Lent: A Time to Grow Closer to Christ
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Lent begins on Wednesday, March 2 as a season of reflection, repentance and preparation as we anticipate the joy of Resurrection Sunday, April 17. Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, service and other spiritual disciplines where believers “deny self” to draw closer to God and deepen their walk of faith and trust.
Some Christians have a “phobia” against spiritual disciplines associated with Lent, dismissing the whole thing as legalism or righteousness by “works”. I find this to be a common misconception. The Gospel clearly is a work of grace due to God’s love for us, as reaffirmed in the above Scripture, which notes that our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father… [love] us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace. God is also able to comfort and establish our hearts in every good work and word. This refers to holiness, conforming our words and actions to be more like Christ. I know no one for whom this comes easily or naturally. I have seen - and experienced myself - a changed heart that eclipsed wrong desires bringing a genuine transformation. As real and compelling as this is, temptation and our old sin nature are still real and challenging.
We are saved by grace through faith. One of the evidences of God’s saving grace in our life is our desire now to please Him. God gave the Ten Commandments, not so people could be saved, but, because God already saved them from Egyptian oppression; these Commandments describe what it means to live as God’s redeemed people. The commandments are not presented merely as rules to follow, but as aspects of God’s character that His people will emulate. In the New Covenant, regenerate believers are recognized by the “fruits of the Holy Spirit” in the way they live (Galatians 5:22-23). These fruits, such as love, joy, peace and patience come, not by rules, grit and determination, but by a changed heart and abiding in Christ (John 15). I approach the spiritual disciplines, during Lent as well as throughout the year, as ways to die to self and draw nearer to Christ. As I renew my mind with God's Word of truth, I find God's will to be good, pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2) The deeper my relationship with Christ, I realize how much more I love Him, want to please Him, and yield to His Holy Spirit as He does His sanctifying work in me.
The Lenten Prayer Journal supplied by the Women’s Guild (copies are on the welcome table) shares brief Scripture passages each day, with questions crafted to help us deepen our faith, grow closer to Christ and live into our new identity in Him.
I pray this will be one of many fruitful spiritual disciplines for each of us.
Growing with you in Christ,
Dave Meckley, Pastor
Pick up a Lenten Prayer Journal
Available on the Welcome Table.
Take one to a shut-in.
Chili Cookoff Planned for Sunday, March 27
A chili cook off will be held Sunday, March 27, after Sunday School, and all who are interested are invited to bring chili to share. And all are invited to remain after Sunday School to sample the chilis, whether or not your bring one.
Any chili recipe will do — hot, mild, or in between; beef or chicken stock. Other varieties of soup can be brought as well. Salad, bread and drink will be provided. The soup committee, consisting of PeggyAnne Meckley, Beth Clark and Deb Bowser, will select a taster, to judge the soups.
The children’s Sunday School classes, from nursery up through 8th Grade, will be encouraged to bring in cans of soup for the food bank, since they didn’t do that this year on Super Bowl Sunday. Members of the class that brings in the most cans of soup will be given a treat during or after the meal.
Congregation Honors 4 at Annual Meeting
St. John’s Reformed Church at its annual congregational meeting on Feb. 13, honored four persons with plaques and kind words from Joel Ritchey, consistory president.
The presentations took place both before the meeting as folks gathered in the fellowship hall for a carry-in meal and at the meeting itself. Barb Thomas was recognized for more than 30 years as a Sunday School teacher. Wayne Kagarise and David Snyder were recognized as elders emeritus; and Charles Mountain as deacon emeritus.
During an election of consistory members for four-year terms, Brad Gable was reelected as elder and Matt Nelson as deacon. The consistory consists of eight lay members of the church plus the pastor.
Pastor Meckley presented his annual report (see elsewhere in this issue of Jottings) as did Matt Nelson, Sunday School superintendent. A financial report on 2021 was given by Cathy Snider, church treasurer, who noted that offerings had increased over the past year despite the pandemic causing lower attendance but with others contributing online.
Pastor Meckley made a motion to increase our missions giving, both locally and globally, by $2,000 in the new budget. The motion passed and the consistory will consider where to direct these funds.
Chris Kurtz resigned as youth leader and encouraged youth from St. John’s to attend the youth group organized by the Southern Cove Ministerium, known as Cove Community Students.
It was reported that consistory has accepted a Gelnett proposal to rewire the sound system for $3,000. Controls will be moved to a sound booth at the rear of the sanctuary to be built by Kevin Thomas.
A motion was made and approved to accept a bid from Clark Contractors to paint the interior of the vestibule and sanctuary for $8,500. Members also approved the relocation of a plaque honoring donors to the 1980s Sunday School addition fund from the sanctuary to the addition.
Julie Russell was thanked for producing a new church directory.
Motions were approved to modify the offering service during worship by returning the Doxology at that point and re-introducing the Threefold Amen after the Benediction.
