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Batavia First Presbyterian

A Letter from Santa: Just 90 Days Until Bob's Christmas Car Day

By Press Release
File photo of the 2020 car parade, by Stephen Ognibene.

Press Release:

Ho, ho, ho! The North Pole is buzzing with excitement because we're only 90 days away from the grandest event of the year – Bob's Christmas Car Day, hosted by Little Free Pantry Batavia! This annual celebration, where Santa spreads the magic of giving and joy, is set to light up Batavia on December 17 at First Presbyterian Church (exact time to be revealed later). Get ready, folks, because this year, we've got some North Pole surprises to share with our wonderful community.

Photo of Bob Zeagler by Howard Owens.

My trusty elves and I have been toiling day and night, ensuring that Santa's Workshop is extra special for this year's festivities. I'm telling you, the enchantment of the North Pole will be right there in Batavia, promising an unforgettable experience for all the boys and girls, big and small.

In a remarkable announcement, we're delighted to introduce our new partnership with the esteemed national organization This collaboration means that all the generous folks who support our mission of bringing smiles to faces and food to tables can now enjoy the gift of tax deductions. It's a win-win for all!

Over the next 90 days, expect a flurry of updates, surprises, and thrilling news about Bob's Christmas Car Day. Make sure you've got your sleigh bells ready because it's going to be a jolly good time. Don't forget to follow us on our North Pole communication channel, our Facebook page: [], for all the latest updates, straight from Santa himself!

Bob's Christmas Car Day, hosted by Little Free Pantry Batavia, is a testament to the incredible generosity and community spirit of Batavia during the holiday season. We're excited to share this magical day with all of you.

Batavia organizers join forces for April 1 Easter bunny event

By Joanne Beck


When it comes to springtime fun in Batavia, everyone seems to be, ahem, hopping on board.

Batavia First Presbyterian Church recently announced its annual Easter egg hunt, brunch and visit from the Easter bunny beginning at 11 a.m. April 1 at 300 East Main St., Batavia.

And then, the church, led by Rev. Roula Alkhouri, and organizers of the Batavia Development Corporation Indoor Market, led by Director Tammy Hathaway, partnered to double the fun.

The market will be open with assorted vendors inside the City Centre concourse, plus there will be family-friendly activities such as face painting, a coloring contest, multiple games, and a bounce house.

The Easter Bunny is planning to look dapper and have pictures taken with visiting families, and perhaps also play some games. Easter Bunny fun begins at 11 a.m. at both venues and ends at 12:30 p.m.

Both sites will offer a passport for children to find specific Easter Bunny helpers to obtain stamps on their passports. Each stamp will earn the child an entry ticket for a chance to win an Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle shop gift certificate, Hathaway said.

Vendors are collaborating on a basket to raffle off during the event, and tickets and more details will be available that day at the market information table.

Pat Burk of Batavia Players, whose home theater is at City Centre, jumped on board as well. He said that he invited the Boy Scouts to participate and conduct their candy sale, and “I think we are doing popcorn and something else that day as well,” Burk said.

Add in some enthusiastic shoppers and energetic kids, and it’s “a recipe for a fantastically fun Saturday,” Hathaway said.

The indoor market’s hours are 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the downtown Batavia City Centre. 

File photo of the Easter Bunny during a past visit to Main Street, Batavia. 

Batavia FPC to host Easter egg hunt, brunch and bunny April 1

By Joanne Beck


Folks at Batavia First Presbyterian Church are counting on spring's arrival for the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Brunch with the Easter bunny again this year.

The event will be here before you know it — at 11 a.m. April 1 (no fooling) at the church, 300 E. Main St., Batavia. For more information, go to, email [email protected] or call 585-343-0505.

2022 File Photo by Howard Owens.

Out with the old, in with the new can apply to one's energy too: chakras workshop Feb. 16

By Joanne Beck


If talk of chakras — seven focal points within the body — seems like new-fangled healing talk, Susan Koehler has another viewpoint to offer. If you’ve ever walked on a carpet barefoot and felt a little spark, that’s proof that you’ve got electrical energy within you.

