun journeying through the Bible together. KIWI has moved to the Chapel and offered us a more special and sacred space to gather and learn about worship. The children enjoy exploring a true worship space and preparing that space with the elements we see in weekly worship that remind us of our sacraments, promises and ways we show our love for our Lord and Savior.
We created a brand-new program called RECONNECT. Pastor Pam has been helping our first and second graders adjust to in-person worship as they focus on the various parts of worship and help them learn how to participate in, and not just sit through, worship. We are hopeful that this new program will make worship more meaningful to these children as they rejoin their parents in December.
Pilgrim Fellowship kicked off in October and has been a lot of fun. Our third through fifth graders love having a time to have fun, be silly and simply be together. We have chosen activities that allow us to be outdoors as much as possible, that connect with many different interests and also offer an element of faith formation through learning, mission and fellowship.
Children’s choirs were greatly affected by the pandemic as Terrific Tuesdays and rehearsals were all cancelled. This is an area of Derry’s Children’s Ministry that brings joy to everyone in the church family and we knew we wanted to find a way to rebuild our choirs. Our church leaders worked together and created a new program, K.I.C. Club (Kids In Christ Club). K.I.C. Club gathers on Tuesday evenings from 5:45-7:15 and offers children the opportunity to explore our creative arts ministries here are Derry: music, creation time and fellowship. The children gather together for our opening circle time and then break into groups to rotate through our three classrooms. Tuesday evenings have come alive again here at the church. The relaxed atmosphere has allowed us the opportunity to make deeper connections with the children and families of the church. And the children have enjoyed making new friends and experiencing each of our extended Children’s Ministry offerings.
When you and your family are ready, I hope you will join us and find a way to let God be a larger part of your lives. These days are full of uncertainty and decision making and I fully respect the choice each family makes, but also want you to know that I am excited to welcome you back whenever you are ready to join us.
I continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers, and I continue to thank God for the strength, support and love that surround our Children’s Ministry programs.
This year’s stewardship theme is Growing in Grace & Gratitude. When I think of what that means to me today, a number of things come to mind, some of them a bit different than several years ago when I was asked to write a similar article for the stewardship campaign.
Each year as fall arrives and Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself reflecting on what is important to me and the many things for which I am thankful. The list is long and I consider myself to be blessed in many ways. I am thankful for my family, friends, my health, food on the table, a roof over my head and other things too numerous to mention.
One thing in my life that has been a constant is Derry Church. I’ve grown up at Derry, spending the majority of my life attending here with my parents and then my husband and three children. The support and caring of my church family is something that has kept me here for so long.
Growing up at Derry, I’ve seen and experienced many changes and growth in the church — the physical building, staff, programs and increased church membership. We continue to grow and expand in new and exciting ways. Many churches are not so fortunate.
The past 20 months since COVID hit has truly been a test for all of us. Suddenly being unable to come together to worship and participate in the many church activities came as a shock. Things have been tough and we have all felt a void in one way or another. Not being able to greet one another on Sunday mornings, to chat at post-worship fellowship, to participate in church school, youth activities, Terrific Tuesday meals, just to name a few. However, through God’s continued grace and the combined efforts of so many, we were able to persevere and try to carry on as close to normal as possible. Finding creative ways to worship and continue to do God’s work, caring for our church family and continuing our ministry and mission work despite our limitations.
As I look back on the past year, I am sure I am not alone in the gratitude I feel for how our church family has come together, caring and supporting one another. Gratitude to those that enabled us to live stream worship, church school, and committee meetings. Finding creative ways to worship and continue to do God’s work. Our continued support of various mission opportunities, caring for one another through personal calls from staff “just to “see how we are doing,” notes, loaves of bread and gifts from Shepherd Group leaders and Deacons. Meal trains for those in need. So many working to maintain a sense of normalcy.
Now as we see many in-person church activities resuming, I find myself feeling extremely grateful for Derry and God’s continued presence in my life, my faith and for those that have worked tirelessly in the past year to provide a continued form of God’s presence and grace — whatever form it might have taken.
In this season of Thanksgiving and stewardship, let us reflect on what is important to us and what Derry Church means to you and your family. As you are aware it takes significant financial support to run and operate a church, especially one of our size with the many wonderful programs, staff and mission work that Derry provides. Please take time to prayerfully consider what you can give to Derry for the coming year.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In November we’re lifting up Access to Health Care. You can find the current month’s mission focus in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.
We at Derry Church are so blessed to have people with many talents and interests. And making time to be a hands-on volunteer can bring a new perspective on our society. But even with the understanding that Covid has greatly impacted how our agencies provide services, I would urge you not to rule out being an active volunteer. Our committee provides funding for several ministries in the midstate area and they can use your support as well.
We support the Community Checkup Center in Hall Manor, Harrisburg, which is a non-profit health center providing quality care to Harrisburg’s diverse and underserved children and adults. Our own Gretchen Ballard served on the board for many years (they have been providing services since 1994) and is still working with them. She delivers the calendars donated by members from our congregation to the center, so they can be given to patients to track return appointments and important reminders. There’s a basket in the mission closet ready to collect 2022 calendars. The Checkup Center sees about 200 patients a month, about half the number they were able to see before Covid due to social distancing issues, although numbers are now starting to increase.
Our connection with Christ Lutheran Church’s Health Ministry has grown over the last few years. They offer the following four free health clinics in South Allison Hill, a neighborhood of intense need in Harrisburg where workers strive to be the healing hands of Jesus in that community:
- The MEDICAL OUTREACH CLINIC is a free, nurse-run walk-in clinic in conjunction with Holy Spirit Hospital. They provide simple lab tests, basic physical assessments, health education, and some limited assistance with social service liaison, medication assistance, and the provision of items necessary for health such as blankets, hygiene items and underwear. The Outreach team includes a small core of paid staff and volunteers. Nursing students from HACC have clinical rotations there. Services are provided in English, Spanish, French and Arabic languages.
- The DENTAL CLINIC is comprised of a team of volunteer dentists, support staff and translators who offer care three days a month for urgent dental conditions requiring simple extractions and fillings.
- The PRENATAL CLINIC provides free prenatal care, including labs and radiology, and is offered to low-income women who are ineligible for insurance and whose pregnancies are in the low risk categories. Nurses and doctors determine the risk factor. Through a partnership with Holy Spirit Hospital, access to advanced care, labor and childbirth delivery at the hospital is included.
- The URGENT CARE CLINIC has a doctor available weekly for urgent (but not emergency) medical needs. By appointment only, but free of charge.
Last, but not least, our own Dr. Larry Espenshade has volunteered for a number of years with Hope Within Ministries in Elizabethtown. They offer free primary health care services for medically uninsured low income residents of Lancaster, Lebanon, and Dauphin Counties, as well as low-cost, sliding scale counseling and donation-
based dental care thanks to more than 30 volunteer medical, dental providers, therapists, and nurses. All appointments are scheduled with patients for the medical and dental clinics and for clients in their counseling center, because they are not a walk-in facility.
Please consider these volunteer opportunities and how you can join these agencies in their missions to provide health care to our uninsured and underinsured neighbors.
When we returned to this area, we felt at home the first time we attended worship at Derry Church. Through warm greetings from folks like Nancy Kitzmiller, membership classes, and the nursery volunteers, we felt welcome. Now, whether we are in person, worshipping via the live stream, learning at Derry Discovery Days, watching classes on YouTube, or hearing what our kids did at VBS, Derry Church has truly become a home.
Gratitude gives us the eyes to see the grace of God all around us, particularly in the ways it is demonstrated by our church family. We are thankful for the beautiful musical gifts of Grant, Dan, and many others, to share in that ministry, and for the moments when the music grabs our kids’ attention and draws them into worship.
We are thankful for Pastors and staff who take a few minutes out of their own busy days to acknowledge birthdays or send a postcard. We are thankful for Shepherd Group leaders who check-in and truly show God’s love in sharing peace and joy.
Our kids have been regular visitors to the church nursery, and as new parents, we have always been thankful for the love of volunteers who comforted them and let them know that we were close by if they could hear the music (thank you, Sue Fox). As parents of young kids, our church family has shown us love in making the quiet room on the side of the sanctuary a welcoming space. Hudson has been part of Derry Discovery Days since he was a Ladybug, and Oliver joined this year as a Turtle. Our gratitude runs deep for the amazing teachers and the connections our boys have made to Derry during their time at school.
For our family, being a part of Derry has looked like church on Sundays, followed by fellowship, Easter egg hunts, Zoom scavenger hunts and learning with Mrs. Steelman, drive-thrus to offer donations and to share God’s love and grace far beyond the walls of our church, new friendships, and delicious breakfasts on Easter morning. Who can forget Pastor Stephen’s Derry Good News series during the early days of COVID? What a gift during that uncertain time to be reminded regularly of God’s grace all around us.
The gift of God’s grace and faithful, steady presence can be seen at Derry in the beautiful tulips planted around our church many years ago. We know the tulips will bloom each spring without fail, just as the sun rises each morning. We can count on this ever-present reminder of God’s love. We know we have the ability to impact others through a genuinely warm welcome or “how are you?” because we have experienced it, and by showing up for one other, the church itself, and the greater community and world. Being a part of the Derry church family has allowed us to inhale grace beyond measure, and exhale our gratitude. We hope the same is true for each of you.
Because our friend and former student, Dan Stokes, became interim organist at Derry, we decided to spend a few Sundays visiting Derry Church to hear Dan play. We realized from the first Sunday service that there was a friendliness and sincerity at Derry that led us to attend membership classes and become a part of that family. Then COVID hit, and the opportunity to know more members of the congregation and to become involved in the life of the church seemed to disappear. The streaming services allowed us to continue to worship each Sunday, but we still felt removed from the actual life of the church and from fellowship with its members. We couldn’t possibly know at that point just how important our connection to Derry Presbyterian would become in the following months.
As the pandemic continued to preclude worshipping in person, we adjusted ourselves to “remote” membership in the anticipation of full participation when the pandemic subsided. Then, in a blink of the proverbial eye, our lives were upended, as Rudy was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. No warning signs. Just a quick trip to the emergency room, a diagnosis within hours, and brain surgery scheduled within days. Seeking some direction and support at a particularly difficult time, we turned to the Derry ministerial staff. While one would expect the clergy to offer their guidance, we were not prepared for Derry’s pastors’ numerous expressions of care via phone calls, texts, emails, and cards. Indeed, their sincere expressions of concern extended far beyond what we could possibly expect! Their calm, reasoned guidance and encouragement provided a much-needed respite from the chaos that enveloped us during those dark days.
Even more astonishing (at least to us) was the outpouring of sympathy and offers of help from members of the Derry congregation, many of whom we didn’t even know. Hand-delivered flowers, apple cakes, a stunning prayer shawl, and numerous cards with handwritten notes of encouragement were indicative of Derry community’s commitment to care for its parishioners.
Sometimes, when one reflects upon past events and their influence, one can see what Marcy would call “God winks,” events that display God’s grace without great fanfare, but rather with a whisper that says, “I’ve got this; here’s a special gift to ease your burdens.” Derry Church is one such “God wink.” How could we know that the clergy and the members would be right where we needed them, when we needed them? Perhaps we didn’t need to know. “God winks” arrive without our requesting them or deserving them. They simply reflect God’s grace, most often through faithful, unselfish messengers, like the community that is Derry Presbyterian Church.
We originally began visiting Derry Presbyterian about ten years ago on the recommendation of some member friends. We were immediately impressed by the positive energy exuded by the congregants as a group as well as those we met individually. Our visits soon turned into exploring the new member classes and eventual joining as full members. Since that time we have continued to be lifted by the love and positive attitude of the church displayed by our pastors, session members and fellow congregants.
We have been particularly grateful for the family-oriented worship activities afforded by the 10:30 service. Our daughter enjoyed KIWI when she was younger and now is thankful to be able to learn from the messages delivered as a part of the regular service. We have also been grateful for the grace and humility demonstrated by our leadership throughout the Coronavirus pandemic as they have followed expert medical science in designing different worship opportunities in hopes of safely reaching the most people while simultaneously validating the rights and feelings of those who disagree with the decisions made.
More directly, we experienced the grace and love of church members helping us during some health care issues a few years ago as well as the support during Ellen’s mother’s recent transition into death last year. We have been able to enjoy the grace of helping others through the church’s many affiliations with various mission organizations, through the Pakistan student support as well as local families in need through the Lutheran church at Christmas.
We continue to be grateful for the many opportunities for involvement offered by our church. Jamie has enjoyed sharing in the music ministry through composing, arranging and performing. Ellen has grown during her participation as a deacon. Meredith has had wonderful experiences participating with Pilgrim Fellowship, Pastor Pam’s summer Bible studies and now the Youth Group.
These sentiments all came into sharp relief during the October 2 service as we sang, “To everyone born, a place at the table.” From its upbeat rhythmic feel to its positive message of inclusiveness, this song encapsulates the spirit and attitude that we appreciate most about Derry Church. We have friends in the church from both sides of the political spectrum, from various sexual orientations and from many walks of life different from our own. We are therefore ever grateful that our church is a welcome place for everyone to come; where we can learn from each other and through our personal interactions be inspired to fashion a world where, “God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy.”
Editor’s Note: if you were fortunate enough to attend or live stream Grant Wareham’s organ recital on Oct 10, you heard the world premiere of “Up to Eleven” a piece composed by Jamie Mosher in honor of Dan Stokes and Grant. Click to watch an introduction by Grant and comments by Jamie before watching Grant play the piece.
Several decades ago, the British writer and lecturer C.S. Lewis was asked to speak on the subject of Christian stewardship. He began with these words: “On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.” I feel that way, too. Sometimes it is much easier, and safer, just to skirt around the whole subject of stewardship, of how we give shape and substance to our love for God.
We may choose to skirt the subject entirely, but the fact remains that stewardship is the way we define our faith and make it personal. It’s how faith becomes concrete — a part of our lives, not just a feeling we have or something we say.
I believe our faith is shaped by our experiences of grace and gratitude, which is why our stewardship and sermon theme this fall is “Growing in Grace and Gratitude.”
We all know the benefits of grace. Grace is a gift, an undeserved, sometimes even unasked for gift. Grace connects us with God. Grace gives us new life. Grace gives us a second chance. Grace welcomes us into the family of God. Grace is being welcomed in love. We all need grace in our lives. We need God’s grace and we need the grace offered by one another: the grace of relationships. Growing in grace is growing in love, life, and wholeness. We know we need grace.
But do we know we need gratitude? A research study done about ten years ago reported the shocking news that those who live from a posture of abundance and gratitude live happier, statistically longer lives. Gratitude makes us happy, deeply happy. Gratitude connects us to other people. Gratitude connects us with God and, in itself, makes us better stewards of all that we have and of this planet on which we live.
Over the next several weeks, we’ll hear stories of grace and gratitude from Scripture and from each other. We’ll be reminded of the power of God’s grace in our lives and what gratitude looks like. We’ll celebrate how God’s grace has been manifested through the ministry of Derry Church. We’ll show our gratitude through our financial gifts, to ensure God’s grace touches people’s lives for generations to come.
We grow in grace and gratitude as we proclaim God’s word, share God’s love, and practice God’s justice. And this year, our giving needs to grow in order for the ministry of this community of faith to flourish. Growth in giving is a sign of a spiritually healthy church. I encourage you to prayerfully consider how you can grow in your giving and your involvement at Derry, because your investment here can have a life-changing impact — not only for you and for our church, but for our community and the world.
Derry is an amazing faith community. It’s a place where I have grown in grace and gratitude, and I hope you have, too. Together we can show our gratitude with more than words. Let’s ensure that Derry Church continues to be a place to worship, serve, and belong for at least another 300 years.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In October we’re lifting up feeding those who are hungry.
During the COVID pandemic Derry Church, through the Mission & Peace Committee, provided additional funding to our non-profit partners’ Feeding the Hungry programs. Here are two of the organizations Derry generously supported with additional funding this past year:
Central Pennsylvania Food Bank
Food shouldn’t be an impossible choice. For many, a daily meal is just a choice of what to eat for dinner. For those facing hunger, a daily meal poses a very different type of choice. It is often an impossible choice between food and other critical needs such as utilities, housing or medicine. How will you choose to end hunger?
