Wednesday, April 29

Good morning church!

Yesterday I shared with you the story of Kelly J.’s wedding, prompted by her mother Joy’s birth announcement of Kelly’s second daughter (another grandchild for Joy and Eric!).  I mentioned that Kelly is a wonderfully creative writer; but then, after I had already sent off the email I thought that was a pretty lame understatement. Kelly has been publishing books for years now, mostly in the Young Adult Fiction genre. So I looked up her website. It gives you a much better picture of her accomplishments. In a relatively small church (we are not THAT small, you know!) we share both joy and sorrow together, and we are proud of the accomplishments of Kelly who grew up in our church and in the North Penn community. She was drawn to writing at a young age. You can learn more about her on her personal website. Just google Kelly Ann Jacobson books and you will find it.

“Kelly Ann Jacobson is the author or editor of many published books, including novels such as Cairo in White, the poetry collection I Have Conversations with You in My Dreams, and anthologies such as Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction. She also writes young adult speculative novels under her pen name, Annabelle Jay. Kelly received her MA in Fiction at Johns Hopkins University, and is now working toward her PhD in Fiction at Florida State University. Her work—including short stories published in such places as Northern Virginia Review and Iron Horse Literary Review.”

Kelly Jacobson

Today I’d like to give some credit to a man who has sometimes been maligned or made fun of, mostly because of the old human sin of jealousy and envy. (At least that’s what I believe.) In the 1980’s and 1990’s, in the heydays of the Microsoft Company, there were at least ten new jokes annually about Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and then the richest man on the planet (by far). And of course Apple aficionados would take to those jokes with special relish. In a way it was easy to dislike Bill Gates. He was not a charismatic visionary like his rival and counterpart Steve Jobs. He was a nerd who knew how to run a business and make money, lots of it, and some of it by using his elbows to push others out (a specialty of Capitalism). We don’t always appreciate our tycoons; we see their faults clearly and the Social Justice instincts of church people are set in motion. Tell me the name of any of America’s many tycoons over the last 200 years and you can make a pretty extensive list of social injustices committed, directly or indirectly. But I am getting away from the point I want to make. I want to say: give credit to Bill Gates for using his money wisely. Not everybody does. Once the richest man in the world, he is now, with his wife Melinda, the biggest philanthropist in the world (by far), and it’s a role that he sincerely embraces and enjoys. He doesn’t need more money. He wants to make a difference in the world. And in this Coronavirus crisis he is one of the bright spots. In 2015, during the first Ebola scare in West Africa, he predicted a pandemic that the world wasn’t ready for. And these days he is collaborating with organizations globally, and he’s funding efforts worldwide to find a vaccine. He has been maligned again recently, accused of trying to profit from this crisis, even inducing the virus in the first place, which is frankly ridiculous and shameful. But conspiracy theories will always be a distraction and source of self-importance for some. Because the gospel so intensely and repeatedly warns against the sin of  greed (Jesus: You cannot serve God and money!), we sometimes tend to be judgmental of those who “have made it big,” to use an expression I don’t actually like. But we ought to give credit when people give back, give freely, and want to use their resources to make the world a better place. Thank you, Bill Gates!

As the world around us continues to change, our conversations in staff and council continue about possible re-opening scenarios. That time will come and it will not be an immediate return to what we would call normalcy.  It may be that we will need to take reservations for limited church seating for a while, to honor the social distancing rules that will likely be with us for a while.  It will be interesting, but as I have said so many times, we will get through this together. 

We are also planning another drive-through at church for Mother’s Day, which will be Sunday, May 10. We will give out little biodegradable bags with flower seeds and markers for your yards and gardens to grow flowers in memory of your mother. We also invite you to email us a nice picture of your mom, please. Lisa will print those pictures and we will set them up in our sanctuary for the May 10 service and have some of the recording done against the background of all those special people in our lives and a picture show with music. Please send them to us perhaps with a picture of you as well (optional)!   

Our weekly Thursday Bible Study will take place again tomorrow at noon. Please join us via Zoom. The material is attached. We will study the final chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians and will decide which book we want to tackle next.  Brian Brenfleck is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting. Join Zoom Meeting

This is the last call for “baby Stuff” from the Wunder family. If you know someone in need, please let me know!

For today I invite you to pray with me for my nephew and godson Lukas W. and his family, more specifically for his newborn child. They live in Stuttgart. Charlotte was born a few months ago in January – their first child and great joy in their lives. It has now become apparent and confirmed that Charlotte was born deaf. She didn’t react to any of the tests. Today Lukas and his wife Mona are driving to the city of Ulm to a special clinic to see whether she could benefit from an implant. It is, of course, a very shocking development and one that is hard to deal with. Lukas and Mona are both wonderful young people, and I am sure they will do the best they can to care for their daughter. Some of you met Lukas on our 2018 trip to Europe. He joined us for a day when we went on our day trip to the Alsace region.  

I hope you have a wonderful day.

Be blessed and be safe! Pastor Andreas Wagner

Tuesday, April 28

Good morning church,

It is time for some good news. This is what Joy J. wrote to me this morning about the birth of her (second) grandchild. I believe they still live in the greater DC area.  

“Lyla Lee H. was born to Kelly and Jason early this morning …she weighs 8 lbs. 5 ounces.  All are doing well. Funny story about big sister Zoe, who walked out of her house two weeks ago with a backpack on and lunchbox in hand, wanting to go back to “school” because she misses her friends….she is 25 months old!!! Yesterday the neighbors came over to get Zoe so Kelly and Jason could go to the hospital.  The neighbor family has a child a bit older than Zoe.  Anyway, Zoe was so excited to see another child that she took her hand and walked out of the house, not even looking back at Kelly and Jason.  Even very  little kids sense how different life is and the importance of human contact!”

