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James Hoch, President of Al Amana International, Viji George, and Others Work with Local Churches to Help End Conflicts in Arabian Peninsula PDF Print Email


By Staff

Jun. 28, 2017:  On Thursday, June 22, former Concordia president Viji George and his wife, Janet George, hosted a dinner party at their home for approximately 40 guests. 

One of the purposes of the dinner was to introduce guests to an international organization called Al Amana International, founded in part in 2015 by The Reformed Church of Bronxville. Its mission is to train United States and United Nations personnel on peace mediation practices in the Arabian Peninsula.  

Bronxville resident James Hoch is president of the organization. Also involved in seeking to implement Al Amana’s mission are Christ Church of Bronxville and Concordia College.


The Reformed Church of America has for more than 100 years been working in the Arabian Peninsula, where it has a training facility in Oman. “Current conflicts have become more complex and harder to stop,” said Antti Pentikäinen, who works as a peace mediator in the area and is also a member of The Reformed Church. “Besides the usual state-to-state conflicts," he added, “there are a variety of religious extremist organizations now holding power over a considerable amount of territory.”

Al Amana International aims ambitiously to become involved in fixing the root causes of the conflicts in the Arabian Peninsula.


Mr. Pentikäinen travels frequently into war zones such as Somalia and Libya. He believes in dialogue and mediating conflicts. “I have worked in Somalia for more than 10 years and Libya now more than two years. There is a lot of progress. War is not a solution, it is reconciliation. Faith groups understand the potential of healing and forgiveness,” he noted. "That has been the missing piece."

"If Bronxville wants," he added, "it can make a very significant contribution to how the current conflicts will be ended. There is something unique in this village. People here are not just focused on themselves but also on those who suffer.”  


The Reformed Church of Bronxville is organizing a trip to Oman in November of 2017. It is also holding various events in the fall where one can learn more about the work of Al Amana International and how to become involved. 

Pictured here (from top):  Dr. Viji George hosting dinner party (photo by Carol Mittlestadt); tables on patio at Janet and Viji George's dinner party for Al Amana International (photo by Carol Mittlestadt); Antti Pentikäinen, peace mediator in the Middle East (photo courtesy Antii Pentikäinen)dinner guests on patio near swimming pool.  


Village Lutheran Church and The Chapel School Awarded Joy Dedicated Service Award PDF Print Email


By Kim Zwisdak, Development Office, Village Lutheran Church and The Chapel School

May 17, 2017:  On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, Damyn Kelly, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services-New York (LSS-NY) awarded Village Lutheran Church and The Chapel School the Joy Dedicated Service Award.

The award is given in memory of Judge Daniel Joy, an elected member of the Supreme Court of the State of New York (1983), where he handled both civil and criminal matters. In 1998, he was appointed by Gov. George Pataki to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which handled complaints against judicial officers throughout the state. He retired from the bench at the age of 69 in August of 2000 after 42 years of government service.

The award seeks to honor his community spirit and passion for helping others. The award was presented by LSS-NY, one of the largest social service agencies in the New York metropolitan area. Lutheran Social Services of New York has been strengthening lives, families, and communities for over 125 years.

In receiving the award on behalf of the church and school, Senior Pastor Robert Hartwell commented, "The mission of the church and school is to 'know, live, and share the love of Christ,' and we consider this mission a mission of service to our community."

Hartwell was joined in receiving the award by his administrative leadership team, members of the faculty and staff, and lay leaders of the church and school. He also acknowledged that the church believes "faith works better when it works together" and welcomed Rabbi Morris and Lisa Barzilai of Sinai Free Synagogue in Mount Vernon, in addition to several other community partners the church works together with in its mission and ministry.

After receiving the award, Hartwell presented LSS-NY with a check for over $23,000, a portion of the money set aside from a recent capital campaign to assist ministries outside the church. Hartwell said, "As we recently celebrated milestones, the 100th anniversary of the church and 70th anniversary of The Chapel School, our congregation dedicated a tithe as a thank offering to help others. It is our way of saying thank you to God, who has truly been our help in ages past."

