Linda Raymond Trescher • Derry Member

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.

Marilyn Koch • Chair, Mission & Peace Committee

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. 

Kathy McGrath • Chair, Board of Directors, Love INC of Greater Hershey

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.

Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker • Pastor

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.  

Sue George • Director of Communications & Technology

Here’s a screenshot of the home page of Derry Church’s refreshed website. Now that you are here looking around, let me know if you have any questions.

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?

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.    

Grant Wareham • Director of Music Ministry

Fall 2014, during Grant’s audition to serve
as organ scholar at Saint Thomas’ Episcopal
Church in Houston.

I have always felt that music was a particularly special avenue by which I reach and connect with God. My parents started me with violin lessons when I was five years old, and through most of high school, music was just something I did, almost without considering the impact it would have in my life ever since. Quite frankly, I don’t even remember a time where music was not a part of my life.

I do vividly remember playing my first church service. I was 13 at the time, and my teacher (also the director of music at my church growing up) asked me to play the entire service while he was out of town. The preparation in particular was nerve-wracking, but after the dust had settled, I realized the profundity of the responsibility, but also the joy of leading a congregation in the worship of God.

After that first service, I served as a substitute organist both for my church and for other churches around the southwest Ohio region. I also served as the interim organist for a Lutheran church for six months during my junior year of high school.

Throughout all these experiences, I came to realize that, although worship styles varied from church to church, all had a common ideal of praising and worshipping God in their own unique way.

As I was applying to colleges, I remember applying to several programs as a music major, as well as to a local university, where I would have been purely a STEM major. My father is a physician, and I had thought for a long time that I would end up in the medical field as well. However, as I was filling out the “desired major” on the application, I suddenly realized that, if I were to not have music-making as a significant part of my daily routine, I would miss it severely. This was a crystalizing moment for me; I realized that music was really the only career path that would lead to fulfillment.

I moved to Houston, Texas in the fall of 2014 to begin studies at Rice University. I also took a position as organ scholar at Saint Thomas’ Episcopal Church in a Houston suburb. It was there that I had one of my most poignant spiritual moments. This happened in a service of Lessons and Carols for Advent that year, the end of my first term in college. It was quite a big service for me with lots of notes to play, and I was really nervous about it. However, as I began playing a hymn in the middle of the service, “Hark, A Thrilling Voice is sounding; God is nigh, it seems to say,” I had a very visceral sense that God was in that room at that very moment. Even in the midst of a “work day” that came with a great deal of pressure, I still had a
powerful encounter with God.

Church music in 2020 looks nothing like it had in the past for any of us. However, despite the challenges of this year, moments such as the one I had in Houston are what I work to produce and experience with you each and every week at Derry Church.

Steven Guenther • Treasurer

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
guenther@derrypres.org.

Kristen Campbell • Derry Member

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.

Left: Stop the Violence offers a Bike Ministry: kids can get bikes and then swap when they outgrow them. The Bike Ministry also refurbishes and maintains the bikes. Right: new coat giveaway provides warm coats to children in need.

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.

Rev. Pam Meilands • Associate Pastor for Youth & Families

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.

M.E. Steelman • Transitional Children’s Coordinator

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23a

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.

Dan Stokes • Sanctuary Choir Director

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!

Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker • Pastor

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.