Tidings January/February 2015

First Presbyterian Church of Allentown
January/February 2015
Warm Ministry
Knitters break records
delivering handmade
hats to Allentown children
A Time of Their Own
Tuesday Night Together participants
gather in their own way
Presence on Christmas Eve
Members congregate at Alliance Hall
on Sixth Street in Allentown
Calendar of Events
Calendar of Events
Pastoral Reflections
Living God’s Love
Serve Now
Youth Brunch 2.0
PNC Update
Handmade Hats for
Allentown Children
Tuesday Night Together
Presence on
Christmas Eve
Q&A: FPCA Financial
Got an Idea for Tidings?
Tidings bears witness to the
ministries of First Presbyterian
Church of Allentown, offering
stories and perspective on our
efforts to live God’s love for the
common good of our community
and the world.
Got a story idea that illuminates
how the Spirit moves in our
Contact Rich Laliberte at
[email protected]
Other inquiries about Tidings?
Contact Caley Oels in the church
office at 610-395-3781, ext. 11, or
[email protected]
Photo on front cover, back cover, and photos on
pages 6 and 7 by Karen Ensley.
January 2015
Tween First Friday
Confirmation class winter retreat
17 Leadership retreat
Martin Luther King Day
Building/offices closed
24 Middle/high school ski, snowboarding,
and tubing trip
Welcoming Children to the Lord’s Table
30 Family Fellowship Soup/Chili Night
February 2015
Winter Youth Brunch
Souper Bowl of Caring
High school Big Game party
6 Tween First Friday
16 Presidents’ Day
No preschool
The Next Level leadership training
18 Ash Wednesday
22 Tween pretzel sale
28 High school lock-in
Pastoral Reflections
Rev. Dr. Mike Drake
Sometimes I’m not nearly as observant as I should be. My wife suggests that this
quality is a genetic defect in the male of the human species, a line of reasoning which
I have trouble accepting. But truth to tell, she’s right.
Case in point: Recently, while I was lying on a mat at home doing some stretches, my
attention was caught by the room’s red oak floor. We’ve lived there 21 years and I was
just waking up to how beautiful the wood was! I have walked on those floors, sat on
them, cleaned them, but never taken in their beauty at this level. Each floorboard was
unique: some light-colored, others a pale reddish-brown; some with small tight knots,
others with dramatic grain patterns. Taken together, however, there was uniformity
in their strength, toughness, and resistance to wear from the impact of my family and
those who had gone before us.
I think that’s an apt image for our congregation at this point in our 183-year history.
As a body, we are as diverse as those floorboards: in age, religious background,
ethnicity, nationality (30-plus nations represented), language, socioeconomic level,
education, life experience, political perspective…I could go on. Yet when these gifts
are woven together, collectively we discover a strength and resilience that comes not
from ourselves but from our oneness in Christ, our trust in God’s Spirit with us, and
our commitment to each other and God’s purposes.
As we turn a fresh page on the calendar and enter a new year, however, this issue of
Tidings reflects both challenges before us as a congregation as the PNC continues its
work and we move in the direction of greater financial health, and opportunities for
celebration through the ministry we provide in the Allentown schools, Daybreak,
and our TNT (Tuesday Night Together) program.
It’s a mixed bag of news. So what are we to make of it? In each of these things, I see
God very much at work—reshaping us for the ministry we still have to carry out in
this place, allowing some doors to close and others to open, helping us envision how
to be the church in new and relevant ways.
“Cast your
cares on the
Lord and He
will sustain
—­Psalm 55:22
The question for us is this: In this potpourri of dilemma and success, are we still
willing to yield ourselves to God’s leading, release the collective power of our
diversity and strength to God’s purposes, and allow ourselves to be the crucible from
which God adds additional chapters to the history of faithfulness we have written
together to this point?
It’s not in our human nature to cede our autonomy to another so completely. But
one of the consistent themes throughout Scripture is the fact that God always wants
the best for God’s people. That fact is no less true today here in this place and this
congregation than for other believers at other times. May each of us consider what it
might mean to place our lives and our futures fully in the hands of the one who calls
us to discipleship.
Grace and peace,
Nancy also volunteers for Hospice at the in-patient unit at
Lehigh Valley Hospital-17th Street. She spends two hours a
week sitting with patients, feeding them, talking with family
members, and helping the nurses.
Paul has joined several mission trips with presbytery’s
Helping Hands, rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, the
floods in Nashville and Johnson City, Tennessee, and most
recently in Breezy Point, Queens, after Hurricane Sandy.
