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January 26, 2023 - 3:00pm
posted by Press Release in spiritual connections, religion, news.

Arbor House, 350 Bank St., Batavia. We are a community of believers and disciples of Jesus Christ. Arbor House was founded to be a place of safety, refreshment, and renewal for all. Each week we gather to hear the spoken Word, eat from the Lord’s Table, and enjoy fellowship with all who come. If you have been hurt by a church before we want to be the place where you can find healing and hope. All are welcome! Service will be in person on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. and available live stream on Facebook. (350 Bank Street Road, Batavia, NY) For more information about Arbor House visit arborhousefmc.com.

Ascension Parish -- Roman Catholic Community, Batavia. We are open for Mass in the Church on Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. Daily Mass Mondays at 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 a.m. in the Parish Hall. Confession time is Saturdays from 3:15 to 3:45 p.m. in Church. Please join us for our Sunday streaming Mass online at 10 a.m. We invite everyone to join us on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ascensionromancatholiccommunity. Please follow us on Facebook for any Mass time changes. Our webpage: www.ascensionrcc.com.

Batavia First Baptist Church, 306 E. Main St., Pastor David Weidman, where "Christ the Center, Love for All" is very evident to all who enter. We invite you to our Full Gospel Sunday services at 10 a.m.; prayer and Bible study on Wednesdays from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m.; Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., please come and browse in our beautifully renovated "Thrift Shoppe." You'll find many bargains, including $2, $6, and $10 bags sales on all unmarked clothing. You can also enjoy a light lunch at Lydia's Kitchen while you shop. Questions? Email:  [email protected]. Call us at (585) 343-9002.

Batavia First Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Main St., Batavia, invites you to join us for in-person worship on Sundays at 9 a.m. (Arise-relaxed with band music) or 10:45 a.m. (Sanctuary -liturgical and organ) or on Livestream via Facebook Live for both times at: https://fpcbatavia.org/  or https://www.facebook.com/fpcbatavia/videos/.

Batavia First United Methodist Church, 8221 Lewiston Road, Batavia. Our mission & vision statement:  “To be disciples we must listen, learn, lead and love our way to God.”  Reverend Wayne Mort leads our worship service every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. in the church sanctuary. You can also find the service on Facebook.  And we invite you to learn more about Batavia First UMC by visiting our website at www.BataviaFirstumc.com.

Byron Presbyterian Church, 6293 W. Main St., Byron. Worship/Sunday School at 9:45 a.m., 5th Sunday of Epiphany. Scripture Reading: Micah 6:1-8 & I Corinthians 1:18-31. Message: “The Kingdom of Heaven” Guest Pastor: Reverend Charles Roberts. The choir led by Laurence Tallman. David Keller, guest musician on bassoon. Annual meeting of the Congregation & Corporation following the service. All welcome!

City Church, 210 E. Main St., Batavia, is open for Sunday morning services at 8:30 and 10, and Thursday evenings at 7 o'clock. Everyone is welcome to join us for worship and a message. We also have a noontime Sunday service at our St. Anthony's location at 114 Liberty St. in Batavia. You can also connect with us online, through our Facebook page, or our YouTube channel.

Corfu United Presbyterian Church 63 Alleghany Road, Corfu. We welcome all visitors to come worship with us Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. in person or via our Facebook livestream led by our pastor, Rev. Evan Wildhack.  Our mission at CUPC is to Connect with Christ, Connect with Others, and Connect others with Christ. Children’s Sunday School is held on the First Sunday of the month. Weekly Bible study is held Monday evenings at 6:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. CUPC’s food pantry is open on the third Saturday of the month from 9 to 10 a.m. Contact us by phone at (585) 599-6414 or via email at [email protected]. Our office hours are Monday - Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Cornerstone Church of East Pembroke, part of American Baptist Churches USA, 2583 Main Road, East Pembroke. Our Sunday service is at 10:30 a.m. with Pastor Glenn Bloom preaching. Bible Study is every Wednesday at 10 a.m. We are a small church and welcome new members; we are following social distancing rules and masks must be worn. (585) 762-8721

East Bethany Presbyterian Church, 5735 Ellicott Street Road, East Bethany. Our Sunday morning worship service is held at 10:30 a.m. and led by Rev. Dr. Shiela McCullough. Visitors are always welcome. You can find out more information on our Facebook page or by emailing us at [email protected].

Elba First Baptist Church, 31 S. Main St., Elba, is open for the main service in person at 10:45 a.m. on Sundays. For more information about our church go to www.fbcelba.net. The pastor is Michael Davis. Email: [email protected] / Phone (585) 757-2722

Emmanuel Baptist Church, 190 Oak St., Batavia. Join us for services in person or livestreamed via Facebook and EBCBatavia.com. Be part of the family today and join in the blessings of Jesus in your life!

EverPresent Church, 4 Batavia City Centre, Batavia. Will be presenting a Live Nativity for Christmas in the City held inside the City Centre, located in Downtown Batavia, on Dec. 3 from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Don't miss out on seeing the Bethlehem Inn, The Shepherds in the field, and of course the live Manger with Joseph, Mary, the Three Wise Men, Angels and of course Baby Jesus! Then stop at the Refreshment Store, where you can warm up with hot coco and coffee along with sweet treats for the tummy and little gift bags for the children. Our Sunday Service is at 10:30 a.m. doors open at 9:45 a.m.. Our Mid-week service begins December 7th at 6 p.m. Visit our website for more information www.everpresentchurch.com

Grace Baptist Church, 238 Vine St., Batavia. Service time 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. Service is live streamed also at 9:30 a.m. Join us for our Christmas series, “The Promise”. Morning Worship beings at 9:30 a.m. Our kids programs are: Nursery & Grace Kids for ages 2 through 5th grade from 9:30 -10:30 a.m. Kid Zone & Youth Group are Sunday evenings from 6 -7:30 p.m. If you are unable to join us in person for morning worship, the service is live-streamed at www.gracebatavia.org. or view it on our Facebook page: Grace Baptist. Christmas Day service: 9:30 A.M. All are welcome!

Indian Falls Methodist Church, 7908 Alleghany Road, Corfu. Reverend Karen McCaffery will hold a Worship Service inside the church sanctuary at 10 a.m. Sundays. Or join our service via Facebook Live or on YouTube by searching for IFUMC TechTeam. Weekly Online Bible Study and Prayer Services are held on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. via Facebook Live on “Pastor McCaffery's” page.

Le Roy First Presbyterian Church7 Clay St., Le Roy. Sunday morning in-person worship at 10 a.m. followed by coffee fellowship. We are an open and accepting church of all people.

Morganville United Church of Christ, 8466 Morganville Stafford. We’d love to meet you! It’s warm in here.  Please join us and our "God is still speaking" church, at 10:00 Sunday as Reverend James Morasco shares his sermon, "Eighty-one."   Our church is located at 8466 Morganville Road.  Friend us on Facebook! or better yet, visit us any Sunday!

North Bergen Presbyterian Church, 7068 N. Bergen Road, Bergen, is open for in-person services at 9:45 a.m Sundays. The phone is (585) 494-1255.

North Darien Bible Church, 9768 Simonds Road, Corfu. We are open! Sunday worship service begins at 10 a.m. Children's Church classes are available for children ages birth through sixth grade, including a classroom for children with special needs. For more information, visit our website. You can also watch LIVE on our Facebook or YouTube channel. Join us from 9 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of every month for our free community closet, full of clothing, coats, and shoes for all. (585) 547-9646.

