From the Council – 11/9/2020

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At the November 9, 2020 Congregation Council meeting, the Council discussed whether it would be appropriate to close the church building again, knowing that the Covid-19 rates are on the rise in Pennsylvania.
At this point the church building is being used in three ways:
1. St. Andrew’s Nursery School
2. 10:30 In Person Sunday Worship
3. Scheduled Eucharist
For Worship and Scheduled Eucharist the Council decided that if Northampton County goes back to yellow from green, or if someone who attends either 10:30 worship or Scheduled Eucharist contracts the virus, we would cease to use the building for those activities. It is important to note that Pastor, Warren, and Mark Jonkman would all have to quarantine for two weeks if someone would contract the virus and they attended the 10:30am worship service.
The Nursery School is a little more complex
• It is important to note that the Nursery School does NOT use the Worship Space or the Narthex area.
• They will close if Northampton County goes to yellow.
• If there is a case of the virus at the school, they will close for two weeks.
• If both elementary schools in Palmer Township close, the Nursery School will close.
• If the Easton Area School District closes, then the Nursery School will close.
To be sure these were exceedingly difficult decisions, but they were made with every effort to protect the safety and health of all people who use the church building. Please be assured that if we must close, the Council will monitor the situation closely and open the building as soon as it is safe to do so.

Pastor’s Message – 11/9/2020

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Advent 2020
Advent is just around the corner, even in the middle of a pandemic time still seems to fly by Never-the-less Advent arrives November 29th with the First Sunday in Advent. What follows are some worship details and opportunities for the season of Advent.
We are asking those who participate in the Zoom worship to round up four blue candles, as we will burn those candles during worship. I encourage you to use blue candles as blue is a symbol of hope. Hope, something we all need right now, hope is a God that loves us hope in a baby born in a manger. For those with children in your household I encourage you to help them create a wreath, maybe color a wreath that can be used with the candles, however it works for you, but this will be a time that as the St. Andrew’s family we will light the wreath of hope together.
We will be sharing worship with the good folks at St. John’s (Downtown Easton). Worship will be at 7:00pm and it will be Zoom based. These worship experiences will be meditative in nature. Be prepared to use an Advent wreath with blue candles that we will light at the beginning of worship. The first Wednesday (December 2) we meditate on “The Creative Breath” The second Wednesday (December 9) we consider “Light and Darkness”, and the third Wednesday we will focus on “Birth and Re-birth”. On the fourth Wednesday we will gather for “A Healing Christmas” The holidays are not always happy and joyous times for all of us. This worship takes that seriously and helps us to find hope when we are feeling sorrow.
Find the Zoom log on information below
Meeting ID: 840 0720 0910
Passcode: 661248
Dial by your location
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
Find your local number:
Please join us during Advent as we journey to the birth of the Christ Child
Pastor Neel

Pastor’s Message – 11/2/2020

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On October 24, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod while in assembly elected a new Bishop for a 6-year term. Pastor Christopher deForest was elected as our next Bishop. Our current Bishop will serve until December 31, and Bishop elect deforest will begin his term as Bishop on January 1, 2021.
Of course, it is possible that you don’t know much about Bishop-elect deForest, so what follows are excerpts from his bio.

He grew up in Tennessee and Virginia, He is 56 years old, married with children.
He did his undergraduate work in New Mexico and was a Pre-Med student, he completed his Bachelors in English and writing from the University of New Mexico. He went on to Wartburg Seminary for his Master of Divinity.
His is a second career person and worked as a Director of Communication, to Admissions Advisor and then co-pastored with his wife at St. John ‘s Mahoning before he was called to Trinity Lutheran Church in Kutztown where he currently serves. He also serves as a Creative Marketing Consultant, helping congregations to define and market their mission.
He has been active on the Synodical level as well has been active in the Kutztown Community serving as Chaplain for the Kutztown Police Department, and Pastor for Campus Ministry at Kutztown University.

This is how he describes his leadership style:
As a leader, if you bring me a dire situation, or an insurmountable obstacle – the Christ who died will invite us to face those challenges with a clear head and a kind heart. And then, the God who raised Jesus from the dead, will challenge us to wonder: “Where is the new life coming from?” So, as a leader, if I know God has ultimately “got this,” I am free to invite us all to experiment, rethink, rework, renew, recreate, letting the Holy Spirit be our Guide.
I will strive to be a good listener, a good collaborator, a good proclaimer of the work, a good pastor to the staff and pastors and the congregations, a good partner with other denominations and faiths and organizations that bring God’s love and life into the world.
Finally, my leadership style includes humor; the willingness to be silly when it builds more community; I have a flair for the dramatic and love for liturgy; and most of all, I want to hear from as many people as possible, before going forward.

Keep Bishop-elect Christopher deForest in your prayers.