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is the primary supplier of food and nutrition programs to many of our non-profit partners. Derry Church provided $10,000 in additional funding to the Food Bank, and church members volunteered to pack food boxes during the pandemic.
Downtown Daily Bread
Downtown Daily Bread (DDB) is a mission project of the Pine Street Presbyterian Church in downtown Harrisburg. For 88 years, DDB has been a gateway to basic human services for hundreds of homeless and hungry individuals in Harrisburg. DDB offers a Soup Kitchen with weekday breakfasts and daily lunch meals; a Day Shelter with cots, computers, phones, and staff counselors; a winter season Night Shelter for men, and numerous assistance programs such as showers, lockers, mail delivery, laundry cards, vouchers for photo IDs, clothing, and other personal hygiene items.
In 2020, the Soup Kitchen prepared and served 11,465 breakfasts and 34,218 lunches. On an average day, 19 people come for showers, 61 people pick up mail, and 40 people check in to receive assistance at the Day Shelter. From December 1 to March 31, 28 men found winter overnight shelter every evening. Bag meals continued throughout the COVID pandemic, and after modifications to the facility, in-person meals and services resumed.
Derry Church provided $10,000 in additional funding to support COVID related building modifications and Day Shelter HVAC upgrades. Church members continued to volunteer in the soup kitchen throughout the pandemic.
In the midst of challenging times, I am grateful for the ministry of our Board of Deacons, whose main responsibilities are providing compassion, witness and service to those in need. They are supported and assisted by Shepherd Group leaders who especially in these anxious pandemic months have helped reach out in kindness and care to our church family. That’s not easy when our congregational members live in a variety of communities from Lebanon to Carlisle and lots of places in between.
More than 25 years ago, visionary leaders at Derry organized a caring ministry of neighborhood regions called Shepherd Groups. A Derry member from each geographic group has committed to being the Shepherd Group leader and to work with a Deacon to keep in touch and provide care to members and welcome newcomers. Your Shepherd Group number can be found on your church name tag. You can also find Shepherd Group numbers listed in the Joys & Concerns section of the eNews and on the weekly prayer list.
When it was not so easy to visit in person, our Shepherd Group leaders and Deacons have been busy sending cards, making phone calls, providing meals and organizing meal trains. They have made visits on your door steps, delivered devotions and smiles (behind masks), and kept you in their prayers. When you have a need, please do contact your Shepherd Group leader or Deacon, as well as the church office. We are a stronger church family because of their gifts of time and commitment to reaching out in Christ’s name to offer God’s love and compassion.
Click here for a list of the 2021-22 Shepherd Group leaders and Deacons (PDF). If you don’t know your Shepherd Group, contact the church office or Pastor Marie. To volunteer as a Shepherd Group leader for one year, contact your deacon.
The Apostle Paul reminds us to clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience and above all clothe yourself with love which binds everything together. (Colossians 3:12) That’s a good recipe for any church family.
We have reached September and are entering budgeting season, so it is time for my annual update on how the church is doing financially and my projections for the rest of the year.
As of the end of August, we have a year-to-date surplus of $48,000 for the general operating budget compared to a year-to-date surplus of $46,000 at the same point last year. We have moved the timing of some payments to the end of the year, so when taking that into account, the comparable surplus to last year would be closer to $26,000. I believe we will probably end the year in the break-even to slight surplus range. In 2020 and so far in 2021 contributions to the general operating budget have trailed 2019 contributions. The lower contributions have been offset by lower expenses due to reduced spending related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Session, the Stewardship and Finance Committee, and the other committees look toward the 2022 budget and the future, we are working to ensure that Derry Church provides for the current needs of the church members and the community, and also maintains financial stability. We are looking at capital projects over the next several years and are working with the committees to make sure they align with the mission and vision of the church. By planning for the future, we can make sure we are managing our resources responsibly.
Through the generous support of the congregation, we have been able to do large capital projects, like the new organ installation, without pulling significant funds from the session designated accounts that are invested. Also in the past year, we have received generous contributions to create new restricted accounts like the transportation account which enabled us to purchase a new van. We’ve also been able to add principal to session designated accounts like the Legacy and Capital Facilities Funds which help maintain our church and further the mission of the congregation. We have been able to use dedicated and restricted funds to do mission work in our community and throughout the world – whether it be helping youth with college scholarships or building a new wing on a school in Pakistan.
I would like to thank the congregation for your continued support of the church and of mission work in our community.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything related to Derry’s finances, please contact me.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In September we’re lifting up the Peace & Global Witness Offering that encourages the church to cast off anxiety and fear, discord and division, and embrace our God’s mission of reconciliation to those around the corner and around the world. Read about how Derry is making a corner of Pakistan a better place for eager young students.
For the past several years Derry has talked about and publicized the role we play, as part of our global mission outreach, in providing scholarships to poor, impoverished students (primarily Christian) in the Punjab Province of Pakistan. A number of Derry members have been involved each year in donating, through Friends of PEB, either $365 (for a day student) and/or $720 (for a boarding student). These amounts fund a student for an entire academic year.
This interest and involvement in scholarships culminated with a group of 12 Derry members, all of whom were sponsors of students, traveling to Pakistan as guests of the Presbyterian Education Board (PEB) in the fall of 2019. The visits to schools and students, especially with specific students sponsored by Derry, were extremely rewarding, gratifying, and reassuring. Particularly reassuring was the concrete sense the Derry group had that their contributions were being fully and efficiently utilized. They could see it in the quality of education, the excitement of students to learn, and the passion for teaching in the teachers.
After the Derry group returned to Hershey, they decided to accept the challenge given to them in Pakistan to help build an additional wing at the boy’s school in Sargodha (Sar-go-da). Through their own contributions and contributions by other Derry members and the Mission and Peace Committee, nearly $430,000 has been raised or pledged. The wing is projected to be completed in 2023. What better global outreach can there be – outreach beyond scholarships and buildings that provides opportunity, hope, changed lives, cross cultural tolerance, and a better world?
In addition to scholarships and buildings, your otherwise undesignated donations provide for other essential resources to include classroom furniture, science lab equipment, fans, laptops and PCs, teacher training and workshops, paper, pencils, and workbooks.
Get involved. Make a difference where you can actually see a difference. You will derive a sense of great satisfaction and, in the future, perhaps travel yourself to meet some amazing people. Learn more by visiting Friends of PEB and the Presbyterian Education Board.
“You better come quickly: Eric has had a bad accident,” a girlfriend of Eric’s told me over the phone on October 7, 2002. “He is at Lancaster General Hospital.” Dave and I were in Canada for his job. I called him at work as I quickly packed some clothes and our dog and cat. We drove seven hours to Lancaster. As we crossed through customs at the border, I was on the cell phone trying to get more information. Dave told me to get off the phone. It was midnight when we arrived at the hospital. We had to go through the emergency room. We asked to see Eric. They told me they needed to page the chaplain. I panicked and thought he had died.
Later, we learned that this was the procedure. The chaplain appeared and walked with us to the neuro-intensive care unit. Eric was unrecognizable. He had fallen off a roof he was repairing and landed on his head. He was in a coma. He had acute brain trauma.
The doctors and nurses told us the next several days would determine if Eric would survive. It was important to keep his temperature lower with cooling blankets. He had a pressure gauge on top of his skull. Eric was 22 years old and in great shape from his Army service. He had shattered his skull in his face and broken his right arm. Time became a blur. Dave and I slept in a nearby conference room. Family arrived and took our dog and cat with them. Eric was in a coma for three weeks. It was the nurses who kept reinforcing to us that he would recover. They gave us hope.
Eric had procedures done to place a tracheostomy tube in his throat and to repair his right arm fracture. He had a peg tube for nutrition. He also had a filter placed in his lower legs to prevent blood clots from traveling to his upper body. When he came out of the coma, he was transferred to a regular hospital room. He could not talk or eat or walk. We were told he needed to recover in a nursing home. I believed the Rehabilitation Center at the Hershey Medical Center would be able to help him better.
With persistence, the Rehabilitation Team accepted Eric’s transfer. He celebrated his 23rd birthday at the HMC Rehabilitation Center. The team of nurses, doctors and therapists were aggressive with treatment. The tracheostomy was removed right away. Eric had to learn to swallow, talk, eat, walk and toilet. The only therapy he disliked was music therapy. To bribe him, we would get him soft ice cream.
This whole time Eric had many visitors from family, friends and ministers and lots of prayers. He had a little black dog, a Lab and Jack Russell mix named Jack. His cousin took care of Jack while Eric was recovering. Eric missed his dog and wanted to get home. Jack even visited him at the Rehabilitation Center. After 28 days in rehab, on November 27, 2002, Eric came to our house. He got stronger and healed over the next year as we took him to outpatient therapy.
Today, Eric is working, married to Amy, and the father of Coleson (6) and Kayla (2). We are so grateful that he recovered with God’s help from his injuries.
I imagine most of us are familiar with the beautiful “Footprints” poem that many have hanging in their homes, have shared with others during troubled times, have heard in song form on a Christian music station, or simply remember reading at some point. The words in this poem are a wonderful reminder of how special it is to have relationships with God and Jesus. We can all find comfort in these words as they give us hope when we need it most…during those hard and challenging times. These words also serve as a guide to help me with my job in the Children’s Ministry here at church.
One night I dreamed a dream. I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.
When the last scene of my life shot before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand. There was only one set of footprints. I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life. This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.
“Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way. But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don’t understand why, when I need You most, You leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
This coming school year the children will have the opportunity to continue “Trekking Through the Bible” which we started this summer during camp week. Our stories will present us with moments of thanksgiving, teachable situations, times of great sadness, lessons about friendship and true love for others, and most importantly, stories that remind us that we never have to walk alone if we invite our Lord to be with us.
I look forward to the excitement and energy that comes with the start of a new program year. We will kick off our programming on Sunday, September 12 from 9:00-10:15 am with our Rally Day fun. Families will be invited to come together with their children to get a taste of what to expect in the coming months during Sunday School. We will meet in Fellowship Hall and enjoy games, activities and fun snacks that will prepare us for “Trekking through the Bible”.
September 12 will also be our first Sunday for the return of our KIWI class (Kids In Worship Instruction). Children age 4 through Kindergarten are invited to join Mrs. Steelman in the Chapel after the Conversation with Children. We will enjoy our time together learning more about Worship, explore the common symbols we find in Holy spaces that help us on our faith journey, and we will learn The Lord’s Prayer and Doxology so that the children can participate during worship and feel even more connected to their church family.
Children in grades 1 & 2 are invited to attend a special new class that we will run for the fall semester called RECONNECT. This class is designed to help the children adjust to worship again. This class will be led by our pastors and will offer the children the opportunity to learn more about worship, ways they can participate in worship and ultimately be ready to sit with their families after the winter break.
During the month of September we will begin Pilgrim Fellowship gatherings. Pilgrim Fellowship is for children in grades 3-5 and meets twice each month after the 10:30 am worship service. Our time together includes a meal (lunch) and time for fun, learning and mission work. This program is a wonderful opportunity for the children in grades 3-5 to make stronger connections with their peers. These connections and friendships are priceless and often lead to the children asking when they will get to see their church friends again. This becomes even more important as the kids head into middle school and high school… those times we can all remember valuing true friendship.
Sunday School and KIWI are not only fun for the children of the church: this time is a wonderful chance for parents to participate and show their children that God and Jesus are important to you. I welcome parents to get involved. Our Sunday School classrooms, our church nursery and our KIWI and RECONNECT programs require volunteer helpers to serve as an extra pair of hands and a second adult so that we can be sure to keep all of the children safe. Offering to help in one of these areas is not only a big help to our church staff, it is also a way to help your children see that you want to continue to grow your own faith as you serve your church family.
If you would like to talk more about these opportunities, have questions about what is involved, or are ready to help now, please email me and I will happily connect with you to make sure you have all your questions answered. Please note that all volunteers will need to have their clearances up to date and on file with the church.
With a world that keeps changing each day, it brings me great joy to know that we can still find fun ways to grow our faith and deepen our relationships with God, Jesus and one another. I hope that your family will join us for the upcoming program year.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In August we’re lifting up Education of Children. You can find the current month’s mission focus in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.
The Harrisburg School District Reading Mentor Program was developed during the height of the pandemic last fall, so that relatable and familiar mentors, educators, parents, and members of the local community could collaborate to provide reading and learning opportunities for children in Harrisburg. The goal was to keep students engaged in learning during the 2020-21 school year while they were virtual due to COVID-19. To this end, local community leaders were invited to read books that inspired them and reference their personal growth story while recording a video to support the academic, social, and emotional growth of Harrisburg’s students.
Derry Church provided funding for the pilot program that was conducted at Foose School. Leaders from the community — a State Representative, teacher, librarian, doctor, and several health administrators — submitted videos to YouTube. The videos have received hundreds of views over the last six months and are educational, creative, thoughtful, and heartwarming.
Thanks to the success of the pilot program, the Harrisburg Public Schools Foundation (HPSF) awarded $2,000 to Ben Franklin, Downey, Melrose and Scott Elementary Schools in Harrisburg for the purchase of culturally appropriate books to be shared on YouTube.
Coronavirus highlighted the growing need for creativity in learning, especially in particular communities where access and resource availability is limited. The program provided Harrisburg School District students with the flexibility to read and learn on their own schedule, thereby improving literacy, maximizing potential, and shaping a brighter future.
Click this link to view the YouTube videos:
Harrisburg School District Reading Mentor Program
I have a confession: once upon a time I was terrified of the church’s audio system. And that was back when it was a much smaller console with no cameras. I didn’t want to touch those sliders because I knew I would make something squeal and I wouldn’t know how to make the awful noise stop.
In those days my husband Jim and our son Matt were regulars running the audio system. Matt was in high school, and he sat at the console with his friends as they took turns running the board, heads down, whispering to each other. Even as they whispered and nudged each other, they managed to make everything sound just fine and I was glad they had found their niche on Sunday mornings, sitting with friends and paying enough attention to the service to turn the mics on and off at the right time.
By 2015, Derry’s first camera system had been installed along with other Sanctuary renovations, and it was time for me to learn how things worked back there. I liked running the cameras, yet there were aspects of the audio board that mystified me. But I didn’t worry much about it because Derry had a great AV crew helping to run the sound and video every week.
Then the pandemic hit and we lost some key members of our AV crew. But one thing I’ve learned at Derry: if you ask, it will be provided. Now I’m looking for some new folks who are intrigued by what goes on in the back and want to learn more. Maybe, like me, the buttons and screens look a little scary. Well, I’m here to tell you that if I can learn how, anyone with a desire to learn can be trained. I invite you to take the first step and contact me. Or maybe your teenage son or daughter would like to learn, and we can kickstart the next generation of young people back at the board. Time commitment is from 9 am to about 11:30 am on Sundays, and training and plenty of practice time is included.
I’ll close with a few fun facts:
- From the beginning of 2021 until now, we’ve averaged 226 unique IP addresses watching the live stream on Sunday mornings. That’s not how many people are viewing, but how many devices are connected. With an average of 226 IP addresses, it’s safe to estimate that 300+ are worshiping online, though those numbers have taken a dip in the summer months and as more people have returned in person. We used to say that Derry had two congregations: one at 8 am and one at 10:30 am, and now, our live streamers make up a third congregation. We’re glad you found us and are worshiping with us, wherever you are.
- It takes three technicians to produce the virtual service: one operates the audio board, one operates the cameras, and one adds the captions and videos at the right time. Our technicians learn how to run all three pieces of equipment so everyone can step into any position when help is needed. If any of our techs are reading this article, pat yourself on the back. You are awesome and appreciated!
- Between 9 and 10 am on Sundays, the tech team runs through the service with the pastors, Grant Wareham and singers or musicians so we can test the microphones, set camera angles, and make sure that the text you see on the screen is correct. Pre-pandemic we never did run-throughs, and now I can’t imagine launching the live stream without it.
- You can choose from three ways to join the Sunday morning live stream: on the church website, on our YouTube channel, or on our chatty Facebook page. If you miss the live stream on Sunday, just go to the church website before the next Sunday and worship at whatever time works for you.
