RPCNA | St. Lawrence Presbytery | Clay (New York, USA)
Pastor: Brian E. Coombs
Ruling Elder: David McCune
Members: 37 Communicant, 16 Baptized
Humble Beginnings in an “Upper Room”
Messiah’s Church is located in Clay, a small town in Central New York state. It began as a daughter congregation of the Syracuse RPC back in 1995, when a small group in the area north of the city started meeting in private homes on Sabbath evenings. Public worship, still under the oversight of the Syracuse RPC, began in 1997 in an “upper room” of the North Syracuse Community Center. Here “church” would be set up and taken down each week. Through these times of close fellowship and challenges, we waited for the Lord to firmly establish us.
Officially organized on October 14, 2005, we continued worshipping in that upper room until the Lord graciously provided our current church building in Clay, NY in 2008.
The Beauty of Diversity
The Bible uses many metaphors for the church. It is compared to a body, a temple, a vineyard, a house, and a family. Since we are members of this family by adoption and not by natural birth, we don’t always have a lot in common. In our congregation, the Lord has brought together people who might otherwise not ever have sought each other out. There is a great diversity of age, interests, gifts, temperaments, education, careers, and political persuasion. Messiah’s Church is made up of farmers, teachers, students, accountants, IT specialists, sales clerks, artists, housewives, retirees, and much more.
Although not explicitly Biblical, perhaps another apt metaphor for the church is that of a rock tumbler – a device into which you put raw rocks or minerals taken from the earth. They’re not always very attractive and usually have sharp edges. They are placed in the tumbler with water and an abrasive grit and then tumbled together for a long time until the sharp edges are ground down and they become rounded and smooth. Later a polish is added to the mix and the process creates beautiful gemstones suitable for use in jewelry. So, too, the Lord is making something beautiful out of our interactions even though there may be some pain involved in the process.
Currently, Messiah’s Church boasts nine people over age 60 and about two dozen children. The two dozen children make up nearly half of our attendance, which ranges from about 50-55 people weekly. Most people live in suburban areas, but we also have a couple of large, rural families.
Our Lord’s Days are joyous occasions where we are fed both spiritually through the preaching of the Word and physically with a weekly potluck luncheon. Since several families come from a long distance and would have difficulty returning for evening worship, instead we have an extended time of fellowship and learning, usually lasting until around 2 p.m. Our current afternoon study has been on the Westminster Shorter Catechism where we usually take one or two questions each week, break them down, look up the verses provided by the Westminster Assembly, and discuss.
Current ministries include a weekly women’s Bible study; Messiah’s Quilting Bees, a ministry that has donated 107 Scripture quilts to the palliative care unit at a local hospital and 16 more to Christians both within and outside of our church congregation; art classes for our children by a gifted member who encourages them to use their God-given creative talents; free Bible and evangelistic literature table on Election Days (since our church is used as a polling place); and an active Sunshine Committee which ministers encouragement to both members as well as their friends and families who are sick or experiencing affliction.
In addition to his regular responsibilities of preaching and teaching at the church, Pastor Coombs also records a “Pastor of the Day” devotional which is aired monthly on a local Christian radio station (WMHR). Then, together with another local reformed pastor, he leads an annual Reformation Symposium which is an in-depth presentation of issues raised by the Reformers of the 16th century but still highly relevant today.
Our congregation (as many others) was of course affected by the COVID pandemic. In spite of the many challenges it represented, one good outcome was that it pushed us into a greater use of technology. This has expanded the audience of those who are hearing the Word preached. Initially Zoom was used for online opportunities for worship, fellowship, and prayer. Currently we are live streaming our services on YouTube. You can also find links to replays of the services on our Facebook page.
Pray for Us
We are very grateful for all the Lord’s great kindnesses to us. Encouraged by past blessings, we continue to ask for more people to join us in serving our Saviour. We also need another deacon and elder to minister to those He has given and will continue to give us!
Written by Franki Fuhrman, a retired civil servant who lives in Syracuse, NY. She has been a member of Messiah’s Church since its organization in 2005. Co-written by Grace Shipman, a wife and mother who lives in Auburn, NY. She and her husband, Zeb, have been attending Messiah’s Church for several years along with their many children.