ELCA Bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton

March 27, 2020

Dear church,

The last couple of weeks have been trying ones for everyone across this church. Our synods, congregations and ministries are facing challenges that they’ve never faced before. Being church together means more now than ever before.

The churchwide office is launching a comprehensive Covid-19 response across the ELCA beginning today. We have three new approaches designed to provide several levels of support for our most vulnerable congregations and ministries. These three approaches are Daily Bread Grants, Here to Serve, and the Covid-19 Response Appeal.


ELCA World Hunger is announcing the immediate launch of Daily Bread Matching Grants. Through these grants, ELCA congregations can raise funds for their feeding ministries using an online fundraising platform and will receive a grant of $500 from ELCA World Hunger. Up to 100 Daily Bread Matching Grants are available for ELCA congregations on a first-come, first-served basis, with the possibility of more grants becoming available in the future. Apply or donate here.


The churchwide organization is inherently a resource in support of the members, congregations, synods and partners of the ELCA. During this time, Domestic Mission will pivot to a project-based, service-oriented structure so this church knows we are here to serve. By the first week of April, we will launch a chat function on ELCA.org along with an 800 hotline for prayer, support and questions that will be answered by our staff. As soon as these channels are live, we will let you know.


It’s more important now than ever to support our church across the country through these difficult times. We will begin to raise funds to support our congregations, ministries and synods. This effort will launch the week of March 30 via email and social media with a special form online to donate.

In addition to our new three-pronged response, our work continues in providing and updating resources on ELCA.org/publichealth. We are also still at work in the world. Our global mission work continues and grows in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are working with our global companions to provide support where we can. Learn more about that here.

I am proud to say that even during challenging times, we continue our service in living out the mission of this church: Together in Jesus Christ we are freed by grace to live faithfully, witness boldly and serve joyfully.

Peace and be well,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding BishopEvangelical Lutheran Church in America

Monday, March 30

Good morning, dear church!

Our experience is getting more and more surreal. That happens to me on some level every spring, did you know that? It’s because the season of Lent with its focus on Jesus’ suffering and dying and the heavy Holy Week texts (next week is Holy Week) more or less coincide with a time when early flowers bloom, trees sprout, sunlight becomes more abundant, lawns and grasses recover from their winter slumber, and birds start chirping in the early morning air. All that, while Jesus is heading to the cross and we as a Christian community assemble in front of a cross… It’s surreal. Are we morbid? 

But of course, as a pastor, I know that in the midst of beauty and life’s many joys, there are always people (and many more people than we think!) who are suffering, often quietly, and for whom all the busy exuberance of life is but a distant chatter that only annoys them. Rarely, very rarely, it happens that we experience the surrealism of this situation, the absurdity of life and death, together. This is one of those times. The pandemic is expected to peak in our area at some point in mid-April, at least that’s what I understand at this time. It will be near its height right around Easter, as the juices of spring charge into higher gear, as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and, indeed, life itself. Not that I complain about the wonderful changes of nature, the cycle of creation and renewal of life continuing undisturbed. It would be much harder to ride this out in the midst of winter, wouldn’t it? But it feels, well, surreal. Empty Main Street cafes in spring! Park dwellers staying apart. Restaurants closed on a warm April day. Sports stadiums dead empty. Churches on Easter – empty and quiet. It feels wrong.   

Let me also tell you this: during most years I’m afraid that a good portion of our congregation never gets to connect with Lent and its reminder that life has a counterpoint called suffering. Many folks are busy with all kinds of things and are not interested in anything that feels remotely “dark.” We neglect that side of reality to our own detriment. It has led our culture to focus exclusively on growth, success, expansion, and sunny appearances to a degree that is unhealthy and unsustainable for us as human beings and for our own planet. We can only get out of this vicious cycle if we surrender and acknowledge that we are mortal and are just as much part of the eternal cycle of life and death as the next flower in our garden. Only if we truly and honestly acknowledge that we become wise. Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Does it take a pandemic to teach us wisdom? Or will this not even be enough? I am afraid to answer that question.  

Richard Rohr wrote in his meditation this morning:      

…  many of us with privilege have been able to become very naïve about pain and suffering in the United States and the Western world. We simply don’t have time for it. However, by trying to handle all suffering through willpower, denial, medication, or even therapy, we have forgotten something that should be obvious: we do not handle suffering; suffering handles us— in deep and mysterious ways that become the very matrix of life and especially new life. Only suffering and certain kinds of awe lead us into genuinely new experiences. All the rest is merely the confirmation of old experience.“ 

I hope you don’t miss the hopeful part in his reflection. Yes, suffering and hardship are never fun. Yes, these times of quarantine, while many of us aren’t overly stressed, are very stressful for some of us.  But, he says, in deep and mysterious ways the experience of suffering opens us up for new life and new experiences. That’s, in a nutshell, the message of Holy Week. Is God perhaps giving us a higher dose of Holy Week this year? Don’t forget the hopeful part!  

For today, dear church, I would like to ask your prayers for all of our teachers, educators and school staff. We have quite a few in our congregation. Many of them have been busy adapting to the new situation, developing on-line courses and finding ways to teach their students. Many of the school students begin those assignments and courses today. The situation is different in different communities and school settings. Gretchen F., who is an Elementary School teacher in the Central Bucks school district told me of the pressures put on teachers to keep students learning at a high level during this time. I am sure the folks from Wissahickon and North Penn can relate. We are proud of our schools and their rankings and performances, and sometimes we go overboard. (See my general comments about growth, success, etc. above). Crystal A. is an Elementary school teacher in Philadelphia and the situation for her is starkly different. Not all of her students have even the equipment and access to technology to learn remotely. Other students in her classroom are part of a bigger family where older siblings watch younger siblings while parents work during this time. How could they get any work done? Troy B. is a principal in a Neshaminy school. He has had the “pleasure” to make lots and lots of administrative changes. They are all trying frantically to adapt to the new situation. For some subjects it’s easier than for others. Jenn G., a Middle School math teacher at North Penn says that math lends itself toward online courses. It’s pretty straightforward. With art and social studies and special education, it’s not quite that simple. So let us pray for all of our teachers, educators, administrators and school aides today. They are doing a heck of a job and we thank you all for it!              

Our church council will convene this week via Zoom and I am pretty sure that the virtual church services will continue throughout the month of April, especially given the orders of the President yesterday.  Our national Bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton shared with us the national church response to the pandemic. I wanted to share it with you. See below.

Be blessed today, take care of your family and all those you  can reach in some way during these times. Pastor Andreas Wagner

Sunday, March 29

Good  morning, church!