- Subscribe to our YouTube channel and you’ll join more than 500 people who look forward to seeing our video content each week. If you like, YouTube can notify you when the service is starting and whenever Derry posts new video content (It’s a setting in YouTube notifications. Need help? Join me on Zoom for Tech Time at 1 pm on Mondays.)
- The church staff loves it when our live stream viewers sign the guestbook! We read every name and comment, and respond when questions or concerns are submitted.
Whether you join in person or by live streaming, I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Derry family, we have reached the peak of summer, and this summer is already looking drastically different from last year. You could probably notice the changes in demeanor of choir members being able to exercise our lungs properly after so many months of silence! Fortunately, rusty windpipes will no longer be a concern, especially with the installation of our new organ in progress.
When my musical side can be subdued, my work as a psychotherapist continues throughout the summer, usually with higher demand as people have a bit more free time for appointments. In my career I have learned there are peaks not only of seasons, but also of our human functioning throughout the year. This time of the summer typically brings increases in drug overdoses and relapses, more reports of anxiety and depressive symptoms among my adult clients, and general perceptions of feeling inadequate as we try to stuff our days with activities. Strange, isn’t it? We typically expect to feel more “low” in the deep winter, but somehow even the freedom of a good climate can serve as a trigger for brain chemical challenges.
While COVID certainly did not help with these trends of mental health difficulties, I was able to observe some truly fascinating developments in my clients with their spirituality and acceptance of their current conditions. More often than ever before, I found myself in discussions of individuals’ faith in their higher power, specifically the ideas that “things had to get better” or “God’s will be done.” As excited as this made me to learn my clients were open to exploring their spiritual beliefs, I also have to support those who are more skeptical of such matters. However, even my most doubtful thinkers began to speak of hope that worldly situations would improve and some sort of normalcy would return.
Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Watching skeptical minds embracing the thought of a better tomorrow is the best demonstration of what the Bible teaches about faith. What our eyeballs have seen is hardship, confusion, and hurt, but what God continues to instill in our hearts is trust and comfort.
Many of you may not know that I relocated to central Pennsylvania entirely alone for graduate school, yet the trust God placed in me led me right to Derry and into your hands of comfort. I had never sung a solo in my LIFE for other people, but the spirit of the congregation quieted my anxieties enough to share my passion with you. God is always present, through the depths of depression and grief and the agitation of panic and anger, so long as our hearts remain open to the prospect of relief. I cannot thank you enough, church family, for bringing me to my own relief, and I wish you all a remaining summer of good health (both mental and physical).
Editor’s Note: Rebecca joined Derry Church in February 2020 and throughout the pandemic, sang hymns and anthems that were pre-recorded for our Sunday morning live streamed services. Recently Rebecca made another move to the eastern corner of Pennsylvania: she is now in King of Prussia preparing to start at a brand new office as a licensed professional counselor.
This year has been different from others, but in other ways, things have been very much the same: there’s always something happening across the building and grounds as we maintain, repair, and improve your church.
We had just replaced the commercial stove/ovens in the kitchen before the church ended in person services in March 2020. Back then we were also in the process of remodeling and upgrading room 6 on the lower level, as shown in the accompanying photo. That included new flooring, a wall of storage closets, and rearranging the cabinets for better and varied use of the classroom space. In September we began the long process of removal and replacement of the Sanctuary organ that is still under way. Jeff Miller (custodian) and I have worked to remodel and rearrange many spaces to allow for the organ installers to move huge pipes around and rewire everything.
Outside, the parking lots have been sealed and all the lines were repainted. Several of our large trees were pruned hard ( and a couple removed as part of our ongoing tree maintenance program that monitors the health of the beautiful trees that surround us. We will also be removing several trees from inside the cemetery wall because of the poor health of some trees and the damage being caused to headstones and the stone cemetery wall.
As the need for live streaming church services increased, I helped the installers with issues related to the building plans and wiring options for the completion of this large system upgrade.
During the time you were not here, we relied on our cleaning crew to deep clean under, behind and above every part of the building. The buildings and grounds committee has been working on and is about half done with planned lighting upgrades. The exterior is mostly done, and interior work should be done by fall. This project will increase the light quality, energy efficiency and safety throughout the property.
I don’t want to end without recognizing Jeff Miller. We have all been blessed with having Jeff as a very important part of the staff maintenance team and the helping hand on whom everyone relies. Thank you, Jeff. We wish you the very best as you begin your retirement in August.
I’m excited to share with you two summer worship opportunities happening later this month:
On Sunday, July 18 at 7 pm, I invite you to join me as I lead worship at the historic Mt. Gretna Tabernacle with Grant Wareham and some of our musicians. You’ll hear a new and updated version of “Checking Our Blindspots” that I preached at Derry last January.
I was scheduled to preach that sermon at Mt. Gretna last summer, then it was postponed because of the pandemic. I reworked the sermon for this past winter’s “Truth and Love” series and I’m revising it again for Mt. Gretna. We’ll have the fantastic Natalie Taylor sing a solo and our Derry Low Voice Ensemble will reprise their powerful Holy, Holy, Holy anthem. The Derry Brass will be there to play the prelude and postlude.
The Mt. Gretna Tabernacle is a covered outdoor space, so worship will be held rain or shine. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit Gretna, the 18th is the perfect time. Come early, grab dinner and explore the area. Or plan to stay after worship and enjoy ice cream from the one and only Jigger Shop with friends new and old.
I’m also happy to announce that Engage worship is back! Our Engage services are creative and participatory worship services that explore different musical genres and artists at each service (and yes the music does all tie into the scripture and worship themes).
On Saturday, July 31 at 6 pm, we will “engage” with the music of the great Billy Joel while considering the promise of God’s peaceable Kingdom and the power of community to help bring it to life. We’ll hear Grant bring Billy Joel to Hershey through piano renditions of favorites, we’ll have soloists sing some classics, and of course the congregation will get to sing along to some of Billy Joel’s greatest hits.
I hope you’ll join us for one or both of these extra worship opportunities, where masks are optional for all who are vaccinated. Both services will be a lot of fun, so come out to Mt. Gretna and join me in Engage worship featuring the music of Billy Joel.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In July we’re lifting up Elder Care. You can find the current month’s mission focus in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.
There is nothing better than seeing someone smile from ear to ear and knowing that you did something special to lift their spirits, brighten their day and help them feel loved. This spring, some of our Derry Church children and their families enjoyed working together to prepare gift bags for many of our senior friends who we knew were feeling the hardship of living in isolation during these covid times. Our hope was to share a gift of love with these friends and help lift their spirits.
These special gift bags were filled with “comfort” items which we hoped would be useful, cherished and enjoyed. One special item in each bag was a small wooden holding cross, a size that fits perfectly into the palm of your hand. Our wish was that these crosses would be loved and used often. Many of our senior friends wrote and shared that these crosses did just that; they brought a welcome and much needed sense of peace and comfort.
While our families enjoyed stuffing these bags full of fun items and treats, they also felt a deeper connection as they included a handwritten note from their family. What a blessing to receive a letter saying hello and offering a reminder that each and every one of us here at D.P.C. is being thought of and prayed for by their church family.
Sharing a passion for mission at an early age is a gift that will keep on giving. Finding ways for even our youngest friends to share God’s love with others is such an important part of one’s faith journey. In Proverbs 17:22 we read, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” The beauty of mission work is that a joyful heart can be seen in everyone involved…those who give and those who receive.
I hope you will enjoy reading a few of the many wonderful words of gratitude we received from our friends…
“Your visit, your gift bag and your prayers warmed my heart and I’m still smiling.”
“Thank you for the delicious treats, warm and loving thoughts, and most especially your continued prayers.”
“We placed your artwork, card and holding cross outside our door for our neighbors to enjoy as well. Thank you for thinking of us.”
“When I found the gift bag at my door, it did bring a smile to my face and warmed my heart to know that your thoughts and prayers are with me. It also reminded me of 80 plus years ago when the Easter bunny left a bowl full of goodies for me on Easter morning. What a treat!”
On the bad days of the pandemic, I wasn’t sure when or if we would be coming back in person to sing, to receive communion or even to have committee meetings. Those days I was just trying to survive the upheavals until a vaccine was available. Brad and I kept masking and stayed hunkered down in our home. Vaccinated now, I feel relieved but also cautious and anxious for those who, through no fault of their own, haven’t been able to get vaccinated — not just those around me, but those who live continents away.
Slowly, carefully, I’m venturing out. Like never before, I am now appreciating the chance to sing the doxology with others in worship and to hear the squirming of children behind me in church. I smiled when I watched someone nod off during the sermon (something I hadn’t noticed when preaching to the camera!) I am so glad to be present for a careful hug or pat on the shoulder. When you are ready, we are here for in-person worship.
A few weeks ago we sang “Holy, Holy, Holy,” a familiar hymn that celebrates the Trinity of God’s presence as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I’ve sung it all my life, but this time the hymn’s refrain connected with me in a new way. We sang during the communion prayer: “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” We gave praise that God comes to us in person as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
God is not remote or online or virtually present in our homes, like the checkerboard faces on our countless zoom meetings. God is not stored away and preserved in a cloud or flattened into a file on our desktops. Right now, this very moment, God abides in person with us. The Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament announced that the Almighty Creator would come and be with us, in person. God’s name would be Emmanuel which means “God is with us.” And that’s how we know Jesus, the presence of God in person, sitting right beside us in the people around us, in the beauty of creation surrounding us and in sounds of life and hope.
Take a moment wherever you are and look around. How do you see and hear God right now?
This summer, I hope you feel that in-person presence of God who continues to support, heal, guide, and sustain you during this journey.
And when you are ready, I look forward to seeing you in person, too.
As Derry Discovery Days’ 2020-21 school year has come to an end, one word summarizes the experience for myself and all of our teachers: GRATITUDE!
We are incredibly grateful to Derry Church, Session and the COVID Task Force for giving us the opportunity to open. We are grateful to our DDD families for trusting us during very uncertain times to keep their children safe and give them as normal a preschool experience as possible. And we are especially grateful for the children of DDD for being so resilient, wearing their face masks each day and never complaining.
I am forever grateful to the staff of Derry Discovery Days who worked tirelessly this year to maintain a safe environment for our students. Many thanks go out to Jill Felter, Rachel Bullard, Amy Yengo, Priscilla Berk, Amber Allen and Erika Manotti for coming to work every day during a pandemic, all the while juggling their own children’s very different school schedules. Their dedication and love of their jobs was truly evident this year!
This year we had 32 children enrolled at DDD with only two age groups meeting, our 3 Year Old Busy Bees and our 4 Year Old Butterflies in both the morning and afternoon. We did not open our two upstairs classrooms, our Ladybug 1s and Turtles 2s, given all of the unknowns with the pandemic at the beginning of the school year.
We made several adjustments to the way we operated with an increased focus on hygiene and sanitizing, a more stringent sick policy, a staggered start time, parents dropping off and picking up outside of the building, implementing a new app that includes a daily health screener and a check in/out process for contact tracing purposes. These changes were very successful and we plan to continue doing most of these in the 2021-22 school year.
We are excited to welcome two new Derry Church members to our DDD School Board: Sarah Bartz and Becca Farbaniec. Sarah and Becca both will have two children in our program this fall and both bring a great deal of professional experience to our board with their work at LVC and Penn State MSH Medical Center.
We plan to have all of our classrooms open for the 2021-22 school year, and we have openings in our Ladybugs 1s, Busy Bee 3s and Afternoon Butterfly 4s classes. Please contact me if you are interested in enrolling your child. Classes begin Tuesday, September 7 and we would love to have your children be a part of our DDD family!
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In June we’re lifting up refugees. You can find the current month’s mission focus in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.
Church World Service (CWS) is a faith-based organization transforming communities around the globe through just and sustainable responses to hunger, poverty, displacement, and disaster. CWS was formed in 1946, in the aftermath of World War II, as a response to the displacement crisis that had affected millions in Europe. Seventy-five years later, CWS continues its mission of supporting the vulnerable and the displaced, having offered resettlement services to over half a million refugees worldwide. CWS also sponsors the annual CROP WALK to raise funds for hunger relief.
Since 1987, CWS Lancaster has been committed to showing welcome to refugees, immigrants, asylum-seekers, and other uprooted people within the United States, who are seeking safety and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. CWS Lancaster expects to resettle more refugees in the coming 12-18 months than it has in the last three years combined.
To carry out this mission, we partner with caring churches, organizations, and individuals to provide hope and home to refugees and immigrants from all over the world. Our volunteers provide integral support to the families we serve—transporting them to medical appointments, offering English language learning support, and welcoming them into strong and steady community.
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 Presbyterian Church members. These interviews provide information about their lives and contributions to Derry and the community. Thanks to elder and retired Archives Director Pam Whitenack, who compiled John’s history for this week’s message.
Born into a military family, John Rawley spent much of his youth traveling and living around the United States and in the Philippines and Panama as his father was posted to new assignments. He spent every summer with his father’s parents who lived in Philadelphia and had a home in Avalon, New Jersey. His mother’s father, John Hershey, also lived in Philadelphia. While not related to Milton Hershey, his grandfather was a Hershey and as a boy John Rawley recalled attending two Hershey family reunions in Hershey, PA.
Immediately after graduating high school, John enlisted and served as a pilot during World War II, flying B29s and later B26s during the Korean conflict. In 1950, John married Linda Murray. After his discharge from service in Korea, John went to work for the Scott Paper Company, and held a variety of sales management positions. In 1964 he was serving as the company’s director of marketing.
One day in 1964, John Rawley got a letter from Bill Dearden, then Hershey Chocolate vice-president for sales, inviting him to come meet Bill in Hershey if he ever happened to be in the area. John related the story in his 1991 oral history interview:
So I got a letter from Bill Dearden one day, if I was in Hershey–this was in 1964–if I’d stop in to visit him, that they were considering starting a marketing department. As it happened, I was doing something with a task force that the governor had on business and government, and I had to go to Harrisburg.
So I called and made an appointment. It was on a Thursday that I was going to come up, because I had to be in Harrisburg on Friday, and I thought, “Well, I’ll stop in and meet Mr. Dearden.” On Thursday morning, it turned out that I had to change my plans, so I called and cancelled that appointment.
Shortly after lunch that day, a business associate of mine from Scott Paper Company called me and said, “John, I met a really remarkable man today at St. Joseph’s College.” I said, “Is that right?” He said, “Yeah. You’re going to meet him tomorrow. His name is Bill Dearden.” I said, “Vern, I cancelled that appointment.” He said, “John, don’t cancel it. Find a way to meet this man. It’ll be a very special experience for you.” So I called back and I said that I was able to come on Friday, and I then came up and met Bill that day. I met Harold [Mohler] and I met Gil Nurick. Gil was on Hershey’s board of directors. Three weeks later, I sold my home and moved to Hershey.
The Rawley connection to Derry happened quickly after they moved here.
We developed, immediately upon coming to Hershey, a close affiliation with the Derry Presbyterian Church, which is right adjacent to us, as a family, and became very active in the programs for that church. I served as an elder and a trustee in the church for a number of years, and our kids, we found, got great strength from our Christian friends there, as well as from Ira Reed, who was the minister at that time.
John had a daunting assignment at Hershey Chocolate. He was charged with establishing the company’s first marketing department. Hershey Chocolate was widely known for being a wildly successful brand that had achieved its success without the benefit of consumer marketing, but rather on the strength and quality of its products. As John described it, the company’s sales division was operating much as it had during Milton Hershey’s lifetime.
For the first four years, a very significant part of my energies was directed to the sales organization–restructuring it; introducing modern techniques of selling; identifying our customers; developing a reservoir of knowledge to build a sales organization, because you could not possibly invest in advertising and more sophisticated promotion unless you had a sales organization that had the capacity to implement those plans in the field.
To build the department, John recruited some of his colleagues from Scott Paper, a few of whom also became part of the Derry family, including Vern (and Joyce) Tessier. Vern Tessier was the person who had urged him to not cancel his appointment with Bill Dearden.
John retired from Hershey Foods Corporation in 1991 after having held several positions with the company including Director of Marketing, Director of Strategic Planning and finally Assistant to the CEO, Dick Zimmerman.