First Presbyterian Church members are
living God’s love in all kinds of ways. Two
of them are Paul and Nancy Holler, who—
among other mission activities—lead a team
that prepares and serves the Neighborhood
Breakfast at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran
Church in center-city Allentown several
Sundays a year. Here’s their story, in their
own words.
Nancy: When we became empty nesters, I decided I wanted
to share my extra time serving others. My life has been
blessed over and over and I continue to be blessed by God’s
grace every day. To be able to share His grace with others is a
privilege and a pleasure for me.
Paul: My favorite verse is Micah 6:8: “What does the
Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and
walk humbly with your God.” I feel that in these different
endeavors I can do just that. SERVE NOW
Opportunities to share your gifts of
time, talent, and treasure
KNITTING MINISTRY Donate yarn or needles for
projects such as handmade hats for Allentown
schoolchildren. Bring donations to the church
office or contact [email protected] (For
details, see page 6.)
We were invited in 2012 to help at St. Paul’s Neighborhood
Breakfast by the FPCA Local Mission Team. We serve about
six times a year.
We arrive at 6 a.m. to begin preparing breakfast. We often
bring juice and milk to add to their supplies, and a few
Saturdays a month we collect day-old baked goods from Giant
and deliver them to be eaten with breakfast or brought home.
Guests begin to arrive by 7 a.m. and sit in the Fellowship Hall
having coffee and sampling baked goods. After one of our
crew members leads a devotion and the Lord’s Prayer, we begin
serving breakfast at 8 a.m. for between 100 and 125 guests.
Kim Ceccatti, another member of FPCA, is a member of our
team and manages another team. Other regular members of
our team are Joshua Hilbert, Rich and Rachelle Laliberte,
and Gracia Perelli.
LOCAL MISSION Help those we serve in Allentown
whose life journey is wrapped in hopelessness
and helplessness. They may need food, clothing,
a listening ear, a helping hand, or a shoulder
to lean on. One example: serving at Daybreak
(see page 10). Contact Charley Underwood at
[email protected] or Helen Underwood at
[email protected] or call them at
work of Jesus Christ through the hands of our
congregation? Your financial gifts are a deeply
appreciated and necessary part of our ministry
together. For information on how to contribute
through physical or digital means, contact
[email protected] (For more,
see page 11.)
REFUGEE TUTORS After facing many trials, newly
arrived families from refugee camps around the
world need one-on-one help learning English
and adjusting to the U.S. Contact Kathy Yott at
610-391-0195 or [email protected]
For more information on how you can get involved,
please contact [email protected]
Youth Brunch 2.0
FPCA 6th-12th graders revive a popular tradition
After a hiatus of more than three years,
First Presbyterian’s middle schoolers and
high schoolers hosted a youth brunch on
Sunday, November 16, 2014. The event was
so successful that the youth plan to host
another brunch on Sunday, February 1.
Proceeds support FPCA’s summer youth ministry program.
The November brunch raised $1,454, with youth choosing to
donate a tithe (10 percent, or $145) of the profits to the Sixth
Street Shelter.
The last previous youth brunch took place in February 2011.
Brunches were suspended when Fellowship Hall (where they
had been held) became the church’s new alternative worship
space. Youth suggested reviving the brunch using rooms 115,
118, 120, and 122 in the education wing.
Fifty-eight youth and 26 adult volunteers served about 236
people a menu of pancakes (both regular and gluten free),
scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast, along with coffee, tea, hot
cocoa, orange juice, and milk. Those numbers are very close
to where we left off in 2011, when youth served 273 people
and raised $1,458.
Many people in the congregation told me they were glad the
youth brunch was back and commented that the food was
good and the service quick. Youth who had experienced past
brunches liked the fact that attendance was spread over the
morning rather than peaking in a “crazy” hour between two
services as with our old worship schedule. Many youth also
said they enjoyed working with the other youth and adults.
One wish for future brunches: bacon!
Many thanks to Lauren Daniel, Anne Ferrera, and Susan
Rogers, who helped coordinate this event despite a lot of
unknowns. We had ample help, and everyone was cooperative
and understanding as we lived into what Youth Brunch 2.0
looks like. Would we do it again? Absolutely! Join us on
February 1 from 7:30 a.m to noon! PASTORAL NOMINATING COMMITTEE UPDATE
At a congregational meeting on November 9, 2014,
First Presbyterian members elected members of
the Pastoral Nominating Committee (PNC), which is
charged with discerning who should be called as our
next lead pastor. Here’s an update on our activities
since then:
During November, the newly elected PNC members
met weekly to introduce themselves, establish a
covenant with God and one another, and begin the
team-building process for the pastoral search.
