November 18, 2020 “What happens here, doesn’t stay here…”
Dear Church Family,
This morning, as I began to write, I hit pause. Typically it feels as if the Holy Spirit is waiting for me to sit and be still and when I do, the thoughts begin to flow. Maybe it took me a little longer today to be still. Finally, I walked away and something I had written five years ago popped up on my phone.
“A cloudy day in Lewisburg…a day to reflect as the flowers are mostly gone for the season, the leaves are down and the trees bare, standing strong to hold the flakes of snow that may fall in winter and now using energy to prepare for the spring that is to come. The cycle of pruning, storing up, and preparing…I believe God calls us into the silence of a day like today to rest, prepare and just be. Today I’m thankful for this time to just be and prepare for the season that is to come.”
I had written this following my decision to take a sabbatical, which was to begin January 1, 2016, to discern where God was leading me in my pastorate. This was a time of uncertainty, yet peace. This time of discernment led our family to Saint Paul’s where we would “just be” for a bit, following a wonder-filled five-year pastorate. We realized the moment we walked in the door we were where we were supposed to be. It was six months before I entered the pulpit again after leaving on December 31, 2015, and then I filled-in occasionally, until Advent 2016, when I began first as the intentional interim here at Saint Paul’s and then was called to pastorate here at the end of January 2017, a year almost to the day of our first visit.
I read my reflection from five years ago and thought about how appropriate this same mindset is today. Here we are, in the middle of events that have altered our way of worship, yet finding new ways to be and maybe returning us to old ways to be the church in the community. The pandemic has us returning to individual home churches to worship and community events serving our neighbors as a way to stay connected. Maybe if we reflect on these days, maybe, just maybe there is much to be excited about, maybe there are new possibilities taking root and seeds of growth are being planted and what is to be will look different yet, right, as we move forward.
As we discussed in last night’s Consistory meeting, we have much to be thankful for. I read a piece last evening from Philippians 2:1-18 in which Paul invites the people of Philippi to show humility and “do everything without grumbling…be glad.”
In this time of reflection, be glad, even when we can’t gather in ways we normally would, be glad that we can serve so many; be glad that we can offer ways to worship and ways to stay connected through Bible Studies and Sunday School, through family devotions and that the Holy Spirit is still moving and people are still reaching out to be a part of this community. Be glad that we are safe and loved and given opportunities to show the community what church can and does look like at Saint Paul’s where all are welcome. Be glad...
So, on another semi-cloudy, cold November day with the trees now bare and the flowers all but gone, may your reflections lead you to a place of gladness for the blessings in the midst of the grief of loss of gatherings at church and home, may your time of silence find you in a place of peace and may you too find ways to be glad this season and always.
You are loved.
Peace for the journey,
In our daily prayers…
Please keep in your prayers this day: All those impacted by the COVID-19 virus, front line healthcare workers and families unable to be with loved ones. Please keep the Reimensnyder Family in your prayers as they prepare to celebrate Peggy’s life this coming weekend, as well as the family of Craig Hoffman who lost a courageous battle with cancer this past week. Please, as always, keep your church family and all we serve in your daily thoughts and prayers.
Please also remember to either join or update the prayers on St. Paul’s Love and Prayers Facebook page, send an email or call the church office with updates or requests that we together may pray as a community of faith.
Soup Sale News ** UPDATE***…Think it’s impossible to do anything normal in a year like this? Well this year’s Annual Soup Sale broke records again! There’s a new Soup Sale total for this record-breaking year…320 quarts of soup and more than $2,250 has been raised, all monies were considered profit and go directly to local mission’s work. Way to be the Church!
“Re-Creation,” a national touring musical group - like the USO - however these young men and women perform at Veterans Homes all over the United States. The group is based locally in Port Treverton, Pa., and was scheduled to come to Saint Paul’s this past spring as a part of their tour. With COVID-19, the group has halted in-person gatherings this year and as well their funding, reliant totally upon donations, has been cut short. Saint Paul’s Consistory voted on Tuesday evening to sponsor a show for this Holiday Season which will be broadcast online. Saint Paul’s sponsorship will help spread the word for Re-Creation and help them continue to serve our nation’s Veterans across the country. We are excited for this sponsorship and will be providing notice of the on-line concert for you to view, once that information has been finalized.
Christmas Pageant News
“Do Not Be Afraid: A Virtual Christmas Pageant” is now being organized and is planned to be released for your viewing convenience in mid-December. Colleen Franciscus, Russ Wynn and others are working to create one of the most unique Christmas Pageants in the history of Christmas Pageants. You can register to participate in the pageant and your registration will get you more great details. Registration online: https://forms.gle/dgawrNr3P9c2NMm96
There is truly something for everyone and a way for everyone who chooses to join in the pageant.
News from Home
Advent from home… We would invite you, that if you don’t already have an advent wreath at home, to create or purchase one for you and your family this year. If you would like they are available for order via online or there are instructions in our newly distributed “Faithful Families” (pp.63) to build one of your own together. If you are interested in having a wreath at home and don’t have a way to get one or build one of your own, please reach out to the church office and we will assist in whatever way is needed. Also, as you do light a candle with us each week, we hope you will be willing to share pictures with us of your creations and celebrations. Together we are continuing to explore ways to all be connected in this time of physical distancing. We are always connected to one another no matter whether in person or not. Here are some images of inexpensive and creative advent wreath ideas (thank you Colleen Franciscus, as always).
