Soul Journeys in Central Pennsylvania

Developing inclusive faith communities in the spiritual tradition of the United Church of Christ, where we believe that "God is still speaking." Whoever you are and wherever you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Politics in Church

I recently became aware of a new way in which we are diverse at Trinity!! I don’t know how or why it didn’t occur to me before – maybe because I was enjoying all those jokes and one-liners about the “other” political candidate – you know the one! The one I’M NOT VOTING FOR!!

Do you see where I’m going with this? Being a church that’s “a home for all” means that we are aware of how inappropriate it is to make jokes about race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality – we’ve got that down cold!! But I think we forgot a category! Politics!!

We are citizens and we are Christians. We are members of a denomination that has declared itself to be a Just Peace Church (the 25th General Synod, 1985), which affirms “the unity of the whole human community” and opposes “the use of nationalism to divide the covenant of friendship.” That’s a good model!

As people of faith at Trinity Reformed UCC we claim an identity that has no regard for boundaries – not color or creed, not orientation or persuasion – not red nor blue! When it comes to loving our brothers and sisters, we follow the example of Christ who expanded the definition of “neighbor” far beyond our provincial neighborhoods.

So – love your country and love your candidate – but at church and with the members and friends of Trinity, love them with your heart and not with your voice!

Our religious heritage in the United Church of Christ (and our country’s founding principles!) recognizes the importance of the freedom of choice, expression and free inquiry into questions of conscience. Our nation’s democratic foundation offers the protection of the separation of church and state. You will not hear political sermons at Trinity – nor a support for any particular party or candidate. If I should share my opinion in a casual conversation on a given issue in these political times, it is just that – my opinion… but I will be more guarded in these days leading up to the day I cast my vote… and I hope you will be too.

We ARE a diverse community – let us respect the views and votes of this congregation – whatever they may be! Please refrain from political “humor” so as not to offend our sisters and brothers who may not share our sense of humor!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Training Opportunity

We've received the following invitation from our friend Ruth Garwood, at the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns:

If you know of a church that is in a discernment process about becoming ONA, or is in process, this training opportunity is a wonderful opportunity to learn more.
The Coalition, in partnership with our counterparts in other denominations, is offering a weekend of skills-building to assist you. I recommend this training session also for people who are part of a church that is already ONA, if they are interested in re-energizing their church's ONA commitments or if they are interested in working with other churches, this weekend is an excellent time for them to get some ideas about how to do either of those things. If two people from your church attend together, they can then work together when they get back home.
It's also a great opportunity for ONA consultants to further develop their skills.
To register, go to, look at the tab for community organizing and click onn the link for Training Opportunities.
The next training sessions are scheduled as follows:
October 24-26 Goshen, IN
November 7-9 Independence, MO
November 14-16 Washington, DC
February 13-15 Atlanta, GA
March 13-15/20-22 Detroit or Ann Arbor, MI
Don't let finances be an obstacle to your involvement - The Coalition can help. Please contact me for more information or to let me know about any way that I can help.
Rev. Ruth Garwood, UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns
2592 W. 14th St., Cleveland, OH 44113 800-653-0799

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What it Means to be a Home For All

Every time we gather at Trinity Reformed, we always state our mission:

No matter where you've been,No matter where you're going,When you're at TRINITY YOU ARE HOME! Here we teach justice, we preach compassion, and we expect diversity.

But what does all that mean?

One time, during a church board meeting a woman came with a concern. She stated that people had been showing up dressed inappropriately with cut-off jeans, halter-tops, and sneakers. She felt that Trinity needed a dress code. Another member spoke up and said, "We really can't be a 'home for all' if we have a dress code or other expectations." The woman responded, "Oh, you're right." And that was the end of the discussion.

That's what it means to be a home for all. Come as you are and we'll start from where you are in your faith journey.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Greetings from one of the most welcoming, progressive, active congregations of the UCC  -- blessed with a beautiful old stone church across the street from the Penn State HUB!!!  (Yes, there is a bit of a bias there.  That may be because I'm the pastor.)  Anyway, we'd love to have you stop by.
We worship Sundays at 10:45 a.m.  Adult forums at 9:30 a.m.  Lots of discussion.  Right now doing a series on "Religion and Politics."
Sunday afternoon is Friendship Tutoring -- 60 Penn State students helping us out as volunteer tutors.
Friday evenings is Koinonia Kaffe, a get-together and just hang-out type of gathering sponsored by the United Campus Ministry.  That's from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Lots more.  Come on by.
Faith UCC, 300 E. College Ave., State College, PA

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What's a Welcoming Church (and how can I find one)?

Don't all churches try to be welcoming? Of course they do. But the local churches of the United Church of Christ that are listed in this posting have taken some intentional steps to ensure an inclusive welcome to all of God's people into the full life and ministry of our congregations. Some of us have done it through a formal vote to be "open and affirming (ONA), multi-cultural, and multi-racial churches, accessible to all." Others are on the journey, seeking to live into a world where all God's people are one. We invite you to visit us - check out our websites, visit our worship, email or phone us and ask us your questions. Here's a list of churches that promise to help your inquiring, questioning, doubting, new-to-the-community, or new-to-the-faith self enter into the full life and ministry of our fellowship.

Open and Affirming (ONA) Churches of the Penn Central Conference:
(These are congregations that have voted to welcome persons of all sexual orientations and identities into the full life and ministry of their congregations)

Disciples United Community Church, Lancaster, PA, Bruce and Kate Epperley, pastors

Grace United Church of Christ, 1947 New Holland Pike, Lancaster,
RachelHackenberg, pastor, 717-397-5305,,

St. Paul's United Church of Christ, 626 Williams Grove Rd., Mechanicsburg, PA,
John Ward-Diorio, Pastor, 717-766-7931,,

Trinity United Church of Christ, 450 West Main St., Mountville, PA, Nancy Dahlberg, Pastor,

Emmanuel United Church of Christ, York, PA, Pat Mullen, Interim Pastor, 717-266-8007,

New Churches intentionally forming as inclusive ONA congregations)

Journeys United Church of Christ, Harrisburg, PA, Monica Dawkins-Smith, pastor

Soul Link Gathering, Mansfield, PA, Sharon Littrell, pastor, 570-723-1780,

Churches living an inclusive vision, welcoming to all

St. John's United Church of Christ, 1050 Buffalo Road, Lewisburg, PA
PaulaGustafson, pastor, 570-524-7606,

Faith United Church of Christ, 300 E. College Ave., State College, PA, Diane Prosser, pastor,

Allen M. Fluent, Area Conference Minister
Penn Central Conference,
for Welcoming Churches in Central Pennsylvania

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Our Invitation to You

Finding a spiritual home is not always easy. Our minds and our hearts often pull us in different directions. If we are religiously inclined, it is a part of our nature to seek wholeness in our lives, and in our friendships, our families and our religious institutions as well. It is ironic that the religious impulse, which originates in a desire for unity, often seems thwarted by institutional divisions and exclusions that make genuine worship impossible.

Those of us who have created Soul Journeys in Central Pennsylvania are members and pastors of the United Church of Christ, a denomination founded upon the prayer of Jesus "that they may all be one." If you'd like to learn more about our denomination, we encourage you to visit the UCC web page at, where you can find out about our church's vision and faith. But for many of us, it will be more important to find those places where spiritual hospitality is practiced on a local level, where our questions will be respected and our journeys and visions valued. That's what we would like to be for you.
Allen M. Fluent, Area Conference Minister
Penn Central Conference
United Church of Christ,
for Welcoming Congregations of the UCC