Popular Pastor Leaving as Local Parish Celebrates 175th Anniversary

BY MAUREEN MOLLAHAN

This week, the Sloatsburg United Methodist Church celebrated 175 years of worship of God and service to both God and the Sloatsburg community.

As great as 175 years is, this particular anniversary was bittersweet for the congregation, as Reverend Agnes Saffoury prepares for retirement at the end of June.

Bishop Jeremiah Park said mass with Reverend Saffoury and Reverend Elizabeth Ott, the district superintendent of the New York and Connecticut Districts of United Methodist Churches. Mayor of Sloatsburg Carl Wright was also in attendance at mass and the reception after.

Reverend Saffoury remembered when the church was able to hold dinners and activities to draw more people and young families into the congregation. “We are elderly people on a fixed income,” she said of the congregation’s current base. “We need young blood.”

She highlighted the major shifts in families these days, noting that most families need to survive on both parents working steady jobs. “Sunday turned into the day people got work done at home, not the day people go to church,” lamented Saffoury.

“It’s important people go to church, but sadly it’s no longer a priority.”

She believes it is important for children to have religion for basic moral teachings and she dislikes the fact that a lot of families believe Religious Education is a substitute for church going.

Retirement is bittersweet for Reverend Saffoury as she doesn’t feel she is done giving yet. In fact, she isn’t retiring really. She’s been commissioned to start a community of Methodist women. She described it as “sort of like a Convent for Methodist women, based on the teachings of John Wesley and Saint Francis of Assisi.”

She said her most memorable moment as pastor, was only a few months after she started at the church. “I was in public education before this. I only became a minister in 1999, and two moths after I came here I lead a healing service,” Reverend Saffoury recalled. “There was some turmoil going on, and the last person to get healed had a special prayer. He asked that God forgive him for trying to commit suicide. It was very moving.”

Walking out of the church, Bishop Park pointed to her and said, “This is an amazing lady. An amazing pastor.” To which Reverend Agnes replied, “Amazing Grace is what it is!”

Reverend Agnes’ retirement party is on June 3. Her official retirement is June 30. To join the Sloatsburg United Methodist Church or if you have any questions, call 845-753-2059.