Friday, March 20

Good morning, dear church!

As we mark the first week of living under these restrictive conditions and realize that, no, unfortunately, this is NOT A SCIENCE FICTION movie that we can turn off, let us also keep in mind that our world has seen much worse, and people, including our own ancestors, endured much more difficult times. Our president compared the now stepped up efforts to combat the coronavirus to a war effort. And in some ways it is like that: it requires sacrifices from everyone and it takes a huge national effort and it will hurt a good number of people. But still, having talked to people who lived through the times of the Great Depression and the great wars of the 20th century, I can assure you that our current situation is not that bad. Let’s keep that in mind, – not to play down the seriousness of the consequences, but to keep perspective. I have had the privilege to tell the life stories of many people of the previous generations and some of those stories were truly touching. The late George Husted surviving the Battle of the Bulge; the late Bob Sands experiencing the horrors of Okinawa; some of my former German parishioners surviving carpet bombings targeting their homes or Russian POW conditions and starvation. My grandmother told stories of giving out a few potatoes at a time to hungry city people looking for food in the countryside. We still have a few people who remember the days of WW2, at least from the home front, such as Florence U. and the other parishioners who are now in their mid-90’s. They all instill in us a confidence that we can get through difficult times. Let us watch out for one another!

One of the nice things about this time of increased messaging is that I sometimes hear from people I didn’t expect to hear from. Not all of the people on our membership email list are members. Some of them are friends and people who simply like to stay in touch with St. Peter’s.  Yesterday, our nephew’s wife Michelle H. responded. She and her husband Henry went with us to the Belize Mission Trip in 2017. They married a month later and have now a son Teddy and another one on the way. Michelle wrote about the emphasis on parents with young children:

“Thanks for this note and acknowledging what working parents with little ones are handling! Read this on my phone while on a WebEx while also trying to stay up on work email before switching back to Teddy duty with Henry. It’s for sure a challenge and like many others are feeling we are drowning! I know some people who can’t work are binge-watching shows, reading, etc, even being bored (what is that like?!) and for us, there is no margin of time.  Thankful we have jobs though in an uncertain time and thankful that we have a God who is always in control and is constant amid chaos!! Love the idea of online Bible study as an option for those who can make it…” 

As you all know, the restrictions or shall I say, PROHIBITION of public gatherings of people are firmly in place at least through the end of this month, but could well be extended to also affect our Holy Week and Easter celebrations in April.  We will talk about that and tackle that when we get closer and know more. Right now we have to wait and see and pray and be smart. And use this extraordinary time to our advantage (at least all those of us who are not drowning in obligations like Michelle described above). A number of people have commented and said, “I think the earth is sending us a message.” I tend to agree with that sentiment, as un-scientific as it sounds. But since when have pastors restricted their viewpoints to science? Science is of course critically important in these times, as laboratories race to find a cure or vaccine. But on a spiritual level, I too see this as a wake-up call for the global community. The earth, and God, are banging on our door! We can no longer pretend that we live by ourselves. We are, for better or worse, part of a global community. What happens in China and Italy will sooner or later affect us. What happens here affects other people around the globe. Maybe this wake-up call will teach us the limits of unlimited growth, self-centered decisions, the need to better take care of our globe and the advantages of local sourcing as well. I don’t mean to preach my opinions to you, but those are some of the things I hope for in the bigger picture… I truly do.  Lord, have mercy and teach us to live in more sustainable ways!

Today, I would like to invite you to pray for another group of people in our community: singles living by themselves. I recently talked to Judy J. who lost her husband last spring, suddenly and painfully. She is working at home now like so many of us, but she said it’s different because Roy always used to be there when she worked from home. Now he isn’t. So, the entire experience has a bitter taste and throws another wrench into that unruly process of grieving, which is difficult and topsy turvy anyway.  Please think of Judy and pray for her today, and along with her for others in our congregation who are living by themselves. I recently received a note from Karen W. whom you might know as one of the coffee ladies. She has frequently prepared our coffee table at church together with Bill J. She is single and wrote me this sweet note:

“I hope you and your family are doing well. I am fine, and now working from home. Fortunately, my job allows me to work from home right now. I count my blessings every day, and keep my sense of humor, staying away from the news. I want to thank you for the inspirational emails and prayers you send each week in your emails.  Living alone presents a real voice challenge, and I’m on the phone a lot for work. However, with working from home, I have no office mates to converse with all day. I pull out the weekly prayers from your emails and read them aloud. They help clear my voice, and they calm me down – as much as meditation does. Thanks for all of your inspiration – it does not go unnoticed!”

