from the pastor

Reverend Katie Zettle

2017 Report of the Pastor

In bringing the report of the pastor, I hope to share the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit in this place.

Since last November, the Harris Hill UMC has continued to work on living out the Mission of the UMC in transforming the world by making disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world. Our vision: Love God, Live Like Jesus and Share the Spirit, allows us to focus on our own personal spiritual growth in Christ and then offers this hope to our neighbors, inviting others in. When we finish worshipping God our work begins, hopefully affecting the lives of others daily.

The leadership of Harris Hill UMC are faith-filled, as all of those serving on SHAPE (Ad Board) and Trustees, have been involved with missions, ministry and or small group. I have shared with nominations that I only want those who are committed to the church through attendance in worship and those who make personal spiritual growth a priority. Growing ‘the church’ can only happen when those who are “the church” seek to be transformed. Leadership needs to be modeled in order to be effective.

Last year we began class meetings which we call Journey groups as we seek to encourage, love and assist one another in spiritual nurturing through covenant groups. One group continues to meet and grow through discussion and personal faith sharing. The other group recently decided to stop as several of the people were unable to attend regularly due to retirement, traveling and sickness. I understand the seasons of any small group or ministry and believe this group was helpful to those who participated and I think that a few of them will find their way into another small group. The depth of sharing has been amazing as trust in one another and trust in God impacts the very heart of each participant.

Small groups are important at this church and I only wish every person would participate. We offer opportunities for folks to come together in long term groups and short term studies. We offer opportunities for men only, during the day, on Sunday morning, and at night. Those who have made this a part of their week are always blessed by the community formed. There are Children’s and Sdult Sunday School as well as small groups that meet throughout the week. Offering all an opportunity to learn, think, discuss and grow.

We continue to care for those inside the congregation as well as those who are no longer able to be in worship on Sunday through visits, Holy Communion, meals, cards and phone calls. We as a church are involved in a prayer shawl ministry and have given away about 150+ shawls in the last three years. It is such a blessing to know that people can participate either though donating money to buy yarn, by knitting or crocheting shawls, or by praying over them as we prepare them to be gifted. We offer a Free Community Carnival each year as a way to welcome the community onto the property where more than 145 kids plus their families attend. We invite them to a one day VBS as well as worship. We support special UM advances throughout the year and continue to give our full support to Shared Ministries.

Our main mission/ministry project is GO! Ministry through UMCOR. Harris Hill is the drop off and verification site for all UMCOR kits for the Niagara Frontier District. I am the District Disaster Coordinator and encourage those in the district to continue to give to UMCOR and to build kits as they are needed urgently at many times of the year. I also participate as a member of the Western NY VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster). Kit building is also a ministry that anyone in a church can participate in and I have spoken to other pastors, UMW’s and to the retired clergy in regards to this ministry.

This ministry is very busy as the need has been tremendous both nationally and internationally. It has taken a few years but other churches now recognize that they can participate all year long collecting at their churches and they can come here to verify and build kits. What a joy it is to see people from Boy Scout troops, schools, and people of every age and ability gathered around tables participating in hands on ministry. At our last gathering, our oldest member was sitting and reading the list to another woman who was gathering items and filling the bucket, while at the next table a 3 year old boy was counting sponges with his mom as they packed together. A small vision of the Kingdom!

This year we became actively involved in a community dinner at Niagara Falls 1st UMC. We have all enjoyed the opportunity to participate in this ministry by purchasing food items, by coming together at the church to cook, and by going to the church to serve dinner once a month. Each person that becomes involved has had a wonderful experience as we build a relationship with those in that community who come to enjoy a meal, fellowship and worship.

We love food and continue in ministry by cooking goulash twice a month for a soup kitchen that reaches out to the homeless and those in need on Buffalo’s lower West side - Friends of Night People. The church supports Hearts for the Homeless, a ministry that drives a camper nightly, directly to where the homeless are living and brings a hot meal, coffee, cookies and a sandwich for the next day. We support Operation Christmas Child, and the Clarence Food Pantry, as well as those engaged in ministry through ERT (Early Response Team) and VIM (Volunteers in Mission) and other missionary organizations.

The Harris Hill community also has a number of fellowship opportunities throughout the year. These offer a time for people to get to know one another in a setting outside of worship. It also allows folks the chance to invite a friend or neighbor to a church event that isn’t overtly “churchy.” In October we had our first church retreat, focused on Sabbath Joy! Those that participated all took away new thoughts of the importance of Sabbath rest, and the impact in might make on every area of our body, mind and spirit.

This year I found myself in need of a renewal leave and took the month of August to refresh and be renewed. I had recognized in myself a tired spirit, and exhaustion in many areas of my life. I began my time with a week training at Ginghamsburg UMC where I gathered with 15 other pastors from all over the country to engage in understanding the need for missional church. What a wonderful week of learning and to be connected to other pastors seeking fresh ideas in church through mission outreach. I then came home for a week with my family and enjoyed spending time with them. I spent a few days on a personal retreat by myself and then spent a few days doing some planning for the year ahead, followed by some time to relax. I was thankful for the time away; to regain new eyes in scripture, to place the importance of prayer and of self-care prominently in my calendar and to keep in mind my self-care with requests of others, and found it helpful to step away from the weekly sermon writing.

HHUMC continues to be in ministry with the AA group that meets seven days a week in our church building. I attend meetings weekly as a way to continue to build relationships and share in God’s love. We have seen several new members and people who are attending church I am humbled to hear the stories and work through the pain that humanity inflicts on one another and on themselves. It is through this ministry that God continues to bring me great hope in transformation by the Holy Spirit. I am blessed that many people in the church have offered great hospitality and love to those who come to church. We have held a breakfast for the AA group and some of our church folks have gone to celebrate the anniversary of another in sobriety. I continue to preach a challenge to others on who Jesus loved and ministered to so ALL hearts would be changed.

This report would not be complete without my personal praise to God. I give God thanks for the staff people I am honored to work with, each of whom extend themselves far beyond a job description, into the work of ministry and into loving people. If it were not for them, my ministry would look much different. I thank God for the leadership teams, people who give extensive amounts of time and talent in leading and organizing the church for Kingdom building. I thank God for the people of this church who have looked to find areas of their lives that could be stretched and allowed the Spirit in. I give thanks to God for those that work hidden behind the scenes to help another, to gift another, to encourage another without any praise or acknowledgement. I thank God for this community of faith that is committed to worship and praise God in this place called Harris Hill UMC. I am thankful for my husband who supports me in ministry and loves me unconditionally. I thank God, for the opportunity to serve in ministry, to be loved and to love the people called Harris Hill UMC, and so much more!

Rev. Katie Zettle