I remember officiating the wedding of Kelly and Jason. They are a very cute couple. Kelly is the talkative one, with wonderful creative writing inclinations and enJOYment (pun intended) of people and situations. Jason is quiet and analytical, supportive and down to earth. Having grown up in the US, Jason is as Greek as his name suggests.  After the wedding ceremony at church, the entire wedding party drove down to Manayunk to have a party at the Manayunk Brewery. One thing I don’t remember is how we actually found parking there, because that’s a challenge on a good day during the normal times that we all miss (People! People! People!). But on that day, the brewery horses were parading down Main Street, greeted by onlookers and excited folk taking pictures with cell phones in hand. It was a zoo!  We must have made it to the party on time because we witnessed how bride and groom ventured out on Main Street to be photographed in the midst of the day’s excitements. In fact, the Budweiser Clydesdales were stomping down the Main Street corridor and the wedding photographer had the brilliant idea to take a photo of the beautiful couple with the horses. That’s when one of the horses reached out to the bride and gave Kelly a big fat kiss! (Yum!)  That’s how I remember the story.  And now Jason and Kelly have two little girls. Even as a non-superstitious person I’d like to think that the horse’s kiss meant good luck. Congratulations!    

I also spoke to Gail T. yesterday and she shared with me good news about her daughter’s mother-in-law. Remember, Eileen J. was in an area hospital with Covid 19. She has just experienced one bad medical diagnosis after another.  She has now recovered from the virus and can go on fighting the cancer. It’s unbelievable how some people are hit but thank you for your prayers and she has one less thing to deal with!

I was meditating this morning about a Scripture verse from 2. Chronicles 22:19: “Now set your heart and mind to seek the Lord and God.”  And I kept thinking about the all-important “Settings” function on our “all-important” cell phones. My children keep educating me about it. But at least I know this much: when we are on an airplane trip (once upon a time…) you are supposed to put it in airplane mode. I have done the same while traveling in Europe to avoid the roaming charges which can accumulate so quickly.  Basically, it prevents the device from seeking connections. It’s easy to apply this as a metaphor to our spiritual lives. Sometimes the settings in our hearts and minds are not in a receptive mode. We are on spiritual “airplane mode,” traveling at fast speeds here or there, not able or even willing to get a signal from God. At this time many of us are changing our spiritual settings, allowing God to send us signals. But remember, it does require your permission (changing your settings). May the Lord bless you!

Yesterday, I received this wonderful, sweet note from the North Country (Wisconsin).  It was Kirsten O.’s younger sister Ingrid. She wrote:

“Dear Pastor Andreas Wagner, I want to thank you for the lovely internet services St. Peters has graced me with these past 4 weeks.  I am Kirsten O.’s younger sister and I’ve been so uplifted by being able to watch your services, messages, readings, and music that your church and congregation have provided (for) so many.  I’ve also forwarded them to a very troubled woman in NYC who’s been in lockdown in her apt. there who had lost her job back in Nov.  She finds them very helpful as well.  I love your presentation and words of wisdom.  Of course, I love the music too…having grown up with Kirsten my entire life has been with music as an integral part.  It is one of many coping mechanisms I find most useful in this time of Covid-19.  I am a retired Registered Nurse who lives on a homestead in the country in SW Wisconsin.  We grow a big garden and have raised chickens as well.  This time of reflection and people coming to terms with the “busy ness” of their lives is profound.  You are very articulate and humble and I love everything about you. Hugs and God’s Blessings to you and your family,”  (Ingrid O., Blue River, WI)

Thank you, Ingrid!  I appreciate that various people forward messages to others when they find them meaningful.  That’s how the gospel has always reached people.  If it is meaningful to you, chances are it will be meaningful to many others. We have no “copyright” on the insights and stories we share. We would like them to be part of God’s Word that goes out and fertilizes the souls of people, bringing forth fruit in time (Isaiah 55: 10-11)   

For today we have a number of church meetings again. At noon, our staff convenes for our weekly conference. Tonight at 7:00 p.m., our youth will be gathering via Zoom and at 8:00 p.m. we have a technology meeting. All of this is happening via video conferencing. The church is active, even as the building remains closed for the public.

Yesterday, our St. Peter’s Devotional Book Project was officially launched. We sent out 17 disciples or (couples) into the world of the scripture. (I am number 18) They each selected four Bible verses and will dig deep into God’s Word to produce 72(!!!) devotions initially. This is a three-year project and at the conclusion of it we will publish the St. Peter’s Devotional Book with a scripture and a reading for each day of the year. We will probably publish some of them ahead of time via email so you don’t have to wait until the beginning of 2023!

For today, please join me in prayers for people in our community infected by Covid 19. Gwen S., who grew up at St. Peter’s and has been reconnecting with our congregation over the last several months, and is preparing for the Baptism of her daughter Meredith (when that is possible again!), forwarded me a news story that I found touching:    

“These are difficult and scary times for a Bucks County family. Curt E., 57, has COVID-19 and is on a ventilator. His wife of 30 years is asking family, friends, and strangers for prayers.

“I want as many people as I can find to pray for him and try to make a miracle happen to get him over the hump,” Kathleen E. told FOX 29…  Kathleen lives trying to balance fear and optimism for her best friend and husband. ‘My faith is what’s getting me through,’ she said. Kathleen adds she doesn’t want anything material, but she wants collective prayer for Curt from people near and far.”