Today we observe the Fifth Sunday of Lent, also known as the Third Sunday of the Quarantine. I hope these worship resources are helpful to you. It is only two weeks until Easter.Please also join us for the Facebook Live service at 10:00 a.m.  You don’t need to be a Facebook user. In order to get access. Just go on our website, click the icon for Facebook (F) and join us. It is as simple as that.

The traditional gospel text for this Sunday is written in John 11, the raising of Lazarus, which prefigures Jesus’ own resurrection. At a time when we are dealing with death a lot, when we hear of people suffering and dying, When the world is trying to contain a dangerous pandemic, let us just keep in mind that Christian hope is anchored not in any particular news that comes to us down here, but in the resurrection of Christ.

Today we also remember a person who left us just about a year ago. Katie Smith grew up at St. Peter’s and for many years lived across the street on Church Street.  She died last year, only 41 years of age. It was an incredibly sad time for her family. Her sister Gwen recently re-connected with the church and has been sending me emails. She asked whether we would remember Katie today, and so we gladly do.  

I am starting to include birthdays in my daily emails. I promptly forgot Terry R., whose birthday was yesterday. Today, Bernie H., Erik N. and Garrett R. celebrate their birthdays.

Blessings to you all!!!

Pastor Andreas Wagner

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Sunday, March 29, 2020

Opening Prayer 

Dear heavenly father, As you scattered the early Christians throughout the world Only to build a sense of community across borders and cultural differences, so you are scattering us today only to bring us together as your people. Many of us are at home, working, waiting, wondering, our routines disrupted. Some of us have to travel to do important work while trying to stay safe.  Some of us are very isolated, living alone,  but blessed by the connections that we have these days. Lord, as we live our faith in our different corners, bring us together more united, with a stronger sense of purpose and strengthened by the challenges that YOU will help us overcome. This we pray in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.     Amen. 

Remembrance of Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771 – 1824) 

Today we remember Hans Nielsen Hauge, a Lutheran layperson who experienced a calling to share the Word of God. Born in Norway to a peasant family and having received little formal education, his conversion experience led him to start prayer and Bible groups throughout his native land. He died on March 29, 1824.  His ministry coincided with the emigration of many Scandinavians to the United States and had considerable influence among the Lutherans of the Midwest. His biography is a reminder that the expression of our faith does not always need to be polished. God looks for hearts willing to be transformed and willing to serve. And with the remembrance of Hans Hauge we bless all of our lay ministers at St. Peter’s for the important work they do.    

Ezekiel 37:1-14

1The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act, says the LORD.”

The Gospel Reading for the Day: John 11: 1-45 (1-11 featured here)

1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  2(This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)  3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  6So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,  7and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  8“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”  9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.  10It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”  11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”  12His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”  13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.  14So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,  15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  16Then Thomas (also known as Didymus ) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Hymn: “I am the Bread of Life”   ELW 485

1 “I am the Bread of life.  You who come to me shall not hunger,  and who believe in me shall not thirst.  No one can come to me unless the Father beckons.”

Refrain  “And I will raise you up,  and I will raise you up,  and I will raise you up on the last day.”

2 “The bread that I will give  is my flesh for the life of the world,  and if you eat of this bread,  you shall live forever, you shall live forever.”  Refrain

3 “Unless you eat  of the flesh of the Son of Man  and drink of his blood,  and drink of his blood,  you shall not have life within you.”  Refrain

4 “I am the resurrection,  I am the life.  If you believe in me,  even though you die, you shall live forever.”  Refrain

5 Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ,  the Son of God, who have come into the world.  Refrain 



Dear Lord, in this time of crisis and quarantine, we pray especially for those in our community who are suffering:  owners of small restaurants and businesses that are now closed; people who work in the hospitality industry and especially all the low-paid staff without securities. Help them to get through this time!

Dear Lord, in this time that is unlike other times we have experienced, help us to adapt and be resilient. Bless especially those whose plans and goals for this year have been shattered. Help us to reflect on our lives, whether that leads us to make changes or appreciate anew what we have. Send your Holy Spirit and help us to get through these times!

Dear Lord, we pray for our neighbors who live across the street from us, next to us and whom we sometimes don’t see for long times. We don’t always know what their lives are like, whether they experience hardship or unexpected joys, calm or turmoil. Be with them and help them to get through these times!

Dear Lord, we pray for our Bishop and our pastors all across the synod as they lead their flocks and make changes to their ministry. Bless especially congregations in transition and also bless our neighboring churches no matter their creeds. Bless also other houses of worship and help us all to help our people to get through these times! 

Dear Lord, one year ago, Katie Smith passed away at a young age. Today we remember her in the hope of the resurrection and we pray for her mother Cecily, her sister Gwen and all who were close to her. Comfort them and help them to get through these times!   

Person One: God says:  Be still and know that I am God.

Person Two:  Be still and know that I am.

Person Three: Be still and know.

Person Four: Be still.

Person One: Be.

The Lord’s Prayer

Celtic Benediction

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand. Amen.

“Grieving in the Times of Corona”

Sermon on Sunday, March 29, 2020

Based on John 11

Some of the most difficult experiences people have had to deal with in these past weeks are funerals and planned weddings. To emphasize the point let me ask this simple question: how do you grieve without the comfort of human touch and the support of a caring community? Sure, there are substitutes. We call each other. We send each other cards.  We post messages on the obituary page. We send caring emojis via Social Media, etc.  But can anything really replace the comfort of arms wrapped around you? It is difficult. My brother’s father-in-law died just as the crisis began to take hold in Germany and the family went through several planning adjustments to make even a small funeral happen, just before such gatherings were banned for good. I could hear the pain in the voice of my sister-in-law. Her father, Richard Wagner, was a baker in a small town, and over many years and decades he had provided cakes and baked goods to numerous people and supplied them for thousands of funerals. The after-funeral coffee is a huge tradition in rural Germany. Now his family could see no justice in this man being buried without much ceremony and the customary community gathering with coffee and cake and the comfort of human company and touch. It was touchy (no pun intended), to say the least.

Today’s gospel reading sends us straight to a funeral gathering. This is another one of John’s long stories, which frankly require an attention span that we can’t take for granted these days. I will focus my reflection on the first part of this reading, which is really no more than the introduction. I encourage you, especially if you are not particularly versed in the Bible, to read the entire story, verses 1-41. The first thing that you will notice, no doubt, is that Jesus takes his merry time once he is told about his friend Lazarus’ dire health and the news of his impending death. Usually, when we receive news like that, we are on the phone. We are in the car. Family members and friends rush to the hospital or home to help in any way, to see our friend or family member one more time, or at least pay our respects. Not here. Not in this case. Jesus remains remarkably stoic and unmoved, even though, as John tells us, he loved Lazarus and he loved his entire family. They were close. Jesus, in other words, practiced social distancing when no such rule was in place and the family didn’t appreciate it. Families never do, because deaths and funerals are among the touchiest times anyone can ever experience, and emotions run rampant. “Where are you, Jesus? Get your butt over here!”   

