Paid for by your OCWM Contributions| February 23, 2022
Message to the Conference
Dear Friends and Members of Penn Central Conference,

"The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing." (source)

Author and Franciscan friar Richard Rohr describes this space as: “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.”

Friends, I’ve been thinking a lot about the liminality of our time, particularly in the church. In the midst of the pandemic we have indeed been in a “liminal space”, grieving what was and wondering what will be next, not knowing what our future holds; wishing we can just go back to “normal”—what was and has been that gave us a sense of comfort and familiarity.

And I must wonder: is it just in the past two years that we have been in this time of unknowing, transition, wishing for what was, fearing for what will be? Or has the pandemic crystallized an experience of the church that has been long coming?

For the past 40 years, with an intensity during the last 20 years, the church has been drifting into a liminality that we have only been vaguely aware. Church membership and attendance have decreased, as 75% of churches in the United States have less than 200 members. Small churches are increasingly becoming the norm, with the need for pastors who are willing to serve less than full time and laity who are willing to take on more salient leadership roles. In general, folks in the U.S. have been decreasingly confident in their institutions across the board, including the institution of organized religion. More people than ever describe themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious.” (The statistics for UCC churches are readily available for viewing on the document 2021 UCC Statistical Profile, recently published by the Center for Analytics, Research, Development and Data)

 I would like to gently suggest that the pandemic, as horribly devastating as it has been for all of us, is not the cause of decline of church attendance in the Penn Central Conference, or any other conference in the UCC. The pandemic perhaps has intensified our awareness of what already is happening to the point of no longer being able to ignore.

So, upon what is our faith in the future based? A future we cannot yet see? There are so many scriptures that give me comfort as I contemplate our time and space of liminality. Consider what Christ says in the 21st chapter of Revelation: “Behold I make all things new.” And we can have faith in our future, as in the 11th chapter of Hebrews we read: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” One of my favorite scriptures that has carried me through every transition in my life is found in Romans chapter 8: “God works for good in all things.”

My purpose here is not to throw scriptural platitudes around, although I pray that one of these verses brings comfort. I would like to invite you to consider deeply one more scripture that describes liminality of our times so poignantly. I’m thinking about the experience of Mary Magdalene with Jesus in the tomb (John 20:11-18). At first she thinks he is the gardener, but when he calls her name, she runs to hug him, and he stops her. “Mary don’t hold onto me.” Wow. What a shock. Mary, you can’t have me as you had me in mortal life. But…you will have me. You just don’t know how yet. Go and tell your brothers and sisters that I am coming to them. The liminality of Mary and Jesus in that space of light and dark, what was and what will be, grieving the past and being absolutely terrified for the future—speaks to me about the liminal period we are in: light and dark, grieving and longing for what was, being terrified of what we do not yet know—and so wishing we could go back to the way things were and hold on to Jesus so he keeps things the way they were. But perhaps Jesus is speaking to us just as he spoke to Mary: “Don’t hold onto me.” You will have me, but in a new and different way.

The incredible new way that Jesus spoke was his coming to the disciples afresh and anew in Pentecost power, so they began the church of Jesus Christ in the 1st century; a church that grew and spread. Can we believe that Jesus will come to us, is coming to us, afresh and anew with Pentecost power--to rebirth the church of Jesus Christ for the 21st century that will grow and spread? How? We may ask. Perhaps that’s where our faith in an unknown future, God’s future, lies.