Northgate Free Methodist Church, 8160 Bank Street Road (North Campus), Batavia. Love. Is there anything we sing about as much as we sing about love? We sing about wanting to be loved, about those we do love, about the pain of love and the wonders of love. In our new sermon series, we're going to take a look at (and listen to) a few popular songs about love, and what they express about love, and how God seeks to respond to our need for love. Join us Saturday at 6 p.m., and Sunday morning at 9:30 and 11 a.m., 8160 Bank Street Roa., Batavia. For more information about Northgate Free Methodist Church and to watch our services online go to northgatefmc.com or facebook.com/northgatefmcOakfield-Alabama Baptist Church, 2210 Judge Road, South Alabama. On Sundays, Bible School for all ages at 9:45 a.m. & Worship at 11. Men's Bible Study meets weekly on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome. Email:  [email protected] or call the church office at (585) 948-9401.

Our Lady of Mercy & St. Brigid parishes, Lake Street, Le Roy. All Masses are livestreamed Saturday at 4:30 p.m.; Sunday mornings at 7:15 & 9 & 10:45. Daily Masses are livestreamed at 7:30 a.m. Monday-Friday; 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 9 a.m. Saturday. View on YouTube and Facebook. Visit Fr. Matthew’s parish website.

Resurrection Parish (St. Mary and St. Joseph churches in Batavia). Services livestreaming at 5:30 p.m. every Saturday from St. Mary's Church via Facebook, or view the livestreaming Mass on YouTube by searching for Resurrection RC Parish or visit the parish website. In-person Masses are 4 p.m. Saturday and at 11:30 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Church; and at St. Mary's Church at 7:30 and 9:15 a.m. Sunday.

St. James Episcopal Church, 405 E. Main St., Batavia. Join us on Sundays at 9 a.m. on zoom, 10 a.m. in the church building, and on Facebook Live. Links and the bulletin can be found on our website: https://www.sjecbataviany.org/

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1 E. Main St., Le Roy, is open for in-person services at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. Communion will be offered to people in their seats and will only include bread. We welcome you to join us -- either in person or online. For more information, visit our website.

St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 18 W. Main St., Corfu. Weekend Masses are celebrated: Saturday at 5 p.m., Sunday at 8:30 a.m. at the Corfu Church Site; and at 11 a.m. Sunday at the East Pembroke Church site, 8656 Church St., East Pembroke. Weekday Masses are celebrated on: Monday and Friday at 8 a.m. in Corfu, and Thursday at 8 a.m. in East Pembroke; on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Corfu followed by Adoration. Corfu Masses are also available for viewing on our YouTube channel. All information is on the church website and on Facebook. Email:  [email protected] (585) 599-4833

St. Padre Pio Parish, 56 Maple Ave., Oakfield. Weekend Masses are celebrated: Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Sunday at 8 a.m., and at 10 a.m. in the Oakfield Church Site, 56 Maple Ave., Oakfield. Weekday Masses are celebrated Monday 6 p.m. in Elba (Our Lady of Fatima Church, 65 S. Main St.); Tuesday at 8 a.m. in Elba; Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Oakfield; Thursday at 8 a.m. in Oakfield; Friday at 8 a.m. in Oakfield.

St Paul’s Episcopal Church, 6188 Main Road, Stafford. In-person service, including Holy Communion, is at 9 a.m. Sunday mornings. All  Are Welcome. 

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Batavia, 31 Washington Ave, Batavia. This coming Sunday (Jan. 29th), we will celebrate the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany.  The sermon theme: “What a Difference a Saviour Makes,” based on the scriptures from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.  Adult Bible Class meets Sundays at 8:30 a.m. Our service begins at 10 a.m. or can be viewed 'live' on Facebook. Our Youth class meets at 9:30 a.m. Sunday School children will attend the service through the children's sermon and will then go to their Sunday school rooms for their studies. Communion is part of the service on the 2nd and 4th Sundays.  God continues to bless us richly as we focus on Him and His plans for our congregation and community.

The Church In Alexander, 10540 Main St., Alexander. Join us for Sunday Worship at 10 a.m. weekly. For more information, please visit our website at www.thechurchinalexander.com. We offer a Free Food Pantry for people in our community. Please call ahead if you need items from our pantry. For more information on programs and services please contact us at (585) 591-1765 or by email at [email protected]com. Church office hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:15-11:15 a.m.

Trinity United Methodist Church, 75 Main St. in Attica, worships at 10:45 a.m. on Sundays, and Darien United Methodist Church, 1951 Broadway (Route 20), Darien Center, worships at 9 a.m. on Sundays. For the Zoom connection, email [email protected] and request the link(s). Prayer requests may be left at Trinity's voicemail (585) 591-1549 or with Pastor Pam at (716) 560-0290.


"Spiritual Connections" -- The Batavian will post updates to connect people with their places of worship, religious services, fellowship opportunities, and/or spiritual advisors, etc. There is no charge for this service.

If you have information to announce, please email: [email protected]

December 16, 2022 - 1:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in St. Paul, batavia, Christmas, news, religion.


St. Paul Lutheran School on Washington Avenue in Batavia will be hostsing a Christmas show at 6:30 p.m. Friday titled "Christmas Hang-Ups," and featuring the school's students.

 The program is directed by Jennifer Dunn, and lead roles will be played by the 5th and 6th-grade class, with other classes, Pre-K through 4th-grade, playing supporting roles.

Following the program, there will be a bake sale put on by FOLKS (Friends of Lutheran Kids) full of homemade donations to support the school.

Submitted information and photos.



December 16, 2022 - 1:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, City Church, Christmas, religion.


City Church hosted its annual Christmas Concert on Thursday night, featuring Carlton Wilcox, Rufus McGee Jr., and Pastor Trellis Pore.

Singer Kimera Lattimore, originally scheduled for the bill, was unable to perform due to illness.

Top photo: Carlton Wilcox. Photos by Howard Owens.




Patti and Marty Macdonald, who are about to celebrate their 40th anniversary.


Rufus McGee Jr.


December 15, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Church, batavia, music, arts, entertainment, Christmas, news, religion.


The set list for tonight's (Dec. 15) Christmas Concert at City Church promises to be as diverse as it is joyful, with more than just gospel and hymns but also hip-hop, R&B, and smooth jazz celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Ryan Macdonald also promises concertgoers will enjoy engaging and energetic performers and great musicians.

"We've done (the Christmas Concert) every year now, with the exception of COVID, for about five years," Macdonald said. "It's really been a wonderful night of really coming together and celebrating."

The artists, Macdonald said, are also personal friends.

"They are not just great artists but great people," Macdonald said.

Carlton Wilcox, Rufus McGee Jr, and Trellis Pore have all performed at previous Christmas concerts.  This is the Batavia debut for Kimera Lattimore (top photo).

Macdonald said he's tried to get her on the bill for years, but there was always a scheduling conflict.  He said he met her in Buffalo years ago, where she is the music director and worship leader of Renovation Church.  She is a national recording artist, singer, songwriter, musician, poet, rapper, vocal teacher, theologian and Elder of the gospel."

"She is really a great spirit, a great believer," Macdonald said. "She believes people matter. She believes humanity matters."

Her bio states that she believes, "We were all created, by the creator, to create."

The concert, Macdonald said, is intended to uplift the whole community, and all are invited.

"Our goal the whole Christmas season is the celebration of the birth of Christ, but beyond that, we're celebrating each other," Macdonald said. "The term that has really stuck with me is that we're not independent; we're interdependent. We need each other.  We don't only need each other as believers, but we need the whole community." 

The concert begins at 7 p.m. at City Church, 210 East Main St., Batavia. The concert is also live-streamed.

Submitted photos.