Please pray for Judy, Karen, Rob S., Ginny B. and all the others who are living by themselves, some of them with hardly any family members in the area!

Maybe you can think of a single person in our congregation and reach out to him or her. That would be nice!

Don’t forget: we will accept food collections for Manna on Main Street today between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. You can leave your bags in front of the church. We will take care of it.

Be well and be blessed, Pastor Andreas Wagner

A Message from Bishop Davenport & Richard Rohr on COVID-19

From our Bishop, the Rev. Patricia Davenport:

Beloved,

I’m sure you aware that Governor Wolf ordered that all non-essential businesses in Pennsylvania need to close, effective March 17, for two weeks. This is part of the ongoing mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. My colleague, Bishop Michael Rhyne of Allegheny Synod, shares that their synod’s attorney informed them that under the law, churches are considered non-essential businesses. (Yikes, Pastor AW)

The implication of this is clear: Congregations should not host in-person worship or in-person meetings while Governor Wolf’s order is in place. Yesterday I issued a strong recommendation for congregations to suspend in-person gatherings. I know that some of you may have planned to hold in-person worship in spite of that recommendation. 

The Governor’s order changes things. All SEPA churches should be closed for in-person worship through March 31. To do otherwise violates the Governor’s order.”

So, this means our church will be closed for public services at least through Sunday, March 29.

Finally, a word of wisdom from one of my favorite spiritual leaders of our time, Father Richard Rohr from the Center of Action and Contemplation (CAC) in New Mexico:

A Message from Richard Rohr about COVID-19

Love Alone Overcomes Fear 
Thursday, March 19, 2020

It is shocking to think how much the world has changed in such a brief time. Each of us has had our lives and communities disrupted. Of course, I am here in this with you. I feel that I’m in no position to tell you how to feel or how to think, but there are a few things that come to mind I will share. 

A few days ago I was encouraged by the Franciscans and by the leadership team here at the CAC to self-quarantine, so I’ve been in my little hermitage now for three or four days. I’ve had years of practice, literally, how to do what we are calling “social distancing.” I have a nice, large yard behind me where there are four huge, beautiful cottonwood trees, and so I walk my dog Opie every few hours.

Right now I’m trying to take in psychologically, spiritually, and personally, what is God trying to say? When I use that phrase, I’m not saying that God causes suffering to teach us good things. But God does use everything, and if God wanted us to experience global solidarity, I can’t think of a better way. We all have access to this suffering, and it bypasses race, gender, religion, and nation. 

We are in the midst of a highly teachable moment. There’s no doubt that this period will be referred to for the rest of our lifetimes. We have a chance to go deep, and to go broad. Globally, we’re in this together. Depth is being forced on us by great suffering, which as I like to say, always leads to great love. 

But for God to reach us, we have to allow suffering to wound us. Now is no time for an academic solidarity with the world. Real solidarity needs to be felt and suffered. That’s the real meaning of the word “suffer” – to allow someone else’s pain to influence us in a real way. We need to move beyond our own personal feelings and take in the whole. This, I must say, is one of the gifts of television: we can turn it on and see how people in countries other than our own are hurting. What is going to happen to those living in isolated places or for those who don’t have health care? Imagine the fragility of the most marginalized, of people in prisons, the homeless, or even the people performing necessary services, such as ambulance drivers, nurses, and doctors, risking their lives to keep society together? Our feelings of urgency and devastation are not exaggeration: they are responding to the real human situation. We’re not pushing the panic button; we are the panic button. And we have to allow these feelings, and invite God’s presence to hold and sustain us in a time of collective prayer and lament.  I hope this experience will force our attention outwards to the suffering of the most vulnerable. Love always means going beyond yourself to otherness. It takes two. There has to be the lover and the beloved. We must be stretched to an encounter with otherness, and only then do we know it’s love. This is what we call the subject-subject relationship. Love alone overcomes fear and is the true foundation that lasts (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Thursday, March 19

