Our Pastor

Pastor Limina Grace Harmon


(267) 978-3082 at the Parsonage

Pastor Grace joined NPUMC on July 1, 2018.

Read her stories:

An interview with Pastor Grace, May 2022…

A name change, September 2021…

Her story, July 2018

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
January 2024

The last few months, as we have explored the Bible and our relationship to it in new ways, I have found myself looking at what the role of church is afresh once more. The world needs the Word. Right now. The world, no people, need the solid ground of justice to stand firmly upon when so much seems senseless and unjust. People need vibrant alternatives to the narratives of consumerism, nationalism, and pseudo religiosity that take up more and more space while making less and less sense. People need to know that there are places where ethics are applied, where thinking long and hard about the important things is sacred. People need places of radical welcome and full inclusion. People need us to do more than stay the course while the world goes topsy-turvy.

I’m finding a new appreciation for this time between Christmas and Lent/Easter. We don’t need more disaster or cataclysm. We need the living, breathing Jesus to help us figure out how to deal with the existing problems. We think of the time between the big holidays as ‘ordinary’ time. But there is nothing ordinary about living life in the here and now in the radical ways that Jesus asks us to live. As I have stopped to think about it, it seems ludicrous that a single day of the Christian calendar could be called ordinary. Ordinary is never what is most needed, but as we have seen, we are in the midst of times that seem to echo the circumstances of Jesus’ ministry in uncanny ways. It seems like a year made for taking stock of what it is we consider to be ordinary, and in particular what should be ordinary for Christians.

Taking stock is something we should all do from time to time, and it is something that church should do regularly, like communion. What is the purpose that we are uniquely positioned to fill? It may or may not be the same as it was even a few years ago. What are we especially good at? This might be what we were good at before, but maybe not, and that is good. Change means we are growing. It means we aren’t on autopilot in our lives. And God doesn’t want us to be on autopilot. God wants us engaged in the here and now. God wants us to find new life – in ourselves, in our churches and communities, and in our relationship to God. God wants us to embrace the extraordinary.

Are we called to provide uncomplicated and uplifting messages that sooth people? Is the role of church to provide an oasis from the complexity of the world? Or does Jesus ask us to challenge the ordinary? What if we made it ordinary to really embrace the asking of these questions? How would our church and our life together change? What extraordinary ways of being would begin to seem ordinary to us? 

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
November 2023

For several weeks we have been exploring the Hebrew Bible through the Narrative Lectionary. I have to say, if I had known what was going to happen in world news, I might well have shied away from this choice, but God has a way of getting us where we are supposed to be, even when we really don’t want to go (Just ask Jonah, speaking of the Hebrew Bible). The stories that we are reading give insight to the ancient origins of the headline news, making it harder than ever to claim that the Bible is not political. As challenging as these associations might be, I am grateful for them.

By spending the time to understand the historic and religious origins of the ongoing conflict, I hope and pray that we might equip ourselves to be voices of insight and reason. We may also find ourselves called on to act as prophets of a different paradigm, new and revealing questions, and visions of answers that do not seek to oversimplify a conflict that has been increasingly complex and deeply rooted for millennia.

This is, at its most foundational, what church should be: the place where we can come when we cannot make sense out of the world as it is, when we find hope hard to see let alone grasp, and connect to a God who transcends our petty moral concerns and calls us into sacred imagination, holy dreaming, and renewed belief that the promise of resurrection life is real and meant for us. I am always thankful when the role of church is clear, and it certainly is right now.

It is no small thing to be in a church that is ready, willing, and able to engage with the work of discipleship. As Methodists, we say we are ‘making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.’ Certainly, we are due for some transformation. But another, simpler way to put it is we want to live like we believe the Lord’s Prayer, and church is where we figure out how to do so. And together we practice what we learn, be it in our response to world news, our efforts to feed our neighbors, or how we care for one another.