In my work with churches in the Conference, I have been asked if the church, particularly churches in the UCC, will eventually dwindle to a nominal influence. My heart and spirit are deeply moved by this question. My friends, I will say here what I say to those dear folks, what I believe deep within my heart: God isn’t done with us. The Church of Jesus Christ is alive and well in the United Church of Christ. Let us heed Jesus’ words not to hold onto what was, but to venture from that liminal space with hope-filled confidence, expecting a newness we perhaps cannot imagine. God indeed makes all things new and brings good out of the worst of circumstances. On God we can rest our faith, our hope, out trust, embracing what Jeremiah said to the devastated exiles millennia ago: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I am with you in prayer, for deep and blessed assurance,
Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola
Associate Conference Minister
Penn Central Conference
Members of Penn Central Conference,
Join us in celebrating that the Penn Central Conference is now DEBT FREE! In July of 2015, the conference withdrew $70,000 from our line of credit. This was done to fund unexpected maintenance and repair costs at Hartman Center. Since that time, the conference has been making monthly payments to repay the loan. With approval from the Board of Directors, the conference used funds from the sale of Hartman Center to retire the remaining balance of 48,242 dollars. With the retirement of this debt, the conference is now completely debt-free. 
Thank you to the Board's Finance Committee that diligently follows our funds and investments, and to the PCC Board of Directors for taking this important action.  
Shirley Keith Knox
Scheduling notes:
February 27 - Hayshire UCC, York - Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola
February 27 - St. John's UCC, Jonestown - Rev. Rick Luciotti
Printable eNews are available. Pastors and secretaries, please feel free to share with your congregation members that don't get this weekly email. Download and print this PDF with the weekly message to the conference, prayers for Penn Central and brief list of events.
Save the Dates:
PCC's 60th Annual Meeting
Opening Plenary: 6:30PM, June 6, 2022
Workshops: 6:30PM, June 7-9, 2022
Business & Worship: 9:30AM, June 11, 2022
Prayers for Penn Central Conference
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:18 (NLT)

This week, we pray for each other as we continue to live into God's calling...

Salem (Rohrerstown) UCC, Lancaster
New Hope UCC, Landisburg
Grace UCC, Lebanon
Hill UCC, Lebanon
Outdoor Ministries Winter Events

Lenten Day Apart (March 12 from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. at The Wittel Farm)

Women's Spring Quilting Retreat (March 18-20 at Kirchenwald)

Check out a full slate of winter and spring Outdoor Ministries events here!
HC Spirit Week - What's in a Name?
"Naming and Claiming Who God Made Us to Be"
Saturday, August 6 through Friday, August 12
Camp Mt. Luther
New this year: help design a T-Shirt for our HC Spirit Week!! Learn more in the brochure. (Deadline for entries is May 1, 2022.)

See the full brochure here for all the details! Brochure is printable, please share with your congregations or anyone interested in camp.

Register online here or mail your registration form to the PCC offices.
Local Church Events
Corty Byron Celebrates Johnny Cash's 90th Birthday with a solo acoustic concert at Christ Church UCC Elizabethtown
Saturday, February 26th, 7pm
247 S Market St, Elizabethtown, PA 17022
(717) 367-1208
100% of donations collected at the door, will go to Christ Church UCC's ministry and mission to help those in need; locally and internationally. Attendees can expect to hear a career-spanning tribute to 'The Man In Black' from his early days at Sun Records to his many inspiring spiritual & gospel tunes to his final reflective years of recording with Rick Rubin. Learn more about Corty Byron here.
Northern Cluster of Churches – Lenten Concert at Salem UCC
The Northern Cluster of UCC Churches will host a special Lenten Concert on Sunday, March 27, 3pm, at Salem UCC. Jeremy Goodling, a Christian singer from McAlisterville, will share wonderful gospel music with us. Please join us for a wonderful afternoon of music and fellowship. Read more here.
Denomination Wide Rural Church Ministry Group
For Pastors and Laity
Please join Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola and others from around the UCC for a monthly conversation on ministry in rural settings. Whether you've joined in before or this is your first time, you are invited the first Tuesday of every month via Zoom from 4:00PM—5:30pm.
The next meeting is Tuesday March 1st! The main topic of the March 1st meeting is having discussion about developing a Rural Church Coalition that will advocate, plan, and provide forums for relationship-building conversations for rural church pastors and laity.
Here is the zoom link:
Zoom Meeting ID: 854 92148080 Passcode: 184468
Calling all Small Churches in Penn Central Conference

Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola, ACM for Congregational Transitions, is planning Small
Church Vitality Workshops that will be offered on four (4) Saturdays across the
conference. These workshops are for any church that self-identifies as “small.”
Small refers to size and not importance or robustness! Typically, small churches
are less than 100 members and/or cannot afford a fulltime minister. Click here for more information and a list of dates.

