I have just returned from a week at Lancaster Theological Seminary where I was in class for more than 10 hours each day. This intensive week of face-to-face class is complemented by an additional 9 weeks of on-line work and study as I work toward a Doctorate in Ministry. My elective this term is theological improv and this week I have to write about a theological concept using an embodied, creative metaphor. I thought this would be a good week to share a little of my studies with readers of the e-news, so here it is, folks - "Sweet Tea and Atonement."
"He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God." Luke 18:13b-14a
"We recognize our own sin and our need for God's grace." -UCC Historical Council, Foundational Theological Claims (2019)
Atonement: at - ONE - ment with God
Last Saturday I was working on my sermon for Sunday morning and making a gallon of tea. I had been praying over this Luke passage for a week as I sat in class seeking a word from the Spirit. I had also been reading the new theological statements from the UCC Historical Council that I would be presenting at an association meeting that Sunday afternoon. I wanted something more than a 'be humble' sermon for this text and I was desperate for a way to talk about these broad, counter-cultural claims that didn't name the big stuff like the Trinity or Atonement or the Sacraments.
I took a break to go make the tea as the aroma filled the house. While pouring the hot tea over the measured Splenda in the jug, the disruption of the liquid was all that was needed to turn the Splenda flakes into liquid that joined seamlessly with the tea.
I guess I was so stuck on my sermon and reaching for anything the Spirit might be sending my way, the way the tea absorbed the Splenda and became one as I poured made me almost weepy as I thought about how God's mercy, grace and love makes me at one with God. My composition has to change, just as that of the sweetener, in order to be at one with God. Something disruptive has to occur.
I think of atonement as the way in which one understands being brought into a state of being at-one with God. This happens because of God's grace. The sugar is changed to sweet tea simply by the disruptive addition of the liquid. In Jesus' parable, the tax collector is justified by the admission of his need.
Start a discussion in your church about how you understand this movement of becoming at ONE with God.
Six months ago on April 20, 2019 The Incarnation United Church of Christ in Newport was devastated by a flood in the Alliance Room, their downstairs kitchen and social hall, when 18 inches of rain came into the room following extremely hard storm, caused by a back up of the storm drainage system the night before. The force of the water was strong enough to move a freezer full of food, open kitchen cabinets sweeping the contents out, and cause major storm damage which took the church six months to clean up, repair and restore. Sunday October 20 they celebrated the newly renovated room with a dedication service. Jackson Beaver, age 15, had this to say:
"April 20th, exactly six months ago today is when the tragedy struck our church. I remember coming into Alliance Room that morning, after hearing about the flood, and two immediate thoughts popped into my head. 1) Yikes, this is bad. And 2) Wow, there are a lot of people here. The response from our congregation to the devastation was amazing. For many weeks and months, frequent get togethers were held to continue the rebuilding process. Each and every one of those times had a surprising outcome of people willing to work. Countless hours were put together to create the new room, and it was truly a team effort. Blood, sweat, and tears were all shed. Nobody had any more of an important role then the person they stood beside. Throughout those times I learned a lot personally and about those I attend church with. Stories were told and relationships were built up, and that's something I'm truly grateful for. I feel that although the flood caused a lot of grief, in a way it brought us closer and had a positive outcome. One of my favorite hymns that I think is relevant is "They will know we are Christians by our love." And no I'm not going to sing it to you but some of the lines go like this ..." We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord", "We will work with each other, we will work side by side... and they'll know we are Christians by our love." As a congregation, we worked with each other, side by side, and displayed our love for God and this church. Our love brought us together and it shows in the finished product. In addition, you could also say that that church didn't fall down that day of the flood because it stands on Christ the solid rock.
I would like to personally thank all of those who helped out in any way. The new alliance room looks great. I'm grateful for the time I got to spend with you all while working, and I look forward to continuing those relationships while worshiping god with you all in the future."
