Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Paul’s message to the Philippians is as fresh and relevant for us today as it was in the first century. Paul writes from his jail cell, awaiting word of imprisonment, release, or execution. In spite of his dire circumstances he speaks peace to the Philippians. These are words from the heart of a wise and faithful minister who has a deep care and concern for the churches he founded in the first century. He knows that they, like he, will know trials, pains, and turmoil as new churches of Jesus Christ.
Paul shared his words as a gift to the Philippian church—a gift of how he has come to know the God who travels with him through every difficulty; a gift of gentleness and peace, encouraging them to focus on what is good and honorable, no matter what suffering they will encounter.
Perhaps Paul’s words can be a gift to us, as we have now surpassed 7 months of the pain and anguish of COVID 19; as we hear every day the turmoil in our political process and anxiously await election day; as we hear unspeakable grief of mothers who lose children to violence; as we in our churches struggle with the “new normal” of how to protect one another as we strive to stay in connection with one another, especially as we approach the beloved time of Advent.
Be gentle, Paul tells us, with ourselves and others; for as we are gentle, we feel God near. Perhaps when we are not feeling gentle, take time in a gentle place: in meditation, through nature, with gentle loved ones.
Pray always and receive the peace that surpasses all human understanding. Praying for God to take away our turmoil will not bring peace. The purpose of prayer is not to convince God to do what I want God to do—even if I think my prayers are godly. The purpose of prayer is to align myself with who God is--with us and in us; God in our hearts as we reside in God’s heart, giving us what we need to weather the tumultuous times. Thus we know peace within, and can be peace in the world.
Focus on what is honorable and good and true, even when, especially when, we see dishonor and falsehood. If we think the world has lost its moral compass, commit to keeping ours. The way to help counter the pain and turmoil in the world is not to be overwhelmed by it or join with it, but to bring good to it, bring healing to it—with God’s help and leading, in any way we can.Live and act as though the arc of the universe bends toward moral justice.
Yes, Paul’s words of gentleness, peace, and focusing on good and honorable things are a gift—then and now—anytime and anyplace we know anxiety, turmoil, enmity, or injustice in our personal lives, our church lives, in our country and our world.
Let your gentleness be known, for God is near. Try not to worry—and when you do--reach out to God and God’s peace will guard your hearts and guide your minds. Focus on whatever is good, just, pure, and worthy of praise, no matter what the circumstances.
My thoughts and prayers are abundant with all of you, as we enter into these final days of the election cycle, as we continue to find ways to protect one another while staying in loving fellowship, as we are poised for the season of Advent—a season of watching and waiting for God to break through—one more time.
Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola
ACM for Congregational Transitions
October 10 - 18: Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola on vacation
October 11: Mt. Zion UCC, York 8:00AM (in person) and 10:30AM (online) - Rev. Nora Foust preaching
October 25: Zion UCC, Chambersburg 10:45AM - Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola preaching
November 1: Salem UCC, Dover 9:30AM - Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola preaching
Hartman Center Gatherings
We still have a few short months until Hartman Center is shuttered after the new year. So, we've planned a few times to gather together in our Sonshine Place.
10/24 - Fire for Campers 4:00 pm (Getting Started-Middle school adventure) Register here
11/14 - Fire for our High Schoolers, Staff, & Families 4:00 pmRegister here
11/21 - Youth Retreat - "It's A Party!" 10:00 am - 5:00 pmRegister here
11/21 - Women's Retreat with Kara Young 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Register here
Also, be sure to mark your calendars for December 13th, when we will gather for one last evening Vespers.
12/13 - evening vespers at Hartman Center - 4:00pm
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...
Faith UCC, State College
St. Peter's UCC, State College
Trinity UCC, State Line
First Reformed UCC, Sunbury
Join to Pray for Unity and Peace before the Election
These are difficult days. Tension on the streets, fires in the west, flooding in the south, and political rhetoric all around us. Many feel anxiety, anger, frustration and fear. In response to this and looking ahead to November 3, the Conference invites you to join us in prayer. During the month of October, every Wednesday evening you are invited to join together for prayer at 7:00 PM for 30 minutes. The zoom prayer time will be devoted to prayers for peace and unity as we approach the national election. There will be nothing partisan and no candidates will be mentioned by name.
This prayer time is open to all clergy and members of UCC congregations within the Conference. We ask you to register only so that we may send you a password directly for the zoom calls. There is no pressure to attend – but this way we can make sure these gatherings remain peaceful and prayerful. Gatherings will be October 7, 14, 21 and 28. Register here.