I have exciting news for the children and families of the church: Sunday School, fellowship fun times, and our newest special programs will continue through the summer! In a year that has been full of change, stress, and distance, we want to use the summer months as a time to reconnect and have fun as a church family.
Sunday School will continue virtually to allow children to join together from anywhere. As always, we love seeing kids every week, but we also love to see kids when it fits with their family’s schedule, so please log in anytime! Our studies will take us on a “wild adventure” as we discover and learn about various animals mentioned in the bible.
Fellowship opportunities will include field trips, art programs, mission projects, story time on the playground, and Kids Week 2021. Our Christian Education team is busy creating these opportunities for all ages to find something they can enjoy together as a family or for just the kids. Please keep a close eye on the weekly children’s emails to see what’s coming up!
This summer we’ll be offering field trips for families to meet up, spend quality time together, and maybe even find some of the biblical creatures we’ve learned about in Sunday School at our local zoos or out in nature. These field trips will be awesome for every age and are a wonderful opportunity to meet other families at the church.
For our youngest members, we will offer story time on the playground. We’ll introduce you to the newly updated church library and share some of our favorite books with you. After we finish reading, your family can enjoy playtime together on the playground. This is a wonderful way to make new church friends.
Families who prefer coming to events together will want to join us for our monthly family worship services, “Art Nights in the Grove,” “Hands on Ministry” mission projects, and our summer field trips. These offerings are created with all ages in mind and will bring families together to help grow their faith.
Kids Week 2021 will take the place of our traditional VBS program. Kids Week has been created specifically for the children of Derry Church (members and all who have joined us in the past year). In the week of July 12-14, children entering grades 3 through 7 are invited to gather with us in the evenings. Children age 4 through entering second grade are invited to gather with us in the mornings of July 14-16. We will be taking over the front lawn and transforming the space into our very own church camp. Our week together will offer the children a fun, comfortable, safe and exciting opportunity to gather with their church friends and grow closer to God and Jesus. This week will be memorable for sure!
Whether you have come to everything all year long or you took some needed time to focus simply on work and school, I invite you to rejoin your church family this summer.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In May we’re lifting up one recipient of the Pentecost Offering: the Boys & Girls Club of Harrisburg.
Along with the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted the Boys & Girls of Harrisburg, but we remain steadfast in our mission to provide a safe place for children to learn and develop into productive citizens. In a time when the future is uncertain and adults find it challenging to remain positive, our children’s safety and their access to quality opportunity continue to be our highest priority.
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed the Boys & Girls Club of Harrisburg to expand our mission by intently supporting the “whole family.” Since March 2020, the Boys & Girls Club has partnered with Harrisburg City Police Department, Harrisburg City School District, Camp Curtin YMCA, and Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, distributing grab-and-go dinners at both of our facilities helping to serve over 1,000 families per week. We continue to distribute meals today with our bi-weekly food pantries in collaboration with Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the Mid-West food Bank serving over 140 families.
The Boys & Girls Club of Harrisburg (BGCHBG) also collaborates with Representative Patty Kim’s “Community Schools” initiative at the John N Hall clubhouse, and has established multiple programs using a virtual platform model designed to impact our members such as Science Explorers, ABii, an education assistant robot and arts & crafts activities.
Our 2021 Summer Program begins June 14 and is expected to serve more than 100 children spanning the ages of 6 to 18. We have planned a fun and exciting experience for our members including S.T.E.A.M programs, computer literacy, vocational and gardening classes. The Camp will be stretched out over a full 12 hours where our membership will be divided into three age groups over the course of the day. We are thrilled to offer our children several new opportunities. The Boys & Girls of Harrisburg will receive a High Tunnel Greenhouse from the United States Department of Agriculture. The greenhouse is going to be a phenomenal opportunity to teach our children sustainable life lessons. BGCHBG will be a part of a pilot project across 12 cities that includes 200 Connectivity Zones. Through the Connectivity “LIFT” Zones, we are building a continuum of connectivity to support students and community members who need access to the internet and provide them with a connected experience in as many spaces as possible in this new environment.
Finally, we will embark on a great health care initiative called the “Scrubs Program” which focuses on health care careers such as Infection Prevention, Medical Lab Technician, Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Paramedic & EMT, Nurses, and Respiratory Therapist for middle school students.
Your support continues to enable us to live up to our motto. “THE SAFE POSITIVE PLACE FOR KIDS! GREAT FUTURES START HERE!!”
One of the things I enjoy most in my role as Derry’s Director of Communications and Technology is checking out new ways to keep all of us informed and connected — especially during a pandemic year when in-person gatherings have been few and far between.
Last year Derry Church plunged headlong into video and it paid off: we’ve doubled the number of subscribers to our YouTube channel from 223 a year ago to 450 today. While YouTube is great for getting the church’s worship services, adult education classes, cooking videos, sermons and Sunday music previews in front of a large audience, it’s not so great for two-way conversations that spark relationships and community. So last year the Communications & Technology Committee (CTC) began exploring ways we could connect through the use of text messaging.
CTC member Lori Klucker discovered these facts about texting:
- 90% of text messages are opened in the first three minutes after receipt
- 94% of text messages are read, compared to read rates of 29% on Twitter, 21% on email, and 12% on Facebook
- Average response rate to a text message is 90 seconds vs 90 minutes for email
- 7 out of 10 churchgoers use text messaging
The CTC agreed the time was right to try out a texting service built especially for churches, so last month I set up an account and dropped a blurb into the eNews just to see if anyone would sign up. I’m thrilled that 60 Derry friends have already signed up to try it out! Right now I’m texting Sunday morning reminders, and I envision that we will be growing the service to text two or three times a week with a variety of updates of interest to our members. Texting also gives us another platform to begin conversations and give users a quick and easy way to ask questions and even share prayer concerns.
If this sounds good to you, click here, scan the QR code at the top of the article, or text Derry to 717-820-9060 to start receiving general Derry Church reminders and updates.
If you text Tech to 717-820-9060 you’ll sign up for tech news and reminders to join the Monday afternoon tech time group on Zoom.
To discontinue either service, text STOP to 717-820-9060 automatically opt out.
In coming months, we’ll be expanding the service to visitors and new Derry friends who would like to know more about all that Derry Church has to offer. One of the cool features we plan to test is an option to “plan your visit” to Derry Church: visitors will be able to use the texting platform to make arrangements to attend in person.
If you’re not a person who texts, rest assured you can always keep up with Derry Church news by reading the weekly Thursday email and by checking the church website. Texting is great for many people, but it’s not for everyone.
While texting can’t solve every problem or answer every question, we hope it shows that Derry Church is a place that seeks to inform, connect, and engage with our community of faith.
During this “modern era” from 1924 until the present, Derry Presbyterian Church has seen immense changes in buildings, staff and in congregational members. In 1924 the Chapel (without the eastern transept) was the main worship area along with a cemetery and the Session House (not yet enclosed in glass). Reverend Robert Hayes Taylor (Pastor: 1916-1932) was the minister and he and his wife and five children became the first occupants of the recently built manse. By 1927, Derry no longer needed support from the Presbytery to maintain the church and minister and by 1932, the community of Hershey was growing and so was the church with a membership of 157 and Sunday school attendance at 211.
Reverend Taylor resigned in 1932 and was promptly replaced by Reverend John Corbin (1932-1940) who was ordained and installed in 1932 and served Derry until 1940. During Reverend Corbin’s tenure Derry added a financial secretary to the staff, adopted a new handbook and reestablished the distribution of a newsletter. A church organ was installed and dedicated in 1933. That year the Sunday school celebrated 50 years of active involvement (1883-1933). In 1935 the Chapel was remodeled and the east transept was added, all without a mortgage. Derry assumed partial support of several missionaries during this time and the portable Estey folding organ which we have recently resurrected was purchased in 1939 to be used during Sunday evening services on the front lawn.
Reverend William Longbrake (1941-1950) was installed in 1941, the same year that Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States entered World War II. In 1942 the church basement was used as an emergency first aid station. In 1944 Derry recognized 53 church members in the armed services and hung a service flag with 53 stars in the church. In 1949, when Derry celebrated its 225th anniversary, the church family included 500 members.
Reverend Sheldon Blair (1950-1959) assumed leadership in 1950 and oversaw the construction and dedication of the Education Building in 1951. He was also responsible for the planting of many of our magnificent oak trees on church property. Derry continued to grow with 220 new members joining the church during Blair’s tenure.
Reverend Ira Reed (1959-1987) was installed in 1959 and by then the church membership was getting too large for the Chapel. A new sanctuary was built and dedicated in 1966. In addition, offices, classrooms, a board room and lounge were added. In 1971, staff was increased by adding Directors of Music and Christian Education. Prior to Dr. Reed, Derry’s leadership consisted of Trustees, Deacons, and the Session. Under Rev. Reed, the boards were consolidated with the Session absorbing the responsibilities of the Trustees and Deacons. Dr. Reed has the distinction of being our longest serving senior pastor, leading Derry for 28 years.
After several interim pastors (David Birch and William Dando) the Reverend Dr. Richard Houtz (1990-2015) was installed in 1990 and with him came a more relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The sanctuary was remodeled in 1993-1994 with the addition of two trancepts, a narthex, Fellowship Hall, new offices, a nursery, choir room, lounge, elevator, and courtyard. Membership grew and new staff positions were added including Parish Associate Pastor, Rev. Dr. Marie Buffaloe, in 1997. New missions, church programs and a preschool program, Derry Discovery Days, began under Rev. Houtz and the board of Deacons was revived. The interior of the Sanctuary was updated in 2014 towards the end of Rev. Houtz’s 25 years with Derry.
2017 brought Reverend Dr. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker and his family. We have seen positive changes in our worship services with the augmentation of streaming technology, and our church Vision and Mission statements have been reviewed and revised. The newest member of Derry’s pastoral staff, Rev. Pamela Meilands, the Associate Pastor for Youth and Families, began work in August 2020 and will be installed on May 18, 2021.
Please join the Heritage Committee on Sunday, April 25 during the Sunday school hour to learn more about the ministers of the last 100 years.
I am fortunate enough to have a unique perspective on the youth program at Derry as I have had the opportunity to experience it from both sides. Having grown up in Derry, I was fortunate enough to experience the Derry youth program first-hand as a middle school and then high school student, and while the memory of many of those experiences has faded over time, many still remain. As a youth at Derry there was always the opportunity to experience and cultivate friendships while learning how to live our lives as a follower of Jesus. Some of my best friends in those days were also members of the youth program here at Derry and I would always look forward to youth group or Sunday School to be with those friends as we would delve into scripture and learn about what God wanted from us as Christians.
Now, as a parent to two daughters in the youth program, I have had the opportunity to experience the program in a different way, through the eyes of my children. And while many things have changed in this church since the days of my youth, one thing that has remained consistent is the emphasis on the youth of this church. And through all of the different youth leaders and programs that I have seen as an adult in this church, the other thing that has remained the same is that emphasis on cultivating friendships and relationships between the youth, while still guiding them in a life led by the teachings of Jesus.
Derry is unique in that youth from several different school districts worship here and this allows for middle schoolers and high schoolers to get to know other young adults their age, that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to know, because they attend a different school. Both Allison and Kendall have established strong friendships with kids that go to other schools, like Derry Township, Palmyra and Lower Dauphin and they count these friends as some of their very best.
With another Youth Sunday upon us, it once again reminds me what wonderful things our youth can do in the service of our lord. Every year that I have been involved with this very special service, I am amazed at what these young people put together and present to our church. The talents and abilities of these young people to lead and to present their experiences with each other as they follow Jesus, transcends the generations. Youth Sunday has gone from a day that many members of the congregation might choose as a good Sunday to sleep in or take a break from church, to a service that I believe everyone in the church looks forward to as a time when they will be moved by the words and actions of our youth, in ways that they did not believe to be possible. The comments we hear from people of many different generations shows me that the Derry youth program is vibrant and strong and clearly a driving force in the lives of our children, as it was for me many years ago.
I trust and believe that these young adults will carry their experiences as participants in the Derry youth program forward with them as they continue to determine their paths in life and as they evolve into the future leaders of, not only Derry, but any church that is lucky enough to have them.
Indeed I tell you, the future of the Church is in good hands.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In April we’re lifting up Community Involvement and Homes of Hope, Love INC of Greater Hershey’s transitional housing ministry. You can find the current month’s mission focus in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.
If you were a single mom who lost her job and were evicted from your home in Hershey, where would you go? Where could a family of three, surviving on minimum wages, turn if their landlord sold the rental property in which they were living? Residents of Hershey and Hummelstown would have to go into the heart of Harrisburg or Lebanon city to access family shelter resources.
Requests for housing assistance to Love INC of Greater Hershey have continued to rise, highlighting the ongoing gap in housing services in the greater Hershey area. A few years ago, dialogue regarding housing needs between Love INC, its partner churches, and the Hershey Ministerium became more frequent. There was a consensus that a housing option was needed to narrow this resource gap. A sister affiliate, Love INC of Lancaster County, has been transforming lives for over a decade through their transitional housing program, Homes of Hope. As a transformational ministry (as opposed to a rescue resource), Love INC proposed a similar Homes of Hope transitional housing program for our region.
Aside from funding, acquiring a property would be the greatest hurdle for establishing a housing program. Love INC was aware of a property on East Derry Road for sale at the time but did not have the funding to purchase any real estate. Soon after that home sold in 2017, a generous donor stopped by the Love INC office, held out a set of keys to the single-family dwelling, and said, “here are the keys to your first transitional home.” And so began Love INC of Greater Hershey’s Homes of Hope transitional housing program. In December 2020, the Love INC board approved the addition of a second Home of Hope, which just had its grand opening.
Homes of Hope is more than just shelter. The Homes of Hope program is a holistic, structured approach designed to address physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual needs and guide families toward self-sufficiency during their 18-24 month tenure. Participants are part of a team that provides encouragement, emotional support, and accountability that helps the family identify needs, establish goals, and develop a plan to reach them.
Since 2018, the program has had three participant families and is now interviewing for the opening in the second single-family home. Through the encouragement of their teams, these families have worked hard, opened savings accounts for the first time, and saved thousands of dollars towards housing, transportation, and other needs. Through God’s work in their lives and assisted by faithful volunteers and generous donors, we’ve witnessed renewed hope and restored self-confidence vital to the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.
“Don’t be afraid.” It’s the first word of Easter. The angel speaks this word because angels know this about us: We are almost always afraid. There is almost always something to be afraid of.
This past year has even made us fear each other. Some may fear those who are prejudiced, or we may fear political opponents whose desires conflict with what we see as our well-being, or we may fear each other as potential virus carriers. We’ve learned to keep our distance from one another, and not just physical distance. That’s the way things are now. But fear has never been far away.
The women who visited Jesus’ tomb carried spices. It’s the work the living do for the dead, one of the only things we can do. It’s practical work, but it’s also a gesture of love; it’s what we do when we can’t fix it.
They came to the cemetery. They hadn’t thought through their trip very well. Grief is sloppy like that. They didn’t know how they would actually get to Jesus: who would roll away the stone? They certainly couldn’t. They feared it would be a wasted trip, that there was nothing they could do, not even prepare Jesus’ body. They feared they were helpless to fix any of it.
That is what frightens us. Sooner or later, we all come to the end of our power, the end of our influence, and we recognize we are vulnerable because we lack the capacity to fix what has gone wrong.
Do you remember when you thought your parents could fix anything? My mom tells the story of believing her dad could fix anything. For the most part she was right: he was a brilliant engineer. Then one day mom learned the hard lesson that even dad can’t fix some things. Her balloon popped. She laid it on her dad’s work bench because dad can fix everything.
I think one of the worst feelings as a parent is when your child realizes for the first time that you can’t fix it, especially when she is desperate for you to do just that. We are all vulnerable. And that makes us afraid.
Everyone comes to the end of our capacities to make things right, to keep things alive. Everyone is vulnerable. You know what I’m talking about. This year we’ve worried about catching the virus and potentially spreading it to an at-risk loved one, so we are anxious when people get too close. Jobs have been eliminated without much warning, businesses have been shuttered, and we don’t know what’s next. Some of us have watched helplessly from afar as a loved one has struggled and even died. Some of us didn’t even get to say goodbye.
