In the middle of a pandemic, Grace United Methodist Church on Route 37C found joy.
The local church had been without a pastor. But on July 1, Hattie Taylor of North Bangor was appointed to serve the local church as its minister. Her official title is “a lay supply pastor.”
Hattie was born and raised in the north country in the neighboring community of North Bangor. She is the daughter of Dan and Lori Taylor and has an older brother, Jacob, who is serving in the U.S. Navy.
Hattie’s parents had lived in Western New York in East Aurora before moving to the north country. Her mother was a teacher with Franklin County BOCES. Her father is an occupational therapy assistant. Both of her parents are lay speakers and have served local churches.
With life in quarantine a reality and no in-person worship scheduled at Grace UM Church, Hattie, a May seminary graduate, arrived in Massena. She came with a caring heart and new ideas to serve as a pastor with a church holding no in-person worship and no provisions for any worship or gatherings online.
I had the marvelous opportunity to visit with this extraordinary young woman Saturday (we sat at a distance and both wore masks). Hattie began attending Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in the fall of 2017. She continued her study, completing her master of divinity degree in May of this year.
As the spring semester began, Hattie said she tried to “savor every moment.” About mid-March as the novel coronavirus pandemic struck the country, “everything [her course of study] was online.” She remained in Pittsburgh, quarantining there.
“I didn’t want to bring anything home,” she told me with concern. “The last few months, I barely left my apartment.”
Mike Weeden, superintendent for the Northern Flow UMC District, had been in touch with Hattie.
“He’s been such a blessing,” she said. “He mentioned a church that was in need of a pastor.”
Hattie researched Grace UMC in Massena and was “very excited.” Although her appointment in Northern New York was in the middle of a pandemic, this positive young woman commented, “It seemed to work out. … It was like a blessing in disguise.”
Although she is “disappointed I haven’t been able to meet everyone personally,” she has worked tirelessly to become “very connected electronically.”
“I am more aware of my phone,” she told me, explaining that she now receives calls of need on the device. She reaches out to each one on her phone, as well, and literally shares worship on a Sunday morning by using her phone.
Before the arrival of this extraordinary young woman, Grace UM Church had had no services shared online and no Zoom gatherings provided. Within a few days of her July 1 appointment, Hattie had prepared and planned for a service to be shared electronically on Sunday, which was just four days away.
After her arrival at Grace, “the only thing I could think of was to problem-solve … to use my phone and upload on YouTube.” Providing worship electronically was one way she saw to do this.
With absolutely no electronic equipment available in the church sanctuary, this resourceful young woman used her cellphone. She recorded the service and established a Facebook page and a YouTube channel in order to share worship with those quarantined at home.
“We are connected in ways I didn’t think possible,” she commented.
She shares her postings of the service through an email, too. A mailing list also was shared so Hattie could mail copies of her service to those with no access to the internet.
And all within the time frame of less than a week. Amazing! The building might be closed, but Hattie Taylor has made sure that Grace UM Church is fully serving the congregation.
Ministry has been a vital part of Hattie’s life since she was a teenager. She told me as we visited that her mother has been a local pastor for the past 12 years at Owl’s Head United Methodist Church, where she is still serving as a minister.
Her father also had served as a lay pastor in Chasm Falls UMC. At the age of 15, her father was unable to preach at the church, so the then teen said “I could probably do it.” She began “filling in” as a preacher at the age of 15.
“It was a really good experience,” she said.
She is a graduate of Brushton-Moira Central School. In 2013, Hattie graduated from Houghton College, a rural Wesleyan College in Western New York. Hattie said she was interested in marine biology and in the field of science.
“I found the natural world fascinating,” she explained.
During her undergraduate study, though, she majored in philosophy and minored in ministry and art (which included photography, drawing and pottery). Although she was very interested in science, Hattie said that by her sophomore year she was “convinced I was heading for seminary.”
Hattie is hoping to continue in the role of pastor at Grace UMC. She would like to see “what the church will grow into and what direction I will take,” adding, “I am very excited to be here.”
And I know there are many individuals who also are excited Hattie is now a minister in Massena. What a joy to see this young woman prepare for worship with amazing knowledge and poise and then with her phone in hand record and share with the world!
Mike Gagne of 181 Salon on Main Street celebrates a birthday Thursday. What a terrific gentleman.
I miss visiting with Mike and disagreeing over the attributes of our favorite NFL teams. (I cheer on the New York Jets while Mike displays the black and gold of his favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers!)
Have a great day, Mike. You certainly deserve only the very best! Enjoy.
My thanks this week go to gas attendant David at Bear’s Den Western Door. I am so appreciative of each one who not only pumps my gas for me but provides such friendly and kind care especially during these most difficult times.
David wore his mask but visited and asked about my welfare. And through his mask, I could see his smile and hear his warm, friendly greetings. And for that I am most grateful.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“A great deal of what we see depends on what we are looking for.”
— C.S. Lewis