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Have Yourself a Bittersweet Easter

A typical Holy Week is out of reach this year. That’s cause for lament—and celebration.  –

Have Yourself a Bittersweet Easter

A pastor friend lamented this week, “All our Easter plans are shot. We are gutted—our entire vision and hard work are down the drain!”

Another colleague said to me that he openly wept on a staff Zoom call when he finally gave in to the realization that there was no way, given social distancing rules, to pull off the normal joys of Holy Week.

He said, “This is unthinkable; it’s worse than the Cubs not playing baseball!” Many leaders I am talking to fear that Easter 2020 will whimper into a non-event, into an anticlimax that does not seem at all like Easter.

This year we face a reality check.

  • Kids standing shoulder to shoulder waving palms on Palm Sunday?  That could get you arrested.
  • Maundy Thursday foot washing?  Are you kidding?
  • Walking the stations of the cross or pinning a note of one’s sin to a cross on Good Friday?  Nope.
  • Saturday Vigil or Holy Saturday activities?  No way.
  • And then there is Easter, where the lament comes to its deepest, most profound level.

This year we are something like our ancient exiled relatives who, with lovely memories of Jerusalem in mind, exclaimed, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. … How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1, 4).

Today, the lamenting refrain from working pastors goes something like this: “On Slack we sat and wept when we remembered Easter last year. … How can we sing the classic songs of resurrection and preach the classic Easter passages in a foreign place called ‘online’?”

The Songs of Zion glorified Yahweh’s presence in the city of Jerusalem.  But those songs seemed emotionally and spiritually distant and disconnected from the point of view of exile.

In a similar way, a normal Easter is out of reach this year.  On Easter Sunday morning, most of us will be house bound, sheltering in place when everything in our being will yearn to break free from our tight confinement and isolation to join Jesus in his freedom.

Our hearts will cry for accustomed sanctuaries, familiar people, and family dinners.  Leaders and our people will wonder, even if we can’t put precise words to it, How does loss, pain, confusion, and lament work on the one day of the year when we focus sharply on celebration?

Here are four ideas for how to navigate an Easter in exile:

 1.  Practice Both/And:

What story are we in: the pain of virus and economic catastrophe or the Easter one?  Must we choose?  Christians do not privilege the spiritual over the material so much that the material does not matter.

Two things are simultaneously true.

First, Jesus has risen from the dead and it changes everything about the material world: its origin, how it is superintended, and how it will come to fulfill God’s purposes.

Second, America now has the highest numbers of COVID-19 victims in the world.  This is a stark, undeniable fact regarding physical bodies.  This year we celebrate in the context of deep lament.

You can do it.  You can walk and chew gum at the same time.  Perhaps you have never had to lament-celebrate on Easter before, so it feels foreign. It is foreign.  Embrace that truth. God is in liminal, foreign times.

Don’t just celebrate resurrection; practice it.  Pull the eschatological power of resurrection into the pain of pandemic.  Work with your team so that with emotional, spiritual, and intellectual honesty you can “keep it real” Easter morning.

Process real pain within the promise Easter guarantees: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth … [in which] God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:1–4).

2.  Find Perspective:

In Northern Italy, 60 priests have died from Coronavirus.  How do their churches celebrate Easter?  What if 60 pastors had died the last few weeks in your city or state?

Historically, Easter in wartime meant that loved ones were not just sheltering in place but were far away with lethal danger nearby.  There has often been fighting and killings on Easter day.  We get to celebrate Easter this year because, through the hardest things humanity has to ever had to experience, the church finds a way to keep the chain of Easter unbroken.

I am hearing from clergy that last Sunday more people tuned in online than usually attend church in person.  Easter 2020 may not have your hoped-for aesthetics, but it can be a gospel moment that keeps the Easter message intact for the generations to come. By keeping Easter alive this year amid all our disappointments, you will accomplish something you can cherish forever.

3.  Pass Easter Peace:

“The peace of the Lord be with you.”

“And also with you .”

Those common words used in liturgical worship are challenged when we pastors are working ourselves into exhaustion while our phones anxiously scream the latest dire predictions.  Who knows what is going to happen in the next few weeks?