In December, the PNC reviewed the first draft of the
2014 Mission Study, written by the mission study
team, which had been meeting since September. This
document helps define where the church feels it is
called to go. Upon prayerful consideration and review,
the PNC sent the completed Mission Study to Session,
and it was approved.
As of early January, the PNC is in the process of
completing the Ministry Information Form (also
referred to as a Church Information Form). It describes
our congregation and offers five narratives that
provide a spiritual snapshot of our congregation and
ministries, as well as the characteristics and qualities
desired in our next lead pastor. Upon its approval by
FPCA’s Session and Lehigh Presbytery’s Committee
on Ministry, the PNC will begin the networking phase
of the search.
Members of the 11-person PNC are:
Larry Deal
Peter Dent (co-chair)
Rick Ensley
Chuck Hess
Beverly Kerch
Afaf Khoury
Jane Long
Will Newbegin
Shannan Ott
Deborah Palmer
Jennifer Staib (co-chair)
Warm Ministry
Knitters break records delivering handmade hats to
Allentown children
Each year, members of First Presbyterian’s knitting ministry create handmade hats for
first-grade children in the Allentown School District. It was heartwarming to see this
year’s hats displayed and dedicated during worship services on November 16. But the
joy these hats spread among children who receive them is incomparably touching. Here
are answers to questions I often receive as one of the leaders of this ministry.
How did FPCA’s hat ministry start?
This all started as a Saturday of Service project where we built
on existing relationships with Roosevelt Elementary School
and the church’s prayer shawl knitting ministry.
How long has it been going on?
We started in 2009. For the first three years, we made barely
enough hats for first grade students at one school.
How many hats did you make this year?
In 2014, we gave out more than 1,000 hats to Allentown first
Who made them?
Members, church friends and relatives, neighbors, co-workers,
and several ladies from Country Meadows—all made hats.
One of our members really went to town and single-handedly
made 100.
Where did the hats go?
Last year, we ventured for the first time beyond Roosevelt—
and visited Ramos and Sheridan Elementary Schools. This
year, between Monday, November 17, and Friday, December
19, we distributed hats to first-grade children at Roosevelt,
Sheridan, Ramos, Central, Cleveland, Dodd, McKinley,
and Washington!
Allentown population118,577
How did hats get to schools?
Some of us had the privilege of going to each class and
helping children select a hat for their very own. You can’t
help being moved by the gratitude of these little ones. One
school sent us a wonderful letter saying they used this special
event to teach the children what it means to be part of a
community—the highest compliment we have received!
Persons under 18 years
Persons below poverty level
Elementary schools in Allentown
Elementary schools that are
“Low Achieving Schools”
SOURCES: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population
Estimates Program, http://www.census.gov/popest/
index.html. Pennsylvania Department of Education
2014-15 List of Low Achieving Schools, http://www.
“If anyone has material possessions and
sees a brother or sister in need but has
no pity on them, how can the love of God
be in that person? Dear children, let us
not love with words or speech but with
actions and in truth.”
—1 John 3:17-18
What’s next?
Keep an eye out for summer knitting in the church library.
This is a time when we help folks learn to knit, read a
complicated pattern, or develop skills while enjoying each
other’s company in the air-conditioned library one evening
every week.
How can I get involved?
We would greatly appreciate donations of yarn or needles.
As you, neighbors, or relatives come across yarn (washable
preferred), please consider bringing it to the church office
with a note so we know it’s for knitting ministry. For more
information, contact [email protected] Opposite page, top: Among those delivering more than 1,000 hats to Allentown
first-grade students were (from left) Kristin Ensley, Norman True, Emma True,
and Diane Montuori. Bottom: Children chose hats from a colorful array.
This page, right: Bright smiles greeted handmade hats at eight elementary schools
in the Allentown School District.
A Time of Their Own
Tuesday Night
gather in their
They do not speak rapidly, and so,
when they’re asked a question, another
person generally will answer it for them.
If they are performing a task, because
of their slower processing and motor
skills, some well-meaning person will
step in to help, completing the task for
them and denying them their individual
sense of accomplishment. These same
limitations also interfere with their
ability to establish and maintain
friendships and a social network.
