On Friday, October 27th, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church honored four faithful members—Evelyn Acosta, Joyce Hansen, Mark Moreland, and Osanna Urbay—with the Kenneth O. Jones Distinguished Service Award.
It takes many hands to create and sustain the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church family. We commend these four individuals for their laudable efforts on behalf of this church. These awards also express deep appreciation for the entire congregation, who bless our community with their presence and participation.
This marks the 11th year that the church has presented the Jones Awards. Created in 2011, the awards are named for the Rev. Dr. Kenneth O. Jones. Jones, who died in 1996, was an associate minister here for 33 years. His life was a record of service and selfless care for others. It is fitting that we celebrate steadfast members with an award bearing his name.
We congratulate this year’s recipients and invite you to learn more about their inspiring lives.
Evelyn Acosta first joined Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1979. On her new member interest form, she indicated that she was interested in congregational care and service. That initial interest has blossomed into decades of commitment to the church and her neighbor. She is one of the bulwarks of our church, a pillar of the community in the truest sense of the word. Evelyn has served as deacon three times, most recently through the challenging times of the pandemic, for a cumulative total of nine years of diaconal service. She is often a medical escort at hospitals, frequently checks in with bedridden or ill church members, and willingly delivers flowers and other messages of care. Evelyn has also served on a number of committees and positions throughout the church. She has been the chair of the Congregational Care Committee, a member of both the Nominating Committee and the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee, and a key part of the 2015 Pastoral Care Task Force. Evelyn participated in a mission trip to Madagascar in 2004 and she co-led the seventeen-day outreach trip to the Philippines in 2012.
“This is the kind of person,” said Associate Pastor Sarah A. Speed in her introduction to Evelyn, “we are lucky to have in our family of faith.”
Joyce Hansen first began attending Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1994, after having recently moved to New York. Joyce soon became a member of the Couples Club, a volunteer with Meals on Heels, and an active participant in Women’s Winter Sabbaths. This congregation quickly sensed that she had an amazing capacity for calm, intelligent, and move-the-ball forward leadership. She was elected to Fifth Avenue’s Session as an elder, and then to the Trustees, and then to the Session again. Across her time as a member of Fifth Avenue, she has served on the Legal and Insurance Committee of the Board of Trustees, two terms as chair of the Personnel Committee, and twice as the President of the Trustees. Joyce has led the annual stewardship campaign, responsible for raising the church’s operating budget. She was one of the co-chairs of the search committee that called Senior Pastor Scott Black Johnston to this church. All this is even more impressive when you consider that a great deal of her leadership happened while she also worked in the General Counsel’s office at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, tirelessly helping to guide that institution and the world economy through the financial crisis of 2008.
“Joyce is a modern-day Lydia,” says Senior Pastor Scott Black Johnston, referring to the industrious and hospitable woman of faith mentioned in the sixteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. “She is a force of nature. She is organized, steady, gracious, and basically unstoppable in her efforts on behalf of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.”
Mark Moreland began attending Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church while on a business trip. Over the course of several years, business brought him back to the city and the Spirit led him to church. After retiring and choosing New York as the site of his golden years, Mark formally joined as a member at Fifth Avenue in 2018. He was soon installed as a Trustee in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic affected the outreach ministries at Fifth Avenue, especially the carefully made plans for administering the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation Grant in 2020. Mark used his gifts of incisive curiosity and excellent project management skills to lead the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership Working Group during this time of transition and challenge. He was thus invaluable in the launch of A Place at the Table and in guiding the church through this crisis. Mark went on to serve as the 2021-22 President of the Trustees and a member of the 2022-23 Nominating Committee. He has been part of the team that hired and onboarded two senior staff members to the church and he graciously filled in an empty seat on Trustees for 2023-24 by serving on the Personnel Committee.
“It has been said that God has perfect timing: never early, never late,” said Executive Pastor Jonah So. “God is never in a hurry, but God is always on time. It seems to be reflected in Mark’s service. We are so thankful for Mark and all that he does.”
Osanna Urbay has attended Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church since she was a child and has been a member since 1980. Her guiding hand and compassionate spirit have helped shape and sustain generations of people in our community. Osanna was involved in three significant fundraisers that have led to lasting change. The first was for our landmark Meals on Heels program in 1999. She was instrumental in the Crossroads Capital Campaign that brought us the LaDane Williamson Christian Education Center. Osanna also led the charge on a huge auction that brought in over $60,000 to the church. She has been a deacon, an elder, and was also on the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee that hired Associate Pastor Paul Rock in 2004. For the past 17 years, Osanna has been a mainstay in the LaDane Williamson Christian Education Center, caring for our infants and toddlers. She has shown them Christ’s love and has helped so many children know that they belong to God and have a home here at this church. Amazingly, the Jones Award is not the first award or recognition Osanna has had from Fifth Avenue. In 1970, she was awarded a pin and a letter from Rev. Dr. Bryant Kirkland that said, “I know you will wear your first-year attendance pin with honor. A young lady who can bring her friends to Kindergarten Class and introduce them to her church school friends deserves to be honored.”
One of her former students, now in their first year of college, said of Osanna, “Her habitually caring and positive attitude shaped my experience growing up at FAPC. I’m so grateful to have been part of her Sunday School class and had her as part of our community.”
“I can’t remember a time before I knew her,” said another college student. “I loved being in her room and listening to her stories. She is one of the happiest and most positive people I know.”
“With April and I expecting a little one on the way,” said Associate Pastor Werner Ramirez, “there is no one I trust more than to share the love of Christ to him than this faithful servant of Jesus Christ, Osanna Urbay.”