Paid for by your OCWM Contributions| December 2, 2020
Message to the Conference
Members and friends of Penn Central Conference-

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4)

This past Sunday we set up an Advent Lights event at Trinity UCC in East Petersburg. People stopped by to say a prayer, light a candle for someone they loved or lost, leave prayer requests, and pick up a votive candle to take home. Those who came by spoke of the need for light and hope in these dark days. Advent and Christmas have become synonymous with “seasons of light”, at least in the northern hemisphere countries, because of the loss of light we suffer during the winter months. We crave light in the darkness and recognize that it brings us hope and solace, not to mention beauty.

John the Baptist introduced a different understanding of light. The light of truth-telling. He baptized those who repented, those who allowed God’s light to shine in on their own darkness. His wild preaching pulled them toward a light offered in response to repentance and the all-embracing light of forgiveness. He was preparing them for the arrival of one who would continue to preach resentence and would take God’s light of forgiveness for humanity all the way to the cross.

This is why Advent used to be a penitential season, similar to Lent. It was a time of preparing our own hearts. Advent was the opportunity to engage in truth-telling about ourselves. A time of allowing our darkness to be lit from within and brought into the light of healing and redemption. For many of us Advent is a time of preparation, but of a different kind. Preparation for the “Holiday of Christmas”, not the holy day of Jesus’ birth. Our preparation for the secular holiday of Christmas is fraught with emotion – it brings us joy (and anxiety) as well as excitement (and dread). The glitz and glitter of the holiday can distract us from the other task we are called to as disciples of Jesus. To prepare our own souls, to bring to the light those things we would prefer remain in darkness, to allow God’s love to shine into the darkest places and receive the brilliant gift of forgiveness in return.

The opportunity for repentance in Advent and the preparation for Christ’s birth happens every year. We need the yearly cycles of Advent and Lent to bring us back to our center. We are given the gift of opportunity to self-reflect, to ask difficult questions about ourselves, to hear the call to truth-telling, and to receive the gift of forgiveness.

My we enter into the Advent season hearing John the Baptist’s wild call in our own hearts and may those words bring us to the light. 


Rev. Dr. Carrie Call
Conference Minister
The Penn Central Conference has received a generous grant from the National Setting of the UCC for our Congregation Empowerment Team! This was a wonderful surprise and allows us to make the CET’s Inaugural Academy for PCC Congregations program available to more churches at no cost. The Inaugural Academy is grounded on the work of church empowerment consultant Paul Nickerson. The 2021 program will take core concepts and assist churches to work with those concepts in each of their unique settings. The program elements will be flexible, adaptive, and custom-made for each community. This is not a “cookie cutter” program! Coaches will assist congregations in making sense of how we are “doing church” in these pandemic days and what the future holds for our communities once we emerge from this perplexing time. Because of the Brown Grant we have received, your church may participate for free – the coaching made available to each church (which is the part that involved a cost) will be covered by the Conference. The original cost was $650 per church. For more information, see the flier here or write to
Scheduling Notes:

December 13 - St. John's UCC, Boalsburg - Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola preaching
December 20 - St. John's UCC, Boalsburg - Rev. Nora Foust preaching
Prayers for Penn Central Conference
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:18 (NLT)

This week, we pray for each other as we continue to live into God's calling...

Emmanual UCC, Abbottstown
Christ Church UCC, Annville
Zion UCC, Arendtsville
St. John's UCC, Bellefonte
COVID-19 Resources

Penn Central Conference has added a special section on our website for COVID-19 resources, including the times and links for Zoom meetings. Keep checking regularly for updates.

Prayers For When You Feel Anxious Coloring Pages from Illustrated Ministry

Join the PA Council of Churches on Monday, December 14, at 7 PM for a "Let's Chat" webinar for "Living Through COVID-19". Registration is required to join the Zoom meeting. A Zoom link will be sent to you upon registration.
PCC Virtual Cantata
We are SO excited to share with you "My Lord, What A Beautiful Morning" - the PCC Virtual Choir Christmas Cantata! This beautiful collection of videos can be used by your church as a full cantata for a Sunday morning or a special event, or each video can be used in conjuction with the lectionary for Advent and Christmas seasons.

