Program Year Kicks Off Children and youth engage in faith formation ministries and activities BY KATHY SCHMIED
Faith Formation for Children and Youth is off and running! The fall began with a bang for everyone.
Tweens (fourth and fifth graders) gathered in their new In“B”Tween space to plan their big events: Corn Maze and Hay Ride in October, serving at the Daybreak Dinner in November, and decorating stockings filled with socks and personal care items for the Sixth Street Shelter in December. You may ask, Why In“B”Tween? Because the focus is on “B”eing in relationship with God and others.
Troughout the fall, DIG—faith formation for children in kindergarten through fifth grade— is diving deep into Isaiah 6:8. God calls. We respond. Children are learning through engagement and rich experiences to respond, “Here I am, send me!” Tey are exploring questions like these: “What can I do? What gifts do I have? How can I use them? How can I partner with others to make our response even stronger?” Ask them the answers to these questions; you’ll learn a lot!
Of course, there’s more to children’s ministry than Sunday morning faith formation. Pre- kindergarten and third-grade children received age-appropriate Bibles as a gift from the church. Trunk or Treat So Others Can Eat allowed children to help the Food Bank as they enjoyed the fun of Halloween.
God calls. We respond. Children
are learning through engagement and
rich experiences to respond, “Here I am, send me!”
Youth in grades 6 to 12 kicked off the year with a lock-in, complete with games, singing, food, a little sleep, and singing in three worship services the next morning! Tey got set for lots more in the fall, including raising hunger awareness through participation in the CROP Walk, fundraising and service at the Fall Youth Brunch, collecting socks for the Children’s Home of Reading, serving at the Daybreak Dinner and the Women’s Christmas Dinner, going on the middle school and high school retreats, and engaging in service opportunities on weekends.
Tis year’s Confirmation Class of 12 youth began with their fall retreat. Tese young people explore their faith together with their advisors each week and alongside their sponsor. One highlight is the Confirmation Joy of Sharing Christmas extravaganza, when they make and bake over 1,000 cookies in two hours!
Opportunities for parents and families include Parent Café, a space for DIG parents to engage in family faith formation conversations; Grace in Growth, a new monthly gathering time and newsletter for parents of children up to age 2; Children’s Christmas Story Time; and the yummy Cookies in the Kitchen.
Update: Sheltering the Homeless FPCA helps the YMCA establish new winter warming shelter BY BILL WHITE
First Presbyterian Church of Allentown has played a pivotal role in ensuring that Allentown’s homeless will be kept safe at night this winter.
For the last two years, the city’s winter warming station was operated at the Fountain Park pool house by Everlasting Life Ministries. Te inadequacies of that site led to an effort to find a larger space for this winter and beyond, with the possibility of additional services.
Discussions were under way to base the new warming station in St. Paul’s Lutheran’s Christian education building, but the church’s financial challenges forced it to give up that plan.
Te Allentown YMCA stepped up to explore creating a warming station in its facility, but the lack of a strong funding commitment appeared to doom that effort until an anonymous donor responded to a Morning Call column I wrote by offering $100,000 for each of the next two years, with a promise to help with fundraising beyond that.
With that, the project was back on track. Te Allentown Branch YMCA Advisory Council met and unanimously agreed to run a warming station this year.
First Presbyterian will account for much of the additional start-up funding. Te church’s fourth annual golf tournament at Allentown Municipal Golf Course August 24 raised $17,120 toward the warming station operation, by far its largest take from the fundraising tournament.
Te tournament’s proceeds have been dedicated to the warming station for the last few years. Te 2017 tournament raised $15,000. Dave Fagerstrom, chief executive officer of the YMCA, spoke at the luncheon following this year’s tournament to thank the 74 players and the church for their help in launching the project.
Members of the church committee that runs the tournament are Tim Brion, Brent Daubenspeck, Larry Deal, Barry Dubbs, Peter Kareha, John Van Den Elzen, Sue Van Den Elzen, Virginia Voros, and Bill White.
Kate Cohen, chief development officer for the Greater Valley YMCA, subsequently reported that FPCA’s Wednesday morning men’s discipleship group felt called by coverage of the warming station to also contribute to the project, donating $2,200.
Fagerstrom pointed out that church contributions covered about two-thirds of the $30,000 start-up cost of preparing the space the Y wants to use and expressed gratitude for the way church members rose to the community’s need. He said the YMCA and First Presbyterian have a special relationship going back a century or more: “I think there are a lot of similarities in our missions.”
He also had special praise for pastor Jack Haberer, saying church leadership plays an important role in a commitment to mission. “Everything follows that person’s vision,” he said.
Tis FPCA commitment to helping the city’s homeless didn’t begin with this project. Church members have been serving breakfasts and lunches for years at Allentown churches, and they’ve prepared snack packs served at the warming station.
In his part of a sermon in early September, Dennis Dries talked about getting involved with helping the homeless in downtown Allentown. He said he found his life changing as he came to know these men and women by name.
One day, he said, he talked to a homeless veteran whose belongings had been stolen, leaving him with nothing. Dries asked what he needed. Te man said he needed another pair of jeans, but he wore an odd size, 48-30.
Dries said he and his wife went shopping for the man and found a pair of 48-30 jeans and other clothing he could use. When Dries handed him the bag, the man looked inside and began walking toward him with his arms outstretched.
Dries confessed he’s not big on guy hugs, but he accepted this one gladly and hugged the man back, holding on for a little while.
As Dries walked through the parking lot at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church afterward, he thought about Matthew 25: 35-40: “For I was hungry and you fed me ... I was naked and you clothed me ... And [Jesus] will say, ‘When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.’”
Dries concluded, “Tat morning last summer in the parking lot of St. Paul’s Church, I received a big old bear hug from Jesus. It’s a funny thing, though. Who knew that Jesus wore size 48-30 jeans?”
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