But it doesn’t feel like a stretch to say that we could have many dazed or stunned people in our online congregations this Easter. I interact with loads of pastors, and those conversations lead me to bet on something: You are thinking your best thoughts, summoning the best creativity from your team, and praying your most fervent prayers in the hopes of staving off anticlimax while channeling the victory of God over the dark gloom and sorrow that overshadow your city in this pandemic.

As you should.  There is nothing wrong with diligent, focused, passionate work.  But along with effort, I want to invite you, as citizens of God’s kingdom, to relax.  See if you can cultivate some times where you are less tense, moments that are less dense, softer. Create wider margins. Shoot for simplicity. As The Message has Jesus saying,

What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Luke 12:29–31)

What if this Easter there is an invitation from God to focus on the peace that marked some of the first words of the resurrected Jesus: “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36). Peace is an attribute of God, seen in the risen Christ. It is woven into God’s intention for humanity and is therefore possible and powerful—a potent way to live and lead for the good of others.

A difference-making aspect of practicing resurrection is to practice peace. When you cultivate peace in your heart and help others do the same, you are leading well. You are giving God’s people an amplified appreciation for the peace implicit in resurrection. Can you find peace in the coming weeks in order to embody and pass peace on Easter?

4.  Communicate a Missional Imagination:

In recent days, many of you have heard the story of 72-year-old Don Giuseppe Berardelli. We can safely bet that he, as a senior Roman Catholic priest, spent his life in mediation of, and seeking alignment to, the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In Holy Week, we focus especially on the heart of Jesus who in his death lived out the truth that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). And in his resurrection he defeated sin, the Devil, the principalities and powers, and death itself.

Giuseppe so cherished the other-ly heart of Jesus—and so prized the reformation of his own life into Christlikeness—that when the moment came, desperately sick with COVID-19, Giuseppe overflowed with Christlikeness by giving up his ventilator so a younger person could live.

Giuseppe’s act is an evocative and imaginative model for the missional moment provided to us during Easter this year.  Acts of selfless generosity and sacrifice are popping up by the millions across America.  In your congregation, help breathe life into that hope.  Fan it into flame.  Celebrate how such acts are proof of the living Jesus in the church.

The historical fact and on-going power of the Resurrection overshadow everything and give every person, place, and time its true meaning.  Even Easter 2020.

As you think about how to work on those four ideas for Easter in exile, I have a final idea for you: Jesus is alive!  He is leading the most substantive, interesting, and consequential life imaginable.  Help deliver Easter 2020 from mere banishment of our cherished routines to freeing people to find their life, amid tragedy, in Jesus’ now-life, moving into an experience of the with-God life.

  – Todd Hunter is a bishop of Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO) in the Anglican Church in North America.

Central Church’s East 5-lancet stained glass window – “Father”

Lenten Devotional – Day 30 – Pool of Living Water

Scripture: Luke 4:18-19

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

She had decided. She would take her own life. The act would be Sunday afternoon. Before she acted, she would drop by a church that she had heard about. She came, and the community gathered. We sang, prayed, listened to a good word and reached out to each other.

Several years later the one who had planned to die came to me and told me her story. The community of people who gathered as church had given her hope. She changed her mind. She did not kill herself. She became a member of the community and later was one of its leaders. She has lived a long life of service to those who were troubled by life. She and her husband continue to participate in a pool of Living Water offering hope to others.

Sometimes it is hard to keep on singing, praying and listening for good words to share in our lives. Sometimes it is hard to keep on gleaning the fields of grace and sharing the food and drink with others, but we never know when someone may be close to ending it all or how important we might be in offering life.

Prayer: God, grant us stamina in living persistently your call to love and share grace with others. Amen.

  – Dan Moseley | Indianapolis, IN

A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “How Firm a Foundation”

Here again is First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln,

Nebraska. Listen to that sizzling intro by Tom Trenney on that organ.

In contrast, at Central, we usually have a slightly slower tempo and organ registrations crafted to emphasize the majesty and might of our Lord that are described by the words in this grand hymn.

This hymn is usually sung to FOUNDATION (though the Anglicans insist on trying to use LYONS, which is something like fitting a round peg in a square hole).