As you read about the many things happening in the life of our church, I invite you to keep the Lord’s Prayer in mind: God, may the heaven of your creating and our dreams be made manifest here among us. We yearn to be fed by your Word, and also to not be dependent on the evil systems of the world, but upon you, and our community of faith. Help us to be a people unafraid to say we are wrong and seek to do better, even as we show others the same grace. In a world full of false prophets and fake news, keep us tuned to your truth. For we are yours and we want to be so forever. Amen. And happy reading.

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
September 2023

September is a month of change. The leaves begin to take on their fiery autumn hues. Kids go back to school. Sweaters and cappuccino replace flip flops and lemonade. Traditionally, this is the time when Methodists celebrate Homecoming Sunday or Rally Day. But the past couple of years have shown that traditions change, too.  Homecoming Sunday just doesn’t inspire the same excitement it once did. After all, most of us will still be joining via zoom, so it looks pretty much the same as the slow Sundays of mid-summer now.

Since we are coming to realize we can’t go back, I am working on turning our attention to how we go forward with solid anchor points to ground us (we’re having a baptism on September 17th) in what we have always known. To do that, we are rethinking our community engagement, expanding the reach of our adult education, starting new opportunities for friendship and faith conversations. We are embracing the cooperative parish model and wasting no time making tangible things like flood buckets happen. And beginning in September we are going to recommit to some of the most innovative liturgy writing of any church I’ve known of as we branch out into the Narrative Lectionary.

September is also a reminder that everything old is new again. Every one of these new things that we are trying are born out of the best practices of what we have always known. This church has always had a clear sense of the Methodist call to community engagement. Now as we see the spaces left by changing demographics and covid we are able to begin dreaming about what new relationships might be a part of our witness going forward. Part of that is seeking to offer robust adult education opportunities that meet people where they are – unable to commit to long studies but still full of curiosity and a desire to engage.

All of the changes have also made space for a fledgling community of faith for those of us who have been turned off by traditional church and yet yearn for fellow seekers. In many ways, this is most like the earliest church, stripping away the trappings of church to reveal an essence of rethinking how we live in a way that brings about the kin-dom on earth.

Perhaps the most obvious example of what is old being new again is our decision to switch to the Narrative Lectionary. Narrative Lectionary tells the biblical tale in a four-year cycle rather than three. It is intentional about including lesser-known parts of the biblical narrative, moving us from Hebrew Bible into Gospels and then the ways the earliest church had to make sense out of a whole new faith. If you are really interested, you can check out the details at: Narrative FAQ – Working Preacher from Luther Seminary.

If you have ever found yourself wondering how you fit into the life of NPUMC I would say this fall is a perfect Homecoming Sunday season for you. There are so many places to make a difference and new ways to enter into deeper relationships in this community of believers. Welcome home, NPUMC family!

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
June 2023

One of the great things about being a Methodist pastor is that we are appointed not to a church, but to a community in which we serve with a congregation. It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s a big deal. It is part of how we keep our focus on the wider world rather than developing a closed door (and close-minded) attitude. We are in the midst of some wonderful opportunities to practice this great tenant of Methodism.

At the beginning of the month, we joined in Hudson Valley Pride, always one of the best community celebrations of the year as well as an opportunity to build relationships with the other progressive congregations in the area. If you took the opportunity, you may now be the proud owner of a NPUMC Pride 2023 shirt – “God’s Non-Binary, Too” I cannot tell you what a joy it is to see young people who have decided – for good reason – that church isn’t safe for them approach our Pride Table to see if we really mean what we say. Between the three churches we had a small presence at the festival, but I hope it will grow every year. Going where the people are in need of Good News and a witness of inclusion is our call. I have no idea whether any of the beautiful people we met will join us on a Sunday, but it matters at least as much that we joined them.

