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Pastor’s Pen 12/17 – Cultural Christianity is Killing Christmas

By | Pastor's Pen

Cultural Christianity is Killing Christmas

A story is told that once upon a time, about 2000 years ago, the ruler of a vi-cious—many would call it evil—empire called for all the people under his control, to be counted. The count, according to the story, was for the stated purpose of knowing exactly how many people he could tax. It seems that all empires, particularly evil ones, never have enough money. Apparently, the inability to know when enough is enough is not just a contemporary problem.

Because there were no computers to expedite the process, it was determined the best way to assure people didn’t avoid the count was to force them to travel to their hometown for this bit of record keeping. It is estimated that this one little directive forced millions of people in the known world to undergo arduous journeys. The great storyteller Garrison Keller famously wrote that it seems to be the habit of powerful people to force their will on the masses.

While countless people were forced to follow the harsh directive, our story focuses on one couple, Joseph and Mary, who lived in Nazareth who had to travel to the ancestral hometown of the tribe of David: Bethlehem. At this juncture, Mary and Joseph are merely representatives of the hordes of powerless people who had (and have) no choice but to bend to the will of the powerful. The forced and merciless journey speaks to all those today who are forced to move to escape warring powers, to seek food for starving children, to find a better way of life. Our story is timeless because it speaks to capricious events of yesteryear and yesterday.

For all intents and purposes, the story is one of hopelessness…earthly powers throwing around earthly power. Millions of people suffer this same fate today. And sometimes it feels that the earthly powers over us have no more concern for us then did that Emperor so many years ago. We want peace, but so many make money off war that those chains are always clanging. We want to provide food for our families, but CEO’s, COO’s, Boards, and multibillionaires care only for the bottom line. Our story is timeless, because the wealthy and powerful in Mary and Joseph’s day could only retain their position if the masses were kept in theirs.

But this story, from so long ago, includes a twist that the comfortable could not see coming and the poor could not fathom. Our story reminds us that the powerful have a way of forgetting that their power is not ultimate, and the poor lose hope in the face of the onslaught of the world. The Emperor was proud of his ingenuity in moving people around to further line his pockets, but hidden in that movement of humanity was a surprise that would humble the haughty and rescue the hope of the hopeless.

Our story tells us that the powerful intended the census for selfish purposes, but that the power which is above all earthly powers used their selfish ambitions for the good of all humanity. For embedded in that movement of people was the creative power of the universe. Hidden in the very flesh of a commoner in that crowd was the power that would destroy Rome itself. It appears earthly power is a salve that blinds the powerful to their own mortality but it opens the eyes of the powerless to see eternal life!

Our story, then, is a story of both warning and wonder. It is warning to all who have bought into the ways of the world; losing sight of the God of righteousness. It is warning to the powerful who act as if their power is ultimate. It is warning to all of us that it is easy to become blind to the fact that everything in life is a gift from the ultimate power of the Universe and if a gift, then it is to be considered as a gift to God hidden in all people.

But it is also a story of wonder! It is a story of wonder because it reminds us that the God who brought all things into being can hide himself in the womb of a woman of the lowest strata of society. It is wonder because that baby destroyed the evil that was Rome. It is wonder because in a world of self-destruction it still has the power drag us from death to life. The power behind that story told so long ago still transforms selfishness into selflessness. It is wonder because it is a reminder that God, who stood in solidarity with the poor so many years ago, stands with all people of good will today.

Gravel Hill Fireplace & TV Dedication

Dedication of Gifts to the Congregation and Community

By | Uncategorized

On November 5, several dedications took place of items that have been presented to the church.  After the first service, the fireplace in the Hospitality Center was dedicated in loving memory of Zenith and Lester Landis and Margaret and Julius DeMackiewicz by Rosemary and Donald DeMackiewicz.  The fireplace contributes to the warm and homey atmosphere of the Hospitality Center.  The television screen mounted on the fireplace was also dedicated in honor of Abigail Foutz’s confirmation.  It was given by Jim and Jean Foutz and is instrumental in communicating information about upcoming events in the hospitality center.