Photo courtesy Village Lutheran Church

West Center Chancel Choir Quartet to Present Special Concert May 21 PDF Print Email


By Susie Reisinger, Church Publicist, West Center Congregational Church

May 17, 2017:  The Chancel Choir Quartet of West Center Congregational Church on Pondfield Road West at Chatfield Road will present a special concert on Sunday, May 21, at 2:00 pm in the sanctuary.

Ain'-a That Good News will feature singers Jordan Gumucio, Alayne Faraone, Roger Ohlsen, and Russell Ashley, accompanied on the piano by Robert Wilson, and they will be performing an all-American program of works by composers ranging from George Gershwin to Leonard Bernstein to Carly Simon and the quartet's own Russell Ashley.

Singing solos, duets, and all together, they will perform "Maria" and "Simple Song" by Leonard Bernstein, "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" by George Gershwin, "Medley of Three Songs" by Russell Ashley, "Let the River Run" by Carly Simon, "Ain'-a That Good News" by William L. Dawson, "Ain't It A Pretty Night" by Carlisle Floyd, and more.

Jordan Gumucio:  California native and soprano Jordan Gumucio made her professional debut in 2000 with the Los Angeles Opera and appeared as Musetta in student matinee performances of La Bohème. Other roles include Barena in Janacek's Jenufa and Berginella in Offenbach's La Perichole with the Long Beach Opera. While in Europe, Ms. Gumucio not only sang in Milhaud's L'Enlèvement d'Europe from his Trois Opéras Minutes, she also co-choreographed and performed a featured modern dance sequence. In 2001, she placed third in the Metropolitan Opera Competition's Western Regional Finals and was a finalist in 2002. Upon moving to the East Coast, she sang for the Asheville Lyric Opera and South Carolina Opera. Currently, Ms. Gumucio teaches voice, specializing in beginning and intermediate singers, particularly children, and is a distributor for LimeLight by Alcone, a professional theatrical makeup company.

Alayne Faraone has been praised in Opera News for her "powerful soprano" and has performed extensively in opera and on the concert stage. She made her debut as Musetta in La Bohème with the El Paso opera and has also appeared with the Los Angeles Opera, the San Diego Opera Ensemble, the Pacific Repertory Opera, the Taconic Opera, and others. She has been featured as a soloist with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra and Chorale at Carnegie Hall as well as with the award-winning Debussy Trio and the Halcyon Trio. She was also a member of the chorus for the Three Tenors concert in Los Angeles. A graduate of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, with a bachelor's degree in music, Ms. Faraone also has her master of music degree from USC. Recently returning to her musical roots in jazz, she enjoys performing with pianist Michiki Fukumori, Aidan O'Donnell on bass, and Paul Francis on drums.

Roger Ohlsen joined the Edmonton Opera Chorus at the age of 15 and sang many small roles as well as in the chorus from ages 16 to 19. He moved to New York in 1973 and studied with soprano Uta Graf for 20 years. Mr. Ohlsen sang Cavaradossi and Fenton with the Houston Grand Opera in 1978 and performed in Manon and La Bohème at the Juilliard Opera Center in 1982 and 1983. Mr. Ohlsen sang with the New York City Opera Chorus from 1983 to 2012, performing 25 roles and numerous covers. He is currently teaching voice and has a Reiki healing practice.

Russell Ashley has been a familiar face to audiences in the tri-state area since moving to New York from Arizona 32 years ago. He has appeared as a guest soloist with the Gregg Smith Singers, the Robert DeCormier Singers, and Amor Artis in New York and has been a featured baritone at Eglise de la Madeleine and the Cathédrale de Chartres in France and at the Madeira Bach Festival. Mr. Ashley has performed frequently with the Metropolitan Opera Chorus, the National Grand Opera, the National Chorale, the Opera Orchestra of New York, and the New Jersey State Opera.

While there is no admission charge, there is a suggested donation of $10. The church is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, and there is parking on the street.

For more information, please call the church office at 914-337-3829, send an email to the church at CLOAKING , or go to West Center's website,      

Pictured here:  Stained-glass windows at West Center Congregational Church.