The understanding and use of this type of spiritual medicine for the body and mind has been around for thousands of years, she says.

“I think chakras are the first and most important way for bringing energy to the human body,” she said from her East Amherst home. “That’s what connects to the human body, and takes out toxic energy. They’re the things that hold us back. You can calm the energy … it’s a basic way of bringing fresh energy. Anybody can do it.”

Koehler, a co-creative energy intuitive, will be conducting a workshop, “Chakras and the Healing Energy of the Body,”  from noon to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main St., Batavia. She will address questions including what are chakras? What is their role in the energy of the human body? How do they connect the human self with the divine self? and how can you work with your chakra energy to optimize your health?

There will also be practical exercises and applications for participants to use for future health maintenance.

Spoiler alert: so, what are chakras? The seven major areas are the crown, third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, sacral and root. Each one represents a vital area and function within the body, and therefore when all are open and unblocked, energy flows through them freely.

Although it’s considered an ancient form of healing, the chakras system has been scientifically proven, Koehler said. She uses energy, colors and vibration frequencies when working with people.

“It’s really a very old belief system from a religious perspective,” she said, naming the likes of Jesus, Mohammad and Buddha as believers. “There's an omnipresent organizing force, even if you want to call it universal consciousness, but scientists have data that proves that there's a field of energy that envelops all of us and so that kind of protective bubble that makes us unique and allows us to interact with whatever is out there, wherever you want to call that, is really what the chakras do. It's an exchange of energy from outside to inside.”

Rev. Roula Alkhouri, who invited Koehler to conduct the class, said that there are no special requirements to participate and that anyone can benefit from giving it a try.

“I think those who are able to come to the workshop will find it very helpful as it will give them access to discovering their own body and spiritual energy and how they can release the things that weigh them down and get them stuck in life,” Alkhouri said. “The practices are simple and accessible to all people. You don’t have to be physically fit. You don’t have to have a belief system to find this helpful. This is about the practice. All you have to bring to it is an open heart and mind to receive this gift.”

An educator for most of her life, Koehler, who turns 70 in March, eschewed western medicine after her cancer diagnosis in 2007. More precisely, it was after she was given the prognosis at age 54: “They told me I was going to die.”

She wasn’t having it.

“I left my job in 2007 to study energy full-time,” she said. “There’s way more in this world than we have knowledge of or have explored.”

She’s not against all western medicine — it has its place for accidents, broken bones and such, she said. But in Koehler’s situation, she felt that the treatment plan wasn’t to cure her but to treat her.

“I studied, and I learned,” she said.

What she learned, taken in part from her website, is that “informational medicine, energy medicine, and consciousness technologies harbor the promise to change an omnipresent misunderstanding of healing in the world today,” she said.  

“Drugs and surgery are not the only nor the best way. Within and around each human body lives a magnetic force field - an electrical network - in a constant state of change,” she said. “As in nature, our higher self or soul continually strives to achieve balance.

“When we experience health, this electrical network is balanced and fully connected. When something in your life threatens that balance, the electrical system responds by short-circuiting or overloading ... immediately impacting the central nervous system,” she said. “The body then kicks into 'high gear' (developing new strategies) in an effort to correct the imbalance. If your body does not succeed, you physically manifest the imbalance.”

She maintains that 80 percent of disease is caused by “conscription of blockage of energy, while the remaining 20 percent is caused by deficiency.” The goal is to restore balance in and around your physical body. Every moment is a new point of beginning filled with limitless possibilities, she said. Her story is part of author Kelly Turner’s book “Radical Remission.”

So what drew Rev. Roula Alkhouri to Koehler and invite her to conduct this workshop? First Presbyterian Church has a weekly Centering Prayer group, a receptive method of silent Christian prayer to deepen participants’ relationship with God. The group also practiced 20 minutes of QiGong before sitting down to pray/meditate through silence.

