Letter to the Congregation – 12/18/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

When I ran track, I was taught certain things that helped me run well and improve my race times. Things like how to get off the starting blocks, how to keep a stride, how to build endurance. All these things helped me when I ran and as soon as I forgot or didn’t work at those basics, I did not run as quickly. There was never a time I could take those basics for granted.

As Christians there are basics to our faith journey as well, worship, bible, prayer, giving back to name a few. Our faith journeys suffer when we don’t practice those basics. None of this is to say that God loves us any less or more, rather it’s about how well we are running our faith race.

To be sure we have come up against some challenges that COVID keeps putting in our way. However, we can’t let the challenges from life or from COVID prevent us from doing the basics of our faith, we need those basics to run a strong faith race. We need our faith to face all the challenges of life.

So, please remember to worship with us each Sunday, whether it be at home with coffee and slippers or later after the service has been posted to the website. Of course, we also have two styles of in person worship. And please remember to support the ministries of St. Andrew’s. St. Andrew’s cannot be an afterthought or only if I have enough left over. Supporting the ministry is one of our ministry basics, without which, we will not run a good race.

Please focus on your faith basics, and together we will run the good race.

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 12/10/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

The Council met on December the 5th in a quickly called meeting to discuss the church’s response to the changing pandemic. Perhaps we are all aware of someone who has contracted the virus, perhaps it has hit your family…we are hearing a lot of “stuff” lately not the least of which is that the virus rates are on the rise.

To be sure we understand the context of the discussion at the meeting, the Congregation Council has decided that we would depend on one source of information, as looking to many sources can cause confusion, tension, and frustration. The Council decided to rely on the CDC for its information and recommendations. Note that this decision was made back in the spring of 2020.

The virus issue continues to be an emotional one for all of us, and the Council is no different. But, as a Council, we are committed to the health and safety of the congregation. There are times that we disagree but always leave the meeting as friends.

Please note some of the following items from the 12/05/21 meeting:

• The CDC still defines full vaccination as two shots from either Pfizer or Moderna or one shot from Johnson and Johnson, no other treatment can be considered full vaccination. With that said, our Council, along with our Bishop, strongly recommends receiving a booster shot. We believe, in the near future, the CDC will include the booster to be a part of full vaccination.
• Pastor and David will now wear a mask to distribute Holy Communion at the 10:30 Worship service. In addition, Pastor will remain up front when worship is over and not greet people in the Narthex.
• At this point there are no other changes that have come from the Council meeting, although if the CDC changes their recommendations, the Council will meet to discuss if CDC changes will directly affect St. Andrew’s.

The Council and I are appreciative of everyone’s understanding and support in what continues to be a very long experience with this pandemic. Hold tight to the Hope of Advent and the promise that our loving God will never leave us.

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 11/11/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

Greetings my friends. One of the things that is true is, when a congregation is active and tries to reach out to the community, it also needs more help from the congregation. So, there is also an increase of reaching “in” to the congregation for help in our reach out efforts.

That is beginning to be true here at St. Andrew’s. In addition to our reach out efforts, we are also asking that you increase and/or stay consistent with your giving to the regular budget. It can all feel overwhelming, and perhaps we wonder how can we support it all?

Well, you don’t, but together we can. So perhaps supporting the diaper drive is very important to you. Then, I would say that you should support that drive along with your regular offering. There will be another member of the congregation who can support the laundry soap, and still another the bar soap, and so on.

Together we can make a very strong and positive impact. Indeed, we are not asking that anyone try to make that impact all by themselves.

So, I ask that you continue to make your “regular” offering a priority and choose one or two other items as you have ability. Together, by the Grace of God, we will make an impact.

Thank you for your support.
Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 09/14/2021

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FROM THE COUNCIL (notes from the 9/13/2021 meeting)

  • The financial reports were received by the Council. While the church showed an excess of over $7,000.00 this month, we are still behind approx. $26,000.00 for the year. It was also noted that the church received very large financial gifts from two people this month which accounts for the increase this month. A meeting has been set to address this issue.
  • The Council was pleased with the September 5 welcome back activities and worship
  • Property Committee is finalizing a proposal for bids to be sent to contractors to address the depression in the front parking lot.
  • The Shed has been enlarged and renewed, many thanks to Aidan Perry for choosing St. Andrew’s for his Eagle project.
  • Community Care Committee met with the Director of the Easton Neighborhood Center Ross Markus. The committee continues to fine tune its focus, watch for ways you can participate in the future
  • SAW Met in the church building for its September meeting! The Soup Sale is coming up in the beginning of October.
  • Worship & Music proposed, and the Council approved:
    Additional way to receive Communion on Sundays

    • Communion will be offered the way it has been offered, with prepackaged communion cup in your pew
    • You can receive Communion by coming forward to the base of the steps to the altar where you will receive bread, wine, or grape juice. To maintain distance each group of people in a pew will come forward separately. To prevent a line to receive communion everyone else will remain in their pews until it is their turn to receive communion.