After the second service, the Celebration of Life Garden and the Little Lending Library were dedicated.  The garden was inspired by the life of Evan Kreider whose happiness, joy and contagious smile impacted many.  After Evan’s death, family and friends contributed to the garden.  The opportunity for others to celebrate their loved ones was extended to the congregation.  We would like to extend thanks to Louis Rossi and Rossi Landscaping, Steve Kern and Kern Landscaping, Jean Foutz, Meredith Fausey-Kreider, Dave Kreider, Doug Smith, Nick Huntley, Jim and Sandy Fausey for working on the project.  We would also like to thank those who contributed to the garden through the purchase of pavers, furniture and monetary donations:

Christine Smith
Bob & Carole Shearer
Staver Sunday School Class
Meredith Fausey-Kreider, Dave Kreider & Dylan Fausey
Larry & Carol Grunden
Jim & Sandy Fausey
Mike, Emily Chase & Family
Stella & Patrick Walmer
Jim & Jean Foutz
Michael & Sarah Sis
Susan Deiter
Debra Bennetch
Richard & Larene Stone
Karl & Deanna Smith
Annissa Lingle
Steve & Trudy Kern
Kathy Lingle

Karl & Nancy Bordner
Ron & Sue Berman
Brenda Kern
Beth & Rick Hoffman
Tony & Erin Rose
Laurie Garman
Dave & Tracey Sattazahn
Ken Bishop
Aleta Simpson
Dave & Gwen Kendall
Gary & Gail Trowbridge
Christine Hepler
Carol Kase
Mary Lou Bear
Dale & Stephanie Wagner
Heather Hoffman
Linda & Mike Bare
Shawn & Perry Grimes

Jim & Janell Ault
Dottie & Jay Jurell
Bernard & Nancy Smith
Gail & Harry Newcomer
George & Romaine Ulrich
Doug & Karen Smith
Louis & Beth Rossi
Barb & Brad Reed
Donald & Rosemary DeMackiewicz
Andrea & Tommy Houran & family
Cheryl & Alex Lilley
Wendy Shirk
Judy & Nick Huntley
Eric & Beth Hoy

As part of the garden, a Little Lending Library was also dedicated.  The library was suggested by Tony Rose.  Those who built and installed the library were Julie Holzman, Ken Neiswender, Jay Jurell, Chris Lingle and Louis Rossi.  We appreciate their talents.  Books for the library were donated by the Cochranton Marching Band in appreciation for the use of the church facilities during a recent trip to the Atlantic Coast Marching Band Competition in Hershey.  Please stop by and enjoy a book!  It is hoped that the garden and the library will remind us all to celebrate life each day.

Following the third service, the electronic sign was dedicated in memory of Rita Brandt.  It was given by her husband, Jack Brandt.  The sign will enable us to share events and information with the community.

Gravel Hill Garden Dedication

Pastor’s Pen – November 2017

By | Pastor's Pen

There is nothing like the wave of color that spreads across the trees of this great sate to cause one to slide into a “Fall” state of mind. As the colors deepen and drown out the last of the green leaves, my mind turns to all things autumn. I love the deep brown of dead corn stalks and the rust brown of soy beans waiting to be harvested.

Nothing is more beautiful to me than a lawn carpeted with leaves of various shades of brown, red and yellow. There is something in the crunch of leaves under foot during a leisurely stroll that satisfies the primal soul as it drains away the demands of our rushed modern world. Such a scene is surpassed only by leaves animated by the wind. Released from captivity they run along the ground and interact with each other like carefree children; or suddenly they take flight and ride the currents like  great raptors soaring on unseen thermals.

But Fall is more than harvest season or colorful leaves playing in the streets. It is a reminder that we live in a world of constant change. Autumn didn’t just drop out of the sky suddenly, but it has been in a subtle process for weeks now and it slowly but inevitably will dissolve into Winter.

