Letter to the Congregation – 06/01/2021

FROM THE PASTOR

So, the word is out, if you are vaccinated you will be able to sing in the church building again. After long and prayerful discussion, the Congregation Council decided to follow CDC guidelines. That means that if you have been vaccinated, you can be in the church building without a mask and sing. If you are not vaccinated, the guidelines have not changed, meaning that to enter the church building you must be masked, and you cannot sing.

That means there are different guidelines for different people. St. Andrew’s strives to be a place where all people are treated the same. While we are following CDC guidelines that does not and will never mean that we care about anyone in a different way that someone else. The CDC masking guidelines are in place to keep people safe. The decision made by Council echoes that common concern; how do we keep people safe. How do we keep St. Andrew’s a safe place to worship?

Two notes here:

  1. You may not agree with the Congregation Council’s decisions. We respect that. Please remember you can always attend Council meetings and voice your concerns. Council is leaning on science and safety as both are consistent with our Christian understanding of how we interact with each other.
  2. Please respect all those who are wearing masks. Remember there will be people who have been vaccinated and still decide to wear a mask. There should never be judgement around mask wearing. This virus has affected all of our sense of safety in different ways. If a mask helps that sense of safety, that is fine. The person behind the mask is far more important than the mask.

A note on the vaccine. Both Bishop Eaton (ELCA) AND Bishop deForest (Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod) have been very strong on their support for the vaccine. If you have not been vaccinated, please consider doing so. Please feel no judgement here, just concern for your health and wellbeing.

The Council will continue to meet on a frequent basis and talk about moving St. Andrew’s toward “normalcy” (whatever that is). Pray for us as together we find our way through this pandemic.

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 05/25/2021

FROM THE PASTOR

As I write this, the CDC has said that those who are masked can stop wearing masks in a whole lot of places, but the CDC says that individual businesses and institutions may still require people to wear masks. Pennsylvania has indicated that its rules around masking will come into compliance with CDC guidelines, but nothing has been published yet. Our Church Council has not had opportunity to meet, but will be meeting this coming Sunday (that will mean that by the time you receive this the Council will have had a chance to meet, but I don’t know the outcome of that meeting yet).

I don’t know about you, but this is feeling a lot like it did when the pandemic first hit the United States. We were getting all kinds of signals and statements from all kinds of folks. It was hard to know who to listen to.

So, we continue to try and maneuver in a very unsettling time. As a people this would not be the first time that humans have had to live through very trying times. Imagine living in the Middle East or in India right now.

God has to be our constant. It is so easy to look beyond God and look for an end to the pandemic or to the summer when we can be outside and not wear masks, and so on. And while those things may be true, God still must be our constant, because those things may not come true, but God is still there.
So, the one thing that is the same as it was in March of 2020. We focus on God and worship. We call each other and care for each other in a constant and safe manor.

At some point we will walk out of the fog that we call COVID-19. God will walk us through the Red Sea before the water tumbles in on us. But now and in the future God will be with us, you can count on it!

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 05/24/2021

FROM THE COUNCIL (notes from the 05/23/2021 meeting)
The Congregation Council continues to meet twice a month, so they can be responsive to the changes and recommendations from the CDC as well as the state of Pennsylvania. It is the Council’s desire to stay on top of what is happening and ensure a safe environment at St. Andrew’s. With that said, not everyone will agree with everything that the Council decides, never-the-less please keep the Council in your prayers and remember they are trying to find a middle ground that all members of St. Andrew’s can support. Now on to the meeting summary:

• It was decided that there will be NO changes to the 8:30 Zoom Worship experience at this time.
• The following changes will be made to the 10:30 worship experience. The changes will take place starting June 13th to allow time for the office to communicate these changes to the entire congregation.

o There are NO changes if you have NOT been vaccinated.
o IF you have been vaccinated:

▪ You DO NOT have to wear a mask to worship.
▪ You will be able to sing in worship whether that be hymns or liturgy.
▪ Fully vaccinated is understood to means a completed shot regime and two weeks following the last shot.

This seems like a good time to talk about wearing a mask. There should never be any judgement based on someone wearing a mask. The changes we are making are consistent with CDC guidelines. But it may be that someone who has been fully vaccinated may still want to wear a mask, that is okay. It may be that someone is unwilling to receive the vaccine, that we need to respect. As Christians it is important that we love and care for everyone, even if they don’t agree with us.

