After almost 30 years of service, the Rev. George Gaffga of Mattituck Presbyterian Church stepped down Oct. 1.
Mr. Gaffga, 64, came to Mattituck Presbyterian Church at the age of 35 in 1984.
Upon arrival, he said he saw a church in need of a pastor, and its people in need of a more welcoming place to worship — with a lot of outreach to help them do so.
“I said my goal is to come and to preach about Christ, and to invite people into a relationship with him,” he recalled this week.
To reach that goal, Mr. Gaffga said he needed to invite the people into a relationship with one another.
“I am a personable guy, so it was very easy to get along with people,” he said. “I would stop and say, ‘Everyone turn and say hello to you neighbor.’ Now after almost 30 years — they hug each other and talk too much.”
In the past three decades, with Mr. Gaffga at the helm, the congregation has more than doubled to its current size of 260. Introducing computers into the church’s administration, helping to start up the church’s website and forming a worship team band, Mr. Gaffga helped the church grow with the times.
“I always felt that things were new here, there was always a newness to what we were doing,” Mr. Gaffga said. He said that sense of newness is what helped keep him from “burning out,” from the daunting feats he faced as the church pastor.
“I went through so many people’s deaths in 29 years, you know, from people dying in a hospital room or an accident,” Mr. Gaffga said. “Even pastors ask the question, ‘Why do things happen the way they do?’ Sometimes I think asking the question is just as important as getting the answer.”
Throughout the years of his service, Mr. Gaffga could be seen riding a motorcycle around town, occasionally taking children from the neighborhood along for the ride. On Saturday’s you can find him playing basketball at Mattituck High School with the “young guys,” which he says helps keep him young.
“They wait for me to get down the court, you know, because I can shoot,” he joked.
Among the things he most enjoyed was building support for mission work in Haiti, which he has visited at least once a year for the past 29 years with other church members. With the help of the local Rotary Club, church members have helped raise over $750,000 to build both a house of worship and a hospital from the ground up in Haiti. Over 100 church members and volunteers have accompanied Mr. Gaffga in his mission work, paying their own way.
In his retirement, Mr. Gaffga hopes to spend more time with his family: His wife, Gigi, of 42 years, their three sons and three grandchildren.
He said he hopes to take more time to write. He has published two books, most recently “Fields of Grace: Devotional Thoughts,” which became available Oct. 16.
He said he plans to write another and has started a blog where he shares his devotional thoughts: georgegaffga.wordpress.com.
He says retirement has given him freedom to do whatever he wants and he’s filled a lot of that time with prayer.
“I just hadn’t had time to get up on a given day and say, ‘What shall I do today,’” Mr. Gaffga said.