Each year the Council presents an award named for the late Rev. Joyce Steinkraus Giles, who was the CACC Executive Director from 1977-1986. To be eligible, a pastor must actively participate in the Council or one of its programs; have done outstanding pastoral ministry; and exemplify racial, gender, and denominational inclusiveness. Recent recipients include the Revs. Robert Zittel, Peggy Funderburke, and John Knarvik. To nominate a pastor, send a letter to our office by January 6th, telling why you think this pastor deserves the award. Be sure to include the name and phone number of his/her church.
It is indeed official: this will be my last article as your Interim Executive Director. As you already may be aware, the Board of Directors of the Capital Area Council of Churches has appointed Deb Riitano to serve as the next Executive Director and she will begin her tenure on January 1, 2014. I have had the honor to serve as your Interim Executive Director for 15 months, perhaps a little longer than any of us anticipated. And, believe it or not, while I covet my retirement I have enjoyed working with you at CACC.
I have been blessed to be a part of the ministries and programs of the CACC for a lot longer than you might realize. I was first involved back in the early seventies when I was serving at Trinity Lutheran in Castleton-on-Hudson. When I returned to the area in 2000, I became even more involved, especially with the development of the Overflow Shelter. Over the years what I have learned about the CACC is that it is not a static institution but rather a living organic entity which continues to evolve as the world around us changes and we become aware of new and increasing needs in our community.
As Christian congregations bound together in this confederation to do that which we cannot do alone, the Capital Area Council of Churches continues the ecumenical spirit which brought us together 72 years ago and now leads us in interfaith directions we once would have never thought possible. There are ever new pathways for us to follow and we do so confidently led by the hand and the light of God.
As we move into the New Year with a new Executive Director, I would urge you to pray vigorously for the Capital Area Council of Churches and for Deb Riitano because if you do that, all the rest — your support, your participation and your dedication –will naturally follow.
I pray that God will continue to bless the Capital Area Council of Churches which will then use those blessings to bring God’s love in Christ to others.
Rev. Vernon A. Victorson
The Board of Directors of the Capital Area Council of Churches (CACC) is pleased to announce that Ms. Deborah Riitano will serve as the Council’s next Executive Director effective January 1st.
Ms. Riitano is known to many in the Capital Region’s interfaith community. A long-time member of St. Vincent’s Roman Catholic Church, she serves as coordinator of the Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NNORC), a project of Jewish Family Services of Northeastern New York. She has been a board member of the Sidney and Beatrice Albert Interfaith Lecture Series at the College of St. Rose and she has served as the President of the Council’s Board of Directors since 2011.
Ms. Riitano’s appointment follows a year-long discernment and search process. “This is a part-time position,” said Rev. Konrad Raup, Board member and Chair of the Personnel Committee. “We cast our net wide, were very pleased with the response, and are fully behind the Board’s unanimous choice.”
“Deb’s appointment signals an openness to doing things differently in the future,” noted George Herrick, Board Vice President. “She is a faith-centered person, but from the laity, and brings to the Council terrific relationships with the ecumenical and interfaith communities as well as organization skills and successful experience in development.”
Reverend Robert Lamar, a former CACC Executive Director, observed that “Deb will bring some good qualities of being involved in the ecumenical and interfaith world in many different kinds of ways. Her recent Board Presidency gives her experience with the Council and its opportunities and challenges in the years ahead.”
“I’m thrilled to serve the Council in this new role,” said Ms. Riitano. “As Board President I have become intimately familiar with the Council’s mission and ministries, and I’m grateful for the Board’s confidence in me to provide more direct leadership for the Council’s daily operations.”
The juxtaposition of the opening of our Emergency Overflow Shelter at First Lutheran and the celebration of our National Day of Thanksgiving should strike an interesting chord in all of us as we move through November. It is a reminder that within our community and within our country there is both abundance and need.
Thanksgiving is truly an American Holiday one in which every citizen of the nation can participate regardless of faith tradition, ethnic origin, race, or even political persuasion. Consider that, in the face of these very divisive times in our nation, Thanksgiving Day is a most unifying holiday and that alone is cause for celebration.