Let us pray for Curt and everyone we are aware of, fighting this virus, many of them in our area hospitals.

Today is the birthday of MaryAnn G. Happy birthday, MaryAnn!!!

Be safe and be blessed! Pastor Andreas Wagner

Monday, April 27

Dear friends and congregation,

We had a big birthday weekend in our family, Sam turning 18 on Saturday and Peter 15 yesterday. Young parents are often told, “Enjoy this time, it will go faster than you think!” And then people who tell you that, they smile knowingly as if they are part of a clandestine society that you’re not a member of. It’s sometimes hard to believe those comments during the early stages of family life when the kids are young and you seemingly need four hands, when your attention is required in three different places at the same time when they cry at night and you reluctantly leave the comfort of your own bed to comfort your child, exhausted and disheveled as you are. But then these days come when your children are suddenly at the threshold of adulthood and you realize that everything went so much faster than you ever imagined. They argue with you in intelligent ways, there is give and take, and you enjoy your children in very different ways, but the truth is, what you were told at the outset was 100 percent correct: those years flew by! My daughter is going to turn 20 around Christmas. I guess it must be so.

How do we measure time? With our clocks and cellphones and all that other equipment, stupid! But no, how do we REALLY measure time? I know that, for some of you, time is crawling and creeping at a snail’s pace (or even slower) right now. I spoke to Bill K. over the weekend, one of our senior church members, still impatiently waiting to be able to see his wife who is quarantined across the street at the Nursing Care facility in his retirement community. He can’t see her, he can’t kiss her, and even just speaking to her on the phone is difficult. And still, there is no end in sight for this quarantine to be lifted! These restrictions will be in place at least for a few more weeks. The clock ticks slowly for him and for so many others, days are long, time’s not moving. Then there are others in our congregation who work long days, busy days; some say they are “busier than ever”  during this time. Some are working constantly in excess of 12 hours a day and the changes they absorb come at lightning speed. There is something new, some new concept they have to respond to every single day. Time, as we experience it, has a very subjective feel to it. So let me introduce you to a Biblical concept of time. (And if you are too busy, please skip!)

The New Testament uses two words for time, one is “Chronos” and the other is “Kairos,” two Greek terms with very different connotations. “Chronos” is a word that we can easily relate to, since many English words are derived from it, such as chronicles, chronic, etc.  When the gospel writers use that word it means: time as it is objectively measured by whatever we got to keep track of it, time as it ticks away measurably for everyone. The other word, “Kairos” is used very differently and selectively.  When Jesus says in the gospels, “My time has not yet come,” the word “Kairos” is used. It indicates a special time, a God-time if you will, a very meaningful moment in the sea of moments. And if I interpret my New Testament correctly, I believe that one of our challenges as human beings on our spiritual journey is precisely this: to recognize those special moments in time when God sends us a special invitation – and to make the most of it. How many “Kairos” times have you had in your life? You already know that I believe that this prolonged time of a Global Sabbath is a God-moment, not just for individuals like me and you but for society as a whole. This could be a beginning of “resetting the clock” of our notoriously hectic lifestyles. This could cause us to realize that sometimes all that busy-ness is our way of dressing up and hiding our own nakedness from God (Genesis 3:8). I pray every day that we use this Kairos time wisely, as a church, as U.S. society, as a global community. End of sermon.

I hope you enjoyed our Earth Day worship service yesterday. It is still very easily accessible on our website and on our Facebook page. As mentioned last week, we are investing in some technologies that will help us meet the challenges of the virtual age, including a video editing program. These technologies are paid for from our Memorial Fund in a special nod to Roy J. who suddenly died last year and who was always interested in new technologies and gadgets. He will be very happy to know that the Memorial money we received on his behalf is used for such a project. In fact, I can see him smile!

For today, I want to invite you to pray for Lilia M., one of our teens. She has had a difficult upbringing which included trauma and abuse. Her grandmother Oswilla has been doing whatever she can, and many times more, to keep her on a healthy track; yet, working against the demons of the past is one of the most frustrating experiences. I remember Lilia as a little girl coming to church, and every Sunday she would give me a big hug.  As she entered the teenage stage, some of her hidden burdens came out in the form of aggression, and she has been in and out of youth shelters. I pray that she will be placed in a program that can truly help her deal with her emotions and impulses, and also provide her with appropriate medical and counseling care.  She is very much loved in our church, but she has a tough road ahead of her and I ask you to please pray for her. I also thank Oswilla for giving me permission to share this and allow our people to support her. You can flood her with cards. Send them to: Montgomery County Youth Shelter, 540 Port Indian Rd., Norristown. PA. 19403. 

The attached picture captures a fox in MaryAnn G.’s backyard. I have seen a fox wondering in our neighborhood as well. Beautiful animals!

Be blessed and be safe!

Pastor Andreas Wagner

Sunday, April 26

Good morning church,

Once upon a distant time, before the coronavirus descended upon us and upended life as we knew it, this Sunday was supposed to be a special celebration for seven of our youth. This was going to be Confirmation Sunday for Zach B., Holden B., Khyree I., Jaiden M., David S., Kyrstyn S., and Peter W. They almost completed their second year of faith education and this would have been a very special day for them and their families. Please lift up these seven young people in your prayers today. We hope to hold the confirmation celebration later this year. You will hear more from these young people as they finish their confirmation projects (speeches) and record them at home. Starting sometime in May, we will post these speeches on Sundays.

