Church Lady: Celebrating the new

Lent began on Ash Wednesday. Gabriella Pernice prepares to receive ashes from Fr. John Ineson, seasonal assistant at St. Mark's, as her mother Joan Pernice looks on at the noon Ash Wednesday Service at St. Marks Episcopal Church.


Lent began on Ash Wednesday. Gabriella Pernice prepares to receive ashes from Fr. John Ineson, seasonal assistant at St. Mark's, as her mother Joan Pernice looks on at the noon Ash Wednesday Service at St. Marks Episcopal Church.

There’s a new face, a new name, a new service and new opportunity for personal devotions and reflection in the greater Marco worship community.

New face

The new face every Thursday and Sunday at Wesley United Methodist Church (WUMC) is that of Maria Alexandra Fine, the new contemporary music director. Fine, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, earned her degree in music at Indiana University. She immigrated to the United Sates in 2001 just prior to 9/11.

Fine quickly attained a position in Naples teaching music. She found a church home at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Naples where she enjoyed the more contemporary worship style. It was so different than the more traditional Catholic Church in Venezuela.

Fine soon joined the choir. As she watched Music Director Paul Todd, she realized she could do that. Todd found out she could play the piano and had her play when someone was absent. Before long she was given more and more responsibilities. In 2002 she was offered a paid position, and with two close friends she started a Praise Team.

“It became a ministry, and a blessing. Much more than a job,” said Fine. Last summer she saw an ad in the paper for the position at the Marco Methodist Church. She applied and got it.

“It is so difficult for musicians to make a living. I have always wanted to play and make a living. I love Marco. It’s a long ride, but it’s worth it. The Methodist people are so friendly, helpful, and sincere.”

Fine who plays the piano and sings soprano met and married her drummer husband in 2004. She has a son, who is a senior in high school, and a daughter who just graduated from acting school in Spain.

Fine continues to worship at her home church St. John the Evangelist and helps out with the choir St. Agnes Hispanic Church, teaching them music. “Its fun,” she says.

Fine also teaches and gives music lessons and loves to draw caricatures and enjoys action movies. Her favorite music is jazz and classical.

“No other music speaks to me like jazz. Perhaps, because of my family — all musicians.” Her favorite artists are Ella Fitzgerald and pianists Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson.

Her goals at WUMC are to reach the people so that they feel inspired in their worship and to reenergize and stretch the Praise Team. She would like to add more instruments and another vocalist.

“We want to grow the team to the point that we can give concerts and perhaps visit other churches — it’s all for His glory.”

Her prayer is, “Lord you put me here so show me the way. Make me worthy of this position.”

WUMC has a 9 a.m. contemporary service and a 10:30 p.m. traditional service.

New name

On March 1, one of Marco Island’s houses of worship changed its name. Marco Island’s oldest church, Marco Community Church formally the Church of God recently merged with the island’s newest, New Life Community.

Due to declining membership the Marco Community Church could no longer afford a pastor and was closed the week prior to Christmas. New Life was a congregation without a building. The two congregations have worshipped together since Christmas Eve.

On Feb. 8, Marco Community Church, voted unanimously to merge with New Life Community Church with the Rev. Thomas McCulley as pastor. However, they were unsure of what to call themselves. Over a period of several weeks different suggestions had been gathered. The church board met and winnowed the list down to two names. Ballots were distributed to everyone who had been faithful in attendance and offerings in 2009. The ballots were dropped into the offering baskets and the announcement was made at the end of the service.

Of sixty-eight ballots cast, over 70 percent were for “New Life Community Church of God.” This was a surprise to the Pastor, Rev. Thomas McCulley, who had campaigned for the other choice, “Marco Community Church of God.” The new name New Life Community Church of God conveys both the heritage and the freshness of its character. After the service, McCulley said, “Although I pushed hard for the other name, I’m just happy to be able to move ahead. Obviously I like the name ‘New Life’ because it is what I’ve been for many years at Mackle Park. This is just one more way that we are all moving forward together. Praise the Lord, whose church it is by any name.”

New service

There is a 5 p.m. Saturday Night Contemporary Service at Capri Christian Church. Avoid parking problems. Dress is casual. The vocal team leads the singing every Saturday through Easter.

New Opportunity for personal devotions and reflection

Lent, a time of preparation, fasting and prayer began on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, is observed by some Christian denominations.

The 40 days does not include Sundays and ends at Easter when Christians remember the execution of Jesus and then celebrate his rising from death. In our area the Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics observe it.

The different denominations observe it in different ways. St. Marks Episcopal Church views Lent as a unique time of year for the congregation to prepare their hearts, minds, and bodies for the celebration of the resurrection at Easter.

Nan Moll, administrative assistant at St. Marks said, “Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days after He was baptized. This was before he began the main part of his earthly mission the calling of His apostles and spreading the good news. These 40 days are a time for us to focus on becoming closer to God by concentrating on our personal relationship with Jesus Christ so that we can more thoroughly experience the joy of the resurrected Christ.”

St. Marks offers special classes, studies, services, and meals to encourage the congregation to focus on their relationship with Jesus. This year at St. Marks the church artists in residence devised a unique stations of the cross for personal devotions and reflection. The project started last summer when Fr. Kyle Bennett asked church volunteer and artist in residence Janet DeAnna if she could create stations of the cross for Lent. They decided upon a multimedia approach with a uniform background.

“There was a great deal of prayer and waiting for inspiration among the artists,” said DeAnna. Other contributors to the project were Victor Abbott, Liz Doyle, Helen Fronheiser, Betty Hughes, Hannah Ineson, Cheryl Mueller and Cathy Weiss. A brief description of four of the stations follows.

The first station, “Jesus is Condemned to Die,” is a stained glass piece by Cathy Weis. The artist used yellow glass of the Roman columns to tie the pure white figure of Jesus.

“Condemned is a choking word,” said Weis in her description. “It makes me gasp for breath. It makes me feel tied to my sins … there was no struggle. We failed to listen to all the prophets before Him and here we are condemning His son.”

Station six, “Veronica Wipes Jesus’ Face,” is a stylized representation made entirely of driftwood and other objects from the shore of Lake Michigan. The artist, Liz Doyle, spent the summer beachcombing, often with a grandchild in tow, looking for just the right objects for the station. The cross, flowing robes of Veronica and the exhausted Jesus on His knees were all special finds and needed no gluing.

Station number eight, “Jesus Speaks to the Women of Jerusalem” is also by Doyle. “After years of searching for perfect specimens for my shell collection, I now find myself gravitating to the imperfect. I find beauty in those worn and broken shells — the overlooked. It’s reassuring to know that God feels the same way toward us and our imperfections,” said Doyle in her description of her piece.

Station number nine, “Jesus Falls for the Third Time” is by Betty Hughes. Hughes said in her description of the piece, “I reflected upon the humiliation and suffering that Jesus endured during that walk to the cross. In some small way, as the sculpture took form, I felt as if I was participating in that journey.”

The community is invited to set aside time from their daily schedules to focus more fully on Christ in preparation for Easter.

The 14 scenes depicted in the stations of the cross are open to the public for viewing or private mediation during Lent from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Renew your relationship with this week. Visit one of the nine houses of worship on Marco or the three others nearby. For information see the listing under Houses of Worship.

The greater Marco community wants to know what’s happening at your house of worship. Send your updates to Be sure to include, who, what, where, when (both date and time and when it concludes), cost if any, and contact information for publication.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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