Letter to the Congregation – 12/7/2020

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At the December 6th Meeting of the Congregation Council, it was decided to keep the church building closed thru and including January 10th. These are always difficult decisions as the Council is painfully aware of the impact that a closed church building has on those people who depend on the church building to support the ministries that they are involved in.
The January 10th date was chosen as it is approximately two weeks after the New Year’s Holiday. In addition, the Council will continue to meet very frequently to address this situation.
Nevertheless, we felt that with the virus continuing to spike, we wanted to act in a way that would promote the health and safety of all of those who might use the church building.
To that end there can be no access to the building. As we did back in March, the only people allowed in the church building are Dori and Pastor who are only entering to check the building and make sure everything is okay, otherwise the church building is not to be accessed.
You are most welcome to join us at Council. We will be meeting December 14 at 7:00 (Monday), December 20 at 7:30 (Sunday), NO meeting on December 27, January 3 at 7:30 (Sunday). Of course, we meet by Zoom.

I want to take a moment to express my thanks to St Andrew’s for showing up and supporting the congregation by taking part in the congregational meeting that dealt with the budget and the election of council members.
We can celebrate those who are joining the Council! We will be reaching 11 members on the Council! What a wonderful think to have that level of commitment to the leadership of St. Andrew’s.
It is also extraordinary that we had such a large attendance at the congregational meeting. Again, it was wonderful to see the level of support from the congregation for St. Andrew’s.
You continue to surprise me in so many positive ways, December 6 was just another positive surprise! Thank you
Pastor Neel

Congregational Meeting: December 6, 2020

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Our constitution requires that we have two congregational meetings in the course of the year. One on the first Sunday in December, and one in January. Our December meeting is to consider a budget for the coming year and to elect members to the Congregation Council. January is more of an open meeting when we celebrate the congregation’s ministries and discuss anything that anyone wants to talk about.
So, that means on December 6 we will be holding a meeting to address the budget for 2021 and elect Council Members. Please mark the date and plan to be a part of that meeting. It is very important that we come together and address these important topics in the life of St. Andrew’s.
This year, of course, will be different, because we are still in the throws of the Covid-19 pandemic. After much discussion at Council, it was decided that we will proceed in the following way:
• There will be one worship at 8:30 on December 6th and it will be a Zoom format.
• The Congregational meeting will take place after worship at 9:30 and it too will be a Zoom format.
• For those who must call in by phone, we will make sure that we record your vote by voice.
• For those who can be on Zoom you will have the ability to vote by using Zoom’s polling capability. (PLEASE DO NOT WORRY YOU WILL BE GUIDED THRU THAT PROCESS)
• The budget and the list of names will be given to you in advance. We encourage you to share your questions ahead of time so that we can address them at the meeting. While questions can be asked at the meeting, it will be easier if we know what the questions are ahead of time
• You will notice that the budget is lower than last year, that is primarily due to the fact that Pastor will be covered by his husband’s insurance. The church pays that cost but it is significantly cheaper for the same coverage.
Please make it a priority to join us for the Congregational meeting on December 6th, things will be a bit different, but together we will make this work.

Letter to the Congregation 11 18 2020

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The Council met on 11/17/2020 to discuss the possibility of closing the church building in the same fashion it was closed back in March. We had incorrectly believed that the Governor of Pennsylvania would go back to the red, yellow, and green system. We discovered that we were incorrect, and that the state is expecting churches to use guidelines that have been published to make decisions for themselves based on their home county’s COVID-19 case levels.
The Council made the following decision: TO CLOSE THE CHURCH BUILDING FOR ALL ACTIVITIES: (The Nursery School’s last day will be November 19th and the last Worship and Scheduled Eucharist will be on November 22nd). The following are the basis for Council’s decision
• Northampton County COVID-19 cases are rising quickly
• The ELCA does not recommend that church buildings remain open if the county in which you are located has rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.
• While there is no direct statement from Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, they point us to the advice offered by the ELCA
• The Bethlehem Diocese (Episcopal Church) has directed their churches to close by Advent 1
• The Penn Northeast Conference (UCC) have recommended that their church buildings close.
• There is every indication that the Schools in Northampton County will close use of their buildings by Thanksgiving at the latest.
• The Council was concerned that we would be closed for a two week period after the Thanksgiving holiday
The Congregation Council has agreed to meet on a weekly basis to monitor the situation and will move to open the church building as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. To that end the building closure is in effect thru and including December 6th for Worship and Scheduled Eucharist and thru and including December 10th for the Nursery School. Again, the Council will meet and evaluate these closures on a weekly basis. Please stay tuned for further updates.
Of course, we will continue to offer Zoom Worship at 8:30 We decided against moving the time for Zoom worship as we did not want to interfere with Faith Builders, and we are hoping that this is not a prolonged closure. All of our other meetings will continue to meet with Zoom. We understand that Zoom is not the perfect answer, but we are grateful that we have Zoom to maintain some connection with each other. We will also continue to mail and e-mail the bulletins and other information to you on a weekly basis.

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: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kd8kbtsP97
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.