This slow but continual change is as good an analogy for life as can be offered.

For example, I don’t remember when I began to experience physical pain every morning when I move to get out of bed. I only recognize it now that it has reached a certain threshold. Kind of like missing the first few leaves that hint at the approach of fall, but then suddenly catching a sundrenched mountain side of full color. Our perception of change only kicks in when that change reaches a certain threshold and then we are suddenly struck with the reality that things are different. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the 4th of July!

To a very great extent, the same is true of life in general. The pile of leaves I jumped in when a child looked just like the pile of leaves I rake up today, but my body will no longer tolerate a belly-flop into that deceptively soft looking pile of leaves. When did this change happen? Like the season itself, I suspect my  physical limitation did not suddenly happen, but it evolved over the course of many years until one day the suddenness of the subtle but relentless change happened.

It was the suddenness of that slow but relentless change that really rocked me just a few days ago. Karen and I were discussing how we would celebrate Thanksgiving Day (the epitome of Fall for me) now that Dad sold his house and would be coming to live with us. Without much thought, I said that perhaps Dad would want to celebrate one last Thanksgiving meal at his house . . .and the suddenness of the change that has been coming for 50 years hit me like a ton of bricks.

I will still stroll in leave covered woods, but it will not be in the woods where my brother and I  played cowboys and Indians. I will still celebrate Thanksgiving Day with family and friends, but after this year, it will never again be in the house where I was nurtured and my parents spent their entire married life. On some level we actually do see change coming, but it almost always takes some defining moment for that change to really hit home . . . and that defining moment always seems sudden.

It is the suddenness of that defining moment that causes many to become reactionary. Change may have been on the horizon for many years, but the suddenness of recognition causes us to try to stop the change. But herein lies a fundamental truth, I cannot stop the leaves turning from green to gold because I do not like the season that follows (here envision winds howling and snow blowing).

I like what the great story teller Garrison Keller says about falling: “It’s not the fall that hurts us, it is the things we do to try to keep from falling that hurts us.” Generally change in our world is not what hurts us, but it is the things we do to try to stop the change that causes us damage. We are living in a time of great national distress but that distress is not so much from how things have changed as it is to the lengths and tactics many people are willing to employ to stop that change. Hate, blaming, finger-pointing, demonizing, warmongering, belittling and division will not stop the change that has been coming my entire life anymore than yelling at the trees will stop them from changing colors.  The above mentioned actions only make living in the season harder. Winter is coming whether I like it or not.

It is time for Christians to quit engaging in, accepting, tolerating, or ignoring the current atmosphere of the Harlot Rome and to reclaim the humility of Jesus the Christ. This season is the perfect time for confession and healing. We can reclaim Christ by nurturing the spirit of Thanksgiving.

When you read about the very first Pilgrims you don’t get the sense that they blamed their very bad plight on the government in England, or their provincial leaders , or people of a different color for their terrible circumstances. They thanked God for the life they had, for the food they had, for friends and families they had in the midst of the bleakest of times. Our current national distress speaks more to a loss of the Christian spirit of thanksgiving than anything else.

I wonder if we learned to appreciate the colorful leaves instead of complaining about them blowing on our lawns, if we slowed down and noted the subtle colors of the harvest instead of  the complaining about the smells of farming, if we appreciated the multicolored children playing as God’s diversity instead of complaining about them being in the streets,.  If we could simply thank God for our multiple blessings instead of focusing on manufactured woes, wouldn’t life be better?

I am going to kick leaves, watch the harvest, enjoy the cool air, eat a Thanksgiving meal with my 93 year-old father, and thank God for all that is! 

Christmas Choir

By | News

Come be a part of the Gravel Hill Christmas Eve Music Choir!

We will perform during the 7:00 pm Christmas Eve Worship. Sign up now until the end of October. Watch the bulletin for upcoming
practice dates. Contact Joyce Lochinger with any questions.