Dear congregation,

It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago I was still taking in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, aware of, but still pretty undisturbed by the fast-spreading news about the coronavirus in China, in Korea and in Italy.  Some images of the mountain panorama still reverberate in my mind, which is the wonderful thing about those special vacation times – the feelings and mental images can linger and sustain us for some time. Of course, very often in our culture we come back from vacation and are greeted by piles of work and unanswered emails. Too often, I fear, we just move a page, forget about the things we just enjoyed, and say, “Back to reality!” As if the time you spent in another place to give your body and soul some rest and restoration was not reality! As you are “quarantined” right now and if you have a little bit of time, maybe think consciously about some of those experiences that have given you joy and sustained your desire for beauty and the world that God created. Or take a walk in your neighborhood and notice the slow changing of our native vegetation. The crocuses in my front yard have been very happy – undisturbed by the virus. The hyacinths are just now developing their beautiful blue heads into full splendor – undisturbed by humanity’s worries. My dog Winter is very happy (see attached pic). She is always happy when we are all at home, so what’s not to enjoy? And on top of that, she is getting more and longer walks. Heck, she loves this quarantine! (Who knows, maybe she is praying that it lasts longer. Don’t, Winter!)             

As a pastor, I am doing a lot of phone calls these days and sometimes also phone prayers. I am probably talking to 10-15 of our parishioners and families every day.  One group within our church family I ‘d like to draw your attention to this morning are parents with young children. For the Wagner family, it’s nice to be together. Sarah is home from college. Her semester at Kenyon has been canceled, just like in so many other colleges. She is 19 now.  Sam and Peter are turning 18 and 15 respectively in April. Family life is pretty nice, other than having to pull Peter from his computer and put him to work every once in a while (he’s been helpful). But think of the parents with young children. Very often they are both working fulltime. The daycares are closed now. And even their ultimate support system – the grandparents – may not be readily available at this time. Remember, we are asked to practice “social distancing” (the un-word of 2020).  And these days, most of them work at home. Can you picture it? Toys strewn all over the floor, babies crying, you hear the outside door and wonder where they are going; in the meantime, you try to get some work done. Not easy!!!  Think of Kelly and Mike have six children.  Wait, let me see if I can recall all of their names in order… There is Mason, Bailey, Avery, Rider, Hudson, and Remington. I believe that’s right… Kelly is a nurse and she actually told me she has two jobs right now. Mike works with Kelly’s dad, Scott L.  How in the world are they managing? Kelly didn’t give me an answer, they are just muddling through it all. At one point I wanted to ask a silly question: “Do you get enough sleep?” and I stopped myself, thinking, “What a stupid question! Of course, she’s not!”  I spoke to Lauren H. They have three children. How does she do it with her job and all? Her husband Bobby works on construction and renovation projects and is out most of the day. “I do a lot of bribing,” she says.  The oldest, Austin, is promised $10 at the end of the week if he keeps an eye on his younger siblings. God, I wish $10 would do as much in my household! And so they muddle through and do the best they can. I am asking you today to pray for our parents with young children, all of them, and especially those you know personally. We are fortunate to have many of them in our congregation: the Staudts, the Hills, the Morrows, the Kratzs, the Charles’, the Hains, the Ouellette’s., the Bergers, the Wunders, etc. Please say a prayer for those young and overwhelmed parents raising kids and taking care of them at this time. Thank you!       

On that note:  church is NOT CLOSED.  We are just being church in different ways at the moment. One of the joyful things I experienced recently is Amanda Garcia-Gallagher coming to me with the idea of running music classes for toddlers. She and her husband Shane have a baby named Divo. As soon as we can safely be together in person again, we will revisit this great idea.  Church is NOT CLOSED.  I spoke to our friend Jose M. in Puerto Rico the other day. They are still planning to come in late July to do ministry work with us in Philadelphia. They have a contract with American Airlines. They can cancel their flight arrangements free of charge by early June if that should be necessary due to the virus scare. Church is NOT CLOSED.  We are gathering today via teleconference for our second Bible Study session. You can call in at noon today.  The material was attached to yesterday’s email.  I look forward to our conversation! Church is NOT CLOSED.  We are collecting non-perishable food items for Manna to support our neediest community members during this time. You can bring bags of food and drop them off in front of the church on Friday (tomorrow) between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. You don’t need to come in. Church is NOT CLOSED. We are working on the Sunday service. I will again provide worship resources and a sermon via email at 8:30 a.m. and we will gather in a small group at 10:00 a.m. for a brief service to be streamed via Facebook Live.  Church is NOT CLOSED. Stay tuned!

