Dear Friend in Christ,
The holidays are upon us. Actually, as Christians, the holidays are always with us, since we observe every Sunday as a little Easter – a holy day to remind us of what really matters in life. But, we live in a world whose holy days are fewer and farther between, so many of us cannot help feeling the “holiday” spirit a little more this time of year. So, with this being a two-month newsletter, perhaps I’d better make my good wishes the first order of business! Blessed Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Healthy New Year and Happy Groundhog’s Day . . . oh, wait, that’s not until February.
On the road to Christmas Day, many of us have fuller schedules than usual in order to accommodate all the celebrating we feel is necessary to the season. Each year no small number of us wonder to ourselves if all the celebrating and preparing to celebrate don’t actually dampen our spirits rather than uplift them. We wonder, “Shouldn’t the celebration of Jesus’ birth make us happy rather than hurried?” Fortunately, we often find at least a bit of quiet joy on Christmas Eve in a worship service that is clearly not hurried or stressful, even though there is a fair amount of stress inherent to the story itself. More about that in a moment.
First, since I have your attention wrapped around the issue of “schedules,” I want to talk to you about mine for just a minute. For three months I have tried to build my schedule as your interim pastor around fixed times when I would be at the church building. Sunday mornings, Tuesday evenings, and Thursday mornings were the focus of this schedule, a calendar of which was in last month’s newsletter. Sunday mornings have worked well; Tuesday evenings have worked fairly well; and, Thursday mornings have hardly worked at all. The need to respond to people first coupled with the distance I drive to get to Mantzville is the primary reason why a rigid schedule has not worked. With this in mind, I am not publishing a calendar in this newsletter. Instead, I am asking that you join me on a journey into a fascinating opportunity brought to us by 21 century technology: the virtual office. It is not something to which we gave much thought when I began my ministry 27 years ago: a communications wonderland! Instead of imagining the pastor to be available on fixed days in an office, picture me as available just an arm’s reach away . . . any time. Oh, I will still be at worship, Sunday School and Confirmation Class on Sunday morning; will still be at scheduled church meetings during the week; will still be at hospitals, homes and nursing homes as needed; and, will attend special things like the Thanksgiving Eve worship or the Pork and Sauerkraut Supper. But where I will really be – and all the time – is just a stretch away: phone, email, text, regular mail, even Skype™. Want to speak to the pastor? Call me: (484)695-9950; or, (570)352-3023. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Text me: (484)695-9950. Or mail me at 639 Park Street, Honesdale, PA, 18431. We can be in touch; schedules and miles do not have to get in the way. And, yes, we can meet at “the office,” too – just call or write so we can work it out.
Speaking of “things (not) getting in the way,” have you ever felt that preparing for Christmas got in the way of celebrating it? Stress, uncertainty, so much fussing! They are real feelings, repeated annually by many of us. Perhaps some of you have overcome them by prayer, dint of will, or both. But, for those of us who have not, consider this: the original Christmas story was not without stress! That “Prince of Peace” in the manger may have been wrapped gently in swaddling clothes with a mother and a father tending and guarding him every minute; but, the journey to a few moments of quiet was arduous in both mileage and weather. Then, when the holy family arrived in Bethlehem, there was the little matter of “NO ROOM!” Scratchy hay made his bed, animals (probably tone-deaf) sang his lullaby, and a bunch of shepherds arrived just when he was settling down – sent by angels who turned the night sky into the Hollywood Bowl. Perhaps even the first Christmas was more about the promise of peace that comes in the midst of our noisy world, rather than the promise that we will someday escape our noisy world. Instead of waiting around for heaven as the place of peace, Christmas promises that peace is with us right here, right now.
Sure, we can – and perhaps ought to – be wary of our schedules a bit this time of year. But our haste reminds us of Mary and Joseph’s haste to find lodging in Bethlehem before the child was born. Our anxieties remind us of their worries when no suitable place could be found. And, our joy at things that do work out for us remind us of their trust in God that allowed them to....see “home” in a cattle stall. Just enough shelter for a child to be born in the capable hands of a trusting mother and a devoted father! To smile peacefully in the midst of the storm because we have managed to see the face of God is the real gift of Christmas. Whether that storm is made of real-life problems or the ones we make for ourselves quite unnecessarily, that same face of God peers up at us saying, “Peace, be still.” So, we pause and give thanks and have our faith renewed that God is with us . . . and ever shall be.
Please be sure that your holiday schedule this year includes abundant time for the Prince of Peace. There is worship every Sunday in November, December and January at 9:00am. There will be special Advent activities beginning Sunday, November 26, not the least of which are the Hanging of the Greens. Christmas Eve is a Sunday this year, so we will have a 9:00am service, which will be based on a liturgy about Mary and Joseph’s “stressful” search for lodging in Bethlehem; then, we will have two nighttime services in the traditional fashion. Songs, prayers, crafts, food, fellowship, fun and pauses to remind us what life is really all about . . . these wonderful gifts from God will take us up to that special night and send us out from it with a message of hope for a despairing world. Join us! Let St. Peter’s help you keep your priorities in the face of a stressful and, sometimes, aimless world.
Finally, as I wrote last month, let us not forget the beautiful neighbors God has given us in the Gulf region, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Mexico City, Sutherland Springs in Texas, northern California, and other places around North America where disaster has struck. Give to church-related charitable ministries; pray for them three times every single day; and, consider whether or not the Spirit is calling you to direct service in any of these places. (If you feel led to go and help, let me know and I will get you connected with folks who can help you.) Thank you for your faithfulness!
Blessings to you and your loved ones. Take care on your journeys – do not make haste when patience is called for. May the angels guard you, the Spirit fill you, and the Savior remind you that you, too, are a precious gift of God to this world. And, thank you for reading this letter.
Yours in Christian Love,
NEWS FROM THE CHURCH BOARD
On October 1, 2017, the congregation voted to move forward with the process of becoming a federated congregation. The By-law Committee has arranged a meeting with Attorney Kevin Strohl of Steckel and Stopp for October 23, 2017 to formally begin this process. Further, the committee and church board are continuing to draft a proposed constitution and by-laws for the federated congregation. The board will provide the congregation with updates as to their progress. If you have any questions or comments regarding the procedures, please speak with a member of the church board.
St. Peter’s Church is entering a time of transition. The board is confident that God will lead us through this process and the many important decisions that lie ahead. We are asking for prayers and support from the congregation during this process.
The Board would like to thank the following people who have offered their time, knowledge, and patience to represent our congregation and serve on our Search Committee:
Mike Hunsicker (Chairperson) Cathie Miller
Terry Miller Burdell Snyder
Jill Hoppes Charlene Miller
Jan Altenberg Nancy Knadler
We pray that the congregation will trust our leadership, and trust that God is working through us. We ask for the congregation’s strength and support to help guide us through this time of transition.
Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and for the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We unanimously decided to suspend the search committee meetings with the introduction of the idea to become a Federated church. This is very exciting to us to look into this new chapter, we all have spoken about being one as a church opposed to just Lutheran or U.C.C. This gives us the ability to accomplish that, as one of the search committee’s members spoke “Now we would truly be a Union Church”
- With that being said our identity (as a church) will change through this process, which will help the search committee to determine the direction we will move forth in the future.
- The Shared Ministry we adopted has paved the way for this next step for all of us.
- We as a search committee have had numerous discussions about us voting as one, this would alleviate that.
- Please reach out to Board Members as well as Search Committee Members with your questions and we will do our best to find you answers.