Pastor’s Message – 10/12/2020

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Greetings my dear friends! We are entering one of the busy times of the church year, and just because of the pandemic we don’t want to be cheated out of all that the liturgical year offers to us this time of the year. To that end your Worship & Music Committee has been busy. What follows are the Sunday morning Sunday happenings, I know you will want to be a worship!
October 25 – Reformation: We will share a confession from 1892, a part of our Lutheran heritage, Pastor will speak to our Lutheran heritage from Martin Luther to 1892 and to the present. Please remember to wear RED!
November 1 – All Saints Day: The tradition at this service is to read the names of the saints while we ring a bell in their honor. This tradition will not change. Please remember to get the name of your loved one to the office so that they can be included in the list.
November 29 – The beginning of Advent: We will have a responsive liturgy when we light the Advent Wreath. For those who are worshiping at home we encourage you to purchase four Blue (the color of hope) for Advent and be prepared to light your candle at home during worship.
December 2 – The beginning of Wednesday in Advent worship. For the first three Wednesdays in Advent we will be offering quiet devotional time of worship. The last Wednesday in Advent we will be offering something called a Healing Christmas. This worship service is offered for all those who find this time of the year to be difficult. Perhaps you are missing a loved one, perhaps you are missing not being able to be out at the holiday gatherings, what ever it is, this worship service is for you.
December 24 – Christmas Eve: Of course things will not be the same, but we are trying to keep some of the elements of Christmas Eve Worship that we all love. We will be able to light our candles during silent night, if you at home please have a candle ready. Our Tree will be up behind the altar for all to see. PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING WORSHIP TIMES:
7:00 PM In person worship
8:30 PM In person worship if we run out of room at the 7:00 PM worship
10:00 PM will be our streaming worship.
Please watch for more details as time marches forward, but we wanted you to have a taste of what is coming.
Pastor Neel

From the Council – 10/5/2020

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Greetings my friends. As you receive this it will be October, and as much as we are struggling through this pandemic, at times it feels like time is moving quickly. So be it, I’d like to share some this and that including some notes from our last Council meeting.

• A financial note: last time I wrote I was happy to say that we were doing better, well I am even happier to say that trend continued, at first blush we should be able to meet September’s budget and begin to pay back some of that $5,500.00 deficit. Please keep up your support and a big thank you for all that you have done. As of this writing I do not have exact numbers but I will share them as soon as I receive them.
• We continue to look for people to serve on the Congregation Council. I encourage you to think about serving on the Council. While there are some “nuts and bolts” that are associated with serving on the council, it is also a wonderful opportunity to serve with a great bunch of people and find wonderful ways to have an impact on the ministries of St. Andrew’s. Call me!
• St. Andrew’s Nursery School is doing very well. Hats off to a superior staff and director, and off course we are blessed with a great group of children that we are blessed to serve.
• We have received the components that are necessary to install a camera in the worship space. When that happens we hope to celebrate the 8:30 Zoom service live! Stay tuned more info will come your way.
• Speaking of more info, please be aware that there are many things that are still happening…

o Confirmation starts October 25 6:30 PM!
o Reformation Worship will have a “little” change…. Remember to wear RED
o We will still celebrate All Saints, with names and the ringing of the bell
o Advent and Christmas are right around the corner, Worship and Music are working to make those seasons special… stay tuned!

In the end I want to express my thanks for all the hard work by both staff and volunteers that make St. Andrew’s the great church that it is, it is a joy to be your pastor.
Pastor Neel

Pastor’s Message – 9/28/2020

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One of the devotions for this week dealt with betrayal. This may be a story (from Genesis 27) that you know. When Jacob goes into his father (Isaac) and steals Esau’s birthright. Of course, Jacob does this at the urging of his mother. Jacob gets away with this because Isaac is blind and failing.
Of course, Esau finds out and is not very happy about what Jacob did, therefore, again at the urging of his mother Jacob flees rather than face the vengeance of his brother Esau.
What follows in Genesis is Jacob’s story while he is on the run. There are ups and downs, but more importantly I’m not so sure that you could call his life a happy one.
And in some ways, I believe that this is one of the biggest messages from this story. Had the two brothers had open and honest communication this all could have been avoided. Open and honest sharing of how you feel with family, and friends is critical to maintaining meaningful relationships.
So often life’s big issues are big issues because no one wants to talk about whatever the issue is. It feels like it will be too difficult to talk about, It will hurt feelings if I bring that up, I really feel bad and am struggling with what I said… no matter what it is the issue it gets bigger when it isn’t discussed.
In the end Esau and Jacob work it out. It turns out that their relationship was more important than a stupid action by Jacob. Thank goodness that Esau and Jacob it worked out. But too often people go to their graves without the resolution that Esau and Jacob found.
If this is something that is a part of your life, do what you can to talk and work toward the resolution that Esau and Jacob found. Our lives and the joy that we can experience are far more important, than a difficult issue. If you need help navigating through the issue call me, I’ll talk to you anytime.
Pastor Neel