One other thing:     Absentee and mail-in ballot applications for the April 28, 2020, primary election must be received by your  by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Apply Online at VotesPA.com

Wednesday, March 18

Good morning, church!

Thank you for all of your encouraging messages! I know for a fact that these more frequent emails are helping a good number of people in our community to stay connected.

For years, we have talked in the wider church about “new ways of being church,” and often we have only paid lip service to that. This coronavirus is proving right the old adage that it takes a crisis to push us into changing and adapting our ways.  What do I mean by that? Suddenly, we get all kinds of resources and suggestions regarding virtual meetings and virtual church from our synod. All of that knowledge has been available for years, but only now pastors and congregations are asking for it and only now the synod is making a strong effort to provide it. In my own practice, I have talked about the possibility of online Bible studies or Christian Education sessions for a few years. The reason is that our meeting times are not always great for everyone. Have I done anything about it? Well,…no! It takes a coronavirus I guess. So, here it is.  We started out our four-session Bible Study about “God and Money” last Thursday at noon. We are looking at the topic from different angles. Last week’s session was called “Material Blessings.” This week’s session is called “Spiritual Traps.” I have attached the study material for this session and I invite you to join us tomorrow (Thursday, March 19) per teleconference at 12:00 noon.  We will talk about this for about half an hour.  You can call the church office for this phone number or contact Pastor Wagner.  I look forward to our conversation!

Thank you all for your prayers for Bill K. yesterday. I really hope that his condition can be successfully treated and his quality of life will be improved. Today, I’d like to ask you to pray for Bill and Lois K. Those of you who have been St. Peter’s members for a while will instantly know who I am talking about. Bill was our council president several times and for many years. He was a mover and shaker in our church community and poured his energy (and he has always been an energetic person) into the church leadership work and has really done a lot for our church. We owe him great gratitude. His wife Lois was always very involved in the St. Peter’s Thrift store. But Lois’s health has declined very significantly, especially over the last ten years. They live at Brittany Pointe now. But while Bill is staying in their apartment, Lois has been moved to the skilled care facility. As you can imagine, in the days of the Coronavirus, no outside visitors are allowed to go in there, not even spouses! It has been a very hard life adjustment for Bill. In normal times he spends a lot of time with his wife. The flip side of that is: he sees a lot of suffering and elderly people barely hanging on to some distant semblance of life and who they used to be. It is the sad, very sad, side of our current elderly care system. I see it frequently, but Bill sees it every day. Please pray for them, the caregiver and the care receiver. It is tough!  It would also be nice if some of you could send Lois a card. Please call the church office for the address or email Pastor Wagner.

We had our staff meeting yesterday via teleconference and we are plotting some ideas for next Sunday’s service.  One of the things we talked about is our current food drive, which stands at just over 1,100 items and benefits Manna on Main Street. We know that food banks need just as much or even more items during this crisis time, and we would like to give you an opportunity to increase our food collection.  This is the plan: please drop off your food items in a bag in front of the church door and under the roofed entrance area between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Friday. You don’t have to come into the church, touch doors, etc. We will get the food items to Manna on Main Street. Thank you!

Here is another prayer, forwarded by one of our members, Bernie Heinze.  Martin Luther would be delighted: this is the time of the priesthood of all believers! Keep coming what you find and what could be helpful for us all!

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

Amen. 

Finally, I have to complain about one thing…

I have no more excuse not to clean out my old emails.

I have no more excuse not to clean out my office.

Yikes!!!

Blessings and peace,

Pastor Andreas Wagner

Tuesday, March 17

“Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.”

St. Patrick

Dear friends and congregants,

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, the Saint who inspires huge crowd gatherings and celebrations. Well, not this year! And while all the parades, the parties, and the excitement are wonderful, what’s truly important (to me, anyway) is the spiritual side of Saint Patrick. He is one of my favorite saints because of his deep connection to God, because of his appreciation and awe of creation and his fierce courage.  He (born in England) returned to the islanders (the Irish) who had kidnapped and enslaved him as a teenager and became a missionary to Ireland; he loved them. And to this day they love him back. I also think that the above quote is timelessly important and stands the test of the coronavirus. Just try to meditate these words for 10 or 15 minutes and be drawn into the presence of God… As almost every facet of public life is grinding to a halt, let us learn to acknowledge God and “be.”

