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December News From St. Paul’s

December 4, 2018

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The Men’s Brotherhood.  The men’s brotherhood will meet for breakfast on Saturday, December 1st at 8:00am at King’s Restaurant.  All men of the church are invited to attend!

Our December Mission Offering:  The Christmas Fund/Veterans of the Cross

For 115 years, the Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund has been a tangible expression of God’s love. One of the four Special Mission Offerings of the United Church of Christ, the Christmas Fund provides UCC congregations and members an opportunity to reach out in loving compassion, providing assistance to those who have so faithfully served our Church and who now and themselves facing unexpected financial needs. 

In 2015, UCC congregations and members generously contributed $1,528,481 to

the Offering. This enabled the Pension Boards’ Ministerial Assistance program to provide, on behalf of the whole Church, Pension Supplementation, Health Premium Supplementation, Emergency Grants, and Christmas “Thank You” Gift Checks to individuals and families in need. 

The theme of the 2016 Christmas Fund Offering is God’s Love Colors Everything, and our goal is to raise $1.7 million to help support these ministries of love and care. In the spirit of love, we invite and encourage you to prayerfully consider and support this year’s appeal, and to spread the word so that others will also join in this vital ministry.

A Thank You From the Salvation Army.  On behalf of the Salvation Army, I would like to thank everyone who helped to make our annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner a success.  Thanks to your help and support, we were able to serve over 314 meals.  –Pastor Matt

Humans and Angels

Those interested in being a 2019 Secret Angel should pick up and fill out a Secret Angel form from the table at the rear of the sanctuary.  The Secret Angel program is designed to give participants the opportunity to remember another member of the congregation throughout the year.  Secret Angels pray for each other, send cards, and generally keep each other in mind during the year.  After you have filled out the form, please put it in the Secret Angel box next to the forms in the back of the sanctuary.  The deadline is Sunday, January 13th.  

Christmas cookie sign up:  A sign-up sheet is on the table in the back of the Sanctuary for our annual Christmas Musical reception.  Please put your name on the sheet if you are able to provide some cookies! 

 

Greeters & Ushers for December

December 2:  Communion By Intinction: Andra Snyder—Chair & Elder, Helen Brown–Elder, Nancy Thomas, Craig Weaver

December 9:  Patric Ferko–Chair, Doug Glessner, Melody Glessner, Amy Marteeny

December 16–Musical: John Geary—Chair, Sue Geary, Kim Keim, Greg Keim

December 23: Mike Stutzman—Chair, Barb Stutzman, Paige Housley, Luke Housley

December 24–Christmas Eve, 4pm Service: TBD

December 24–Christmas Eve, 11pm Service: Jonathan Hillegas–Chair, Gary Cameron, Steve Addleman-Elder, Karen Addleman-Elder

December 28: Craig Schenck–Chair, Rich Nichols, Ray Toy, Tim Witt

Annual Congregational Meeting:  Members of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ will meet following worship on Sunday, December 9th for their annual Congregational Meeting.  Agenda items include approval of the 2019 budget and the election of new council members.

The proposed 2019 Church Council Slate

Class of 2020 (Completing a 2 year unfulfilled term)

Pete Hauger (Elder)*

Class of 2021 (3 year term)

Jenn Boland (Deacon)

Angie Brumbaugh (Deacon)

Rebecca Miller (Deacon)

Craig Weaver (Elder

*Please note that with the election of Pete Hauger this will bring the balance of deacons and elders on Church Council 6 apiece as prescribed by the church’s constitution and bylaws.  

St. Paul’s Chrismon Tree

A beautiful Chrismon tree adorns our sanctuary again this year, continuing a tradition started in 1978.  The tree is decorated with Chrismons, proclaiming our Lord Jesus Christ through the use of symbols, called Chrismons.  Each Chrismon presents a unique message; some are simple copies of Christian symbols used since the earliest days, and others are more recent presentations of God’s presence in our world.  

All Chrismons are made in white and gold.  White is the liturgical color for Christmas and symbolizes Jesus’ purity and perfection; the gold color symbolizes the His majesty and glory.  The concept of Christ as the light of the world is evidenced by the tiny white lights on an evergreen tree; the tree evokes the eternal life which our Savior has secured for us.  

