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.

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