NOTE: Please remember that you are welcome to join Council by going to the church website calendar to access the Zoom codes.

Letter to the Congregation – 09/07/2021

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FROM THE COUNCIL (from the August 29th meeting)

Let’s make this report short and sweet: After a healthy discussion the Council decided that we will be offering the following worship opportunities starting September 12th:

  • 8:30: In Person worship, ALL worshippers will be required to wear a mask whether you have or have not been fully vaccinated. This follows CDC recommendations and of course will protect our children 12 and under who cannot receive the vaccination.
  • 8:30: The 8:30 worship will be live streamed. You will access that service the same way that you accessed the Zoom service. The link to the service will be on the main page of the church website (as well as on the calendar page). That link to the service will be active by 8:20 for the 8:30 service.
  • 10:30: This worship service will remain unchanged. Masks will remain optional for the fully vaccinated but will be required for those who have not been vaccinated.

NOTE: The 8:30 live stream worship service will continue to be posted on the church’s website for viewing at another time.

Of course, this continues to be an ever-changing situation. Every time Council meets dealing with the pandemic is on our agenda. Our next meeting is September 13th at 7:00, you are always welcome to join us. The link can be accessed by going to the church website and going to the calendar.

Letter to the Congregation – 08/23/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

I’d like everyone to save the date… December 19 from 2:00PM to 5:00PM David and I will be holding a holiday open house, and we are hoping everyone can stop by for some goodies and conversation. More details to follow… again, mark your calendars for December 19th.

Now moving on to something else. I want to grab an idea that comes directly from our ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. I find her to be a wonderful and inspiring leader. The question she posed: How would you tell people that you are a member of St. Andrew’s without saying St. Andrew’s? Nope, you can’t say the church at Freemansburg Ave and Stones Crossing; that would be cheating.

(I’m giving you time to think here)

  • Okay how about I’m part of a church that loves and accepts you without question no matter who you are.
  • I’m part of a church that cares about what happens in the community. I’m part of a church that believes in a gracious God that loves you unconditionally.

Think about it… we are called to share the good news of Jesus in an exciting way that helps people embrace the message of the Gospel just like St. Andrew’s did in the early 1950s. After all that is the heart and soul of who we are and who we need to be as Christians.

Let me know what your answers are, no, really, I mean that, let me know, I will publish all your ideas (no, I won’t put your name to your idea, not that you have anything to be ashamed of) but in the end it will be good to know what we all think about St. Andrew’s.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 08/16/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

Greetings! We are soon going to be in the fall program schedule, and I am excited to say that things are starting to percolate again at St. Andrews. Faith Builders and Youth both have social events scheduled, Community Care Committee is ramping up, and SAW is planning a program year! It is a joy to see activity at St. Andrew’s after a long winter of COVID.

Two things that I want to address with you that will affect us as we move into more activity:

  • KEYS: The exterior locks on all our doors (Hope House and Church building) have been changed. However, NONE of the interior locks have been changed. So please if you have a key do not discard that key it might still be useful. Please know that if you had a key to the church, that does not mean you will receive a new one. As we evaluated our key system, we found that people were in the church after we closed the building because of COVID, and that people were in the church office looking through the administrator’s desks. It’s unfortunate but we felt we had to go with a more secure and limited use key system. With that said we are not wanting to limit ministry. So please be patient and talk to me if you feel that you can’t do the ministry you feel called to do. We will work this out, support ministry and keep the buildings at St. Andrew’s secure.
  • 8:30 WORSHIP: Starting September 5th 8:30 worship will be In Person worship. Worship at 8:30 will be the same as 10:30. This is a step toward a more “normal” worship practice here at St. Andrew’s. Please know that we will live stream the 8:30 Worship if you are still unwilling to enter the church building. Don’t be afraid of the term live stream, if you log on to the 8:30 Zoom service, you will do the exact same thing to log on to the live stream, NO difference. The links will still be on the website face page and in the website calendar and listed on the front of the bulletin mailed to your home. Two things you will notice that are different. 1. The fellowship time at the beginning and end of worship will not happen. 2. Worship will be live. Pastor will not be in the Hope House kitchen with a church backdrop, rather you will be watching the 8:30 worship as it is happening.