As we continue the St. Paul’s Chrismon tree tradition, remember Ruth Shaffer who was one of three wonderful women who spent thousands of hours crafting these beautiful ornaments.  She has now joined Lorraine Gerhardt and Mildred Berkey, both who were instrumental in this project, in the church triumphant.    

May you each be blessed with the love and joy and true meaning of Christmas, and may these symbols continually remind you of God’s greatest gift to us all, Jesus Christ.

2018 Advent Devotionals are Available

“2018 ADVENTure!”  Be sure to pick up this one-of-a-kind devotional that features the stories of St. Paul’s members and friends.  Copies are available in the Edgewood Ave. Narthex.  

“Preparing the Way” Advent Family Devotional

Please help yourself to a unique kid and adult friendly devotional by Illustrated Children’s Ministry.  Copies are available in the Edgewood Ave. Narthex.

Advent 2018 Special Services and Christmas Eve Worship

Blue Christmas remains for 2018, Sunday, December 23rd at 9:30am.   This service was so well received on Christmas Eve last year that we scheduled it as part of our regular Sunday morning services this year.  Commonly referred to as a “Blue Christmas Service,” this service will still focus on celebrating the birth of Christ, but doing so in the midst of challenging life situations such as grief, anxiety, unrealized hopes, economic hardships, and strained relationships.  Highlights of the service will include guided meditation, the Service of Healing and Anointing, and candlelight prayers.

“A Little Child Shall Lead Them” is the theme of this year’s 4:00pm Family Christmas Eve Service.  We will journey through scripture, learning about God’s saving work, while we sing carols and other songs to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  Children and youth will assist in leading the final two lessons as we mark the arrival of the Light of the World with a unique twist on the ancient tradition of lighting candles in celebration of the Light.  Kid-friendly lights will be shared with worshippers as we leave the sanctuary to spread the warm glow of Christ’s love in the world.

The Traditional Candlelight Service begins at 11:00pm.  Worshipers will experience the holy watching and waiting for the Light of the World to break forth as we celebrate Holy Communion and sing the great carols of the season.  

Somerset Area Ministry Community Advent Service

The churches of our local ministerium will hold their annual weekly Advent service beginning on Wednesday, November 28th.  The services are held each Wednesday at 12:05pm at First United Methodist Church in Somerset.  Pastor Matt will be preaching on Wednesday, December 5th.  A light lunch will follow each service at 12:30pm.

Christmas Family Fellowship Meal

Our annual Christmas Family Fellowship Potluck will be on Monday, December 3rd at 6:00pm in Fellowship Hall.  Please bring your favorite covered dish, family, and friends!  The evening’s entertainment will be a local bell choir.

A Note from the Christian Education Committee… 

There will be no Church School and Children’s Church on the following weekends:  December 16th (Christmas Musical), and December 30th.

Winter at St. Paul’s

We have a long tradition of being open all the time!  Whether it is sheltering the homeless or for those who just need a place for some solitude, the church is always open.

Our inclement weather policy is that we will worship whenever two or three are gathered. However, we ask that you use your judgement when venturing out in bad weather.  We’d love for you to worship with us, but rather you’d be safe than end up in the hospital.  Regular Sunday worship begins at 9:30am, followed by Sunday school at 10:45am.

Tuesday Bible Study:  Bible Study will be cancelled anytime the Somerset Area School District is cancelled or delayed.

We will endeavor to keep our website updated with recent sermons and devotional materials so that your spirit may be warmed even during our blustery Somerset County winter.

The Happiness Advantage book study

We are pleased to be partnering with Somerset Trust Company in an exciting discussion group study of happiness.  Henry Cook, a life-long member of St. Paul’s, and his team at Somerset Trust will lead us in a two session discussion of the New York Times bestselling book The Happiness Advantage.  Shawn Achor, a Harvard Psychologist and the book’s author has spent years studying happiness and how happy people are more successful and productive in their personal lives and at work.  We will be discussing the Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Achor has identified as keys to happiness.  

