The 35-member congregation at the Saugerties Reformed Church got to know Pastor Randy Prentiss over the years when he stepped in while their leader, Reverend Ruth Kent, was away on various trips. When Kent stepped down last September, church member Terri Massardo suggested Prentiss consider becoming the new pastor.
“I liked the congregation,” said Prentiss, who officially came on board in January. “I thought they were unique, interesting and that we connected. Even though it’s a small congregation, I think it’s an alive congregation … When Terri said Pastor Ruth stepped down, I thought about doing more and one thing led to another and here I am.”
Prentiss, 66, grew up in Nassau County on Long Island. It wasn’t until his mid-20s that he became a Christian and realized it “engaged [his] whole being.” Prentiss’ mother moved to Rhinebeck when he was in college, which was when he first became acquainted with the Hudson Valley. Today, Prentiss lives in Staatsburg.
His early work as a faith leader was dedicated to the youth. He was a volunteer at a youth group of a local church, secured a paying job working for another youth ministry (Young Life) where he worked for ten years, and then Prentiss was the Hopewell Reformed Church youth pastor for the next 10 years.
Prentiss’ more recent endeavors include being the pastor of the Arlington Reformed Church from 2010 to 2016 and working at the Taconic Retreat Center, which is a Christian camp in Red Hook. While he is now the part-time pastor at the Saugerties Reformed Church, he is also back at the Hopewell Reformed Church as an interim youth pastor.
Prentiss and his wife of 37 years, Lisa, have two sons. In his free time, he likes to play sports, go for walks and hikes and generally be outdoors.
Prentiss is looking forward to resuming the church’s pre-Covid outreach and charitable activities.
“It’s hard to learn the context during Covid,” said Prentiss. “There are things they used to do that they’re not doing now. This is a church that has tried to do things in the community like feed people and various outreach things. In some ways, even though I’m the pastor, I’m eager to learn who they are and how they serve the community and support those things.”
Prentiss feels as though he is helping fill a hole at the church by being someone who “engages them with preaching and worship Sunday morning in a way that helps them learn and understand the scriptures and apply them to their lives and to the community and in cultural context.” While he is only at the church 16 hours a week, he said he is eager to find out more about what his congregants are passionate about, discover how he can work alongside them, and learn from them as well.
“There’s a lot that the church, not this church, has gotten wrong and there is a lot of opportunity for the church to do a lot of good,” said Prentiss. “This group of people is interested in seeing who we can be as we move forward. They’re seeing how we can be relevant as we move into the future.”
Michelle Meyers, a member of the church since 1995, said that Prentiss is “very relevant, endearing, easy to talk to” and “a very good fit for the church.”
“He presents himself very well when he gives his sermon,” said Meyers. “The sermons are relevant to what’s going on now and in the most recent sermons he throws in cultural information, giving background of what was going on culturally back then, which I find very interesting too.”
One thing Prentiss finds unique about the Saugerties Reformed Church is that it is filled with musicians, some of which make up the Sounds of Joy choir.
“They’ve been connected to the greater musical community in Ulster County,” said Prentiss. “I’m amazed at the level of musical ability they have and their connection to the music community, which gives a unique opportunity for Christians to engage in a group in the community who may not necessarily self-identify as Christians but who overlap in their love for music and to see how it brings us together.”
Meyers described Prentiss as being “very supportive of the music program.”
“We have a very good music program at our church and a great music director,” said Meyers. “He’s very supportive of that, which is really important to me. It’s nice to see.”
Meyers said she hopes to see Prentiss bring his youth experience to the Saugerties Reformed Church and potentially restart the church’s Sunday school or start a youth group program.
“It would be nice to see younger people coming into the church and overall new membership,” said Meyers.
Right now, because he is a contracted pastor, Prentiss is only set to be in Saugerties for a year. However, he said he would like to “be there beyond a year and do it as long as it works.”
Simply put, Prentiss said he is “thankful to God for this opportunity.”
The Saugerties Reformed Church, located at 173 Main Street in Saugerties, is currently holding hybrid worship services, with in-person gatherings10:30 a.m. on Sunday and a Zoom link going live simultaneously. For more information, visit saugertiesreformed.org or call 845-246-2867.