How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”

  – K from Rippon’s Selection of Hymns



Lenten Devotional – Day 29 – The Thirsty Soul

Scripture:  John 4:10

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

The “Rule of Threes” that an average human can survive; three minutes without air; three hours in extreme cold; possibly three weeks without food; or three days without water.

Our bodies need water to survive, and in this day and age, we have so many choices. Evian, Aquafina, Fiji Water, Propel, Deer Park, Spring Water, Smart Water, Crystal Clear, Culligan, Nestle Pure Life, these are just some of the bottled water brands available around the globe these days. None of these brands are like the water that Jesus was talking about though in his conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria. Encased in plastic, often with chemicals leaching into the water, it is far from fresh or clean, let alone worthy of any comparison to the Living Water that Jesus offers.

We sometimes thirst for what Jesus can offer, and we look for it in artificial places. Just as the water is encased in artificial plastic, we look to our own encasements that do not satisfy.

During this season of Lent, try asking God to quench whatever thirst you have. If you knew and you asked, he has said he will give you Living Water.

Prayer: Ahhh…Lord, your water is so good. Thank you for your life-giving love. Amen.

  – Diane Zehr | Indianapolis, IN

A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath”

Here is the Polk Street United Methodist Church in Amarillo, Texas singing this lovely hymn, written by Isaac Watts as a paraphrase of Psalm 146, was later revised by John Wesley.

In life and in death, we belong to God, Maker of earth and sea and sky, who pours eyesight on the blind and supports the fainting mind.

Notice how the 4th stanza echoes the first.


I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath,
and when my voice is lost in death,
praise shall employ my nobler powers.
My days of praise shall ne’er be past
while life, and thought, and being last,
Or immortality endures.

How happy they whose hopes rely
on Israel’s God, who made the sky
and earth and seas with all their train;
whose truth for ever stands secure,
who saves the oppressed, and feeds the poor.
And none shall find his promise vain.

The Lord pours eyesight on the blind;

the Lord supports the fainting mind
and sends the laboring conscience peace.
He helps the stranger in distress,
the widowed and the fatherless,
and grants the prisoner sweet release.

I’ll praise him while he lends me breath;
and when my voice is lost in death,
praise shall employ my nobler powers.
My days of praise shall ne’er be past
while life and thought and being last,
or immortality endures.

  – Isaac Watts; alt. John Wesley

Central Church’s East 5-lancet stained glass window – “Father”


Global Day of Prayer and Fasting – March 29, 2020

A group representing 600 million evangelicals encourages Christians worldwide to pray and fast on Sunday, March 29. Due to the current pandemic, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) developed the Global Day of Prayer and Fasting initiative based on Psalm 107 and the theme “Lord, help!”

Though March 29 is a targeted day of prayer and fasting, the initiative isn’t limited to one day. “We hope to galvanize the prayer efforts and encourage believers to become part of the global prayer movement to intercede daily,” says the Illinois-based group.

On its website, the WEA offers a guidebook and other resources for church leaders. It also created a public Facebook group for global prayer and offers a profile-picture frame that reads “I’m praying! #Covid19.”

WEA: This Crisis ‘calls for humility and prayer’

“We are reminded just how vulnerable man is as a tiny virus…brings the entire world to a halt,” says Bishop Efraim Tendero, WEA’s secretary general. “It is a time that calls for humility and prayer to our Heavenly Father, the Creator and Sustainer of this world.”

Tendero, based in the Philippines, adds: “Prayer is still the greatest help that we can give… Let’s pray especially for all the frontline medical and government workers—for protection, good health, and wisdom in all that they do. Working together with God’s help, we shall overcome Covid-19.”

Other prayer movements are underway, including 24-7 Prayer, which offers a virtual prayer room and several guides. President Trump called for a U.S. national day of prayer on March 15. The following Sunday, Italy and England had similar observances. The Netherlands held a teen-focused prayer day last week, using social media and YouTube.





