“People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are the critics, blaming or praising him. What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage; he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings, reminding them of their lost lines.— Søren Kierkegaard
On February 5, 2020, the Reverend Dr. Allison Moore was settling into her new digs in the Village of New Paltz and getting ready to open the doors of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on the corner of North Oakwood Terrace and Main Street and greet her new flock. Fast-forward a year-and-a-half and the vestry and people of St. Andrews far and wide are planning an official “Celebration of New Ministry” on Saturday, October 2 at 11 a.m., with plenty of goodwill and gratitude for their new priest.
Asked what led her to New Paltz, Reverend Moore said it was a confluence of several things: “It was the possibility of working closely with a campus ministry and working with the parish to do food pantries at both SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Ulster.” Having worked in and around the metropolitan and New York City area directing AIDS/HIV support programs, as well as working directly with victims of domestic violence and their children, along with a decade of teaching Philosophy, World Religions and Theology at Simmons College, Moore was attracted to the college-town flavor of New Paltz, “and how beautiful it is here and how kind the people are.”
Although she has been her for more than a year-and-a-half, her welcome wagon has only been able to pull up recently due to the various pandemic-related fits and starts, pauses and replays. While her credentials are vast, Hudson Valley One asked the reverend what it was that she believed the patrons of St. Andrews need from a pastor right now. “I’m not sure,” she said quizzically. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I think that people need comfort from their own losses, from all of the disruptions they’ve experienced with COVID; the pain of racial inequality that exists; and I think that people need a place to process all of the craziness.”
“Too often people are quick to say, ‘Life’s good, I’m good, what new thing can I buy? What new picture can I post?’” she mused. “And there’s a real complacency. What about asking, ‘How can I help protect our planet, our environment? How can I help stock a food pantry? What anti-racism movement can I join? What is it that I’m called to do to improve our common life?’”
In terms of what she believes that she brings to the sanctuary, she said, “I bring a lot of parish ministry experience, especially parish administration. I’m good at keeping the boiler running.” But as a pastor, she said that she believes that “We’re all on a spiritual journey, and I want to be there to help someone on that journey and to listen to them. I want to find out what God’s all about and how God is operating in all of our lives together.”
In terms of what a religious sanctuary can offer, Moore believes it is something essential to people’s lives. “Worship can be repetitive and rote. But it can also be a structure that helps people turn inward. It is a place where people can pray with other people, hear a sermon, have that silent communion together and reflect on their own life. Churches and synagogues can provide that structure and give people a place where people can listen to what’s being said and think, ‘What’s going well in my life right now? What am I sorry for? What am I happy about and grateful for?’”
When asked where God could be found, the reverend paused and then said, “On the corner of Oakwood and Main!” and laughed. “God is everywhere. God is the source of everything around us and in us all the time. God is the air we breathe, although we forget that a lot.”
In terms of welcoming people in, St. Andrews, which was founded in 1844, is open to people of all faiths, denominations, ethnicities and LGBTQ communities. “We’re a place where you don’t have to hide your identity to enter or to worship. We love you for all of who you are, and you do not have to hide who you are to be loved by God.”
Moore explained that St. Andrews has a robust Bible study as well as lively book discussions and a large outreach program. “We have a simple Sunday service at 8 a.m., and then Sunday school and music at 10:30 a.m. and Bible study at 9:30 a.m.” There are other programs available that can be found at the church website at www.standrewnp.org.
But this Sunday is a special one that will celebrate the new ministry. The service will include the Right Reverend Mary D. Glasspool, assisting bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and the Reverend Nils Chittenden, co-chairs of the Diocesan Campus Ministry Committee, who will install the Reverend Dr. Moore as priest-in-charge of St. Andrew’s and chaplain of the Episcopal Campus Ministry at SUNY New Paltz.
St. Andrew’s is located at 163 Main Street, at the corner of North Oakwood Terrace, in the Village of New Paltz. On-street parking is available. For more information, contact the parish office at (845) 255-5098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.