Honestly, it reminds me of a recent incident when a parishioner called me about a death in the extended family, someone I didn’t know. I was away at the time and didn’t respond to the text right away. There was disappointment, and afterwards I was also disappointed with myself. Why had I not paid closer attention to this? Not that I could have jumped and helped right then and there, but I could have at least responded!  –  That’s about what Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were expecting. A response at a time when they truly needed it. But Jesus though takes his merry time. Aggravating!

We could draw a few comparisons to the current social distancing rules.  At this time, as we enter the third week of the quarantine rules, relatives and friends of the deceased are unfortunately forced to show their compassion from afar, to make those phone calls, send those cards and do all the things they can, short of hugging that person who could use a hug right now. There was no Corona Virus at Jesus’ time and no quarantine laws. (They had other problems. Leprosy required strict social distancing!) But if you read this text carefully, you will see that Jesus had his own reasons for social distancing. People were after him. His life was in danger, especially in the regions around Jerusalem where his face was now known and where he and his company were wanted people. When he asks his disciples two days after receiving the sad news to go to Judea, to see Lazarus’ family, they remind him of the danger: “People there tried to stone you and now you are going back?” (I am not using the word “Jews” here but “people” because historically the gospel of John has been abused to blame “Jews” for Jesus’ death. In fact, most everybody involved in this story was a Jew anyway, including Jesus, so we may just say “people.”) Also, at the very end of the reading, Thomas says, “Let us also go that we may die with him.”  The danger, in other words, was real!                 

So Jesus is going back with his entourage. It was not a long journey. Nothing is a long journey in Israel, a small country with outsized importance. In this opening part of the story, John gives us an explanation for Jesus’ hesitation. Twice in this introduction he hints at the purpose and plan behind the death and resurrection of Lazarus. It is to glorify God and to help the disciples and spectators to believe. 

I have to admit that I am always a little skeptical of John’s neat explanations. Please don’t take this as disrespect for scripture, but I feel that John was the kind of person who always had a neat explanation for everything. That can be very, very annoying, especially in times of grief and hardship when everything seems to be confusing and when things usually don’t make a lot of sense. Maybe you have met people who have an explanation for everything handy, including religious sayings. It is rarely helpful in that moment, because it disrespects the real experience of disorientation and grief people are going through and the possibility that God is with them in the midst of all of the confusion. John, ever the explainer, lets us know that Jesus planned this all along, that he was waiting for Lazarus to take his least breath so he could show the disciples and everyone the power of God to raise him from the dead. But keep one thing in mind, please: John wrote his gospel at least 60 years after these things took place. So just imagine someone today writing something that occurred in 1960. There is a lot of hindsight and spin involved whenever we go back that far. And explanations naturally come easier decades later. Those are also the times when explanations CAN BE helpful, when you look back and reflect and you see the bigger picture…

At the time though, I wonder whether Jesus was in fact so sure where God was leading him. I wonder whether the danger at hand was perhaps a real deterrent for him, at least initially. Was he not human? In any case, he finally decides to go to see Lazarus and his family, walks into the danger and raises him from the dead in one of the most spectacular stories of the New Testament. If you read the entire story you will notice that he shows great emotion once he gets to Bethany and sees the pain in the eyes of Mary and Martha. There, the humanity of Jesus is on full display, including tears and sadness.

What does that mean for us? For one, I would like us to be extra sensitive to people who are grieving during this social distancing time. Please reach out to them. Give them a call.  Write them a card. Do everything you can to ease their pain at a time when they miss not only a loved one but also the touch and comfort of friends and family. Secondly, as we try to figure out what this crisis is teaching us (and I encourage you all to look for lessons), please also keep in mind that we will figure out the true lessons over time, not right away. There is a reason why the gospels were written later and with the benefit of distance. Sometimes you see clearer from a distance. May God be with you all during these trying and unsettling times and may we learn our lessons and be better for it! Amen.   

Sam Wagner
Elisabeth Zaupa
Bill & Lois Kesack
Karen DeStefano
Katie Simpson
Jen McAlary
Maeve Smart
Madalene Loheac
James Coleman
Robert Mathis Jr.
Steven MacInnes
Dorothy Hassinger
Ethan O’Hama
Matthew MacInnes
Dorene Rice
David Long
Katy Keys
Jenny Parrillo
Carolyn McTague
Albert F. Kinzinger
Lisa Stites
Katie Nissman
Cyndie McGeehan
Mark Edwards
Jennifer Lathram
Don Lathram
Fred & Gen Snively
Lee Heist III
Dawn Berkebile
Betty DeLong
Amy Smith
Yolanda Romero
Pat Cromwell
Mike Bodolus
Karen Hoffman
Wendy Ericssor
Cricket Snearing
Marcia Deiss
Elizabeth George
Pete Heist
Sandra E. Killian
Rev. Jim Baseler
Andy Latanisher
Maureen Latanisher
Carol Steelman
Andrea Zarate
Phil “Dougie” Miller
John Zeigler
Jeff Cordon
Maryann Sullivan
Bob Bastos
Landau Family
Eric Conner
Stephanie Yero
David Maher
Elba Iris Rios
Helen Winterbottom
Blake Auxier
Brian Shearer
Michelle Patel
Lexi Benck

Saturday, March 28

Good morning church!

I truly hope you had a chance to enjoy the nice weather yesterday. That’s one of the things that I have paid more attention to: the weather. When it’s raining I get more work done, (looks like this will be a long workday!) but I like to fit in time for walks and gardening when it’s nice outside. Biking has become my substitute for the gym routines that are part of my week during “ordinary times.” I so appreciate the bike lanes that were added onto the still relatively new 202 bypass. I bike up to Doylestown and back on nice days to stay in shape. In “ordinary times” the bike path is used, but not all that much. Now you see bikers, walkers, parents with strollers and the lanes are being used much more (still not crowded though. I recommend it.) I have also been gardening ever since we moved to Lower Gwynedd. I quickly discovered that the soil in these parts of the commonwealth is not stellar. So, over the years I have replaced lots of clumps of clay dirt with organic leaf and gardening compost, mushroom soil and the coffee waste from home and from Starbucks. I have literally fenced myself against the deer. In the winter I start vegetables and flowers from seed in the basement under a growing light. Spring is the busy time and I was lucky this year to get a delivery of mulch and soil just before my supplier closed doors. And I even had a helper this year who had no excuses whatsoever because of homework and other important assignments, such as computer games. Thank you, Peter! I write this, hoping that all of you find your little niches of normalcy, of things you enjoy and things you have always done during these not so ordinary times. I find that it helps doing that in dealing with the whole situation!

