Messiah Lutheran nursery marks 20 years of service

NEIGHBORS

February 08, 1994|By MAUREEN RICE

Twenty years ago, impeachment proceedings were begun against President Richard Milhous Nixon, leading to his resignation six months later and Ella Grasso of Connecticut made history as the first woman elected governor in the United States.

Successor to the presidency Gerald Ford introduced the "WIN" (Whip Inflation Now) program as inflation, caused by the Arab oil embargo, reached 10 percent.

The Civil War's ironclad Monitor was found off the coast of North Carolina.

Movies such as "Chinatown" and "The Towering Inferno" were popular in theaters across the country.

"Fear of Flying" by Erica Jong, "All the President's Men" by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and "Watership Down" by Richard Adams were discussed on college campuses.

Bell-bottoms and hip-huggers were the mode as members of the nation's baby boom prepared to graduate from high school.

Amid all the excitement, Messiah Lutheran Church quietly opened its doors to 10 3-year-old and 15 4-year-old children, and graduated the first class of preschoolers from its new nursery program in May.

Friday, in a room decorated with hearts, red-and-white balloons, streamers and table cloths for Valentine's Day, the current staff had a remembrance dinner for all the staff of 20 years.

It was a wonderful evening of fun and memories.

"The camaraderie is great," said Lorraine Dorsey, who teaches 3-year-olds. "Our staff meetings always run overtime because we're having so much fun."

The Rev. Stanley Whitson, who lead the congregation 20 years ago, was present, as was his wife, Dorothy, who initiated the nursery program with current program director Charlotte Sommer.

A ministry of the church, the program has always been as much a study of religion as an enrichment program for preschoolers.

"The greatest strength of our program is our worship time," Ms. Sommer said. "We have it every session. One of our major goals is to let each child know that they are a special human being, loved by God, and that Jesus is their friend."

Twenty years leads to a lot of memories.

Memories of laughter, such as Mr. Whitson's befuddlement when confronted with taking a little girl to the bathroom (the Whitsons have two sons).

Memories that bring a smile.

"One of my favorite memories is of Dorothy [Mrs. Whitson, the first director] running around the playground with all the little kids," Ms. Sommer said. "She was my age now, back then."

Memories that still touch the heart, like little Josh in his special time (a session where each child has time to tell the others about himself and his family).

"He had Down syndrome," Ms. Sommer said, pausing as the memory caught in her throat. "He sang 'Jesus Loves Me' in his special time."

Some of the current programs had their beginnings 20 years ago.

"We've always done the nursery rhyme program with the 3's," Ms. Sommer said. "The kids act out nursery rhymes. And our circus program began as clowns -- we all dressed up like clowns -- and the kids loved it so much we decided to have a circus. Now we put Ringling Brothers to shame."

There are plans for a reunion of the children, too.

On March 13, at 2 p.m., all students, past and present, of the Messiah Lutheran Nursery program are invited, with their parents, to an open house at the church.

For information about the program or the open house, call the church at 795-7993.

*

A few -- but only a few -- tickets are available for the Freedom Optimists annual Bull and Oyster Roast on Feb. 19.

"Traditionally this is a sellout," said Bill Merritt, who organizes the ticket sales. "It's a great time to have an event like this one, because the holidays are behind us, spring is still weeks away, and everyone is a little stir-crazy.

"Actually, the only reason we have any tickets left at all right now is that many of the repeat customers who come year after year are involved in the snow removal process, and they're just afraid to book anything this year."

Those who attend will be treated to ham, oysters, clams, hot and cold buffet, dessert, beer and setups, and music by the Three of Hearts. Not bad for $22 per person.

"It's a new music group this year," Mr. Merritt said. "They've got a great lead singer. The food is always excellent, so you can expect to have a wonderful evening."

Want to go?

Call Mr. Merritt at 795-4592 (ignore the phone number on the flier -- this is the right one).

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