CHURCH BRIEFS

Special to The Chronicle-Express

St. Mark's Episcopal

As we celebrate Black History Month, St. Mark's Episcopal Church will offer prayers in memory of two African American Episcopalians who enrich our history and continue to be great teachers and examples for us all. 

The Rev. Absalom Jones, America's first black priest

The Rev. Absalom Jones, America's first black priest, was born into slavery in Delaware in 1746, at the time when slavery was just beginning to be debated as immoral, un-Christian and un-American. He taught himself to read using the New Testament as a resource, attended a night school operated by Quakers after his master sold Absalom's mother, sister and five brothers but took Absalom with him to Philadelphia. There, Absalom and his friend, Richard Allen, eventually established the Free African Society to help freed slaves and others who were in need of sustenance and spiritual support.

When the parish church to which Jones and Allen belonged decided, without notice, to require that all black church attendees be removed to the balcony, these two went on to establish the First African Church in Philadelphia. That church soon applied for admission into the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S. After being accepted, the church was renamed the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and Absalom Jones was ordained a deacon. It wasn't until seven years later, however, in 1802, that Rev. Jones became the first African-American priest in the U.S. 

It is difficult to imagine the amount of faith and courage it took to take those steps at that time.

Rev. Jones went on to establish a day school because black people were excluded from attendance at public schools and also established the Female Benevolent Society and African Friendly Society.  The Rev. Absalom Jones was a tireless voice for the elimination of slavery and emancipation of existing slaves in the U.S.  He died in 1818.

Today the Rev. Absalom Jones continues to be honored in many ways, notably in the establishment of such organizations as The Absalom Jones Foundation in Philadelphia, dedicated to social and economic parity for all and the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing based in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

In the time of Rev. Absalom Jones the dream for African-Americans in America was to be free. Not that long after, as we look back in time, the next dream, or goal, was to be full members of American society, including having the ability to vote.

As we again work to keep that dream alive in its fullness we remember Thomas Mundy Peterson, who was 36 years old when he became the first African-American to vote in a U.S. election. That local election was held in Perth Amboy, N.J. on March 31, 1870.  The 15th Amendment, which prohibited “the denying or abridging of the right to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.” had been ratified just the day before Mr. Peterson, who is now considered a symbol of voting rights, cast his historic ballot.

Mr. Peterson was a member of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy and he and his wife are buried in the churchyard there. His membership at St. Peter's has further significance in light of the fact that Perth Amboy was both an important slave trade port and a major stop on the underground railroad.

Mr. Peterson liked to tell the story of how one white man, upon seeing Mr. Peterson cast his ballot, tore up his own ballot and left saying that the franchise was worthless if a black man could vote. In light of today's struggle to keep the right, and the ability, to vote available to everyone, we might like to think that Mr. Peterson's spirit will be honored in our time.

Milo Center Methodist

Pastor Kim used scripture from 1 Corinthians to remind us of the spiritual gifts we each have. We use these gifts to make up the family of our little country church, each of us together brings a special part to the whole. She asked us not take any of those parts, people, for granted. Be grateful and share that appreciation to one another. Life is hard, we can't do it alone. We need each other just as we need Christ. "What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our gift to God."  Ask His blessing on your gifts, He will  answer your prayers. And don't be afraid to look to the person nearby and tell them they are needed and loved. 

Prayers of healing continue for Mary Lilyea. We send our love and gratitude to all First Responders. Happiest of birthdays to our Pastor Kimberly Lyons. We are thankful for your part in our MCUMC family. Anniversary blessings to Paul and Lois Sprague.

Our February mission will be a soup collection for The Living Well.  Service and Sunday School are at 9 a.m. in person, all are welcome.  

Dresden Methodist

This past week at Dresden UMC, Pastor Rachel spoke about the division in our country and our world. We see it manifest in an "us vs. them" mentality. This way of thinking reduces people to their views, opinions, alignments, characteristics, or traits. We see it most prominently in politics; Democrats vs. Republicans, conservatives vs. liberals, or the left vs. the right. These labels reduce people to their political alignments and ignore the fact that all people are inherently valuable based solely on the fact that they are children of God. Jesus addressed the same kind of "us vs. them" mentality in his ministry. Many Jewish people in Jesus' time were waiting for a savior who would take vengeance on their enemies — and by all accounts, they were justified in wanting justice. Jesus showed up, though, and instead of conquering their enemies, he preached a message of forgiveness, mercy, and healing. The way to reconciliation and cosmic justice is found in acts of love. This upset many people in Jesus' time, and it still does today. Jesus' message of radical love is foolishness in our world — but so is continuing the cycles of violence, racism, sexism, ageism, and political division. Maybe it's time to try Jesus' way — it might just be crazy enough to work!