Submitted information:

Pastor Trellis Pore, multi-instrumentalist and Vocalist. A Western NY native. He started singing and playing instruments at the age of 5 with his family gospel group, The Cooper family Gospel singers. Singing traditional quartet Gospel music. Also was apart of the band Perifial Vision,  and The Glorious Sons of Rochester.  Currently, he leads The Trellis Cooper Band. Singing gospel music with a twist. Trellis has his own Signature series guitar with the company Mucho Guitars of Rockwall, Texas. Trellis is currently the Pastor of Shiloh Church Albion. 


Submitted information:

Rufus McGee Jr., son of Bishop & Lady Rufus and Linda McGee is Rochester’s best-kept secret, however, now the secret is out! His parents began molding him at age 2 years old to become a musician. Although he began as the church drummer at 6 years old, at 11, he progressed to becoming one of the most extraordinary organists/keyboardists that anyone has ever heard.

His ability is God-given, but can also be attributed to years of absorbing gospel music passed down through the classic COGIC style of music, and the music of the church that he attended growing up in his hometown, Rochester, New York. His drive and confidence developed from the challenge to rise above mediocrity. 

He is an exemplary musician, producer and the founder of RMJ Productions. He enjoys listening to George Duke, Chick Corea, Kevin Bond, Jason White, Mike Bereal and Eddie Brown. 

He has recorded with: Aaron Lindsey, Kathy Bowman, Ricky Dillard, Jason Wright, Serena Young, Shirley Murdock, Eddie Balltrip, Danell Daymon and Royalty, Malcolm Williams, Amar’rae Hill True Foundation and Jerome Francis and Divine Nature.

Rufus gives every ounce of his being to excelling and finishing well! Rufus has a great passion and love for gospel music and enjoys devoting his life to giving God his all. His greatest inspiration is God. He often says, “Without God, I would be nothing.”


Submitted information:

Carlton Wilcox has been creating a standard of excellence in music that embodies, style, quality, and substance. This singer, songwriter, and accomplished bassist has been entertaining Western NY for over two decades. Resounding melodies accompanied by rich voice make this crooner one of our area’s sought talents. With gospel, smooth jazz and R&B roots, Carlton wants to spread the message of hope through music. Carlton Wilcox is also a Monroe County Deputy Sheriff, event promoter and music instructor for the City of Rochester’s ROC Music Program. Carlton Wilcox wants to make a difference in the world, one day at a time, by giving back the love and support that he has been given.

December 11, 2022 - 4:18pm
posted by Press Release in Resurrection Parish, Ascension Parish, batavia, religion, news.


Press release:

Resurrection and Ascension Roman Catholic Parishes had a joint Confirmation Commitment Mass today at 11:30 at St Joseph’s Church for our shared Confirmation candidates, to be confirmed this spring.  Parents and sponsors attended and participated as well.

Prior to Mass, families and students gathered as part of our joint Faith Formation program.

Submitted photos.




November 2, 2022 - 2:53pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Oakfield, United Methodist Church, notify, religion.


CJ Rolle remembers when, as a youngster taking piano lessons, one professor knew he wasn’t living up to his potential.

The Rochester youngster had taught himself how to play by ear, and his mother insisted he'd learn to read music. Little did he know that he'd also learn about perseverance.

“One of the professors, he said that ‘God has given you a gift and you're not gonna waste your gift.’ And if I didn't practice, he would spank me. He actually did spank me,” Rolle said during an interview with The Batavian in Oakfield. “So every week after that, when he spanked me that first time, I said, ‘nope, you won't do it again.’ So I practiced every week until I got it right.”

While such discipline may be frowned upon today, a wiser 43-year-old Rolle believes it served him well. “It inspired me,” he said, reciting his portfolio that began at 12 as church organist for several churches, and going on to study and graduate at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, then becoming a music teacher and assistant principal at the Rochester City School District.

From listening to his life story, it seems apparent that Rolle has known how to take lemons and parlay them into some pretty sweet lemonade. While at the school district, he got injured trying to break up a fight. He took a leave with his newly broken arm and leg, and it was during that recovery that he heard about a vacancy at Renaissance Academy Charter School. He got the job and pretty much “runs the place” now as head administrator for the last six years.

He had served as a part-time pastor for a few other churches before hearing about the United Methodist Church of Oakfield. The church district superintendent recommended him, so Rolle and his wife Danielle decided to drive out and see it. Growing up in Rochester, Rolle had never heard of Oakfield, he said. But when he heard about the opening and was highly recommended, he decided to check it out.


“And so my wife and I Googled the church, we drove out here. And the day that we came out here, I didn't even tell them yet that I was potentially going to be their pastor. I just wanted to get a feel of how they were. And they were very welcoming. They didn't even know us, and they were very welcoming,” he said. “So once I figured that out, I said, I might as well tell them that I'm potentially going to be your pastor. Their eyes all just opened up real wide. So one of the trustees said well, if you're gonna be our pastor, let's give you a tour of the church.”

He loved the “beautiful edifice” and the roomy, three-floor building with classrooms on the floor below a stained-glass enshrouded sanctuary, plus a parish hall, kitchen and office.

After the tour, he was informed that the church at 2 South Main St. would be his new appointment. Rolle sees the job as more than just an employment and religious opportunity, but also a special moment in the church’s history.

Founded in the 1800s, the church has never had an African-American pastor, he said. And from the moment he met with parishioners and members of the Staff Relations Committee, he has felt comfortable in a mostly all-white church.

“They have really embraced us,” he said. “You know, they don't see me as the black pastor. Yeah, they see me as the pastor, and they have much respect, and I appreciate them for that. You're not going to find this every day. You know, a lot of my African-American colleagues, I don't think, would be able to do what I'm doing right now. I'm kind of different. I can fit into any crowd.”


He first had to attend a church camp for a jam-packed week of Bible-based lessons from sunup to sundown, he said. Just three weeks in, and Rolle has a list of goals already, from offering a Bible study and Sunday school to establishing a church website and boosting congregation numbers. He had been a pastor at a couple of Pentecostal churches previously, but left “because I wanted a little more structure,” he said.

“The United Methodist Church also offers retirement. For pastors in the Pentecostal church, you get to preach until you hit the grave. I didn't I didn't want to do that,” he said.

There were about a dozen people attending when he began his new post.

“But now that I'm here, I at least counted maybe 50 people. And there's still more that haven't come yet. They're watching online,” he said. “But they're on the way. I saw that people came the other week that they haven't seen in 10 years. They came and they've been coming, you know, so that's a good thing.”

Committee chairman Jeff Schlagenhauf said it was a good decision based on Rolle’s traits and recommendations. It wasn’t about being black or white, but about the best fit, he said.


“He’s dynamic, and a great speaker,” Schlagenhauf said. “He’s more youthful than our past pastors, and he, his wife and daughter have jumped in. He has a passion, enthusiasm and a vision.”

Jeff has been a member for the last 25 years and attended the church five years before that. He has seen numbers dwindling over the years, maybe due to more activities on Sundays, and then COVID didn’t help.

Church members are on board with growing attendance and hosting a youth event in the near future, he said.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” Schlagenhauf said.

Rolle agreed. He predicted that within the next year, the congregation will grow. He and his family will remain in Rochester until his hours increase, and then he'll consider moving closer to Oakfield. Rolle said there’s a plan to canvass the neighborhood and encourage folks to give church a try.

“And start compelling, as the Bible says, compelling men and women to come. A lot of people don't go to church on Sundays,” Rolle said. “When I walked down the street here on Sunday, sometimes people are outside washing their cars and doing other things, right? But I have a vision to have a program here that will make you not want to wash your car on Sunday, and come into the house of God.”

Sunday service is at 10 a.m. For more information, call 585-948-5550.