Here’s what others are saying about the book:

“Shawn Achor is funny, self-deprecating, and devastating to my notions of what his field is all about…I’m butter to his knife.”  —Boston Globe

“Achor bases his training on a burgeoning body of research on the positive psychology movement, which emphasized instilling resiliency and positive attitudes.”  —Wall Street Journal

Those who are interested in participating in the group should place their names on the sign up sheet in the back of the Sanctuary.  Books are also available if you’d like to borrow one.  Please sign up and indicate if you’ve borrowed a book.  The books will be with the sign up sheet.  

We will spend December reading the book and meet for the discussion sessions in January.

Notes of Thanks

From the Penn West Conference

Dear Pastor Matt & Friends,

I want to write to thank you all very much for your deeply generous donation of $41,295 to help alleviate the suffering caused by hurricane Florence. That is such a tremendous blessing! Please know that your gift will be well stewarded by our United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries. Your generous gifts to Our Church’s Wider Mission ensure that the infrastructure is in place so that this gift may go directly to the relief efforts that you intend to support.  May God’s blessings be with all of you and your extraordinary ministry!

Sincerely,

Rev. David Ackerman,

Penn West Conference Minister

From Lancaster Theological Seminary

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your gift, given in memory of Rev. Richard and Carolyn Shellenberger.

Your gift is not only a lasting testament, but also serves the mission of educating and nurturing leaders who will “join in God’s redemptive and liberating work so that all creation may flourish.”

Your prayerful support and generosity help to open the doors for our students’ education, open their minds to learning, and open their hearts to serving.

Thank you agin.  We are deeply grateful.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Carolyne Call

Executive Director of Development and Communications.  

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Sermons from St. Paul’s

December 4, 2018

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December 9, 2018     Rev. J. Matthew Deal

Where Do You Find Peace?

December 2, 2018    Rev. J. Matthew Deal

Where Do You Find Hope?

November 11, 2018     Rev. J. Matthew Deal

November 4, 2018     Rev. J. Matthew Deal

Not Far From the Kingdom

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December’s Newsletter

December 4, 2018

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December 2018

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Children’s Church: Helping Kids Worship God!

November 14, 2018

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We are very excited about our brand new children’s ministry!  Children’s Church is for kids 5 years-old through 5th grade.  Participants will begin worship in the Sanctuary with their parents or guardians and will leave for Children’s Church following the Time for Children.  They will conclude their time at the close of the regular worship service.  The children can be picked up outside of the CE Room.

What is Children’s Church?

It’s a brand new worship opportunity for some of our youngest church family members.  Children’s Church will engage kids in worship at their level while also keeping a common worship theme with the regular worship service.  This will give children the opportunity to worship God at an age appropriate level and also engage with parents and guardians around the shared theme between the two services.

The Children’s Church worship space will be set up in the CE Room at the end of the hallway in the education wing.  We would appreciate prayers and volunteers to help us as we get this new ministry up and running.  Adults and youth are needed to help lead each service and provide programming support as we prepare each week.  Please speak with our Children’s Church Coordinator Jenn Boland or Pastor Matt if you’d like to help.  Both can be reached through calling the church, 814-445-4534

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November’s Mission Offering Is the Salvation Army

November 2, 2018

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St. Paul’s Mission partner for November is the Somerset chapter of the Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army was established as an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church in 1865.  Today they provide services to 30 million Americans each year and support an international movement.  Their stated mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human need in His name without discrimination.  Of each dollar donated $.82 goes to provide services such as food, clothing and shelter to those in need, provide disaster relief, assist people with disabilities, and reach out to the elderly and ill.

The end of the year is a particularly busy for the local Salvation Army.  They provide winter coats for children in need, provide a homemade Thanksgiving dinners for people who are alone or can’t afford a meal on Thanksgiving Day, collect and distribute toys and gifts for children in need, and collect money for their many mission projects that take place throughout the year.  Members of St. Paul’s have supported our local Salvation Army with monetary gifts, as well as hosting the Thanksgiving dinner, providing volunteers to prepare and serve the Thanksgiving meal and ring the bells in front of local businesses to raise fund.  Our congregation also donates 50+ gifts to help needy children have a brighter Christmas.