• Council approved the restart of the choir (up to only 6 choir members) with choir members distanced and rehearsing only in the worship space, with the goal of singing at the 10:30 Worship experience.
• At our outdoor worship experiences (as per CDC guidelines) fully vaccinated folks can worship without a mask and sing. Folks who have not been vaccinated must wear a mask but can sing. All other outdoor worship guidelines will stay in place.
• Both the Easton Parents Support Group and Crossroads AA will be allowed to resume meetings. A set of building use guidelines has been developed for these groups to follow as they re-enter the church building. Please look for those Building Use Guidelines in the next issue of the Cross.
Please remember all members of the congregation are welcome to attend Council meetings. Simply go to the calendar on the church website for the Zoom link.

Letter to the Congregation – 05/13/2021

FROM THE PASTOR

The Community Care Committee is back! Not only are they back, but they are looking to restart some of the ministry that we are familiar with and start some new ministry to enable the congregation to care for the community! Now the details.

  1. We will be collecting canned food. The food banks will receive the canned goods now. There will be a bin in the Narthex for those who come into the church building for 10:30 Worship, and there will be a bin at the entrance to Hope House. (use the entrance off the main parking lot). The rule of thumb is that you only donate your favorite canned good. If you really like it, then it is good to donate.
  2. We will be bringing back the altar basket, well kind of. We will be receiving money for the baskets in memory or in honor of, but the money will go to purchase a case of diapers. There is a very strong need for diapers. A case of diapers runs $25.00 to $50.00. Please call the office to reserve a Sunday just as you did in the past.
  3. We will be looking to partner with the Easton Neighborhood Center. The center provides a whole host of services that we can help with…
    1. Help to unpack the food truck for the food bank
    2. Work in the garden, the center has a very large garden that provides fresh vegetables to those who need food
    3. There is a need for tutors after school
    4. The center runs a transitional housing program. The center works to help folks become employable.
    5. Helping folks with budgeting so they know how to manage and thrive on a budget

As you can see the Center offers many services, there is a place in this program where you can have a positive impact.

We are also in need of more people to serve on the committee. Indeed, there is much to do. And it is exciting to imagine the positive impact that St. Andrew’s can have on the ministry at the Easton Neighborhood Center. Please plan to join us at our next meeting will be held on Thursday, June 24 at 7:00 PM. The link will be on the Church website calendar as well it is listed here: Meeting ID: 850 8953 3739 & Passcode: 372560.
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85089533739?pwd=TGF6cnByRktINjU1ZUdUUnZobGFvUT09

Please see Pastor, Diane Laustsen or Terry Diehl with any interest or questions.

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 05/05/2021

FROM THE PASTOR

I am hearing a lot of talk lately about personal rights around getting the vaccine or wearing a mask.

Now, to be fully honest, I wear a mask (over my nose and mouth) and I have received the vaccine. But, that aside, I am bothered when I hear this discussion of personal rights in relation to these topics.

A Christian’s first thought isn’t about themselves, rather those thoughts need to be about the other people. Indeed, we have Jesus as our guide here. Jesus’ entire life was not about himself, it was about us, you and me. He put up with attacks from the religious leaders for you and me. He died and suffered for you and me. None of it was about him.

In John 15, we are called to love one another as Jesus loved us. Notice, this does not imply that we worry about our personal rights, it just is not about that.

We live in a time and in a country that seems to be overly concerned with personal rights vs. the concerns of our neighbors. That worries me because (as I indicated) as Christians our call is to think outside of ourselves not about ourselves.

For me that makes wearing a mask properly and getting the vaccine an easy thing to do because it helps the people, that I come in contact with, feel more comfortable. And, while we live in a country that embraces personal freedoms, as Christians, God calls us to embrace the concerns of each other.

As you consider the proper course of action concerning masks and vaccines, ask yourself the old question: “What would Jesus want me to do?”

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 03/31/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

Greetings my friends. I wanted to take a moment not to specifically talk about activities at St. Andrew’s, or something that I would like you to participate in, or that I am asking you to support the ministry financially. Yes, those are important, and you will hear from me concerning those things again, but for the moment just some reflections.

To be sure, this past year has been filled with pandemic, and all types of political upheaval. We are living in a historically significant time in human history, and I fear we are not done. We have little to no idea of what is coming next. We can all remember a year ago when we all were making predictions about how long the pandemic would last, how long the restrictions would remain in place, and so on. I know I for one was confident in my predictions, I think in some way they gave us comfort, they gave us the believe that there was “normalcy” right around the corner. They gave us a way to deal with what was going on that limited and changed our lives. Unfortunately, they were nothing more than predictions. I for one never predicted we would still need to wear masks and must limit our worship experience, but worship is still limited.

