A few years back, after a vacation in the Adirondack Mountains of upper New York state, we decided to head toward Vermont passing just north of Lake George on Rt. 74. As we were viewing the scenery along Eagle Lake, I nearly screeched to a halt in the road and put the car in reverse. We had just passed a shoreline property that was completely covered in daylilies. After wandering the property ogling the many varieties, I purchased four and received one for free at Jim's Daylilies. I piled the newly purchased plants on top of all the tenting equipment and on we went. I returned this year to Jim's for more great daylilies. This time I was prepared with a tarp to put under them as well. Five more returned with me. JoAnne picked some and I picked some. My goal was to add colors and forms that I did not have in my garden already. Another good goal is to add length to the season, but I was not working on that this time. The first two pictures are daylilies from our first trip to Jim's and the second two pictures are from this year's purchases.
A good supplier you can visit is a big help
Every daylily lover like me needs a good supplier or two as a source for their collection. I have ordered some great daylilies online or from catalogs, but I love going to a daylily garden and buying what I see. The daylilies are so much fresher and healthier than what one gets mail-order. Suppliers like this know that to be successful, buyers want to take home what they see so they dig them right then. When I lived in Kirkville, NY, my supplier was Grace Gardens. One thing I really appreciated about Grace gardens was their supply of spider daylilies. The two spider daylilies pictured are from Grace Gardens.
Growing from seeds
Over the last few years, I have been experimenting with something that I never had time for before. I have been collecting seedpods from my daylilies and growing some daylilies from seed. Of all the daylily blooms, very few form seedpods. I am just learning about how to help the pollinating process. But I can collect enough seedpods already to have more seeds than I am able to grow. Of the seeds collected, my germination rate is not high. Then some plants do not survive the year or so of growing in flats and small pots and being transplanted from one to another a couple times. That's okay, because I want the strong growers left. But what reward! After about three years, I have begun to see blooms on the first hybrid seed-grown plants. Most are obviously crosses between different daylilies that I have., though I have enough varieties that it is not always possible to figure out which ones. These new hybrids I have the privilege of naming. This year I named four. Well, actually, Ryan Harvey, one of JoAnne's piano students helped with the "Purple Sunset" label. What a joy to name my own.
JoAnne and I were at our church's annual summer picnic, held this year at Sunrise Park in Suffield, CT. I saw the cake on the table decorated with "40 years" but did not read further as the words were partly covered by the box. Thinking about the summer fiftieth anniversary celebrations of some in our congregation, my mind wondered, "Whose anniversary did I miss?"
JoAnne and I were completely surprised upon being told that the celebration cake (pictured) was for us. It was in honor of forty years of ministry as pastor and pastor's wife. In my case, JoAnne has always been a partner in ministry in so many ways. When we were ready for dessert, everyone gathered and Judy Holcomb, council chair, presented us with a beautiful card which I am reading in the picture. Enclosed was a generous gift card to local restaurants which we enjoy. In addition we were informed that the congregation was also collecting a gift for World Hope International, our favorite charity. We were delighted about this as we make a practice of giving each other this kind of gift as part of our Christmas and contribute regularly all year as well. Harrison and Carol Griffin also presented us with a new daylily named Daring Deception (pictured) for my collection in honor of the occasion. (Only daylily nuts like me try to keep track of the flower names.)
Forty years ago we arrived in a U-Haul at Bentley Creek Pennsylvania Wesleyan Church pulling our car behind and with our then 18 month-old daughter Keely belted in her bucket seat between us on the bench seat of the truck. Twelve years later we moved to Kirkville, near Syracuse, NY where we served at Community Wesleyan for 22 years. In 2013, I retired from full-time ministry and began part-time service as pastor at Copper Hill United Methodist Church in East Granby, CT. We have just completed 6 years in a country church that reminds me very much of the country church where I grew up.
This past weekend at NY Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church I was officially stationed as pastor at Copper Hill United Methodist Church for a seventh year. I am thankful to God and to District Superintendent Rev. Alpher Sylvester and Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton for the opportunity to continue to serve as pastor to our semi-rural community. Many my age are long since retired, but my wife and I have not wished to stop the purpose-driven life that we have lived. We like the semi-retired lifestyle serving this appointment offers. And we continue to feel loved and supported by our church family. Even though we know that it cannot continue forever, we are grateful for each year that we can enjoy the grace-filled and fortuitous combination of good health, good relationships with our church family and favor with higher church leadership. And living in the large country parsonage provided is a big blessing as well. The air here even smells like where I was raised in Western New York.
Copper Hill United Methodist Church
Yet overall, God is sovereign, and so beyond my likes and the vicissitudes of pastoral appointments, I look for God’s purposes in granting this seventh year. That is most important.
As I seek to discern these, one purpose which rises to the top in my consciousness is the expectation of a very special confirmation class which is tentatively scheduled to begin in January 2020. As a church, we have been focusing many efforts on discipling the children God has sent. A significant number of them will be of age for confirmation class in this coming year and I eagerly look forward to that class. The class could be twice as large as any we have had so far. Sheri Mandirola has already agreed to assist as she did with the last confirmation class.
