By Mary Fox
The Reverend William L. Kay, with his wife Linda, came to Ellicottville in November 1987 to pastor St. Paul’s Church in Ellicottville and Trinity Lutheran Church in West Valley. Pastor Kay had been the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Massena, N.Y., and also of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Potsdam, N.Y.
Dorothy Ploetz, a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (since 1946 when her father moved here as the first full-time pastor), remembers, “several members of the congregation went to Potsdam, N.Y., to help them move. They lived in an apartment in Ellicottville until their home on Irish Hill was ready. Their daughter Hannah was born soon after their arrival.”
“When Pastor Kay came to St. Paul’s, he made the church different,” said Marilyn Hintz, who grew up in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church from when it stood on the corner of Elizabeth and Mechanic streets, “something other then what it always was. He brought a different perspective on worship. He slowly made some changes that gave the congregation more contemporary worship experiences while being careful not to upset the congregation.”
“Pastor Kay helped make us (the congregation) people who liked to help people. Many don’t know how much the congregation was into itself. Pastor brought us out of that to go out and do something in the community,” she said.
“Pastor made St. Paul’s doors open and welcoming,” said Deacon Julie Walter. “I was comfortable around Pastor Kay and Linda right from the start. My husband and I tried different churches, but we found St. Paul’s the most accepting and welcoming without judgment but with hope.”
“Pastor Kay went quietly out into the community accepting all people and making himself available for their needs,” said Dan Walter, president of the congregation of St. Paul’s. “How much he did in the community is something a lot of people don’t know about.”
From previous experiences with law enforcement, Pastor Kay was asked to be the chaplain of the Western New York Police Association shortly after he moved back to Western New York. He has been with them for the past 26 years. He has also been the chaplain of the Cheektowaga Police and the West Valley Fire Department for the last 10 years.
“I have had this sense of connection with law enforcement my entire ministry,” said Pastor Kay. “In every community in which I have served, there have been connections made with police officers. It has been very gratifying, as I have been involved with several incidents that were difficult.”
Pastor Kay regularly made visits to nursing homes and when in the hospital, parishioners were visited by him with prayers and words of faith.
He has responded to car accidents and fire emergencies and, with the congregation, has helped many victims with fundraisers.
Anita Campbell, a fairly new member, is grateful for how Pastor Kay embraced her and her family, visiting the hospital and helping the family cope with their loss during her husband’s illness and death.
“He was so caring and it was such a comfort having him there with us,” she said. “I, as others, will miss him very much.”
Pastor Jerry LaFever, retired minister of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Allegany, will be serving as interim pastor performing all the essential services needed by the congregation of St. Paul’s.
“Pastor Kay is quick to say he is not ‘retiring’ from being a pastor. He doesn’t want to walk away from the congregation of St. Paul’s or the friends he has made in the community,” said Church Council member Andree McRae. “Pastor is hoping to keep in touch with those who want to maintain a relationship with him. He will fill in at other churches and take on some pastoral duties in his new community.”
Linda Kay is retiring from the West Valley Central School’s business office after 22 years. They will be moving to the Rochester area the first of the year.
Pastor Kay will be offering his last worship service at St. Paul’s on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 10:30 a.m. From 1–5 p.m., a reception will be held at the West Valley Memorial Fire Hall. All are welcome to join in the worship service and reception to wish them well.