I wasn’t here in the fall of 2011 when the floodwaters of Hurricane Irene came to the small village of Schoharie. I wasn’t here to see the devastation it caused not only to their business and homes, but also the spirit of those who call this valley their home. I wasn’t here to witness…but the Church was. I am grateful for this. I am grateful to call myself Presbyterian and to be part of our connectional church. The Church was here to help, and I will forever be grateful to all who came by the side of this community when they most needed it; who helped restore hope to a community when none seemed more believable. It’s now been 5 years since that time, and even I can see the breadth of new life happening all around us.
A new sense of community created in the bonds of struggle
In the 3 years since I’ve come to Schoharie, I can truly say it’s been an exciting time! People tell me one of the best things to come out of the floodwaters of Irene was a new sense of community created in the bonds of struggle. I see the truth of their words in the culture of the people around me, but I especially see this in the community of the churches. There is a strong sense of ecumenical partnership happening here between the three small churches that call Schoharie home: Presbyterian, Reformed, and Lutheran. For many years now, the churches have worked together to share the love of Christ with the community around them. Schoharie village is home to one of the largest food pantry ministries in the county as a joint mission of the three churches and currently serves more than 300 people monthly. The churches have also partnered together for the last 10 years providing a 1-week summer VBS camp experience to kids all over the county, with the support of many community organizations and Camp Fowler. This has been a growing ministry, and as of this summer 2016, is now reaching over 150 kids, ages pre-k thru High-School. And now, with the start of the new school year this past September, Schoharie Presbyterian and Schoharie Reformed have joined together for our newest ministry providing Christian After-School Care. This new Schoharie Christian After-School Program launched with the start of school on September 7, 2016.
Extending the Summer Camp Experience Year-round
From design to launch, the conception of this program happened in a very short span of time, however, the idea for a Christian After-School program has been an evolving conversation for several years between Schoharie Presbyterian and Schoharie Reformed in an effort to continue to shift our church’s mission focus more on the local community. With the continued growth and success of the Summer Christian Camp, yet steady decline in youth attendance in our Sunday Schools, the question “Where are the kids the rest of the year?” was worth asking. From continued conversations with parents around the village, a Christian After-School Program presented itself as a great outreach opportunity, extending the Summer Camp experience year-round while also meeting a growing need for flexible and affordable care among parents.
This past May, a small group of dreamers were gathered to ask two very simple questions: “Is an After-School Program possible, and if so, what would it look like?” Knowing the clock was against us for a September deadline, we felt affirmed in our hearts this was an opportunity God was leading us to in the here and now, and resolved to do all we could to see a program come together in this short window. The planning group, consisting of members from both SUPC and Schoharie Reformed, with coordination from SUPC’s Session, got to work meeting regularly over the next several months until a program began to take shape. By July, enough work had been done, and we felt it was time to survey the parents during the week of Summer Camp and seek permission for “Green Light” from Session and Schoharie Reformed Consistory, respectively. The survey from Summer Camp confirmed enough interest from parents to warrant moving forward, and with permission from both church councils, a search for staff began. By end of August, God had led us to a great staff, each with their own set of unique gifts and experiences, and student registration was underway. Now, as of the first month, the program is currently serving almost 30 kids ranging from Pre-K to 6th with more signing up each week; all students from Schoharie Elementary School. The program focuses on youth enrichment with a daily schedule of snacks, fellowship, Christian devotionals and education, homework tutoring, and recreational and craft times. Schoharie Elementary School has been very supportive of this new ministry, providing school bus transportation from the school to the church each day. In addition to the Program Staff, a great turnout of volunteer support from church members has been a welcomed blessing.
Now, just over a month into the school year, it seems clear the program has taken on a life of it’s own, and we now look to God’s blessing on what this new ministry will mean to our churches and this community in the coming years. It seems from the depth of the floodwaters, God has created new life here in this fertile valley, and it is truly an exciting time to be here in Schoharie. Praise be to God and blessings and thank you to our connectional church who gave us this chance.
Rev. Brandan Eddy grew up primarily in a suburb of St. Louis and went on to serve in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, in which he found God’s calling to ordained ministry, passionate about sharing a more inclusive message of Grace and Reconciliation, especially to those who thought it previously out of reach. Brandan has received degrees in B.S. of Computer Science from ITT Technical Institute, and Masters of Divinity from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. In his free time, Rev. Eddy enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters. His family also includes their dog (a hyperactive Siberean Husky named Luna) and two Veild Chameleons (Mad-Eye Moody & Flash Gordon). Some of Rev. Eddy’s favorite hobbies include video games, going to the movies, doing something outdoors, or just taking a ride on the motorcycle. Brandon is pastor at the Schoharie Presbyterian Church.