Lenten Devotional – The Fifth Sunday in Lent – Pouring Out Feelings

Scripture:  1 Peter 5:9-11

Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

One brisk Sunday morning, I entered church feeling unsettled. Holidays have a different view through the lens of grief. I looked down the row of pews and saw a parishioner, whose mother died 6 months before, sitting alone. I asked how she was. She hid a tear, smiled, and then greeted another person. While they hugged, I grabbed my purse and sat next to her. It has been years since my son died, yet memories of ‘firsts’ without him remain clear.

During the first hymn, she squeezed my hand. As the pastor prayed that we comfort and support one another, I felt a pat on my shoulder. After the service, she thanked me for keeping her company. When I offered time to talk, she responded “Oh, you are too busy.” As quickly as I dismissed her opinion, she agreed to contact me.

I left church that afternoon marveling at God’s presence in everyday life. Without realizing it, God allowed me to use my grief to support someone else. Although she initially downplayed the importance of her feelings, this woman recognized the necessity of filling one another up with the life-giving Spirit of a living, loving God.

Prayer: God of all grace, allow each of us to offer your Living Water to someone in need. May this gift restore life and strengthen those living with grief from the inside out. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

  – Kelly Desclos-Estes | South Boston, VA


Coronavirus – Beaver County – “Stay at Home Order”

This is a message from the Beaver County Board of Commissioners.

At their request, earlier today,Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Lavine revised the Stay at Home Order to include Beaver County.

The Order will take effect at 8:00 PM Saturday, March 28, 2020 and continue until April 6, 2020.

As such, The Board of Commissioners are imploring their fellow residents to abide by the Governor’s Order, and continue to practice social distancing

The Governor’s Order is an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and in doing so, save lives.




A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”

It’s somewhat unfortunate that this hymn is known as the Navy Hymn, and is thus associated primarily with American patriotism.

In fact, this was written as a superb trinitarian text, with stanzas invoking Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and a final stanza confessing faith and reliance in the most Holy Trinity.

Here again is First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the beautiful organ accompaniment of Tom Trenney.


Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm does bind the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Savior, whose almighty word
The winds and waves submissive heard,
Who walked upon the foaming deep,
And calm amid the rage did sleep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Holy Spirit, who did brood

Upon the waters dark and rude,
And bid their angry tumult cease,
And give for wild confusion peace;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and pow’r,
Your children shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire, and foe,
Protect them where-so-e’er they go;
Thus, evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

    – William Whiting, 1860

Central Church’s East 5-lancet stained glass window – “Father”




New LED Lights in the UMYF Room!

Another project is moving forward at Central, courtesy of our dedicated Trustees!

Never one to let an opportunity pass by, Jeff and Brandon spent the day today replacing the old ceiling T10 fluorescent light fixtures in our UMYF Room with brand, new, energy-efficient LED Ceiling light fixtures.

They are also a nice complement to our LED floodlights on the outside of our Church.

One of the new fixtures arrived with a broken wire, but we hope to have it repaired and installed in the near future.

In the meantime, our adult Sunday School classroom and favorite meeting room has some state-of-the-art lights that will save us on our electric bill every time we use the room.

A big thanks to Jeff and Brandon for their “illuminating work”!

Lenten Devotional – Day 28 – I Found It!

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:17

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

As a teenager, I remember being handed a button to wear by my youth pastor. It simply said, “I found IT!” No one had to explain to me what this meant because I had found what everyone was, ultimately looking for, when I found Jesus. My thirsty soul had tasted of the Living Water. God had done a new thing in my heart and my search for meaning was over. As people asked me what I had found, I was able to share the Living Water with them.

Within every person, there is a God-shaped vacuum that only Jesus can fill. Only He can quench the desire of the spiritually thirsty soul. We try to quench the thirst with all kinds of things this world suggests will satisfy our deepest longings. But, we will come up dry every time; only to find ourselves thirstier still. That is, until we drink of the Living Water that never runs dry!

When God does this new thing and makes us new creatures and the resurrected Savior pierces the darkness and brings life to the dead soul, the search is over. Only Jesus can satisfy the soul. Since I found IT, I find myself unable to keep it to myself. Like having the cure for cancer, how could I not share this Living Water with my world?

Prayer: O, Lord, our thirst is for you. May we never look to anything or anyone else for what only you can give! Amen.