We have had to get used to the way COVID forced us to do worship, as we move out from under the long winter, I encourage you to embrace the changes that in the end will bring us all back together again. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen…A-men to that!

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 07/20/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

So, we have to talk money. Of course, nobody wants to talk money; I get that, but facts are facts we must talk money. First the figures. For this past month, we ended approximately $1,000 behind expenses and about $2,000 behind budget. In comparison to last month, this was a better month by about $3,000. So, there is good and bad news in those facts. Giving increased! Thank you, thank you, thank you. But we need to bump it up a bit more to dig out of our deficit spending.

This does not mean that we are not appreciative of those who increased their giving, of course we are. But, it does seem to me that the few are supporting the many. Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, a lot more people were giving to support the mission and ministry of St. Andrew’s. That pattern started to slack off right after Easter. This is not a pattern that is a sustainable growth pattern for the church. All gifts to St. Andrew’s matter. Of course, if one person wrote a $30,000.00 check once a month that would pay the bills. You and I both know that won’t happen, but I do know that lots of people can write a $25.00 or $50.00 check a month. That is a pattern that will promote growth.

One of the things that makes a church special, and what makes St. Andrew’s special, is that we come together as a group to make a difference in our community. We did that when we raised $750.00 worth of diapers. Together your gifts are supporting the re-start of the Youth and Community Care groups. It supports ongoing ministries like Saint Andrew’s Women. You support the worship experience. I could continue but suffice it to say that St. Andrew’s is a vital place, and it needs everyone’s support to stay that way.

So, if you have increased your giving and you give on a regular basis, thank you! If giving to St. Andrew’s is not a priority, please bump your offering up the priority list. We need your support; we need everybody’s support. That is who church is, a group of people who come together to celebrate and proclaim the good news of Jesus. Together we will prosper.

Thank you!
Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 07/15/2020

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FROM THE PASTOR

We seem to be in the same kind of situation that we were in way back in March of 2020. Getting a whole lot of information that seems to change in a quick fashion. Ok, if you are vaccinated it seems like we are going to be good to go… but then again there is the variant, and just how well does the vaccine hold up against the new variant. Well, that seems like it depends on what you read. So much can vary, and it feels like every expert has a different opinion.

Again, seems like March of 2020. One of the things that the Congregation Council decided at that time was to go with one source of information on which to base our decisions. The Council choose to use the recommendations from the CDC. That really helped the Council in its decision-making process. That is not to say that every one of our decisions have been perfect, but I think we are doing okay. And I am going to encourage you to do the same. Choose a trusted source and make your decisions based on one source. Limit how much news you are watching. An overabundance of news/information does not help rather it serves to make us more anxious.

And to be sure God needs to be your anchor, pray, take time to pray.

Moving on to the next item to think about, the compromise in the asphalt in the front parking lot. Just to repeat what I said during the announcements on Sunday. There is so much we do not know, and to be sure we do not know that the ‘compromise’ is a sink****. And I am not going to say it unless the professionals tell me that is what it is. We are under contract with a firm who will investigate the ‘compromise’ and we will keep you up to date.

On a more exciting note, a group concerned with re-energizing our youth program is meeting on July 19th and the Community Care Committee is meeting on July 29th. I am excited about the potential of getting these ministries going. Anyone is invited to join us for either of those meetings. I see this as the beginning of lots of exciting things that will happen at St. Andrew’s. JOIN US!

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 06/15/2021

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FROM THE PASTOR

Money, Money, Money, a song by Abba, (yes, your Pastor likes the musical group Abba) was also used in the movie Mamma Mia. It is a song that dreams about being rich. And while many of us dream about a time when we would all have plenty of money to do whatever we want…… hmmm… I guess that would be the lure of the lottery. I’m going to hit it big someday.

Well, the fact is that chances of winning the lottery are slim to none. And the problem is that the church (and therefore the ministries of St. Andrew’s) suffers when the mindset is I’ll give when I have enough.

St. Andrew’s does well when everyone gives what they can. Yes, of course there is a core of people that give more than most can, but we only meet our budget and grow our ministry if everybody gives on a consistent and regular basis. The key there is everyone.

I believe that is how Jesus wants it. Everyone coming together, everyone giving what they can. Everyone!

In the end, we are blessed richly by God’s Grace and God’s gift of Eternal Life. Our sense of giving to the church must start with the knowledge that God first gave us life, creation, and all that is good around us. What we do is give back.

Please support the ministries of St. Andrew’s. We all need each other to grow forward.

Pastor Neel