And what a situation it is! You know that you live in extra-ordinary times when the newspapers use big and bold headlines every single day. Many people have drawn comparisons to wartime, which is true in some ways. Certainly, the sense of urgency and alarm conveyed in those newspaper headlines is similar to the old newspapers that told people of developments in the war in Europe, Korea or Vietnam.  I realize that some of our younger people may not know what I am talking about, not only because those times are distant history for them but also because they are not used to picking up a newspaper in the driveway and actually have a printed copy in front of them. I would like to suggest that, if you are able, use this as an opportunity for inter-generational talk about those kinds of times. I bet you all have folks in your family who could tell a story or two that relates to difficult times such as these. I know we do…  Last night, I received an email from Tricia R., one of our young parents.  She mentioned exactly that kind of intergenerational storytelling and described it in wonderful ways. Here is what she wrote:            

“I truly believe I am who I am because of the influence of my maternal grandparents who survived WWII in Europe. And I say survived because so many family members did not. My grandfather, who was a pilot for the Polish Air Force and then the Royal Air Force, lost one brother in air combat, another brother in the Katyn Forest Massacre and his mother died in a concentration camp because of his sister’s involvement in the resistance. In this time of isolation and quarantine, I find myself more connected to them, telling stories about them, telling stories they told me, etc. We come from a long line of fighters who persevered in faith.  So now I join with them as we stay home to protect the most vulnerable and our healthcare system. My grandparents taught me that their faith is what got them through the war and now I have a glimpse at understanding what that meant for them.  I hope that I can model this well for my own children as we navigate this challenging time. 

I am truly grateful for all the voices challenging our word to rethink our priorities, profits, and values.  It is certainly much needed and I pray this opportunity for change will not be missed. I also am experiencing this on a personal level. I am grateful for your words each day and especially today as they echo those of Pope Francis. I feel an invitation to a deeper relationship with God through this experience.  Many thanks for your willingness to step up to the challenges of the times and continue to lead in new ways.  It is a gift that is much appreciated. “

Needless to say, while I know Tricia and her family, I had no idea about her Polish ancestors and what they went through during the Great War. We all have stories that are more than words and more than mere facts or memories. Some stories have the power to sustain us during difficult times, and they need to be told from time to time. Sometimes kids even crave for that. It gives them a stronger sense of identity. Last year when my father was visiting, Peter kept asking for more stories of the “old times”. Like so many elderly people, my dad is a specialist in telling stories of the old times. He doesn’t remember much from yesterday, but seventy years ago, that’s a different story, vivid in his mind… I encourage you during these times to remember and tell those stories. You may be surprised how helpful that can be!   

For today I would like you to pray for all those whose wedding and funeral plans have been upended during this imposed quarantine. We haven’t had too much of that happening in our parish and I hope we won’t. But you all may know people who have gone through this. Mourning and grieving during this time has become even more difficult than it is anyway. The other day I read a few of the obituaries in the paper and almost all of them mentioned that services have been postponed and will be held at a later time. Today I saw only two obituary notes in the paper, which is highly unusual and doesn’t mean less people died but that people don’t even bother putting it in the paper for now. I mentioned my sister-in-law in Germany who lost her father just when Corona restrictions were put in place all across Germany. They were still able to have a small and dignified ceremony, but for most people now, funerals are very under-stated and sad affairs. So much of what these ceremonies are about has to do with the comfort of human touch, hugs, presence, togetherness, closeness, food, and all of that is really not possible right now but for the nuclear family unit.  My niece Nina was planning her wedding for May and she is now looking at alternative options. I am sure there have been hundreds and hundreds of people in our area who have been scrambling to cancel and postpone wedding events and everything that goes into the planning for that special day. Can you imagine? By the way, coming back to our own parish, we will have a service for Charles Neiderhiser who died a few weeks ago at the age of  94, we just don’t know when yet, but it will happen. Please do pray for folks who have lost a loved one during the Corona quarantine. It’s got to be tough on them!   

Finally, I have to pay you a huge compliment, people of St. Peter’s! Despite everything that’s going on, we achieved our goal for food donations to Manna on Main Street. Our goal this year was 2020 items and we collected 2099. The biggest donation week was this week. Thank you so much!  We may decide to continue the drive because of the current obvious needs and shortages in our local food banks. I haven’t talked to our Social Ministry Team yet. We’ll keep you posted. Many thanks for your generosity!

Tomorrow, as we approach the Fifth Sunday of Lent, you will once again receive worship resources with readings and prayers at 8:30 a.m., the time of our early service, and we will offer a Facebook Live streamed service at 10:00 a.m. Please join us! I get the feeling that this mode of operation of how we do church will continue through April, but I will give you more solid information on that by next week.

Stay safe and reach back to me. I enjoy reading all of your responses and comments.

Have a blessed day! Pastor Andreas Wagner

Friday, March 28

Good morning, dear church,

We are getting closer to the eye of the storm, I believe. You remember that movie “Perfect Storm” with George Clooney? Well, the waves are getting bigger and we are nearing the point when they may crash upon us. When you follow the news you know that the US has now the world’s largest number of Corona cases; you see that New Jersey is bracing for hospital capacity shortages; New York has been screaming for more ventilators; California is projected to be the new epicenter in our country. For sure, the population centers will have a harder time dealing with this pandemic compared to rural and suburban areas. In my phone calls to our parishioners I sense that most of us are still able to work, albeit many of us from home. I haven’t heard of any shortages of food or basic supplies. But I believe the storm surge will get more severe before it hopefully abates. And the metaphor that we have often used for life situations is very fitting this time: we are all in the same boat.  You can tell that also from the number of prominent people who are infected or affected by the pandemic.  Every day there are a few more revelations. First, it was Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson. Then we heard about members of congress and the senate. Football payers, basketball players, all kinds of athletes. Prince Charles has it. Boris Johnson has it. Heads of state are under quarantine…  Yes, those “important” people may get more attention and better treatment, but even just the fact that they couldn’t avoid this sneaky virus is telling.  I am saying all this sure confidence that as will get through this storm. And no, I am not using this as an opportunity to preach to you about Mark 34: 35-42 (Jesus calming the storm). However, remember how calm he was in all of it!

In our house, we have very rarely ventured out, trying to keep exposure at an absolute minimum, because we can, and because not only we ourselves will benefit from that practice but others may too. We are actually experimenting with how long we can live on our food supplies without going to the store. It’s an interesting experience, one we would never voluntarily sign up for under “normal” circumstances. And so I wake up and go downstairs and I see an empty fruit basket.  And I look into the drawer and there is no fresh bread. And the vegetables come to us only in the form of frozen goods at this point. Oh, and the chocolate s gone! It is an interesting experience and I will confess that I have been tempted to sneak off to the store to re-stock. (And please don’t offer to send us anything, we could do that ourselves.) But it is an interesting experience that helps me very gradually to connect with the experiences of those who are suffering most at this time. That’s one of the core rationales for fasting in the context of the Christian faith: to identify with others who are deprived, to pray and of course to get closer to Jesus. Wow, what a Lenten season!

