This Week in Ministry

The following institutional services are arranged for and reported by United Churches of Lycoming County:

Sunday, June 27, 2020

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak keeping us from safely gathering together, no services are scheduled in area long term care facilities or prisons.  Many congregations beginning to meet together in person for Worship, being careful to social distance and to follow all CDC guidelines. They also encourage those most at risk to continue to Worship at home and to take advantage of services that are live streamed on Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, and other venues.

On the radio:

Radio Services are provided by the following congregations:
8:30 a.m. (Saturday) Jersey Shore Assembly of God, WJSA 1600 AM/96.3 FM.
8:15 a.m. (Sunday) St. John’s-Newberry United Methodist Church, 1600 AM or 104.1 FM.
9 a.m. (Sunday) Community Baptist Church, Montoursville, WJSA 1600 AM/96.3 FM.
9 a.m. (Sunday) Pine Street United Methodist Church, Williamsport, WWPA 1340 AM/101.7 FM., WILQ  HD3

Ecumenical luncheon:

United Churches Wednesday noon ecumenical lunches are not held over the summer.  The next lunch will be held in September.

Devotion line:

The United Churches telephone devotion line is available 24 hours a day by calling 570-322-5762. These devotions change daily and are hope filled and inspirational. The devotions this week will be provided by Deacon Sandra Grier, Messiah Lutheran Church, South Williamsport.

Rev. Gwen Bernstine

Footsteps To Follow

By Rev. Gwen Bernstine, Executive Director, United Churches of Lycoming County

Are We There Yet? 

I have never been a good traveler. When I was a child, my question was always, “Are we there yet?” Long car trips meant I would get motion sick no matter how much Dramamine I took, where I sat, or what I did while in the car. Sometimes just going a mile or two was way too long!

We have been hearing several versions of “are we there yet” from almost everyone in the community these days, including you and me! We sheltered at home for longer than we could imagine possible. When it started, we were expecting two weeks at home before things got back to normal. However, we were in the red phase for a very long time, then yellow and now green, all while trying to envision “a new normal,” we hope coming our way without a resurgence of the coronavirus making us shelter at home again. And many of us are now looking at this green phase as full speed ahead, rather than 50% with all social distancing precautions in place.

John Edgerton, the Lead Pastor at First United Church of Christ of Oak Park, Illinois, recently shared some insights that are helping me through this time of recovery as he told the story of the first global disaster in the Bible.

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:11-12 NRSV).

Edgerton states, “Forty days is a good, solid, biblical number… signifying completeness, totality… For it to rain for forty days means it… rained for as long as one could imagine.”

But there is part of the story that we often forget. We seldom remember how long Noah and his family stayed in the ark. It was much longer than forty days.

As the story continues, we are told that the waters swelled for 150 days and then began to recede for another 150 days. Then Noah spent more months on the ark, sending out a raven and then a dove until the land dried enough for all to disembark.

By the end of the eighth chapter of Genesis, we discover Noah and his family were sequestered in the ark about a year. Edgerton states they were “forced by calamity to withdraw from the world with no human company but one another. If forty days signifies completeness of time,” then a year signifies way too much time. It is no longer symbolic, imaginative, or special. It is just much too long.

Edgerton goes on to say, “As those first forty days and nights came to a close and the rain stopped, Noah and his family must have felt thrilled. With the worst of the danger passed, they must have been thrilled to end their confinement. But that’s not what happened.”

The author points out, “The story of humanity’s deliverance from global devastation is a story of counting days and losing track of days. It is a story of thinking the worst is over, only to find it has just begun.”

It is a story I am holding on to as I travel the uncharted roads of this pandemic, because it means I am not the first child of God to feel this way. Please join me knowing that God travels with us even in unprecedented times.


Faith Matters – by Mrs. Ruth Keller, Member of New Covenant United Church of Christ, Williamsport,

Perseverance

Perseverance is the name given to the new Mars Rover. Seventh grader Alex Mather, who won a contest to name it, was not describing the Rover, but the people who made it. They persevered and kept pushing the limits.

In Luke 18:1-8, a persistent widow kept telling a judge that her rights were being violated. The judge did not listen, but because the widow would not quit badgering him, he thought he should act. Jesus said, the same as the judge, “God will step in and work justice for his chosen people who continue to cry out for help” (The Message). He will stick up for them.

The parable lifts up the widow, to be sure, but the real focus is on God who is the source of justice for those who cry to God night and day.

If you really believe in something, keep working toward your goal to accomplish it. It is never easy and will take time and patience. Maybe it will never be totally successful, but every little accomplishment is better than nothing at all.

Perseverance is most effective when it is coordinated with God’s intentions. Some churches in New Hampshire have a relationship with churches in Zimbabwe. My son, a minister, wrote a sermon on persistence. The church in Zimbabwe had a bold vision for a large sanctuary with a Sunday School attached on one side and a youth space on the other. In 2013, they built the youth space, and since then, have worshiped in the small, unfinished cinder block space. Because churches in Zimbabwe have no mortgages or capital campaigns, building projects see progress when resources are available. In 2015, their pastor challenged the congregation to donate bricks for the sanctuary wall. People scrounged bricks and brought enough to raise the walls to the tops of the windows. Another gathering of bricks enabled the church to raise the walls to the roof line. In 2019, my son celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination by asking that gifts be designated for the Zimbabwe church. Now their building a roof. They persevered but insist that God has accomplished these goals.

A program of the United Churches of Lycoming County to eliminate Styrofoam has also required persistence. Members talk to area businesses to convince them to change. It has not been easy, but we see slow changes being made by people who care about the environment. Some grocery stores and restaurants have decided Styrofoam is not good. With grant funding, United Churches is working with congregations and businesses to supply products for them that are biodegradable, after which they will purchase non-Styrofoam products.

Real good does not happen solely by our own gumption. This is not to say our perseverance doesn’t matter; of course it does. But faith insists that God brings about God’s kingdom, not us.

-Ruth is also a member of the United Churches’s Social Concerns Committee.