We do our best to avoid it, to protect loved ones, and many of you in the healthcare field have dedicated your lives to protecting others from death. But sometimes death wins. And we are all vulnerable, which is why fear is never far away; which is why the first, and perhaps most important, word of Easter is “Do not be afraid.”
At the end of the day and at the end of our lives, there is only God. When death comes, there is no more work to do. There are no more tasks to complete, there are no more battles to fight. There is only God. And because God is love, we can trust that all will be well and all manner of things shall be made well. Don’t be afraid. You can trust in love.
The women didn’t have to move the stone or prepare the body. Jesus wasn’t there. Death hadn’t won this time. Mark’s Gospel says the women didn’t say anything because they were afraid, but we know that changed. They faced their fear and chose to trust love. They found their voice and proclaimed the good news that God’s love is stronger than death and we need not be afraid.
There are so many graves, more this past year than there should have been, each one with a life that once was, each one with a name and a story. But don’t be afraid! The love of God that calls you by name, the love of God that is with you and for you, the love of God that will never let you go, that holy love: you can trust it with your life.
In life and in death, we belong to God. To me it feels like a long winter of losing many church friends. Compounded by isolation and restrictions from the pandemic, it has been a sad and difficult challenge to say goodbye to church leaders and friends. It has been a long season of grieving things and people we lost. And on recent Sundays, our memorial white rose, which honors a loss, seems a constant reminder.
Even in death, we belong to God. This comforting line begins one of our newer confessions of faith. As we approach Holy Week with the promise of Easter around the corner, I am reminded of God’s constant care and promise of abundant life. I am comforted that no matter what, I belong to God.
Several years ago, one of our members was suddenly overwhelmed by an infection. After years of being an active presence at church, she was quickly unresponsive with little that could be done. It was hard to believe as I visited, prayed, and saw her slowly slip away. I was sad and discouraged for myself and all of us. One afternoon I needed a break and visited the Hershey Gardens and spent time in the butterfly room. I had been there before and delighted in the colorful creatures who landed on my sleeve and flickered around like dancing rainbows. But I didn’t stop to notice them. Instead I headed right to the cocoon display. There hanging silently in rows were small, brown, wrinkled sacks. looking completely lifeless. One at the end of the row began to twitch slightly. I watched and another began to crack and a little wet substance appeared. I was mesmerized. A new creation was underway.
This image gave me a new appreciation for what was taking place in the hospital room. This tired, worn body appeared lifeless to me, but something was taking place. Mysteriously, I knew that as this frail life ended; soon a new life, totally different, would be emerging.
No wonder the butterfly became an ancient symbol of the resurrection. A beautiful new life awaits each of us. Because in life and in death we belong to a Creator God who redeems each of us and breathes into us a new wondrous existence, there’s a resurrection around the corner for each of us.
At a recent funeral, in a cemetery atop a beautiful mountain view, I shared the words of a favorite hymn. Although it’s new to our hymnal, we’ve sung it often. Here are a few verses:
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
in our doubt, there is believing; in our life, eternity;
in our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
And so we wait, believe and trust.
Hymn of Promise by Natalie Sleeth, 1986, is #250 in our Glory to God Hymnal.
A Brief Statement of Faith was written in 1991 and is part of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Its first line is a reminder of an older creed (The Heidelberg Catechism, 1563) that begins with the question: What is my only hope in life and in death? The answer: I am not my own, but belong — body and soul in life and in death —to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
This week, exactly one year ago, I was on a cruise ship. It was a chartered cruise designed for nerds and gamers of all varieties. The dining room held a board game lending library, there were tabletop role playing games scheduled throughout the week, the guest list included popular podcasters and science fiction authors, and instead of classes on towel folding or wine tasting, there were retro video game tournaments and Broadway sing-a-longs.
COVID-19 was real and it was in the back of all of our minds but it hadn’t become the menace we now know it to be in America (though, by the end of the cruise, that had certainly changed). Everyone had their temperature checked before we boarded the boat. Throughout the week at sea, crew members were at nearly every door with a bottle of hand sanitizer and passengers dutifully allowed them to pump some of the gel onto their hands each time we passed a station. A passenger who spends his daily life as a virologist held daily “office hours” in one of the ship’s common spaces to answer any questions that he could about the disease and how it spreads. We felt safe.
The cruise was cancelled this year. It would have been its 10th anniversary sailing. The boat would have set sail last Saturday with just over 2,100 nerds and geeks for what is essentially a comic-con at sea and, before its cancellation, I was scheduled to be on it.
As we mark one year of living with COVID-19 in the US, it’s hard not to look back at all of the things that we’ve lost: activities cancelled, holiday celebrations moved to Zoom, vacations postponed.
It’s my hope that you can also look back and see the things that you have found. Perhaps it’s time with family and a return to sharing dinner together each night. Maybe you brought a new furry – or scaly – friend into your home. COVID-19 forced me to slow down a bit and one of the things that I found was a new and healthier sense of self care. I discovered a new joy in cooking and, as an extension, in eating. I took delight in pampering myself with at home manicures each week. Spending so much time with myself, I found my way into a deeper and more meaningful life of mindfulness and prayer and I found my voice and the courage to speak out against the injustices I see in the world.
I mourn for the things that I lost, especially this week as I recall stories and events from the Dominican Republic and Half Moon Key, the ship full of nerds, and the excitement I felt as I signed up to sail again this year. But I am so very grateful for the things that I have found. As vaccines continue to be administered and life hopefully returns to a sense of normalcy, it is my sincere hope that not everything goes back to exactly the way it was. I want more than anything to hold onto the things that I found during this past year and to let them guide me into the future.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for that month. In March we’re lifting up the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.
The One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering is an integral part of Derry’s and the Presbyterian Church USA’s (PCUSA) observance of the season of Lent. This year’s offering is being received through Easter Sunday, April 4.
Millions of people in the world lack access to sustainable food sources, clean water and sanitation, adequate housing, education, opportunity, and hope. The OGHS Offering is shared almost equally among three PCUSA programs: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA); Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP); and Self-development of People (SDOP). Each program works in different ways to remedy these deficiencies in the United States and around the world and to provide people with safety, sustenance, and hope.
Because of COVID-19, many of the following programs have undergone modifications to use a virtual platform to provide support:
PRESBYTERIAN DISASTER ASSISTANCE (PDA) is well-known for its rapid response to natural and international disasters as it supplies funds to help initiate the recovery process. In recent years this has been readily apparent following hurricanes, the California wildfires, typhoons, and several earthquakes. This year efforts have been directed at building up local support in order to respond more rapidly to an emergency situation. PDA is also involved in programs supporting the refugee crisis in Syria, South Sudan, and the southern US border.
PRESBYTERIAN HUNGER PROGRAM (PHP) works to alleviate hunger and eliminate the root causes. Some of this is accomplished through providing animals, bees, and seeds, promoting better crop selection and agricultural methods, fair trade practices, and family gardens. They seek to supply better and more nutritional foods, secure loans for income-producing projects, tree planting, and establish wells and sanitation systems.
SELF-DEVELOPMENT OF PEOPLE (SDOP) works in partnership with people in economically poor areas in the United States and around the world. The aim is to invest in communities responding to their experiences of oppression, poverty and injustice, and helping them develop solutions to their particular problems in areas such as cooperatives and workers’ rights, farming, skills development, and immigration/refugee issues.
Your gifts to the OGHS Offering will be shared equally with the PCUSA and Bridges to Community (BTC), the non-profit organization which has coordinated Derry’s trips to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic for the past 20 years. Similar to the efforts of PCUSA, BTC is building houses in areas struck by hurricanes and earthquakes. With the BTC model, new homeowners are encouraged to pay into the local community fund, which can then be used by the community at their discretion for selected improvement projects. In other areas, planting and maintaining fruit trees is part of the payback. This past year the northeast coast of Nicaragua was struck by three Category 4/5 hurricanes, causing roof loss and extensive crop damage. Derry’s continued support of BTC will be directed at home repairs and planting plantain as a cash-crop for next year. Unfortunately, last year and this year, we are unable to travel with BTC because of the pandemic.
Our Mission and Peace Committee has set a goal of $15,000 for this year’s OGHS. You may give online or by check made out to Derry Presbyterian Church and notated OGHS. Taken together, your contributions to the OGHS Offering will enable both PCUSA and BTC to assist many people with the opportunity to improve their quality of life. Thank you for your generous support!
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3
Within about one hour of our beautiful baby boy Hayden arriving on July 19, after a LONG 26 hours of labor, the words “Down syndrome” came out of the resident’s mouth. I honestly don’t really remember what she said or why she thought Hayden had Down syndrome. Was I shocked? Yes. How was it possible that I have a sister with Down syndrome and now I might have a son with Down syndrome? At that moment did I care? Not really. I was relieved and ecstatic that he was finally here. After going through a miscarriage the year before, we just wanted our baby.
I never thought that we, as parents, sinned to “deserve” Hayden’s diagnosis. He definitely did not either. Actually, most days I think “wow, we must have done something pretty awesome to deserve Hayden, to be blessed with him in our lives.”
We are part of the lucky few. I like to say we are double blessed with both Hayden and Angela, my sister, in our family. Don’t get me wrong- some days are harder than others and sometimes our worries are different than I originally imagined- like living through a pandemic with a child with a diagnosis on the CDC’s high risk list. But all parents have their hard days and their worries- typical children or not.
When speaking about the blind man Jesus said “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” God presents us all with challenges, with bad news, with hard stuff to remind us of his work. In Hayden’s short 19 months in our lives so far, he has shown us God’s work.
God has given Hayden determination as one of his strengths. Down syndrome or Trisomy 21 is a genetic condition caused by three copies of the 21st chromosome. Typically people have two of each chromosome. Low muscle tone, also known as hypotonia, is one of the many health conditions associated with Down syndrome. This makes it harder to do many things- eating, talking, crawling, grasping, walking- you name it. After Hayden rolled over for the first time at three weeks, I knew he had determination in his heart! We may be on the “scenic route” and it might take him a bit longer to reach milestones but boy is he determined to reach them!
Individuals with different abilities were put on this earth as a reminder that we are ALL unique and have different abilities. We all bless those around us with the abilities that God has given us. At 19 months old, I’m not sure yet what all of Hayden’s abilities are or how he is going to make a difference in the world. But I have discovered in that short time that he is full of personality. And I pray that his smile, laughter and big personality will continue to make friends, family and strangers smile and brighten their days.
Hayden’s diagnosis has shown us that God will always provide. There truly is this Down syndrome “tribe,” the “lucky few” as I referenced earlier. We are blessed to know the parents and families of Angela’s friends who are part of our tribe. Social media has also been a great resource for us. The Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network (DSDN) is the largest national organization that provides support to new and expectant parents with a Down syndrome diagnosis. They do an amazing job of connecting parents, providing support and providing accurate and up to date information to parents, families and medical providers. When Hayden was born we received a “welcome” package with books, a onesie and lots of information. I also joined a “birth club” on Facebook which includes moms of babies born with Down syndrome from July-December 2019. That group has been a lifesaver. They have been incredibly helpful, I love networking with the other moms and I am able to provide some advice from growing up with Angela.
March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day and we would love for you to celebrate with our family. It is an official day to spread awareness about Down syndrome and how awesome individuals with Down syndrome are. A simple way to join in the fun is to “rock your socks” by wearing your craziest pair of mismatched socks. Why do you ask? Because chromosomes look like socks and it allows us all to celebrate our differences! We would love to see pictures of all of our Derry friends. Our family will be celebrating by wearing our mismatched socks, our “Hayden’s Heroes” t-shirts, walking a virtual 5K and sharing how much money we will be donating to the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Networks through various fundraisers.
The best way to honor individuals with Down Syndrome and celebrate is to become more informed, check-out the DSDN and PLEASE ask us questions!! If you do not already, follow me on social media and I will share facts leading up to WDSD (Facebook: Lauren Basti Talhelm; Instagram: t21.mama.and.son). We look forward to celebrating our gifts from God together!
Click this link for information about the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network, links to my social media accounts and our various fundraising efforts.
Over the last few weeks I have been planning, creating and preparing Lent Kits for the children of Derry. Working in ministry I am blessed with the opportunity to focus on each season far in advance. It always feels like Advent ends and immediately I move into Lent preparations. This year, while I experienced the same shift from one season to the next, the preparation for Lent became extra special for me. Teaching remotely over the last year has not been easy! Finding ways to help children and families want to learn more from home and, and at the same time, add more to today’s incredibly hard, stressful and overburdened days has certainly been a challenge. But challenges are a great driving force to help educators create some of their best and most meaningful lessons.
The process of planning what would be inside each Lent Kit became a wonderful distraction from my current daily routine. Reading, researching and brainstorming how I can help children ready themselves for the season of Lent was almost therapeutic for me. The search for the perfect items I wanted to use reminded me of the joy of egg hunts and Easter baskets. And the preparation of each kit gave me time to prepare my own heart and mind for the coming season of Lent.
The planning process was full of questions:
- What will kids need?
- How can I keep learning really easy, lots of fun and at the same time keep it meaningful?
- Why should families participate and add to parents’ already full plates?
- Which items from my list are the best to include?
Those early days of planning, the non stop questioning and decision making moments created the framework “I” needed to pause everything else in life and only think about my relationship with God.
All of a sudden there was a new sense of comfort as I reread stories I have heard over and over again, and these memories of the past made me smile as I recalled what this season brings to each of us. We get to follow Jesus along his journey and relearn the power of prayer, kindness and love for all. We watch as our world moves from the dark, cold and harsh days of winter to the vibrant, warm and reviving days of spring…the real life connection to the amazement and beauty of Jesus’ resurrection.
The creating and collecting phase is my favorite part of any lesson or unit. Finding just the right items to fit each story and each emotion is like gift shopping for those we love. Choosing items like an empty colorful Easter egg to symbolize the Empty Tomb, or dissolving paper to write out your sins and then watch as you ask God for forgiveness and see them disappear in water right before your eyes, lets the children use everyday items or a little magic to bring them closer to God. Including a holding cross to use as they pray, when they need strength or comfort or to calm their anxieties, will help remind them that God is with us always. And my favorite addition to any lesson or unit is the use of something made by a Derry member. Elizabeth Gawron created a Lenten placemat for the children to enjoy, which includes games and activities that bring the children closer to the bible and are surrounded by a unique and beautiful Lent labyrinth to use as they talk with God.
With all the contents of the Lent Kits chosen, collected and copied, it was now time to complete each kit. As I worked to put these bags together for the children, I was blessed with time alone. I was able to be “in the moment” and enjoyed having uninterrupted time with God. As we begin this season, I encourage you to make a little time each day to be “in the moment” with God. I pray that this time can bring you what you are craving. These days are certainly not easy. They are filled with newness around each bend, and often feel like a constant uphill battle. I encourage you to let God walk through these days with you, let God carry some of your burdens, and let God fill you with love, patience and comfort so that you may feel all the emotions the season of Lent offers us.
Creating these kits and choosing just the right items are much like how we prepare our homes and hearts for Lent. As you bring out the colorful eggs, the cute bunny decorations, the signs adorned with words of hope and affirmations, the baskets, and the flowers, may you place them around your homes to serve as daily reminders of God’s love for you. When shopping for the perfect sweet treats to fill Easter baskets, may it remind you of the joy and comfort you feel when you invite God into your life. And when you wake up on Easter morning and “come” to worship, I pray you will be filled with strength and peace and be able to rejoice for God’s unending love for you!
I pray that this season of Lent will bring you the fun and joy of an Easter egg hunt, realizing that even colorful plastic eggs can serve as reminders of Jesus. May you find God in plain sight on the good days and hiding in unexpected places on the tough days. I hope you can be filled with peace and hope as you anxiously wait for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the reminder that he continues to live within each of us. May Easter morning let you feel great joy…a kind of joy that only God and Jesus can let us feel.
Take care, my friends!
Editor’s Note: Joanne wrote this article for a May 2020 edition of the eNews, then publication was postponed as pressing pandemic messages took precedence. Now as we approach Lent and we’re about to begin the sermon series, “Who You Meet on the Way to Jerusalem,” it seems the perfect time to share this message about Joanne’s trip to the Holy Land and some of the people she met on her travels.