By the time you read this, we will have celebrated Juneteenth with the Margaret Wade Lewis Black History Cultural Center, currently being run by our own Kate Hymes. We are uncovering exciting details about our church and the integral role that Fulton and Jane Cox played in the history of our church. Fulton came here via the hardships of the Civil War, leaving behind captivity and becoming so vital to the life of this church that for years we celebrated his memory annually. Perhaps the best part of these discoveries is that our past is deepening our community connections for the future. In unearthing this history we are adding new dimensions to the narrative of New Paltz. We are part of the process of discernment we are involved in about how we will tell our shared stories. We are helping ensure they are told with truth and equity.

We have opportunities to work with the Office of Community Wellness to provide some pop-up cooking classes at the increasingly busy Free Fresh Food giveaway (held every week, the 4th Sundays of every month here at NPUMC). This ministry has grown by leaps and bounds, serving the direct and immediate needs of our friends, neighbors, and passersby. If you haven’t, come spend some time with the faithful group of NPUMC family who have made this ministry into such a sustaining witness rain or shine, snow or heat.

There are so many other opportunities for community engagement bubbling just below the surface right now – concerts and open mic nights, small group ministry with young professionals…all in fledgling stages, and each and every one an opportunity to share the dynamism and love in this congregation… an opportunity to bear witness to the healing power of the love of Jesus and the awesome-sauce way of living that we call Wesleyan.

Lots of things slow down over the summer. And we should too – sabbath matters. But maybe, just maybe, you could take the opportunity to leisurely join in some aspect of our life together and the life of our wider community that is outside your comfort zone.

Enjoy your summer explorations, beloved. May they be full of wonder, bring you closer to God and to one another.

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
March 2023

There are some things we like to gloss over – unpleasant or challenging ideas, hard truths, tensions in our relationships. Lent is the season of what we would rather not think about, and yet are called to contemplate by God. As we are surrounded by cultural shows of Lenten life without much thought into the real meaning, I thought it might be a good thing to spend a minute giving some shape and purpose to Lent.

Just before Lent there are a couple of days of excess: Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Fasching, Shrove Tuesday. The simplistic view is a desire to be a bit gluttonous, as if we can store up indulgence to last us through a period of fasting. That may be a part of it, but there is a deeper reason for this over indulgence. Overindulgence has a cost. The over-eating, the hangovers, the exhaustion from staying out till all hours, are all the prices we pay for excess. A little indulgence now and then means we don’t feel the full effect of those consequences – we can tell ourselves they aren’t a big deal. But when we really go wild, it’s like a magnifying glass has been put up to what is happening day to day, and we cannot escape asking at what point we may have had too much of a good thing to be good anymore.

That’s a great question, and it is a question we are called to take very seriously during Lent. The fasting that follows immediately on the heels of all that celebration is designed to provide stark contrast from total indulgence to total austerity. In experiencing this rapid switch, our perceptions are heightened, our appreciation magnified. Which means it is harder for us to look away.

I remember as a child people saying that they were giving up sweets or meat, or coffee out, or something like that for Lent, and even at a young age thinking “so what?” The little tangible indulgences we might choose to give up are at best symbolic, and at worst, an unhelpful delusion. Because no such act without deeper contemplation has much spiritual value.

So, what should we be giving up during Lent, and why? What do you do to excess? What are the crutches you rely upon to help you gloss over the unpleasant and challenging ideas the world presents to you? Whatever is distracting you from aligning your life to the Way of Christ, that is what you should be giving up for Lent. And yes, the lesson might stick even better if you first let yourself knowingly, and without hesitation, take the ‘easier way’ for a bit.

To put it a bit more descriptively, our typical practice of Lent is a kind of performative allyship with Jesus. Like putting out a rainbow flag but then getting defensive when someone tells you your words or political philosophies are harmful to the LGBTQIA community. We give up chocolate to show we love Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t care if we eat chocolate, he cares if we seek luxury when others seek sustenance. We want to be seen as all in even though we aren’t convinced about being all in. The only way these symbols have any meaning is if we have done the hard work of figuring out what they mean and what that requires of us.