Survey Results and Consistory Decisions on In-Person Worship
Saint Paul’s Way Forward Team met November 2 and approved issuing a survey concerning the membership’s interest in re-opening the church. We received 55 survey responses (an excellent response rate) and I want to thank you for your participation. The results of the survey show that 33% of respondents would be willing to return to in-person worship while 67% of respondents are not yet ready. All who expressed interest in returning to in-person worship would be willing to do so in the Sanctuary, 50% in other parts of the building (with televised viewing) and 83% of respondents expressed an interest in returning to the parking lot for remote listening. Fifty percent of respondents said they would be willing to attend a Wednesday Evening Service (if we offered two services during the week); about the same number of folks expressed an interest in attending an in-person Christmas Eve Service.
Of course, all these results came in prior to the newest and ever-changing news of local hospitals being at capacity, death tolls now rising and new warnings of increased cases of COVID-19 effects following recovery for those infected.
I also want to acknowledge the effects of not gathering, and acknowledging how hard it can be not to be able to be in community at this time. However, we must always fall back on keeping each other safe. With the data we gathered and the knowledge of the risk we take that Consistory voted to remain closed to in-person worship at this time. For now, the FM Transmitter will be set-up for parking lot worship beginning November 29. The Leadership Team will continue exploring Christmas Eve Outdoor Worship options, our on-line services will continue LIVE streaming and our Consistory will consider all options again on December 15.
This situation has been ever-changing. Local pastors shared with me this week that most who have begun in-person services have stopped them again (at least temporarily) until after the Thanksgiving holiday. One local UCC church has begun and stopped worship three times since July: Each time has been due to cases of COVID-19 from a member in attendance, the latest closure came when three members were diagnosed and hospitalized with the virus.
Our Penn Central Conference Office has offered us great support in ways to make these decisions. One of the ways they have helped us is to offer us access to an automated system devised by Georgia Tech University. You simply input your location and number gathering for worship, and the system determines your Church’s risk factor. For us in Union County, gathering with 30 or less in worship, the chances of an infected person being in the gathering is 46%. If we were located in Snyder County, our risk factor jumps to 58%. In Northumberland County, our risk factor probability is 59%. These numbers are based on population, testing and scientific statistics.
While many of us long to be together in community worship, we cannot put one another at risk in this time. I would ask you to please continue to support Saint Paul’s with your prayers and presence in serving our neighbors, in spreading the news of hope of the one we follow and joy of the season to come!
Daily Devotions for Advent…We will be publishing a daily Advent Devotion online and printed copies will be available for those who need them. Please watch for ways which you may join us during this Advent season in daily reflection and prayer. Plan now to set aside time daily to journey through this season with us all. Sharing our Gifts…Jen Arnold is once again leading gift-giving for children and families in need for the Donald Heiter Community Center. Jen still has children on the list waiting to be adopted for gift-giving. There are varying ages of children in which gifts are needed. Most of the gifts are essential needs with some “would likes” however most are needs of essentials. If you would like to help provide gifts, adopt a child or family, you may contact Jen via email: email@example.com, phone: (570) 713-5995, or contact Jen via Facebook Messenger. Jen is adding the list to our St. Paul’s Love and Prayers private group to make it more convenient as well. Ours is the gift to give in helping our neighbors, and we invite you to participate as you are able. Reach out to Jen for more information.
Here’s a great Christmas Gift idea for coffee drinkers…Saint Paul’s Coffee Club or chocolate… We are taking orders for Fair-Trade Equal Exchange products. All proceeds benefit our Saint Paul’s Mission Fund while all Fair-Trade purchases go to benefit independent farmers. The order form is now online at this link: https://forms.gle/ipP6hADymMd1kSTC6. When you submit and order, we will notify you of a pick-up date and time as we are following safe distancing practices and complying with all state and local regulations. Orders may also be placed by calling the church office.
Products are: Mind, Body and Soul Ground Coffee, Regular, 12 ounce, $10 per bag; Colombian Whole Bean Coffee, Regular, 12 ounce, $10 per bag; Decaf, Ground, 12 ounce, $10 per bag; Decaf, Whole Bean, 12 ounce, $10 per bag; Fellowship Blend, Regular, 16 ounce, $12 per bag; Fellowship Blend, Decaf, 16 ounce, $12 per bag; French Roast K-Cups, Regular, 12 pods per box, $10 per box; Unwind K-Cups, Decaf, 12 pods per box, $10 per box; Black Tea, 20 bags per box $5 per box; Decaf English Breakfast Tea, 20 bags per box, $5 per box; Very Dark Chocolate (71%), $4 per bar; Milk Chocolate (43%), $4 per bar.
This week @ Saint Paul’s:
Wed., Nov. 18 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Church office open
Thur. Nov. 19 Happy Birthday, Chad Kister
Fri., Nov. 20 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Church office open
Sat., Nov. 21 Happy Birthday, Louise Litzy
Sun., Nov. 22 10:30 a.m. Worship LIVE (https://tinyurl.com/ran9suv ) / or YouTube
Mon., Nov. 23 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Church Office open
10:30 a.m. Monday Morning Preacher Bible Study
Tue., Nov. 24 Happy Anniversary, Steve & Robin Brown
Happy Birthday, Karl Sampsell
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Church office open
Christian Education (click on Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5705681433)
· Sundays with Dave and Friends – 9:15 weekly (a Bible Study on Revelation)
· Monday Morning Preacher – 10:30 a. m. weekly (Let’s talk about Sunday’s text)
· Wednesday Musings and Theology – 6:30 p.m. weekly (Beginning again, January 12)
· Non-Zoom daily devotions with “Faithful Families”
What happens here doesn’t stay here (ways to connect in the community):
· Fresh Express (2nd & 4th Thursdays each month)
· Fall Lawn / Yard Clean-up
· Painting, Cleaning and Organizing at the Church
· Pantry Remodeling at the church
· Fall Family Fun Packets
· Community Thanksgiving Baskets
· Equal Exchange Coffee Sale
· CARE team Goodies and Meals
Reach out to learn more about these and many other opportunities at the church!