Top Photo of Pastor CJ Rolle flanked by vocalists during Sunday service at United Methodist Church in Oakfield, with members of the congregation and his wife Danielle. Photos by Howard Owens. Photo above, CJ Rolle with his youngest daughter Camryn, 5. The Rolle's other children are C'earah, 21; CJ, 15; and Tia, 20. Photo by Joanne Beck. 

November 1, 2022 - 1:52pm
posted by Press Release in The Church in Alexander, Alexander, religion.

Press release:

Church members in the Village of Alexander recently voted to become an independent church with the new name being The Church in Alexander.  Formerly the Alexander United Methodist Church (UMC), the status and name change became official on Oct. 6 during the Upper New York UMC Annual Conference.  Alexander UMC was 1 of 8 churches in the region that was approved to establish independent churches.

“We’re excited for this new transition and to see what God will do with His church in Alexander,” said Charlie Miller, Administrative Council Chairman.

As part of the transition process, the church is seeking a full-time pastor to lead the congregation.  Applications are currently being accepted.  If interested in applying, please reach out to the church office at 585-591-1765.

Norb Fuest, Chair of the Church Employee Relations Committee stated, “Our church family continues to be in prayer for the right person to fill the pulpit.  This is a great opportunity for someone who is being called to expand their ministry efforts and to shepherd a newly formed church.”

The Church in Alexander’s mission is to connect with others, lead them to Christ, and prepare God’s people for works of service that the Body of Christ may be built up. 

To learn more about The Church in Alexander, consider attending Sunday morning worship services at 10 a.m.  The church is located at 10540 Main Street, in the village of Alexander.  You can also check out the church’s website at thechurchinalexander.com or by searching The Church in Alexander on Facebook.

September 14, 2022 - 5:41pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Jehovah's Witnesses, religion.


After pausing their door-to-door visits the last 30 months due to the pandemic, Jehovah’s Witnesses have resumed their trademark in-person ministry, officials say.

The church members will be active with a global campaign to offer a free interactive Bible study program.

“I am happy and excited to interact with people face to face,” Lisa Dermody of Elba said in a press release. “I think it is important to see how our neighbors did during the pandemic and be able to give them a message of hope and comfort and share with them a positive view of the future.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses had been preaching from house to house without interruption for more than 100 years through an economic depression, two world wars and global unrest, officials said, but “COVID-19 demanded a different response.”

“We believe that the early decision to shut down all in-person activities for more than two years has saved many lives,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “We’re now ready and eager to reconnect with our neighbors once again – person-to-person, face-to-face. It’s not the only way that we preach, but it has historically been the most effective way to deliver our message of comfort and hope.”

The new Bible study program is available in hundreds of languages at no cost, and it comes in the form of a book, online publication or as an embedded feature within the organization’s free mobile application, the release states.

For more information about Jehovah’s Witnesses, their history, beliefs and activities, visit jw.org.

Photo:  Donna Burkett (left), of Oakfield and Lisa Dermody, of Elba, engage in a door-to-door ministry. Photo courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses

September 14, 2022 - 2:18pm

Press release:

Have you ever wondered where God is in the muddle of life? Have you ever wished that God would speak specifically to you and tell you what His will is for you in the dailiness of life?

The Holy Spirit spoke through Peter nearly 2,000 years ago and his words still hold kinetic power for our lives today.  As we study the book of 1 Peter, we, like Peter, will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. That powerful voice will fill your heart and your home as you join with Peter in living a life of authentic faith during life's most challenging times.

We will discover that the book of 1 Peter addresses what we believe about God as well as the details of practical living; it is also a call to holiness and humility. Over the course of this conference, we will dig into the rich mysteries of worship, joy and God's unconditional love for each one of us.

So, invite a sister or a friend who simply wants more of Jesus! Come prepared to have your heart restored, your questions answered and your assignment refined. You will fall in love with Jesus all over again and you will be changed by the truth of the Word of God

This conference will take place on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, 2022, at Northgate Free Methodist Church, 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia, NY, 14020. Tickets for this two-day event are $25. Payments can be made through the website listed here: https://northgatefmc.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/1182545 or call Northgate’s office, at (585) 343-4011 to register over the phone. 
Hotel rooms are reserved at the following hotels:

Holiday Inn Express
4356 Commerce Drive
Batavia, NY  14020
$119.00 per night 

Hampton by Hilton
4360 Commerce Drive
Batavia, NY  14020
$119.00 per night

Reservations for the hotels MUST be made by September 14, 2022, to secure this rate. To make a reservation, call the hotel of your choice and ask for the rooms blocked for NORTHGATE CHURCH WOMEN'S CONFERENCE.

August 29, 2022 - 11:27pm


Press release:

The Blessing of the Animals Service:  Sunday, Sept. 25 at 10:00 a.m. at the Morganville United Church of Christ, 8466 Morganville Road (1 mile north of Stafford off Route 237).  This event will be held rain or shine.  Your pet needs to be kept under your care during the service and blessing.  Photos of your special friends may also be brought to be blessed.  Certificates of Blessing will be provided. Light refreshments will be served following the services. 

Submitted photo: Rev. James Morasco and Willow. 

August 14, 2022 - 6:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in First Presbyterian Church of Elba, elba, news, history, religion.

img_2396elbapres.jpgThe last time the First Presbyterian Church of Elba had its property lines surveyed, Ulysses S. Grant was president.

That's just one measure of how much history has passed since the church's founding 200 years ago.

"Two hundred years is a long time for a small church in a rural community to be able to hang in here," said the current pastor, Rev. Barbara Tipton (inset photo). "They have seen the Civil War and the Depression and World War I, World War II, all that history they have gone through and watched the history of this country and the development of this country."

That long history shows the spirit of the people of Elba, Tipton said during a bicentennial celebration picnic in the Elba Village Park on Saturday. The picnic included live music, food served by Elba's Boy Scouts, a petting zoo, a balloon artist, and a bounce house.

"They've been through several fires and rebuilds and they still hang in there," Tipton said. "They're tenacious. They need to be in a community like this that has seen all kinds of changes. They're salt of the earth. They have the muck in their blood. The nature of farming makes you strong."

The church is healthy, Tipton said, with about 100 members and strong regular attendance from much of the congregation. Tipton has led the flock for 15 years, making her the third-longest tenured pastor in the church's history.

"We're fortunate that we have a choir director and an organist," Tipton said. "Many churches our size don't have that, and our members contribute to their community through food pantries and special offerings. They are generous people when it comes to answering a need, and expressed needs when people have them, within their limitations. They do the best that they can out of generosity of spirit. You have to admire that."

Photos by Howard Owens


Michele Keberle makes friends with a calf born earlier Saturday morning.






August 2, 2022 - 9:02pm


And so it begins to get ugly.

A peaceful debate between Paul Doyle, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, and a group of local Christian leaders has now brought others -- defenders of the ReAwaken America tour --  into the mix with threats and nastiness. One of those Christian leaders had served as spokesperson, but she wants it known that there are several others of the same mindset: they don’t want the ReAwaken America Tour here in Batavia. Or anywhere, for that matter, and especially not in this community.

The group has rallied others together for two protests so far; one outside of Cornerstone on Bank Street Road, and the second one in front of City Hall. People have carried signs and been relatively quiet during these events. The Rev. Roula Alkhouri has spoken on behalf of others but would like their involvement also recognized. The group signed and delivered a letter to Doyle after a meeting this past weekend. It states the leaders’ viewpoint about the tour, its implications, the reasons for concern, and messages that have reportedly been given at other tour events.

Concerns of the group about the tour, according to the letter, include:

1. Inciting Violence and Hatred: The speakers for this event mix militant language with religious imagery while speaking of life-and-death stakes, building an implicit permission structure for audience members to commit political violence in the name of God.