“So we have known through our experience about the importance of using the body to pray and to center ourselves. I often think of the many Bible stories of healing where Jesus and the disciples touched people and healed them. I also think of the ways we commission and anoint people for ministry through the laying on of hands,” Alkhouri said. “There are so many parallels in the Christ tradition with other practices of prayer using the body and its energy. I think of the simple prayerful practices of fasting, kneeling, or holding our hands in front of our hearts and how they open us up to the gifts of the divine.”

Alkhouri also had a deeply personal experience in which she met — and was strengthened by -- Koehler and her use of chakras.

“Last year, I dealt with a lot of loss in my family with the death of both of my parents within a month and with my brother and sister struggling with cancer. I had to travel to California many times to help,” Alkhouri said. “I found myself exhausted physically. One of my spiritual friends, Margret Mitchell, MD, who is also a holistic medicine practitioner, told me that Susan would be able to help me. After I went to see Susan in September, which was a tremendous gift, I shared my experience with the Centering Prayer group, and we decided to ask Susan to come to Batavia to teach us about energy healing.”

Koehler offered to conduct the class at no cost and to open it up to the community.

Alkhouri said that if people find this session helpful, the church will offer it again on a Saturday or Sunday or in the evening so that people who work during the day can attend. Register by Feb. 13 at 585-343-0505 or [email protected].

Submitted photo of Susan Koehler.

Families, community treated to holiday cheer this weekend in Batavia

By Joanne Beck


Despite some typical wintry weather Saturday, participants, including Patricia Hurd, above, bedecked their vehicles and took a drive through Batavia in memory of Bob Zeagler, who was the epitome of holiday spirit with his highly decorated vehicles and even himself.

After the small car parade, many families gathered inside of Batavia's First Presbyterian Church to enjoy some refreshments, a visit with Santa Claus and a special treat of a toy.

Founded by Jenn Noon and Cortney Dawson, the event organizers thanked the community, which included the church, organizations, emergency responders, Boy Scouts and various donors, including The Little Free Pantry and several local businesses, for making the event possible.


Top Photo by Howard Owens. Above from the Little Free Pantry's online post about the event.

Annual Service of Prayer & Remembrance set for Dec. 7

By Press Release


Press release:

H.E. Turner & Co., Bohm-Calarco-Smith, and Burdett & Sanford Funeral Homes proudly present their 26th Annual Service of Prayer & Remembrance at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec 7, at the First Presbyterian Church of Batavia, 300 East Main St. in Batavia.

For those who wish to participate from home, we will live stream the service as well.

“We hear from families how the service helps them through their grief, especially during this time of year," said Joshua Smith, of H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home. "For some of these families, it will be their first year participating in the service, which means it is their first Christmas without their loved one, and for others, they come back year after year.” 

A candle in memory of your loved one will be lit prior to the start of the service and remain that way throughout.

As always, one candle will be provided per deceased loved one and will be given to participants at the service. If you choose not to attend but would still like a candle to participate from home, please call our office to arrange a pick-up.

Call (585) 344-4295 to reserve your candle by Friday, December 2. There is no cost for a candle and all who experienced the pain of loss are welcome to participate regardless of who took care of your loved one and arranged their funeral service.

The ecumenical service will combine music, prayer, scripture reading, reading of the names of loved ones, the tolling of the bell in remembrance, and a message of hope by Reverend Dr. Roula Alkhouri.

To register the name or names for your candle, please call H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home at (585) 344-4295 or register online by visiting by Dec. 2.

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens

Guest speaker to discuss the potential for healing during process of dying

By Joanne Beck


Death is not exactly a sexy topic. In fact, it’s right up there with public speaking as a top fear for many people.

Yet, it’s an inescapable phenomenon, as everyone eventually dies. However, the dying have been shown to have end-of-life healing moments, which are contrary to the medical field, where death has been viewed as “a kind of medical problem to solve,” Dr. Christopher Kerr says.

