By Tim Pallesen
The pastor’s home has become a festive place for the elderly parishioners at Boynton Beach Congregational Church these days.
It began when the new pastor, Georgia Hillesland, invited everyone to her home to get acquainted and enjoy her strawberry and blueberry pudding cake.
Hillesland, 61, asked parishioners what was missing at their church. Many said they missed the church dinners and potluck suppers.
“A sense of community was what they missed most,” Hillesland said. “I love to cook and share that with people. So I was able to set my priorities.”
A Memorial Day picnic was the latest social event at the pastor’s house. The Thanksgiving and Christmas parties were appreciated, too.
“Everybody feels like we’re one big family now,” Helen Wilson, 91, said. “She’s like the mother of our family, even though many of us are a lot older than she is. It’s amazing how people have responded.”
Hillesland became the pastor of Boynton Beach Congregational early last year. The previous pastors all were men. Although the church had 200 members in the 1990s, membership had declined. The last pastor lived in Port St. Lucie.
“We needed someone with a warm caring heart. Too many of us are alone here,” said June Finke, who chaired the search committee. “I got very irritated when some said they didn’t want a woman minister.”
Finke persisted and Hillesland was chosen. “For her to reach out was exactly what we needed,” Finke said.
About 55 attended the Memorial Day barbecue and pool party at the pastor’s house last year. Hillesland cooked a turkey with all the trimmings for Thanksgiving. Guests chose between homemade apple, pecan and pumpkin pies. The entire congregation followed their pastor home after church services on Christmas Eve.
“I’ve never before been invited to a minister’s house in my life,” church member Wade Hawkins said. “Usually ministers are not as open and friendly as she is. Everybody loves her.”
“Picnics and potluck dinners require someone to get it going,” Fred Birdsall said. “Unfortunately, we’re all getting old. So she’s become a great hostess.
“Our past ministers have been men, and we men let our wives do it.”
Hillesland’s husband, David, helps with the entertaining and plays flute at church.
Now the members are inviting others to meet their new pastor. The congregation is growing again.
“We’ve found that people are hungry for both social activities and the Lord,” Hillesland said. “I want them to feel they are appreciated and part of my family. The best way to get to know them is to share.”
The pastor faces only one problem. “I might have to get a bigger house,” she said.
Boynton Beach Mayor Woodrow Hay was ordained as a Baptist minister on May 27 after fielding questions about how religion mixes with politics.
“Some say politics are so dirty that a reverend should not be involved,” noted the Rev. Gerald Kisner, a member of the ordination council that evaluated whether Hay should become a minister at St. John Missionary Baptist Church.
Hay, who was appointed mayor last February after five years on the City Commission, was confident with his response.
“I think it’s high time we get people of wisdom and knowledge on the dais who have compassion, love and joy — all the attributes that God has given us,” he said. “We need more people of God in City Hall, just like we do in the White House.”
Construction is under way for Holly House, a place where the hard-working-ladies of First Presbyterian Church of Delray Beach can socialize while making crafts.
“They’ve been saving their money for quite a few years to pay for the new Holly House,” property committee chairman Bob Teninga said. “They just love the fellowship and getting together.”
The 3,600-square-foot building on the campus of the church will cost $500,000 and be completed in four months.
About 50 women gather on Tuesdays and Thursdays to make handicrafts, such as knit sweaters, Christmas wreaths and aprons, which they sell at a church bazaar each November.
“My women travel all over the world and come back with ideas of what we can sell at the bazaar,” said Regie Moorcroft, chairwoman of the Holly House Ladies. “They’re really talented.”
The women also organize First Presbyterian’s annual rummage sale, which this year raised $24,000. The money has been spent to buy new pew cushions, a refrigerator and other unbudgeted items for the church.
The Holly House Ladies also form a Christian support group for each other.
“The girls all like to socialize,” Moorcroft said. “Now we’re all going to be together in one big open room.”
A church has taken evangelism to the beach with a pastor who does sand sculptures.
“I realized that I wasn’t coming in contact with anyone by hibernating in my office,” the Rev. Buzwell McNutt of First Baptist Church in Boynton Beach said.
So a year ago Rev. McNutt began meeting families who stopped to marvel at his elaborate sculptures. “I get to tell folks who I am and why I’m here,” he said.
Parents shot photos last month of their children sitting in McNutt’s creation of Lightning McQueen, the racecar character in the Disney movie Cars. McNutt will teach sand sculpture during a beach cleanup and free party hosted by the church from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 21, at Oceanfront Park in Ocean Ridge.
Tim Pallesen writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Email him at email@example.com.