On November 15th we will reopen our seasonal Overflow Homeless Shelter by which we are able to offer sanctuary to some of “the least” of our community through the coldest months of the year. The Shelter is but one example of what we as Christians can do to offer thanksgiving to God for the abundance with which we have been blessed. All of our congregations will be finding different ways in which to demonstrate our thanksgiving, with food baskets or community dinners and other acts of compassion toward our neighbors in need. While November is a time for us as Americans to highlight our thanksgiving to God, giving thanks is something that people of faith seek to do daily throughout the year for the blessings we have received.
I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and pray that God will keep us ever mindful of the needs of others.
Rev. Vernon A. Victorson
Increase the Peace! Help Yourself While Helping Others
What if you could lower violent crime in the city of Albany AND increase the peace in your own life all at the same time? You can! Starting on January 1, 2014, a community of people who appreciate the power of prayerful intention will be conducting an historic experiment. Can we lower aggravated assaults in the City of Albany (compared to the previous 5 years) with our collective prayerful intention of peace? Meditations will be streamed live over the internet from Trinity Alliance, so that people can participate from home each day. State University of Albany Professor, Dr. John Foldy will be analyzing the data.
Research has demonstrated that when more people are involved, there is a more robust salutory effect. Research has shown the people who participate in such studies experience increased peace in their own lives, including better relationships, more optimism, lowered blood pressure, less physical pain among many other benefits. To participate, please visit the Albany Peace Project.
Consider this please: there are at least 11 Soup Kitchens and 26 food pantries in Albany County. I know this because I sat in on the CROP WALK allocations committee meeting the other day as they determined where to distribute the 25% local share of the CROP WALK funds raised in 2013. Now, Albany County is by far not the poorest county in the state of New York. We are not the richest either, to be sure, but none the less it seems staggering to me that in our little corner of the world we have 11 soup kitchens and 26 food pantries and the word we hear from all of them is that they are seeing more and more people each year.
Many people talk about following Biblical instruction, some say to the letter. Well, if there is one Biblical mandate that stands out for me, it is “feed the hungry”. (If you’re looking for a quick reference check Matthew 25.)
It seems that all through the Bible we have more references to looking out for the poor and the hungry and the homeless than almost anything else. From a Christian point of view then, but certainly not our faith group alone, it makes feeding the hungry a major priority in life. God would have those of us who are blessed, who have enough or maybe even an abundance, to turn and provide blessing for others, kind of a loaves and fishes sort of thing.
There is a story in my family about my grandfather having to eat famine fare in his native Sweden when the times were tough. Famine fare is the mixing of ground tree bark with flour in order to extend its use. Probably tasted like cardboard. One of my favorite poems is titled “The Peasant Paavo” and comes from a Finnish source. It tells of how this poor man had for a number of years tended his meager fields only to have his crop destroyed by flood or hail or frost, but he carried on never losing faith. In the conclusion he is blessed with a beautiful crop and with his wife falls to his knees thanking God. His wife rejoices that she will no longer have to prepare her bread by mixing bark. And the last verse reads…
Paavo took the good-wife’s hand and spake thus:
“Woman, he endureth trials only,
Who a needy neighbour ne’er forsaketh.
Mix thou in the bread a half of bark still,
For frost destroyed our neighbor’s cornfield.”
As you sit down to dinner tonight and pause to give thanks for the food God has placed on your table, take a moment to think about our neighbors in Albany County who depend on those soup kitchens and food pantries.
–Vernon A. Victorson
The Capital Area Council of Churches 35th Annual Ecumenical Musical Celebration will be held on Sunday, November 3rd at 3pm at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 391 Delaware Ave., Albany NY 12209. The church is handicapped accessible from the St. James Place parking lot; additional parking is available in the lot next to the church and on nearby streets. Kristen Witham is this year’s Musical Celebration Director. The Celebration features:
- The Festival Celebration Choir, Maury Castro, Director
- The Albany Lutheran Cluster Churches Choir, Dorothy Johnson, Director
- St. Francis of Assisi Choir, Kristen Witham, Director
- The St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church Choir, Harry Ermides, Director
- The EmBELLishments Bell Choir, First United Methodist Church, East Greenbush, Cynthia Reineke, Director
- Warren Mackey, Soloist, Metropolitan New Testament Mission Baptist Church
- Agnes Armstrong, Guest Organist
Everyone is welcome! A free will offering to benefit CACC ministries will be accepted. Refreshments will be served after the program. Call 518-462-5450 for information or directions.