From the Council – 9/21/2020

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The following are notes from the 09/14/2020 Council meeting.
• The Council received a report from St Andrew’s Nursery School. Things are going very well; parents and children are adjusting very well to the new rules that had to be put into place because of the pandemic.
• A budget was approved to bring to the congregation on December 6th. The budget is in essence a no increase budget.
• The Council also discussed names of the congregation who will be asked to serve on Council. As we will also be electing Council Members on December 6th
• The in-person Worship Services were reviewed
• The Ministry areas of the congregation were reviewed
o Confirmation classes start October 25th (Zoom will be used)
o The church roof is still being investigated, waiting for final inspection of the steeple
• The Council discussed methods that we might use to enable congregational voting as we look forward to voting on the budget and new council members.
Please note that all members of the church are encouraged to attend Council meetings. You have voice but not vote at all Council meetings.

Pastor’s Message – 9/21/2020

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Not that long ago I wrote to you as told you that in one month we had a $5,500 deficit. That was an unsettling thing to write to you, and I am sure it was a bit unsettling to hear. Well I am happy to say that many of you responded, and while we did not break even, we had a monthly deficit of $1,100. That is excellent progress toward breaking even.

I am very grateful for everyone who responded, St. Andrew’s needs consistent support so that we can maintain a vital and healthy ministry.

Of course, we cannot maintain a $1,100 deficit, and of course we need a little stronger support… but I do not want you to feel like you already gave, but it is never enough. Truly I am very grateful for the increase in giving, but neither will I ever lie to you about the numbers we all face to keep St. Andrew’s active and healthy.

Thank you for your support… keep it coming.

Note: when you see the month, end numbers it will look like we had an $800.00 surplus. But truth be told a bill for $1,900.00 was not included in those numbers. That bill will be reflected in the next months numbers. But in reality, we did not have a surplus but a $1,100.00 deficit.

Pastor Neel

Letter to Congregation – 8/10/2020

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There is a lot right now that we are hoping to do or are afraid that we might have to do. Going to school (I think) is a perfect example of that. I think some people are looking forward to going back to school, some will go but not really sure how they feel about it and others are simply just to scared to go back into the school building.
If we only knew more about the virus, if we only knew when the vaccine was coming, if we only knew…
And in many ways that if/then struggle is what makes this time of decision so difficult, so difficult for schools, and to be sure so difficult for churches.
From a leadership perspective the struggle is always how do we keep the congregation safe, how do we respect the different feelings that are represented in the congregation, and how do we do that when the rules change so often and so quickly. Of course, the easiest thing to do is simply to stay closed. But the easiest answer is not always the best answer and does not take into account how the entirety of the congregation feels. And because as Christians we need to accommodate different feelings rather than the majority rules, it is important to make decisions based on how the entirety of the congregation is feeling. Therefore we have listened to the results of the survey and are opening the church building for worship on September 6th, We are maintaining Zoom worship in its current form, We are offering Scheduled Eucharist and will be holding worship outside on September 13th.
We need your support to make sure these offerings go well. We will need ushers and people willing to take temperatures at the in-church building services. We need a willingness to follow the guidelines so that everyone can feel safe, we need a willingness to accept that changes that will be a part of worship at this time, AND we also need your financial support. We cannot move forward without your support in all of these areas.
There is so much we do not know about the future, but two things I know to be true, we are still the wonderful church of St. Andrew’s and God still loves us and walks with us.

Letter to Congregation – 8/3/2020

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I would like to take a moment to comment on the “Black Lives Matter” movement. No, I am not trying to become political here, that is not my role as your pastor, it is not now and will not be in the future.
But I do think it is important to note that by saying Blacks Lives Matter, it does not mean that other lives do not matter, and neither does it mean that you do not like or support police. I support our police department; I do not support awful actions by anyone.
Please we must start from that prospective. To be sure it is not okay for police to abuse people and it is not okay for protestors to be violent. But I do not believe that police or Black People want harm, rather I believe they want peace and justice. I believe that some individuals want to do harm, but not whole groups of people.
We are all God’s children, equally loved by our God. But the problem happens when segments of society are treated differently than other parts of society. As a gay man I can say I have experienced that different treatment, and it hurts. That is why when St. Andrew’s welcomed me it meant so much and helped to heal the hurt. And in the end, it helped me to know very specifically that it was okay that I am gay.
And see that is an important understanding in this movement. When you have been hurt you need to know that you are okay… not, yes, we are all equally okay, but you need to know you are okay. Hence, Black Lives Matter. It is okay to say it. To be sure that doesn’t mean all other lives don’t matter, it simply means that we in a loving way are saying that Black Lives Matter, That Blacks Lives are precious children of God, because that is what is very important to say right now.
And, this is why I don’t feel this is (or should be) political because it is a Christian reaction to respond (in a loving way) to one of God’s children who are hurting to help them understand they are loved and care for… it is only when all parties involved know they are loved and respected that we can come together and work for peace.
Pastor Neel