The symbolic things we fast from during Lent usually function as distractions from the real work, of stretching ourselves spiritually and morally. As a rule of thumb, I think a good approach to Lent is to give up something that distracts from God so you can replace it with something that makes more space for the kin-dom in your heart and in how you live in the world around you.

Easter is the motivator: resurrection life comes from the growth and transformation we experience in the process of doing without what keeps us from God. As we approach the culmination of our work for resurrection, I would love to hear what you are giving up and why, if you feel motivated to share. And even more, I would love to hear how that work of well -placed fasting changes your experience of Easter and brings about resurrection in your life.

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
January 2023

What will it take to be here in ten years? That was one of the first questions posed at the financial visioning day we held on January 21st. It’s a serious question, and one for which we have been preparing for some time. We’ve talked a lot over the past two years about the changing realities of faith communities, how we have changed throughout Covid and our part in the national racial reckoning. These conversations should always be happening – life and our life together cannot work if we plan to ‘set it and forget it.’ Church is – must be – in, though not quite of, the world. So, the state of the world is a big factor in what it will take to be here in ten years.

Finances are an area where many churches really want to ‘set it and forget it.’ The reason is actually a good one – we aren’t here for the money, we are here to be the people of God. That belief is essential, and yet we live in a world where money exists and we have to be good disciples in the world, that is even as we dream of the world to come. If we do not have some creative conversation about funding, the truth is, this church (and many others) may not be here in ten years. Our finances are not our goal, but they are a means by which we are able to meet our mission goals.

Our conversation was exciting, and in part because of the soul searching we have been doing, was deeply rooted in our commitments to mission and ministry. It seemed like a good time to give you an update and at the same time encourage your participation in these changing times in the life of the church.

There are so many needs to fill: affordable housing, a vulnerable transient population, hunger, a lack of mental health care. We are in a childcare desert. Supply chain issues are hurting vulnerable people. And then there are the immaterial needs: safe haven for our LGBTQIA+ siblings and leadership on social justice issues like race.

We have so much to offer: We are in a prime location in the village, well respected and well known. We have a big physical plant with a lot of assets: a dining room, a kitchen, multiple flexible spaces, a beautiful sanctuary with a (soon to be repaired) organ. We have an entire education wing, the ‘little building’ behind the church, the shady lawn, and the parsonage yard. (And that’s just our space – we will need another article to talk about our people assets.)

What we are now discussing are the ways in which we can use our assets to:

  • Meet community needs.
  • Generate revenue streams that free us up to focus on ministry instead of worrying about money.
  • Be even more integrated with and vital to the life of the community.

The possibilities are myriad. A few highlights from our first conversation include:

  • Increasing our offerings for children, possibly through office space for mental health care providers and/or Licensed Creative Arts Therapists
  • Offering office space to community non-profits
  • Partnering with local arts organizations to provide gallery and performance space
  • Moving to geo-thermal and solar
  • Becoming a venue for film production in the Hudson Valley
  • Partnering with local restaurants as a wedding venue
  • Hosting our own events like Open Mics and Self Care Sundays

 We also talked about other possible income streams like:

  • Starting a YouTube Channel
  • Offering our liturgy for a subscription fee
  • Sharing our visual ministries and worship centers more widely through Christmas Cards, and other ‘church merch: sharing God’s light and keeping the lights on’

There are a lot of things to consider for any of these ideas to become a reality. It’s a big lift, and it will require a lot of input from each and every one of us who love NPUMC. Still, when we considered what the community would lose without us as an anchor on the Corner of Grove and Main, we felt strongly that the work we put in now is more than worth it.

We will be sharing notes and other details, but for the moment, mark your calendars for April 22nd, when we will have our next congregation-wide conversation. And think about getting involved in these exciting times. We need people to help identify possible community partners, people to research the possibilities for use of the little building and what changes would need to be made in our main building to be more useful. We also need a group of people to explore the options for expanding our online presence and if it makes sense, helping the congregation become more tech and social media savvy. 