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 https://pccucc.org/covid-19-resources/ regularly for updates.
Virtual Church Meetings: All You Need to Know will take place via Zoom on Monday October 19th from 6:30 – 8:00. Registration required. This gathering is designed for clergy and lay leaders to provide information (legal and logistical) for holding on-line meetings.
Poetry as Prayer begins again this month! After checking schedules, the date that works best for the most people is the third Wednesday every month from 2:00 – 3:30. Our first meeting will be Wednesday October 20 at 2:00. This group already has a number of committed participants. If you would like to join as well, please register here as soon as possible to ensure you have a space! If you would like to join the group but cannot make the Wednesday time slot, please let Paul know – we are considering creating a second group for Monday afternoons.
Taking Action for Anti- Racism
Christ Church in Annville will be hosting a three part workshop series on Taking Action for Anti- Racism. There will be three 90 minute workshops focusing on anti-racism, including understanding of racist attitudes, inner work to combat racism and more. The workshop will be held via Zoom on October 4, 18 & 25. Learn morehere.
Conference Minister Carrie Call attended the two-day virtual Board meeting on Friday and Saturday, October 2-3. A number of topics were covered including strategic priorities, marketing work, suggested changes to the by-laws, and more. The General Minister and President John Dorhauer gave his report along with those of the Associate General Ministers. A great deal of work has been done during the Covid days to provide funding to churches as well as worship resources. Here are a few key updates from the Board.
a. One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) giving is about 50% behind where it should be by this time. This fact required a reduction of funds to our partners by about 30%. OGHS is a primary support of disaster ministries and must be spent in the year it is received. Please encourage your churches to reconsider their giving to OGHS and increase it if possible. Given the fires in the west and floods in the south, the support is needed desperately. Overall, Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) giving also down.
b. “Frontline Faith” is a new portal for learning. This new option from the national setting will go live soon and will provide easily accessible education modules for clergy and lay leaders on a wide range of topics. We will send out further information once the site is live.
c. Serious conversation about changing Synod to every three years. The chair of the UCCB is calling a task force that will be charged with exploring the options of changing the timing of Synod so that we meet every three years instead of every two. The Board reminds everyone that a change of this magnitude would require a change in the UCC by-laws. Synod is an enormous financial and human workload drain on resources not only of the national setting, but also of Conferences, some of whom have great difficulty finding the funds to support their delegates to attend Synod. There will be consideration of shortening the length as well. This task force will be called soon and will begin their work right away. As most of you know, Synod 2021 will be a fully virtual event.
d. Thursdays in Black adopted by the National Setting. Thursdays in Black: Resistance and Resilience is a campaign started by the World Council of Churches in the 1970s. The movement is united in resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence and has recently been reinvigorated focused on gender-based violence. The national UCC has joined this campaign and encourages clergy and churches to learn more and join in. The movement starts with wearing back on Thursdays - often the color black has been used with negative racial connotations, but in this campaign black is a color of resistance and resilience. See how your church can be involved at https://www.oikoumene.org/en/get-involved/thursdays-in-black
e. New Director of Philanthropy introduced. Rev. Kent Siladi (former Conference Minister of Connecticut) is the new Director of Philanthropy for the national setting. Kent will be working to streamline and reinvigorate the approach to stewardship for the whole church.
October 11 - Lebanon Association Fall Meeting - 3:00 PM
October 25 - Harrisburg Association Fall Meeting 2:00 PM
October 25 - Lancaster Association 3:00 PM (Includes E-council at 4:00)
November 1 - Mercersburg Association 3:00 PM
November 8 - York Association 2:00PM
Upcoming Boundary Training Online
For Retired and Supply Pastors (2 hours)
Join with your colleagues on Tuesday, October 20th at 10am or 6pm for a discussion on supply and retired clergy boundaries. Rev. Sally Dries will join Rev. Nora Foust for leadership of this session.
Join with your colleagues on Tuesday, November 17th at 10am or 6pm for discussion of a variety of topics including: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Self-Care and Allyship in an Activist Age. Rev. Nora Foust will lead this discussion.
Kairos Spiritual Direction Training Program Enrolling Now
The Parish Resource Center is excited to announce that we are accepting applications for a new cohort of the Kairos Spiritual Direction Training program. The next cohort for this two-year certificate program begins in January.
There is an early bird discount of $500 if you register before November 1, 2020. You can find more information and apply online at parishresourcecenter.org/kairos.
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.
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 athttps://lancasterseminary.edu/academics/PAM.
Search & Call Associates
Mercersburg, York and Gettysburg Association Churches