As many at First Pres know, my mother, Nancy Russ, took a year-long sabbatical from her church to come and help us get First Pres up and running. Her contributions have been immeasurable–always ready to jump in when something needs to be done or step in when someone didn’t show up. But now it is time for her to return to her home church. Below is her farewell letter to the congregation. It is my hope that one day our church will be abel to “loan” members to other struggling congregations. It is truly an act of mission.
To all the members and friends of First Presbyterian Church in Argenta:
Thank you for a wonderful year. I feel truly blessed to have traveled with you from a small group meeting in Fellowship Hall to a triple-sized group meeting in the beautiful sanctuary with heating and air, the restored stained glass window, and perhaps the cleanest sanctuary in town.
I came here for a year because I felt I was needed here more than at Second Presbyterian where I am a member. I came because Anne needed help and because I felt there was unlimited potential for this church in this place at this time. It has been a wonderful experience.
I will never forget Christmas Eve of ’09, our first service back in the sanctuary. A generous donor had given us a heating and air conditioning unit. We had all worked so hard to get the sanctuary ready; we were having a baptism; we expected a full house. Then 30 minutes before time for the service, it started to rain. The elderly people would not come; the families with young children wouldn’t bring them out on Christmas Eve. But they did! I don’t know how many we finally had, but they continued to come—even after the service started. It was an exciting time.
The congregation—from the dedicated elderly members who come even when they don’t feel well, to the young families who have increased our number of babies and children from one to a dozen—has been a real inspiration. And it has been good to watch the “faithful few” who held the church together during difficult times work with the “new” people to create a vision of what the church can become.
It has not all been fun. We experienced a crumbling wall that threatened to wreak havoc with the building, halls flooded on Sunday morning by a clogged AC pipe, the rejection of our first application for a grant to restore that glorious stained glass window, and the recent smoldering fire that caused extensive smoke damage. (Not to mention the bad case of poison Ivy I got when we helped clean alleys in Baring Cross). In nearly every case, something good came out of the misfortune. We eventually got the grant to repair the window (and isn’t it beautiful?), and the cleanup after the smoke damage left the church the cleanest it has been since it was built. When Dale’s house was practically destroyed by a storm, a group of us spent most of a Saturday helping him dig out. (I can’t think of any real good that came from my poison ivy.)
We started our music program with a volunteer pianist who was Baptist and had never played for church before (I will always be grateful to Vicki and Lealon for their help) and with any singers we could recruit. Now we have a Grand Piano and a wonderful pianist who makes a real contribution to the life of the church. (And the latest word is that we will soon have a singing group!)
It is time for me to return to my own church. Thank you for letting me help; thank you for being supportive of Anne. And thank you for being a part of God’s plans for Argenta. You are always in my prayers.