An Invitation to
Rebecca Sausser's Ordination
Rebecca is the pastor at
New Bethel Church, Kempton
if you are planning to attend and you will be sent the Zoom link
Letter from the Conference Board and Bonnie Bates, Conference Minister
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”
(Acts 2: 1-4 -NRSV)
This Sunday we celebrate the birth of the Christian Church, in those days called The Way. As we celebrate the birth of the church We are reminded that we are called to do more than celebrate the church, but to “Be the Church” in this time and place. And what does it mean to be the church? As our UCC banner, “Be the Church” reminds us, we are the church when we “Reject Racism” and “Fight For The Powerless.”
For us, to be the church is to fulfil the two greatest commandments as shared with the followers of Jesus,
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.''
This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself.''
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 26: 37-40).
In recent days there have been several instances of racist behaviors in our country – more than a few we are sure, but these are the ones that made the news. The alarming deaths of Ahmad Aubrey in Georgia; Breonna Taylor in Kentucky; and George Floyd in Minneapolis; the actions of Amy Cooper (a white woman) against Christian Cooper (a black man) in Central Park. All these actions are like daggers in our souls. I hope they move us to change practices, beliefs, and actions. It is important that we not simply dismay and pray. It is important that we move into ways of acting to ensure the safety and justice, the care for our siblings on the planet, that we act against the pervasive racial systems which make these actions more commonplace than is ever acceptable.
The Rev. James Gottwald shared, “The three recent killings and the incident in Central Park are good illustrations of how detrimental racism is to all of us, especially black and brown lives. The murders must be condemned but also the deadly atmosphere of racism that leads to the loss of life and jeopardizes our souls to eternal peril. The cost of racism is the loss of our soul in the sense that we lose touch with our humanity.”
We have worked to clarify the love of neighbor in this time of pandemic as social distancing, acting for the safety of others, wearing masks, and worshipping and offering pastoral care virtually. But love of neighbor is more than that. Love of neighbor is seeking out justice, speaking truth to power, and acting for the welfare of all people. This includes those people who look like us, and those who don’t; people who think like us, and those who don’t; those who share our faith beliefs, and those who don’t.
In the past few weeks, the conference has hosted a book study using the book “White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo. Through this book study we have been made aware of the attitudes which maintain the status quo of white supremacy (not to be confused with white nationalism) which is the integrated systems which maintain the structures, policies, and practices supporting white privilege. Through this study, we moved into an awareness that the double and triple standards in which we move and walk and have our being impact people of color – black and brown people – in ways most of us who are white cannot imagine. It is our hope that “we move and walk and have our being” (Acts 17:28) solely in God. But it is not so.
Today during this season of Pentecost please take action. Please reach out and support agencies and organizations which support open examination of our systems of discrimination and privilege. We are the church. It has never been more important for us to be the church. I pray our actions of being the church will continue to change the world.
As Margaret Mead reminds us, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” May we change the world for the better.
-Blessings, Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bates and the Conference Board
Becoming a Racial Justice Conference
The rage being expressed in Minneapolis and in other states and cities across the nation in totally understandable. The idea that a jogger can be shot because he is black; that a black woman can be shot in her home; that a black man’s neck can be crushed and he can be suffocated by police while others look on; or that a white woman, breaking the law, can call the police on a black man who is simply asking her to comply with the law – these instances are enough to engender rage.
Our General Minister and President, the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, stated, “An entire community is now bearing the burden of a nation feeling chaos reigns. The ravages against black and brown bodies continues unabated, and the anger is spilling into the streets.” The time has come to call these deaths, and the others occurring in our midst that are not front page news, what they are – modern day lynching. Last fall when I toured the National Memorial for Peace and Justice I learned that more than 4400 men, women and children had been lynched in the United States since the end of the civil war. As a white Christian man, I was appalled and saddened. My African American siblings were less appalled – this is a history and a reality they live with every day.
Please lift up your prayers and then move your hand and feet, your voice and heart into the places where you can change the systemic racism in this country. Join me in focusing on making the Penn Northeast Conference a Racial Justice Conference. Let us explore how, together, we can be the change needed in the world. If you are interested in pursuing this work, please let me know. In Christ's love, Bonnie
Installation of Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bates, PNE Conference Minister
Bonnie’s installation date has been moved from June 28 to November 7 – as part of the fall conference meeting
PNEC Recommendations on When to Resume In-Person Worship
It feels strange to make a recommendation about when to resume in-person worship to our beloved congregations. Nevertheless, we feel it is our covenantal responsibility to offer the following recommendations knowing that each of you may well have different considerations and pressures which guide your decision-making process. We offer these in prayerful encouragement as you discern your congregation’s future, knowing that your decisions may include struggling with your future ministry.
Cleaning Guidelines based on CDC recommendations:
Authorized Pastors...Are You Interested in Joining a Community of Practice?
PNEC Communities of Practice
Are accepting participants for 2020. Cost is $250 for the year. (Can be pro-rated when you join.) Counts for ½ of your continuing education hours. You can apply to the Longsdorf Fund for continuing education funds.
for a list of the Communities of Practice and their openings. If interested...
click here for application.
Bloom! Children's Ministry Curriculum
Bloom! Children's Ministry Curriculum will be $50 for all congregations this fall due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 on so many of us. To support you more in the event of sheltering-in-place again, we'll also include a Story Intro video that you can send to families to use at home. It can stand alone or you can use it as an introduction to other Bloom! activities that you can put together for families to use as well. I'll also be making Children's Sermon videos that you can either edit into a worship video, or that you can use to get ideas from. Bloom! follows the Narrative Lectionary for our Bible story sequence, though it is great for all congregations. We offer ideas for PreK-6th grade (in sections of PreK, K&1, 2&3, 4-6) as well as for large group and a Christmas program. Check out more about it at
In Christ, Rachel Simonson, ELCA pastor