Current events meant that I had to re-think what leadership meant for me at St. Andrew’s. But truth be told, we all had to re-think. And while some of us were affected differently than others, we all had to re-think our lives. We all will have some level of Post Traumatic Stress that we are dealing with when this is all said and done. So together we have had to re-think. I must say that I have been impressed with the ability of St. Andrew’s to re-think. Churches typically have this stigma that they do not change, they do not re-think well. I have found the opposite to be true. As best as we can, St. Andrew’s is rolling with the punches. From a Council that meets very frequently, and is taking on the difficult decisions, to an office staff working very hard to get information out to the congregation, to excellent attendance on Sunday Mornings (even though worship is different), to all kinds of fun chatter before worship starts. St. Andrew’s continues to adjust and re-think.

For me this is what Easter looks like, the love of God put to work as we all deal with this stuff together. While it is true that we all worship the resurrected Jesus… it is more exciting when our lives are examples of the love that we worship in the resurrected Jesus!

We will have to continue our process of re-thinking. But we do so in the glorious way that we have from the beginning, inspired, and directed by our Risen Christ.

Amen, and Amen.
Pastor Neel

Support St. Andrew’s – 03/13/2021

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Letter to the Congregation – 3/11/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

A “few” weeks ago I made you aware of St. Andrew’s financial situation. I am sorry to say that it has not improved. Rather, because we did not receive an increase, our deficit grew. To be sure, that cannot be a situation that we want to be in, rather we want to be able to pay our bills and grow into new and exciting ministries.

Let me make it clear that if you are struggling financially, I understand. Please talk with me, I would like to help.

But for the rest of us, well, we need to step up to support the ministry of St. Andrew’s.

This is a place that we depend on for worship and education, this is a place where we can talk to our friends and make new ones, this is a place that we can depend on when we need help. This, my dear friends, is a place we all need.

Or at least I need St. Andrew’s, not simply because this is where my job is. While that is true, it is not that simple. I need St. Andrew’s because this is a place where I have experienced God’s Love and kindness, this has been a place where David and I have been accepted for who we are. St. Andrew’s is a special place.  Without a doubt, I need St. Andrew’s.

My guess is that you can add your own list as to why St. Andrew’s is important to you, and if we were all making those lists there would not be room on this paper. It is very exciting to be a part of a place that is so important to so many people.

And it is in that light I ask for your financial support, so that St. Andrew’s continues to be the vital church it is now.

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 02/22/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR AND THE COUNCIL

At the 02/21/2021 Council meeting the Council set the opening of the church for worship to be on Palm Sunday March 28th! It is exciting to be on a path that feels like a little more “normal”. Of course, we are not simply throwing open the doors, we will be adhering to the same guidelines as we did when we reopened the church for worship the last time. Masks, taking temperatures, calling ahead for reservations and the like. The guidelines will be re-published. Neither does this mean we will be ending the Zoom worship experience, that will continue as always. So, on Palm Sunday we will celebrate worship at 8:30, with our 8:00-8:30 social ½ hour. After 8:30 worship, there will be time for Faith Builders, and following Faith Builders we will celebrate 10:30 In Person Worship. We all hope we will be able to maintain and build on this schedule, as we pray that the virus becomes less of a danger.

The Camera for the church worship space was discussed. It is hoped that the camera will be installed by Palm Sunday or Easter so that we will also be able live stream our worship services. Stay tuned for more information.

The roof project is on a temporary hold due to the snow (this article was written on 02/22/2021). When the roof is clear they will complete the project.

Council approved the replacement of the computer for the Bookkeeper as the computer she is using is no longer functioning in a way that is helpful.

Letter to the Congregation – 02/25/2021

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Wednesdays during Lent

This year I asked that you offer any questions that you might have about your faith journeys, and that I would then take the time to address those questions during the meditation time on Wednesdays during Lent. I am please to say that I got a very strong response, thank-you to all who submitted questions.

I will not be able to address all the submitted questions during Lent, however, I do plan on addressing each and every question that I wasn’t able to address during Lent in a sermon series after the season of Easter. So, if your question isn’t answered… it will be.

With that said the following are the topics for our Wednesday worship services:
• February 24 – How do we read the Bible?
• March 3        – God’s Will (part 1)
• March 10      – God’s Will (part 2)
• March 17      – The Trinity
• March 24      – Baptism

If you have not submitted your question, please feel free to get your “question of the faith” to Pastor. I will address it with the remaining questions after Easter.