I’d like to thank you for the various messages, responses, encouragements, and suggestions of things to share (including prayers) that I received over the last few days from many of our members. Today I’d like to share the message of one of our young people who (sadly) has moved out of state, following college and career. Maggie H. wrote to us from her new home in Michigan. She was part of my first small confirmation class at St. Peter’s.  Here is what she had to say:

Hi Pastor,

I just wanted to write to let you know that my fiance Ryan and I watched the service and read your sermon this past Sunday. It was very comforting to be connected to my spiritual home from 500 miles away among all the uncertainty in the world right now. We are lucky to both have jobs where we can work from home and have the blessing of not having to worry about financial instability. One positive to this whole situation is reaching out to those you may not normally check in with! 🙂 I enjoyed your message of drinking from our spiritual well and using this Lenten quarantine  time to reconnect with the things in life that are truly important. 

Could you also add my email to the St. Peter’s mailing list?  I’d love to get your email updates (my mom has just been forwarding them to me right now).  

Sending prayers to St. Peter’s and to the world!

Fondly,

Maggie H.

I was very touched by that message.  It’s exactly what I hope our church would instill in those who grow up in our community of faith: a lasting connection, a hunger for spiritual food in good times and in bad times.  God bless you and Ryan, Maggie!

Yesterday, I asked you to pray for Amy S. She saw it and was very moved and appreciative. If you can please continue to pray for her, as she walks that difficult path between hope and surrender and a faith that is wrestling with all the deeper questions that come with life and death situations.

For today, I would like to ask you to pray for our brother Bill K. We haven’t seen him in church for a while and the reason is that he has been battling a horrible bladder condition that causes him to get up 15 – 20 times every night.  You can imagine what that does to your quality of life! I can only relate from afar. I have had some periods of sleep disruption in recent years – nothing compared to this – but I know how much that affected me and diminished my ability to function. Billy had recent surgery to correct the problem, but so far it has been unsuccessful. He and his wife Laurie are getting other medical opinions now. On top of it, they are taking care of their wonderful but rambunctious grandson Fox (aptly named, with his red hair and personality). Please pray for Billy and Laurie today, as they are in this together. I really hope that they can find a “fix” for his medical problem because it has totally upended his life. (Of course, Bill gave me permission to share this.) Prayers are coming, Bill!

Finally, a little glimpse into another part of the world and how the pandemic is affecting people in my original home.  Last Thursday, my brother’s father-in-law Richard W. (no relation to the composer) passed away. I talked to my sister-in-law yesterday and she was very emotional. The funeral is today and just about everything is different. Her dad ran a local bakery store. He was a wonderful baker and poured his lifeblood into that craft.  He also baked for thousands of funerals. In rural Germany, people usually come together not for lunch, but for “Kaffee and Kuchen.”  And now he is being buried in a small ceremony and most likely without these sweet condiments and the comfort of touch and community for those who are bereaved. It really is sad and I suggested to do another celebration of life when this virus thing is over. We are all coping, adapting and every day waking up to some new adjustments to our life.

Please stay safe and stay tuned.

Blessings and God’s peace, Pastor Andreas Wagner

Monday, March 16

Good morning, dear friends and members of St. Peter’s!

As promised (or threatened), you will hear more often from me during these unprecedented times.  Normally I am very conservative about sending out emails because we all get inundated with messages all the time. But this is a different situation, and I want to communicate with you often. You can always skip, delete or even unsubscribe.

First of all, apologies to those of you who tried unsuccessfully to watch us on Facebook Live yesterday morning. The problem apparently was caused by an inadvertent switch to the personal Facebook page of Jenn Bodolus. We did not realize that the feed no longer came from the St. Peter’s Facebook page but from hers. Some people figured it out and were able to follow us in real-time. Others saw the recording, which is on our church Facebook page now. Let me also tell you that the church has been absolutely deep-cleaned several times, and even as we came together yesterday morning in a small group for “virtual church” we were very careful in terms of touch and sanitation. As we move toward next Sunday, we will learn from this experience and further improve our capabilities.

I would like to offer all church committees and ministry groups our own church teleconference capability. We used it when we had an ad-hoc meeting of staff and the executive committee last week. If you’d like to use it, please reach out to me or Martha H.

