Celebrating the life of DS Vonda
“The teacher,” Pastor Stephen McKnight said, pointing to the Rev. Vonda Fossitt’s casket. “The student,” he said pointing to himself. This is how, Pastor McKnight opened the Celebration of Life service for DS Vonda on May 26, 2022, at New Light United Methodist Church, where Pastor McKnight serves.
DS Vonda was District Superintendent of the Genesee Valley District in the Upper New York Conference. She died on May 11 at the age of 56.
After Pastor McKnight opened the service, he shouted, “We need to create an atmosphere of celebration!” The guests in the pews, roared in applause. Imagine, hearing this response from over 150 family members, colleagues, and friends of DS Vonda.
Pastor McKnight continued, “You have the authority to celebrate! You have the authority to shout ‘Hallelujah!’ This was the instruction of my teacher!”
Beautiful, loud “Hallelujahs!” reverberated through the sanctuary.
With the energy of a small child, Rev. McKnight began singing with a strong, soulful voice, the gospel classic, “I’ve got a feeling (Everything’s gonna be alright).” The guests danced and clapped and sang along with Pastor McKnight.
An atmosphere of celebration was created.
The celebration included DS Vonda’s favorite gospel singer, Serena Williams, who powerfully and emotionally sang “I Won’t Complain” and “You are the Source of My Strength.”
Pastor McKnight said, “Serena is an accomplished recording artist. Vonda loved her music and never has seen her before in her life!”
Pastor Angela Stewart prefaced reading Ephesians 3:20-21 by saying, “What I like about Vonda is that she never felt ashamed to praise the Lord.”
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb, delivered the message. He said, “The spirit of the Lord is in this place! The spirit of Vonda Fossitt is in this place! The resurrection is Vonda’s experience today!”
Bishop Webb referenced Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “We are troubled, yet not distressed. We are perplexed, but not in despair. We are persecuted, but not forsaken. We are struck down, but not destroyed.”
Bishop Webb reminded guests that the resurrection awaits all who trust in Jesus Christ.
He explained how Vonda was filled with so much passion and compassion, and a lot of laughter.
Bishop Webb said he can hear Vonda’s most popular response whether she was filled with joy or frustration, “My Lord!”
Bishop Webb elaborated, “Words were never trite for Vonda.”
Bishop Webb described DS Vonda, “She was a servant equipped with the Holy Spirit with gifts to serve her God, her Church, and everyone she encountered!”
He described how DS Vonda’s life-long disease that plagued her life, and though she experienced doubt at times, “Vonda always returned to her calling from God, to preach God, and be a servant!”
Bishop reminded guests that they are to live out DS Vonda’s legacy. He said, “Vonda’s life invites us to proclaim the truths she trusted, the truths she proclaimed, and she lived…I can hear Vonda cheering among us, encouraging us from her place now with all the saints.”
DS Vonda’s five brothers were the witnesses in celebrating family. They all expressed her passion for God.
Her brother Vincent said, “Vonda’s ability to project a light on each one of us and everyone she came in contact with was eternal and it was sincere.”
Many guests shared similar sentiments of DS Vonda’s beauty and light. One woman who knew DS Vonda since she was a baby described her as a daisy.
As a witness to DS Vonda’s ministry and leadership, Pastor McKnight met Vonda through a basketball ministry. He spoke of Vonda’s confidence in the kids she coached and in exchanges with referees when they made bad calls. He said, “She was always right most of the time, but when there was the one time, I was right, she would not acknowledge it.”
Pastor McKnight said that this ministry is how he learned that DS Vonda was the teacher, and he was the student. He said, “She stood in the middle of the court and ‘parted the Red Sea.’ She was the vessel.”
Click here to watch a recording of the memorial service livestream.