Thank you once again for all of your responses and comments on these emails. I’d like to share a few again.  Sharon B. wrote about lessons we are learning during this time.

“I hope that we learn from this how to be kinder to each other.  It is amazing as I read stories, Facebook posts, tweets, etc. of those random acts of kindness – helping an elderly person food shop, sharing TP because your neighbor really needs it, not thinking of just ourselves, distilleries opening up to make sanitizer and sharing for the good of the community and not for a $buck, etc.., etc…  I’ve been trying to be better about reaching out to my virtual co-workers who are truly struggling with little ones as they try to work. 

I also hope that we learn not to take the environment for granted.  One article that has stuck out for me is the dolphins and ocean life that came back to the water in Venice, Italy canals.  When we as humans were forced to slow down, the water and animals “came back”.  We need to learn that many of our acts are killing the earth and that maybe after all of this, we will all think twice or think about what we can do to preserve our precious earth.  I love the church’s newly formed environmental committee – I can’t wait to see how it takes shape.  I know each day I try to do my little part; even now.   It kills me when I have to use a sandwich bag now for any reason!

Anyway, I am rambling in my note too, but just wanted you to know, thank you for reaching out to us.  We may not respond, but there are many of us reading and listening to your thoughts.”

Jennifer M. connected with my call for prayer for all of the health workers who are much more exposed than most of us. She is also facing another situation that’s difficult for a number of parents: shared custody. Those of us who share custody for children have to make some not so easy decisions to limit physical exposure to different households and people.  She writes this…

“Pastor, I have really enjoyed your daily emails. I am someone who works in healthcare and has to come to work throughout this pandemic. I usually receive your email while I’m at my desk and it’s nice to take a little break to read your kind words. Thankfully I do not have to come in much contact with patients because I am on the billing side of things, but it still makes me nervous to come in. About half of our patients have decided to stay home, but we do still have some people coming in that have had recent surgeries and need rehabilitation so they don’t have more problems down the road when this is all over.

Elizabeth has been staying with her dad at his house… He and his wife are able to work from home indefinitely and we decided it would be safer for her there since I still have to come to work and be around people. It’s been rough not having her home, but I know it’s for the best, and only temporary. I’ve never been so thankful for technology and the ability to video chat with her! She usually rolls the prayer dice before dinner every night, so Doug and I have been taking turns doing it and saying the prayer.

I have also been reading through the Sunday services. I have not tuned in on Facebook because I gave up social media for Lent! I find it ironic that it is now the only way I can “go to church” during this time.

Stay safe! — Jennifer”

My wife was wondering about the bishop’s comments about “virtual communion.” The Bishop wrote:

“Most of our congregations/communities of faith find “virtual communion” to be a deviation from the norm that should not be promoted. However, I trust that our Rostered Ministers and councils are caring for their congregations/communities of faith as they see fit.”  

What Bishop Davenport is referring to here is the practice of Virtual Holy Communion. I think it mostly works like this: you have your own elements at home and a pastor or priest blesses the elements via conference call, Skype or whatever and people receive Holy Communion that way. The Bishop is saying that some scholars and church leaders regard this as a “deviation from the norm” but she leaves it up to us pastors to make those decisions for our parishes. In case you wonder, I am not a big fan. Holy Communion is important to me, but it’s not like our spiritual welfare is at stake because of a prolonged break. I would really only do this as a last resort and consider it if this quarantine lasts much longer than expected. But as with so many things, I am not closing my mind to the possibility. What do you think?

Please remember that we are collecting food for Manna on Main Street today between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Please leave your bags outside of the church door. We handle them with much care and when they get to Manna they are stored in a quarantine room for several days to avoid any contamination.

Also: If you haven’t seen our church highlight video, please go on our website and check it out. It’s pretty nice. Or click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRVKKxw77Lo&feature=youtu.be

Today we congratulate Matt B. and Eric J. on their birthdays.

Stay safe and be blessed!

Pastor Andreas Wagner

Bishop Patricia Davenport

March 24, 2020

Greetings Beloved,

Grace and peace to you in the name of the One who can do all things but fail, Jesus Christ! 

This is my usual salutation, oh, but these are not usual times. The Coronavirus and COVID-19 has us as Christians, the disciples of Christ, us as the children of the Most High God, the Lutheran Tribe of the Jesus Movement, out of sorts. 

I have chosen to watch, pray and then act. I believe that faith without works benefits no one. I get the dislocation that you feel. We were mandated by our governor to halt gatherings of ten or more, then were requested to “shelter in place.” We were asked by our presiding bishop to worship virtually, fasting from communion for forty days. The list goes on: our employers asked, our families inquired, our communities…. 

Our responses are communicated in many ways, social media has moved into “HD” high definition fast and furiously. Some questions are being asked, answered (or not) in the court of public opinion. A trending question: “What is the bishop saying?  

First, there are a considerable number of messages on Ministrylink.org, our main method of communicating with our lay leaders, Rostered Ministers and partners in ministry across the five-county area. Second, the questions of worship and communion during this time of fear, anxiety and social/physical distancing have not weighed overly heavy in Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod. Most of our congregations/communities of faith find “virtual communion” to be a deviation from the norm that should not be promoted. However, I trust that our Rostered Ministers and councils are caring for their congregations/communities of faith as they see fit.

Our Synod Council and staff are more focused on staying connected in this time of mandated distancing: assisting leaders in adapting to current technology, effective on-line worship and Bible study, podcasts, etc. In particular, my attention has been drawn to the economic impact that COVID-19 is having on our ministries’ ability to pay bills, the pastor’s and staff salaries, and health benefits. In addition, how are we continuing our food ministries to those marginalized, child care ministries for the essential employees that must report to work for the sake of us all. In addition to the many who have died, are infected and economically impacted by this pandemic, you, my beloved, are in my constant prayers. These are just a few things that are on my heart, mind and prayer list. I asked that you stand with me in prayer for our leaders as they guide us through these challenging times.

Please know that our synod staff is working remotely to continue our valuable ministry of accompanying you as you have need. Please feel free to contact me personally at pdavenport@sepa.org with your questions or answers. I solicit both. Stay safe, stay blessed and stay “sheltered in place” Psalm 91:1-2

+ Peace and blessings, Bishop Patricia Davenport

Thursday, March 27

Good morning, dear Quarantinees!

