The end of December marked the end of an era for , which said farewell last week to a longtime leader who is departing to lead a different congregation.
Rev. Jeff Geary, who served Setauket Presbyterian for 15 years as associate pastor, delivered his final service on Dec. 26. He is slated to become the pastor of the starting Jan. 22. The popular associate pastor was well known for his work engaging the church's youth community in the faith and for his role in the church's mission program in Cuba, according to Rev. John Kloepfer, SPC's senior pastor.
"I'm very happy for Jeff," Kloepfer said. "He and I worked very well together and I will miss him a lot. For his own career and development, this is a great time for him to go. It makes a lot of sense."
The congregation will honor Geary at a formal celebration later this week.
Geary informed the congregation of his decision in a letter dated Nov. 30, in which he reflected on confirming children whom he baptized or marrying young adults whom he confirmed. In the letter, he called his new White Plains church a "vibrant, multi-racial, multi-cultural, urban congregation."
"I have never felt anything but affirmed and embraced," Geary wrote in the letter. "It is with genuine grief that I leave you. ... With all honesty, it is hard to know when the 'right time' is for a pastor to move to another ministry, particularly when one is fulfilled, challenged, and energized in a current call as I have been here."
to watch a video in which Rev. Geary reads the story Stone Soup during the Three Village Thanksgiving Interfaith Service.
In July, Geary was chosen to represent SPC at the Presbyterian church's general assembly. Some within the church also said Geary helped see SPC through a difficult transition in 2009 when then-senior pastor Jim Wallace resigned.
Kloepfer said the SPC leadership will meet this week to look at "filling the gaps" its former associate pastor leaves behind.
Though many are saddened by Geary's departure, they were quick to express their thanks and well-wishes for his future endeavors.
"He built a foundation in the community, and in our church, that will be sustained by his legacy," said Stephanie Mitchell, a member of SPC. "The foundation that he built created ripples in outreach that will never be forgotten. We're very thankful for his service and for his new call."
Member Michael Dorn said Geary is respected throughout the Presbyterian community on Long Island.
"He brings to his new congregation in White Plains, New York a deep knowledge of the Christian tradition ... and a strong commitment to global social justice," Dorn said. "I've witnessed what a wonderful leader and moral role model he is to the youth of the church."