Dear Members and Friends of First Presbyterian Church Ithaca,
It is with many mixed emotions that I prepare to say goodbye to you. First Pres Ithaca has been a wonderful church to serve, and Ithaca itself has been a wonderful community to live in. I will always cherish Ithaca as the place where you took a chance on me as a first call pastor, where I grew into my calling as a pastor, and where we had our first child, Christopher.
As much as I have enjoyed my time here in Ithaca, it is time to say goodbye. In the last year since Dr. Rev. Jim Henery’s departure, I believe I have grown as a pastor, particularly in areas of administration and preaching. While I have appreciated the opportunities for growth in the last year, I have sensed a strong call to return to the Associate Pastor position.
My next call will be serving at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in downtown Washington DC as their Associate Pastor. In that position, along with the generalist pastoral responsibilities, I will have a wonderful opportunity to further focus on developing their children’s, youth, and young adult ministries. My hope is that I might be able to further integrate my experiences with you and my love and responsibility of motherhood into helping create new and sustainable practices for ministering to the youngest amongst us. Of course, none of these dreams would be possible without the support you have given me. I thank you!
From Ithaca, I will remember with great fondness the children who scramble up each week to children’s time. Like you, on behalf of the church in Ithaca and the church universal, I’m so happy that the numbers of children has grown and is steadily rising. Beyond the numbers, I am so delighted that more of the children across languages and cultures are contributing their thoughts during children’s time. I am so joyful that this church has it made its mark in the Ithaca community as a safe space for kids to grow to love God and experience that God loves them.
Moving up one age category, I am so proud of your support for our middle and high school youth. Like the children, they have grown in numbers. More importantly, having wrestled with some of the questions of faith, they have grown in spiritual depth and maturity. The Sunday school and Youth Committees decided to combine creating a greater energy, direction, and passion for our youngest people. You have seen the youth leading worship, heard about their mission and service opportunities, and have witnessed their amazing commitment to this church by fundraising for the roof. Under the leadership of John Yao, we have witnessed the creation of the youth choir and band, a wonderful avenue for our youth to serve the church through music. Also through John’s guidance, we now have a bi-monthly Sunday evening youth group helping keep our high schoolers in the church, a real accomplishment.
In my time here, I have had the opportunity to also minister to those who are in my own generation. I have loved our every other Tuesday gatherings at our home, the Manse, hosting those in their mid-20’s to mid-30’s for dinner, growing in fellowship together, and sharing book study. We have read “Presbyterian Questions, Presbyterian Answers,” by Donald McKim, the Gospel of Matthew, “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonehoeffer, “Speaking Christian” by Marcus Borg, and most recently “City of God,” by Sara Miles. There are more. All of these titles and the experience of the group as a whole speak to a yearning from graduate students and young professionals in Ithaca to be integrated into the church, to be challenged in faith, and to grow to know one another in the spirit of Christian friendship.
Of course the majority of you are not children, youth, or ‘young’ adults. You are the ones who make up the bulk of the ministry around the church. You bring the experience, the energy, and the deep questions of faith. I thank you helping with worship: for preaching and serving as liturgists, for singing so faithfully in the choir, and by adding your warm and supportive presence each Sunday. I thank you for serving on committees: On Deacons with your energy advocating for our shut-ins and those in our community in need; On Session serving in all areas always discerning the ways and direction God is leading this church; the many standing committee and special committees, helping with fellowship time, maintenance, and special events. The list goes on. Thank you for your dedication.
You are gifted with a dedicated church staff. You know Jim Dupay, our facility manager, from his 27 (or more?) years at the church. He has really taken up a leadership role with the new head-sets. Bill Josselyn has served as custodian here for almost a decade bringing a sense of pride to keeping our building clean. Kate Hubbs, our Accountant and afternoon office assistant, brings experience, insight, and wealth of institutional knowledge to the goings on of the church, especially the finances. Micheala Batstone, our Office Administrator, is always pleasant, gifted, and hard-working. We are so lucky to have her. Ian Woods, our Choir Director and Organist, brings his many musical talents and his easy-going personality. Matt Jones, our Children’s Choir Director, brings out the voices of our youngest. John Yao wearing many hats directing our Youth and Bell Choirs and serving as Coordinator of our Family and Youth Ministries, starting June 1, will be full time. Very good news!
You have many wonderful and gracious pastors, lay pastors, and seminarians in the church. These include Rev. Joanne Bartel, Elmer Ewing, Cindy Weaver, and Duffy Beigel. They are wonderful resources. Cathy Forester, a commissioned lay pastor, has served here faithfully in the last two years leading worship, Bible studies, and helping with organizational leadership. She will be moving in late June – and will surely be missed! You are very lucky to have the Rev. Jim Hicks as ongoing Parish Associate with you. He is a humble servant of the Lord.
Sunday June 8th will be my last Sunday. Tuesday, June 10th will be my last day in the office. Other than being away Thursday May 29-June 1 to preach as the ‘candidate’ in DC, Adam, Christopher, and I will be in town. I would love to see you to say goodbye. I can come to you. To help organize my schedule, please let me know via phone call or email when might be best for you. While goodbyes are important for closure, I realize it is a busy season, and like me, you might not like long-goodbyes. If that is the case and we don’t get in touch, please know that you are in my prayers and part of my wonderful memories of Ithaca, I care deeply about you. If you take nothing else away from my ministry in Ithaca, I hope you will believe that you are loved by God and a valued member of the body of Christ. It is a message that I try to convey during every children’s time: You are beloved child of God. Our common mission is to love one another.
Peace and blessings be with you.