Today’s worship is centered around a celebration of creation, which is both an acknowledgment of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary this week and the ongoing importance of environmental work in the 21st century.  It is also a reminder that creation is celebrated often and enthusiastically in the Bible, so this is nothing new. One Scripture passage that is not part of today’s service – but which I love – is from the Book of the prophet Isaiah: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Call it poetic exuberance. Call it dreaminess. Call it whatever you want. In the prophet’s mind, God’s work of salvation is not a human-centered thing (as we have often portrayed it); it involves all of creation. Can we ever be “saved” unless creation has a part in it as well? (My dog is nodding. “You’re on to something,” she says. Well then, Winter!)

I hope you enjoy the music and the message for this Sunday.  It includes the Earth Day Classic “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell, as well as a beautiful old German hymn, which I honestly only know in its beautiful American version, “When Morning Gilds the Sky”.  It also includes my favorite hymn from the Celtic tradition, the “Canticle of the Turning.” This is, can you believe it, already the Seventh Sunday of the Quarantine! I keep praying that we don’t have to go into double digits in this new “liturgical calendar.”  I’d rather see some faces in church.  The virtual service will be posted on our website and Facebook by 10:00 a.m.  Starting next Sunday, we will probably post it earlier, for our early birds.  

Thank you for continuing to support St. Peter’s during these difficult times. Every week we receive many envelopes and online donations. In my family, we are using the “Simply Giving” Program, which is an automatic church donation system. I recommend it. If you are interested, please let me know, or better yet, reach out to Dave S. He’d be happy to help you. The online button below works, I was told. Next week, I will share with you the offering report for the entire month of April.

This is a difficult time, and we so appreciate your donations.


Today are the birthdays of Peter W. (15) and Shamala O.  Happy birthday!

Also: George and Martha W. have lots of baby and toddler items to give away, both bigger items and girl’s clothing. If you need some or know someone who needs some items, please let us know. You can find George and Martha’s contact info in our online directory.  

Many blessings and peace, Pastor Andreas Wagner


Saturday, April 25

Good morning, dear people!

Every Saturday we prepare for Sunday service, and while that preparing used to be more of pastoral responsibility, these days it is a worship team that puts together the service. And that’s a wonderful thing! I usually write the prayers and other parts of the liturgy early in the week. Kirsten reaches out to musicians and establishes the songs and hymns that will be part of the worship. We ask some additional people and some mainstays to join us on Zoom from their homes on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. for the recording. That’s what will happen this afternoon. We have found that it’s best to pre-record and post the service in various places, including our own website and Facebook, and also make it available in an easily accessible Vimeo format. Our church is investing a modest amount of money into the technologies that allow us to do this well. We are certain that, even when the church re-opens again, the virtual services will not go away and will reach many people who are, for whatever reason, unable to attend. For this coming Sunday (tomorrow), I want to thank Martha and Bernie H. who are acting as our hosts during these virtual services. I want to thank our “producer” Brian B. (he deserves a promotion!) and Jenn B. who is always part of the recording. I want to thank Kirsten and the musicians who are pre-recording in the church on Wednesday nights and those who are pre-recording at home. This Sunday, for our Earth Day and Creation celebration, we will have contributions from Jenn G. and Roy S., as well as Sarah W. and I believe the McGilloways. The Browne family will join us for the recording, as well as Anita B., who wrote this beautiful creation prayer. It will be our opening prayer tomorrow, but I wanted you to enjoy and pray it even today.       

“God of the heavens and earth, you have blessed us with the majesty and splendor of skies and mountains, land, and seas.  We are awed and overjoyed with riots of color and intoxicating scents, hidden treasures beneath the earth and sea, gentle breezes that sway trees and carry bugs and birds through the air.  We are delighted with the laughter of children and touched by their innocence and once again we become young and carefree.  All of this you provided for your people with your unending love.  Help us to keep that love in our hearts and send it outward to care for all of your magnificent creation.  Help us to reach higher than ourselves; to be more than we thought possible; to never look away from need; to find ways to go beyond what is expected; to ache when there is anything that devastates or mars your creation that you have, through your loving kindness, bestowed upon us.  Help us to be your living caretakers and never turn from even the smallest blight, slight, or hurt to anything or anyone. Help us to be your face and hands on this earth so that all things and people will know your blessings and all praise you and say   Amen!” 

Attached, I hope you enjoy the de-ja vu picture and especially the poem. Brian forwarded it to me a little while ago and I believe Tom A. also brought that poem to my attention. It is a nice, hopeful poem and may help you pray that “we the people” will make the best out of this crisis.  As I mentioned so many times, there is opportunity in every crisis, and that includes spiritual opportunity and the potential for rediscovering what makes us human and what truly matters in life.  Last night, the NFL hosted their first online draft, which was probably a big deal for many sports fans – one of the few major sporting events that actually took place! As a sports fan myself, this has been a forced “fasting” from the excitements of games, and while I miss for instance watching European soccer games on a Saturday morning, I think it is good for me to have a break like that and it is good for our society as a whole to have a time-out. I believe that the sports world in recent decades has acquired too much money, too much power, and too much spiritual importance in our society. And I am saying this as a person who truly enjoys a number of sports, believe me, or ask my wife… One former president of the Southern Baptist Denomination once quipped that Americans may not know who their God is, but they sure know who their team is. He was right!!! Can we re-form our priorities and spiritual practices as people of the Re-Formation???          

Today are the birthdays of Sam W. (18) and Olga S. (not 18). Happy birthday to you both!!!