Watch the videos on the Conference YouTube channel and learn more here.

If you have any questions or would to download video files, contact Julie Holm at
From Our Local Churches

St. Matthew's UCC, Carlisle just installed an electronic sign. They have a complete set of 4 inch, black, changeable letters, numbers, and punctuation that they’d love to donate to a church that could use them.
Interested parties should call the church at 717-243-1537, that’s St. Matthew’s UCC office number.
Due to Covid 19 Salem UCC Harrisburg is not going to have the Annual Toy Giveaway with Mr. & Mrs. Santa. Instead we are gathering items for residents of a local women's shelter which includes more than 50 children also 30 + kids that are in a group home waiting for placement into foster care. In addition to items on hand from the clothing bank, we are putting together bags of toiletries for the residents.  
Among the organizations served were individuals at Bethesda Mission, 2nd Chance Ministries, Group Home for Special Needs, Morning Star Pregnancy Center, Daily Bread, Justice Youth Center and others. 
If any local Churches would wish to donate please contact Sandy Sgrignoli at 717-635-0569.
Colonial Park UCC, Harrisburg's Annual Creche Festival has been cancelled.
Weekly Book Reviews
A new weekly feature!
November's reviews by Rev. Sue Fritz
Theme: Race
“Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till” by Elliott J. Gorn
In August 1955, young Emmett Till of Chicago was visiting family in Mississippi. Carolyn Bryant, who worked behind the counter of a local store, named Till as the man who had flirted with her while she was working in the store. Three days later, Till’s dead body was found in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s white killers were quickly acquitted of his murder.
Mamie Till-Mobley insisted that Emmett’s casket remain open during his funeral, despite wounds clearly visible on his body. This became groundbreaking news and sparked a public outrage. In 2005, fifty years following the murder, the FBI reopened the case. New testimonies were forthcoming, which broadened the historical context of this event. 
Gorn not only does an excellent job of explaining what happened that August day but he clearly shows how the story still resonates today. His goal is to describe to the public why we must examine our old thoughts and behavioral patterns, so we don’t allow such racial crimes to happen once again in our lifetimes. 
Spring 2021 Ministerial Education Forums – Third Tuesdays
Due to the constraints of Zoom interactions, MEFs will have registration limits. If a registration is full, email Paul to be added to a waiting list. Please let us know if you need to cancel so your spot can be given to someone on the waiting list.
January 19: Rev. Dr. Carrie Call – Psychology for Ministry: Moral Development
How do we come to know what’s right and wrong? How do ideas about morality form and what affects them? This gathering will be the first entry into considering how psychological reality connects to and undergirds our work in ministry. Moral development covers how we come to make moral decisions and what affects our motivations. This will be a time for learning new concepts as well as engaging in self-reflection and discussion. The material will clarify aspects of ministry and help us to understand ourselves and each other better.
10:00AM registration
6:00PM registration

February 16: Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola – Pastoring Parishioners: A Mental and Relational Health Perspective
Pastors know the dear ones in our congregations who are beloved yet bristly; loveable and frustrating at the same; and sometimes just a perennial thorn in our sides. We may struggle how to be in relationship with these dear ones, while not allowing their bristle to push us or others away. This two-hour workshop will present a compassionate framing for how to understand these folks and how to relate most effectively with them in effective pastoral ways.
10:00AM registration
6:00PM registration

Save the dates, registration links to come:
March 16: Stephanie Rader-Titzel – Mission Central and Connecting to Local Mission Possibilities
April 20: Rev. Dr. Bob Fogal – Personalities and Communication
May 18
January 13: Rev. Nora Foust - Committee on Ministry Training (mostly for newbies, but seasoned folks are welcome)
10:00AM registration
6:00PM registration

