Monday, August 23, 2021

Nancy's Ministry Touched Many Lives for God:
Doug Wilson offers rationale for the uniqueness of Saturday afternoon's Celebration of Life for Nancy Wilson


Today’s Celebration of Life and Resurrection is meant to be an opportunity to experience, though briefly, some of the experiences that Nancy enjoyed and that meant the most to her. Though none of us is Nancy, I’m very thankful to those who are helping with today’s Celebration so we may experience some of those moments “in person.”

Nancy loved the water, the lake. And, as we know, she loved God’s creation, nature. So it seemed like a very appropriate setting to have her Celebration of Life and Resurrection here overlooking Silver Lake. So, welcome as in God’s presence we celebrate Nancy’s life.

The worship altar includes flowers from family and a centerpiece created by Barbara Beach from a Christmas poinsettia given in memory of Nancy. Also behind the altar is one of Nancy’s photo banners that she was asked to create for the Annual Conference of the Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Helping with our prelude today is Jane Eliasz. Jane, who is the Director of Music at the Perry Center Church, appreciated the Nancy’s spiritual understanding with which Nancy helped others and who she was as a person. Jane volunteered to play today. Jane just very recently suffered the very unexpectedly loss of her husband Rich due to a very unfortunate accident. I hope you will keep Jane in your prayers for comfort.

Betty Emerling is playing flute as part of the prelude which is very much appreciated. I appreciate Betty and John and Hewitt families who are attending today’s Celebration with the latter having driven up from their homes in North Carolina.

Rev. Sue Russell, Director of Asbury Retreat Center, is offering a word of welcome and instruction. Nancy appreciated her friendship with Sue and the entire Asbury staff for their love and support when Nancy helped with her photography workshops here at Asbury Retreat Center.

When I was called to serve at Geneseo United Methodist Church, Nancy thoughtfully began to attend Geneseo UMC too. Nancy really enjoyed worshipping at Geneseo and appreciated the wonderful support she received from the congregation. So I am thankful for Pastor Beth Malone, the congregation’s new pastor being available today to help with our Celebration.

Rev. Dr. Keith Griswold just retired as the Pastor of Geneseo United Methodist Church. Nancy always appreciated Keith’s sermons. So I am thankful that Pastor Keith can be here today to assist with our Celebration with prayer.

Nancy loved playing in the Praise Band at Geneseo UMC. Occasionally, when needed, she substituted for Andy Beeman on drums. Usually she played the tambourine which she loved to do in helping to lead the Contemporary Worship Service. We thank Gwyneth Jones-Wenniger their leader and the band members for playing today. I have asked Bonnie Kreutter to play a tambourine as Nancy did. Bonnie took the two year course in Spiritual Direction as had Nancy previously as both followed God’s leading for the direction of their ministries.

After I retired, I served as an interim pastor at Covington United Methodist Church. Nancy again wonderfully attended worship there and really appreciated the loving spirit of the congregation. Pastor Kernon Ransom is the pastor now and I appreciate very much his helping with our scripture lessons today that can remind us of Nancy’s seeing God through nature and her intent to seek and give glory to God in celebrative and meditative ways.

Nancy loved doing book talks to the children of the Perry Elementary School for seventeen years via a grant that she wrote for the Perry Public Library. The children looked forward to her reading to them and could officially check out other children’s books from the library that she brought with her to their classrooms. We are thankful to Jessica DeMart, the present Youth Services Librarian, to read an excerpt of a children’s book, one of the 135 that have been recently given by many generous donors in Nancy’s memory. Thanks to Jessica, a display of some of the donated books is available in nearby Koininia Inn including photos of Nancy reading to the children.

For our message for today, while I am not Nancy, I am attempting briefly to walk us through the highlights of one of her spiritual photography retreat workshops with the intent of helping us draw closer to God as she helped those attending to do.

Rev. Tony Hipes who is the Pastor of the Perry United Methodist Church will help us with a time of sharing if there are those who may like to share a brief thought or story about Nancy. Nancy and I really appreciated the love and support the congregation offered to our entire family when our sons Jefferson and Jon grew up there. Pastor Tony and his wife Judy have also made possible today’s Celebration being available on the Facebook page of the Perry First United Methodist Church so family and friends from around the country are able to watch the service today or replay at a future time. Thank you.

Nancy served as the Coordinator of the Spiritual Life Volunteers at the Wyoming County Community Hospital for ten years. She and volunteers from several area churches faithfully and daily attended to the spiritual needs of the patients as requested by them. Deacon Mark Kehl along with other dedicated volunteers are continuing to serve though now interrupted by covid. So it is with deep appreciation that Deacon Kehl will lead us in the final commendation for Nancy as we seek to lift her into God’s loving care eternally. A special thank you to Peggy Morgan-Hise, a hospital administrator, who worked with Nancy for many years with this ministry. Also, special appreciation to Sister Mary Ann Weldon, Nancy’s supervisor, from the Sisters of Mercy and Catholic Charities who sponsored the program.

Eric Kelly, now pastor of the Perry Center UCC Church, is leading us in our closing hymn “I’ll Fly Away” which seems appropriate for Nancy Byrd as she is God’s time was gently lifted into God’s loving care. Eric, when he was the Director of the Perry Community Band which he re-started, was the one who encouraged Nancy to take up the drums which she did.

Finally, I’m hoping that Father Rich Blazejewski can help with our benediction. Father Rich is the pastor of St. Isadore’s in Perry. He recently had eye surgery. When Nancy was serving as Spiritual Life Coordinator at the Warsaw Hospital for Catholic Charities she officially needed to be connected with a local Catholic Church, St Joseph’s and St. Stanilaus at the time and now St. Isadores. In serving at the church part of her responsibility was to take Christmas baskets prepared by the Sisters of Charity to the homebound of the congregations which she did.

As we may all know, Nancy loved to dance. Her most favorite song was “Old Time Rock 'n Roll.” Whenever she heard that song or a Beach Boys song or other upbeat song she was on the floor dancing. So, I think it is more than appropriate with Eric’s help that he play “Old Time Rock 'n Roll” for our postlude to help Nancy dance her way into heaven and help us to dance in each of our lives as God leads.

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