Please join me in prayers today for our friend Bill D. His wife Pam, who has had a long-standing connection to St. Peter’s, wrote this: “I have a request. Would you please place my husband Bill on St. Peter’s prayer list? He was recently diagnosed with throat cancer and is starting regular chemo and radiation treatments which should last about 7 weeks. His doctors are confident that this treatment regimen gives Bill a high rate of cure, so we are being optimistic. However, this won’t be an easy 7 weeks, and so I’m asking for prayers from everyone- I know how powerful prayers can be, and comforting to know so many people are holding him in their hearts.” – I met Bill a number of years ago, and he has an interesting story. As a child, he lived in Berlin for several years. His father was a GI in the Army serving overseas. Both of his parents were killed in a devastating house fire, and he and his two siblings returned to the US as orphans. Why am I sharing this? Because it is often amazing to me what people have quietly gone through in their lives – and yet have managed to be positive and life-affirming. It is an inspiration to me! Please pray for Bill at this time.

Be blessed and be safe,

Enjoy this beautiful day! Pastor Andreas Wagner

Friday, April 24

“How I long to see you!”

Dear church, the Apostle Paul wrote those words in more than one of his letters. Thus far, whenever I read these expressions I thought they were “nice” sentiments. He really liked and missed his people. How cute and adorable! As you know, he spent huge junks of time apart from the church communities he had founded, sometimes traveling, sometimes writing from prison in a world that wasn’t terribly open for the gospel message. And so, he wrote to his church flock in Philippi: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” And he wrote to his disciple Timothy, the recipient of two of his pastoral letters, “I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.”  (2. Timothy 1: 3-4) And he wrote to the early Christians  in Rome, whom he had never met before, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Romans 1: 11-12).  It’s funny how you come across those passages and you think you know what they are about, until one day you realize there is more to it.

“How I long to see you!”  It has fast become a commonly shared craving among us, a longing for the normalcy of human interaction, for the irreplaceable eye contact and the thousand or so things we communicate via body language, and so much more. Now we really know how Paul felt! I have received many little notes from people in our church saying they miss their community, they miss their choir rehearsals, they miss being together. And I feel the same way, despite the fact that I have always been comfortable spending long periods of time in solitude and relative quietness. These emails have become the most important vehicle to communicate with you, share insights, provide encouragement, and a faith-full perspective during these times. But at the end of the day, I am with Paul: “I long to see you!”  My thoughts and prayers this morning are again with all of our homebound members and nursing home residents who are cut off from their family members and loved ones. Judy J., who serves as one of our visitation deacons, sent me the following picture of Herb K. (see attached) who lives at Gwynedd Estates.  It was taken by one of the staff there. Herb is 93 now (I believe that’s correct), and he has always had a brilliant analytical mind, paired with an appreciation for community, togetherness, and fun. In his heyday, he worked as an engineer in several overseas assignments, including Persia and Panama. In fact, he brought his whole family to Panama for a period of time (Molly and all four daughters – with the exotic birds in the photos to prove it). We have some elderly people in our congregation who could tell stories… But the truth is, behind every person, there is a story, and to me, a big part of our faith journey is learning to tell your story with a hopeful, self-respecting and humble attitude, which is borne out of an awareness that you are part of a greater whole – God’s community!   “How I long to see you!”     

There are birthdays to celebrate today, on April 24, another popular one. Our greetings, love and blessings go to John M., Eric G., and Phoenix W.

Churches and Faith Communities are wrestling with loads of tricky questions related to a re-opening of our buildings at some point. Yesterday, I saw a document from a local church that passed on a questionnaire of important “re-opening” questions, ranging from how many people to allow into the building initially, to safe distances, communion procedures, cleaning procedures, etc. etc.  They produced a three page document with great questions for us to ponder. Which also means: there are a lot more questions than answers still at this point. But we will figure this out together and will get through it. Of that, I am certain. I hope that when our council meets next time via Zoom, we will have a draft document that addresses all those questions in thoughtful and practical ways. We will keep you in the loop.

Today, you can drop off food donations for Manna and again place it on Lisa’s truck. I talked to her this morning. You can first use the back seats and then the covered truck bed. Lisa said she was overjoyed last week to get so many food donations, signs of your care for others. Thank you, church, you are the best!  Today’s timing for donations is as always: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Thanks for your generosity!

I am so pleased that we have a total of 20 volunteers who are starting to work on our big St. Peter’s Devotional Book Project. This was something we had already discussed in our Adult Faith Formation Team a while ago; and it just feels like the right time to start it now. Our volunteers (including two couples sharing duties) will produce close to 100 devotion texts this year and about 130 in the next two years each.  Some will write the minimum 4-5 devotions per year, some will do more. By the end of 2022 we plan on bringing it all together to publish a St. Peter’s Devotional Book, with a devotion for every day of the year.  To me it is an important project in our quest to stimulate faith and depth of spirit among the people of our congregation.

In our children’s ministry we are also considering different approaches as we get closer to those summer months. Our Director of Family Faith Formation is working on a summer concept that will likely offer virtual children’s services, but I will hold off on this until the concept is fully developed. But we are thinking hard about how we can help our parents with young children in the upcoming months and we have some wonderful ideas. Stay tuned.   

Today, I would like you to pray for Ginny O., the mother of Jim O.  Jim, and his wife Renee joined our church last year. They live in West Point. Renee wrote:

Please add Jim’s mom, Ginny.  She has tested positive for COVID 19.  She lives in Manor Care, Montgomeryville, which is under a recent high positive situation.  If you have other church members that live there, you may want to touch base. I ask for prayers for Ginny, although still asymptomatic and (her husband) Roy as he faces this challenge without being with her”

Blessings to all of you on this rainy day…

Be blessed and be safe! Pastor Andreas Wagner

Thursday, April 23

Good morning, church!