  – Teresa Pugh | Northport, AL

Two Versions of a Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”

Today’s hymn is sung to the tune REPTON by the choir and congregation of Westminster Abbey. Many like the gentle encouragement of the augmented melody that REPTON brings to this text.

For those of you who prefer the more familiar version (REST), here is a link to that version:

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity
interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

– John Greenleaf Whittier, 1872


May we all find the peace to listen to that still, small voice of calm that speaks through the noise of sickness, death, and political posturing abounding in our current situation.

Central Church’s doors decorated for Christmas



Lenten Devotional – Day 27 – Gratitude is Living Water

Scripture:  Hebrews 13:2

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

After years of distributing church funds to those in need and managing area ministerial group funds for the same purpose, there have been more than a few times when my compassion quotient has hovered on empty.

Though I have never even hinted at the need for repayment of assistance, you can only be told so  many times, “I’ll pay you back as soon as next week’s check comes in” – never to see the person again – before frustration begins to threaten.

Hearing the exact same family tragedy explained 3 months later because someone has forgotten which church they last came to for help, lays the foundation for apathy to reign.

Living Water has come to me in the occasional ‘thank you’ note slipped under my office door, in the one in 200+ envelopes that has a few dollars in it for the assistance fund and the crayon drawing showing a smiling child who is happy their daddy made it home after the car broke down in our little town.

I am eternally grateful that God has never reached a point of frustrated apathy in answering my needs, and I am blessed that he has sent refreshing reminders of who I am serving when I assist angels unaware.

Prayer: Loving Father, giver of all good things, help me each day to remember that you have blessed me that I might be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

  – Joe Phipps | Fairfield, IA

A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “He Leadeth Me, O Blessed Thought”

Today’s hymn is one of the gems to come out of the Sunday School tradition in the 19th century.

William Bradbury, one of the most prolific composers of that movement, wrote the tune HE LEADETH ME to go along with this text.

Once again, we have the robust Aeolian-Skinner and full-throated choir of Houston’s First United Methodist Church, Downtown Campus leading the congregation in song.  While most Protestant denominations abandoned downtown Houston during the past half century, First United Methodist has remained, faithfully serving its original community in varying economic climates.


He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, he leadeth me,
by his own hand he leadeth me;
his faithful follower I would be,
for by his hand he leadeth me.

Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
by waters still, o’er troubled sea,
still ’tis his hand that leadeth me.

Lord, I would place my hand in thine,
nor ever murmur nor repine;
content, whatever lot I see,
since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

And when my task on earth is done,
when by thy grace the victory’s won,
e’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
since God through Jordan leadeth me.

  – Joseph H. Gilmore, 1862


Central Church’s large, 5-lancet stained glass window – “Holy Spirit”


Lenten Devotional – Day 26 – Baptized with Living Water

Scripture:  John 7:37-38

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

A social worker at the hospice where we worked asked me to visit with a patient who was struggling spiritually. Upon arrival at the patient’s home, I  was met at the door by his spouse who greeted me with trepidation. I found the patient lying on the couch weakly smiling when I introduced myself as a pastor.

The patient shared with me that he had recently given his life to Christ, and he desired to be baptized. Another pastor who had recently visited him told him that doing so wasn’t necessary. I asked him if being baptized would bring him peace, and he answered ‘yes’ further conveying, that by doing so, his commitment to Christ would be complete.

I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to baptize the patient immediately. After praying thanksgiving over the water held in the glass pitcher and with his wife and son serving as witnesses, I baptized him at the kitchen sink in the name

of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen! During our next visit, I presented him with his baptismal certificate which he tearfully accepted.

Prayer: Lord thank you for being the Living Water that quenches our every thirst, brings us peace and makes us whole. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

  – Tracy Porter | Pasadena, California

A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “Children of the Heavenly Father”

Today’s hymn is played and sung by the musicians and congregation of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Worcester, MA.


Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Praise the Lord in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers;
At the will of your Defender
Ever foeman must surrender.

Though He giveth or He taketh,

God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Lenten Devotional – Day 25 – The Power of Water

Scripture:  Isaiah 44:3

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.