3 Howe Children Dedicated February 20
Katrina and Andre Howe and their children stand between Brad and Berneta Gable, discipleship partners for their children Bristol, Harper and Preston (held by his father) The children were dedicated by Pastor Dave on Feb. 20 with the Howesʼ parents, grandparents and other relatives in attendance.
(Photo by Kim Rodgers)
The three children of Andre and Katrina Howe were dedicated to Christ during the morning worship service on Feb. 20.
The Howes live on Guyer Corner Road, New Enterprise RD, and were introduced to St. John’s by neighbors Brad and Berneta Gable soon after they moved to this area.
The Gables will serve as discipleship partners of the children, Harper, 6, Bristol, 4, and Preston, almost 2.
Andre grew up in Chester County and moved to South Woodbury Township in 2010 to co-manage with his brother the operation of the family farm, Deana Jak Farm, which raises Hereford cattle to sell and show across the country.
Katrina grew up in Lancaster County on an Angus farm. She and Andre met through showing their separate breeds of beef cattle at various shows. They married in 2014 and started attending St. John’s in 2019.
Holy Communion will be celebrated during the 9:30 a.m. worship on March 6 at the altar as we have been doing
Pastor Meckley’s Report to Annual Meeting
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16
These last couple years have taken their toll on all of us. I chose this passage in Ephesians 5 because it was written for such a time as this. Especially in difficult times we need to live wisely as followers of Christ. Our Christian life is a testimony to a watching world, as well as a safeguard against temptation. I am grateful to serve a congregation that desires to learn together God's Word of truth and seeks to walk in Godly wisdom as we live out His life-giving truth.
Tim Keller recently expressed his surprise how in the last year more churches appear to be driven as much by political ideology as by the Gospel. The many recent disruptions added to our already rapidly changing society can make us feel out of control. God, however, remains unchanged. He is still sovereign. Jesus and the early church did not follow the way of the Zealots, despite fierce persecution. Yet, they turned the world upside down by living out Christ's way of truth and love. The culture needs an alternative to itself, not an echo of itself. Only the church can provide that.
2021 witnessed continued efforts to care for body and soul as effects of the pandemic struck closer home. I appreciate Consistory's earnestness in making adjustments with prayerful discernment. Since we resumed in-person worship on January 24, 2021, so much seems like so long ago. We gathered for our Annual Meeting last year in modified form in the sanctuary with no community meal. We were able to share the Sacrament of Communion again on February 21, last year's first Sunday in Lent. So many events were canceled or postponed. As we resumed more activities over the past year, it has been heartening to see a new generation of leaders take on more and varied responsibilities. God has good things in store for us in the future!
At our upcoming Annual Meeting we will recognize three Consistory members who have stepped down after many years of faithful service: David Snyder, Wayne Kagarise, and Charlie Mountain. We will also recognize Barb Thomas who recently retired from teaching children's Sunday school after decades of exemplary ministry to our children. We have been blessed by the dedication of faithful leaders who have helped maintain consistency during times of transition, as well as keeping us anchored in the essence of our Christian faith and life together.
We are also blessed with a new generation of leaders who will be used by God to continue to strengthen our witness, fellowship and outreach. Each of us is called to make disciples as we go through life (Matthew 28:19). Consider ways you can empower others to serve with you so they can grow their leadership potential.
We installed all the new members of the Consistory on June 27. This included all newly elected to the board in the past two years. Julie Russell, Matt Nelson and Steve Rodgers were installed as deacons and Christopher Kurtz was installed as an elder. We also recognized the many other church members for their leadership and participation. This was a celebration of our church family and all who graciously share their talents and gifts to further God’s Kingdom ministries.
We celebrated our reopening with a picnic in the pavilion on June 27 following worship. We honored high school graduates Ethan Hess and Jason Ritchey on June 20. Lori Garman was also recognized as a board certified Licensed Practical Nurse. I offered prayer for the Northern Bedford Class of 2021 at their Baccalaureate on June 3 in the high school auditorium.
We were finally able to formally welcome three new members on July 18, 2021: Linda Pressel,
Marsie Albright and Cindy Johnson. These ladies completed a new member's class in
Since our last Annual Meeting, I officiated 5 funerals for members and friends of St John's Reformed Church: Michael Sipes, Peggy Ferry, June Mountain, Kimberly Shope and Clyde Welsh. I also spoke for a service remembering Jim Trombetta, a friend of some of our members.
Natalie Nelson was baptized on September 5, 2021. Two child dedications were performed for Winnie Kurtz and R C Gunnett on January 2, 2022.
We hosted a Back-to-School picnic on Sunday, Aug. 22, after Sunday School. We prayed for students, staff and teachers of public school, private school and home schoolers as they anticipated resuming classes. We participate in the Community Group that began in September, very capably led by Chris Kurtz. This is a rich experience of fellowship, prayer and discipleship centered on the sermon Scripture and our life together. We hope more will become involved in Community Groups.
A Confirmation Class for Middle School students began in September. A Parent's Meeting was held in August. We open each class singing a related traditional hymn. We study Scripture and the Heidelberg Catechism. Discipleship Partners work with each confirmand to enrich and reinforce their confirmation experience.