Two events happened this summer, which had an impact on me and many others. The first was the death of a friend and colleague, Pastor Mark Frickey of the Southern Columbia County Parish of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Mark was in his mid-forties and suffered from a congenital liver disease. He spent a good part of the spring and early summer in the hospital. At one point he was at the top of the list to receive a transplanted liver, but sadly, there was no liver available at that time. At his memorial service his father made a simple but impassioned plea for all of us present to consider being organ donors ourselves and to encourage others to give it serious thought.
In July I attended a well put together and presented program on end of life issues, with a focus on “Organ Donation and Anatomical Gift Giving”. Towards the end of our time together we had short presentations by religious representatives (Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist), all basically relaying the message that nothing in their faith traditions stood in the way of organ donation. In fact, the opposite was more the norm. My favorite was the Jewish response, which was “If you can, you should”. At that gathering I thought again about Pastor Mark and about the liver that was not available when he needed it.
There is a bumper sticker out there, one of the few I really like, which says “Don’t take your organs to heaven. God knows we need them here.” I think that’s right and I also think that as people of faith we need to use our houses of worship as forums to promote organ donation and to encourage our people to be donors themselves. Material and information abounds and is easily accessible. If you need some guidance, give us a call and we will point you in the right direction. Also, as individuals, we need to be talking about these decisions with our children so that if the time ever comes when our organs might be a life giving miracle for another human being, our children will know to say “Yes, that what our parents wanted.”
As the summer ends and the fall schedule heats up, I look forward to seeing many of you at events such as the Protestant Campus Ministry Patrons Dinner on September 26 at First Lutheran Church, our own Annual Dinner on October 2 at the Albany Country Club, and the Musical Celebration on November 3 at St Francis of Assisi Church on Delaware Ave. We have much to do in the months ahead.
May God bless us in our efforts!
– Rev. Vernon A. Victorson
Plan now to join us at the 35th Annual Ecumenical Musical Celebration sponsored by The Capital Area Council of Churches. The Annual Ecumenical Musical Celebration will be held on Sunday, November 3rd at 3pm at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 391 Delaware Ave. Avenue, Albany 12209.
The Musical Celebration Director is Kristen Witham. It will feature a variety of music performed by musicians from several area churches, including:
- The Festival Celebration Ecumenical Choir (confirmed)
- Choirs from the East Greenbush United Methodist Church
- The Greenbush Reformed Church (invited)
- The Choir of St. Francis of Assisi Church
- A Bell Choir
- A Special Guest Organist
Everyone is welcome! Free will offerings are welcome. Refreshments will be served after the program.
The Musical Celebration benefits many Council projects, including our Campus Ministry program at the University at Albany; the Emergency Overflow Homeless Shelter; ecumenical/interfaith dialogue; Ecumenical Witnesses of Baptism; the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Service and Scholarship program; the Good Friday Ecumenical worship service; and our monthly newsletter, CONNECTION.
This event is a major fundraiser for the Council, so we ask you to give generously. You can use our donation form [pdf] to note the names of donors and for dedications. Donation and dedications received by October 21st will be listed in the program.
The Capital Area Council of Churches is accepting applications for the part-time position of Executive Director (approximately 18-20 hours/week). The Director works with the Board of Directors to develop and implement policies and programs.
Applicants for this position must possess a bachelor’s degree from a recognized college or seminary. Candidates must demonstrate an understanding of and experience in ecumenical and inter-faith issues, fund-raising experience and related fiscal and grant-writing skills, ability to communicate within the organization and with media and the general public, and the ability to work inclusively with diverse groups and individuals, including diversity for example with regard to age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race, as well as religious belief.
A negotiated salary and benefits package is available to a first-year maximum of $18,500. View a complete job description here [pdf]. If you have questions, E-mail the CACC or call 518-462-5450. Resumés, including a cover letter and three references, must be postmarked by September 15, 2013, and can be sent either via E-mail or USPS to the Capital Area Council of Churches, 646 State Street, Albany New York 12203-1217.