Paid for by your OCWM Contributions| December 9, 2020
Message to the Conference
Members and friends of Penn Central Conference-

A voice says, "Cry out!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. - Isaiah 40:6-8

Throughout this season of Advent, we talk about hope, peace, joy, and love as we light our candles and journey with the Holy Family to Bethlehem. We anticipate the coming of the Christ child with all the appropriate awe and reverence of the season.

Except, maybe a little bit less so in the year 2020. This year, we might be struggling. This year, our focus is (appropriately) on safety. We are aware of our own mortality, alongside the mortality of our loved ones in a new and uncomfortable way. It’s hard to focus on the new life of Christmas when death is so prevalent and so personal.

But the miracle of the incarnation goes beyond just the joy of new life; it goes with us into the darkness of the grave, and even beyond. The words of Isaiah hold the frailty of our mortality next to the eternal word of our God. The miracle of the incarnation is born from that intersection! When God chose to become flesh and share our common lot, he joined us in vulnerability. He joined us in mortality. That means that God made the decision to come and live, and love, and struggle, and hurt, and die, just like we have always done, so that we could know the depth and power of God’s love for what she has created.

I don’t know about you, but when considering all that, the fact that this isn’t what I would call a “Holly Jolly Christmas” seems less important. Yes, the hope we find comes with challenge, the peace we seek may seem distant, our joy is muted, and our love is paired with heartbreak. Yet, hope, peace, joy, and love remain. We have practiced this season of waiting year after year, and now we find ourselves living it in a much more intimate way than we would have ever imagined.

Thank God we’ve been practicing. Thank God we can hold onto that hope, offer one another the peace of Christ, remember that joy runs deeper than bright Christmas bells, and always, always hold one another in love.
Your sister in Christ,

Pastor Zoë A. D’heedene
Coordinator of Camps & Retreats

P.S. Remember to join me & Pastor Patty this Sunday at 6:30 on Facebook for our final devotional at Hartman Center!
The Penn Central Conference has received a generous grant from the National Setting of the UCC for our Congregation Empowerment Team! This was a wonderful surprise and allows us to make the CET’s Inaugural Academy for PCC Congregations program available to more churches at no cost. The Inaugural Academy is grounded on the work of church empowerment consultant Paul Nickerson. The 2021 program will take core concepts and assist churches to work with those concepts in each of their unique settings. The program elements will be flexible, adaptive, and custom-made for each community. This is not a “cookie cutter” program! Coaches will assist congregations in making sense of how we are “doing church” in these pandemic days and what the future holds for our communities once we emerge from this perplexing time. Because of the Brown Grant we have received, your church may participate for free – the coaching made available to each church (which is the part that involved a cost) will be covered by the Conference. The original cost was $650 per church. For more information, see the flier here or write to
Scheduling Notes:

December 13 - St. John's UCC, Boalsburg - Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola preaching
December 20 - St. John's UCC, Boalsburg - Rev. Nora Foust preaching
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...

Peace UCC, Berrysburg
Zion UCC, Blain
St. John's UCC, Boalsburg
St. Paul's UCC, Bowmansville
COVID-19 Resources

Penn Central Conference has added a special section on our website for COVID-19 resources, including the times and links for Zoom meetings. Keep checking regularly for updates.

Join the PA Council of Churches on Monday, December 14, at 7 PM for a "Let's Chat" webinar for "Living Through COVID-19". Registration is required to join the Zoom meeting. A Zoom link will be sent to you upon registration.
PCC Virtual Cantata
We are SO excited to share with you "My Lord, What A Beautiful Morning" - the PCC Virtual Choir Christmas Cantata! This beautiful collection of videos can be used by your church as a full cantata for a Sunday morning or a special event, or each video can be used in conjuction with the lectionary for Advent and Christmas seasons.

Watch the videos on the Conference YouTube channel and learn more here.

