by Lois Oliver
2016 brought The Congregation a new, though part-time, Assistant Pastor, Andrew Phillips, who would be responsible on weekends for youth Sunday school and Youth Fellowship. The membership was still in exile in Page Auditorium for worship, and continuing the usual Christian education programs of Adult Forum, Wee Praise, Godly Play, and Youth Sunday School in Divinity School classrooms. The Women’s Group began their meetings again in January, and the monthly Young Adult Friday dinners continued.
In February the adults had a winter retreat where Dr. Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Professor of Theology, led us in a study of race relations, and we shared learning, prayer and fellowship. The youth had a winter retreat (with skiing), and the Congregation helped over February and March with a Habitat House. Surprisingly, without being in our Chapel home, a new member group of five participated in the four week new member class.
The Lenten season book group studied Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cross. As Easter approached the children looked forward to the Easter egg hunt, and the adults prepared by attending the Easter week services. The joy of the resurrection was beautifully celebrated in Page Auditorium.
In April, the Fellowship Committee held a Snack-luck on the Chapel Quad with plenty of delicious snack food, reminding us of how much we had missed our potluck lunches in the Chapel basement! Meanwhile, each week we were noticing that the scaffolding around the Chapel was descending, and it was clear that the deadline for re-opening was coming. A few days before the re-opening, the office was moved back into their quarters in the basement. The Altar Guild was allowed in as well to get the communion chalices, crosses, torches, candlesticks, and baptismal font cleaned up, polished and ready for use after a year, some having been gathering tarnish for a year.
Finally on May 11, 2016, President Brodhead and Dean Powery cut the ribbon to open the Chapel and we saw the clean, beautiful building restored to its full glory.
In June, The Congregation gathered at the overnight retreat at the Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro with a theme of Love. Chaplain Peggy Davis Gold was the leader. Her work in HIV/AIDS ministry caring for others helped us to learn to love and help one another. The young and old membership enjoyed the study, prayer and play and the beautiful setting surrounded by love.
There were leadership changes for this year as well. Frank Coble was the new President of the Congregation. Andrew Phillips became full time Assistant Pastor for Youth, Young Adults, and Missions and Outreach in July. Phyllis Snyder added Communications Specialist, Newsletter, and Member Database to her Education Ministry responsibilities. Nelson Strother’s title changed to Financial and Information Technology Administrator.
The summer was busy with a youth summer trip to Appalachia, and the youth group did a summer retreat of weeding and harvesting at Camp Chestnut Ridge. There was a picnic in Pineywood Park and a Durham Bulls game with the veterans. Of course the summer was interesting because of the new parking system in the Bryan Center Garage, which even necessitated announcements in the Chapel!
In the fall, the Congregation welcomed our Divinity School Intern, Denise Noble, who led a Bible study class on Sunday mornings. We helped with the annual Potato Drop sorting a few tons of potatoes, and meeting a lot of Duke undergraduates in the process. The fall retreat was an all-day mental health training session, entitled Mental Health First Aid Training, which was well attended. There was a fall book group, and a six week Growing Thru Grief program.
We should be grateful for our Pastor, Carol Gregg, who has visited those of us who were ill or injured, or dying, or just needed support or comfort. She has been reaching out to members who are on the rolls but not involved in Congregation life. She has recruited members to help with this. Each member gets a call around their birthday, new babies get a Heavenly Hugs Hat, the Quilters provide prayer quilts, and back pew collections helped many this year. We are all much better connected following our pastor’s leadership. Pastor Gregg baptized three babies and welcomed nineteen new members. The Congregation Council, and the Congregation staff have made 2016 a very special year!