Where can we find joy right now?
Where can we find joy in the midst of this health and economic crisis? I've pondered that question many times in the past nine months, and I'm not alone. When I searched "finding joy during the pandemic," The Google found 37 million results in .66 seconds. Lots of us are trying to figure out where can find joy when we can't be with all the people we love, doing all the things that we love, together.

Where are you finding joy? Lots of folks say they find it in everyday life: food, family, nature, community service. I've seen people double-down on hiking, biking, baking, birdwatching, gardening, etc. Some friends volunteer; some take classes; some make art. My friend Aaron is creating truly amazing images of stars, nebulas, and other heavenly bodies using a telescope in his driveway. He shares his images on social media; his followers eagerly await each new one. I sent him this article that says pictures of space are good for our psyches; when faced with the infinite, we feel small, and that "shot of awe can boost feelings of connectedness with other people." Aaron wrote: "It's exactly the reason I began taking these photos: to put all *THIS NOW* into perspective . . . to show how trivial and small it all is, compared to the timescales and distances we see in these images. For me, that's a great comfort."

I admire all of these efforts. I really do. In fact, I'm feeling a little "shot of awe" as I think about all of the humans on this beautiful planet who are trying to find a little joy right now, and to share their joy with others -- we're like those billions of tiny stars in Aaron's photographs, shimmering across space and time. So, if you've been trucking right along, finding happiness during the pandemic: Hooray, and bless you!

But: Many us have crashed headfirst into our personal pandemic wall at least once. We've had days when we couldn't find anything to lift us out of exhaustion and fear. Days when no amount of biking, hiking, or baking could make up for the crushing blows, the terrible losses, the isolation. Days when we desperately wanted to feel happy and act happy, and all we came up with was sadness, irritation, frustration.

What can we do when we, or the people we love, hit that wall? How can we find joy again? The only thing I know to be true is that we have to keep trying, no matter what. Henri Nouwen, the Dutch theologian, wrote: Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety -- and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

I offer you an idea that somebody once shared with me, to help me choose joy. In the photo above, you'll see my "Jar of Joys." There are little bits of paper inside, and each of those bits of paper has a note about a person, thing, action, or experience that has inspired joy in me. Whenever I have a joyful moment, I make a note and put it in the jar. And whenever I'm about to crash into that wall, I take a note out of the jar, and I read it, and I sit with it for a moment, and I tell myself: "I choose joy."

This week, let's light our pink candles of joy on the third Sunday of Advent, December 13. All through the week, we can hold on to that light as we continue to search for joy, and to share our joy with others. Remember we are still together, even when we're apart. And the best news is that all of us are loved, all the time.

-- MZ Smith, Community News editor
3rd Sunday of Advent

Join our SUNDAY, DEC. 13 worship service via Zoom.
Our services are lovely, lively, friendly, warm, and informal, even when we're on screen!

This is the third Sunday of Advent, so we will light our third candle -- the candle of joy -- which traditionally is pink! Bring your Advent wreath or three candles to light! Ron Sopyla, Andy Larivee, and Susan Jordan will be our worship leaders and candle lighters. They'll share a video from their recent Midnight Run (info below!).

We look forward to beautiful music by Music Director Tom McCoy, at the piano

And: We welcome Rev. Dr. Susan DeGeorge to our virtual pulpit this week! Susan is the Stated Clerk of Hudson River Presbytery and teaches religion and philosophy at Mercy College and at Pace University, where she specializes in World Religions and the Environment. She is also a lawyer, a GreenFaith fellow, a Master Composter and Recycler, and a member of HRPGreen. See you Sunday!
Anyone can join us from anywhere for our live, online services! Use these handy links to connect with us.

To receive a unique Zoom link for our online service this Sunday: Email us at: 1presbyterian@gmail.com.

For info about online services and a link to download Zoom, click here.

To download the bulletin for this service: Click the picture above!

To get weekly info on all of our programs and activities: Fill out the handy contact form on our website at: www.presbychurchcoldspring.org.
Send us your SELFIES!
FPCP Family: Please send us your "Christmas selfies"
by this Sunday, Dec. 13!
Show us and tell us how you are decorating and celebrating at home this year. Share the Christmas spirit with all of your FPCP friends. Let's stay connected!