For more than 20 years, our
congregation has provided an
opportunity for a small group of these
folks to spend time with one another.
Called Tuesday Night Together, the
gathering allows participants to meet
away from parents in an atmosphere
that encourages them to grow and be in
control of how they spend their time,
serve the meal, complete a project, etc.
One evening, one of the members went
behind the counter in the Commons
to serve lasagna. While serving, the
individual looked up and said, “Wow!
This is fun!” It was a new experience to
be the one serving dinner.
In this world, where
everything depends upon
the speed at which things
are accomplished, there are
folks who stand to the side,
watching the world spinning
around them.
Members of the Tuesday Night Together group gather for their traditional Christmas party in December.
Left to right are Chrissy Baglini, Kristi Hanawalt, “Santa” Brian Miller, Marie Gordon, George Hersh,
Jeff Kleinsmith, Elizabeth Lubbers, Enid Nielson, Marti White, Jodi Oberto, Kelly Sheppard,
Ted Preuninger, Matt Scott, and Jim Conner.
Rev. Cynthia Simmons provided the
initial energy to launch the program.
In the beginning the group was full of
teenagers. The purpose was to allow
participants time for social networking
and forming friendships while
providing some respite for parents.
Members have come and gone, though
the membership has remained at 12 and
the age now hovers around 40. Some
members of the group belong to our
congregation. Others of the group come
from the community at large.
For 2½ hours every Tuesday evening
from September to June, the Commons
is filled with laughter and fellowship.
This group and their advisers, Ed Noga,
Enid Nielson and I, gather to share
the news of the week and to “hang
out” for a time. At 6 p.m., the bells of
the carillon ring and someone leads
The Tuesday Night Together group meets in the
Commons, which provides space for a variety of
activities and features countertop facilities and a
sink that are useful for serving food. Participating
families take turns preparing meals, and a range of
FPCA members and friends lead diverse programs.
in grace. A dinner, prepared by one of
the families, is served by the group and
to the group. Following dinner and
cleanup, there is time for an activity or
a visit from an honored guest and then
a spirited game of basketball.
Families have found a wonderful
venue for participants and moral
support for parents. And with gracious
support from a host of folks from the
community at large, we have been able
to provide a varied and interesting
We paint carved birds (Tom Ahern).
We create self-portraits (Ron DeLong).
We assemble collages (Ann Lalik). We
listen to storytellers (Deborah Palmer
and Olga Coneen).
We sing along (Adam Tavolaro, Trevor
Vaughan). We play instruments and
dance (June Walker). We play the
chimes, hike in Trexler Park, and visit
the Wildlands Conservancy. We tour
the Valley at Christmas to help raise
money for Second Harvest Food Bank
(Bill White).
Another TNT tradition is joining Bill White for a Christmas Lights Tour of homes he identifies for The
Morning Call. The 2014 tour took place earlier in December; Peg Gonoude drove the group in a school bus.
“For it was you who formed
my inward parts; you knit
me together in my mother’s
womb. I praise you, for I am
fearfully and wonderfully
made. Wonderful are your
works; that I know very well.”
Debby Koepcke led our group for five
years. She arranged for her garden club
to offer instruction in assembling a
terrarium. In addition, we have been
so grateful to Mary Jane Martin, Ann
Lalik, Niels Nielson, the late Bill Piccot
and the late Sara Sheesley, the Coakley
family and students from Muhlenberg
College for their help and expertise in
various aspects of the program.
Our success is measured by the fact
that, except for illness or travel, the
members rarely miss a meeting. It is an
opportunity to relax with friends and
be in charge. Tuesday Night Together is
better known as TNT. And, yes, it is a
dynamite group!
For more information on Tuesday
Night Together, contact the church
office at [email protected] —Psalm 139: 13–14
Presence on Christmas Eve
One evening during our Advent small group
(which Jane and Sam Long host and Jane
leads), Kyeong Hee Kang commented how
funny it is that Christmas is the birthday of
Jesus, but we give presents to each other
instead of Him. That led to a discussion of
how we could give a gift to Christ.
Charley and Helen Underwood had an instant suggestion.
They volunteer regularly at the Conference of Churches’
Daybreak program for the hungry or homeless and would
be hosting a dinner on Christmas Eve. Before the session
ended, the Underwoods had collected cash for food and
commitments from the group to help serve.
We gathered at noon on December 24 at Alliance Hall on
Sixth Street in Allentown for activities and a meal. Dave
Moore provided a craft in which Daybreak participants
framed Bible verses. Chaz Fleischmann played about 10 songs
on guitar despite being nervous playing in front of people.
