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!
Pastor Marie gave a sermon last fall based on 1 Corinthians 12 about the case of the stubborn foot. It decided that it didn’t need any other body parts, and wanted to go off on its own. Of course, the foot is nothing without the rest of the body, and the same can be said about nearly every other organ in all of our bodies. Several years ago, my aunt and uncle gave me a t-shirt with a graphic of the heart, lungs, and brain, which stated, coyly, “deep down, we’re all organists.” If you will indulge me, the pipe organ is also an excellent metaphor of the same kind.
Organs are well-known for having staggering numbers of individual pipes; our new instrument, Aeolian-Skinner No. 1132, has just over 2,600 pipes. The largest instruments in the world, the Wanamaker organ at Macy’s in Center City Philadelphia, and the Boardwalk Hall organ in Atlantic City, NJ, have over 28,000 and 33, 000 pipes, respectively. Why so many? It’s a valid question, certainly. If we think of a piano, there are 88 keys, so there would be 88 strings, right? If you look inside a grand piano, there are actually far more; due to the tension required, most of the notes are duplexed (i.e. 2 strings per key), or triplexed, leaving only about the bottom eight keys as single-string notes.
One of the greatest things about the organ is the instrument’s tonal palate. Coming back to the piano for a moment, a piano has one set of strings for the keyboard. The keyboards on the organ are 61 notes, rather than 88, but the concept remains the same. Here’s the beauty of the organ: our organ in particular has 41 distinct sets of pipes (we typically refer to these as “ranks” or “stops”), each with a very different sound and character. Some are primarily used in combination with other ranks; some almost always are used alone.
Across all the different stops on all the organs around the world, there are several unique, special ranks that stand out, like the famous State Trumpet mounted on the great west wall of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. It’s known for being one of the very first ranks mounted en chamade, or horizontally, making for an extremely staggering visual. It’s also ear-piercingly loud, and is a full city block away from the rest of the organ, and from where the organist sits. It certainly makes a grand or celebratory occasion all the more striking, but cannot be used multiple times each Sunday.
In contrast, a basic 8’ Principal (the organ has many pitch levels, and 8’, a designation of the lowest pipe’s length, is the “baseline” – the same pitch level one would hear as on a piano) wouldn’t be a good fit for a fanfare on Easter Sunday, but it is absolutely vital in almost any chorus of stops together (i.e. for accompanying a hymn), and if missing, would be extremely noticeable.
No matter whether you’re a trumpet, a principal, or any other sound, you are an important part of the body of Christ; each and every person/stop has its own part to play, and the body of Christ is not complete without you. I hope you’ll remember this analogy when you hear our organ for the first time!
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.
Well, you’re stuck with me! Thank you so much to everyone who participated in and worshiped with us during my installation service on May 18. It was a joyful service and celebration of the official start of our ministry together.
As we approach the summer months, it may seem like some of that ministry is slowing down but, in reality, it’s just starting to ramp up! Along with the obvious ministry events like mission trips and youth conferences, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes throughout the summer to prepare for the program year. I am diving into that work with joy and excitement.
During my installation service, Katie Steelman offered a charge to the pastor. She charged me to lead the children and youth of Derry Church with creativity and love, to teach about the love of God and how we can all share that love with one another, to offer missions and other opportunities to show Christ’s love to our local and not-so-local community. I am honored to take on those challenges and responsibilities.
This summer, a small group of middle school youth will travel to Charleston, WV, for a mission trip. There are a number of COVID-19 safety protocols in place to keep everyone safe and healthy, since some middle schoolers will not yet be eligible for vaccinations. In Charleston, we’ll worship together and we will work in the name of God to better someone’s life. This may take the form of painting a house or working on landscaping. It might be preparing a meal that is to be served at a homeless shelter. No matter the job, we will work with love and care as we follow Christ’s commandment to be of service to those in need.
A small group of high school youth will be heading to Montreat later in the summer. There we will spend time in fellowship with one another, worshiping and learning about God, as we dive into the theme Called to Connect. It’s a lovely homage to the past year, where connection has been difficult to find, as we continue to take steps back towards normal. God created us to be connectional beings and I am excited to explore that with the youth at Montreat this summer.
Katie also challenged me to get to know the youth and children, learning more about them and their interests. I look forward to spending time with all of our age groups this summer to do just that. Through summer Sunday school programs, Bible studies, worship, and fellowship events, I will be gathering with all ages and taking the time to get to know all of you better. It has been a hard transition, not being able to greet many folks upon my arrival at Derry and I am overjoyed that we are slowly but surely able to start gathering again.
This summer will be filled with learning and teaching, planning and doing, adventures and quiet study. I look forward to spending this season with you all here at Derry and in places like West Virginia and Montreat as I do my best to live into the charge I was given at my installation service.
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.