Our selfies and greetings will be in a special edition of this newsletter next week! So don't delay, send your Christmas selfie today!
Click Santa Dog's selfie for info! Or: Email your photo to outreach1presbyterian@gmail.com
A Midnight Run Reflection
by Ron Sopyla, FPCP elder

On Dec. 5, our Midnight Run took food and critical supplies to homeless people in NYC. FPCP members Jack & Maggie Gordineer (pictured) and their parents packed 60 lunches, working from home. Elder Ron Sopyla & FPCP members Andy Larivee and Susan Jordan drove a caravan of cars packed with donations. Ron shares thoughts and thanks.

Thank you, everyone, for your support for the Midnight Run. Every contribution made a difference to the people who received them -- every sock, coat, blanket, sleeping bag; every sandwich, clementine, and candy cane. 
 
The Run went well. We distributed all of the food, blankets, and sleeping bags, and almost every coat we had. We had filled one and a half SUVs with coats and blankets and bags. When the hatch was opened, things tumbled out.

The people were grateful to get the supplies. Oddly, they will sometimes refuse at first. One woman was sitting in a lawn chair set over a subway grate that pumped up warm air. . . a blanket was on her lap, a book on the ground next to her, belongings scattered around. To her right was a long cardboard construction. Her bedroom? She wore a thin jacket but claimed she did not need a coat. When Andy finally convinced her to take one, and she put it on, she twirled like a happy child.

A young man sleeping on a sheet of cardboard claimed over and over that he did not need a blanket, what he had was enough. He had a kind of brightly colored striped Mexican throw, wool but thin and more decorative than useful. Right before we left where he was sleeping, I got him a heavy blanket. . .
“You need this. It will keep you warm,” I said, and spread it over him, like a parent with a child. He liked it and pulled it a little closer. 
 
We lit an Advent wreath in the hatch of my car. . . Susan invited the homeless woman, Sarah, the one who twirled, to join us and she did, and read one of  the prayers. We videotaped it to show next week when we light our wreaths during the church service. This is the prayer Sarah read, adapted from one by civil rights leader Howard Thurman: 

I will light candles this Advent:

Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
  
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,

Candles of courage for fears ever present,

Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,

Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,

Candles of love to inspire all my living,

Candles that will burn all year long.
Longest Night Service: Why Some Call it "Blue Christmas"
by Rev. Rachel Thompson

On the Winter Solstice -- Monday, December 21, the longest night of the year -- First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown is offering a Longest Night Service at 7:30 pm. This service will be live and online, via Zoom. 

Longest Night services are also sometimes called Blue Christmas. The idea is simply to recognize that in the midst of a season that is supposed to be the most joyful time of the year, life is complicated. People get sick, lose jobs, grieve the loss of loved ones, feel overwhelmed or too busy. But often the feeling is that sadness or grief or worry is not acceptable at this time of year in the midst of all the celebration. 

And the truth is that some people feel less happy around Christmastime. It has something to do with the contrast between the way we think we should be feeling, and the way we actually feel. 

The purpose of this service is to take away the “should,” to be able to say that, yes, the light shines in the darkness, but we need to acknowledge the darkness, too, and the feelings that go with it. And to remind ourselves that the light of God is still there, is always there, even if we can’t see it right now.
Our 2018 Christmas pageant. This year's virtual pageant is Dec. 20!
Advent candles in our historic sanctuary. We hope to be able to gather there again in 2021!
Celebrate the Season with us!
Join us at our online services.

Our final two Advent Services are live on Zoom on Sundays at 10:30 am: Dec. 13 and Dec. 20.

Our Virtual Christmas Pageant created by our Sunday School students will be see during our Sunday, Dec. 20 online service!

Our Longest Night Service will be Monday, Dec. 21 at 7:30 pm. Taking place on the winter solstice, this service acknowledges that the long nights before Christmas can be difficult for those struggling with grief and loss of any kind. (See "Blue Christmas," above.)