Another purpose for which God may have granted a seventh year is that I am scheduled to officiate at two weddings of granddaughters of regularly attending members of our church during this coming summer/early fall. A generation ago, pastors doing weddings was routine and automatic. Not so now! In today’s world, it takes time to build the relationships that result in the invitation to perform a wedding. I am looking forward to these two occasions.
Third, one of the huge challenges facing our local church is the slow but essential task of passing the torch of leadership to the next generation, a challenge that was identified in our 2020 Vision Plan. A continuing pastorate helps us make progress toward that goal.
Finally, I believe God is granting me a continued opportunity to help give perspective to our church and position it for the future as we navigate together the current troubled times in the overall United Methodist Church. Hints from the high church leadership are pointing more and more toward a future with “multiple expressions” of Methodism, whatever that will mean. Details will likely take years to sort out. In the meantime, it will be important to be the church where we are as I have been encouraging all along. Eventually, as decisions come along, it will be crucial to have already developed a “bless and send” mindset rather than a “fight and rend” approach.
I have one more thought. Personally, I can’t help but look at this year as a bonus. As I came to Copper Hill Church my goal was to serve six years. I even mentioned that number in my initial discussions with both the DS and the SPR committee when I was asked how long I wanted to serve. It is hard to believe that six years have come and gone. This is already the seventh summer that my grandson has swung on the big swing set that was in the parsonage lawn when I arrived. In the Methodist Church, it is always just one year at a time. By God’s providence and grace, I have been granted another year to make the most of my role as pastor, responding to our Lord’s admonition, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work”(John 9:4 NRSV).
Unfortunately, in the Methodist church these days, much conversation revolves around the current debates and maneuverings regarding the issue of homosexuality especially as it pertains to church leaders. This thoughtful and honest article by Gary Ingraham brings the voice that needs to be heard in this acrimonious debate. There is no rancor or crusading, just compassion and simple testimony to Christian hope, daily Christian living, and God’s power to change lives day by day. This is the voice that is neglected in this debate. The conservative side has sometimes been lacking in compassion and is often hesitant to get into the larger issue of other sexual temptations such as pornography and adultery. By so doing they in effect pejoratively brand homosexuality as something apart. The pro-gay side does not want to admit that some gay people can successfully and happily become straight in their practice partly by interpreting their feelings as temptation.
My blog has reached a milestone! There are three hundred manuscripts now available for download under the Sermons tab. These are public messages as they are called in my short list of the most recent ones. They are the homilies and discourses I have given for the encouragement of the congregation in Christian faith and practice, mostly on Sunday mornings at Copper Hill Church. I have posted them in the hope that they will be helpful to the body of Christ everywhere. It is gratifying to me to see that some people from other countries also look at these messages. Permission is granted to freely use what is posted here to help others. However, if you are essentially reprinting or republishing, it is only courteous to maintain proper credits. I expect no reimbursements, only the joy of knowing that the work is being used of God to advance God's kingdom. I expect , by God's grace, to continue to add to the total as weeks go by.
On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 7, 2018, my wife and I left right after services at Copper Hill Church and drove all afternoon to Canandaigua, New York to attend the ordination service of the Central New York district of the Wesleyan Church. I had been asked to present, which means to formally introduce, a younger man from my previous congregation who was being ordained to the Christian ministry in that service. He had asked me to be his presenter because I had served as his mentor during my last years as Pastor at Kirkville Wesleyan church. I decided to make the drive both for him and for me. At this time in my life journey, having recently turned 70 years old, it is a special joy to witness those stepping forward for whom I may have had some part in their journey. Perhaps I had a small part to play in their growth into their current positions of full time or part time Christian service. It highlights for me the goal which is to pass our faith on to others.
It was surreal as the four of us walked up the center aisle of the large auditorium in the contemporary church atmosphere, the sanctuary darkened theater style but with lights on our path in the center aisle. I found myself deeply rejoicing as my wife and I walked up behind Benjamin Mackey and his wife Kim to the front. On screen, the slideshow rolled pictures of his years of preparation. At the appropriate moment, I tried to speak clearly, “We present Benjamin Mackey, supported by his wife Kim, to be ordained in the Wesleyan church and in the church universal." I was proud to be part of this moment of sanctification and recognition for Ben. He and his wife are serving sacrificially at the small Wesleyan Church in Watertown, NY.
At the same service Rev. Dr. Eric Paashaus, who was my assistant at Kirkville and who succeeded me as pastor there by design, was also presenting his current assistant for ordination. This said to me that the process of mentoring has continued into the next generation. That proceeding was gratifying to see as well. After all, the goal of mentoring is to create a chain of Christian leadership that can continue (2 Tim. 2:2). Such a chain is the most powerful way to be sure that the message of Jesus continues to pass on to others.