Redner’s 1 Percent Save-A-Tape Program

By | News

Redner’s 1% Save-A-Tape Program is a simple way in which the church can earn much-needed funds for its mission just by shopping at Redner’s Warehouse Markets. To participate, each member must get a Redner’s Rewards / 1% Save-A-Tape card. By using your card each time you purchase merchandise at Redners, your receipt will be designated as a 1% Save-A-Tape customer receipt. Please place all receipts in the bin located in the Welcome Center to be tallied. For questions, please contact missions.

Caring Cupboard

By | News

The caring Cupboard is open during the following times to receive donations:

  • Monday: 8:30 to 11 am & 3 to 5 pm
  • Wednesday: 8:30 to 11:30 am & 5:30 to 7 pm
  • Friday: 8:30an to 2 pm

Other times are available at request. Monetary donations are also appreciated. Please email to coordinate a different drop-off time.

Wish List

Donations will be accepted for:

  • Hamberger/Tuna/Chicken Helper
  • Pasta sause
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Toilet paper
  • Ramen noodles

Thank you for your donations

UMCOR Cleaning Kits

By | News

Gravel Hill will be collecting donations to make UMCOR Cleaning Kits that are shipped out to storm damaged areas after hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or other natural disasters.

You can donate any of the items below. Please not the specific guidelines from UMCOR. Monetary donations are also accepted.

Please bring all donation by November ,. If you have any questions, please contact Meredith Fausey-Kreider.

Important Note

  • All items must be new except the actual bucket and lid
  • All cleaning agents must be liquid and in plastic containers. No powders, please.
  • If you cannot find the requested size of a liquid  item, use a smaller size. Including larger sized of any item will prevent the lid from sealing.
  • If all of the items on the list are not included, please put a level on the bucker indicating what as been omitted.

Packing and Shipping Kit Instructions

  • Processing and shipping cost: Please enclose an envelope containing at least $1.50 for each cleaning kit you send. This donation enables Cleaning Kits to be sent to areas in need.

Items Included in Kit

  • 1 5-Gallon “Round” bucket with resealable lid
    • Buckets from fast-food restaurants or bakeries can be used if washed and cleaned
    • Do not use buckets that have stored chemicals such as paint or pool cleaner
    • Advertisements on the outside are acceptable
    • No square buckets (Only round buckets are used to ensure proper stacking during transportation.
  • Liquid laundry detergent
    • One 50-ox. or two 25-oz, bottle(s) only
  • Liquid household cleaner
    • 12-16 ox. liquid cleaner that can be mixed with water
    • No spray cleaners
  • Dish soap
    • 12-28 ox. bottle, any brand
  • 50 Clothespins
  • Clothesline
    • One 100 ft. or two 50-ft. lines
    • Cotton or plastic
  • 7 Sponges
    • No cellulose sponges due to mould issues
    • Remove from packaging
  • 24-Roll Heavy-duty trash bags
    • 33-45 gallon sized
    • Remove from the box
  • 18 Cleaning wipes
    • Hand-wipes or reusable wiptes
    • No terry cleaning towels
    • Remove from packaing
  • 1 Can air freshener
    • Aerosol or pump
  • 1 Insect-repellent spray
    • 1-4 ox. aerosol or spray pump with protective cover
  • 2 Pairs kitchen dishwasher gloves
    • Should be durable enough for multiple uses
    • Remove from packaging
  • 1 Pair work gloves
    • All cotton
    • All leather
    • Cotton with leather palm
  • 5 Scouring pads
    • Remove from wrapper
    • No stainless steel, Brillo pads or SOS pads (nothing with soap built in)
  • 1 Scrub brush
    • Plastic or wood handle
  • 5 Dust masks

Assembly Directions

  1. Place all liquid items in the bucket first.
  2. Place remaining items in the bucket fitting the around the between the liquid items.
  3. Sponges, scouring pads, clothespins and trash bags can be separated in order to fit all the items in the bucket.
  4. Ensure the lids is closed securely.