If you have any questions or would to download video files, contact Julie Holm at
From Our Local Churches
Due to Covid 19 Salem UCC Harrisburg is not going to have the Annual Toy Giveaway with Mr. & Mrs. Santa. Instead we are gathering items for residents of a local women's shelter which includes more than 50 children also 30 + kids that are in a group home waiting for placement into foster care. In addition to items on hand from the clothing bank, we are putting together bags of toiletries for the residents.  
Among the organizations served were individuals at Bethesda Mission, 2nd Chance Ministries, Group Home for Special Needs, Morning Star Pregnancy Center, Daily Bread, Justice Youth Center and others. 
If any local Churches would wish to donate please contact Sandy Sgrignoli at 717-635-0569.
Weekly Book Reviews
December's reviews by Rev. Amelia Price
by Maya Angelou
When we discussed books to review for the eNews, we were clear that a variety of books would be a bonus and an eye opener. What are we reading? What are we learning? Of course we read materials to make a difference in our work and in our lives, to make us smarter or better at what we do.
In these days many of us read for escape and rest. Cookbooks do that for me. They are the one genre that asks nothing of me and demands nothing from me. I do not have to remember the salient point or the 5 steps to whatever practice of the day comes across my desk. I can read about my favorite foods, or things I never dreamed of and simply enjoy in the moment. And when I discovered Maya Angelou as chef, I was intrigued to say the least.
When you hear the name Maya Angelou, at least I think of fine prose and a magnificent insight into human nature and the nature of creation. When I found out she wrote cookbooks, I was hooked! She has in fact written many cookbooks, all with the same gifts of story teller and seer, in the archaic meaning of a person who observes intensely.
Great Food All Day Long comes at life and recipes from the perspective of control, of discipline and of deeply and intensely enjoying the food. Both the making of it and the eating and sharing of it. For Angelou, there is an intimacy in the two. Cooking becomes an act of love and service, of enjoyment and satisfaction, of sharing and of giving.
Throughout the book, stories of her childhood and her life come to life through the food she describes and the preparation she teaches. It is a book about living life. She is Maya Angelou after all, so the insight and experience of the wise author and poet shine through the instructions and measurements. She describes learning to eat more often, but eat less as a tool to address weight loss. But the book is much more. It is an insight into something we often do without thinking, eating, and do because we have to, cooking. In Angelou’s talent, they become mystical, lifegiving gift and grace.
Spring 2021 Ministerial Education Forums – Third Tuesdays
Due to the constraints of Zoom interactions, MEFs will have registration limits. If a registration is full, email Paul to be added to a waiting list. Please let us know if you need to cancel so your spot can be given to someone on the waiting list.
January 19: Rev. Dr. Carrie Call – Psychology for Ministry: Moral Development
How do we come to know what’s right and wrong? How do ideas about morality form and what affects them? This gathering will be the first entry into considering how psychological reality connects to and undergirds our work in ministry. Moral development covers how we come to make moral decisions and what affects our motivations. This will be a time for learning new concepts as well as engaging in self-reflection and discussion. The material will clarify aspects of ministry and help us to understand ourselves and each other better.
10:00AM registration
6:00PM registration

February 16: Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola – Pastoring Parishioners: A Mental and Relational Health Perspective
Pastors know the dear ones in our congregations who are beloved yet bristly; loveable and frustrating at the same; and sometimes just a perennial thorn in our sides. We may struggle how to be in relationship with these dear ones, while not allowing their bristle to push us or others away. This two-hour workshop will present a compassionate framing for how to understand these folks and how to relate most effectively with them in effective pastoral ways.
10:00AM registration
6:00PM registration

Save the dates, registration links to come:
March 16: Stephanie Rader-Titzel – Mission Central and Connecting to Local Mission Possibilities
April 20: Rev. Dr. Bob Fogal – Personalities and Communication
May 18
January 13: Rev. Nora Foust - Committee on Ministry Training (mostly for newbies, but seasoned folks are welcome)
10:00AM registration
6:00PM registration
From UCC national setting

