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)
I am fairly certain that no one could have predicted almost anything that’s happened in the year 2020. This has probably been said more times than anyone would like, but I think it’s important to acknowledge our collective losses when trying to move forward.
One of my favorite things to do in church music has always been to lead a congregation in the singing of hymns. I consider hymn playing to be the most important thing we as church musicians do, as it’s the only time we’re leading the entire congregation all together. Sadly, this is just not possible right now, and likely won’t be for at least several more months.
Many of us have various signals or indicators that Christmas has arrived. The Advent and Christmas season is typically one of my busiest; so many extra services, events, and concerts to prepare for, and I actually enjoy this increased pace. However, for me, practicing and playing the well-known David Willcocks descant and reharmonization for “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is a sure sign that it’s once again Christmas. December 2020 has been one of the quietest Decembers I’ve had in a long time.
Although so much has changed, we are having a Christmas concert this year. Yes, it will be different from our usual lively celebration with a sanctuary packed with congregants and musicians. There won’t actually be anyone in the sanctuary when our 2020 concert premieres online, but we hope that the program that we have prepared will help you feel the Christmas spirit.
We’ve put together some songs from years past, recorded some new offerings, and as a special treat, asked several choir members to share their own stories from Christmases past.
I hope you’re able to watch at 7 pm Saturday, Dec 19 and remember what you enjoy most about the season. After all, the Christmas story is one of new beginnings and new life; it’s one of hope for salvation from a God who cared so much about us humans to become a helpless little baby to accomplish this. Even in the midst of a pandemic, reflecting on the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice remains awe inspiring.
Merry Christmas to each and every one of you!
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.
I love Thanksgiving; it may well be my favorite holiday. There is something special about sharing a meal with family and friends while taking intentional time to focus on gratitude. This year, though, things are bound to be different. The number of people gathered at the table will be smaller, less food will be cooked (or leftovers will last an extra few days), and usually loud, boisterous gatherings will be a little quieter.
Though there will be fewer people around our tables, the importance of thankfulness is not diminished during this season. In fact, this year I think gratitude may be even more important than ever. It’s so easy to think about what we can’t do and what we don’t have right now. We can’t gather, we can’t travel, we can’t have the big Thanksgiving feasts that we may be accustomed to. But we still have so much to be thankful for.
Making an intentional shift towards being grateful for what we do have won’t solve all of the world’s problems, but it can make the things that you’re facing feel more manageable. Take time this week to relax, breathe deeply, and maybe even close your eyes for a few moments. Think about all of the positive things that are happening in your life right now. Think about the things that you have learned about yourself throughout these past eight months. Take the time to be intentional about gratitude and to thank God for all that God has given.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
What are you grateful for?
I am grateful for technology that helps me stay in touch with the people I love.
I am grateful for my dog who loves to snuggle on windy fall days
I am grateful for the self care routines I have developed and been able to sustain through this stressful season.
I am grateful for the extra time I found to read during stay-at-home orders
And I am grateful to be at Derry Presbyterian Church, worshiping and serving God alongside all of you.
Derry Church is blessed by the many people who make up our church family. In addition to their roles and leadership at church, they have often played important roles in the growth and development of the larger Hershey community. Hershey Community Archives’ oral history collection holds interviews with many Derry Church members. These interviews provide information about their lives and contributions to Derry and the community. Thanks to Pam Whitenack for sharing this profile with us.
Alma Payne Bobb is Derry’s oldest member. On November 29 she will celebrate her 107th birthday.
Born in 1913, Alma spent her summers in Harrisburg visiting her grandparents and extended family. Her earliest memories of Hershey were when she would come here for a picnic on top of Pat’s Hill. In her 1988 Hershey Community Archives oral history interview she said: My grandfather would have been a contemporary of Milton Hershey. I remember my grandfather saying, “Oh, Mr. Hershey has some kind of a crazy idea of building a resort hotel up here. What won’t he think of next?” Pat’s Hill is where the hotel now has been erected, and, of course, Mr. Hershey’s dream for that hotel became a reality
Alma had a career as a professional dancer, performing across the United States and in Europe. She appeared in vaudeville, which was a big thing in those days in presentation houses. In her interview, she related
Then I went to Europe in 1935. I was working over there almost a year. I went with a [dance] partner. We appeared at the Palladium Theater in London and doubled at the Savoy Hotel in their Supper Room. Then we played the Empire Theaters throughout England and Scotland. Then we went over onto the continent and worked in Paris and Budapest and Monte Carlo.
