General News

Were You There?: The 2021 Pledge Campaign

So-Chung Lee and Amelia Vogler lead the 2021 Pledge Campaign. As co-chairs, they reflect on their journey at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and how their faith inspires their financial commitment.

So-Chung Lee

A member for 17 years, So-Chung, her husband Tony and their three children have been active in Family Ministries. They were first drawn to the welcoming spirit of the church. Shares So-Chung, “When Tony and I moved to New York, we attended many services throughout the city to find a home church. After our first visit to Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, we knew that our search was over. We committed and felt deeply blessed to be able to raise our family in its love and care.”

For So-Chung it was also the power of being part of a caring community that has deepened her love of being a member. “The church actively assists social service organizations that are dedicated to improving the spiritual, mental and physical well-being of so many people in need.”

She shares why making a financial commitment is a matter of faith and trust. “This church is an essential part of our community. Every dollar is put to good use and makes a difference in the collective well-being of God’s creation.”

Amelia Vogler

Since joining in 2014, Amelia has embraced being a member of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. “I grew up going to an historic, brownstone, urban church in Richmond, Virginia. The fact that the outside of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church resembled my home church was an instant ‘ahhhh’ moment for me, but I became a member because of the vibrant community.”

A media professional, Amelia has gained greater insight into what it means to be a church during these past few months. “Who would have thought that having ‘Zoom’ Community Groups or Communion worship through YouTube would be our new normal? I think this time has allowed me to be more intentional and present with church. I find myself actively seeking out ways to stay engaged since I’m further removed physically from church right now.”

She shares how her financial commitment to the church has grown with intention. “In my early days of church commitment, I didn’t really understand the difference between weekly plate offerings versus a consistent pledge. I quickly learned that having a more consistent and reliable flow of financial giving ensures the church is able to complete their commitments. As I’ve progressed in my career, I have evolved my philanthropic processes and consider increasing my donations prayerfully.”

Behind the Scene

The story behind the 2021 Pledge Theme and why this beloved and groundbreaking hymn was So-Chung and Amelia’s timely and impactful choice.

History of a Spiritual

Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord) was likely composed by enslaved African-Americans in the 19th century. The hymn gained widespread acclaim in the 1940’s through the recording of accomplished tenor and son of former slaves, Roland Hayes (1887–1977).

→ Tell us why you chose this theme of Were You There?

So-Chung: “The hymn takes us on a journey and reminds us that even through difficult times when the world is seemingly against us, God’s will ultimately prevails. Spirituals have a way of crossing racial and cultural boundaries and are beloved by many.

The Roland Hayes’s 1940 recording of Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord) resides in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. It is a compendium of sound recordings that are preserved as a representative of America’s cultural, artistic, and historic treasures. This beloved and moving hymn is timely and impactful not only for its historical significance but also for the story that it tells. By being ‘there,’ in person, virtually, financially or spiritually, we can make impactful change.”

Amelia: “The hymn is most famously sung by Roland Hayes who broke racial barriers to perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It also felt right to use this moment. Being ‘there’ doesn’t limit you to being there physically, it’s a state of spiritual action. Many of us will be asked by our children and grandchildren, ‘were you there?’ during this momentous Covid-19 season of our lives. That’s no different than asking ‘were you there?’ for Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church during its time of need.”

Roland Hayes