Highlights from the November meeting
     Your Session met on Wednesday, Nov. 15. After devotions were presented by Barbara Daugherty, the minutes of the previous Session meeting were approved.
     Pastor's report: Rev. Shedwick drove 328 miles on church business in October, which included 17 home visits, one hospital visit, three counseling sessions and one in-home communion offering. The ushers for December are: Connie Harley (Dec. 3), Jake Mangano (Dec. 10), Jeannie Mangano (Dec. 17), Kara Outten (11 a.m. Dec. 24), Denise Pitchford (7 p.m. Dec. 24) and John Pitchford (Dec. 31).
     Building and Property: The Session voted to accept the commission's recommendation to replace three of the six air-conditioning units in our sanctuary. The new units double as heaters and should help us save on fuel costs during the winter. Money from the Cooper bequest will pay for the units. The other three sanctuary air conditioners will be replaced at a later date. ... The batteries in the sanctuary thermostats have been replaced. ... The commission told the Session of the need to replace the windows along the stairway on the 4th Street side of Fellowship Hall. ... Former West Deptford police chief Craig Mangano will talk to the commission and others about precautions and possible strategies should an active shooter invade our church.
     Christian Education: Angels and shepherds were the theme of the Sunday School Advent program on Dec. 3. ... Our Sunday School children will play an active role in our annual Christmas pageant, which will be at 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 24, in Fellowship Hall. The pageant will be that morning's worship service. There will be a second service at 7 p.m. the same day. ... Sunday School children will participate in a mission project to donate blankets to Project Linus, for use by children in need of comfort. 
     Stewardship and Finance: The Session voted to invest 62.5 percent of the Cooper bequest with Merrill-Lynch in an effort to ensure the church's long-term financial future. The remaining money will help us defray the cost of our roofing/bathroom loan, cover an immediate budget shortfall and pay for the new air-conditioning units. ... A three-member committee that includes our treasurer (Steve Elliott), board of trustees president (Brad Gilmore) and a member-at-large (Matt Woodrow) will be our liaisons to Merrill-Lynch and will make investment decisions on the church's behalf. ... The commission is sponsoring an every-member visitation, which is being conducted by elders and deacons. The objective is to take the pulse of the church. ... As suggested by the Presbyterian Foundation representative, the church hopes to employ Electronic Funds Transactions as a giving option in 2018.
     Worship and Program: Our elders helped serve communion to the congregation on Sunday, Dec. 3. ... Rev. Shedwick noted that some parents are leaving the sanctuary before the sermon and asked to have an announcement made to ask them to stay, which was done. ... The ongoing problem with noise from the Narthex was also addressed, and ushers are being asked to "shhussh" those having conversations or are otherwise making unnecessary noise after the church bells sound. 
     Communication and Outreach: Elder Pat Diehl reported that $365 was raised during our October yard sale. ... Another sign style was suggested to the commission as a way to promote church events, and facts and costs are being gathered. A permanent billboard-type sign is not a viable option because of costs and community zoning restrictions. ... The commission hopes to update the talent surveys early in the new year. It is hoped that members can help reduce or eliminate costs for gardening and yard work, plumbing and electrical problems, etc.
     Membership and fellowship: Our sanctuary was the site of the Rowan College at Gloucester County Community Choir's Christmas concert at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. Peg Schoen of our church headed up the refreshment effort. ... Five church members were shifted from the active to the inactive list.
     Presbyterian Women: The Esther Circle announced how it plans to allocate proceeds from the annual church barbecue. It will pay off one month (plus) of our roofing/bathroom loan and donate $300 to Presbyterian Women, $500 to have some tree pruning done around the church and $400 to the Presbyterian Disaster Relief Fund.
     Mission: The church has a new missionary to sponsor. She is Cindy Corell, a Virginia native who serves PCUSA in Haiti. A former journalist, she serves as a liaison between presbyteries and churches in the U.S. and churches, grassroots groups and non-governmental organizations in Haiti through the Joining Hands organization. Its mission is to combat poverty through community education, lifestyle changes and spiritual grounding.

Stewardship and Finance Committee chairman
     Anytime is a good time to reflect on and give thanks for all the Lord has given us -- our spirituality, our family and our good friends. 
     Obviously, our spirituality is the most important thing we have to give thanks for, because without this, what would our relationships with family and friends really mean? 
     The conduit of our spirituality is, of course, our church. As someone who was born into and spent the vast majority of his life as part of a different denomination, I can tell you first-hand of my great appreciation for our denomination, our church and our congregation. 
     And it is this appreciation that has inspired me to make this heartfelt plea to our congregation:
     Our church, the First Presbyterian Church of Woodbury Heights, is one of the approximately 60 Presbyterian churches that comprise the West Jersey Presbytery. The presbytery provides spiritual, emotional and, when necessary, even financial guidance to our pastor, our church and our congregation. 
     In return, the presbytery asks each church to provide its fair share of financial support. Each church member is asked to pay a fixed amount annually -- called per capita -- to help the church meet its obligation. The amount each member has been asked to pay in 2017 is approximately $40. 
     Each year, our church chooses to pay the full amount it owes to the West Jersey Presbytery, even though it might not collect the full amount from its members. No matter what, the church must come up with the difference from its general fund -- often several thousand dollars.
     So let’s show what our church really means to us by paying our per capita in 2017, so that our church and our presbytery can continue to function as the spiritual foundation that all of us need so badly in our world today.