An Installation Service in the same week
On Saturday, October 13, 2018, I had been asked to speak at the installation service of the new Pastor Adeline Hazzard whom I am currently mentoring at the request of the district superintendent. This is Pastor Adeline's first pastorate. Along with two other neighboring pastors who were also participating we prayed for Pastor Adeline and encouraged the congregation in their ministry. The program was well planned. It contained a powerful skit by Emmaus youth, a section where members of the congregation and the pastor's family brought her symbolic gifts, the message which I brought and a time of prayer at the altar rail for God's anointing upon Pastor Adeline's ministry there. It was the most special installation service I remember. I felt blessed to be asked to speak and to lead the prayer time. My wife and I stayed for the beautiful reception held in the adjoining fellowship hall.
Many of you have been watching the construction of my 2018 Christmas train village as I have posted some progress reports on Facebook. You have been patiently waiting for the “finished product.” Here it is, though tweaks continue. Pictures are in the gallery below. It’s really about interacting with people. That’s one reason why my picture of Sam is the featured picture. Already the grandchildren have run the trains. JoAnne has hosted some ladies of the church who surveyed the set before it was quite finished. Sarah Oliver sat Jake down next to the tracks and his eyes followed the engines as they moved! Then Tuesday, Mike and Karen Ahijevych stopped in to help with the preparation of the church’s Every Door Direct mailing and took a moment to see the trains too. In the next two weeks we will also host three open houses, two for our church family and one for our neighborhood. JoAnne bakes special treats for these occasions.
A question that I am asked every year is: “What is new this year?” There always seems to be something. Last year, one big new thing was changing all the track over to FasTrack. Another was a new Lion Chief Patriot engine. Also last year I bought a Snowy Village Dept 56 church, and was given a Dickens Village Dept 56 church by Ken and Carolyn D’Annolfo. In addition a small country meeting-house type church showed up at our church tag sale, perfect for a pastor whose church meets in an old-style New England Methodist meeting house. So I gained three beautiful churches last year. This year the new items are “Polar Express.” I have a new North Pole station and a Polar Express train complete with the recorded “All aboard” announcement from the movie.
I was thinking about how this came to be. Everyone asks how long I have been doing this. Each year for about 25 years I have had trains around the tree. But each year the project has evolved. It all began when friends in my second church, Bill and Jackie Quick, gave me a classic O-Gauge Lionel set just like the one my brothers and I shared as children. I found three ceramic houses on sale at the local drugstore in East Syracuse and the Christmas hobby began. I couldn’t remember when it started, but Stacey Totoritis Rogan remembered seeing it near its primitive beginning in 1993 on a visit to Kirkville with her parents. It took a big step when the Kirkville parsonage was remodeled around 2001. The display moved upstairs and began to acquire additional houses, accessory wiring, and more than one level. It gained the large front-and-center train station. By then we made no attempt to put presents under the tree. We started inviting children of the church over to run the trains at open house events. In 2013, when we moved to the West Granby parsonage, I had more space so the set grew. But as it has grown more complex, so the time it takes to assemble and dissemble it has increased. However, this year, I was able to assemble it a little quicker, taking only 10 days instead of the usual two weeks.
That is a crucial spiritual question in our everyday struggle with temptation of all kinds. Will we take the long view of what leads to long term wholeness for ourselves and those close to us according to the gathered wisdom of our human race or will we choose what we currently crave? It is also a question that is at the heart of current medical and political debates about issues such as transgender surgeries. Should counselors, doctors, psychologists, pastors, etc just serve as hired or volunteer facilitators to help a person get what they currently want, or should they serve the acquired wisdom of humankind in promoting healing and wholeness, personal growth and maturity? This article focuses on that choice as it applies to the issue of gender reassignment surgeries. The article by Ryan T. Anderson is enlightening and gives valuable perspective for this debate. The question raised by this article is much broader than transgender issues. But as regards gender dysphoria, the standpoint of health and wholeness makes a much better starting point for the discussion of transgender than do moral codes. Ethics then enters into the picture as wholeness is defined as a moral good.
Alcohol abuse is a problem no one wants to talk about. But it is an increasing problem in the US. And more and younger people are losing their lives because of it as this recent news article in USA Today reports. While the Bible does not prohibit alcohol use, there are several warnings about it. For example, Solomon wrote, “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise”(Prov 20:1 NIV). Today the church can encourage those who are trapped by addiction by offering space for AA, by sponsoring Celebrate Recovery Groups, and through pastoral counsel. We can also help by countering the popular narrative that alcohol is needed for a good time. And we can help provide hope for those who are discouraged and, seemingly lacking options, often turn to alcohol to cope.
I ask your patience as I add earlier sermons to my database. I’m happy to announce that I have recently been able to import sermons from the plugin that I previously used. The first six months of messages at Copper Hill are included in those. In addition, there are some messages available going back to 2010 when I began blogging. However, I ask your patience as I work to fill in some of the remaining gaps and fix minor issues resulting from the transfer from one plug-in to the other.