See? Any of these would be a ministry in and of itself, and that is a gift. When we begin to combine some of them and at the same time secure ourselves financially, think of the mission and ministry we will be capable of then! The ideas are already starting.

The more we explored the more we wanted to explore. I cannot wait to see what we discover together. If we can live into these possibilities, in a generation, members of NPUMC might look to this moment as the start of the renaissance in the life of the church. Let’s get started!

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
November 2022

There are only two sacraments for Methodists: baptism and communion. The first brings you into the community of the faithful. The second sustains us in the life and work of being the People of God. In other words, we hold building and strengthening of community as the highest of sacred callings.

We have had a busy, fruitful fall here at NPUMC, full of deepening community. We have celebrated Healing Harvest, held several Cooperative Parish events, launched a joint Sunday School and Adult Education opportunities with our ecumenical neighbors. You’ll see more about those throughout the newsletter, so keep reading. All of this in addition to continuing Free Fresh Food, Care Team efforts, our own small groups, Trustees Work Day, Worship Writing, and so much more that we do on an ongoing basis.

In a moment when news about church in general is not so great, we have an awful lot to celebrate. Each one of our ministries is worth celebrating, but it is when you look at the whole that something really remarkable begins to emerge.

Increasingly, our ministries show that we have moved beyond talking about how to bring people back to the church as we know it. We have moved toward exploring how to maximize what is essential in our mission and bear witness to the Good News in new ways. This is what every expert will tell you is necessary, yet few churches are able to begin making the transition. NPUMC is making the transition, though!

Healing Harvest, our farm-to-table, field-to-fork dinner was born of combining what we have done so well for so long with something new, and we made new friends, many of whom are already asking for what we are going to do next. In coming out of the sanctuary and out of our comfort zone, we proved that we can honor our past without being trapped in it. Similarly, our Cooperative Parish life is a way of reviving the best of our Methodist commitment to connectionalism at the local level. We aren’t letting fear of a diminished congregational identity hold us back. We are choosing to explore all of the ways we are blessed by the gifts and graces of our neighboring Methodists. Our openness is leading to fledgling plans for new music ministries, more offerings for men, and ways to partner with others and streamline what we all do – maximum reach with minimal effort! Huge potential for community impact.

Each of our current ministries is an example of adaptability and imagination. These may not be the easiest times in which to be church, but they may well be the best. All of these new visions and the bravery to try them sure sounds like revival to me.

As we move into Advent, the season of waiting and preparation, I have two thoughts. First, there is a season that comes before Advent, though we don’t name it. Perhaps it is the season of revelation, the time in which you stop denying problems and get fed up enough to imagine a new heaven and a new earth. I think we have been in such a season, and I think that we are starting to have some sense of what that new life might feel like, even if we don’t have all of the details worked out just yet. There is a natural progression to Advent preparation and anticipation. We know what isn’t working so we are ready to search for something new, something better. Second, birth and resurrection are the same. In the words of the band SemiSonic, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” There may be a bit of wistfulness, a little melancholy in the idea. That’s okay, because whatever has ended has made this, our new beginning, possible.

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
July 2022

First things first. Thank you. I was so touched by the celebration for my ordination and the (literal) blanketing of love with which it came. I cannot tell you what it means as a pastor to hear any thank you, but especially to be thanked for the call to be on and bring people to the ‘growing edge.’ I am thankful every day for the trust we have built and continue to build between us. I truly believe it will serve us well in the years to come and that we are together in this time and place in a way that is pleasing to God and beneficial to the kin-dom. Even though this is the beginning of our 5th year in ministry together, with cooperative parishes, it truly feels like a new adventure.