I remember someone saying in a marital crisis situation caused by the spouse (because it’s always the spouse, right?), “I didn’t sign up for this!” It was another way of saying, “This is your fault. I have nothing to do with it! Now get us out of here…” Yes, we humans like to find blame, and I have done it many times myself, aloud or in my heart. Usually blaming doesn’t help though. It gives us short emotional relief, that’s all. None of us signed up for this major halt of life as we know it. And blaming (other countries) doesn’t help. As with all serious situations in life, we have to deal with it. Watching the developments in other parts of the world and in some of the epicenters of infection in the US, I am convinced that the current strict social distancing rules are the best we, the people, can do right now and will save many lives. I watch with sadness the developments in one of my favorite European regions. In the Alsace region of Eastern France, which we visited on our Europe 2018 trip the situation is dire. There, people over 80 infected with COVID 19 don’t get treated anymore and are just given palliative care. The health care system there is overwhelmed.

At the same time, I believe that we will get through this and will learn a few lessons in the process. What if the world learned to share key scientific information early on for the good of all? What if our political system got shocked into actually working together for the people they are representing and serving? What if we all realized anew that affluence, recreational opportunities and the many distractions we all enjoy are not to be taken for granted and are maybe not to be taken quite as seriously as we often do? I am not telling you what lessons to learn from this and perhaps it is even a bit early for that. But each of us, hopefully, will learn something. Do you know why the world’s democracies were so strong in the second half of the 20th century and much more stable and functioning than they are now? It’s because in the parliaments of those democracies sat many people who had experienced real war and knew what truly mattered. I am convinced of that. Maybe in a backhanded way, this will lead to a renewal of our democratic culture and norms. One is allowed to dream, right?

Enough now of my thoughts.  I wanted to remind you that we are holding the third session of our Bible Study today at noon. I have attached the material again in this email. Please email for call information.   Also, later tonight, we will have a teleconference with our visitation deacons. Tomorrow, on Friday, food donations for Manna on Main Street again can be dropped off in front of the church. You don’t have to come in. You can send us a wave and smile though!  We will get these food donations to Manna because they will are in need right now. I am adding the message from our local Bishop, the Rev. Patricia Davenport at the end of this email. When you scroll all the way down you can read it. Church services will be in virtual mode until at least April 5, but likely longer. And while I am not yet canceling events for April, including conformation, etc.,  please plan for the possibility that these events will be postponed.

For today, I’d like you to pray for all health care workers, nurses, doctors, first responders, pharmacists and all who are on the frontier of the fight against the virus and may not be as well protected (as much as they try and are careful!) as those of us who are at home. I haven’t spoken to everyone in our congregation who is in that field, but here are a few examples.  Adam M. and his wife Theresa are both nurses and needed on the job. Adam serves Nursing Homes and provides care for the elderly. (He also kindly distributes gloves, disinfectant, and masks to people who need them). His wife Theresa works in a hospital. They have one child, young Ella. How are they managing? Ella, as Adam put it, is low–maintenance. Her parents are on different shifts and can tend to her needs at different times of the day. She also spends a few hours each day with trusted neighbors. Not easy, as you can imagine! Ashleigh D., with a young baby, is a nurse at Doylestown Hospital. Her husband Kevin holds down the fort at home because he is home from work at this time. Every day after work Ashleigh goes through a careful procedure to de-contaminating, changing clothes, putting them in a special bag to be washed, etc.  We have a few other healthcare workers in our congregation: Robin A., Lisa A. and probably a few others. Please pray for them and for all who are working in that challenging field. We need their help and expertise, but we also need them to stay healthy!

Be blessed, church and stay safe!     Pastor Andreas Wagner

Wednesday, March 25

Good morning church!

Have you ever sent an email and right afterward you thought, “Darn! I forgot something!”  No, I am sure I am the only one in the world…  Yesterday, as I asked you to pray for our college students who are re-adjusting their lives to their own four walls at home, I thought right afterward, “Oh, you forgot to mention a few…”  Jessica B. is home from Bloomsburg. So is Keira D., and she said to her grandmother, “What, I can’t even go to church?” (Thanks Keira, that was sweet!) Ben G. is home from Millersville. His brother Kenny, it was decided, is staying at JMU in Virginia for the time being. Allison G. is home from college, doing on-line courses. So is Nicky G. from Kutztown. Tannis G. is probably home from East Stroudsburg. Allison T. is probably home from Penn State. The list goes on, I am sure there are a few more, I can’t keep up with them all…

Our youth had an interesting get-together via teleconference last night. I wasn’t on the call because we had a Zoom leadership meeting at the same time. But I heard it went very well. When asked what they see as positive during this difficult time, guess what the number one response was??? SLEEP!!!  WE FINALLY GET ENOUGH SLEEP!   (I wonder though how long they are staying up.)

I would like to share with you this morning a video about our church that we have been working on for a long time with videographer Mike Landis. Almost all of the footage was created in the year 1 B.C.  (Before Coronavirus), almost exclusively in 2019. You will see there is lots of human touch in these pictures. But you will enjoy it, especially at this time, to see lots of familiar faces and hear lots of familiar voices. Enjoy it! We will post a shorter version on our website when it’s ready. This one is about six minutes long. And it will take a while to download, but it’s worth the wait…

Click to Download

In other updates:  We know now that Palm Sunday (April 5) will still be quarantined. But we had already ordered the palms (a while ago) and we will offer you a safe drive-through option on that Sunday where you can pick up your palms. We will have someone hand them out in the parking lot with gloves and we will explain the procedure some more when we get closer.

I learned yesterday that the health care staff at Liberty Lutheran needs more face masks. Scroll all the way down to the end of this message to see links with instructions on how to make them and local drop-off sites. 

Our Bible Study will convene again tomorrow at noon (March 26, 12 noon) via teleconference. I have attached a document with the texts that we are studying.  Contact me for the phone number and login information.

For today, I’d like to ask your prayers for our son Samuel (Sam). As most of you know, he has had to endure one h___ of a journey in terms of his health.  Sam will turn 18 on April 25, but he lost much of his teenage years to this wicked condition, which we hope we can overcome as a family. I could probably write a book about it, but here is the short summary of what transpired. In February of 2015 (age 13) Sam got increasingly sick. He had no energy, his legs hurt and he had trouble walking, his eyes were sensitive to sunlight; sometimes he had also severe noise sensitivity. He had crushing headaches and suffered from sleep-depravation. He spent a lot of time in bed. His doctor at the time, a Lyme specialist who had seen him for years, was somehow able to get him better over the following months. He received tutoring at home through the school in that same summer and, amazingly, was able to go back to school in fall! He made it through the entire school year and the following summer during a long stay in Europe I took him hiking in the Alps with several of my old buddies from university. Sam didn’t blink and even enjoyed the experience (and it wasn’t an easy hike). The following year he went down again, in early 2017, this time more severely. He just couldn’t even walk anymore and going to school wasn’t in the cards, not even learning at home, as the headaches interfered with any concentrated activity. He was home in a darkened room with another kind of darkness enveloping him.