As World War II threatened, she returned to the United States. In between bookings, she would often come to stay with her grandparents in Harrisburg. She met her husband, Jim Bobb, on a double date to go dancing. Jim was an excellent dancer and they soon started dating. They had a long courtship as Jim waited for Alma to be ready to leave her dancing career.
After they married, they first lived in an apartment building across from the Hershey Arena. Alma sought out many volunteer opportunities. During the war, she volunteered as an airplane spotter, watching from her station in the Milton Hershey School Senior Hall (now Catherine Hall) bell tower. She also trained as a convoy driver, serving in the American Red Cross Motor Corps, out of Harrisburg.
After the war, there really were not many volunteer opportunities for women in Hershey. Many women played bridge. Alma, seeking an outlet, sought out volunteer activities in Harrisburg. She remembered,
So I have always been volunteer-minded because with Jim’s work, he did a lot of local volunteer work, in addition to his job. I got started in it, and I must admit it was not really for altruistic purposes; it was for an outlet for my energy. (Laughs) But later I became very interested and committed to volunteer work and to the idea that people owe their civic duty.
Alma’s duties as a spouse expanded when her husband was elected to the Hershey Trust Company Board of Directors and the Milton Hershey School Board of Managers. Many evenings were filled with business social affairs. Alma recalled,
As Hershey became a focal point for large meetings and association meetings, they would want a company official to send greetings or something. So we did a great deal of that, and there would be outside groups, the Milton Hershey School things, commencements, homecoming, things of that sort. We all participated in that, and that was part of the men’s jobs if they were on the boards, and their wives’. All commencement weekend, all homecoming weekend, and that took priority. That went with the jobs. But the nature of Jim’s job was that we would be entertained if he were invited, because of his position, to go to a big banquet of a large convention, and I would usually go with him if the wives were involved.
Hershey Junior College offered two years of free college education and Alma took advantage of that. She was the first full-time adult day student at Hershey Junior College She completed her education at Lebanon Valley College. At that time, there were not many middle-aged women attending college and Alma’s efforts were questioned at first. Alma remembered:
It took me ten and a half years overall. What I learned was that I couldn’t do it halfway. I couldn’t go to a party one afternoon and then be in class the next, because if I weren’t in class, I had to study. So I had to set up some priorities. This gave me a complete break for a while from volunteer activities. I had paid my dues. Jim’s work took priority. Anything that he was involved in that required my presence, that came first.
Alma devoted herself to her marriage and supporting her husband in his career. Following his death in 1982, Alma continued to live in Hershey. However, her son Woody and his family were living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1988 she moved there to be closer to her son. She returned to Hershey in 2011.
The last eight months have reminded me of the beauty of change. Looking back to the beginning of March, I see our tried and true structure of Children’s Ministry here at Derry. We gathered weekly for Sunday School, worship and KIWI, biweekly for Pilgrims, every Tuesday for choir rehearsals, and occasionally on other days for special events and fellowship opportunities. Life was good. We had things under control. We lived with a comfortable, routine schedule.
Fast forward eight months and here we are. We still have worship and Sunday School and fellowship opportunities, but they certainly are different. We are slowly starting to have more routine weekly events at Derry. Worship and Sunday School have a new feel, but are happening. Pilgrim Fellowship is now an outdoor ministry in the late afternoon on Sundays. KIWI no longer happens during worship time: instead it has expanded and our time together is Sunday afternoon. Choir rehearsals are not a weekly event for families right now, but we are including music in our fellowship times. And we are now offering a variety of worship services, including a special service for families to come and enjoy together.
While so much has changed for Derry Church, and specifically, Derry’s Children’s Ministry over the last eight months, that change has offered us the chance to really look at ministry programs and appreciate all the wonderful blessings they bring to Derry Church, our congregation and our families. Change is HARD! The last few months have been a wild roller coaster ride, and Mrs. Steelman is NOT a roller coaster person. However, this ride has been special.
