On my first Sunday here in town (Jan. 7), I walked to the church through 8 inches of snow. You're already thinking: so what? For upstate New Yorkers, 8 inches is nothing to write home about, but for me, I took pictures, even a video, and sent it to family and friends in Florida, where I live.
The children of the church wanted to get to know me that first Sunday, and they asked me fun questions, like "What is your favorite food?" (soft ice cream) and, "What is your favorite team?" (Go Gators, sorry Syracuse Orange!). Then the children asked this innocent but timely question: "Pastor Pam, what is your favorite season?" and in that moment, I said "summer!"
But since we are in the middle of winter, I am doing my best to embrace it. Though I was born and raised in Cayuga County, living in Florida for most of my adult life has been quite different compared to my experience growing up here.
In upstate New York, there are many reasons to love all of the seasons. Oh, how I have missed leaf peeping season: the vivid yellows, oranges and reds that are but a memory. And I do miss the smell of spring. As a farmer's daughter, I recall the earthly scent that comes from the soil and has been turned for the first time in months — it revives us as we emerge from winter, even as golden daffodils announce the beginning of spring. And yes, summer is still my favorite season in the Finger Lakes region. The wet and muddy spring has dried up, leaving hiking trails ready for exploration. Summer is the perfect time to get out on the lakes, ride bikes and enjoy the beauty of nature (and eat some soft ice cream!).
During my time here, however, I must confess that I have enjoyed and embraced the beauty of nature, even in winter. There is something life-affirming about walking in the crisp winter air! Though it can be hard to place my feet on a cold floor as I emerge from the covers, in this season of winter, my soul has welcomed it, and on some level, even needed it.
Winter — not just a Florida winter (!) — affords us to rest, to listen, to eat warm things, to try something new, to care for the soul. It's a time to hunker down and listen to your heart, soul and spirit. Winter sets apart the time and invites all of us to do some much-needed soul work.
It's not coincidental that I will experience winter in upstate New York during Lent this year, something I have forgotten by living in the South. The season of Lent, in the Christian church, is a period of reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord at Easter. Lent (which is a period of 40 days) is a time for us to reflect on our lives, our behaviors, our strengths and our weaknesses (as painful as that can be). It's a time when we recall that we are mortal beings (cue "ashes to ashes, dust to dust"), and a reminder that we are all created in the image of God.
For sure, upstate New Yorkers know how to do winter, even in Lent. It's a gift to be able to listen, to reflect on what matters most, and to give thanks for our very many blessings. Walking through 8 inches of snow is no big deal, and I am grateful to be among my people. I am grateful to be serving a wonderful and welcoming congregation in Auburn during winter and the season of Lent. I am grateful to embrace winter with fresh eyes, and to learn and grow with others who take it all in stride. How wonderful it is to be back home again!
All are welcome to join us here at Westminster Presbyterian Church on the journey we call Lent, growing deeper in our relationship with God and others, and reaching wider as we serve the community and beyond.
The season of Lent began Feb. 14 with our Ash Wednesday worship service. Please also join us for a Lenten Soup and Study from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, March 6, 13 and 20, and we will focus on "Reflections on the Psalms." Our Holy Week services are as follows:
- 9:30 a.m. Sunday, March 24: Palm Sunday worship and pancake social hour
- Noon Friday, March 29: Good Friday worship in chapel followed by light lunch
- 6:15 a.m. Sunday, March 31: Easter Sunday sunrise service at St. Joseph's Cemetery followed by worship at 9:30 a.m. at the church
Please come and bring a friend! In the meantime, let's embrace winter and Lent! And remember, spring is coming — friends, Easter is coming!
The Rev. Dr. Pamela Masten, BCC, is temporary paster at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 17 William St., Auburn. For more information, visit westminsterauburn.org or call (315) 252-3331.