Although few speakers have exposed themselves to prosecution by explicitly calling for violence - strategically leaving themselves room for plausible deniability - they allow their audience to connect the dots by downplaying past political violence committed in God's name, demonizing their political opponents as "Team Satan," and urging supporters to win the battle for God against their fellow Americans.

“Batavia is a small, peaceful community, and it is our moral responsibility to protect it from any potential for violence,” it states.

2. Dividing Americans: The false claims of the speakers of this tour about the 2020 election, the stated vision for only one religion in our nation of religious freedom, the demonization of political opponents, and the continued attacks on our democracy are all attempts to divide Americans, pitting us against us each other.

This kind of division and hate hurts communities and makes us vulnerable to more violence. We do not have to share political views to reject the hateful rhetoric and divisive language of this event and its speakers. As Jesus says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. Luke 17:11b.”

3. Distorting Christianity with Nationalism: We are so concerned that the name of Jesus is used by this tour's speakers to advance an exclusivist vision of our country as a "Christian nation," even to the point of one prominent speaker urging pastors to preach the Constitution more than we do the Bible. Seeking political power and domination of others is the opposite of what Jesus taught us about loving our neighbors. Christianity is a global religion, and America is a place that cherishes religious freedom for all people.

“We are patriots who love our country, yet we cannot let patriotism become a false idol,” the group states. “We have an American identity and a Christian identity, but they are separate.”

“We prayerfully urge you to cancel hosting this tour to protect our town from having to deal with division, hate, and violence in the name of Christ,” the group states. “Please let us know by Tuesday, August 2 what your intentions are about this event. We are holding you in our prayers as you discern.”

Meanwhile, Alkhouri (pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Batavia) said she has received some “threatening and hateful” phone calls and notes. One such threat was to expose her name nationally.

“These are Christians who are saying that they want to have my name out there in the community and around the country so that I am exposed to lawsuits and to other pressures,” she said. Yet she is not a single defender of this stance, but one of several people. Alkhouri doesn't believe that anyone should be the subject of deragatory comments.

"I think when people try to attack others in the name of defending justice, we all lose," she said. "No one wins when we degrade each other and become fearful or hateful of each other." 

The list of names on the letter includes:

  • Ruth E. Andes, Racial Justice Working Group, Genesee Valley Presbytery, and Byron Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. Joy Bergfalk
  • Rev. David R. Glassmire (Roman Catholic, Pastor Ascension Parish -Batavia)
  • Rev. Bob Kaiser (Presbyterian - Rochester)
  • Deacon Diana Leiker (Episcopalian - Akron)
  • Rev. Dr. Shiela McCullough (Chaplain - Batavia)
  • Rev. James Morasco (American Baptist and United Church of Christ – Batavia)
  • Rev. Laurel Nelson (Presbyterian - Dansville)
  • Rev. Elaine Paige (Chaplain - Batavia)
  • Rev. Jimmy Reader
  • Rev. Chava Redonnet (Chaplain - Rochester)
  • Rev. James Renfrew (Retired minister)
  • Pastor Mark Ross (Presbyterian - Batavia)
  • Pastor Brad Smith and the Attica First Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. Michael Stuart (Presbyterian - Batavia)
  • Jim Tappon (Elder - Irondequoit Presbyterian Church)
  • Lucia VerTseeg (Presbyterian - Rochester)
  • Rev. Evan Wildhack (Presbyterian - Corfu)

85058426-d1e0-4f62-8053-c42a34ca8afc.jpegThe Batavian reached out to Doyle for comments about how the meeting went, and his response to the letter. He said that there are “different political perspectives” on each side and that it was a very cordial conversation. However, he does not agree with the “many fears” their position generates, and his decision has not changed.

“We are fully behind this event and resolved on our stance to host the ReAwaken America Tour.  We see this as a Christian-based assembly addressing the many issues that face American people — offering a biblical perspective,” he said. “We feel compelled to host this event because of the many highly respected Christian speakers that are scheduled over this two-day event.”

As a Batavia native, Batavia High School and Genesee Community College graduate, and former GCC Foundation and Batavia Rotary Club member, he emphasized that “the protesters do not love Batavia more than I do.”

He and church leaders are taking “every precaution” within their power to ensure a safe and secure event, he said, within the immediate proximity of Cornerstone property. There has been another side to the protests, he said.

“Although there have been voices of opposition, the support for the event has been pouring into our church, not only locally, but nationally as well,” he said. “In addition, we have received calls from several local clergy that support us.”

Doyle said there have been talks with local police, including the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, and Cornerstone plans to fully cooperate with law enforcement’s instructions.  He said those local law officials have been connected with top security officials representing the event organizers.

“I feel the event has been over-dramatized. Speakers and attendees are law-abiding and patriotic citizens of the USA,” he said. “Although many issues are occurring in our country that is hotly debated, I have found no reasonable rationale for cancelling this peaceful assembly of Americans exercising their First Amendment (right) of freedom of speech.”

Groups of protesters, including the list above, are trying to plan prayer vigils and at least one more public event in opposition to the tour before it happens on August 12 and 13. Although some have disputed that this is not a political event, many speakers have claimed that Donald Trump won the election and disparage President Joseph Biden and others in the current White House administration. Other speakers discourage COVID vaccines and masks based on unverifiable evidence. To view tour speakers, go here.

Read the full letter here.


Top photo: Cornerstone Church with new fencing around its property in preparation for the tour. File photo of a protest last month in front of City Hall, above, in Batavia. Photos by Howard Owens.

August 1, 2022 - 10:14pm

Press release:

Registration is now open for the 22-23 Faith Formation Program at Resurrection and Ascension Roman Catholic Parishes in Batavia.   The parish families are excited about this joint venture to share the faith with our families and children.  All sacramental preparation classes (Reconciliation, First Communion, and Confirmation) will be offered and enriching programs for the entire family.

Please contact Jason Smith from Resurrection Parish at [email protected] or Ann Pratt from Ascension Parish at [email protected] for information.

Classes will begin on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 10 a.m. Mass at Ascension Parish, followed by lunch, meetings, and a fun kick-off event!  Come and join us!

July 23, 2022 - 7:30am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, religion, ReAwaken America Tour, notify.


Several local Christian and nonprofit leaders heard the news loud and clear Thursday that the ReAwaken America Tour has booked a gig here in Batavia. Their response has been swift and direct: not in our back yard.

Those leaders met Thursday evening with a goal to stop the event from happening at Cornerstone Church in August.

“We do not deny their right to free speech. We just don’t want their kind of speech here,” the group said collectively via the Rev. Roula Alkhouri. “Their organizers and speakers use deceit, lies, and fear to divide, and we don’t want that for our community. They use hate-filled language for people who represent the diversity of our nation and use ‘enemy’ for people with different political and social views.”

Pastor Paul Doyle confirmed with The Batavian Thursday that he agreed to host the tour at his Bank Street Road church in mid-August. The meeting of local leaders, who are speaking only for themselves and not on behalf of their organizations, Alkhouri said, immediately became concerned about the “fear- and hate-based ideology” that these events have been spreading around the country.

Such ideology has also served as the basis for much violence, including the mass shooting at Tops in Buffalo, Alkhouri said.

“Our goal is to raise the awareness of the people of the church at Cornerstone that this event can be a dangerous breeding ground for fear, hate, and violence,” she said. “We also want to alert the community and tell the ReAwaken America Tour that their message of hate and fear is not welcome here.”

They have planned to protest the ReAwaken America tour at 9:30 a.m. Sunday outside of Cornerstone Church, 8020 Bank Street Road, Batavia. Everyone is welcome to join the effort and encouraged to bring signs of thoughtful protest.