Water is central to life, and we can always remember good times and bad times that involve water. I had just moved to Glasgow, Virginia in 1969 when the two rivers that met near that town, the Maury and the James, overflowed causing devastating flooding. Many homes and businesses were underwater. People call it the 100-year flood.

This water disaster brought people together though. Neighbors who barely waved at each other were banding together to find places to sleep and food to eat. Everybody needed the same things. Jesus said to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ and there were many examples of this being played out. Gifts of food, clothing and furniture came pouring in and many needs were met.

Water is also the symbol of joy when we are baptized. Joy in becoming a member of the family of God. I was baptized when I was 12, an amazing experience! Now, when I witness a baptism, I visualize the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and filling the hearts of those being baptized. Living Water is a gift from God that quenches thirst and sustains lives on this earth, and through baptism, it is the promise of becoming a part of God’s new creation.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for the Living Water that reminds us that we have a living, loving God, who is always providing for our every need. Amen.

  – Doris Hedrick | Natural Bridge, VA



Central Church on WBVP This Sunday!

Local reaction to the Corona Virus pandemic has forced the suspension or cancellation of large gatherings, including worship services across Pennsylvania.

WBVP, WMBA and 99.3 F.M. are moving to be the “pulpit” of the airwaves during this time.

Local listeners and parishioners can tune in at 10:30 A.M. on Sunday March 29, to hear a recorded version of this week’s message from Central Church by Pastor Jan!

This message will air on WBVP,  WMBA,  99.3 F.M. and The Beaver County Radio Live Audio Stream.

Be sure to tune in this Sunday at 10:30!




Giving to Meet Continuing Needs

Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community.  By giving to our church on a regular basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart.

We want to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.

During this period when we cannot gather together for worship, please keep in mind that the financial obligations of our church continue.

Donating to the church on a regular basis allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help during this coronavirus crisis through our vastly expanded food ministry.

Through the help of our dedicated members, friends, and partners, our hungry neighbors now receive hot, nutritious meals at Central Church Monday through Friday each week!

Currently, due to the latest coronavirus guidelines, these meals are being provided on a take-out basis only, but we look forward to the day sometime soon when we can once again open our Fellowship Hall to those in our community who seek the food and fellowship that only loving followers of Christ can provide.

We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.

As always, you can contribute toward the work of Central Church in three ways:

  • By Mail

Central United Methodist Church

P.O. Box 311

Beaver Falls, PA 15010


  • In Person – through the mail slot in our 13th Street side door –

Central United Methodist Church

1227 Sixth Avenue

Beaver Falls, PA 15010


  • Online – by clicking the “Donate” button on Central’s website at:

Clicking on our website’s “Donate” button will take you to our PayPal site at:

There you will be able to contribute to Central directly via PayPal, or by use of a credit or debit card!



We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you.

If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out.  You are a valued member of our church family.  And your financial support is making a difference.

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!

Lenten Devotional – Day 24 – Behind Me

Scripture:  Isaiah 43:18-19

18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

I seem like a nice guy. I go to church, volunteer, tithe, read my bible, and treat my wife with respect. On the outside, I check all the boxes for a good, Christian guy; but on the inside, I never let go of my past mistakes, some I considered unforgiveable.

For the past three years, I have been surrounded by Christian coworkers who occasionally say, “Andy, you’re such a nice guy. I could never see you doing something like that!” Each time they say it, I chuckle, but inside I think ‘if only you knew the real me.’ Then, in a conversation about this scripture, God spoke to me. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

God’s words opened my eyes to the truth. He had been speaking to me for years through my friends and coworkers. It wasn’t their words that I was doubting; I was doubting God’s words. I let doubt weigh me down, but I needed to accept my identity in Christ. In one verse, God’s words renewed my heart and reminded me that I am a new person in Christ.

Recently, I was baptized to declare this truth over my life. My sins are not me; my sins are behind me. I am not defined by my past but made new in Christ.

Prayer: Merciful Father, I thank you for your unconditional love and forgiveness. Amen.

  – Andy Lemmon | Brandon, MS

A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “Abide with Me, Fast Falls the Eventide”

Today’s hymn is sung and played by the St. Olaf Cantorei, their audience, and organist James Bobb.