We continue to live stream worship each week. I am grateful for those who have stepped up to facilitate this important outreach. We acquired a new laptop that is able to make this work smoothly – most of the time. A number of people who live at a distance, members and others, regularly join with us online for worship. The weekly email helps many keep in touch.
The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference Annual Gathering was again virtual, on Saturday, July 17 at 2 p.m. I continue to serve as Area Pastor in the Allegheny Fellowship of the CCCC. St John's Reformed Church in Hollidaysburg is the newest CCCC church in our area.
I serve as chaplain for the Southern Cove Volunteer Fire Department. We are fortunate to have such a vital local fire and EMS. When you hear the fire alarm, please say a prayer for whoever is being served, as well as for the volunteers who answer the call 24/7. Thank you and all who serve our community.
Through the Ministerium I coordinate Religious Release Time that resumed in the Fall of 2021 with 65 students registered for grades K-2. I also offered prayer at Encounter's Prayer & Praise and Pastor Appreciation. I meet monthly with several local pastors for prayer. COVID compelled us to Zoom meetings. Some have since moved out of the area, so we continue praying by Zoom.
Words cannot express how grateful I am to be privileged to serve this Christian fellowship. Your love and support and prayerful under girding of me, our family, and our ministry together have deep and lasting significance. I am so glad to be a part of the family of God with you here at St John's Reformed Church!
In Christ's joy,
Dave Meckley, Pastor
Kim Rodgers Returns to Canoe Creek Lake for 7th Polar Plunge
Kim Rodgers of St. John’s was back in the icy waters of the lake at Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County on Feb. 5 to once again help raise money for Pennsylvania Special Olympics. This was the seventh plunge for Kim and by far the coldest. Firemen had to cut through nine inches of ice on the lake’s surface to make a hole for 60-some plungers. The air temperature was 19° with a stiff wind and snow flurries.
Kim, a faculty member at Tussey Mountain School District, and Dan Herman of Chestnut Ridge SC represented the T.C. Icy’s, one of 25 teams participating in this year’s plunge. The Icy’s placed 11th in the amount of money raise and Kim placed as sixth highest individual fund raiser out of 166 people raising funds for Special Olympics PA.
Kim and Dan are from the Bedford County Transition Council that supports individuals with disabilities in becoming productive, employable adults. The council is made up of agencies and school districts.
More than 250 people attended the event, including a team of 17 plungers from the Altoona Police Department. In all, over $100,000 was raised for Special Olympics.
Guild Hears Gospel According to ‘Them.’
The Women’s Guild met Friday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 in the fellowship room. Kim Ritchey began her joint program with a beautiful reading, “God’s Valentine Gift”.
PeggyAnne Meckley organized the second part of the program, a wonderful skit, “The Gospel according to Them: The Story of Jesus”. Four volunteers took as the persona of each author of the Gospel books. Berneta Gable played Matthew and focused on genealogy. Kim Rodgers was Mark, straight to the point, no nonsense and no time for details. Barb Thomas kept the story on track as Luke. Cindy Johnson was lovable John, wandering in and out of the story with flourish.
It was interesting to hear from all 4 gospels simultaneously. At times the four had different points of view, not unlike members of a family, church, community, workplace, etc. who see the same events, hear the same facts and yet have different perspectives on various situations. It all happened, no matter how one person or another remembers it. As the story was told from Jesus’s birth to His resurrection, we were united on one important point – Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed!
The business meeting opened with the reading of the minutes by secretary Molly Shirk, approved as read. Treasurer Beth Clark gave a quick rundown of our bank balances, and expenses paid in the past month. A Homewood letter thanking us for a fall donation was viewed by all. Ladies were reminded to help Barb and Linda keep track of available kitchen supplies when something appears to be low. The Lent devotion books arrived and are available on the welcome table to use during the Lent season, which begins March 2. Barb reminded the ladies to join those who plan to attend the Chestnut Ridge Independent Fellowship Church on Saturday, April 2, for a ladies' retreat.
Molly Shirk, Linda Henderhan and Cindy Johnson will organize the Easter Sunrise Breakfast which will follow the 8 a.m. service. Barb Thomas is soliciting food items. See one of those four ladies to donate items or volunteer your help on Easter morning. Prep time in the kitchen will begin at 7 a.m.
The annual Mother/Daughter banquet will be held May 6 at the church. The Women’s Guild will subsidize part of the meal, bringing down the cost significantly. Adults will be charged $10 per person. Ages 6–12 will be $5. Children 5 and under are free. Beth Clark chairs this committee with Julie Russell, Cathy Snider and Donna Smeltzer.
Kim Ritchey offered a blessing on our group and the food. Beth Clark and Berneta Gable served delicious refreshments on a beautiful Valentine decorated table! Our fellowship filled our bellies and raised our spirits! The next meeting will be Friday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. with Peggy Ritchey and Kim Rodgers presenting both program and refreshments. --
Respectfully submitted, Barb Thomas, President