B0000989I had only one “big Steeple” church. It wasn’t the largest church I served in terms of membership, but it sure had the tallest steeple. First Presbyterian Church in Trumansburg had an historic “colonial” style brick building with the requisite white columns in front. The steeple housed what was once considered the village clock, so-called because everyone in the village could see it, and the village had contributed to its upkeep.

Some really good things happened while I was there, some in the works long before I got there in 2002. For one thing, the church celebrated its 200th birthday, a bicentennial festival to which I’ve already alluded. The planning was in place when I arrived, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) had been invited for the 2003 commemoration, and I simply had the responsibility of working with a committee to fine-tune the year’s activities. The bicentennial year included special worship services, historical notes in the newsletter and worship bulletins, and concerts, one of which included the premier of an anthem that had been commissioned for the occasion.

I mention this again just to lead into some of the highlights of my time there. I’ve written previously of the restoring of the sanctuary, but I should mention again the building of an endowment fund. It was not my idea, nor did I have anything to do with its design, but if a church needs that kind of rainy day (or any day) fund, I’m glad the campaign was successful on my watch. (Again, about all I did was watch.)

Another success was the rebuilding of the church youth group. The Sunday morning youth crowd had good numbers, but on Sunday nights as I recall there wasn’t much going on… until a family moved to the community from a very active “bigger steeple” church in New Jersey. That family had three teenage boys, and the boys’ parents wanted them to have a youth group to build fellowship and friendships. No doubt there had been youth groups through the years, and maybe the the program had just been in stasis when I arrived. Still, it was that family’s desire and willingness to devote time and energy to rebuilding the weekly gathering that created some memorable programs. I still smile when I see the photos of the senior high guys learning to knit, or when I remember slogging through the snowy village caroling, or joining with other youth at a Habitat for Humanity work site. (Yet again, I take no credit for the youth group thing, except being supportive and encouraging when some typical issues popped up now and then.)

Another very positive thing that happened while I was at that church: a mission fair. My wife Joan helped organize that event, having a zeal for the work of Heifer International, and wanting to share its outreach with our church. Heifer had a “fair” model, and Joan and our Mission Committee expanded the fair concept to include Habitat For Humanity, the Presbytery’s mission trip to Mexico, Church World Service and CROP, Presbyterian schools in Pakistan, and the local food pantry.  After worship one Sunday, we all moved next door to our chapel building where the gathering space was filled with booths advertising the various mission opportunities. There were lots of hands-on activities for children, and each area offered foods related to their ministries, i.e., tacos obviously at the Mexico trip table, or mac’n’cheese that might be served at a Habitat site lunch. A big hit: our version of a petting zoo — an Elder who raised sheep brought in a weeks-old lamb for the Heifer International display.

That mission fair drew smiles that day, but also grew a lively commitment to expanding the church’s mission into many new areas, including an annual “Alternatives Gifts” catalog at Christmas. After that fair, the church’s Mission Committee had a busy agenda each month.

I need to revisit the controversy regarding the concurrent Sunday School and worship times. I’ve already written pages about that, but looking back, I am glad that the church did indeed give both Sunday School and worship separate times to meet, so that children and adults could honor both ministries with their shared presence. Though it did create division and unhappiness among some, I nonetheless count that lengthening of the church day (by an hour) as something to be celebrated during my tenure there.

Finally, there was a bit of unfinished business I left behind when I retired. I’ll write about it tomorrow: the NIMBY skate park.