As an intentional interim minister for more than three decades, Lynn Carman Bodden has been coming and going much of her life — making hellos and goodbyes a regular part of the job.
This weekend, however, as the First Reformed Church of Schenectady joins with some of its Stockade neighbors to mark its annual Heritage Sunday, Bodden, after just three months on the job, will feel not only right at home but also quite settled.
“I think this is going to be the last one,” said Bodden, who started at First Reformed on Oct. 15 and expects to continue in her temporary role as senior pastor for another 12 months or so, then retire. “The role has fit me. I’ve learned a lot from dealing with different congregations, and I’ve been able to see when they do something well and take that to another congregation and share that with them.”
Bodden came to Schenectady in 2014 with her husband, Peter, who recently retired as senior pastor at the Emmanuel-Friedens Church in Schenectady. They immediately moved to the Stockade area upon their arrival, and Bodden began working as an interim minister at Scotia Reformed Church and then First Church in Albany. And while this is her first time being involved with the annual Heritage Sunday event, she knows the area well.
“I’ve been right around the corner from First Reformed for a while now and we really love the neighborhood,” said Bodden. “The Stockade is very unique, and when we visited here from Connnecticut when my husband was looking for a job the search committee person drove us through the Stockade. We were attracted by its quaintness and it felt very European to us. My mother was Dutch, and I was essentially an exchange student in Germany and spent time there studying in college. And we had lived in older houses before, although not as old as the one we’re in now, so that wasn’t a problem. But our home now is by far the oldest.”
The First Reformed Church of Schenectady, however, created in the 1680s soon after the town was founded, is not the oldest church Bodden has worked at.
“Actually, the first church I served in Connecticut was older than First Reformed,” she said. “It was either 1643 or ’44. But there is a wonderful history here in Schenectady and I haven’t really delved that deeply into it yet. I kind of hit the ground running when we got here back in 2014.”
When Bodden worked at the First Church in Albany she was pastoring a congregation that dates to 1642.
“Yes, the Albany church had a lot of history, too,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll soon have some time to take a closer look into the history in this area.”
When Bodden took over for retiring senior pastor Bill Levering in October, First Reformed was holding limited services at the church, but over the winter has returned to just online worship.
“Zooming is something I already knew about, and it was great that this church already had its virtual services up and running, and it was very good quality,” she said. “COVID certainly slows things down and makes everything more challenging.”
The situation has made getting to know members of her new congregation difficult, but she’s doing what she can with the help of associate pastor Daniel Carlson.
“It’s hard to recognize people when you’ve only seen them on Zoom and then you see them in person with a mask on,” she said. “And worship is supposed to be a dialogue between the leaders and the congregation, so I miss that feedback I get from people. Fortunately I am blessed, as is the church, to have Daniel. He’s in charge of pastoral care and he’s very good at it. But it is harder for me to get to know people and for them to get to know me.”
Bodden should get to know more people this weekend. On Saturday, the church will be selling luminaries for $5 in its courtyard at 8 North Church St., and between 5-8 p.m. that day people are invited to use those luminaries, or build their own, and march around the Stockade neighborhood.
A self-guided tour beginning at the North Gate at the corner of Front and North Church Street is also available at www.historicstockade.com. Users will need to download the izi.travel app for the Discover Schenectady tour.
On Sunday, several virtual events are planned through First Reformed. At the regular 10 a.m. service, a tribute will be held to honor the four Native American leaders who were First Reformed members back in the early 18th century. Four portraits of those leaders have been framed by the church and will be on display.
At 11:30 a.m. Sunday, the church will host a presentation by author John Gearing and city historian Chris Leonard about Gearing’s new book, “Schenectady Genesis.” Leonard served as editor for the work.
First Reformed’s jazz vespers concert at 5 p.m. can be seen on YouTube and will include an original song written for the occasion by First Reformed member Andy Chestnut. The piece is called “This Land,” which tells listeners about Schenectady’s close association with the Mohawks. Musicians will include Max Caplan on piano and Pete Tioga on bass. Storyteller Joe Doolittle will serve as host for the event.
For information on any of the Heritage Sunday events, visit www.1streformed.com.