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.

Letter to the Congregation – 02/09/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

Greetings my dear friends. At the Council meeting last night (02/08/2021) we received the financial report that we have fallen behind in our offerings. Specifically, we have fallen $6,591.19 behind our budget which we were able to reduce for 2021. To be sure this is not good news. Now I am not playing Chicken Little here and saying that the sky is falling, but it is important to for all of us to keep current with our offerings…

Some other notes:
The offering received thus far in February is low.
We have received a significant bill to clear the parking lot from the 2 feet plus of snow we received. The bill is $3,245.00. Yes, that is a very large bill. Please keep in mind it was a very large snow fall that required a lot of attention, and it is in keeping with the contract that was signed by the church in 2019.
I am still not saying that the sky is falling, but we do need your help to get over this financial bump and your continued help to maintain the mission and ministry of St. Andrew’s.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Pastor or any member of the Congregation Council.

FROM THE COUNCIL
Highlights from the 02/08/2021 Council Meeting

• Council received report from Finance that we are falling behind budget by $6,591.19.

• It was confirmed that the church building would remain closed through and including February 21, 2021. And at the Council meeting on the 21st we agreed to continue our discussion on when the church would be open for In Person Worship

• There was a request for access for items stored at the church. The Council felt that it was necessary to keep all groups out of the building to protect both the nursery and those who are wanting access. There are many groups that use the building and have items stored in the church building, but to keep everyone safe no one may have access to the building expecting for the Nursery School and the Pastor to check the building when it is not occupied.

• It was noted that attendance at the Congregational Meeting was quite good, the Council celebrated the Congregation’s participation in the meeting.

• It was noted that the Processional Cross has been returned to the church after being out for refurbishment and repair. It looks like new!

• The roof project to mostly complete, however the snow has put the project on hold. The roof will be completed when the weather and the snow permit.

• The re-keying of the church has hit a snag and Property Committee is working with the “Lock Doctor” to remedy. We anticipate that when the church building opens, we will have the news keys ready to go.

• The SAW Executive Committee met, and they are planning another raffle in the future, keep watching for more details.

• Worship and Music is looking into a better way to store our paraments, more details to come.

• Lent and Holy Week are being planned. Plans are being made to accommodate both In Person and Zoom worship. Pastor and David will be recording some parts of the worship in St. Andrew’s worship space.

You are always welcome to join Council, you can access the Zoom link from the church website, going to the calendar and clicking on the Council Meeting entry.

Letter to the Congregation – 02/01/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR
Greetings my dear friends, understanding the fact that some of you just received my Christmas letter I am hoping that you receive our other mailings in a little timelier manner. Please keep the workers at the Post Office in your prayers, they are under a lot of pressure these days.

On January 24, the Council met in a supplemental meeting. As always, we reviewed the church building closure, but the major discussion focused on St Andrew’s Nursery School. More specifically, the financial support of the nursery school teachers who have been laid off. There was concern from the Council that the teachers need some level of financial support. There was concern at the Council meeting that we might lose teachers to other jobs or nursery school programs.

To be totally fair the teachers were not complaining, rather Dori reported that the teachers understood why the Council closed the building.

The church applied for a PPP Loan from the government the first time that was made available to the public. We were successful in our application and the (approx. $32,000.00) loan turned into a grant. Knowing that we were blessed with that funding we wanted to support the Nursery School. To that end the nursery school was offered one month’s salary (approx. $8,500.00) as a way to help the teachers during a time that they had no income.

As your pastor I totally support helping our nursery school teachers during this difficult time. I believe the nursery school is a particularly important ministry that we sponsor here at St. Andrew’s.

I continue to be grateful for the resources that God has blessed us with that enable us to be a strong and vital ministry despite the pandemic, thank you and praise be to God!

Pastor Tom Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 01/21/2021

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FROM THE COUNCIL AND THE PASTOR

The Congregation Council met on January 17th to primarily discuss the church closure, but we also discussed replacement of the worship space roof.

1) The Roof. Just to be clear, while there is some repair to the flat roof by the kitchen entrance, the roof that is being replaced is the roof over the worship space. The existing slate roof will be removed and replaced with a 50-year asphalt shingle. This includes replacing the slate that is on the base of the steeple. The work is planned for start on January 27 and is anticipated to last 5 days. If you drive by the church building you might see the roofer’s equipment on the small parking lot adjacent to Freemansburg Ave as well as dumpsters on either side of the worship space.
Farina & Farina will be doing the work and the cost is estimated to be $18,945.00. The money will come from the building fund.