I took this picture of a blooming cherry tree yesterday. It’s of course in front of our church in North Wales. The blooming trees and flowers of the spring season have been a saving grace for me and for many of us, as these beautiful specimens remind us every single day of the vibrancy of creation and the hope of life coming back. One of these days, our community will bloom again! People will gather again! Hey, there will even be community festivals…  For now, we get to enjoy only limited human contact, but there is no restriction on enjoying our other creature friends! So, don’t hesitate to send me some pictures from your backyards and neighborhoods. Nature and being in nature has been an important factor in the development of my own faith and the faith of many others. We might as well try to take some time during these quarantine weeks (How much longer???) to connect with our other brothers and sisters (at least that’s what Francis of Assisi called them) out in nature.  Francis was an interesting fellow – I am talking about the 13th century original, not our current pope, who is also an interesting fellow. Francis had this child-like relationship with nature. Just read his Canticle of the Sun, which is also set in music in the ELW 835:  “Sing, brother sun in splendor bright; sing sister moon and stars of night… sing brother wind with clouds of rain, you grow the gifts of fruit and grain…”

I cannot overstate the importance that nature had in my own faith development. I grew up on the edge of a forest, always near trees and frequently taking walks through those surroundings, no matter the season. I even liked – and this was in hindsight probably a sign of my future calling – walking by myself through the local cemetery with its old trees, shrubs and evergreens. I always felt quite a peace in those surroundings, in the “presence” of death and in the presence of life. In ways I couldn’t possibly put into words, God spoke to me during those walks and wanderings, and it anchored me early on. I recently came across the following description of African-American philosopher, Civil Rights leader  and mystic Howard Thurman – he was one of MLK’s teachers – about a tree near his home that grew important to him:    

“Eventually I discovered that the oak tree and I had a unique relationship. I could sit, my back against its trunk, and feel the same peace that would come to me in my bed at night. I could reach down into the quiet places of my spirit, take out my bruises and joys, unfold them and talk about them. I could talk aloud to the oak tree and know that I was understood. It too, was part of my reality, like the woods . . . giving me space.” ( From: “With head and heart”, Autobiography of Howard Thurman)

During these unusual days, I continue to enjoy the unusual presence of neighborhood people taking walks, of children playing outside, of people (even at a safe distance) being outdoors. I thought nobody had time for that anymore…  Here is another tiny little anecdote that I came across in a radio program many years ago and that stuck with me. The radio host interviewed a person and I forgot the context of the conversation but she asked which pastime activity has been lost over the last decade or so (the program was probably 20 years ago, so go 30 years back…)  And the response was not what you think. This person said, “Looking out the window.”  People are so busy they don’t pay much attention to their surroundings anymore.  Well, this is a time, especially on one of those rainy days that make outdoors activities yucky, to every once in a while look up from your computer screen, see what’s going on out there, and be connected to our “other” brothers and sisters. Give it a try!

Today I will check in again with some of my colleagues in our synod. I am curious to see what kinds of re-opening church scenarios are evolving. Even though it will still b e a number of weeks, we have to gives this very careful thought.  At. 4:00 p.m. we will conference with our friends from the Inter-Faith Housing Alliance.  Remember, we were scheduled to host homeless families in our church during the month of June. I doubt it will happen in June, but more about that tomorrow.

Please remember our weekly Food Drive, every Friday (tomorrow) from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  Someone asked me whether monetary donations for Manna are also acceptable, and of course they are.  During these times it may be easier for people to enable them buying food for their clients  than you schlepping bags to the church on Fridays. Both is fine, just please clearly mark the purpose of your donation on the check.

For today, I’d like to invite you to pray for another one of our church support groups, People Undergoing Pain (PUP), led by Eve P. and Anita B. The PUP group reflects on another aspect of St. Peter’s church culture that I am very proud of, namely that people who join our church are empowered to lead new ministries. Eve and her daughter Bryn joined some six years ago and Anita maybe two or three years ago. Now they are co-leaders of this important ministry that reaches people in our community who often feel isolated because of the daily pain they endure. Many of the people in this group carry heavy burdens, both physical and emotional pain, often debilitating. Please pray for them today! This is what Eve wrote recently:

“Last night we had another successful Zoom meeting! We had seven of us on the call last night and it lasted about 2.5 hours! I’m going to reach out to people who wanted to be a part of the group but couldn’t before (or stopped coming) because of distance and/or disability. We see that this might be a good possibility to use in addition to the in-person meetings in the future. If you know of anyone who would be interested in ‘virtual pup’ please let me know!”

Thank you for your resiliency, Eve!

Today is the birthday of our friend Lou F. Happy birthday, Lou!

Be blessed and be safe, dear church!

Pastor Andreas Wagner

Wednesday, April 22

Attached please find a picture of Charlene B.’s mom, like so many others living comfortably in one of our area Nursing Homes, but currently under severe Social Distancing Restrictions and therefore separated from loved ones and family members. Charlene took this picture when she was allowed to see her mom through a protective window. It’s a very nice picture. Her mother is 97 years old and has a smile that will surely lead her to 100! With that, we think of all our homebound members and Nursing Home residents.  May they feel our love through windows, the mail, the telephone, Face-time (yes, some of them can do that…) or whatever works!    