Dave called bilingual games of bingo while Marissa Laliberte
handed out prizes in her Santa hat and Erin Fleischmann
helped with the craft and bingo, and distributed gift Bibles
and care bags. Rich Laliberte and Laura Rabenold served
snacks and punch or talked to Daybreak attendees.
Jane, Sam, Charley, Beth Moore and Nelson Rabenold
worked tirelessly in the kitchen preparing the feast. Helen
arranged a beautiful day with all the prizes she brought for
the games, and was busy the entire time making sure all
ran smoothly. Thanks to Dave and Beth for the gift of the
pocket Bibles in English and Spanish—what a wonderful
gift to give! “How wonderful and
pleasant it is when
God’s people live
together in unity.”
­—Psalm 133:1
Standing, left to right:
Marissa Laliberte,
Rich Laliberte, Dave
Moore, Sam Long, Chaz
Fleischmann, Maureen
Seated: Beth Moore, Jane
Long, Helen Underwood,
Charley Underwood.
Not pictured: Erin
Bob Martin, elder team leader for Finances, provides an
update on unfavorable trends in monetary support for
FPCA and its ministries
What were the results of our
fall financial stewardship
The church fell short of our goal for
2015. In order to sustain current
operations, programming, and staffing,
our 2015 goal was $1.5 million. Our
stewardship campaign resulted in a
little over $1.35 million pledged dollars,
roughly $150,000 short of our goal as
of the end of December. While this
may not sound like a large shortfall,
it could mean several staff members
losing their jobs or some agencies or
missionaries not receiving support from
this congregation in 2015. Church
members, staff members, and the
community we serve will see and feel
the results of this shortage.
What trends have you
noticed overall in pledge
contributions from our
The trend in pledge contributions has
been concerning. With more than
1,000 households in our congregation,
the 2015 stewardship campaign has
commitments from roughly 590
households. That means almost half of
our church families do not participate
in planned financial stewardship.
What’s more, the number of households
making financial commitments has
steadily decreased over the past several
years. In 2006, for example, about 897
households made pledge commitments.
That number has decreased for 2015 to
its lowest point in nine years. This is
clearly visible on the graph on this page.
by member contributions. That includes
households that make commitments as
well as members who do not commit
but regularly offer gifts to the church.
Approximately 5 percent of our budget
is supported by visitor contributions
with the remaining revenue coming
from investment and endowment
income, along with other miscellaneous
income. Our members are the lifeblood
of this church and its work.
What is the current financial
condition of the church?
Our situation is critical. Since the
number of families that financially
support the church has decreased
over the past few years, we have
supplemented our cash flow with
reserve funds that had been amassed in
relatively healthier years. Reserves are
extremely limited at this point, and we
as a congregation cannot stress these
funds any longer. The next year or two
may be a turning point in the life of this
church as we either experience increased
support from the congregation and turn
some of these trends around or face
some hard choices as to the church’s
What’s next?
In order to evaluate and further
analyze some of these trends in our
congregation, we have assembled a
revenue team that will begin meeting
in early 2015. This team is composed
of professionals from our congregation
as well as our gifted staff. They will
examine the entire stewardship
process, trends in both attendance and
giving, other methods of generating
revenue, and best ways to educate our
congregation on financial stewardship.
The team will also examine alternate
giving opportunities, methods and
vehicles, and will discuss how to
reach out to our members who are
not yet financially committed to our
mission. Stay tuned as this team gets
to work. Hopefully, we can light the
fire that is FPC Allentown and renew
excitement in our goals, purpose, and
responsibilities to each other and to the
community as we prepare to welcome a
new leader. Participating Households 2006–2014
How much of our operations
do member pledges support?
Around 87 to 88 percent of our 2014
budgeted expenditures were supported
First Presbyterian Church of Allentown
3231 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown, PA 18104
Change Service Requested
3231 W. Tilghman Street • Allentown, PA 18104
610-395-3781 • fpcallentown.org
Sundays, 8:00 a.m. - Chapel
Sundays, 9:00 & 10:30 a.m. - Fellowship Hall
Sundays, 10:15 a.m. - Sanctuary
Sundays, 10:00 a.m. - Chapel
Sundays, 12:15 p.m. - Chapel
“You can’t
help being
moved by the
gratitude of
these little
For more, see page 6
Non-Profit Org.
U.S. Postage
Lehigh Valley, PA
Permit No. 248