I know I say it in sermons a lot – the world needs what our Wesleyan roots have to offer. It bears repeating because it truly seems to be truer each year. We didn’t begin as a church, we began as a revival movement. And if we want to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, we will need to become a revival movement again. It sounds nice, a religious revival. But what does that mean, and by default, what does it not mean?

According to historians Frank Grenville Beardsley and Richard Riss, revival, more than a word or a feeling, is a response to the times. The most frequently highlighted hallmarks of revival are:

  • TIMING: Revivals emerge during times of spiritual and moral decline, which leads to a hunger and urgent seeking for meaning.
  • PRAYER: God puts a longing into the hearts of many to pray for revival/look beyond human limits for answers.
  • THE WORD: The preaching or reading of God’s Word brings deep conviction and desire for Christ/the model of Jesus’ own revival takes on new relevance.
  • THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Holy Spirit takes people to a spiritual depth they could not achieve on their own/provides means and motive to try new things.
  • CONVICTION: long time believers may see their faith life anew/new seekers may experience a sense of epiphany and ‘rightness’.
  • REFORMATION AND RENEWAL: Revival produces lasting fruit. New ministries are founded and society experiences a reform of morals as more and more people grow into their faith.
  • MESSY: Revivals are messy–controversies swirl about miracles, abuses, excesses, suspicions, and theological disputes…as the energy of revival grows, so does opposing pressure seeking to maintain the status quo.
  • CYCLICAL: Revivals inevitably crest and decline.

Sound familiar? The only thing that I would say is missing is our shorter modern attention span has changed our ability to sustain energy for and commitment to engines of change for the long haul. And we have, in many ways, more to lose (or gain) by gambling on revival. The self sufficiency of modern life makes revivals much harder to organize and grow. Still, the timing is right, and so the question is: will we show up and ride the wave, or miss the moment?

It was interesting to me that a rise in church attendance or participation in church programs was nowhere in sight for these historians. In fact, most often, revival movements are kicked out of church, because they threaten the ‘sacred’ status quo. Restless energy and a pressing sense that God is doing a new thing forces people to abandon places and practices that cannot keep up with the will of God.

Cooperative Parishes may be the means God has given to us to facilitate the revival of our times. While I know it would be great if I could tell you precisely what is required, what it will look like, who will be in charge of what, I cannot. Revivals are messy. We don’t have the rules and regs, because they really aren’t there. Most of us will, at some point, find ourselves resistant to the movement of the Spirit in the process.

What I can tell you is this: any time there is a revival, the people who dive in make history by building the future. The Renaissance, the Golden Age of Broadway, the Civil Rights Movement, and this, the Third Wave Spiritual Revival that we are a part of, all of them were exciting times in which necessity was the tool the Spirit used to foster invention. I can also say with confidence that very few people, in hindsight, really wish they had avoided a time of revival. Who, having experienced the Renaissance, would long for the Dark Ages?

The combination of the trust we have built together, the times in which we live, and the gifts and graces that we have collectively are a blessing. As the Parish Council forms and we move from summer into fall, I am excited to see the concrete ministry and mission ideas that come from our months of spiritual preparation.

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
March 2022

It is always challenging to get people to lean into the idea of Lent. After all, no one wants to spend any time, let alone 40 days, deliberately in a wilderness space, an attitude of reflection and repentance. It is always a big ask, all the more so after the last years of social isolation and uncertainty, when it feels like we have been in the longest Lent of all time. Plus, the days are getting longer, the first hints of the crocuses are coming up, and we really want to lighten up, not hunker down.

So, what if we had a different kind of Lent? What if we were to spend this time naming how we have changed, what we have lost, how we feel lost? Then, for each and every naming, we commit to having some possible outcome to offer up for Easter. Perhaps we could spend Lent trading our sorrows, as the song puts it.

After so long in our own little wildernesses, it can be really hard to come back together. It is even harder because we know nothing will ever be the same, and we aren’t sure we want to know what will take the place of what we remember. And maybe it’s just me, but there is a lethargy, a fatigue after all of these months holding our breath, literally and figuratively.

