Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The church was closed Sunday, February 10 due to a record-breaking snowstorm that hit Suffolk County and the area around Farmingville hard. As Newsday reported, according to the National Weather Service in Upton, “The blizzard unleashed up to 33 inches of snow as recorded in Medford, and wind gusts to 75 mph. The storm total of 30.9 was the highest in Upton since records have been kept beginning in 1949, breaking the December 2009 record of 26.3 inches, officials said.” The storm left many of our roads and highways closed
for several days.
The decision to close became much clearer when I read that the Long Island Expressway was going to be closed on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., from Exit 57 to Exit 73 for snow removal. Later, I would hear stories from members who were not able to leave their homes for some four days after the storm ended.
It bothered me to close the church on Sunday, even though it is best to ask people to stay home while the streets are cleared of snow. Governor Cuomo urged Long Islanders to “stay home unless you have urgent business to be on the roads.” For me, I consider it “urgent business” to feed our souls on a regular basis. That morning, I sat in my house realizing how much I missed the community, the gathered children of God for the praise and worship of our Lord and Savior. I thirst for it like a deer thirsts for water. I need it, you need it, we all need it!
I know a person who understood the need to be in community. Donald Millikin came to Farmingville in May 2011 after the passing of his wife that February. He had been church shopping; we were one of a few that he checked out and it was this church that he chose as his House of Worship.
In Peter Block’s book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, he writes, “Community as used here is about the experience of belonging. We are in community each time we find a place where we belong. The word belong has two meanings. First, to belong is to be related to and a part of something. It is membership, the experience of being at home in the broadest sense of the phrase. It is the opposite of thinking that wherever I am, I would be better off somewhere else, or that I am still forever wandering, looking for that place where I belong… to feel isolated and always (all ways) on the margin, an outsider, to belong is to know, even in the middle of the night, that I am among friends.”
This describes the type of community that Donald found in your midst.
Block continues, “The second meaning of the word belong has to do with being an owner. To belong to a community is to act as a creator and co-owner of the community. The work, then, is to seek in our communities a wider and deeper sense of emotional ownership; it means fostering among all of a community’s citizens a sense of ownership and accountability.”
The first thing that drew Donald to this church was because he noticed the well-maintained grounds and buildings. This is a sign of ownership for those who care for the buildings and grounds whom do so with a great sense of responsibility and pride. I can say the same for those who sing in the choir, prepare communion, teach our children, produce The Sunday Sun, cook and bake throughout the year, keep the financial records, oversee the endowments, change the candles on the altar, and the greeters and lay leaders on Sunday mornings. It is why I thank God for you!
When you write your mission and vision statement before you begin your search for your next pastor, it will probably include the sense of community that you have here in Farmingville. And as I discovered through Donald and others who have come into the church during my tenure, that sense of community is not just for those who have been here for a long time; it is available to all who enter your doors. Is there room for improvement? I ask you to consider these questions. Do you always have ushers greeting people on Sunday
mornings? Do you not only notice the stranger but also attempt to get to know them? Do you invite new people through the middle door of the church? I might have to explain that one. It is one thing to welcome a new person on Sunday mornings. It is another thing to invite them to join the Choir, Chimettes, Women’s Fellowship, clean-up crew, fellowship events or to invite them out for a cup of coffee.
After you have pondered these questions, you might want to covenant with God to find a way to help the other “Donald’s” that enter the doors to find a place of belonging and community. This is the work of the whole community. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen!
I thank God for you,
Pastor Kathy Nealand
For more about Donald, go to In Memory of Donald Millikin.