The United Church of Christ and the National Council of Churches have joined forces to offer faith- based organizing training to the wider church and beyond.
During this Advent season of viral pandemics, racial injustice, economic uncertainty, physical isolation, and socio-political strife, how does one prepare for what is to come? Advent is the season Christians are called to prepare for the coming of Jesus in the world and, with Jesus, the in-breaking of justice.
What distinguishes faith -based organizing from other trainings is our reason why. These trainings are built on a foundation of discipleship.
What will the world look like when justice comes? And how do we prepare for its arrival?
We have gathered four nationally recognized organizers and trainers, each paired with a theological reflector, to help us interrogate both these questions and the sacred text that undergirds our discipleship in this area.
Over the course of four sessions participants will gain tools for: basic organizing & embodiment; direct action & risk assessment; communication & accompaniment; trauma care and healing space. Each sessions also includes space for interaction, questions, and downloadable resources. Learn more here.
UCC Mental Health Network presents official newsletter "The Journey"
Read the first issue here.
Sign up here.
Conference Ministers address racism, white supremacy and privilege in the church - open letter from Council of Conference Ministers
Fiduciary Focus from United Church Funds
Every church and non-profit organization has its own unique mission and financial objectives. With that understanding, Matthew Wagner, Vice President, Institutional Relationships at United Church Funds, has written a helpful guide that describes the building blocks for customized, workable, and effective investment policy.
Survey from the Women's Table

We invite female clergy and lairt to complete this survey prepared by the Women’s Table of the United Church of Christ. It is intended to gather information from women in the UCC about the issues and concerns you most care about, are engaged with, and for which your faithful responses make a difference in the world around us.

We are not yet certain of the future of the Women’s Table but we are cognizant that as a denomination which has provided a great deal of leadership and advocacy on gender justice and for women in ministry within ecumenical and interfaith partnerships, that we need to find ways to remain visibly engaged, accessible, and resourceful on these matters. This survey, sent out to a diverse cross-section of women in the UCC, is designed to help inform next steps. What is on your minds and hearts matters to us.

Again, we cannot thank you enough for taking the time to offer your feedback. We look forward to hearing from you and to reporting our findings. Your responses will be strictly confidential and anonymous. It will take approximately 10 minutes to complete the survey. Please have your responses included by Friday, December 11, at 11:59 pm EDT.
UCC Webinars

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

Stepping into the Archives Tuesday, December 15, 3:30 PM

Blue Christmas Service Thursday, December 17, 3:30 PM
Looking Ahead:

General Synod "Rooted in Love: Special Edition"
General Synod 33 will take place Sunday July 11, 2021 – Sunday July 18, 2021. Pre-Synod events will occur on July 7-10, 2021. Learn more here
Pennsylvania Academy of Ministry at LTS

Nondegree classes are ideal for:
  • Lay Ministers already pastoring churches
  • Pastoral Leaders in part-time or bi-vocational ministries
  • Individuals in discernment
  • Laity serving Christian denominations and independent churches

Theology II: “Leadership and Community,” Jan 9–Feb 18, 2021. The Rev. Holly MillerShank offers a six-week online class through the Pennsylvania Academy of Ministry at Lancaster Theological Seminary. The class provides an introduction to Christian theology, focusing on the human condition, Christian hope, the church, ministry, and mission. Students may take this class without having taken Theology I. This 2.5 CEU class starts Saturday, Jan 9, followed by five weeks of asynchronous online instruction. Cost $325. Apply online at
Do you - or someone you know - need to complete the UCC History & Polity requirement for authorization? Are you interested in learning more about the UCC?
Now's the time to sign up for the seven-week 2021 online course UCC History & Polity.
The Zoom classes will meet live from 2-5pm on Fridays from Feb. 12 through March 26. Just $100! Questions? Contact Dr. Carrie Call, at
Employment Opportunities

The Center for Spiritual Formation is seeking applicants for the position of Center Director beginning July 1, 2021. For more information or for an application, contact the center office at
Search & Call Associates
Mercersburg, York and Gettysburg Association Churches
Rev. Richard Gordon

Northern and Central Association Churches
Carolyn Herman
H: 570-538-9704
C: 570-220-8589

Harrisburg, Lancaster and Lebanon Association Churches
Rev. Richard Luciotti

Staff Directory
Rev. Dr. Carrie Call, Ph.D.
Conference Minister
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex. 12

Rev. Nora Driver Foust
Associate Conference Minister 
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex.13

Rev. Dr. Marisa Laviola, Ph.D.
Associate Conference Minister
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex. 15

Rev. Dr. Ronnette Comfort-Butler
Facilitator of Care to Clergy & Clergy Families
phone: 717-719-1895
Zoë D'heedene
Coordinator of Camps/Retreats
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex. 16
C. Paul Keller
Office Manager
Phone: 717-652-1560 ex. 14
If you have future eNews stories, please send them to C. Paul Keller
Contact information: C. Paul Keller | email: | phone: 717-652-1560