2) The Nursery School. It was decided that St. Andrew’s Nursery School would reopen as of February 1st. All our teachers are scheduled to receive their vaccines and the same protocols that were practiced previously will still be in place when the school reopens in February.

3) In Person Worship. It was decided to put off opening the church for worship until at such time the pastor can receive the vaccine. Of course, that means that the pastor must receive the first and second dose of the vaccine. For those who are missing In Person Worship, the Council and the Pastor offer their apologies. This is a decision to try and keep everyone safe.
The good news is that the Pastor did receive the first vaccine on 01/20/2021 and is scheduled to receive the second vaccine on 02/16/2021. So please watch for updates.

Remember the Council meets on a more frequent schedule to discuss the church closure. All members are welcome to join Council meetings. Please access the Zoom log on info in the calendar here on the church website.

Letter to the Congregation – 01/12/2021

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FROM THE COUNCIL

The Congregation Council met on January 11 for their monthly meeting. This was the first time the Council met with eleven members; indeed it was a joy to have more input and energy in the Zoom room. What follows are some of the highlights from the meeting.

1. It was reported during the financial reports that the congregation ended 2020 in the black! This is very significant as we are all struggling through the pandemic and, as a rule, the first year a full-time pastor is back on staff, congregations can struggle to meet the budget due to the increased expense of paying a full-time pastor. Thank you for your financial support of St. Andrew’s!

2. Pastor Neel reported that our average worship attendance for 2020 was approximately 115 per Sunday. Again, this has been a different type of year, Council viewed this as a positive response from the congregation.

3. Please do not forget to attend the Annual meeting on February 7th, immediately following worship. The Annual reports will be e-mailed to those who have e-mail capability. For those who do not, paper copies of the reports will be ready by Monday, January 25 and can be picked up at Hope House.

4. Looking forward to Lent:
– If the church building is closed, we will hold only one service on Ash Wednesday at 7:00PM.
– For Wednesday in Lent everyone is asked to think about a “Question of Faith.” So, we are asking that you share any questions that you might have, concerning the Bible or Lutheran Theology, with Pastor or the church office. Pastor will compile your responses and the meditations on Wednesdays in Lent will address these questions.

5. The Roof: The Council has approved a proposal to replace the church roof and repair the roof by the church entrance at the kitchen. The cost is just under $19,000.00. The project will be paid for with the funds that we already have in the building fund, so there will be no need for a congregational appeal.

6. The Property Committee solicited multiple bids and this bid from Farina & Farina was the best. We have worked with Farina & Farina in the past and have been very pleased with the quality of their work.

7. A shout out to Chuck Bleice who did the Lion’s share of the leg work so that Property Committee could make its decision.

8. You will have opportunity to ask questions about this project at the Congregational Meeting on February 7th.

Letter to the Congregation – 01/04/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR AND THE COUNCIL

Greetings to you, prayers and thoughts for a blessed 2021. We all have lots of hope that 2021 will be different than 2020. To be sure that a full and complete end of the pandemic would be great, 2021 won’t bring a magical end, but rather a gradual end. I ask for patience, because safety still must be a high priority, and I ask for respect as we will not all agree as how to more forward. But, just as God has been with us in 2020 God will be with us in 2021. We can depend on God and that is how we can move forward.

The Congregation Council met on January 3rd. A large part of the discussion centered around keeping the church closed or opening the church up for activities, namely Nursery School and Worship. Before that discussion we welcomed four new members to Council, It was absolutely wonderful to have a fuller Council table, welcome to Sharon, Nancy, Terry and Debbie!

So, when will we open the church building again? We still are not sure. But we did decide to keep the church building closed through and including the 31st of January. Not everyone will agree with that decision. That is understood, but please understand that the Council made the decision with the safety of the congregation and nursery children in mind.

While the Council is educated by what the school districts are doing, what other churches are doing and what the COVID-19 case numbers are looking like, in the end the decision is made from a core sense of what is safest.

You have our promise that we will continue to meet on a weekly basis to discuss this matter, and that you are welcome to join any of the Council meetings to express your concerns. (we meet by Zoom, please access the church website, go to the calendar and you will find a link to the meeting, or call the church office for help).

Wishing you God Peace
Pastor Neel and Your Congregation Council

Church Council Officers for 2021
April Shaheen – President
Blair Miers – Vice President
Jonathan Bleice -Treasurer
Sharon Wasmer – Secretary