“So you don't get to step off and see the more humanistic view of it. You're looking at it through medicine, and dying is obviously more than organ failure; it’s closing of life. I think where I'm at after all these years, is a more hopeful interpretation that on the one side, the actual experience of dying is less fear and pain-evoking than people anticipate,” Kerr said during an interview with The Batavian. “So the actual dying process is not defined by the suffering one would imagine, necessarily, and in terms of what people experience at the end of their life, I think there's a more hopeful story, that there's a better version than the one that I had previously, which was there was a finality to it.”

Kerr, author of “Death is But a Dream,” public speaker, researcher and medical doctor, will be talking this week about his book and a related study conducted with 1,500 people at the end stages of life. Hosted by First Presbyterian Church and Crossroads House, the event is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the church, 300 East Main St., Batavia.

Have you ever wondered what happens at the end of life? For years, Kerr had avoided the topic and had no interest in digging around to find such answers. Perhaps it was the death of his father when he was just a child or his medical training that focused so much on the mechanical functions of one’s being that pushed Kerr another way.

In fact, he petitioned to get out of the hospice rotation of his training at the University of Rochester, homing in on a career in cardiology.

“I think I was going through a lot of what young doctors go through, which is that you're so enamored by technical medicine, what can be done with intervention diagnosis, that you lose sight of the other side, which is sometimes your role isn't to cure, but to comfort,” he said. “And so I was too busy on a steep learning curve, enamored by everything in so much to learn, and it was such a rich, enjoyable part of life. But what gets lost in that equation is what the patients actually need you for. And sometimes they just need you not to do things to them, but to be present for them.”

He ended up dropping out of cardiology and his path took him to the exact spot he originally had no interest in: as a hospice doctor. As his book jacket states, Kerr has cared for thousands of people who, “in the face of death, speak of love and grace.” It’s seemingly an oxymoron — a peaceful end-stage patient — however, Kerr believes he witnessed the unseen process of death that involved life-like dreams and visions that provided a spiritual balm for the dying.

He noted how patients would often get visits from late loved ones in their dreams, but not from others who had caused harm or hurt in the past. Patients would describe their experiences as more than dreams, and with a resounding reality. Themes of love and forgiveness emerged, providing a journey from distress to comfort and acceptance, he said.

His talk will include actual videos of study participants, all of whom had tested to be lucid, and how they describe their experiences. The Batavian asked if it was possible they were susceptible to suggestion by being part of the research, and he said there was a bias in that everyone was in hospice. But as for them being influenced by the study, it was the other way around, he said: participants were referred to him because they were already having dreams or visions, he said.

Although these dreams connected patients with loved ones from their past, they didn’t contain much in the way of religious symbols, Kerr said. There was a heaven in some descriptions, but no hell, and not many visions of God or Jesus. These episodes were not “a dry run,” as is the case with people who have died and come back to life. Those people seem to return to life with a renewed mission to learn and become a better person, whereas hospice patients — those who know their end is imminent — make healing connections.

“Somebody wrote that our first and last classroom is our family. And that's what people tend to focus on,” he said. “And that's where we learn the messages of faith, of love, and forgiveness. And that's where they return at the end.”

Not so surprising to animal lovers, pets were a recurring theme as well. These studies — which include interviews and surveys of 750 family members — aren’t just for the dying.

“Their death is also the end of a relationship. So it's often in consideration for their family or their loved one. How you view someone dying absolutely affects how you remember them. And so it's really for both,” Kerr said. “I think people are advocating in this generation and really wanting to say that they don't necessarily want the doctor’s version, (for a patient to be) medicalized or hospitalized. So that's what it's for.

“I like to think that we created room for more discussion to step off of their traditional medical role and viewed as more on the whole. The people who tend to get this are people who are truly at the bedside involved in care, so nurses, nurse’s aides, social workers, and chaplains. This doesn't just pertain to the purview of the physician. This belongs to everybody,” he said. “So I hope we're looking at it differently. I don't think you have to understand where it's coming from, or what the cause is, but you at least have some reverence for it. And I think that's what we find; people who've had personal experiences are pretty moved.”