As is so often the case, identifying the problem illuminates the cure. Now is the time to trade our sorrows. I like that image because to trade them does not pretend we do not have them. We can honor all of the things we have lived through even as we first look for and then embrace new life.

We need each other in this journey. We need one another to help discern what we should embrace and what we should let go of, to know if we are trading our sorrows for new life, or different sorrows. We need each other, because the miracle of community is that it can magnify and multiply our dreams. There is very little better to trade a sorrow for than a dream.

This all sounds very abstract, but it can be very, very practical: dreaming of where we want to put our energies in ministry, celebrating the new gifts we have discovered among us, embracing the signs of vitality in our midst: baptisms, confirmands, new members, and even a wedding to which we look forward. The answer to our lethargy is to let go and embrace the new life we are being offered by the grace of God.

Spring is coming. And by doing our Lenten work we will be obstacle free to embrace it wholeheartedly. Looking forward to new life with you!

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
January 2022

Sometimes it is easy to take our own work for granted. Recently someone who has a long and loving association with our church through community events was contemplating out loud to me what would be lost if this congregation was not in residence on the corner of Grove and Main Streets. It’s an important question to ask occasionally. In the pages of this newsletter are glimpses into just some of the many ways in which we connect to God, to our community, and to one another, forming a lacey pattern that binds us together in body and spirit.

In the past few months we have continued to build our Free Fresh Food program with other local churches. We have created worship and study opportunities with our neighboring churches, too. Our tech becomes savvier by the week. Our Justice Outreach and Mission team has put together a wonderful series of sermons with expert guest speakers followed by insightful conversations. Of course our mitten tree is out, and our confirmands upped the game on keeping people warm with their sock drive. The confirmands also led worship in Spanish (the whole thing!) to help us see what it might be like for others coming to join us.

This is a church of incredible vitality and relevance! We may be small in number, but we are long in reach.  If we weren’t on the corner of Grove and Main a lot would be lost. Our rainbow flags alone would be a loss – how many people need to know that they are loved and welcome in God’s house – welcome matters, even if it isn’t used. No mittens. No public displays of justice seeking ministry on the lawn, or happy toddlers emerging from Play School. Hungry neighbors. No Repair Café.

Our virtual presence is harder to track, but also important in ways we may not always see. People are listening. We are reaching new people, and because what we say on Sunday aligns with all of these other things that we do, people are taking note. We may never gain all of the trust the institutions of church have stripped away, but I assure you, we are bearing witness to a way of following Jesus that even the most un-churchy people are seeing as refreshing, healing, and energizing.

It is no secret that times are increasingly challenging for churches like ours. We aren’t pushy in sharing our faith. We prefer to do the thing rather than talk about it much. We’re pretty humble. Still – if you try a great new restaurant, you tell people, right? All of the life and vitality in these pages? They represent the best banquet in town – food for the soul, manna for the journey, companions for the feast. We have what the world is hungry for, my friends. Someone you encounter this week needs to know what the little church on the corner of Grove and Main is doing. We don’t need to be the best kept secret. Share this newsletter with a friend. Invite someone to tune in on a Sunday, join us for a small group, to knit with you for the mitten tree. Because what we do here matters so very much. It should be shared.

Reopening Update

It is a decision no pastor, no church, wants to make: Let’s close the doors just in time for Christmas Eve. It was still the right decision. As I write this, there are 505 active cases of Covid in New Paltz, according to the County Dashboard. Projections indicate that we should be nearing the plateau of this variant, which likely means we can relax some of our restrictions sometime in February or March. We are looking forward to being able to have Repair Cafe next month along with a special even that is still being developed. In this long stretch of winter, it is always hard to remember, but spring is coming. We’ll make it. Thank you so much for your patience, understanding, and flexibility as we continue to try to predict Covid’s unpredictable path. 