He lost his circle of friends, which is a big deal for anyone, but especially for teenagers, one friend hanging with him the entire time. Thank you, James! Of course, we went from Pontius to Pilate to find out more about his condition, bloodwork, specialists, the whole bit. People frequently ask me, “Well, what is his diagnosis?” It’s a simple question but I can’t give you one simple answer. The truth is he has several diagnoses. One of them is that he has been suffering from CIDP (chronic, inflammatory, demyelinating polio-neuropathy), which caused nerve damage, especially in his legs. One of his specialists, a neurologist connected to NYU prescribed weekly doses of IVIG which in his experience has helped patients with similar conditions (few of them as young as Sam). Sam has received IVIG (immune-globulin treatment) for I think two years now.  Let me tell you, we could never pay for these treatments, and we thank God they are covered by insurance.  We have a wonderful nurse (our angel) Joan who comes once a week to our home to administer the medicine. She is a wonderful person and frequently spoils our kids with food. Even the dog is looking forward to Joan’s visits!  While these treatments did help and even reversed some of the nerve damage, we didn’t feel that the progress was strong enough (parents rarely do) and went to another specialist/scientist connected to Johns Hopkins. He discovered that one of the pieces of the puzzle was mast cell Activation Syndrome, which has to do with the workings of his immune system. The doctor introduced a regimen to stabilize his mast cells and that too has made a big difference for him. Finally, after two and a half years physically not being in school he was able to start part-time school for his senior year at Wissahickon this past September. He has also been able, amazingly, to keep up with all the core courses (on-line) and is expected to graduate with his calls, with honors too. This past Christmas Eve he surprised everyone when he walked up to the lectern and read one of the scripture readings, in typical Sam fashion without a single mistake, and he had not seen the text before, he was subbing for Jamie. He now spends much more time in the upright and on his desk and even plays (gingerly) a little bit of volleyball with his younger brother. We are hoping and praying that the progress continues and we are taking careful steps to look at the next steps in his life. 

This is the very short and very abbreviated and incomplete version of what transpired with Sam in the last couple of years. Please keep him in your prayers, as many of you already do. He has been amazingly resilient throughout this time and yes, while this corona thing is bad, we and many other people in our parish can honestly say, “We’ve seen worse.”

May God bless you all and please remember that life is not for the faint of heart,

But God promises to walk each step with us.

Pastor Andreas Wagner                                 

For instructions on how to sew a face mask, check out
these YouTube videos:
(pattern with a slot to insert filter)  

Drop off masks between 8 am and 4 pm or mail to one of these locations:
Liberty at Home 7002 Butler Pike, Ambler, PA 19002 Artman 250 N. Bethlehem Pike, Ambler, PA 19002 Paul’s Run 989 Bustleton Ave., Philadelphia, Pa 19115

Tuesday, March 24

“We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” 

Colossians 1:9

Good morning, church!

There are many downsides and difficulties in every crisis, which are all too obvious and are constantly on display in our news and newsletters, in videos of suffering people from other parts of the world and different corners of our country, in predictions and projections and expert advice… There are anecdotal stories we tell one another about people we know who are affected in one way or another… But there are also upsides to every crisis, and the most obvious and common is – a sense of togetherness, a renewed sense of community. In my own native language, there is this wonderful word construct (the Germans are masters of the word constructs), called “Mitmenschlichkeit.” If you want a literal translation, try this one: “being human together” – and it’s one word, an actual noun! If you want to understand the meaning of this word in all its nuances, I have bad news for you: you must learn German! But seriously, crises bring us closer together, even in the time of “social distancing.” I selected the Bible verse above, which is the Moravian Bible verse for today because it reminds me that all the people I have encouraged you (and myself) to pray for every day, they need our constant prayer. Please continue to lift them up in your hearts and souls! It is one way to grow the church – not by necessarily counting numbers of people, but by all kinds of caring and being human together!

I will continue to share some of the responses I have received for the benefit of all of us. Mark B. who has now two little ones with his wife Emily wrote back on Sunday after watching the service and reading my sermon. Here is an excerpt and a flavor of what he wrote. And I appreciate it especially because Mark is one of the few people from his generation who grew up at St. Peter’s and stayed engaged.    

“Hey pastor,

Isaac and I were able to watch (most of) church today! Thank you! (my computer is going on 7 or 8 years old I can not remember – and it likes to remind me that work and the internet are not so important).

I wanted to just say that this whole thing actually moved me to tears.  The ability to “be at” church I love and worship with my family (my mom was on too! so literally and figuratively ha) clearly means more to me than i regularly realize. That and the message today.

As an Eagle Scout, outdoor adventurer, and amateur farmer, (and a little bit of a social rebel perhaps), I have always been in favor of people respecting the earth and the world around them. I completely agree with the german soccer coach, and you – the world needs a break.  The Earth needs a break.  We people do not need the latest iPhone JUST BECAUSE it came out and we have to keep up. And people (who don’t even know they are living selfishly – aka people who buy up all the Clorox and toilet paper) need to remember the Earth and people other than themselves. (We recently watched The Lorax – which is a very fitting analogy to these times of realizing how blind we are to the plight of the world.)Everyone should just go for a hike every now and then.  Like once a year or so,  And be exposed to the environment, earth, world around them.

Believe it or not, I appreciate this time, at home with my family, though I fully believe we are not meant to spend 24/7 with our family haha.  And I am 1,000% grateful that I have a job, and the ability to work from home…”

Charlene B. can see a number of upsides in the current quarantine.  She is starting a gratitude diary. I want to say that developing gratitude is a teaching that I have embraced more and more in recent years, and we centered one of our stewardship campaigns around it. Developing gratitude is one of the best things you can do for yourself. She wrote:

“Thank you for all your messages and creativeness. While it may not be obvious to us …now is a great time to practice gratitude. Whether it is just in our minds or writing it down (which will also serve as something to reread ages after this is over to remind us of what is important really.) 

For me…

  • When I am feeling upset I cant visit my mother… I think how grateful I am that she is with such caring people at Lakeview.
  •  When I wake up and hear the birds singing this time of year I think how grateful I am I can stay in bed a while longer and listen to them.
  • I am grateful for being able to take socially distanced walks with Ted and Terry.
  • It made my day when walking yesterday I ran into Judy J. and was able to have a socially distanced hug and conversation.

This may be the best time for people to start a gratitude journal even a family gratitude journal with their kids!    How wonderful to have that to look back on.”  – Charlene

Karen S. had something practical to share. She is busy making home-made face masks. See the picture of a sample face mask attached.