Our elderly and homebound members are naturally on my mind as I reach out and make phone calls, but the other group I am concerned about is families with young children. Our own children are older now, Sarah is still home from college, and we actually enjoy more togetherness.  But I imagine it must be difficult for parents who have young children, in terms of their work-life, in terms of kids getting bored, etc. Thank God, the weather has been nice enough to go outside and enjoy sun and fresh air, which are natural allies in the fight against viral infections. I saw lots of people out yesterday afternoon, a good thing! 

Finally, I would like to ask you as a church community bound together by faith to pray for one person, in particular, every day. I would like to begin with Pastor Amy S. who has been an associate member of our church for over five years now. (She is a retired Methodist pastor – that’s why Associate). Amy was diagnosed last year with an aggressive brain cancer. It was a shock and a very sudden change of perspective for her life.  As most of you know, Amy is a very positive and generally optimistic person.  She is also practical and likes to help out wherever she can. This was something totally unexpected for her and her husband Tim. Her follow-up results have been on the positive side, but this is a very serious condition that still begs for a cure. I want to ask you to pray for Amy and Tim today, not for any particular reason, but because we love them and care for them and they need our prayers. Don’t ask me what to pray for, but certainly, pray for blessings and healing power and strength. And try to identify with their plight and bring it before God.        

Thank you, church!

Blessings and peace to all of you,

Pastor Andreas Wagner


I was delighted to about some of your responses yesterday and especially this one from one of our young mothers, Tricia R.:

“Thanks so much for the service this morning and for sending out the Gospel and sermon. We are truly grateful for this spiritual nourishment during this time of confinement.  We feel blessed to still feel a part of our church community while we spend so much time apart.  We were not able to watch it live due to some technical difficulties but we watched it later.  It’s so good for our kids to see that faith and church continue in this time.  We add it to the list of blessings we are finding during this time of inconvenience.   We are spending so much time together as a family and that is a gift.  It’s also nice to be free of our ”have to” list for a while.  We also play outside so many hours each day that I predict we will all be healthier by the end of this quarantine!…”

Sunday, March 15

Dear congregation,

Welcome to the Third Sunday of Lent, also known as the “First Sunday of the Quarantine.”

I have put together for you a few resources for this Sunday, including a Prayer of the Day, a prayer for our world in the times of the coronavirus, the gospel for this Sunday and a sermon. I am also adding our prayer list. Please continue our Lenten practice of prayers, especially now and especially if you have some extra time on your hands. A number of people responded to my email from yesterday and offered help where needed. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Be safe, be blessed and join us at 10:00 a.m. on Facebook Live if you can!

Yours in Christ, Pastor Andreas Wagner

Prayer of The Day: 

O Holy God, fountain of life:

Keep us spiritually thirsty.

Moisten our souls with the Word of Life.

Bless those among us who seek to be

Immersed in your Holy presence.

And let your church be a well

Where the living water is found.

C        Amen.

John 4: 1-26

Jesus] came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”


16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Mission Possible

Dear Congregation,

At one point it looked like Mission Impossible: back in December, we had already 35 people signed up for our second Mission Trip to Puerto Rico and quickly decided to cap the number at no more than 40. We pondered logistical problems, such as limited space in the camp, the rising cost of 15 passenger vans and having enough flexibility to transport people to the various work sites, young people to supervise, etc. As usual, when you pray and prepare to serve God, the problems dissolved, the challenges got resolved and the Mission was very much possible. We ended up sending 28 people, with the help of our friend Christopher Concepcion, we rented a Puerto Rico School Bus with driver, and the eleven youth and seventeen adults got along just fine and finished six restoration projects in five days. Impressive work!

Over the last few years St. Peter’s has been active in Global Mission. We sponsored a farm in Haiti in 2017. We went to Belize and twice to Puerto Rico to connect with brothers and sisters in Christ and help where our help was needed, especially after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico. Sometimes people ask whether we need to go that far away when there is work to do in our own front yard. And to be sure, there is always work to do in our community, plenty of it in fact. So, are we indulgent or careless with our resources? Of course not!

St. Peter’s does a lot of work locally. Take a look at our Social Ministry Calendar, follow the announcements in our weekly bulletin that relate to helping our schools, our local food bank, the elderly, etc. Remember that our Thrift Store raises in the vicinity of $20,000 a year to support non-profit organizations that serve people in our area. This year, the Social Ministry Team explored getting involved with the local Interfaith Housing Project. Talk to chairperson Robin Alderfer or council liaison Sharon Baker about our Social Ministry that serves local people. We are and always have been very active. And we should be. It’s our community. By the way: North Wales Day of Service is coming up on October 5. Can you help?