In light and in darkness, in sickness and in health, in life and in death, we belong to God.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide!
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see.
O Thou, who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless:
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies:
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “My Faith Looks up to Thee”

Today’s hymn is a gem from the pen of Ray Palmer, American clergyman and hymnwriter.

It is played and sung by the musicians, clergy, and congregation of the First United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.

The huge Aeolian-Skinner organ with John Gearhart at the console is a highlight. Lowell Mason’s OLIVET is the stately tune.

My faith looks up to thee,
thou Lamb of Calvary,
Savior divine:
now hear me while I pray,
take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day
be wholly thine.

May thy rich grace impart
strength to my fainting heart,
my zeal inspire;
as thou hast died for me,
O may my love to thee
pure, warm, and changeless be,
a living fire.

While life’s dark maze I tread,
and griefs around me spread,
be thou my guide;
bid darkness turn to day,
wipe sorrow’s tears away,
nor let me ever stray
from thee aside.

When ends life’s transient dream,
when death’s cold, sullen stream
shall o’er me roll,
blest Savior, then, in love,
fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above,
a ransomed soul.

  – Ray Palmer, 1830

‘Hands, washing hands…’ Neil Diamond sends a reminder to fans during coronavirus pandemic

We are all familiar with the Neil Diamond classic, ‘Sweet Caroline,’ but now the singing legend is using his fan favorite to send a friendly reminder in times of the coronavirus crisis.

Neil Diamond took to his social media accounts Saturday night to encourage fans. He said, “I know we are going through a rough time right now, but I love you and I think if we sing together, well we will feel a little bit better.”

Neil changed up his lyrics to Sweet Caroline to a song we all can sing together to help practice social distancing.

Here are the new lyrics:

“Where it began.. I can’t begin to knowing, but then I know it’s growing strong.

Was in the spring, and spring became the summer Who’d have believed you’d come along.

Hands, washing hands, reaching out, don’t touch me, I won’t touch you.   

Sweet Caroline…Good times never seemed so good.

I’ve been inclined to believe they never would but now I…

look at the night  and it don’t seem so lonely.  We filled it up with only two.

And when I hurt, hurting runs off my shoulders, how can I hurt when holding you.

Hands, washing hands, reaching out, don’t touch me, I won’t touch you..”

Click on Neil’s picture to be taken to his Facebook post of him singing the new lyrics.






More Than 20 Streaming Services Offering Free Access Right Now

With people spending more time in their homes than ever because of the coronavirus pandemic, a diverse catalog of movies and shows to watch is more important than ever. Thankfully, the “streaming wars” do not have to break the bank, as many platforms are offering prolonged free trials during this period of social distancing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has many people self-isolating in their homes, with only their family, roommates and pets to keep them company. In these stressful times, many are hoping to catch up on movies or shows they have fallen behind on — provided they have the right subscription. However, with many non-essential offices and services shut down, it is not a great time for some people to pick up a new monthly bill — even a small one.

Thankfully, there are work-arounds. Many of the top streaming services have free trials ranging from a week to a month, and some have been extended in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Others are doing bigger promotions, or can be purchased in a bundle with a few different options.

Finally, there is always the option of pausing one subscription and activating another. With a little creative calendar work, it has never been easier to pay for only what you watch from month to month.

Here is a look at the best free streaming deals available right now.



Netflix is still a powerhouse in the streaming industry — despite all its new competitors — and it is going all out during this pandemic. Netflix is offering a 30-day free trial for new customers right now, with no promo code or link required. After that, the service ranges in price from $8.99 to $15.99.



Showtime’s streaming service is also doing an extended 30-day free trial right now, again, for new customers only. To sign up, visit and select “start your free trial,” then while away your time indoors watching Shameless, Homeland and other hit shows and movies.

CBS All Access


CBS All Access is offering a 7-day free trial, giving fans a look at some new must-see programming. The site is the only place in the U.S. to catch Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery, along with other hit exclusives.