When we are in our comfort zone and keep with our regular routine, we often find ourselves feeling busy and not having the time to pause, reflect and evaluate how things are going. When life came to a halt in March, I found myself with a lot of new, and quite honestly scary and overwhelming, free time. That free time gave me the chance to dream and plan. That time gave me the chance to evaluate how each program was going. That time gave me the chance to answer the question of “Why?” for each of the many pieces of Children’s Ministry at Derry.
The “Why?” is easy… God. Each Children’s Ministry program that Derry is blessed to offer gives families and children the opportunity to grow their faith. The last eight months have offered me, the church staff and the Christian Education Committee the gift of time to think about our programs and learn what programs are needed for TODAY. Often we find ourselves keeping programs going simply “because we have always offered them.” But is that what Derry needs?
I look at these last eight months and am thankful for the chance to actually pause everything! We finally have time for meaningful conversations with planning teams and members of Derry to learn what Derry Church desires as we help one another grow our faith. We have time to think about each program we have at Derry and determine if it fits for Derry Church today. We have time to create new programs to help one another grow our faith. We have time to figure out what WE, as individuals, need to grow closer to God.
I pray this time apart from one another has offered you the chance to reflect and learn what you need for yourself and for your children as you grow closer to God. A friend recently reminded me that at times life can be like a junk drawer. Our lives become overwhelmed and cluttered with “junk” — things we hold on to or do just because we always have or feel we have to. These strange days are blessing us with time to declutter our lives and start fresh with activities and programs that bring us true joy and bring us closer to God.
I look forward to gathering with you soon, either online or in person, to continue on our faith journey together. Until then, please know that you are surrounded by my thoughts and prayers.
Right now, our lives are filled with hope! Hope is something that we both know a lot about.
Many of you know that in 2009 Jim was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that we never heard of and we bet many of you probably never heard of, and in September of 2013 Jim received a single lung transplant.
During this period of time, we have done our share of hoping. Hoping that the doctors were wrong with his diagnosis, hoping there was a cure or some magic pill he could take to get this disease in remission, hoping that his time on the lung transplant list would not be long and hoping that the transplant would be successful. These were just a few of the things we were hoping for.
Our hoping did not stop when Jim had his transplant on September 22, 2013. We hoped that our post-transplant journey would be without problems, and for the most part they were, until 2019.
In August 2019 Jim’s body had finally figured out he has an organ in his body that did not come with the original package, and now is trying to reject that organ. He is going through chronic rejection and again we are hoping the doctors are wrong… they aren’t; hoping there is a cure or some magic pill available… there isn’t. Our hopes now, have reverted back to another successful lung transplant.
We hope that by sharing our story about our transplant journey we can help others deal with their own transplant journey and make others aware of what this disease really is. We continue to hope for a cure for this disease so others will not have a similar journey.
We have been fortunate, not only to be able to share our stories locally, but also have been able to travel to other states with the hope that sharing our stories may have helped others.
There are many other things that we have hopes for, not just from the medical/health areas. We have hopes for our country, hopes for our families, hopes for teachers and students as they strive to keep their students safe. We have hopes that we may be able to travel again. We even had hopes that the Phillies would have a good season.
We have hopes that we are all able to remain safe and healthy. We even have hopes about church.
It has been almost eight months since we walked through the doors at Derry. None of us had envisioned that this pandemic would have or could have lasted this long and that our new normal had been drastically changed.
We have hopes that we will soon be able to meet in person as a congregation to hear God’s word. Watching a service via live stream is not quite the same as sitting in the pew. We hope that we as a church are able to uphold our commitments to our mission partners during this Covid-19 pandemic.
Although we are not able to be together, we hope and pray Derry will continue to find innovative ways to continue to grow as a church until such time that we can all be safely together again.
Next Sunday is National Donor Sabbath and we hope that as a congregation we all might be organ donors! If not, we hope that you might consider becoming one.
We hope that we as a congregation will be able to continue our financial commitments to Derry so that these many programs and more will be able to continue.
Although we shared many of our hopes without using the word wish, we don’t want you to worry. Closer to the time, we will … WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS!
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.