What is harder to see and imagine is the plight of people elsewhere. Sure, we are more informed and perhaps more aware than any other generation before us, due to the media and the Internet. But that inundation with information can actually sometimes backfire and be more discouraging than encouraging. Our souls whisper to us that all the problems of the world are way too big for us. So let’s just focus on our own…

In biblical times, when Paul asked the relatively more affluent congregations in the Hellenistic world to help their less fortunate brothers and sisters in and around Jerusalem, he did so for several reasons. Perhaps the most important motivation behind it was his vision for the church to be a global messenger of Christ’s love. So Paul went to Christian communities in economically powerful cities such as Rome, Corinth, and Philippi and collected money for the saints in Judea. Talk about logistical problems and nightmares! With no banking system and roads that were not always secure, how could he assure that the money would get safely into the hands of those it was intended for? And, as usual, when you pray and prepare to serve God, the problems dissolved, the challenges got resolved and the Mission was very much possible. See above! The saints in Jerusalem received their gifts and the deep distrust between “Jewish Christians” And “Gentile Christians,” – you could call it the first century equivalent of racism – received some healing touch.

Personally, and as chairperson of the St. Peter’s Global Outreach Team (Spot), I would love to do more in the world. In fact, I would love to sponsor another farm in a developing country with major food supply challenges. I love the idea of a farm because it helps people to help themselves and be self-sustainable. They can eat the food, sell the food and benefit from their own labor. Can we do it? As always it’s a little bit daunting in the beginning to come up with the funds. But is it Mission Impossible? Hardly! What kind of God do you believe in? And what kind of church do you belong to? We have this tag line on our website, “The little church that does big things.” In the last couple of years, we have certainly lived up to that slogan. Let’s continue to do so, for the glory of God, for whom NOTHING is impossible!

Pastor Andreas Wagner

Busy Times, Sacred Times, Sad and Joyful Times

If you know me, you know that I hate to dwell in the aura of a “busy person.” I think it is so important that we take time for one another and not give off the impression that we are “too busy” for someone, anyone, – and that is five times more critical in the sacred calling of a pastor (aka shepherd). Although these past few months tested my stamina pretty good… It was a time filled with sacred services, with Holy Week and Easter, but also with weddings, funerals, confirmation and a number of other events. At times I did not have enough time for some people. But we all have our limits and we need to accept them. With the distance of a few days and the benefit of some vacation time, let me reflect on some of the big things that have happened in our parish recently.

I think it was the week before Palm Sunday when Pastor Amy Smith emailed me rather casually that she was in Abington Hospital, being checked out for a brain tumor. Amy, who is a Methodist minister and joined us after she retired a couple of years ago; Amy, who has been traveling all over the place with her husband Tim; Amy, who has led Bible studies here and the occasional service; Amy who lives next door in the old “Park house” (as in Ellie Park). One day she experienced blurry vision while reading and the next day she was already on the operating table. Her cancer is bad, and it has radically changed her outlook on life, though not her sense of faith and hopefulness. I don’t want to speak for her here. But needless to say, it was a shocker. How precious life is… how present are the words of the psalmist: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90: 12) One week later, Pastor Ed Neiderhiser died within a matter of minutes after suffering a massive heart attack at the age of “only” 71. I am not going to lie to you: it was shocking and scary.  It’s always different when it strikes in your own community, as opposed to the theoretical knowledge that illness or accident can come at any time.

The funeral services for Ed Neiderhiser brought a lot of people together because he was a people person. There were all the folks he had ministered to, there were musician friends, family members, neighbors, etc.  Many of them came for the viewing on Sunday night; many more came on Monday morning for the viewing at church; and then we squeezed about 400 people into the church and the Narthex for services. There was brass, there were singers, there was jazz at the viewing; there was a New Orleans style processi0n to the St. Peter’s Cemetery and back. Someone asked: did Ed plan his own funeral? No, he didn’t. He had no plans to die on Wednesday April 17 or anytime soon for that matter. But we did our best “Ed impression,” and I like to think that he enjoyed it from a very special seat in the theater. May he be blessed forever in that blessed place!