A tour of the Holy Lands was never at the top of my bucket list and yet, after experiencing an amazing trip in early 2020, I encourage you to consider the possibility – at some point post-pandemic. About two years ago, I was intrigued by a brochure from my daughter’s church in Northern Virginia that detailed an upcoming trip and I decided to jump on the tour bus with those Methodists and other tag-alongs. As a result of my experiences in the Holy Lands, I will never read the Bible, listen to the news from the Middle East or look at a map of the area in the same way again.
Did you know that the Sea of Galilee is actually a freshwater lake and not nearly as big as you might imagine? Other observations included shepherds still herding their sheep just outside of Jerusalem, learning about real forms of life at the bottom of the “Dead” Sea while effortlessly floating on its waters and realizing that even in the middle of the desert it is cold and snows in January. I also learned that the geography of the West Bank is best compared to that of Swiss cheese and is very removed in many ways from the Gaza Strip.
One of my most memorable moments was participating in a communion service at the Garden Tomb while hearing the Muslim call to prayer being blasted in the background. It was a moment of understanding that the Holy Lands is an amazing place that tries to combine many cultures and faiths into the daily pattern of life for its residents and visitors.
While planning a trip to the Holy Lands, I strongly recommend finding a local tour guide who can put a Middle-Eastern perspective on everything you see and experience. Our tour guide was a Palestinian Catholic gentleman who grew up in Old Jerusalem and lives there with his wife and daughters.
At the top of my list of experiences were the two dinners I enjoyed in the homes of two very different local families. The first dinner was hosted by a Palestinian Catholic family who lives in Bethlehem and is able to trace their ancestors through their local parish all the way to the beginning of current record keeping – more than 400 years ago! They are a wonderful, gracious family who told us they feel like they are prisoners under Israeli rule. For example, most Palestinians are not allowed to use the TelAviv airport and instead must travel to Amman, Jordan to board a plane. My second dinner was hosted by a Jewish family who keeps Kosher in Tel Aviv. They were equally as gracious and happy to share their unique perspective on life in Israel. I quickly realized that, although they desperately want it, there will probably never be peace in this region, especially with the corruption that was evident and the long and diverse cultural history.
After 10 days in Israel, we crossed the border to the country of Jordan. Jordan can be nicknamed the “Switzerland” of the Middle East due to its neutral alignments. It was very different than Israel but no less fascinating. The population of Jordan is 98% Muslim but that doesn’t stop alcohol sales or western influences. I recommend including Petra, Jerash and banks of the Dead Sea on your Jordan itinerary.
Although my new post-COVID travel destination bucket list includes many places, I would love to explore the Holy Lands again someday. I felt very safe throughout my trip and although the area lacks natural beauty, it more than makes up for that in cultural and historical significance – especially for those looking to experience the food and people, to learn more about the origins of our Christian faith, or to literally retrace the steps of Christ.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In February we’re lifting up homelessness. The current month’s mission focus is included in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.
In the spring I received a text from one of our Medical Outreach Nurses: “Pastor, I know we don’t normally do this, but I have a patient who lost his job and is way behind in rent. Is there anything we can do?”
At Christ Lutheran Church, we know well those who experience homelessness. Our Health Ministries clinics serve many homeless patients. Our mission is to provide for the basic health needs of our community. When a client has a housing need, we turn to one of our wonderful partner organizations, like Christian Churches United, who specialize in that kind of assistance. But during the pandemic, many we served who did not ordinarily have housing needs were suddenly facing dire situations because of the effects of the health crisis.
Fortunately, and I might even add, miraculously, United Way of the Capital Region reached out early in the pandemic offering a grant for us to respond to the basic needs (housing, food, clothing, medical) our neighbors were now facing. Christ Lutheran’s mission has focused on health needs, but during this crisis we have been able to offer emergency support to help keep people from becoming homeless and put food on the table. The nurse who texted me was able to tell her patient that we would work with his landlord and get him caught up on rent.
Many of our clients are immigrants who did not receive any assistance from the government stimulus. They were those who needed it most. That was the case with a family from Mexico with two young daughters. The husband lost his restaurant job in Hershey and within a couple weeks was unable to pay rent. We were able to cover two months’ rent and take the mother to get groceries. This family would have become homeless, but it didn’t take much to fill the gap and now they are back on track.
Another family of five recently immigrated from Nigeria. Both parents quickly found jobs in local warehouses but were laid off for several weeks due to the pandemic. We were able to cover their rent for two months until their jobs opened again. Members at Derry Church also helped provide a wonderful Christmas morning for their three sons, including new jackets and bikes!
We provided rental assistance for one family when both parents lost their jobs. After months, the husband was finally able to find work but was then injured and out of work again. They just couldn’t catch a break and had no other options. For those who are trying to do everything right, homelessness can quickly creep in.
We all know that homelessness takes many different shapes and the causes are unique and varied. The COVID crisis revealed just how vulnerable to homelessness many of our neighbors are. Folks who pride themselves on their hard work and ability to provide for their families are suddenly facing the very real possibility of homelessness.
Thanks to the relationships our nurses and providers have with our neighbors and emergency support from United Way and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, we have been able to help even just a few individuals in their time of greatest need. Thanks be to God, and our village of support, and to God be the glory!
In late 2019, the Christian Education Committee approved formation of a subcommittee to explore the needs of individuals who are differently abled or who live with sensory or perceptual challenges. In line with our church’s vision “to be an inquiring, inviting and inclusive Christ-centered community,” we wanted to become aware of any barriers in our Church’s structures, communication or attitudes that might hinder full participation in congregational life. Although all members approached the work from differing backgrounds and life experiences, all are committed to finding ways to serve all of God’s people.
Our initial meeting defined goals for the subcommittee:
- Research ways in which churches increase/improve their ability to include individuals with special learning needs and accommodation needs into their congregational life
- Examine ways in which Derry includes and accommodates for individuals who are differently abled or who live with sensory or perceptual challenges
- Make recommendations regarding ways in which Derry can support individuals with cognitive, perceptual, attentional, mobility or sensory challenges into all aspects of congregational life
Subcommittee members committed to researching relevant materials and to making personal contacts with area churches which advertise “Disability Ministry.”
As we researched this very broad topic, we realized that we needed to define the demographics to be considered: individuals with vision loss, hearing loss, mobility impairments, intellectual and sensory differences and behavioral challenges. All age groups should be considered. As we researched and made personal visits, we found many common themes:
- Assessment is critical as well as re-assessment of needs
- Follow up from assessment is essential
- Recommendations should be based on congregational needs
- Education for greeters, ushers, teachers, aides is essential
- 15-20% of the populational have some functional challenges
As the pandemic closed our building, our subcommittee continued with virtual meetings. We defined the ways in which Derry currently includes and accommodates: ramps, handicap accessible doors, large print Bibles and bulletins, auditory amplifiers, quiet lounge with audio as well as accommodations for individual learning differences within classrooms. We confirmed that the first step forward needed to be assessment of needs.
Published congregational needs assessments from Presbyterians for Disability Concerns, Lutheran Initiatives, and Congregational Accessibility Network formed a framework from which the subcommittee developed a six-question survey to give a more complete picture of any barriers which might hinder full participation into congregational life by individuals who are differently abled. Staff reviewed the survey and all involved concluded that the unusual and evolving operational challenges experienced during the pandemic made this a less than optimal time for survey distribution.
The subcommittee pivoted to consider how to be most helpful during this time of limited in person gatherings. Informational material was developed and published in the eNews with tips to help individuals with mild hearing or vision loss achieve optimal access to virtual meetings.
As in person activities resumed in summer and fall, the reservation form was modified to include the statement, “If you have accessibility needs which may impact your full participation in worship, please let us know how we can help.”
Here we are, one year later. Our subcommittee is committed to assuring that everyone has access to full participation in all church experiences. Our next step will be distribution of the Individual and Family Needs Assessment, which asks if cognitive, mobility, perceptual, attentional or sensory challenges have limited their access to church activities or worship and how we can help. As with all aspects of church life, timing of the assessment survey will be driven by community wellness, building access and staff discretion.
Along with all of our church family, we look forward to the day when our doors are fully open and we can continue the process of assuring access for all. Assess needs, develop targeted plans, provide education, and assess again: we can’t wait to involve our caring and compassionate congregation in this endeavor.
If you are experiencing accessibility challenges which impact your access to online worship or educational opportunities at church, please call the church office (717-533-9667) and your concern will be directed to someone who can help.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them, I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. Isaiah 42:16
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40
Celebration! The word on my Epiphany star which I received from Derry last January. It was easy to think about Celebration coming into the new year knowing that we had two trips planned, a beach week, and family celebrations. New beginnings are easy to celebrate. I have that star posted where I can see it every day.
As we returned from a two-week trip to Florida, blissfully unaware of how serious the situation with the virus was here in Pennsylvania, things began to change. It was March 13 and by the time we got home from the airport, the schools were planning to close for two weeks. Since we had been away, we hadn’t stocked up on essentials and found them in short supply.
The next several weeks were an adjustment for all of us. Choir practices were canceled, church was closed, going anywhere seemed to be a risk. We used Giant Direct, brought the groceries in and disinfected the packages. If we had to go into a store, we wore gloves in addition to masks. Due to the shortage of cleaning materials, I made my own bathroom cleaner and still use it.
I realized this would be how we would be living for quite some time and it seemed to me that instead of swimming against the tide the best thing to do was to go with the flow. It was enjoyable to see families we had never met taking neighborhood walks. I began to embrace it, looking at it as an opportunity to organize files, drawers, and closets. I dug through family files that I had long ignored. In that activity, I found many interesting pieces of my family history, some of them disturbing, but worth acknowledging. I found a new kind of quiet.
I decided that the best thing to do was not to think about what had been taken away but what had been given during this time. For me it was the gift of time, time to not be so busy and time to prioritize what I do with my life. Probably the most difficult was the three month separation from the grandchildren but even that was not at all as heartbreaking as what many families endured. So many had to say goodbye to loved ones without the benefit of a celebration in church. So many were unable to visit their older relatives. My challenges have been small in comparison.
As the time has gone on, I have found ways to find joy in each day and I have been eternally grateful for what Derry Church has done to help us stay connected, to provide meaningful worship, and offer online support. Being able to sing in a small group was a new experience for me and I enjoyed it. Friends of mine who do not have this from their churches tell me how fortunate I am.
I know that I have the resources to successfully get through whatever is ahead in the coming months and I know each day I am able to embrace the Epiphany star and find a way to make this challenging time one of celebration, albeit different, still Celebration!
At 7:30 am, Tuesday, October 29, 2019, we boarded the Presbyterian Education Board (PEB) bus at the headquarters in Lahore, Pakistan, for the two-hour drive to Sargodha. We 11 Derry travelers were greeted by the entire student body, Christian and Muslim. Kindergarten children dressed as fairy tale characters, that month’s curriculum theme, presented us with bouquets of roses. There were hats and scarves for the men. The older students danced and drummed and sang. We toured the elementary school displays of science projects and visited classrooms in both the boys and girls schools.
At the Christian Girls Boarding House 74 girls greeted us with huge smiles. Debbie Hough told them how much Derry cares for them. “We want you to study hard, be healthy, and pray, so that you are strong in mind, body, and heart.” We sang “Jesus Loves Me” with them, and many of them knew the refrain in English. We each chatted with a small group of girls. When I asked, English got several votes for favorite subject, then science. They have big dreams. Most said they want to be teachers, others said scientists. We were impressed and inspired by their enthusiasm for learning and their appreciation for education.
Like parents everywhere, Pakistani parents want the best education possible for their children. So they seek a private school, not a government or Taliban school. But many of them are poor, and a good education is out of reach. PEB’s mission is to provide enduring, high quality education of mind, body and spirit to individuals of all religious backgrounds, regardless of their ability to pay. They are highly regarded schools in their communities and continue to grow.
For ten years, Derry Church has maintained a partnership with PEB. PEB operates 25 schools, primary through high school, including some boarding schools, that serve more than 5,900 students. Derry, through the Friends of Sargodha group, has a particular relationship with the schools in Sargodha. Our goal is to provide ten scholarships every year. You can help.
A full scholarship for a day student is $370 a year, about a dollar a day. We are dividing that amount into ten shares, $37 each, to offer you the opportunity to support a portion of a scholarship.
You can purchase one or more shares by writing a check to Derry Church notated “Pakistan Scholarship” or giving online through the church website and selecting “Pakistan Scholarship.” Whether you are able to give one share, three, or 15, together we can fulfill the dreams of ten students in 2021. PEB students will thank you for the precious gift of education that will help them contribute to positive changes in society as citizen-leaders in their communities, churches, their country and the world. Who knows? – your student may one day be the one to change the world.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In January we’re lifting up women’s equality, justice and opportunity.
This Thanksgiving holiday was vastly different for Stop the Violence (STV), an organization in Harrisburg dedicated to providing counseling for women of domestic violence, as well as providing food, clothing, gifts and school supplies to families in need. Stop the Violence gave away over 50 Thanksgiving baskets and, for the first time in 25 years, had no food left over. Stop the Violence was unable to purchase turkeys from the Food Bank this year, but a friend of mine who works with a non-profit organization offered us almost four dozen turkeys (they also had hams to hand out). God is always intervening and keeping watch over those with the greatest need.
The Christmas season was also different this year. Many families signed up for food baskets instead of toys for the kids because they are destitute. There are many families that are really suffering: they have no money, they cannot pay their bills, they are getting ready to be evicted, and they have family members that have died (or are dying) from COVID-19. Suicide is on the rise.
I’ve been consumed with consoling those who lost loved ones and praying for those who are still sick in hospitals. I’ve made many phone calls and sent texts to encourage people that are having a hard time with pandemic. Many people are isolated and are afraid to go out. This has been one of the hardest Christmas seasons I’ve ever seen.
Despite these hardships, we’ve been working to counsel women and families, provide food baskets, deliver toys and new coats to the children, and provide small Christmas trees and decorations to try to bring joy into the community. We’ve provided blankets to seniors and children thanks to a volunteer whose women’s club made and donated over 50 quilts. God has been so good through all the tears, broken hearts, death and sorrow. God makes it possible to make a difference no matter what the situation. God turns attitude into gratitude.
I love to read the books of the prophets in the Old Testament because they are God’s messages for a hurting and broken world. They instruct us how to live and how to do better, but they also share words of hope, healing, comfort, and love. I need to hear one of those messages, especially this year, so I’ve turned to the prophet Isaiah.
One of my favorite passages is Isaiah 40, “Comfort, Comfort Ye my people!” In this passage God instructs the prophet to get up to a high mountain, to lift up his voice and say to those who are suffering, rest assured, “Here is your God. God is right here and has been here all along. You are not alone.”
The prophet addresses suffering people. They feel like they’ve been wandering in the dark, abandoned by God, and forgotten by the world. These people who long to hear some good news are given a prophet who climbs a mountain and looks out over the mass of suffering people and says, “Here is your God.”
We are the prophets today. We are the ones called to “Go tell it on a mountain” and proclaim the presence of a loving, steadfast God.
Last Saturday, we premiered this year’s Christmas musical offering, “Tis the Season: Music and Memories.” One of the songs we featured was a favorite from last year’s concert, “The Dream Isaiah Saw.”
The dream refers to the prophet Isaiah’s vision of God’s creation restored to peace and harmony through the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1-5). It is the panoramic view of the future Messianic Kingdom. The song comes from a poem by Thomas H. Troeger, “Lion and Oxen Will Sleep in the Hay.” The composer Glenn Rudolph began to set this poem to music toward the end of July 2001. Nineteen days after September 11, he completed this choral work. It captures the contrast of the chaotic world we live in with Isaiah’s dream calling for us to “walk in the light of the Lord.”
Here is an excerpt of the poem:
Peace will pervade more than forest and field:
God will transfigure the violence concealed
deep in the heart and in systems of gain,
ripe for the judgement the Lord will ordain.
Little child whose bed is straw,
take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
justice purifying law.
Nature reordered to match God’s intent,
nations obeying the call to repent,
all of creation completely restored,
filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.
This is why we proclaim the prophetic message of hope, healing, comfort, and love while these dark days surround us.
