Forest Home Chapel
Sunday, July 25, 2021
United Methodist Church, Ithaca New York

Our Staff

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The Reverend Rebecca Dolch


Pastor’s Report, August 22, 2019

I have just completed one month of my second term at the Chapel. I am very impressed with so many things: the Chapel continues to be blessed with remarkable leadership. Here are some of my observations.

The Trustees are developing long-term project and financial goals, with endowment monies on hand for both Parsonage and Chapel emergencies, and major capital subsidies if necessary. I’m delighted to hear that there are plans in place for upgrades of windows, steps, paint and embankments. The garden has been downsized to be more sustainable, thanks to Elizabeth Mount’s good planning and now help from Alphonse Pieper. The Parsonage is rented with no income loss during the transition. Thanks to Sally Grubb, Joseph Haefeli, Scott Anthony, and Chad Novelli, property management professional.

I am also very delighted with the new Staff Pastor Parish Committee (SPPRC) job description for the Pastor, preaching three times per month, and encouraging and empowering lay speakers. This plan makes my half time commitment as a retired person much more sustainable for me over the long run, and will help the congregation be less pastor-dependent. Thanks to Carol Hockett and members of the SPPRC. And thanks to our lay speakers Sara Haefeli, Carol Hockett, and Susan Spear for stepping up enthusiastically for additional training and service to our Chapel.

I am amazed at the organization of the Church Council under Susan Spear. The entire first draft of this semester is in our hands, along with plans to consider another administrative structure for small churches like ours, suggested by District Superintendent Jeff McDowell. Thanks also to Susan for most of the content and updates of the web page, directory and other documents and communications with outside groups. She makes my job possible within the half time limits.

The Program Ministries of the church are also impressive. Thanks to Wendy Millroy and other for finalizing the Fall Conversations for an Engaged Community. And to Jackie Nock for keeping the Sunday School running. We are delighted that Sue Reid and Sara Haefeli will also be teaching Sunday school in the Fall.

I was also happily surprised to hear that endowed funds have been given for Mission in the past year, and that the small but mighty mission projects are organized and in place for the coming year, including Interfaith Dinners, one of which we hope to host in February.

This Sunday, I get to experience the new addition of college students to our Choir and Music Program. It has been a delight to get to work with Maria Rabbia, and I look forward to the wonderful ministry of Merilee Nord as well.

I truly see the College Student Choir Stipend Program as a student ministry mission, and hope that we can find a way to sustain the funding of that program in a way that embraces music students as part of our outreach ministry and mission.

We are also blessed to have Danny Eastman and Jackie nock in charge as Finance Secretary and Treasurer. Thanks also to Sally Grubb, Bob Hutchins and everyone for tuning in more closely to tracking our budget and making long-range plans for handling endowments. Although the past financial year was challenging, in part because of higher expenses for a three-quarter-time pastor, not in a retired status, is seems as if our financial situation is more stable now, with lower expenses and a potential increase in membership.

Here are my emphases for Fall:

I will represent our Chapel in two Reconciling Outreach Programs, preaching in Lansing on the first Sunday in October, and leading a Reconciling outreach day in Oneonta NY on Saturday, September 21.

Sara Haefeli and I will co-lead a Tuesday morning Bible Study featuring the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sundays. (Although I will not always preach on the lectionary passages, I intend to much of the time.)

Pastoral Care: With the help of our Congregational Care Team, led by Carol Hockett, I will begin pastoral visitations in September, including visits of people interested in becoming active in the church.

I have office hours on Mondays from 9-12, when I work on planning for the weekly worship bulletin and themes, and keep up with the paperwork and filing from the previous week. Several of us have worked very hard re-organizing the upstairs offices and files, with much left to do! Anyone can call and make an appointment for anytime. I can be at the office in ten minutes.

The BIG PICTURE work I am focusing on has to do with our “identity” as a congregation in the next decade. We plan to have an “identity” day in the spring (after getting ideas and input from many people), to clarify

  • our scope of ministry and mission
  • how we want to respond to the ongoing policy and inclusion changes in the United Methodist Church
  • how we want to grow spiritually,
  • how to engage more people in worship participation and ministry outreach tasks
  • and what kind of simplified organizational structure will empower all of this.

Personally, I am trying to get up the nerve to start a YouTube Channel with four-minute “pep talks” — snippets from sermons, for unchurched people and others. The first name I have for the Channel s “Speaking of Spirit…” but I’m always looking for better titles!

Finally, I am thrilled to be back as one of the leaders in this amazing congregation that I love so much. We have a lot to give the world, and I’m excited to see how that will unfold. I’m also delighted to see new people being welcomed and old friends welcomed back.

Let’s move forward without fear, and with unlimited inspiration, encouragement and appreciation for and from God and one another.

~ the Rev. Rebecca Dolch

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Maria Rabbia, MA

Music Director

Maria is a 2018 Master’s Degree graduate of Ithaca College, specializing in Collaborative Piano, or piano as part of a larger group of voices and instruments. She has just returned from a summer in Germany on an elite music program, learning to work with opera singers, and also teaches piano and directs small groups.

Maria will accompany the worship service through September 2, and will lead the Chapel Choir when it resumes on September 9.




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Merilee Nord, Organist

Serving as the Chapel's Music Director for over 20 years, Merilee Nord stepped down in 2018 to focus on Chapel organ music, private piano students and collegiate teaching duties. She will be working with our new Music Director Maria Rabbia, to produce exceptional music at the Chapel with the help of several fine Ithaca College vocalists.  

During Merilee's tenure as our music director, she thrilled and delighted us with her musicianship and choral leadership, led us as a congregation to sing well to please God, contributed so much to our musical literacy, and most importantly, helped us to connect to the Sacred through her deep connection to that which is sacred in music.

Merilee will continue as Assistant Professor of Performance Studies at The Ithaca College School of Music, specializing in Music Theory. Professor Nord is an active piano teacher in the community, as a member of Music Teachers National Association (M.T.N.A), New York State Music Teachers Association, the National Federation of Music Teachers, Tompkins County Music Teachers Associated, and the American College of Musicians.  She has earned state and national certification through M.T.N.A.


Chapel Leadership

Ministers - All the People