Photo courtesy Susie Reisinger, Church Publicist, West Center Congregational Church

West Center Church to Hold Spring Tag Sale Saturday and Sunday, May 6 and May 7 PDF Print Email


By Susan Reisinger, Member, West Center Congregational Church

May 3, 2017:  West Center Congregational Church will hold a spring tag sale on Saturday, May 6, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm and Sunday, May 7, from 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm.

The sale, to be held in Bodge Lounge, will offer a variety of items, including household goods, plants, artwork, picture frames, baked goods, bric-a-brac, gifts (some suitable for Mother's Day and Father's Day), and CDs.

There will be an area with some gently used and vintage clothing and accessories, a special table with nicer gifts, and a unique collection of pigs, ceramic and other materials. 

It's the perfect time to enjoy the mild spring weather, shop for some nice bargains, and greet friends and neighbors. Proceeds from the tag sale will help support the work of the church. 

There is no admission charge and all are welcome to browse and shop. Bodge Lounge is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers and there is parking on the street.

For more information, please call the church office at 914-337-3829, email the church at CLOAKING , or go to West Center's website,

Pictured here:  Stained-glass window at West Center Congregational Church.

Photo courtesy Susan Reisinger, Member, West Center Congregational Church

Concordia College President Appoints Rev. Victor J. Belton Vice President for Leadership and Campus Pastor PDF Print Email


By Holly Magnani, Web and Media Relations Manager, Concordia College

Apr. 26, 2017:  Dr. John A. Nunes, president of Concordia College-New York, announced the appointment of the Rev. Victor J. Belton to serve as vice president for leadership and campus pastor.

The new position expands future opportunities for Concordia to rise purposefully in its historic mission of preparing people for lives of service to the church and society.

Pastor Belton's work will focus on nurturing the vocational and the spiritual flourishing of the students, staff, and faculty.

"Belton embodies a genuine passion for young people as well as for intergenerational ministry in diverse settings," said the chair of Concordia's theology department, the Rev. Dr. Joshua Hollmann. "He has served notably as a formal and informal mentor and spiritual guide to many individuals in many places for many years." 

Victor Belton was born and raised in Washington, D.C., where he attended public schools. Concordia Seminary in St. Louis was the institution where he received his master of divinity degree in 1986, leading to his ordination. Prior to that, Victor graduated in 1982 from Concordia College-New York, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2006.

"This Holy Week announcement of Victor's affirmation of the 'Spirit's Call to Concordia' is utterly thrilling to me and to this community," stated President Nunes. "What a big-impact blessing he will be with the love of Jesus Christ, touching the lives of students in our small school who will be prepared to then touch lives for decades to come on our complex, pluralistic planet," continued Nunes.

Pastor Belton's impact for the sake of the Gospel is both distinctly global and prominently local. A talented orator, highly sought-after conference speaker, and notable man of prayer, Belton has traveled on mission projects to Ethiopia and South Sudan. Belton served for 12 years (2004-2016) on the national board of directors for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod ("LCMS").

For twenty-seven years, Pastor Belton served as the pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, near Atlanta, in Decatur, Georgia. Belton actively supports the community as a convener of the DeKalb Consortium of Churches and chair for both Partners in Action for Healthy Living and DeKalb County Community and Human Development Citizens Review Board.

For thirty-nine years, Pastor Belton has been married to his wife, the Honorable Wenona C. Belton, an associate judge in the Fulton County Juvenile Court. Together, they raised a child, Michael Bridgett, during his formative years. Michael resides in Saint Louis.

Concordia College-New York welcomes the Rev. Victor Belton as he looks forward to returning to his alma mater, once his home away from home, from which he was propelled into ministry in the first place.

His installation is set for Sunday, September 24, at 2:30 pm at Village Lutheran Church. The preacher will be Bishop Gregory Walton, the president of the Florida-Georgia District (LCMS). Please join us for the celebration.   

For more information, please contact Holly Magnani, Concordia College media relations manager, at CLOAKING or 914-337-9300, ext. 2298.

Pictured here:  Rev. Victor J. Belton.

Photo courtesy Holly Magnani, Web and Media Relations Manager, Concordia College

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