“Hi Pastor Wagner,

Hope all is well. I am making homemade face masks and thought maybe the women of St. Peters who sew might want to consider this for family and friends. I understand some people are sewing a piece of flannel between the layers which I will try with the masks I make today. Plastic gloves and safety glasses when shopping are also wise. I folded a tissue in fours in the second picture which would be disposable. Maybe a piece of paper towel would work too.”

As we go into the second week of the quarantine with no end in sight (yet), we continue to make adjustments to how we do church. We have already decided that we will run the next Steeple Views newsletter for all of you to enjoy. It will come out sometime next week. We will also create a skinny version of a church bulletin that we will send along with the sermon for Sunday to our homebound members. They are one of the groups particularly affected by the quarantine since they can’t have visitors at this time, compounding their sense of isolation. They are used to their weekly mailing from church, but of course, we haven’t produced any church programs in the last two weeks. Going forward, we will make a small and limited edition for them. Ginny Benner is the one who faithfully sends these materials out. Thanks, Ginny!

For today, I would like you to pray for our college students, almost all of whom are back home at this point, starting online courses, getting their education in their own four walls, crouched behind a computer screen. The exceptions are… Isabelle M. who spent a semester abroad in beautiful New Zealand and may be stuck there for a little longer than expected. (There are worse places to be stuck.) Her family intended to visit her just around now, but as the coronavirus made its infamous way around the globe and quarantines became mandatory for visitors to almost every country, those beautiful plans had to be buried. Katie G. is one of the few students still at Penn State working in a laboratory with lots of safety precautions in place. The others, as far as I can tell – are home!  Joey G. made it home just in time from Italy before the country suffered one of the biggest blows of this pandemic. Joey was in beautiful Florence (not in the Italian epicenter Lombardy) and came home about two days before emergency measures were put in place. (His mom is happy!) Cate H. made it home from Boston (Emerson) and her mom Evy told me that she went up Saturday a week ago to clear out her dorm in a high rise building. She was stuck in an elevator with a bunch of other parents doing the same, feeling a bit uncomfortable in this situation, certainly not the definition of social distancing. Rachel N. is home from Temple. Our daughter Sarah was home on spring break and never went back. The college wanted us to clear out her dorm as well, but we and many other parents said: “No, thanks!” Kenyon has students from all over the country and we didn’t think it would be smart to fly or drive to eastern Ohio at this time. The college relented. We will pick her up stuff in May. I hope to hear from some of our college students, whom we naturally don’t see very often. Please pray for them as they continue their journey in ways they did not imagine at the beginning of this new semester.  

Parents of teenagers:  remember, there is a phone teleconference with Mrs. Bodolus and Mr. Miller tonight at 7!

Blessings and peace to all of you! Pastor Andreas Wagner

Sewing face masks.

Monday, March 23

Good morning, church!

“Life is a series of adjustments.” America W. brought this saying to my attention when we talked last week.  And it is so true, isn’t it? As a church, we are adjusting and changing like never before in my 12.5 years at St. Peter’s. It’s borne out of necessity of course.  

Thank you for all your comments, encouragements and feedback about our Facebook Live service yesterday morning. We received more than 600 views and more than 100 comments, which is pretty good by our standards. (We are not a celebrity after all!) We had participants from different parts of our country, and some of our friends in Puerto Rico were watching as well. It tells me that people pay attention and that there is a hunger to connect on personal and spiritual levels, especially during this time.  We, the staff and the leaders of the church are constantly evaluating other ideas to help us connect better and in ways that adhere to public safety protocols.

We are already thinking about the Easter season and how we can make this very special to our members and families if (as I expect at this point) the quarantine is still in place. Please feel free to send me your ideas, because this is truly a community effort!

This week we are planning several things. On Tuesday night I will have a teleconference with our expanded Executive Team. This group has no voting or decision making power. That lies with council, but in times like these those types of conversations will be helpful and will make the work of our council and my work easier as well. Also on Tuesday night, Jenn will have a virtual meet-up with our youth. If you have a teenager in your family and don’t know about it yet, please reach out to her directly (dfm.stpetersnorthwales@gmail.com).  As far as I know, it will be at 7:00 p.m. We want to check and see that our kids are not bored silly yet and have an opportunity to talk to each other. On Thursday I will have a teleconference with our visitation deacons (6:00 p.m.). I have encouraged them to reach out to their “sheep” via telephone and to do it more often.  Usually, they aim for a visit once a month with our homebound members. I think, especially since we can’t physically visit, most of them need a bit more attention right now.

On Friday we will again accept donations for Manna on Main Street between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.  You can leave the bags of food in front of the church door and we thank you all for your response and generosity last Friday! Joy states, “it was the best day for our food drive… 370 food items were brought in!”

For today I would like to ask your prayers for our friends from the Lamb Foundation.  We always have a few “regulars,” North Wales residents who live at the Lamb Foundation and worship with us on a regular basis.  They all struggle with their own sets of disabilities and compromised functioning, that’s why they are there.  We love them and embrace them, which often includes putting up with certain quirks and habits that we would find odd in the general population. It’s part of being a caring church. Last week I spoke to our friend Joseph H. (Little Joe) in the hospital. He sounded good and is on the mend, but I am still not exactly sure we know his exact diagnosis. Joey is a sweetheart and he has sung with our choir for several years now, including last Christmas Eve. Some of you may have seen him proudly wearing a train conductor’s uniform and ushering people to the trains in North Wales (his gig a few years ago). He gave me a picture, little Joe beaming from ear to ear in his uniform. What a hoot! Then there is Evelyn who often knocks at our door whenever she sees light in the church. She craves attention and human contact, and sometimes more than other times we have to remind her of boundaries.  We can’t have her walk into every meeting for instance. But I was thinking of her especially since I know that she is suffering and in need of a kind word and attention here and there. For the most part, our members have been very good about it. But this quarantine must be killing her! Please say a prayer for her. Then there is Carl W., especially sad for me because I saw his mental decline practically happen before my own eyes.  He first attended church with a woman he was romantically involved with many years ago. The relationship came apart as his mind took a turn for the worst. I think for Carl the routine is especially important.  He ALWAYS comes to the 8:30 a.m. service. He is missing that routine right now and has no way to communicate like the rest of us.  For all those, as well as for Mark and Beth and another gentleman whose name I haven’t learned yet, please say a prayer for them. We so often forget about the segment of our community that lives permanently with those kinds of disabilities. May God bless them all!

(The names of the people I just mentioned will be initialed in any public media space, such as our website. But most of you know our friends from Lamb by name already.)

I continue to be encouraged and extremely pleased by the many responses I receive to these emails, as well as requests to add other people.

Thank you all!  Be well and be safe this week! Pastor Andreas Wagner