Paid for by your OCWM Contributions| December 16, 2020
Message to the Conference
Members and friends of Penn Central Conference-

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, f
or he has looked with favor
on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name. 
His mercy is for those who fear him 
from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud
in the thoughts of their hearts. 
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly; 
he has filled the hungry with good things, 
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, 
in remembrance of his mercy, 
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Luke 1:39-55
As we have entered this 3rd week of Advent, the week of joy, let’s contemplate the first Advent that heralded joy—through a prophetic message from Elizabeth and Mary, quite ordinary women being called by God for extraordinary blessing that would change the course of history.

As I read and re-read this very familiar scripture passage, I wonder why Mary visits Elizabeth. Perhaps she needs to escape the judgmental whispers about her pregnancy; perhaps she needs help with confusion or doubt; perhaps she needs encouragement. Elizabeth’s prophetic words not only assure Mary but also give Mary the clarity and joy that inspire her own prophetic words that affirm God’s message from the beginning and will break through in the flesh in just a few months. And as we contemplate Mary’s words, we too await God’s message from the beginning to break through one more time in the incarnate Word and to fill us with clarity and encouragement and joy.

This year it seems more difficult to know clarity and encouragement; to imagine being filled with joy, does it not? We are trying to deal with the ravages of a virus that will not loosen its grip; as we have faced illness and death, closed church buildings; separated from our families at this sacred time. We have witnessed division in our country that we have not seen before. We may even wonder at times if indeed God is breaking through to bring joy to a world that is so filled with grieving and fear.

But this isn’t the first Christmas that is filled with grieving and fear. When Jesus entered into the world that first year, the heralding of his birth was a hint of the circumstances of the time. The news of this lowly child laid in a saliva filled animal trough was proclaimed to the lowly, impoverished and outcast shepherds who hardly knew joy.

Perhaps just as Mary needed Elizabeth in her times of confusion and doubt, perhaps we need one another as we travel through our times of confusion and doubt; when miracle seems far away and joy seems elusive. Just as Mary needed Elizabeth to fully embrace her wonderful news during that first Advent, perhaps we need one another this Advent, to embrace the wonderful news of God with us in the midst of our ordinary lives, wherever those lives have brought us. God who breaks through every year is the same God who breaks through this year: God who holds us and bears us up to the joy of knowing that God’s intimate, infinite love remains steadfast, no matter what circumstances we experience.   

In the faith communities of Penn Central Conference, let us hold each other up when any of us needs encouragement or support. Let us speak heaven’s message of peace through the cacophony of divisive voices; let us show heaven’s message of joy in the midst of unspeakable tragedy. Let us affirm together that the miracle of that first Advent is the miracle of every Advent; of this Advent.

May the miraculous blessings of God incarnate fill you in your homes and in your faith communities; with your family and with your friends; in the coming weeks; in the coming year.

Marisa Laviola
Associate Conference Minister
Penn Central Conference
Scheduling Notes:

December 20 - St. John's UCC, Boalsburg - Rev. Nora Foust preaching
December 25 - January 1 - Office closed
2020 Remittance Deadline

Attention treasurers! The deadline for remittance to be counted for 2020 is January 13, 2021. As long as your remittance is postmarked by January 13 AND is marked as 2020 remittance, it will be included on your 2020 giving statement, OCWM and 5 for 5 certificates.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Paul.
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...

St. Jacob's (Stone) UCC, Brodbecks (Glenville)
Salem UCC, Campbelltown
Chapel Hill UCC, Camp Hill
First UCC, Carlisle
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.

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 conjunction 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
This is the deep and moving story of the Great Migration. The under reported and not as well known as it should be movement of thousands of black families and black individuals who from roughly 1916 to 1970 left the “Old Confederacy” to find acceptance, jobs, welcome and life in the North and West.
Wilkerson tells this journey through stories of three individuals who leave the only homes they have ever known to find a better life and future in places where they want and expect welcome and acceptance. Not the segregated and separate South of their experience.
Wilkerson writes from the perspective of one who is both the product of this Migration, her father and mother left “the Old South” and raised their daughter in a world they had not known and was far different from where and how they were raised.
The importance of the book is to shine a light on a mass exodus of persons, families and the way that migration touched all the rest of this country. Yet, is largely unknown. It is a shame on the privileged that this story has remined untold and the little that has been learned from it.
The stories of where Ida, George and Robert came from and what they found on their journey’s is a clear story of white privilege and oppression. Yet also a story of hope and acceptance. And of the changing society being born.
This book is timely in that it shares some of the roots of current societal issues. There is much we can and need to learn. This book will help, if we are willing to learn and grow.
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 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
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.
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

Class is filling fast - so register soon!
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