***For information or to register, contact Dr. Laviola:***
Clergy Events
Take a Prayer Break
Every Thursday at noon during Lent join colleagues from the four PA UCC conferences for a short time of prayer on zoom. Each gathering will be led by a conference staff member and will include readings, reflection, and a time for intercessory prayer. All are welcome to join. Zoom information is below and is the same for every week. We begin March 3rd and will end on April 14th.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 841 7677 4603
Passcode: 260414
Ministerial Excellence Forums
There are monthly MEFs specific Tuesdays that will be offered at both 10am and 6pm via zoom. (Some morning sessions may become in-person later in the spring, depending on virus status).

March: On March 15th Nora will discuss Covenant Keeping in the World Today in a 6pm only session. (Qualifies as Boundary Training)

See the rest of the winter/spring educational opportunities here.
Return of the Lectionary Discussion Group!

Starting March 1st, join other clergy to discuss the upcoming Sunday's lectionary text each week. Zoom Meeting link Meeting ID: 858 1593 0557 Passcode: LECTIONARY
Travel with Pastor Julie: Presentations on Julie Holm’s Sabbatical

Zoom on Mondays (recordings available after)
● March 7: Greece: A Lagniappe, Journeys with Paul, and the Orthodox Church.

For Zoom information, please email Zoom capability provided via the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ.
UCC Webinars

These webinars are designed to help you enhance your local church ministries. Most are free to attend. Check out the calendar here.

Becoming Abolitionists - February 17, 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Confronting Bias in Search and Call - February 24, 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Our Whole Lives for Older Adults - March 2, 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Royalties for Spirituals: A webinar on our use of spirituals in worship and how to pay for their use

Negro Spirituals are iconic in the classic American songbook and have been widely used in performances, concerts and worship services for more than 150 years. The words and melodies have been woven into countless compositions for all of us to enjoy. But at what cost? These songs born out of the pathos of slavery have provided little if any monetary compensation to those who created them or their descendants. Is it appropriate for us to use this music today? What is our moral responsibility? In this webinar, we will explore what two congregations have done to address this issue and what you and your congregation can do. Join a panel discussion with these guests:

·        Susan DeSelms -- Minister of Music at United Parish at Brookline, MA
·        Adam Waite -- Minister of Music at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado
·        Dr. Emmett G. Price III -- Dean of Africana Studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston and Visiting Associate Professor of Music at Harvard University

This is a timely topic that received national media attention, including a story by National Public Radio featuring our three guests and a report by the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC. The webinar is co-sponsored by the United Church of Christ Musicians Association (UCCMA) and the John P. Webster Library of the First Church of Christ, West Hartford, CT. James Boratko, Director of Worship Arts at First Church West Hartford and a board member of UCCMA, will serve as moderator.

The webinar will take place via Zoom on Saturday, February 26 at 2:00 pm ET and is offered for free. For registration and information, go to A link to a recording of the webinar will be sent to all registrants in a follow-up email.
From our friends and partners
Clergy Wellness Boundaries Training
Lexington Theological Seminary (IB 582)
April 18-30, 2022
Register by March 9, 2022

This half-credit, two-week online course will help equip clergy for pastoral leadership across ministry settings by addressing issues pertaining to boundaries in the Church. The goal of the course is to facilitate authentic and healthy fellowship and communication with God’s people in congregational and denominational life. Students will grow in their identification and development of healthy boundaries. Contact admissions here.

Instructor: Dr. Yvonne Martinez Thorne 
Costs: $25 Registration Fee / $30 Tuition / $30 Tech Fee
Explore Buddhism via the Mercy Seminar
Are you interested in Buddhism in conversation with Christianity? Consider enrolling in the upcoming Mercy Seminar hosted by The Urban Well at St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster, PA. In the past two years, the Mercy Seminar has explored themes that arise the Abrahamic faiths regarding Christian anti-Judaism, as well as repentance and forgiveness in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. This year the Mercy Seminar focuses on the Buddhist traditions, to explore the theme of mercy in traditions that do not focus on a merciful God. The purpose of the Mercy Seminar is to delve into each tradition while setting aside pre-conceived notions and ideas. The classes also include contemplative prayer and discussion. All classes are on zoom and are only $75 (for the series). To learn more, check out the fuller description on this link.
Pennsylvania Academy of Ministry UPCOMING Classes
The Future of Multivocational Ministries, April 21–May 17, instructor Darryl W. Stephens. A Financial Basics class for lay and clergy leaders.
Personal and Spiritual Development, May 24–June 28, instructor Carrie Call. Tuesdays, 7–8:30pm. A Ministerial Institute class on spiritual disciplines, congregational systems, and vocational discernment.
South Central PA Task Force Presents 2022 Congregation Security Webinar
Date: Saturday, February 26, 2022 Time: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM Location: Virtual