Our Christmas Eve Service will be Thursday, Dec. 24 at 5:00 pm. This family-friendly service features the famously good-humored husband-and-wife team of Rev. Rachel Thompson and Rev. Joe Gilmore, plus traditional and jazzy holiday music by Music Director Tom McCoy.

All services are live on Zoom! To receive Zoom links for these services and programs: Please email 1presbyterian@gmail.com.
Elder Ron Sopyla lights an Advent wreath, as FPCP volunteers share Advent blessings with homeless folks during our Dec. 5 Midnight Run, which brought food, coats, sleeping bags, and other critical supplies to people living on the street in NYC. Help us help them!
Stewardship is LOVE!
The year 2020 challenged us all, in ways that we never could have imagined. Our church family is working to meet those challenges, to help neighbors in need, and to offer support to our community.

We still can't worship together in our beloved sanctuary, but the life and work of our church goes on! We're offering online worship services, pastoral care, and education programs. And we all know how critical our mission projects are right now, such as the Food Pantry and Midnight Run.

Please support The Church of the Open Door by making your 2021 giving pledge today! If you have not received a letter from us, email 1presbyterian@gmail.com. Or, simply click the Midnight Run picture with the Advent wreath to download a form. THANK YOU!
FPCP's Green Team had a meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, December 2. Here's a report from Green Team coordinator Rev. Rachel Thompson:

Pollinators and natives. FPCP’s new Pollinator Garden project was the main topic of discussion. The group is planning to remove the grass in two areas in front of the church: the area around “Rose’s Garden,” and the small area left of the main entrance.  In place of grass, we’ll plant beautiful, low-maintenance, native plants that are attractive to local birds and other pollinators. Green Team member Jean Llewellyn is spearheading this project, in consultation with local landscape designer Jennifer Zwarich and professional gardener Kory Riesterer.  The Green Team is looking forward to specific plans and renderings of the two areas in the beginning of the New Year. In the spring, it will be all-hands-on- deck as we welcome volunteers to help us plant our garden. This year of Covid has been such a fallow time that the idea of this earth-friendly gardening project with new life and new beauty is very exciting! 

Worms and waste. Another big topic of discussion was worms! It turns out that worms in a bin are great consumers of food waste and that they turn the food from your kitchen into excellent fertilizer. Green Team member Elise LaRocco is an experienced worm-bin composter.  She and her daughter Allie LaRocco made a 7-minute video about how to build a worm compost bin.  As soon as we get this video linked to YouTube, we’ll share the link here.  Once we’re all back in our church building, the Team plans to use some of our Challenge to Change grant money to buy two composting bins for the church!

Join our Green Team! Email Rachel at: rachel.thompson@verizon.net!
Our Bulletin Board
Welcome Home, Maude and Happy BD!
Please join us in wishing a very happy 90th birthday to longtime FPCP member Maude Kahrs! Elder Bev Taylor reports that Maude is back home in Cold Spring and would welcome your greetings and birthday wishes. You can email Maude at: highroost183@msn.com. Or: If you prefer to call, or to send her a note or card, Maude is in our FPCP Church Directory. Don't have a copy? Let's fix that! Email us at 1presbyterian@gmail.com. Stay connected!
Kids: Explore big ideas! Sunday School currently takes place at home. Carolyn, our Youth Ed leader, sends families a weekly email with stories, activities, and ideas. Last week, we learned about the 2nd Sunday of Advent when we light the candle of peace. We did a peaceful breathing exercise. We also talked about why Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, and why we talk about peace on earth at Christmastime. We made cool peace-out art projects! Join our e-list! Email Carolyn here.
First Presbyterian Church and our Philipstown Food Pantry mission are so grateful to Haldane students and families for this amazing donation of 200 pounds of groceries! (Excerpted from the "Haldane Horizons" school newsletter)
Please help if you can. During this health and economic crisis, we are grateful that we can serve neighbors in need through our critical mission programs like the Food Pantry and Midnight Run. If you feel called to support this outreach, we warmly welcome any and all contributions. If you are a member of our church family and can maintain your giving at this time, we humbly thank you.
To make an online donation, click the image at the left, or right here. Bless you!
Telephone: (845)-265-3220 / Email: 1presbyterian@gmail.com www.presbychurchcoldspring.org