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It was started on April 22, 1970, and is often described as the birth of the modern environmental movement.  It gave a voice to an emerging public consciousness about the state of our planet. Of course, words like ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ were not in the mix back then. But for decades leading up to that day, a growing concern over pollution was a trigger for this movement. Fifty years later I think it is fair to say that more people are at least aware of the environmental challenges we are facing. That has not always been the case in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. I remember coming to Pittsburgh in 1996 for my internship in an urban church and being absolutely floored by the amount of trash one parish could produce (carelessly) and the lack of awareness that this was a problem to begin with. “What is this European talking about???” I am glad that things have changed.  But of course, we have a long way to go. The leader of our new church Green Team (Charlene) mentioned recently that one of the silver linings of this COVID 19 crisis is the Sabbath (my word) that it creates for creation. Air quality in the megacities of the world has radically improved and now some countries who pledged to reduce their carbon emissions with little success and compromised efforts are actually reaching those goals. Of course, I am not enough of a dreamer to think that this will last. The pressures for revving up the economic engine are enormous and understandable. I certainly understand that. What I don’t understand: why can’t we have a major national and global effort to reduce emissions and boost other forms of energy in a big way? Certainly, we have the brainpower to do it, right? May God help us to do the right things! May God help us!

Out of respect for the pioneers of Earth Day and as per request from our church Green Team, creation will be a major theme during this coming Sunday’s worship, with music and readings that reflect on God’s creation. You will once again enjoy many different musical contributions from our talented congregation…

Some of you are probably wondering when we can be together at church again. How much longer, Lord?  Certainly, it won’t happen until the governor gradually opens the Commonwealth again, sometime after May 8. We are now trying to think through opening scenarios that respect everyone’s health. It is helpful in that regard to be in contact with other churches and faith leaders. I mean, we are all new to this. (It’s not what they taught us in seminary.) More about that soon. Stay tuned, please, and patient!         

I received a few responses to yesterday’s email. I think it touched and also disturbed a number of people. But it was important to show what our nurses and medical professionals are going through at this time. Again, we thank them and we pray for them!

Today, I am sharing the resource for tomorrow’s noon Bible Study. We will meet via Zoom and discuss Philippians 3 tomorrow at 12:00 noon. See attached. Here is the Zoom invitation. Of course, this is open to everyone. Contact the church for the link.

Let us pray today for our dear friend and staff member Kirsten, not because of an acute health crisis, mind you, but because she has been dealing with chronic health issues for decades now, still managing to work hard and looking at the positive side of things.  We have been trying to be more protective of her than she tends to be of herself during this Corona crisis…  And right now she and Roy (her husband, the wonderful tenor) are going through additional stresses. Last year they discovered unhealthy levels of mold in their old farmhouse. Upon further investigation, they learned that there was not much of a foundation to the old house, which was a barn originally. Mold can be a big contributor to chronic health issues and people’s reactions to mold vary greatly. Some are extremely sensitive and affected by it, while others hardly notice it. To make a long story short, for Kirsten’s health and to save the home, which has a beautiful (not affected) new addition built by Roy himself, they’re in the process of tearing down the old home and having it properly rebuilt. You can imagine that this affects a lot of things and creates extra stress. Kirsten is hanging in there, productive as ever, but please say a special prayer for Roy and Kirsten today. We are grateful for their voices, commitment, and leadership.          

Be safe and be well dear church!

Pastor Andreas Wagner

Tuesday, April 21

Good morning, church!

Today are the birthdays of Crystal A. and Stephanie H. From our quarantined homes we wish them a happy birthday with their families and children! And while they are hopefully celebrating today, patience is still the keyword for all of us in our current experience. How much longer? At least three more weeks is what I hear and read. The re-opening after that will not be one happy lovefest; it will be gradual and careful and we will tiptoe back into our lives rather than storming to freedom. But what is freedom anyway? Many years ago I watched this movie with Denzel Washington, “Remember the Hurricane,” from 1999.  Washington plays Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, a successful black boxer in the 1960s who was falsely incarcerated and as a result spent twenty (!!!) years in prison before his exoneration and release. I don’t know enough about the real Rubin Carter (who died in 2014) to judge how close the movie was to the character it was based on. But what struck me in the movie and the portrayal by Denzel W. was the sense of freedom that the man exuded even while innocently locked up behind bars. To me, it was a perfect example for the spiritual truth that freedom does not depend so much on what you can do or not do or your current situation or whether you are rich or poor or what you can afford; it depends much more on your mindset. Let us remember that during these quarantine weeks. And if we feel sorry for ourselves, let us remember that some people have been “quarantined” (imprisoned!) for years and years without good reason. Liberated minds will find joy in the little things we can do and the blessings we have and even the opportunities that are given to us during this time. Paul said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.”(Galatians 5:1) – It is worth remembering that this Apostle of freedom was himself frequently incarcerated for his faith. Mindset matters!

Today I would like to bring our attention back to the true heroes and heroines of these times, the healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, and caregivers all across the world, all across our country and here in our county and in our own church community. They deserve our HIGHEST respect and our continued prayers and encouragement. I reached out to some of them and asked about their experience. I will keep their identities and the places where they work anonymously. It doesn’t matter who it is or where they work. I simply wanted to bring to your attention what they are going through at this time. Two of them responded and you can feel the worry, stress, and distress in their description of reality in our local hospitals. Please keep that in mind too, as you struggle to keep your composure during this quarantine. One of them wrote:    

“At a local hospital, we are treating about 50 COVID patients that are either positive or awaiting results. It is very sad and difficult to see a somewhat healthy population so ill and feeling so horrible. These patients are dying alone, and it is upsetting that there is nothing the medical staff can do. This weekend I saw a reverend pray for a dying patient from the door and a middle-aged patient decide not to be intubated and requesting no resuscitation efforts.  Even though work is tough,  the hardest part is worrying that you are putting your family at risk by possibly being infected yourself.  Prayers that this nightmare will come to an end soon!! Thank you.”