“Please bring signs and messages of nonviolent love, compassion, inclusion, and care,” Alkhouri said. “Please, no name-calling or demonizing messages. We want to respond with care and nonviolence. We want to build community instead of spreading fear.”

ReAwaken America is promoted as a “faith, family and freedom” initiative. The tour has made at least a dozen visits nationwide, with a booked calendar throughout this year for more. Speakers have included:

  • Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and encouraged President Donald Trump to declare martial law to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
  • Roger Stone, found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • My Pillow founder and on-air salesman Mike Lindell, who has made unsubstantiated claims about political conspiracy theories.

The tour, many believe, also draws white supremacists and others with intent to inflame the talk with bigotry, racism and false claims about political matters, COVID, and the vaccine.

Doyle told The Batavian that white supremacists or anyone prone to violence and mismanaged anger aren’t welcome to attend, however, the tour carries a track record, Alkhouri said, and the other leaders agreed.

“The tour shows us that it has promoted white supremacy ideas. Christian leaders around the country have denounced this tour as hate-filled and a toxic event,” Alkhouri said, pointing to a link for a national petition. “We believe that as Western New Yorkers, we need to bring people together and to stop the madness of division and hate in our country. Unfortunately, white supremacists have found a home in many Christian churches, and they have exploited people's faith to promote their agenda.”

The group also found it interesting, she said, that the date for the Batavia event is the same as when the destructive and deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va. happened. That tragic event on Aug. 12 ended up with a 32-year-old woman being killed when a car rammed into a group of anti-white supremacist protesters.

These local leaders are concerned that, just as that rally was allegedly to be peaceful and escalated into a dangerous situation, the upcoming tour could have a similar effect. The materials and speeches from prior tours are all on record, Alkhouri said, and “there is no speculation.” Doyle had told The Batavian that he believed any worries are just that: speculation, along with assumptions and “fear of a narrative.”

Alkhouri and the others hope to communicate directly with Doyle at some point.

“We would love to have open and caring conversations with Pastor Doyle,” she said. ‘We reached out to him and hope that we can build some bridges of cooperation and connection.

“Our group includes people with diverse political, spiritual, and social views, but we are united in our deep concern for the future of our democracy. Event organizers publicly call for America to be their version of a Christian nation,” she said.

Rev. Dr. Shiela McCullough, one of the Christian leaders opposing the Batavia event, sat down to collect her thoughts about the tour and its meaning. She wrote the following:

As I continue to process the slaughter of ten innocent African American lives that occurred in Buffalo, New York. I find myself wrestling with a certain theory of suspicion and realize that its very thought causes me to tremble. I am certain that I am experiencing a type of fear that must be explored because I am afraid.

I am afraid the organizers of The Great Awakening vs The Greatest Reset Tour have been bamboozled, hoodwinked, and duped by Russian propaganda. I am afraid the tour is a strategic ploy on the part of Russia to erase America's potential to be the greatest example of the "Kingdom of God," the paragon of justice, mercy, and compassion for all of humanity.

I am afraid the Russian political philosopher, analyst, and strategist Alexander Dugin, who authored the book titled The Great Awakening vs The Great Reset, published for the first time in 2021, is the legitimate leader of this anti-America tour.

Dugin is maligning America's growing pains as its wounds lay raw and bleeding for the world to behold. America is in the process of expanding its horizons. It is stumbling and reaching toward the stairway that leads to a higher moral ground: equality for all.

I am afraid that America's role and enduring aspiration to be the world leader in justice, mercy and love may be too intimidating for those who serve the demagogue of selfishness, greed, and self-centeredness. I am afraid that if my theory of suspicion proves grounded in truth, Dugin is weaponizing this anti-America tour as the delivery system for the notoriously efficient method of defeat: divide and conquer.

Dugin has cleverly chosen this moment in America's evolution to attack its freedom fabric by couching his war strategy within the language of religious rhetoric, fervor, and evangelism — using them to form a trojan horse. I am afraid that this tour may be at the vanguard of the intended onslaught: that is, it is the first salvo in a long-range assault that resolves in Russian occupation and colonization of our nation. This would certainly be a "Great Reset," a rude "awakening" we will all regret.

Some people online have wondered aloud about the financing of the tour. Doyle said that the church is not charging anything, including rent to the ReAwaken organizers. Admission fees are paid directly to the organizers of the event on a "pay what you can" scale, with VIP seating from $250 to $500, Doyle said. 

The national petition mentioned above has been created by Faithful America. According to the organization’s website, “each ReAwaken America event is a toxic, two-day parade of right-wing preachers, MAGA celebrities and QAnon conspiracy theorists spreading Donald Trump’s Big Lie and COVID-19 misinformation to thousands in Jesus’ name.”

To view and/or sign the petition, go to Faithful America.

2022 File Photo of the Rev. Roula Alkhouri during an Easter blessing for first responders at City Hall. Alkhouri, an active church leader for peace, love, and equal justice for all, says that she is speaking out as a Christian and concerned community member. Photo by Howard Owens.

July 21, 2022 - 2:16pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, religion, batavia, notify, ReAwaken America Tour.


It didn’t take long for word to spread that Batavia’s Cornerstone Church was hosting the enormous and controversial Reawaken America Tour.

Pastor Paul Doyle spoke to organizers a few days ago after a planned event was cancelled in Rochester. Doyle was asked if Cornerstone could do it as they investigated various options, and he said that it could be an option. 

pastorpaulandlee.jpeg“They got ahold of me yesterday … and I said yes, we can do that. I think it’s a patriotic, Godly event with reputable people that love the Lord,” Doyle said Thursday to The Batavian. “I’ve been inundated by speculation … people are arriving at conclusions. This isn’t just a secular event. These are Godly men and women … there’s going to be prayer, repentance, and because of that, the baptisms.

He expects there to be 500 to 1,000 baptisms during the two-day event.  It has been set for August 12 and 13 at the church on Bank Street Road.

“As far as the backlash, to be quite honest with you, I really didn't follow what was happening in Rochester. I mean, basically, from a distance. I caught wind that there was some opposition to the event, but I can't say I really followed it,” he said. “And I certainly didn't know the extent of it to the point where they would actually cancel the event at the venue.”

Reawaken America was initially a Health and Freedom event that began during the pandemic. It was renamed the Reawaken America Tour in 2021, and has visited several venues across the country. Led by Clay Clark, the event has featured dozens of speakers, including Roger Stone, General Michael Flynn and Mike Lindell, of the My Pillow fame. It purportedly began as an anti-vaccination and pro-freedom rally, although Doyle sees it as a patriotic event that focuses on God and Jesus Christ. As for claims that white supremacist groups, including the Proud Boys, show up at these events, he believes that’s an assumption about what could happen.

“We have no affiliation with the Proud Boys; I don’t even know who they are. Anybody could show up, the KKK could show up. I feel like it’s being overdramatized. We’re not promoting violence,” he said. “I don’t know why people are so fearful of a narrative. If anyone is disruptive or hostile, they will not be welcome. I sure hope white supremacists don’t come.”

He would like people to not be persuaded by reports of other events and hearsay, and instead go by Cornerstone’s good works. For example, church members took “truckloads of food and clothing” to people affected by the mass shooting at Tops in Buffalo.

“We supported an African American community … bringing truckloads to people that are hurting.  It broke our hearts to see what was happening there. We’re not doing a bad thing, we’re doing a good thing. We look and see what the word of God says,” he said.

He can’t read people’s minds and hearts, he said, and won’t necessarily know if someone has ill intent if they attend. The church has seasoned law enforcement professionals to help with security, and he plans to connect with local law enforcement before the tour arrives.

Doyle expects the event to be a “civil, peaceful Godly event.” It will be on private property and the concerns are merely speculation and assumption at this point, he said.