Fall Women's Retreat: Living Well - In The Moment
Friday, November 15, 2019 at 7:00PM - Sunday, November 17, 2019 at 11AMregister online
Fall Youth Retreat: Never Alone
Friday November 15, 2019 7:00 PM - Sunday, November 17, 2019 11:00 AMregister online
2020 Vision Retreat
Friday December 6, 2:00PM - Sunday December 8, 2019 12:00PM register online
Men's Retreat:Seasons of a Man's Life - read more here
Friday, January 17, 2020 at 7PM - Sunday January 19, 2020 at 1PM register online
Friday, March 27, 2020 - Sunday, March 29, 2020
2020 Vision Retreat
We can't wait until 2020 to make concrete plans for the New Year. The 2020 VISION RETREAT is for everyone willing to work for the future of Hartman Center to spend time together developing ACTION PLANS for 2020. Join us Friday December 6, 2:00PM through noon on December 8, 2019
If you are willing to come to the 2020 VISION RETREAT let us know SOON. The cost for two nights lodging (in A and B cabins) and five meals is $100 (a special UCCR offer.) Register online here. Or mail a check written to Penn Central Conference to the office (address at the end of this eNews.) Read more here.
Confirmation Retreat Planning Meeting
The Penn Central Conference Confirmation Retreat will be held March 27 - 29, 2020 at Hartman Center. This weekend is always a great opportunity for our confirmands to explore "Being The Church"
and to connect with other youth.
Planning for this retreat is done by the Pastors and/or youth leaders of the participating churches. We will gather for an initial planning meeting on Monday November 18 from 1 - 3 pm at the conference office, and Zoom will be avalable.
Please contact Pastor Patty Dodds as soon as possible if your church is interested in participating. 1-717-502-2246 or Program@HartmanCenter.com
September OCWM was up significantly from 2018 - 25%. Thank you for your generous giving! We are currently tracking at 75% of our 2019 Budget, year-to-date and 99% of 2018 OCWM.
Please continue to send your OCWM gifts monthly and budget OCWM in your 2020 church budgets. We appreciate your prayers and thoughts for the Conference.
Salem's Closet Christmas Toy Giveaway
Every year, on the 1st Saturday in December, Salem UCC, 231 Chestnut Street, Harrisburg, Pa. hosts a free toy giveaway with Mr. & Mrs. Santa. We also try to have small items available for the children, if they would like something for a parent or grandparent. Also last year the children asked if we could have the gifts wrapped so that they had something to open on Christmas Day. Last year 120 children attended. The only requirement Salem asks is that they preregister for the event so that we have an idea how many will show up.
We were wondering if any of the other Churches would be interested in helping giving monetary to Salem's/toy give away or donating new toys to this cause? Please make checks payable to: "Salem UCC" memo line "Salem's Closet/toy giveaway". Toys should be unwrapped. Deadline for monetary/toys is November 25th. We never turn a child away and the numbers keep growing. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact: Sandy Sgrignoli at 717-635-0569.
Upcoming Ministerial Excellence Forum
November 20 - Rev. Donna Hale and Rev. Gloria McPherson,
The Opioid Crisis
It seems as though every corner of American life has been touched by the current Opioid Addiction Crisis, so much so that at General Synod this summer the
UCC urged every congregation to recognize it at a health epidemic. Revs. Donna Hale and Gloria McPherson have been working in their communities for some time now in various capacities. Gloria will be talking with us about the physical and personal realities of addiction, and Donna will follow with ways for churches to assist in the spiritual recovery as well as through community partnerships. They both highly recommend the book
In Pain: A Bioethicist's Personal Struggle with Opioids, by Travis Rieder, as a good read in preparation for our time together, however the reading is not required. (3 hours of Continuing Education) To register,
All forums are for clergy and will be held at
St. Thomas UCC - 6490 Linglestown Road - Harrisburg, PA 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Save The Date!
For those filling up their 2020 calendars, please save:
January 8 (Worship Planning at Colonial Park, snow date 1/9)
February 19 (MEF at St. Thomas)
March 18 (MEF at St. Thomas)
April 22 (MEF at St. Thomas)
May 13 (Worship Planning at Colonial Park)
More info to come!