The other person wrote this disturbing account:

“I would definitely appreciate some prayers. My anxiety is through the roof. I can’t sleep because I either wake up in a panic thinking about work or I have nightmares… Just this weekend I sat with an elderly man as he died of COVID. I can’t get the sound of his last breath out of my head. Another man I sent to the ICU to prepare for intubation as he struggled to breathe. 

We had another COVID patient cardiac arrest yesterday because the treatment for it (Medication A and B) can lead to deadly heart arrhythmias. Hospital staff are advised NOT to ventilate during a code situation until anesthesia can get there with special masks to intubate because the risk of transmission is so high…

Last weekend we had a husband and wife die in the rooms next to each other. I have heard many nursing homes have stopped sending DNR’s to the hospital. They let them die there in a familiar and more comfortable environment. This is unlike anything I could ever imagine. And we aren’t even in badly hit places.”

These are people from our church. Please don’t even try to speculate who it is. It doesn’t matter. Join me in prayers today for them and for the important work they do. I am pretty sure that this is not what they had in mind when they signed up for nursing and envisioned a career of helping people to get better. But being the closest thing to a caring presence when someone dies and takes his or her last breath is truly important as well, and in many cases, these medical workers fulfill the roles of family members and clergy during this time.  We have more than ten people in our congregation who work in various hospitals or medical settings. Please pray for them today. May God give them the strength each day to do their work and may God keep them safe, even as they carry out this dangerous work in the most careful ways! And if you are a healthcare worker and you read this email, please know that your church is behind you, lifting you up today. Thanks for all you do!

Be blessed and be safe dear church,

This too shall pass. Pastor Andreas Wagner  

Monday, April 20

Good morning, dear church!

“Do not be afraid!”  That’s the oldest biblical mantra there is. It is repeated again and again in both testaments of the Bible; it never fails to apply to the struggle we’re in as human beings.  This morning I meditated over Jesus’ word, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Whenever we are afraid we feel “little;” we feel that we are either alone in our suffering or part of a “little flock” of fellow sufferers. It’s no mistake that the Bible consistently addresses us in the plural. There are many more people than you think with similar challenges and similar hills to climb. If we can only feel that we’re not alone in this, it already gives us some sense of psychological relief. That’s how every single support group works (you’re not alone in this!), and we have a few in our church. In the Bible, God never gets tired of preaching this mantra, “Do not be afraid!” From Isaiah 43, when God addresses his people in Exile, to Mary at the time when the angel visits her (Luke 1), to the Lord himself as he prepares his disciples for his departure in John 14, comforting words are always spiced with the advice, “Do not be afraid!” paired with the assurance (explicitly or implicitly) – I AM with you. 

Has there ever been a more genius presidential message than the one from FDR when he said during the Great Depression “The only thing we  have to fear is fear itself.”??? This quote has been repeated often and no doubt you have heard it before. I think it is a genius message, especially for crisis times, because fear never allows you to think clearly, to envision solutions, to garner the strength to climb out of the proverbial hole. Fear paralyzes. In these times when many people fear for their livelihoods, when many are being hit hard (and when we are asked to help one another!), it will be important to remember the oldest of biblical mantras, “Do not be afraid!”  For two reasons: “I AM” (God) is with us (always) and we will get through this together. God almost always addresses us in the plural. I am attaching a little image that captures nature’s response to fear and death.  It was on someone’s Facebook page and was forwarded to me by our friend Joan G. from North Carolina some time ago. It shows a tiny little plant growing out of a rusty padlock.  If you don’t like to meditate words, use this image and let it sink into your soul for a few minutes. So often, nature is God’s best preacher!

Many of us, including me, have a pretty busy week ahead of us. I committed to reaching out to a number of places of worship as part of an initiative of the Wissahickon Faith Community. We had a meeting via Zoom last week to check in on one another. I know from our friend Shams Huda that many people in his community are struggling. Shams is a founding member of the North Penn Mosque in Lansdale and also one of the lead organizers of the International Festival that takes place every year at North Penn High School. He is a fine individual. Many of the Mosque’s members, often immigrants, had simple jobs that have been eliminated in the first wave of unemployment. As an interfaith group, we are trying to reach out to fellow places of worship, to help and encourage however we can, and this will be part of my ministry this week. I have repeatedly sung the praises of this inter-faith group, and I continue to be a proud participant. The Wissahickon Faith Community regularly brings together Protestant and Catholic Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mennonites, Quakers, a black Baptists and really, whoever cares to be involved. That sense of togetherness is more important than ever!

For today, I would like to ask your prayers for David S. David had a tumor removed from his neck a few weeks ago and it initially seemed benign. After further medical review, it turns out that he is in the earliest stage of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. David usually sits with his wife Linda on the back of the right side at church from the pastor’s perspective. (You know, we do have our favorite seats!) They came to Oktoberfest some eight years ago and found that there was a cool local church they could attend, and they have been doing that ever since. Today, David has his first chemotherapy, which will last several hours. Please pray for him to get through these next couple of months of treatment. He may lose his shock of hair, but don’t worry, we will suggest some fun wig ideas for him!  Overall, his prospects for recovery are good. But please, keep him in your prayers. David and Linda are not typically people who want attention drawn to them, but I asked David for permission to share this and to involve our community in healing prayers. And to Linda, his wife: “Do not be afraid – I AM is with you!”     

Have a good week, everybody.

Be blessed and be well!

Pastor Andreas Wagner