“We’re gonna talk about Jesus Christ, we're gonna talk about salvations. And, to me, it's an upright, Godly event, if somebody wants to paint it something different than that, that's not coming from me.”

Photo of Pastor Paul and Lee Doyle from cornerstone.org.

July 19, 2022 - 9:11pm
posted by Press Release in religion, bicentennial, news, elba.

Press Release:

First Presbyterian Church of Elba Invites All to Celebrate its 200th Anniversary!

  The First Presbyterian Church of Elba, which marks its bicentennial this year, is inviting the whole community to a birthday party.

The 200th anniversary celebration will be held in the Elba Village Park on Saturday, August 13, from 2-4 p.m. It will feature lawn games, a petting zoo, a bounce house, a food truck, balloon artist Janice Spagnola, and live music by Elba’s Tom Hare and his friends.

The family-oriented event is free and open to the public.

“This is a real milestone for a community this size,” says Reverend Barbara K. Tipton, who is in her 16th year as pastor of the congregation. “We hope our neighbors and friends will join us in an afternoon of fun and fellowship. Come one, come all!”

The First Presbyterian Church of Elba, which is located at 23 North Main Street in the village of Elba, is also planning a special bicentennial worship service on October 23rd at 11 a.m., its regular Sunday worship time.

Submitted Photo: Addy, Carter, and Ethan Gubb pause during a picnic to admire the historical sign at the front of the First Presbyterian Church of Elba. Their family ties to the congregation go back to 1914, when their great-great-grandmother, Bessie Talbot Gubb, became a member.  The church is celebrating its 200th Anniversary this year and hosting a bicentennial birthday celebration at the Elba Village Park on Saturday, August 13, from 2-4 p.m. 
July 16, 2022 - 10:06pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, religion, entertainment, notify, batavia.


Morgan Griffin, with a blue and white design on her face and while clutching several plastic animal figures, was happy that she made a trip from Rochester to Batavia Saturday.

The 11-year-old  came with some family members to EverPresent Church’s Fun in the Son carnival. The event greeted visitors with a balloon arch at the entrance, and had several tents set up with games, food and drink, colorful bounce houses and a petting zoo with goats.

“I loved it,” Morgan said. “All the excitement and how nice the people are. They did a good job.”


Her family knows someone in the church and heard about the event, so they took a drive to check it out. Morgan visited every tent and won the toy animals as game prizes.

Much closer to the scene was April Allison. She lives nearby and happened to spot the activity in the City Centre parking lot.

“I was dropping my boyfriend off at work when I saw the balloons,” she said. “So we walked over here.”

Her daughter Adara, who’s going into the fourth grade at John Kennedy Intermediate, liked the bounce houses best. They were checking out the petting zoo after spending a couple of hours there.

Jill Turner of Batavia had seen an online post about the Nortons seeking vendors who might want to help out, so she responded. She has four miniature goats and offered a small petting zoo. They were enclosed in a mobile fence that opened for visiting children to pet and feed them.

“I thought it would be good to bring my goats and do a good deed,” she said.


The zoo was a popular spot. Several children and their parents stopped by, including Adara and her mom. They had seen most of the exhibits, but weren’t quite finished, Adara said just before suggesting the next booth to visit.

“Snowcones,” she said, as the sun beamed down in 80-degree weather.

Pastors Jason and Michelle Norton, leaders of the church, wanted the event to “be a blessing” for the community, and they felt it was a mission accomplished.

Jason worked the refreshment stand while Michelle made announcements from behind tables full of raffle gift baskets. It had been going very well, she said, and Jason had sold more than 150 hotdogs with about an hour remaining before closing time.

From the moment the official beginning hit — 11 a.m. — “we were a steady busy flow of families all the way ’til 3 p.m.,” Michelle said.

“From what we gathered, the children were super blessed; they were so excited and delighted with all the prizes they won, and I know the church family was thrilled to be able to serve our community,” she said. “People were asking us about our church, almost everyone that came had a chance to go through the church and we had well over 100 kids get their faces painted, along with hundreds winning multiple prizes.”

While one goal was to offer some fun entertainment for kids and families, the Nortons also wanted to introduce the church to the community, and vice versa. Jason estimated that "well over 500" people attended, and considered it a huge success.

Mary Hecht sat in the middle of all of the action as she sold tickets for the games and other activities. She’s been going to the church for several years, she said.

Everyone involved has been very pleased, she said.

“We’ve really been very busy; God really blessed us,” she said. “ We were all praying this morning before it started. This has been really nice for the community, it’s been really nice.”

The event was a success on so many levels, Michelle Norton said, including to serve as a fundraiser.

“We raised half the funds for a much-needed heating and air conditioning unit that we need to install, and we made some great connections and some more networking,” she said.  “Our plan is to do this annually. We are playing around with the idea of taking the Fourth of July the day that we have our festival, as long as GO ART! is not doing it anymore.”

The plan is to expand upon what they offered this year, she said, by adding carnival rides, vendors and possibly food trucks.

"We want to turn that parking lot into a full-fledged carnival with some live music, and I think it will happen by next year,” she said.

For previous coverage about the church, go to EverPresent


Top photo: The entrance to Fun in the Son at the City Centre parking lot next to event host EverPresent Church; Morgan Griffin, 11, of Rochester; Visitors at the petting zoo, provided by Jill Turner, center, and Pastor Michelle Norton making announcements during the event Saturday in Batavia.


July 15, 2022 - 7:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien, news, notify, religion, Freedom Fellowship, rehabilitation.


On 55 acres of land in the far southwest corner of Genesee County is -- at least for some people who are at their wit's end -- a little slice of heaven.

The land is scenic, of course, but more importantly, for people who think they've exhausted their opportunities for escaping addiction or other behaviors that have seriously messed up their lives, there is an open door and yet one more chance for them to get things straight and find some peace.

Freedom Fellowship has been at 254 Broadway Road, Darien, for more than a decade. It was founded when John and Victoria Kula, with a deep desire to help people find God and overcome their destructive behaviors, came across an old motel and barn for sale on 50 acres of otherwise open land.

"I was helped 20-some years ago and my life changed completely," John said. "So my purpose was to help others. This was our vision way back and we ended up out here in Darien. The Lord led us out here and we purchased this property."

Victoria said she and John had been seeing each other for about two months when a friend invited him to a conference. 

"The conference was about spiritual things and he came to know the Lord there," she said. "I knew about the Lord before but wasn't really a follower.  Once John changed it was just natural for both of us to want to serve the Lord. We feel because of our experiences in life God has called us to help people with the same struggles we experienced ourselves."

Freedom Fellowship is a non-profit that offers a path to faith-based redemption for anybody struggling with destructive behavior, whether it's drugs, drinking, gambling, eating disorders, or any other behavior a person feels has gotten out of control.

Total Freedom, on its website, calls it a "one-step program."  That step is Jesus Christ.

The Program
Those who enter the program live on Total Freedom's campus for nine months of discipleship. 

"There's a curriculum that's set up by Total Freedom in Florida," John said. "It's a biblical curriculum that guides you through a healing and deliverance process. (The curriculum) is normally three to four months. The curriculum is put on an iPad and each individual works at their own pace. It's all videotape teaching. It's all about healing and transitioning and growing as who we are and being able to transition back into society."

John doesn't pretend it's easy.  It's not for everybody and some people walk away.  The day before John spoke with The Batavian, a man traveled from Oklahoma after being accepted into the program.  He was there for a couple of hours and then turned around and went back home.

Still, John said that about 95 percent of the people who enter the program have stayed clean or otherwise avoided the destructive behavior at the end of their two-year Total Freedom journey.  Participants are not tracked after completing the two-year program (that includes 12 months of after-care). It's not possible to independently verify the rehabilitation claim.