From UCC national setting

The United Church of Christ and the National Council of Churches have joined forces to offer faith- based organizing training to the wider church and beyond.
During this Advent season of viral pandemics, racial injustice, economic uncertainty, physical isolation, and socio-political strife, how does one prepare for what is to come? Advent is the season Christians are called to prepare for the coming of Jesus in the world and, with Jesus, the in-breaking of justice.
What distinguishes faith -based organizing from other trainings is our reason why. These trainings are built on a foundation of discipleship.
What will the world look like when justice comes? And how do we prepare for its arrival?
We have gathered four nationally recognized organizers and trainers, each paired with a theological reflector, to help us interrogate both these questions and the sacred text that undergirds our discipleship in this area.
Over the course of four sessions participants will gain tools for: basic organizing & embodiment; direct action & risk assessment; communication & accompaniment; trauma care and healing space. Each sessions also includes space for interaction, questions, and downloadable resources. Learn more here.
UCC Mental Health Network presents official newsletter "The Journey"
Read the first issue here.
Sign up here.
Conference Ministers address racism, white supremacy and privilege in the church - open letter from Council of Conference Ministers
Survey from the Women's Table

We invite female clergy and lairt to complete this survey prepared by the Women’s Table of the United Church of Christ. It is intended to gather information from women in the UCC about the issues and concerns you most care about, are engaged with, and for which your faithful responses make a difference in the world around us.

We are not yet certain of the future of the Women’s Table but we are cognizant that as a denomination which has provided a great deal of leadership and advocacy on gender justice and for women in ministry within ecumenical and interfaith partnerships, that we need to find ways to remain visibly engaged, accessible, and resourceful on these matters. This survey, sent out to a diverse cross-section of women in the UCC, is designed to help inform next steps. What is on your minds and hearts matters to us.

Again, we cannot thank you enough for taking the time to offer your feedback. We look forward to hearing from you and to reporting our findings. Your responses will be strictly confidential and anonymous. It will take approximately 10 minutes to complete the survey. Please have your responses included by Friday, December 11, at 11:59 pm EDT.
UCC Webinars

These webinars are designed to help you enhance your local church ministries. Most are free to attend. Check out the calendar here.

Prayers of the People with Andra Moran Thursday, December 03 at 3:30 PM
Looking Ahead:

General Synod "Rooted in Love: Special Edition"
General Synod 33 will take place Sunday July 11, 2021 – Sunday July 18, 2021. Pre-Synod events will occur on July 7-10, 2021. Learn more here
Pennsylvania Academy of Ministry at LTS

Nondegree classes are ideal for:
  • Lay Ministers already pastoring churches
  • Pastoral Leaders in part-time or bi-vocational ministries
  • Individuals in discernment
  • Laity serving Christian denominations and independent churches

Theology II: “Leadership and Community,” Jan 9–Feb 18, 2021. The Rev. Holly MillerShank offers a six-week online class through the Pennsylvania Academy of Ministry at Lancaster Theological Seminary. The class provides an introduction to Christian theology, focusing on the human condition, Christian hope, the church, ministry, and mission. Students may take this class without having taken Theology I. This 2.5 CEU class starts Saturday, Jan 9, followed by five weeks of asynchronous online instruction. Cost $325. Apply online at
Employment Opportunities

The Center for Spiritual Formation is seeking applicants for the position of Center Director beginning July 1, 2021. For more information or for an application, contact the center office at
Search & Call Associates
Mercersburg, York and Gettysburg Association Churches
Rev. Richard Gordon

Northern and Central Association Churches
Carolyn Herman
H: 570-538-9704
C: 570-220-8589

Harrisburg, Lancaster and Lebanon Association Churches
Rev. Richard Luciotti

Staff Directory
Rev. Dr. Carrie Call, Ph.D.
Conference Minister
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex. 12

Rev. Nora Driver Foust
Associate Conference Minister 
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex.13

Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola, Ph.D.
Associate Conference Minister
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex. 15

Rev. Dr. Ronnette Comfort-Butler
Facilitator of Care to Clergy & Clergy Families
phone: 717-719-1895
Zoë D'heedene
Coordinator of Camps/Retreats
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex. 16
C. Paul Keller
Office Manager
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex. 14
If you have future eNews stories, please send them to C. Paul Keller
Contact information: C. Paul Keller | email: | phone: 717-652-1560