Words from the Pastor

L. Grace Harmon
November 2021

“In a world too often governed by corruption and arrogance, it can be difficult to stay true to one's philosophical and literary principles.” 
– Lemony Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events.   

We are surrounded by noise, opinions, corruption, arrogance, indifference and collateral damage. It seems essential in such times to find solid anchor points, because truly, it can be difficult to stay true to philosophical and literary principles when there are constant distractions and diversions.

The Beatitudes are an excellent gut check. Do I believe that the poor, in spirit or in fact, are blessed? What about the meek? Am I aware of the blessings of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, or would I rather they stop interrupting my regularly scheduled programming?

It is easy to lose sight of the ways we are pulled in by the corruption and arrogance of the times in which we live. It is easy to assume that we are on the side of righteousness. In fact, the powers of corruption and arrogance are eager to reward us for letting go of our principles.

The interesting thing about having literary principles is that writing things down, committing them to paper, is a way of requesting that you be held accountable to them. Reading and agreeing is asking for accountability, too. Because once written down, we can always check our work, and each others. So long as we don’t instead spend our time changing the meaning to protect our corruption and arrogance.

In preparing for our study of them, I realized that one of the wonderful things about them is that, while they are far more than they appear on the surface, even without understanding all that is under the surface, if you live by the face value alone, you will have enacted many of the deeper truths. That might be a true sign of spiritual genius – to bring out the best in us, even without our full knowledge.

I’d like to encourage each of us to read the Beatitudes every morning for a month. Read them while you brush your teeth or drink your coffee. Just once through each day before you watch the news, answer the phone, check Facebook, or look at your email. Each day we are a part of a world governed by corruption and arrogance. What might we gain from recommitting to our philosophical and literary principles every day before we do?

If the great blessing of a literary principle is that it encourages accountability, then let’s practice that, too while we are at it: share your work. Go to our Facebook page and post or send the church an email about how starting your day with the Beatitudes changed your actions or perceptions. Blessed are the transparent, for their honesty will convict us all.

Reopening Update

First, let me say it: we have gone slowly in our reopening, and I know it has been frustrating for all of us, especially as we watched other places and other churches open more quickly all around us. Thank you for your patience. Our slow approach has saved us a great deal of risk, possibly lives, and has left us with a sense of security based in actions, not in wishful thinking. As frustrating as I know it has been, it has also been wise.

The change in season brings another moment of reevaluation of our protocols, and with that, some adjustments. Our outdoor communion service can no longer be outdoor. We have decided to keep it as a separate service on Wednesday evenings, held in the sanctuary. Having communion as a separate service adds a layer of safety. We do not have the elements in the sanctuary longer than necessary, and we are not remaining in the sanctuary unmasked after partaking in communion, as an example. We will evaluate adding communion back to the Sunday service going forward.

We have worked hard to ensure that our spaces are ready for hybrid meetings and classes. While no one has come back to do this yet, we are excited that we will forevermore be able to reach people whether they can come to us physically or not. That is a tremendous blessing.

It has been wonderful to see some of you in person in the sanctuary. Hearing other voices as we sing and pray enlivens the experience for Margaret, Lee and I more than you can imagine. It isn’t the same as it was, but it doesn’t need to be the same to be wonderful.

The Worship Team is working to plan rich and meaningful Advent services, and Covid has inspired us to work with our Lutheran and Episcopalian neighbors to create a really exciting opportunity for Christmas Eve worship. I’m not sure that any of us would have thought to try it had we not lived through the past year. But we have, and so we are, and I am thankful for this and so many ways we have been moved to resurrect ministry for these times. 

We are not the same as we were – and that is a good thing. Our capacity for adaptation and growth has been tested, and we have emerged stronger and more flexible. This is a blessing. Our challenge now is to continue to live into the new life we have begun. There is so much growing from the tilled soil of the past two years. What a blessing to be in this garden together to see the harvest.