We live in what often seems like a dark, divided, and dangerous world – a world so counter to the words like hope, peace, joy and love. And yet, out of faith, out of conviction, and out of courage, we defy this darkness and proclaim that love has come: a light in the darkness. We proclaim the dream Isaiah saw, the dream Christ promised, and the dream Christ will ultimately fulfill.
We proclaim this good news and we wait, just as our mothers and fathers waited. We wait in the dark, we watch for the light. Each year, as the days grow short and the nights dark, as the years turn and turn again and though it strains our collective memory to do so, we remember. We remember that God came to us and lived among us, a peasant born to a Palestinian virgin, an itinerant preacher hated by the religious and executed by the powerful. We remember, and we wait for his return. But we will not wait in silence because the world needs to hear the promise of the light, a son, and a savior.
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:9)
It was late November, cold and brisk with snow on the mountains in the Laurel Highlands. Brad and I faintly heard the deep harmony of the 40 huge wind chimes as they blew in the stiff breeze. They call it the ‘tower of voices’ at the entrance of the Flight 93 memorial in rural western Pennsylvania. It greets those who arrive with wordless voices of inspiration from the 40 passengers and crew who selflessly gave their lives to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. On that morning we were unaware that we were already at war, until teams of terrorists hijacked and killed innocent people of all ages and destroyed more than iconic buildings. They tried to destroy our hope.
As the hijack began on Flight 93, passengers called loved ones to say goodbye and then learned of the earlier attacks. That’s when these 40 strangers became a unified army of warriors. With unprecedented courage they fought back, sacrificing their lives in order to protect the lives of those they did not know. Instead of crashing into the White House as planned, this plane’s target was averted and saved. Tragically the plane was crashed into this empty field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone. This powerful, simple memorial is the hallowed resting place for these heroes.
With all our current national discord and divisiveness, I yearn for the commitment seen on that airplane decades ago, that sets aside personal desires for one’s self and individual rights and instead chooses something far greater as a goal. Amid the many items left as memorials on this site, one note stood out to me. The letter simply said,
“I was near the White House that morning and I believe you saved my life. I promise not to waste it.”
What are you and I doing with the one precious life we have been given?
I hope we are not wasting it, after so many have and are working courageously in battles to protect us. My hope is that we can be unified to attack an enemy and not one another.
It made me think of others who became warriors, never expecting or volunteering to go to war. They find themselves selflessly fighting back and risking their own lives for our safety. This winter those warriors are our health care workers (family, neighbors, friends) who for the last nine months have been fighting the attacks of an unrelenting virus and courageously risking their lives to keep us safe.
Like those unsuspecting passengers, those nurses, doctors and health care workers did not sign up to work tirelessly in a pandemic that only seems to worsen. Thanks for these troops! They are heroes to all of us. We already know that it will be a difficult Christmas season and we are reminded of the gift of the Savior who comes as a light in our darkened world.
In addition to sending Christmas cards and greetings to family & friends this year, I encourage you to send mail to these troops: the many health care workers, nursing home caregivers, and medical professions who are caring for us, protecting us from the threat of a raging virus. As well as a note, let’s make a commitment to assist them in this battle. By the ways I choose to live each day, I do my part to support these fearless troops.
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month (or close to it), the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In December we’re lifting up the Christmas Joy offering and the organization that will receive a portion of that offering: the Community Check-Up Center in Harrisburg. Donate here. You can always find the current month’s mission focus in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.
First I would like to say thank you so very much for your support and dedication to the Community Checkup Center (CCC). In March the world in which we live in changed very drastically, and the way we functioned in it did as well. Also in March I began my tenure with CCC. I think they call this baptism by fire!
All joking aside, it has been a bundle of mixed experiences. Since I began here at CCC it has been challenging, educational, scary, and rewarding.
Here at Community Checkup Center we have remained open during the entire pandemic. Since the start of the COVID crisis and leading up to today, we’ve had at least one employee quarantined for the required two-week period. In other words we haven’t had a full compilation of staff working since the start of the pandemic. This means that even though we were open we were operating on limited coverage.
I am very proud of our staff, because even though we were stretched thin they continued to stay very dedicated to our clinic and the community we serve. They were and are very hard working front line workers, who I’m proud to say are true heroes during this time in our country.
At the beginning of the “stay at home” order people were not coming to clinic. Some didn’t come because of fear of getting the virus, and some didn’t come because they didn’t know we were open and seeing patients. Our patient visits drastically dropped by 50% in March, April and part of May. In June patients very gradually started to increase. In July when businesses were beginning to open and there were plans for schools to open and sports to begin, we began to start to fill up our schedules again with vaccines and physicals.
The challenges that we have been facing are first and foremost keeping everyone safe from this horrific virus. The lack of PPE and cleaning/sanitizing supplies, have made keeping the clinic open a balancing act. Doing our part in preventing the spread and honoring social distancing, has caused us to have to reduce the number of patients we can have at the clinic at one time. Reducing patient visits also correlates to loss of revenue. With having to social distance and spread out the wait time in between appointments, we still are unable to get back to the patient visit numbers that we once had. Without the revenue it makes it extremely hard to continue to provide the services to the community that is being hit the hardest by this crisis.
Nevertheless, we’re still providing the services despite all those challenges, and it’s because of people like you who support us and continue to reach out to see how you can help. In order to keep providing services, monetary donations that are unrestricted help us to apply the funds where they are most needed in times of great need. Thank you for partnering with us to provide healthcare to those most in need.
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!
There was a time that Christ Lutheran Church in Harrisburg had multiple orchestras. A couple of years ago, I found boxes of music by John Phillip Sousa while cleaning out a closet. Along with the dusty arrangements were programs for fundraiser concerts and smorgasbords and pictures from the middle of the last century of the movers and shakers of Harrisburg in evening gowns and suits dining in the fellowship hall. Those church folk were deeply invested in their church and community. They had just completed an ambitious capital campaign and greatly expanded the size of the church, adding new offices for the pastors, vast halls, and classrooms. I’m certain few of them could imagine the next generation of the church would look so different, the Sousa marches packed away with the fine china and silverware.
Now those classrooms have been converted to a dental clinic, with beautiful new picture windows replacing the crumbling originals, thanks to the support of Derry Presbyterian Church. The pastor’s study is now a prenatal clinic for women without health insurance. The previous generation of the church invested in hope for the future of the church, but they could not imagine what that future would hold. So much changed in our culture, in our city, and in our neighborhood.
On our 130th anniversary, Christ Lutheran Church has about 2,000 fewer members than we did a century ago, yet the church continues to invest in hope and to be a place where our neighbors in the region’s most economically challenged community come to invest in their own hopes: for healing, for pathways to wellbeing. While thousands of members no longer fill our church rolls, every year 22,000 patients fill our clinics, hundreds of patients receive dental care, dozens of women meet with a doctor throughout their pregnancies.
Our dental clinic provides free emergent care, doing primarily extractions and fillings. A few years ago, a woman came to our church to see a dentist. She was in excruciating pain. She had severe cavities in most of her teeth, having never seen a dentist. She needed to have 20 teeth extracted. I told the dentist, “I’m glad we can help people with this kind of emergency care, but we should also help people keep their teeth.” This year Derry partnered with our church and the United Way to make improvements on the Dental Clinic so we could bring in Oral Hygiene Students from Harrisburg Area Community College to provide free teeth cleanings, so we are providing preventative care in addition to emergent care.
Because of our Health Ministries, and the partners like Derry Church who invest in hope by joining our mission, Christ Lutheran Church continues to be a spiritual home for many. Our mission provides us the opportunity to worship as well as the reason to worship. We see God’s healing taking place and we get together to praise God for God’s faithfulness and give thanks we get to be a part of it. Derry Church has not only invested in the missional work of our church but the spiritual and community life as well. The Derry Brass filled our beautiful sanctuary with vibrant music. The puppet ministry came and not only performed a great show but fed the congregation as well, serving up a full community event. In the audience that day was a family that had just arrived as refugees from Nigeria. The three young boys sat in the front row with huge smiles on their faces, smiles which were a result of Derry’s investment in hope.
Investing in God’s hope is a bold and brave investment to make, for God’s hopes are always far beyond our expectations and imaginations. God’s hopes are not for us alone but for the whole world. God’s hopes benefit the poor and the suffering most of all. As you invest in hope, the only certainty we have about the future in which we invest is that God will be a part of it and to God be the glory.
With this year’s stewardship theme INVEST IN HOPE, I find myself reflecting on that idea. How much that idea has been the grounding force for many of us these past difficult months. How else to stay hunkered down at home? How else to continue to connect with family and friends?
I also find myself reflecting on these past two years and how integrally hope has been part of my daily life. In August 2018, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a rare and aggressive cancer with a reputation for a poor prognosis. As a physician, I had heard of this cancer, and I also knew that it would never happen to me. Yet here I was, and with visible symptoms marching across my breast. For the first few weeks, I couldn’t talk about it without breaking into tears.
An aggressive cancer calls for aggressive treatment. The next months were tough. I went from enjoying hiking, bicycling, and kayaking to having difficulty walking for five minutes. I developed lymphedema as a side effect of the treatment. Although I had not been singing with the Sanctuary Choir, my choir friends kept in touch with me. When I finally emerged from chemo, surgery, and radiation, my friends were eager for me to return, especially to meet the interim choir director, Dan, who was bringing joy and life to the choir.
I did slowly return. Gradually I was able to increase physical exercise, and I tried to sing. I decided that singing was going to be a part of my rehab and I restarted voice lessons. For me, singing is an important expression of my spirituality, especially singing with a group where you physically and musically can feel yourself a part of something larger. I receive so much support! Thank you, everyone, so much! I continue to do well with my cancer recovery.
Hope is part of every forward step I take. I find hope in my family, friends, and spirituality. I am experiencing an amazing feeling of hope within our church. I am energized by our church community’s action and movement forward into issues of inclusiveness, of “sitting at the table together.” Our church leadership gives us the opportunity to reflect on and to be challenged by present day concerns, and how to learn and draw strength from the scriptures.
I am excited and hopeful about our church’s direction. We have new energy with Pastor Stephen, Grant, and Pastor Pam. Our wealth of musical talent provides new and novel music experiences. I look forward to our continued collaboration with the Wesley Union AME Zion Church in Harrisburg. I look forward to the day that we will be able to physically and spiritually sing together.
For me, our mission committee represents hope. And for me hope has always been paired with faith and charity, which are all elements of our mission committee. Underlying that is our focus on the basic needs of housing, education and health care.
Before I joined the mission committee I was part of Derry Church’s Peacemaking committee. In the late 1980s we became involved in a project in Yonkers, NY called SWAP (Stop Wasting Abandoned Properties.) We worked side by side with future homeowners to reclaim three-story brownstones, restoring them into safe apartments for the new homeowners. Nothing gives one hope like safe, secure housing.
Seven years into that effort, many people on the block encouraged Rev. Bill Daniels, the minister living in their midst, to travel to Nicaragua after Hurricane Andrew and establish a similar effort in their home country. SWAP morphed into Bridges to Community and we have been blessed to be able to participate in Nicaragua and lately the Dominican Republic for these 20 years, replacing more than 500 fragile shacks with sturdy concrete block reinforced homes, with tiled floors instead of mud, allowing people to the focus on improving their education and health.
In November Logos Academy, near the Broad Street Market, came into focus for me when Derry’s session committed $10,000 to support the creation of a second grade classroom. Education is something that can never be taken from a person. This fledgling effort has been growing over the last four years. Their focus was to build a unique and compassionate bond for the families and children with an education that was Christ-centered and diverse in all ways.
Current students are about 50% black with the remainder split between white and Hispanic or ‘other.’ Approximately 70% receive tuition assistance. Small classes allow for individualized attention to both the education and needs of the students. Community is intentionally fostered between the students, families and staff. Before the pandemic, I volunteered in the office and was very impressed with the dedication of their staff. I am happy that Derry’s Mission Committee has been able to support the school.
Many of the groups that we support with mission funding provide hope to our community:
- Joshua House, a middle school tutoring program in Harrisburg
- Hope Within’s medical and dental services
- Christ Lutheran Church’s medical and dental clinics
- The Community Check-up center in Harrisburg’s Hall Manor neighborhood
- Stop the Violence in Steelton
Each is an important example of providing hope. Now a new school year is under way and children who are attending Logos Academy have a safe learning environment with a Christian focus. My fervent hope is that however the year evolves, students will have a solid basis on which to build their lives.
Hope is a lifeline, especially for Love in the Name of Christ of Greater Hershey clients. Derry Church has always been a strong supporter of Love INC through monetary donations, use of the Mission House and those serving as volunteers. Love INC is extremely grateful to have Derry’s investment in hope.
WHAT IS LOVE INC?
As a Christian organization through and through, Love INC does its best to demonstrate God’s love by being the hands and feet of Christ. It exists to mobilize and provide resources to our member churches that will transform lives and communities in the name of Christ. Love INC Greater Hershey is an affiliate of Love INC National and serves churches and anyone who lives or worships in the Hershey/ Hummelstown area.
WHAT DOES LOVE INC DO?
The Connection Center is the heartbeat of Love INC, taking calls from those in need and referrals from local churches. Volunteers take time to build trust with clients and get to know them in a caring, non-judgemental way. Many clients find hope from knowing that someone is listening to them and praying with them.
While all Love INC staff and volunteers are Christians, Love INC embraces diversity and helps anyone in the service area regardless of their religious beliefs. The Connection Center reminds me of the old TV show M*A*S*H, triaging those in need to provide the right help at the right time. Just recently Love INC provided a laptop for a college freshman from a low-income family who did not have the means to buy one, just days before school started.
THE PERSONAL CARE CLOSET MINISTRY cares for our community by providing Hershey and Hummelstown food bank clients the opportunity to receive items not available through food stamps — like toothpaste, laundry detergent, and diapers. Love INC volunteers are at the food banks to meet with clients, building relationships and providing support and encouragement: their goal is to surround clients with love.
THE PARSONAGE MINISTRY provides families with a place to stay when loved ones are inpatients at the Hershey Medical Center. Two former church parsonages are now serving people who must travel more than 50 miles to be with their loved ones but cannot afford a local hotel. People are referred to Love INC by the patient’s social worker at the Medical Center. The parsonage director not only runs day to day operations but also visits and comforts the parsonage guests and their loved ones. For people who might otherwise have no alternative than to sleep in their cars, the impact of having a safe, clean, caring place to stay is a true blessing.
THE HOMES OF HOPE MINISTRY provides temporary housing while clients work toward financial stability and obtain permanent housing. Participants are encouraged by supportive staff, a dedicated advocate, and a social worker. Participants must attend needed Love INC classes or programs to become self-sufficient, such as financial education, parenting classes, improving their skills in writing and speaking English, and counseling. Love INC volunteers (Allies) ensure participants’ success by helping with transportation to work, babysitting, homework help for kids, job coaching, improving diet and nutrition and more.
Homes of Hope provides a safety net and a plan to get out of poverty. A former participant expressed her sincere thanks for having a safe place to sleep at night for her and her daughter. She can now sleep without fear and has renewed energy and focus. She also received job promotions and has become self-sufficient. Her daughter went from getting passing grades to A’s and B’s.
On behalf of Love INC, thank you to Derry for your investment in hope. For more information call the office at 717.835.0101 or contact me directly.
Let me leave you with James 2:14-26:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
In the summer of 2015 I had my first surgery. I didn’t need it, but I needed to do it. I had surgery to remove some of my bone marrow in order for it to be given to someone else. Who? I don’t know. All I knew is that he was 29 and dying. My bone marrow, out of millions of people, was his best hope of surviving.
I signed up to be a donor because I knew two people whose lives were saved because someone else decided they would take 15 minutes to get swabbed and register with Be the Match. My prayers for those two faithful friends were answered through someone else’s willingness to donate. I thought maybe I’d be the answer to someone else’s prayer for his or her mother, father, spouse or child. I didn’t really think I’d ever get matched with anyone, but I thought it was the right thing to do. It was an investment in hope; hope that maybe someone’s life could be saved.
