2012 LCM Distinguished Disciples: Pastoral Associate Paula Hughson

Paula Hughson grew up in Oneonta, NY on the other end of the city from where the Herrick”s lived. She was much, much older than Craig and still is. So… no, they didn”t know each other as youth.

Paula graduated from Lycoming College, a small liberal arts college in Williamsport, PA, where there was a strong Methodist Student Movement and Otto Sonders, a sociology / anthropology professor who just happened to be a Lutheran with a penchant for “get out and see the world, then be part of it or maybe even change it”. He went the extra miles to champion what we now call “experiential learning”. Between MSM and this strong advocate, every vacation, many after class hours and summers were filled with being off campus and out in the world. In the long, hot summers of the late 60″s, Paula sat in muggy laundromats in Washington, DC encouraging voter registration and at a training camp for non-violent action operated by Martin Luther King, Jr. and friends. There was a march in Philadelphia and days helping feed people at urban churches experiencing jarring changes as populations and seemingly, the world, shifted. She coordinated the college”s/city school district tutoring program for “disadvantaged youth” and worked late afternoons as “the craft lady” (old already!!!) at the Bethune-Douglas Community Center. (How”s your Black history?)

With her everlasting thanks and amazement, a family living in the “projects” welcomed her into their home for a summer. Together they organized neighbors to demand online casino nederland a traffic light and stop signs somehow “forgotten” by developers. Their larger (and fruitless) effort was to entice a large grocery store to locate in the neighborhood so fewer precious resources were spent at overpriced corner stores. Is there really anything new in the world?????

With this grounding, Paula took a road in the woods, not sure if it was the less or more traveled. (Love that poem) The road led to work as a social worker at a psychiatric hospital, coordinator of a community nursery school, director of member services at a YMCA, Coordinator of Cooperative Campus Ministry of Central New York and 17 years as Pastoral Associate at First English, an urban church experiencing a round of yet another seismic shift. Here she coordinates and organizes and sees to the details of a fairly long list of congregational efforts to serve those in need in this changing neighborhood as well as Sunday School and social ministry programming. Working with Lutheran Campus Ministry at Syracuse University/ESF for about 25 years has kept her feet planted in the soil that grows students who are discerning which road they will take. The Step Center, an opportunity for experiential learning, and Ten Tons of Love, a clothing drive at SU that gathers about 45 tons of clothing and housewares for people in need, remind her each year of her roots and of the essential gifts campus ministry offers.

Along the road she married Don. They grew two sons, Christopher and Mark, who are actually fun to spend time with and now a granddaughter who”s pure joy. There were years of volunteer work with Boy Scouts, baseball, soccer, PTO, and of course, the church, mostly at Immanuel, Clay. In the mix, she keeps an old 1830″s farm house, which seems to have an ever expanding yard, and searches for antiques to put in it.

And now I too will leave the third person. (Hope you”ve read Pastor Herrick”s piece first). I too, am deeply grateful for this honor and have no doubt that Pastor has been as great an influence on what roads have been taken and what discerning will be needed as new roads come into view as anyone in my life. And yes, I might be able to articulate a Lutheran understanding of the faith (Please don”t test me!!!) because I”ve heard it at least a few hundred times from him both in word and deed. The offer of a hot cup of good coffee on a cold winter morning for a stranger and one of the “least of these” at our back door, is Lutheran enough for me.

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