Who should attend: This workshop is geared for all faith-based organization leaders, administrators, ushers and safety/security team members by providing exposure to resources and references from subject matter experts in houses of worship security. The workshop will provide the participants an opportunity to: ▪ Receive an overview on the safety & security role of the Ushers ▪ Learn about the preparation, response and recovery for an active shooter incident ▪ Obtain security best practices for Houses of Worship ▪ Learn about government resources and assistance to the faith-based community

To register for this event, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. There is no charge to attend this workshop as it is sponsored by the South Central PA Task Force and Millersville University.
Kairos Spiritual Direction Training (SDT) is a contemplative program that teaches the art and practice of spiritual direction – deep listening, walking alongside others, and recognizing God in your own life and the lives around you.
SDT is designed not only for spiritual directors, but for all those who offer spiritual care and companionship. Students are encouraged to practice spiritual kinship with those on the margins who may not normally have the opportunity or means to participate.
For more information and to apply, visit
Employment Opportunities
The Schuylkill Association of the PA Southeast Conference, UCC, has a ministry opportunity for a part-time chaplain at Locust Lake State Park near Tamaqua, PA. If you are a Christian (Clergy or lay) who can function in an unstructured situation and who has a love of God, God’s creation, and God’s people, then this might be the opportunity for you.

The chaplain represents the church as a Christian presence and quiet witness among those who camp at this beautiful state park. The responsibilities of the chaplain include:
·        Conduct campsite visitation weekly.
·        Provide informal, inspirational weekly worship services.
·        Provide availability to park/campground staff and campers for crisis situations.
·        Provide informal programs such as campfires, hymn sings, special musical events, and activities for children, as needed.

Training and ministry support and resources will be provided by the PA Council of Churches Chaplains in the Park program and the Locust Lake Committee.
You can learn more about this ministry opportunity, including compensation, at Or you can contact the Locust Lake Ministry chair, the Rev. Maureen Duffy-Guy at or cell (570) 952-5474. To apply for this position go to Make sure that you click the box for Locust Lake on the application. The application will be open until the position is filled.
St. Matthew’s UCC (Carlisle) is seeking a part-time
church administrative assistant. Starting pay 15.00 or higher
based on experience/credentials. 10-15hrs/week. Read full description here.
If interested, please contact Pastor Tim Dugan
Preferred contact phone number: 570-428-4290.
Preferred contact email:
Worship Accompanist: Like to lift a joyful noise? Do you love playing a wide variety of music among an enthusiastic congregation? Hamilton Park United Church of Christ (HPUCC) is searching for someone to bring their gifts to their Sunday morning worship service where we appreciate both piano and organ music as well as a blend of contemporary and traditional pieces. The successful candidate will provide piano and organ music during one Sunday worship service as well as accompany one weekly rehearsal throughout the choir season.
Contact the Administrator of the Church for more information: Read more here.
Rev. Dr. Carrie Call, Ph.D.
Conference Minister
Phone: 717-433-3196

Rev. Nora Driver Foust
Associate Conference Minister 
Phone: 717-433-2587

Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola, Ph.D.
Associate Conference Minister
Phone: 717-433-3564

Rev. Rick Luciotti
Coordinator of Care to Clergy & Clergy Families
Phone: 717-433-6306
Anne Rankin
Outdoor Ministries Liaison
phone: 717-945-4585
C. Paul Keller
Office Manager
Phone: 717-652-1560
If you have future eNews stories, please send them to C. Paul Keller
Contact information: C. Paul Keller | email: | phone: 717-652-1560