Announcements: Dresden UMC is now offering Children's Church during Sunday Service. This is an excellent opportunity for our kids to grow together in discipleship and enjoy each other's company in fellowship! We hope to see your kids soon!

Are you in need of medical equipment such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, crutches, canes, etc.? Call Dresden UMC and ask for the First Aid Closet. We have equipment available to borrow for free.

Join us for Worship Sundays at 9:30 a.m. We'll save you a seat! Find and follow us on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/DresdenUnitedMethodist for updates, daily devotionals, and more.

First Presbyterian

FPC held our Annual Meeting after our church service last Sunday. Our church was very fortunate that most of our members serving on the various operational and social committees, whose terms would have expired in December of 2020, graciously agreed to stay on an extra year. Now given this extended pandemic period those same people, and others who would have completed their commitment in 2021, have been asked to stay in place through 2022. Once again, they have risen to the occasion. To address these difficult and changing times, FPC even recognized a need to add another committee. The newly formed Digital Church Committee is creating and streamlining our methods of communication through on-line programming and upgrading of equipment. Thanks in great part to all of these dedicated members; FPC has been able to maintain continuity in offering worship services and managing the business of running the church without interruption. So often the Bible says it best. In Hebrews 6:10: “For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.” Our congregation values your steadfast commitment.

Support for FPC’s numerous ministries and missions continues also, albeit some have had to be scaled back for now. One ministry involves Valentine’s Day. Our Presbyterian Women (PW) like to let FPC’s college students and military service members know that they remain in our thoughts and prayers even when they are away from home. Happily, at the moment, we have no service members on active duty. So this year our PW could focus more on our college students. To keep up with the times (and cost of postage), the PW have switched from the traditional homemade cookies to sending a gift card. These are equally appreciated by the recipients! For quite a number of years, this ministry has provided a reminder of home to young men and women on Valentine’s Day. Our Deacons also send out handwritten cards to members for various occasions and Valentine’s Day is one of them. The thoughtfulness and love always shown by our Deacons and PW in everything they do is just the best!

Penn Yan First Baptist

In 2021 we collected $150 of "Backpack Pennies." That's 15,000 pennies! That means that in 12 years, we have collected, counted, and rolled 470,323 pennies. So as we remember Milly Bloomquist and all her hard work for Yates County's children, in the last 12 years we have shared $5,699.23 with the Pantry's Backpack Program. Their report tells us that in the 2020-21 school year they distributed 11,949 bags of food. To date, 206,823 bags of supplemental food has been shared.

On behalf of American Baptist Churches USA, the American Baptist Home Mission Societies has released $7,500 in One Great Hour of Sharing disaster-relief funds to American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky in response to recent tornadoes.

Our Board of Christian Education has announced that our Community Vacation Bible School will be held this year June 27 through July 1. They will also hold the annual chicken barbecue fundraiser in the spring. Watch for more details on those two events.

Bluff Point Methodist

The Bluff Point Methodist Sunday Squares are here! Remember the TV program "Hollywood Squares"? These people aren’t square, though, they are enjoying Zoom church!

We continued on Zoom the month of January.  We are all anxious to return to church, but this will depend on local Covid numbers.

Some things this winter have been postponed. One annual event which has supported the Penn Yan Habitat for Humanity has been the sale of submarine sandwiches. There won’t be sandwiches this year, but we can all help out by sending checks to Habitat for Humanity, PO Box 391, Penn Yan, NY 14527

Another Super Bowl collection is Souper Bowl - cans of soup which you can donate to The Living Well. 

This past Sunday we studied Nicodemus’s journey.  Nicodemus was a man of the Pharisees. Nicodemus believed that unless a person was born from above that he could not see the Kingdom of God — hence the idea of being born again. People in Nicodemus’s time did not all agree with him, and he went out on a limb with his feelings, standing up to family and friends in support of Jesus. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night; he put himself at risk of being persecuted or jailed. 

Are you born again into the family of Christ? Pastor Sandi showed us how God waits for us. She asked us where we find the Good News in today’s world.  Jesus is waiting for us to be transformed.  Our lesson was based on scripture from John 3: 1-21. 

Stay warm!  We are now getting our winter snow and cold weather. Brrr!