Pastor’s Pen – September 2017

By | Pastor's Pen

Since late last Fall, the Staff and Lead Team of Gravel Hill have been engaged in a pro-cess of re-evaluating the ministry of Gravel Hill. We have undertaken this process with a two-fold purpose in mind: 1. Evaluate what we are doing to see if our ministry is actually in line with our stated values and Mission statement. 2. Identify weak areas in our ministry for improvement and identify new ministry areas.

To undertake this extensive review of our ministry and practices, we decided to revisit our “core values” as well as both our Mission and Vision for the ministry of Gravel Hill. Core Values are basic beliefs from which our sense of ministry is derived. In essence, core values are those things we believe must happen in any group for that group to actually be the church of Jesus Christ. For example, a group of people might come together around both beneficent and beneficial ideals but not include worship as part of their raison d’etre (reason for be-ing). The group may be valuable but it is not a church.

After many months and much prayerful consideration, we have identified eight core values that any group must be doing to be the biblical Church of Jesus Christ. I should add that while some of these values are more basic than others, the following list is not hierarchical. Our Core Values are: Worship, Prayer, Spiritual Growth & Discipleship, Mission, Hospitality, Fellow-ship, Generosity and Innovation & Vision. I want to note at this juncture that the preceding list is not exclusive of all faith-based values, nor may it include a value you hold dear. Our goal was to distill Christian values down to the basic group of what simply must happen to be the church of Jesus Christ. During the months of September and October both Pastor Smith and Pastor Lochinger will offer a series on these core values.

We are currently evaluating our ministry to see if reflects our stated core values. For example, if we have identified “Mission” as a core value of Gravel Hill, then mission should be well represented in the ministry of our church. For this example, at least, I am very pleased to report mission (local, national, inter-national) is very well represented in our overall minis-try. I suspect the same can-not be said about every core value. But this is the very reason for this re-evaluation of our ministry. We want to identify both what we are doing well to see if we can improve upon it, but we also want to see where we are lacking so that we can make the necessary changes. Additionally, however, this inquiry will help us plan for the adjustment we will need to make to address a rapidly changing ministry landscape.

After we identified these core values, we spent some time considering our Mis-sion Statement to see if it is still relevant for today’s world. The mission statement for our church is: To Learn (about Christ) To Live (out Christ Likeness) and To Share (Christ with the World). We believe this is our raison d”etre (our rea-son for being). The church does not exist to meet my needs nor does it exist as a portal for heaven. The church exists to educate children, youth and adults about Jesus Christ. That teaching, however, is not for mere education’s sake. We are to learn about Christ for two specific reasons: 1. To live out those learnings in our everyday actions and 2. To share who we have be-come, in Christ, with the world (i.e. To be the living, breathing embodiment of Christ in the world).

We are currently developing a new Vision Statement for Gravel Hill. The Vision State-ment is what we believe indi-viduals, our Church and the community would look like if we could live into our core values and our mission (purpose) 100%. The Vision, then, is the God dream of a God future. Such a dream has the potential and power to drag us into a God in-tended future. Remember, nothing happens that did not first begin as a dream or

a hope. We are dreaming big. We are dreaming of a church that is a spiritual leader among churches and in the community. We are dreaming of a community that is directed by God’s call to justice and righteousness not the distorted notion of justice for some.

We are asking you to join us in practicing one of our core values in particular. Please be in prayer for the Leadership of Gravel Hill. Please pray that God blesses this evaluative process. Pray that God so directs this process that our work will be exactly what God desires. Pray for the future of the Gravel Hill so that as we look to minis-try options for the coming years we may catch the wave of God’s Spirit and not swim against the tide. Pray that God uses you in this process as well . . .your prayerful comments and suggestions are welcome. Pray to see if God wants you to serve on the Lead Team or another Leadership position. Be bold, be open, be willing to serve, be willing to let God use you to God’s own glory.