This Week in Ministry

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

Sunday, May 16, 2021

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 are 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 96.3 FM.
9 a.m. (Sunday) Community Baptist Church, Montoursville, WJSA 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 lunch will be held this Wednesday, May 19th, 2021. Join us as Mr. Kevin Mertz, Founder of Father’s Hope, will share with us his program, “Providing Hope for Children Around the World and Close to Home”. There is no cost to you to connect to this Zoom meeting. To connect go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88609741957?pwd=d1V6ZmNmWFNpMk51Ykp4ZEpRNUNkUT09. This link will either help you download the app or prompt you to open your app. You are also able to connect by telephone. Call 1-301-715-8592, (toll charges apply) when prompted enter the meeting number, 886-0974-1957 and the passcode is 56076370. For other arrangements contact United Churches, 570-322-1110.

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 Pastor Tammey Aichner, First Church of Christ (Disciples), Williamsport.

Footsteps To Follow

The Meaning Of Jewish Existence

By George Altshuler, student rabbi
Temple Beth HaSholom in Williamsport  

In order to understand Reform Judaism at its best, we can study the life of one person, Rabbi Leo Baeck.

Baeck served as a rabbi for the Jewish community of Germany before and during the Holocaust. As a prominent rabbi, he declined offers from Jews outside of Germany to help him escape the Nazis. Instead, he chose to remain with his congregation, and as late as 1939, he brought a group of children to England — and then returned to Germany.

In 1943, he was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he provided pastoral care to Jews in captivity and famously offered lectures on Plato and Kant to hundreds of prisoners.

While he was living in the concentration camp, he wrote parts of his book, “The People Israel: The Meaning of Jewish Existence.”

Reading this book, one feels the urgency with which Baeck wanted to get his ideas down on paper. Of the 140,000 Jews sent to Theresienstadt, fewer than 9,000 survived.

As he faced the real possibility of his death, Baeck wrote late at night in the concentration camp. What was the message he hoped to share with the world?

Baeck argues that Jews have a fundamentally ethical mission in the world. Baeck writes that humanity’s relationship with God is mysterious but that this relationship with God commands us to be ethical.

In the gendered language of his time, Baeck wrote, “Everything given to man in his existence becomes a commandment; all that he has received means ‘Thou shalt!’”

Baeck was a leader in the Jewish Reform movement of his time, and after he survived the Holocaust, he taught at Hebrew Union College, the American Reform seminary. The idea put forth by Baeck and others that this ethical commandedness lies at the heart of Judaism has been a cornerstone of Reform Judaism since it began in the nineteenth century. This idea has sometimes been called “ethical monotheism.”

American Jews today are a very diverse group. Jewish Americans are not only ethnically and politically a mixed multitude, but the ways in which Jews practice their religion can vary dramatically. In inter-Jewish debates, the Reform movement is sometimes criticized for emphasizing ethical monotheism too much.

However, when Reform Judaism is at its best, our commitment to ethics lies at the center of what we do, and our Jewish practice extends beyond ethical monotheism. As Baeck’s life shows, Judaism also includes creating a sense of community, supporting one another, and immersing ourselves in the rich world of Jewish religious practice. In fact, Baeck writes that it is with the help of the song and poetry of Judaism that the Jewish people can actualize these ethical imperatives in the world.

Reform Jews can be proud of our commitment to fighting for a more just world. As Baeck wrote, even in the face of the horror, moral bankruptcy, and stupidity of his Nazi captors, the Jewish people have a mission in the world.

“Everywhere and always they know themselves to be addressed and touched,” Beck wrote. “Everywhere an answer is demanded from them; everywhere the commandment [to be ethical] reveals itself.”



Faith Matters

All Things Are Possible

By Ruth K. Keller, member
New Covenant United Church of Christ
United Churches of Lycoming County Social Concerns Committee

Matthew 19:26 states “With God all things are possible” (NIV).

Matthew 17:20 states “Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (NIV).

Perry Como sang ‘It’s Impossible – to tell the sun to leave the sky, ask a baby not to cry’. Do we believe Perry – or do we believe that if we have faith, anything is possible?

We have been waiting forever (it seems) for the pandemic to be over. Is it possible that it will end? Is it possible for us to do something ourselves to make it end? Is our faith great enough to make it possible through our prayers?

Many prayers were answered by God in the Bible. Here are a few:

      Hannah prayed for a son – promising to give him back to the Lord. Her son, Samuel, became the greatest prophet. And, Hannah had three more sons and two daughters.
      Peter prayed to be released from prison.
      Daniel prayed for God to reveal the pharaoh’s dream and its interpretation.
      Joshua prayed for the Sun and Moon to stand still.
      Hezekiah added fifteen years to his life by praying.
      Jairis asked Jesus to heal his daughter.

      The thief on the cross asked Jesus to save him.

Even though we know many prayers are answered, we also know that many are not answered as we have prayed. Many times, our prayers are answered by God in ways we have never thought of, and we may not realize that our prayers have been answered.

Does God have a plan for our world that we have not discovered yet because we are suffering from being isolated from our usual activities and our friends? Will our prayers to end the pandemic really happen? We say we want to get back to normal, however, normal as we knew it previously may not be the best thing to happen.

We have learned a new way of relating to each other that would not have been learned without the pandemic. We attend Zoom meetings and cheer each other on – maybe more than during face-to-face meetings. There are no snow days now for a meeting!

And, changes have happened to our earth because of less human activity. There is less smog in some places, more aquatic life in rivers and oceans, and fewer cars and airplanes to pollute our atmosphere. But, what will happen when businesses and travel are opened to the previous level?

In this bleak time, it is possible to find some good. Is this God working in His way? Will we learn from all of this, or just go back to the same old routine and destruction of the planet that we were in before the pandemic? Let’s remember – with God, all things are possible.