Installations, Ecclesiastical Councils and Ordinations
November 3 - Ordination Service for Garrett Book at Christ Church UCC, Annville - 3:00PM
(Rev. Nora Foust attending)
November 10 - Installation of Alice Rauch at St. John's UCC, Lewisburg - 3:00PM (Rev. Nora Foust attending)
November 17 - Ecclesiastical Council for Gary Nottis at Paradise UCC, Milton - 3:00PM (registration deadline November 1; meeting of Central Association, quorum required) (Rev. Nora Foust attending)
November 23 - Installation as Senior Pastor of Rev. Cindy Garis at Colonial Park UCC, Harrisburg - 3:00PM (Rev. Nora Foust attending)
Association Meetings & Ministeriums
November 3 -
Mercersburg Association Fall Meeting at St. Paul's UCC, McConnellsburg - 3:00PM-5:00PM (Rev. Carrie Call attending)
November 3 -
Gettysburg Association Social at Bay City Restaurant, Hanover - 1:00PM
November 10 - York Association Fall Meeting at Mt. Zion UCC, York - 1:30PM (fellowship) 2:00PM (program) (Rev. Carrie Call attending)
Association Town Halls
You are invited to gather with others from your association (clergy and lay people alike) for fellowship and a light dinner of soup, sandwiches and dessert. (See dates, times and locations below)
Conversation with Rev. Carrie Call will follow our dinner. She will provide updates about Penn Central Conference, touching on topics such as new staffing, updated strategic planning, and the Hartman Center.
Please bring your questions and concerns as well as your enthusiasm and ideas for our Conference!
October 30-Lancaster Association - Trinity UCC, East Petersburg - 6:00PM
November 13 - Lebanon Association - Quentin UCC, Quentin - 6:00PM
Lancaster Theological Seminary is holding two Discover Days, open house events, on
Saturday, November 9 and
Wednesday, November 13. This is a wonderful opportunity for people who are considering a theological education to visit campus, sit in on a class, worship with our community, enjoy lunch and meet current students and faculty, and explore the programs, schedules, and costs. The events are free and registration is required. The details are on our website,
lancasterseminary.edu and by clicking this
Tuesday Talks at the Seminary
Seminary professors present free talks on current topics in Santee Chapel at 10:00 am on Nov. 19, Jan. 21andMarch 24. Attendees who buy lunch afterwards at the Gypsy Kitchen on campus receive a complimentary dessert.
Nov. 19 - The Future of Religion in America: The Situation 20 Years From Now
Who's in the pews? Join Dr. Lee Barrett, Professor of Systematic Theology, for a look at American worship in 2040.
Jan. 21 - Christianity and Immigration
Dr. Lee Barrett explores a prickly contemporary topic with deep, ancient roots.
March 24 - Women Who Speak for God: Females Among the Prophets
During Women's History Month, Dr. Julia M. O'Brien explores the stories of women called "prophets" in the Bible, and why they are important to our understanding of prophecy.
Download a printable flyer for your bulletin board or to share with a friend here.
Music Sundays at the Seminary
FREE MONTHLY CONCERTS IN SANTEE CHAPEL
Sunday afternoons at 4:00 pm.
Complimentary light refreshments will be served after each show.
Nov. 10 - Leaves of Many Colors
Dr. William Wright leads the 24-member Franklin & Marshall College Chamber Singers in spirituals and sacred motets, madrigals and contemporary art music celebrating the beauty of human voices in harmony.
Dec. 8- A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices
Get your Christmas spirit flowing and feet tapping with a heart-warming holiday program of music for voice, organ, piano and Celtic harp. Presented by Scott Siciliano, pastor, composer, musician and Seminary grad known for his angelic voice and musical versatility.
More performances in 2020 to be announced! Download a printable flyer for your bulletin board or to share with a friend
PCC Partners & Friends Events
Blue Christmas Retreat
Perhaps for YOU the thought of entering the holiday season does not feel so wonderful.
For many people who have experienced loss or trauma, the holiday season can be difficult.
The Blue Christmas Retreat is a time to honor your reality and prepare your heart, mind, and spirit through the healing practices of art making, reflection, engaging the wisdom in poetry and Sacred texts, sharing, praying, and playing.
Diane Brandt, the Liturgical Arts Minister from Wisdom's Table and Megan Malick, a clergy partner with Wisdom's Table and therapist at The Well Counseling and Consulting Services are hosting a Blue Christmas Retreat on Saturday, November 23, 2019 from 10-2 at the Candy Factory in Lancaster, PA.
Help provide free tax preparation to low- and moderate-income families through United Way of
the Capital Region's Money in Your Pocket (MIYP) campaign. You'll help ensure working families in our community claim all available tax credits while saving them the cost of high tax preparation fees and refund anticipation loan interest rates. Learn more