Here are ways you can help in November and December

  1. The Salvation Army Thanksgiving Dinner.  Join us in preparing for the dinner at 1:30pm, Tuesday, November 20th or in serving the meal on Thanksgiving Day.
  2. Salvation Army Kettle Bell Ringing for St. Paul’s UCC.  We will ring the bells on Saturday, November 24th.  Please sign up for a time!  The sign up sheet is on the table in the back of the Sanctuary.    
  3. Our Annual Thank Offering:  Bring non-perishable food items to worship on Sunday, November 18th for our annual Thank Offering.  Your donations will be given to the Salvation Army Emergency Food Pantry and the Somerset Area Food Pantry.  Items that are especially needed:  Peanut Butter, Jelly, Soup, Canned Tuna, Spaghetti & Sauce
  4. The Salvation Army Angel Tree: Pick up a tag from the Angel tree (located in the narthex close to the end of November) and buy Christmas presents and other goods for local families in need.  Please be sure to put your name on the corresponding sign up sheet beside the alpha-numeric code for your child.
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A Message from Pastor Matt

October 9, 2018

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Dear St. Paul’s Family,

I stumbled upon a Psalm recently as I was flipping through the Bible that caused me to pause and think.  The 82nd Psalm imagines God holding court among the divine council.  As the Heavenly Hosts are gathered, God wonders:

“How long will you judge unjustly 

and show partiality to the wicked?

Give justice to the weak and the orphan;

maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.

Rescue the weak and the poor;

deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

(Psalm 82:2-4)

The Psalmist’s vision is powerful as he is imagining God’s judgement upon not only humanity, but upon the “gods” who are charged with keeping balance between the human players in this creative drama.  All is not well.  The balance is tipped as the powerful abuse their power.  Wickedness prevails as the weak and poor need rescuing, and the orphan and destitute require justice as their rights are being stripped away. Not only do the wicked seem to be in charge in this vision, but those charged with representing God’s wishes seem to have abdicated their responsibility.

God makes it clear at the end of the Psalm that all will be judged, even the heavenly judges who are charged with being arbitrators of humanity.  They have failed to be impartial and have sided with the wicked and powerful in their victimization of the powerless.  Their punishment will be that of the mortals, they will be judged by God and die.  They will fall like any prince (vs. 7).   The Psalmist concludes his thoughts with the plea:  “Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!” 

Things are bad.  We can’t exactly be sure just what exactly is going on in the Psalmist’s world, except to sense that the covenantal contract between God and the people is being strained.  The ancient covenant between God and Sarah and Abraham:  “I will be your God and you will be a great people.” threatens to be undone.  God’s chosen kings, priests, and civic leaders have failed to uphold the basic principals of God’s kingdom.  They’ve exchanged the divine principals of justice, care, and deliverance for the poor, widowed, orphaned, and powerless for political power and personal gain.

The Psalmist’s plea for justice and righteous judgement on behalf of the victimized is a typical response of Old Testament prophets and of Jesus himself when faced with the unprincipled and un-Godly actions of religious and political leaders.  Not only does the Psalmist, the prophets, and Christ make clear that God is on the side of the powerless, but that God will humble the powerful in all times and places, in heaven and on earth.  In the end, God is the righteous and just arbiter of creation, seeing into the heart and through the intentions of every mortal and Heavenly Host.  

Jesus Christ changes a bit of the ancient narrative of judgment and redemption.  Through God becoming powerless as a human being in Jesus Christ, we mortals have become powerful.  Each of us are given a piece of the divine in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  We become entrusted with power to become arbiters of our own lives.  Not only can we choose between the paths of righteousness and evil, but we are called by our Savior to join in his reconciling work.  We are co-menders with Jesus, repairing the breach between God’s will for the world and brokenness of humanity.  Such mending is a high calling in which we align ourselves with God’s values, and just like the Psalmist, plead the case of the victimized and powerless to God and to those mere mortals in positions of power and authority.

The saving and mending work of Christ in which we are engaged causes us to draw nearer to one another and to God.  Let us find strength in our unity.  Let us work to make our community and world a more loving, more just, and more sacred place.   Let us reject the world’s narrative of division and tribalism that causes too many of us to find a morbid and curious joy in the suffering of those who are labeled the “other” or our enemy, such is not the way of our Lord.  And finally, let us be reminded that Christ is always with us no matter what course our lives take.  We are not gods, but Jesus Christ’s representatives and nothing can harm us in heaven or on earth. 

May God Bless Your Journey!

Pastor Matt

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