I think the most important thing is to give people permission. And allowing them to share is often very therapeutic. So I think any time you're unburdening somebody, you're helping them in their journey.

Organizers invite you to “join us as we explore such questions through a presentation” by Kerr that will highlight and validate the powerful dreams and visions often experienced at the end of life. Seating is limited and admission is free. Register HERE

Dr. Christopher Kerr, author of "Death is but a dream," along with Carine Mardorossian, was part of a research team at Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo that spent years researching the impact of end-of-life experiences on hospice patients and their families. His next project is about caregivers. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Photos: 25th Annual Service of Prayer and Remembrance

By Howard B. Owens


Dozens of area families who lost loved ones over the past year gathered at the First Presbyterian Church in Batavia this evening for a service of prayer and remembrance.

This is the 25th year that H.E. Turner & Co., Bohm-Calarco-Smith, and Burdett & Sanford Funeral Homes brought the service to the community.

Those who suffered the loss of a loved one were able to light a candle and have it on display during the service.

The ecumenical service combined music, prayer, Scripture reading, reading of the names of loved ones and the tolling of the bell in remembrance, and a message of hope by Reverend Dr. Roula Alkhouri.








Additions to Pride Game Night: free make-and-take baby sunflowers, sidewalk chalk art

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The Little Free Pantry will be hosting a FREE Make-and-Take Baby Sunflower Station and sidewalk chalk art as part of the Pride Game Night and Royal Court Crowning at Batavia First Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Main St., Batavia, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 11.

Make and take your own baby sunflower -- soil, seed and containers provided.

A Plant Sale by donation will also be offered. It features an assortment of potted plants and garden vegetable plants (tomatoes, peppers, cukes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)

Express your Pride with sidewalk chalk art, supplies will be provided to decorate the sidewalk in front of the church on Main Street.

The Presbyterian church is having a fun evening of ice cream (Ice Cream and Chill Truck), outdoor games, board games and a Royal Court Competition to celebrate Pride Month. The Royal Court Competition begins at 7:30 p.m. and is open to all genders and ages. The competition is judged and the best costume and dance moves, the theme is DISCO.

For more information:

Batavia First Presbyterian Church grateful for funeral home's above and beyond care of their beloved friend

By Billie Owens

From Pastor Roula Alkhouri of the Batavia First Presbyterian Church:

"We are so grateful for the caring efforts of H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home as they took care of the funeral arrangements for the burial of our beloved friend in Christ, Emerson Campbell.

"This was a difficult situation as Emerson had no family in the area. When we reached out to Turner's, they felt our pain and stepped into action immediately. Within a week, they made the arrangements and we were able to hold a funeral service for Emerson in the church.

"Then Steve Johnson, the funeral director who was taking the lead on this, drove Emerson's body all the way to Wisconsin so that Emerson could be buried with his parents. Steve also arranged for a Presbyterian minister to have a proper graveside service for Emerson in Wisconsin.

We can never thank Steve Johnson and all who work at H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home enough for what they did and how they did it. The spirit of compassion, care, and generosity they shared with us brought healing to a very sad situation.

"They have even donated their services. We are truly blessed to have the people of H.E. Turner in our community. May God continue to bless them and all the work they do to comfort and help families and friends during the hardest time of their lives!"

-- The Grateful Congregation of Batavia First Presbyterian Church

Photos: Stained-glass windows at Batavia First Presbyterian repaired

By Howard B. Owens


Some much-needed stained glass window work is being completed today at Batavia First Presbyterian Church on East Main Street.

Pastor Roula Alkhouri said, "We have been waiting for this repair for over two years. The windows needed repair and so did the sills. In fact, the sills were rotting and needed to be replaced. Every few years, we have to do maintenance repairs on these stained glass windows and there are only a few places that specialize in such work.

"It is a combination of art and maintenance as the repairs need to keep in mind the beauty of the windows. The studio we work with is Pike Stained Glass Studio. They do excellent work."


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