On Saturday of Holy Week we celebrated our first ever Easter Vigil. I kept the liturgy on the shorter side because some Vigils go on forever, and I didn’t want to scare people off.  It was a nice service and also nicely attended. It began with the traditional Easter Fire (in a fire pit in the Baptismal Garden) and the lighting and blessing of the Paschal Candle. The highlight was the baptism of Jaiden Myers who had first come to our church about a year ago with her grandmother and has since become involved in youth activities, services and confirmation. She has come a long way. She looked very happy that night in her white dress.

On the second Sunday of Easter our nine second year conformation students received their Affirmation of Baptism, as confirmation is called formally in our church. (It still call it confirmation.) These nine students had been attending our Wednesday night sessions for two years. I hope that they have acquired an appetite for God during their confirmation journey, something that is much more important to me than fleeting knowledge.  I hope when they go out into the world and begin a life on their own that they will remember: there is more to this life than what the eye can see; there is truth deeper than the easy and goodie answers, the clichés we encounter at every corner. I hope that the seeds of faith will grow as they mature and make them very special, grounded and faith-filled people.

On May 5, we welcomed new members into our church. We led worship services at the Telford Lutheran Home, and on Sunday night, we had our second Jazz Vespers at St. Peter’s. The Jazz Vespers follow a totally different script. Some say there is no script at all, just a very lose structure that allows musicians to improvise and encourages the worship leader to be less dominant and more spontaneous.  It is a new experience for me and one that I have embraced, and that I am still learning. The Jazz Vespers have been attended by 50-70 people.  The Vespers on May 5 was a beautiful tribute to Ed who had been playing with these musicians on many occasions.  Two Philadelphia area jazz singers rocked the house. Thy really gave glory to God with their voices.

I officiated at three weddings in those weeks, one at Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge, one at a place in Radnor and one at our church. Those were of course very happy occasions with smiling faces all around. And we said good bye to Ellie Park (another North Wales icon) in mid- April, she died at age 89; and before that in early April to Elfie Heine, who made it all the way to 95. I am sad I can’t hear her Berliner dialect anymore. She would bring it out for me upon request; otherwise she spoke English perfectly. 

Things are now slowing down a little bit for the summer, although there is still lots of work to do in preparation for and execution of our second Puerto Rico Mission trip with about 30 volunteers. And my daughter is graduating and going to college this summer. And…

It has been a busy, sacred, sad and joyful time.

May God bless you!

Pastor Andreas Wagner

Epipany Meditation

“You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
  and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
  and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
 but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
  and your land Married;
 for the Lord delights in you.”


Isaiah 62: 3-4 (In a reading from the second Sunday after Epiphany)

Among the biblical prophets, Isaiah may be the most poetic and eloquent writer, a gifted artist and spiritual pathfinder for Israel’s future. In this passage he addresses a community that is depressed, suffering low self-esteem, and reeling from the sins of its past. He speaks to people who live in a foreign land with their communal identity seriously on the line. The powerful Babylonian army had destroyed Jerusalem and led the most educated and influential Jews into exile. For most cultures, suffering such a blow and brain drain, and enduring it for many decades, would spell the end of their existence. Eventually they’d be absorbed into the language, culture and religion of the new world. That fate was a real possibility for God’s people at the time when these sacred words were written. But the prophet speaks hope into the hearts of people; he paints a picture of new possibilities; he allows people to hear the forgiving, loving, comforting, and visionary voice of God. I wonder sometimes how Isaiah’s words were originally received. Did people believe him or did they ridicule him? His words must have sounded fantastic to the folks in Exile. “A crown of beauty in the hand of God?” That’s most definitely not how they felt. The Lord delighting in them? Really? They had experienced the darker side of life and must have questioned the certitudes of their own faith. If these people were anything like us, they were even slightly cynical. “What God are you talking about, Isaiah?” “We don’t want to set our hopes too high, lest we are disappointed all over again!” 

Faith is a delicate act, isn’t it?

But without faith and without a vision for the future, we perish long before we die. Many years ago, the American theologian Walter Bruggeman wrote a book about the prophets of Isaiah’s era. The title of this short book tells us everything: “Hopeful Imagination.” Faith conceives hopeful imagination, something that the church sometimes lacks in its desperate attempts to survive the growing secularization in our country. But to a people whose ears are attuned to the Holy One, hopeful imagination is never far away. The re-imagination of our churches begins among the people of faith who are not afraid to dream and to dream big.

Pastor Andreas Wagner