Letter to the Congregation – 08/16/2021

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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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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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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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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

From the Council – 06/14/2021

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FROM THE COUNCIL (summary from the June 14th Congregation Council meeting)

• It was noted that we are not meeting the anticipated revenues to meet our approved budget. This past month we fell under what was needed to meet expenses by $2,614.62. It is very important that giving is consistent.

• The Council continued the process of opening church facilities to support ministries.

o Effective immediately, funerals can be held in the worship space, following the same guidelines that we have in place for 10:30am worship.
o All church related groups (including Girl Scouts) will be welcomed back to the church building as of September 1st.
o The church kitchen will be open for use starting September 1st.
o Pastor will meet with the leader(s) of each group to go over building use guidelines and how the kitchen is to be cleansed after each use.

• At this time, the Council did not feel it was wise to host the Fall Fair.

• Faith Builders will be hosting an Ice Cream party July 10 starting at 6:30pm (yum!) and a movie night on August 28. Mark your calendars

• Property reported that an agreement has been signed to have the church re-keyed with a secure key system. This should be completed in time for September 1st, when many of our groups will have access to the building again.

• Property also reported that there is an issue with the Front Parking lot. Part of the lot is sinking and needs to be investigated immediately. Council agreed and took the proper steps to investigate what is happening. In the meantime, the front parking lot should not be used for any purpose. The congregation will be made aware of what is happening as soon as we understand what is causing the lot to sink.

• Community Care reported a good response to the Diapers and Canned Good plea. They will be meeting on June 24th to expand their ranks and look to establish a deeper relationship with the Easton Neighborhood Center.

• Memorial reported that all the bricks for the Memorial Garden have been installed. Once the office receives names of those who purchased bricks, letters will be going out to the families.

Please remember any member of the congregation can join a Congregation Council meeting and express their opinion. Go to the church website, click on the calendar and the Zoom link to the meeting is there. Our next meeting is Sunday evening June 27th at 7:30pm.

Letter to the Congregation – 06/01/2021


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


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


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.

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

Pastor Neel

Letter to the Congregation – 05/05/2021


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