"It's a lifestyle change that we're really teaching," John said. "It's putting God in the center of your life and letting Him lead in everything you do."

For those who can't afford rehab, the first four months of the program are free. During the next phase, participants are expected to take a job to learn a skill, either at one of the ministry's businesses or off campus.  At that point, they pay $125 a week for room and board.

"They start learning how to save money, the basic skills of life, living," John said. "That is how the process goes through nine months. Then there's a year of aftercare where the test comes on how you're gonna handle your life and what you've learned."

Building a ministry
John is retired after 33 years of working, and he draws a pension.  Neither John nor Victoria are paid by the ministry.

"It has always been very important to us to not take an income from the ministry if it wasn’t necessary," Victoria said. "So far we haven’t needed to, so we don’t."

Tax records, as of 2020, show Freedom Fellowship, a 501(c)(3), has $1.4 million in assets.  Most of that appears to be the property the ministry owns. The main campus, 50 acres, is assessed at just over $1 million, and an adjoining property, acquired in 2019, is assessed at $247,000.

"The younger generation is earning an income through the various businesses that the ministry runs, and they need the income to make a living," Victoria said. "We do have some very generous donors and we did receive a large donation in order for us to purchase the properties."

What attracted John and Victoria to the first parcel that comprises the campus was a former motel that was being used as a residential rental complex.  That former motel now houses family members of people going through the program.  John and Victoria have added on, building a dormitory, recreation and meeting rooms, and a kitchen in a separate structure.

That most recently acquired property, on the west side of the campus, includes a two-story house built in 1880 that houses women going through the program.

The acquisition of the house, John said, allows the ministry to keep the men and women separated by the length of the campus. 

Total Freedom can provide a residence for eight women and 12 to 15 men at a time.

Campus life
While there, residents can make use of a fitness center and sauna, play foosball, ping-pong, basketball, and other sports, help in the garden and with the goats and chickens, and each Sunday enjoy fellowship with family before and after services.

Services are held in a chapel built in a converted barn.

And then there are the lush hiking trails through the heavily wooded, creek-laced back portion of the expansive property.

"The program is mind, body, and spirit," John said. "The menu we have, there's no sugars or carbs.  The trails are here for exercise.  Every morning, as far as the body is concerned, for a half-hour, we come back here (on the trails) and either walk or run, or whatever you want to do, but there's got to be a movement back here on these beautiful trails."

There was one person a while back, John said, who entered the program weighing 500 pounds. He needed a walker to get around.

"He walked the parking lot until he could walk these trails and eventually he lost the walker and he lost 140 pounds," John said.

There are also chores for residents.  They clean the grounds and help with maintenance.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit
As for employment opportunities on campus, Freedom Fellowship established four businesses:

The businesses are intended to provide training and work experience for residents going through the program, an opportunity to earn money to help pay their rent and help them learn about managing finances, and generate revenue for the ministry to supplement donations, however, the print shop took a couple of years to start turning a profit and the auto shop is not yet profitable.

The auto shop is a Napa-certified training facility.  It's run by Mark Snow, who entered the program in 2016 and has stayed clean and sober since.

"I personally had been through 10 different rehabs over the course of 20 years of drug addiction, and I came through Total Freedom and I'm set free from it," Snow said. "The difference is Jesus Christ. That's all there is to it. The difference is a relationship with God. There's no other way to explain it."

For Mike Raymond, it also took putting all of his faith in God to finally put him on the right path, he said.

He first experienced Total Freedom in Florida, his home state, but soon found himself struggling with alcohol again.

Raymond had a pretty successful life in the restaurant industry.  

"I kept being offered more, more and more opportunity in the field," Raymond said. "So as much as I didn't particularly like it, I stayed with it because the money was good. I worked in various capacities over the course of my career, anywhere from starting out at the very bottom to working as a regional training director. I worked as a regional vice president. I worked as a food and beverage director, as a general manager."

The good money led to the high life and when that wasn't working for him any longer, Raymond wound up at Total Freedom in Florida. After going through the program, he tried returning to the restaurant industry but fell back into old habits.  He joined Total Freedom in Darien in 2019 and has been part of the program since, running the kitchen for the ministry.

"What's worked for me is submitting, realizing that -- to really come into the knowledge of the truth -- that this is not my home, that I'm a sojourner, and that I have a purpose and that Jesus died for me," Raymond said. "What I need to do is glorify Him in what I do and not look to the things of the world -- the money, the fame, all the things that I looked at as positives in my former life."

His job now is heading up Freedom Fellowship's newest business venture, The Table, a Mexican-themed curbside pickup restaurant on the campus.

"Mexican food has always been my cup of tea," Raymond said. "I worked for a Mexican concept for a long time. We made everything from scratch. It was real, and it's one of my favorite foods. So when I came here, it was not, obviously, the intention but when we started talking about (starting a restaurant) originally, that was the first thing that came to my mind. We prayed about it and decided, 'Hey, let's go with it and open a concept that was similar to what I knew."

The Table opened to the public earlier this month. The restaurant's menu is available online, along with online ordering.

Because New York doesn't sanction faith-based rehabilitation, most of the residents who join the program do not come to Total Freedom through the court system (though a couple of judges in Western New York have authorized it, John said). Instead, people at their wit's end hear about Total Freedom from churches and community centers.

"Once people know who we are and what we do -- and I'm going to be honest with you -- basically, sometimes it's the last resort for them because we don't charge and a lot of places want insurance or they want $1,000 up front," John said. "We just want to bring them in and when they can eventually pay, that's fine. If not, that's fine, too. We believe in and trust in that (idea), and that's definitely a blessing."

Photos by Howard Owens



Mike Raymond


Mark Snow


A room in the men's dormitory.


Part of the hiking trails.


The Batavian visited Total Freedom on June 25, the day the ministry hosted a car show, chicken BBQ, basket raffle and a bit of a carnival.  Retired pastor Richard Gritzke, pictured above with his Rolls Royce, won the prize for most classic car. The photos below are all from June 25.






July 5, 2022 - 5:37pm
posted by Press Release in Northgate Free Methodist Church, religion, batavia, news.

Press release:

Northgate Church is hosting a children’s summer camp, On The Case, July 11-15. 

This week-long camp will be structured for children ages 3-9.

Kids Camp will run Monday through Thursday, July 11-14 (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and Friday, July 15 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) with lunch provided.

The camp will take place at Northgate’s North Campus located at 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia.

The cost per camper is $125 with a subsequent discount for multiple children. 

Pre-registration is required.

Applications and cost descriptions are available here: ​​https://northgatefmc.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/1300091

Scholarships are available.

If you have any questions about the camp, please email [email protected] or visit northgatefmc.com 

June 22, 2022 - 1:45pm
posted by Press Release in Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern, religion, charity, news.


Press release:

Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern announced today the appointment of Robert (Bob) Harker of Clarendon as the agency’s new Executive Director. Bob brings with him the skills the Board of Directors believes will promote agency growth, and expand services, allowing it to be of even greater service to people in need in the Genesee / Orleans County areas.

“I could not be more excited about the opportunity to help guide and grow Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern in its role as the “agency of last resort”. We strive to provide services to individuals and families that for one reason or another are not being served by more conventional community assets. ”

Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern was formed in the 1950s, serving immigrants that settled in the area. In 1968 the Ministry was incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization and began serving the poor and working poor that are facing hardship or crisis. Donations are tax-deductible.

Donations, volunteers, and ideas are always welcome. Bob can be reached at (585) 589-9210.

121 North Main St. Suite 311
Albion, NY 14411

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