I received the call that I was the best match for this young man and that they wanted to do the surgery soon because the situation was desperate. He wasn’t going to be able to survive much longer without a bone marrow transplant. They asked if I was still willing to donate. I thought about my daughter Verity. What if at some point in her life she needed some kind of transplant: bone marrow, stem cell or organ? I would want every single person in the world to register as a donor in the hopes that someone may be the match that could save her life. If I felt that way about my daughter, then I’m sure someone felt the same way about this 29-year-old young man. And I remembered the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I quickly agreed to donate.
I went to Iowa City to make sure I was healthy enough to donate, and learned more about the operation and the recovery. The risks were low and the rewards were great. The average time to a full recovery is 20 days. Twenty days. Was I willing to trade 20 days of perhaps not 100% health so that someone could have hope; potentially have many more years of health?
I was sore for a few days and more tired than usual, but it was a great excuse to have that afternoon nap I’d been missing.
Why did I give? For all those reasons above, but mainly this: I gave because I could.
I had enough of what someone else desperately needs. It was not any great sacrifice to give some of what I had, but it meant the very life of someone else. It meant hope. I could give a little of what I had more than enough of to give hope to someone else and change their life. Honestly, it was a gift and a privilege to give and invest in hope.
This fall our sermon series and stewardship theme is INVEST IN HOPE. When you invest your lives and resources in Derry Presbyterian Church, you are making an investment in hope. When you financially give to Derry, you help Derry Church profess, practice, and share hope with the world. Our hope is eternal and it is too good to keep to ourselves. It is a gift and a privilege to give and invest in hope that can change and transform people’s lives.
When you INVEST IN HOPE you help us share our message of hope with the world through worship, education, mission, and fellowship. Your financial gifts to Derry transform lives and bring hope when people need it most, whether it’s the hope of love, friendship, a home, health care, a meal, or a friend. We bring hope in the name of Jesus Christ.
Derry has been professing and sharing hope for nearly 300 years and we can continue because of your continued financial support of all we do here. In a few days you’ll receive a letter with more information about our stewardship campaign, a provisional budget based on requests from committees, and an estimate of giving card. We worked hard to lower our annual budget because we realize the financial challenges facing our community and nation. We anticipate a reduction in income to the church in 2021, so we ask that you prayerfully consider your giving to Derry in the coming year so we can continue to be a beacon and foundation of hope for so many.
Thank you for all the ways you have and continue to INVEST IN HOPE through Derry. It is because of you that we can proclaim God’s word, share God’s love, and practice God’s justice. It is because of you that we bring hope. Thank you for investing in Derry and investing in the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What a summer it has been in the communications corner of Derry Church! When I last checked in with you in early April, I never dreamed that six months later I’d be working with brand-new cameras and equipment in the Sanctuary and overseeing a whole new system for bringing you live streaming worship. I am grateful to everyone who made it possible for us to obtain the new equipment, to all the talented singers and musicians who make time in their day to film segments that we include each week, to those who film and submit creative clips from their homes, and especially to the AV crew who has really stepped up to put in extra time to learn new procedures and equipment.
Our AV volunteers arrive each Sunday by 9 am, and it takes us a full hour to test, practice and rehearse all that we’ve prepared to include in the live streaming service. One person runs the audio board, one person controls the cameras, and one person is in charge of all the video content and title slides using new ProPresenter software. The crew works together to check sound levels and coordinate with the pastors and Grant to make sure everyone knows where to look and what to expect. On Sept 13 it was a good thing Pastor Stephen reminded me to drop in a picture of a painting he wanted to show during the sermon. You almost didn’t get to see that!
Our new Boxcast streaming platform makes it easy for the Sunday service to be available for a full week on Derry Church’s website. Just go to our live streaming page and scroll down until you find the video player. In the “Related Videos” section you’ll find the most recent Sunday service.
Did you know there are multiple ways you can watch Derry’s live streaming service on Sunday morning?
- Watch on the Derry Church website
- Watch on our YouTube channel (I show you how in this video)
- Watch on Facebook
- Watch on your smart TV using the free Boxcast app. I’ve made videos to show you how to add the app to Roku or an Apple TV, and a similar procedure works for Amazon’s Fire stick. And here’s how to watch by casting your smart phone to your smart TV.
Finally, I’m delighted to share with you the good news that Derry Church’s refreshed website is expected to launch in October. We were part-way through the redesign when the pandemic hit and we realized a lot of the content we planned to feature on the site suddenly didn’t make sense to include at this time. The Communications & Technology Committee went back to the drawing board and re-thought what the site should be when so much of church life is virtual. We’ve emphasized the live streaming worship and Derry’s COVID response, and carefully selected photos that make sense right now.
If you have questions or concerns about the website, live streaming, or anything else tech related, I invite you to email me or better yet, drop in for my weekly tech time sessions on Zoom from 1-2 pm on Monday afternoons. (let me know if you need the meeting ID). I realize that for many, the new emphasis on technology has been challenging. I’m here to help, so please do reach out so you can stay connected to all that’s happening in our vibrant congregation.
We are more than halfway through 2020 and the congregation is moving into the budgeting season, which makes this the perfect time to share with you how we are doing so far this year and the projections I have for the rest of the year.
As of the end of August, we have a year to date surplus of $45,000 compared to a year to date surplus of $100,000 at the same point last year. Contributions so far this year are about $75,000 less than I projected based on our budget, while expenses are about $120,000 less than what was budgeted. Both of these variances are due in part to COVID-19. Committees are spending less due to fewer activities and intentional saving with COVID-19. Expenses are also under budget as the Associate Pastor and full time Music Director were not filled for the first half of the year. Now that the church is fully staffed, I expect that expenses will increase through the second half of the year. I believe we are on track to be around break-even for the year, but this is hard to project this year due to uncertainty around the pandemic and economic stimulus.
As Session, the Stewardship and Finance Committee, and the other Committees look toward the 2021 budget and the future, we are working to ensure that Derry Church both provides for the current needs of the church members and the community, while also maintaining financial stability. We are looking at capital projects over the next several years and are working with the committees to make sure they align with the mission and vision of the church. By planning for the future, we can make sure we are managing our resources responsibly.
I would like to thank the congregation for your continued support. Contributions and cash flow have remained stable throughout the pandemic. Because of the generosity of our congregation, we have been able to continue to support our mission partners. Thank you.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything related to Derry’s finances, please contact me at
Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, the eNews feature article highlights the mission focus for the month. In September we’re lifting up the Peace & Global Witness Offering. You can always find the current month’s mission focus in the Joys & Concerns section of the weekly eNews.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Peace & Global Witness Offering enables the church to promote the Peace of Christ by addressing systems of conflict and injustice across the world. Derry Church will share 25% of offering gifts with Stop the Violence in Harrisburg. Mid councils retain an additional 25% for ministries of peace and reconciliation. The remaining 50% is used by the Presbyterian Mission Agency to advocate for peace and justice in cultures of violence, including our own, through collaborative projects of education and Christian witness.
Stop the Violence believes that no child should have to suffer the effects of violence. To that end, Rev. R. Mim Harvey, Founder and Executive Director, started the grass-roots, faith-based organization in 1995 to provide a safe haven, as well as other additional support and comforts, to help children become healthy, well-adjusted members of the community. Stop the Violence assists vulnerable children and their families located in the south edge of Harrisburg with food, clothing, and emotional support. Rev. Harvey and her staff have been volunteering since the organization started almost 25 years ago.
Stop the Violence provides an array of services and programs including a food pantry, coat and shoe bank, shelter, counseling, a “JOY’ awareness program for youth, Back to School community awareness picnic, Chat and Chew, Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas party, B&M Bike Ministry, Easter egg hunt and baskets, and the Stop the Violence Rally. The purpose of these services and programs are to restore hope in the community and to show its members that they are loved.
Rev. Harvey’s gift is bringing people together.
Stop the Violence receives about $30,000 to run its operation. As a result, the partnership with Derry Presbyterian Church is very important to the future of the organization.
It feels like so much has happened since the APNC extended the call to join the staff at Derry Presbyterian Church back in the early days of March, before lockdowns and quarantines and virtual worship were even a thought for most Americans. Thinking all the way back to December, when I first came across the Derry Presbyterian Church Ministry Information Form (the part of the pastoral search process that shares with potential candidates information about the church and programs), there’s one thing that I still have a very clear memory of reading: that Derry Church was a place that welcomed and encouraged innovation.
This grabbed my attention at the time because I had just returned from a week and a half in the UK as part of an international cohort program that focused on youth, theology, and innovation. I had so many new ideas swirling around in my mind. Some things to jump in and try to pilot, some to dive deeper into development, and some that were just the smallest seedlings of ideas coming out of new opportunities I was seeing. None of those ideas centered around remote, virtual ministry, though.
In the past couple of weeks since I’ve officially started here, I have seen Derry’s commitment to innovation first hand. It’s not easy to shift gears and completely change how we do things, but COVID-19 has made us do just that. Even from June 21, the Sunday on which I offered my candidating sermon, to this past Sunday when I preached for the first time as your Associate Pastor, there have been shifts and changes to how things are done in the Sanctuary on a Sunday morning. Everyone who is present is patient and kind as we wade through these ever-changing waters and the comments that are received in the online guestbook show that those qualities are embedded in the congregation, too.
Last week, I launched a Virtual Youth Room that has links to a number of different resources for prayer, study, and mission from home. While the space is geared towards the youth, many of the links that you’ll find there (by clicking around on the images) can be used by people of all ages. It’s still a work in progress but knowing that the folks of Derry Presbyterian Church are a patient and flexible group helped when I released the link into the world. I am hopeful that this is an online space where the youth (and other congregation members) can find a moment of peace — whether that’s from the Taize music that is linked through clicking on the speaker, the devotional that’s on the bookshelf, or one of the prayer options — in an otherwise hectic and ever changing world.
As I continue in my ministry here, I hope to dream up other innovative ways of doing ministry with our young people, our families, and all of our members, both for times when we need to be apart as well as once we can gather together within the building once again. Derry Church has shown itself to be an engaged and thoughtful community of believers and I am excited to be here and to be a part of this church.
For the last ten weeks, the children and families of Derry have had the opportunity to open their Bibles together as a family and learn about the Fruit of the Spirit gifts that God gave to each of us. For many, we have heard of the Fruit of the Spirit but never had the chance to study and understand the incredible power of these gifts. This summer we have had all kinds of fun exploring and learning through movement, reflection, creation, eating, sharing and thinking.
At a time in our lives when so much feels out of our control and comfort zone, it has been a blessing to use this summer as a time to be reminded of the truly important things. I know for me it has allowed me to think about more than a just virus that has changed so much, distract my mind from worrying about all the things I cannot control right now, and has offered my family the chance to carve out time at home to gather and learn about the gifts that God gave to each of us.
This fall our learning opportunities will likely look quite different from our traditional classes we offer. Many programs will probably move to an online format, be shared through a study-at-home guide or become Zoom gatherings. While most of us do not prefer these learning and teaching styles, we know there are times where they will be needed to help us stay connected, continue our learning together and simply see the warm and comforting faces of our church friends, all while keeping one another safe.
Recently I was asked to offer the Conversation with Children to help the younger members of the church connect with our scripture reading. We had just heard in the Gospel of Luke 24:36-43 the story of Jesus returning to his disciples after the Resurrection. The disciples, who had locked themselves in a room in fear of their own lives, stood in complete shock and disbelief seeing Jesus standing in front of them. Jesus reassured them that it was him. He asked them to touch his hands, see his scars and then he joined them for a meal.
In my planning, the recipe for chocolate chip cookies rose to the top as my connection to this reading. How in the world can you connect a Resurrection story with a recipe for cookies? Simple. The disciples had many of the ingredients they needed to go out in the world and continue to live like Jesus and share the amazing news and stories of God and Jesus, but they needed one last “ingredient” to give them to undeniable courage to risk their own lives to share the amazing news of God’s miraculous ways.
When we think of our own lives, do you have all the ingredients you need to live a life with Jesus and God at the center? Have you studied the word, used all the stories to help guide your choices, and feel you have all the knowledge you need to live the life that God gave you? I am guessing none of us can say YES. We are all still learning, and that is how it should be. No matter what age we are, there are still stories from the Bible that we have yet to hear and let influence our lives. Those stories, the INGREDIENTS of life, are our recipe for the most amazing chocolate chips cookies ever! Sure, we can cheat ourselves, go to the store and buy a package of cookies, but I can assure you that those cookies will taste nowhere near as amazing as the ones we make from scratch… the ones we make with our hands with all the best ingredients (including Hersheys’ chocolate chips) and using a recipe that has been perfected by God.
So, as we move to the fall and find our lives going in a new direction with new work experiences and new school days, I challenge you to make time to keep finding the ingredients of a God- centered life by joining us for classes here at the church. I know there will be times when you just want to be left alone, you want a day off and free of online learning, and that is ok. Give yourself, your family, that day, but then rejoin us the following week. I can promise you that the church staff and leaders will be doing our best to create programming that will be engaging, informative and inspiring. You will enjoy seeing the faces of your church friends and letting them fill you with encouragement and promise that these crazy days won’t be here forever.
Please know that we are all here for YOU! Please reach out to say hello, stay in touch and let us know how we can be helpful to you and to your family.
Bless the Lord, my soul
and bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul,
who leads me into life.
These words from Psalm 103 open every Sanctuary Choir rehearsal. The concerns of day melt away as we sing this refrain over and over, focusing on our reason for being, both as a choir and as people of faith.
Our song was disrupted in mid-March.
Choir people are hard core. We need to sing. We need to be together. That’s why we are committed to Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings. Like everyone, we were and are most unhappy about this!
We began to connect through Zoom, holding to our tradition of singing of Psalm 103. While we tried to encourage one another, we also needed to be authentic with one another. Singing the words, “Bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life” seemed incongruent to us as a choir.
We found life as we joined our voices in song. That wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. And yet, our weekly Zooms began to take shape, we open in song and we close singing the beloved blessing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” to one another.
Early on, Nancy Reinert shared words about living in the present, not missing the gift of each moment as part of a devotional. Something shifted for us. We began to find a new depth of community with each Zoom Choir as mem-bers shared their favorite hymns, moments of laughter in their week and moments of “finding life.” One particular night as we were honestly sharing burdens, one of our newest choir members, someone new to the Christian faith, shared words she had just discovered reading the book of James,
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, be-cause you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
With each meeting there are surprises and gifts of encouragement. They come as we sing “Bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life” in the midst of a pandemic. It will be our special joy to welcome Grant, our new director of music, at tonight’s choir zoom. He brings amazing music gifts and a beautiful open spirit. Exciting days ahead!
I believe most of you know that Courtney, Verity, and I are expecting a new addition to our family later this month. We are looking forward to welcoming Verity’s little brother, whose due date is August 27. As Verity said in her Verity Good News segment of Some Derry Good News back in May, “We are also welcoming a new church member!”
On behalf of our family, I want to thank you for your prayers and support. We, along with many others expecting new additions to their families, did not anticipate navigating pregnancy during a pandemic. It has come with an unexpected set of challenges and losses, but it has also provided us with new opportunities and advantages. While Verity missed going to a big sister class at the hospital and attending Courtney’s appointments to see the sonogram and hear her brother’s heartbeat, I have been able to be home more during this time. We have had more time as a family to strengthen our own bonds and to prepare for the baby’s arrival.
In the weeks leading up to the birth, I plan to take vacation time so I can self-quarantine to ensure I don’t get sick, which would prevent me from being with Courtney at the hospital and to be readily available in case of an early delivery. August 16 will be my last Sunday leading worship until September 13. I’m thankful for the amazing and talented staff members who are willing and able to allow me to care for my family’s needs during this time.
Following the baby’s birth, I will be taking paternity leave. With the support of the Personnel Committee, I will be working half days rather than taking 6 weeks of full-time leave. This will allow me more time at home to help care for Courtney, Verity, and the baby, and it will also allow me to maintain momentum on essential church work. I will still help lead most Sunday worship services, attend virtual meetings, make pastoral calls, and do other planning and work that needs to get done.
I’ve been hard at work this summer writing sermons, morning meditations, and Sunday school lessons, and planning other activities through Christmas. I will still check email daily, so if you have questions or needs, feel free to contact me.
Thank you for your continued support and prayers and thank you for allowing me time to be with my family during this transition. I am grateful both Verity and her little brother will grow up in a loving and supportive church community that they know cares for them.