It was a great event on the night of Friday, April 9th . 453 members of th the four Classes of our Regional Synod convened at the stately Imperia on Easton Avenue in order to celebrate a lay recognition dinner. First Reformed Church had three honorees: Pam Gray, Heather Epstein and Erie Beemsterboer.
The dinner was special this year because it had a special program. Instead of a keynote speaker, honorees were asked to provide samples of their work for which they were being honored. Eleven honorees responded, among them all three from our church! Heather gave a short PowerPoint presentation on the special needs confirmation class curriculum she and her husband Dan had helped to develop for Walter Boyles. Erie provided, together with husband Stef, a beautiful sample of Dutch dancing. And Pam talked about the graveyard tour and reenacted one of our earlier pastors’ wives.
Here is what the program brochure said about our honorees. It should be added that Heather, meanwhile, has assumed the additional responsibility as our head deacon.
Erie wears many different hats in our church. She is President of the Women’s Guild, leads our Handbell Choir, is a member of the Invitation & Outreach Committee, and co-chairs the Worship Committee. She is also the leading spirit behind our Prayer Shawl Ministry and sings in the Adult Choir. On Christmas Eve, she plays the violin, and when a luncheon or dinner is needed, she joins the team in the kitchen. Erie also has a seat on the Fund-raising Committee and leads our Dutch Dancing Group. In addition, Erie volunteers as church secretary on four days of the week. Today we honor Erie not just for the multitude of her responsibilities, but also for the fresh wind she and her family have brought to First Reformed Church.
Heather represents a new generation in our church. Five years ago, she came as a young student. Today she is married and teaches students with special needs. In 2007, she and her husband Dan helped create a curriculum for Walter, a confirmation class student with autism. When we celebrated Walter’s confirmation in 2008, it was one of the biggest worship services of the year. In addition, Heather chairs our Christian Education Committee. She is involved in SNAP, our task force for people with special needs. She is also one of the clerks on Consistory, sings in the Adult Choir, and participated in our Interfaith Exchange with our Turkish-Muslim friends, including traveling to Turkey in 2009. Heather is a true blessing to our church.
At various times, Pam has held many functions at First Reformed Church, including the direction of the Children’s Choir, being in actress in our Godspell production, and reenacting a historic character in our cemetery tour. She is a member of the Adult Choir. Her coffee hours are highlights of the month. Most important, however, is Pam’s career as lay preacher and worship leader. For a few years now, she and her daughter, Ashley, have led worship on many occasions when we pastors were not present. We owe it to Pam and others that our pulpit supply budget is very small. More importantly, as a member of our church, Pam provides our congregation with a worship leadership that is familiar and close to everybody; something a guest preacher could not bring to us in the same way. It has been exciting over the years to see Pam grow in her ministry.