Sling TV

Sling TV has an exciting new option called the “SLING free experience,” which allows subscribers to stream several live TV channels online at no cost. This includes news coverage, network shows and even some movies. From there, customers can always upgrade to a full Sling TV subscription for $20 per month. The service can replace a cable package altogether, depending on what you like to watch.

Amazon Prime Video


Prime Video has always been a reliable option for existing Amazon Prime customers, but now new users have a chance to give it a try. The whole service is offering a 30-day free trial, including the digital perks as well as the 2-day shipping on eligible orders. Prime Video originals are on the rise right now, from the superhero series The Boys to The Marvelous Miss Maisel, all available for $12.99 per month or $119 per year after the trial is up.



Hulu is doing a 30-day free trial as well, and it is invaluable for times like these, when you may want to fall back on a comfortable re-watch rather than a new, unfamiliar show. New customers can select “get one month free” on Hulu’s homepage now to try it out.



For those without cable, HBO can be one the most enticing networks out there, and now they can give it a test drive online. The channel’s streaming option HBO Now has a 7-day free trial, available on its website for new customers. This is a good way to check the offerings out before HBO Max launches in May.


NFL Game pass coronavirus free fans self-quarantines

Major sporting events may be canceled during the pandemic, but the streaming services are still alive and well. Fans can get a free NBA League Pass through April 22, a free NFL Game Pass through May 31, and MLB TV for free if they use T-Mobile for their cellular service. For those mourning all the canceled games this year, there is plenty of old footage to watch here.

Sundance Now


Now is a great time to be an indie film lover, as you can finally watch the latest without flying across the country for a film festival. Sundance Now has extended its usual 7-day free trial to 30 days, giving fans a huge library of independent films and documentaries to watch throughout their social distancing periods.

To claim the trial, use the promo code SUNDANCENOW30 when signing up.


Horror fans must have Shudder, a streaming service exclusively for thrillers and supernatural cult classics. The service usually costs $4.75 per month, but right now fans can get a 30-day free trial first. Simply use the code SHUTIN while signing up for a new account.

Criterion Channel

The Criterian Channel is doing a two-week free trial period right now, giving fans access to over 1,000 movies, including many foreign films. The offer requires no promo code or special link.





Apps and games you can get for free while stuck at home

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting all of our lives in one way or another. The biggest effect is that many people are now working from home or just stuck at home to stop the spread of the virus. Thankfully, many companies have been offering free access to games and apps to help keep you productive and entertained in these strange times.

Here’s a quick look at some favorite apps and games that are temporarily free during the coronavirus quarantine. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom for more apps and games that are temporarily discounted (but not free).

Free apps and software

free apps for quarantine - headspace

From meditation apps to services that assist with remote work, here are our favorite apps and services that are temporarily free during the coronavirus quarantine.

  • Headspace — The popular meditation and relaxation app released a free “weathering the storm” program and is offering Headspace Plus for free to healthcare professionals.
  • AnyMeeting — Intermedia’s video conferencing and webinar service is free for all businesses until the end of the year to support remote workers.
  • Cisco Webex — Cisco’s premier business conferencing software is expanding its free plan for all businesses for the next 90 days.
  • Discord — The popular game-themed chat software service is expanding its Go Live streaming and screen share limit from 10 to 50 people for the next few months.
  • Google Hangouts Meet — G suite users can now access premium Google Hangout Meet features, including larger audiences and the ability to save streams, until July 1.
  • Microsoft Teams — Microsoft is offering free access to the paid tier of its business messaging app and software for six months. It normally costs $5 a month.
  • Reaper — This digital audio workstation software normally costs as much as $225 to license. However, the developer is offering a free license for all until June 30.
  • Peloton — Looking for ways to stay in shape while stuck at home? Peloton is offering access to its boutique home fitness programs for 90 days.
  • Tripit Pro — This online travel service usually costs $49 a year, but you can get it for free for the next six months if you sign up before March 31.
  • Tinder Passport — Passport is a paid Tinder feature that lets connect with other singles across the world instead of just your local area. It’s available for free until April 30.

Temporarily free games

A close-up of Mini Metro on a Huawei smartphone.

Games are one of the best ways to pass the time while stuck at home, and a bunch of developers have made their games temporarily free during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are our favorites:

  • Mini Metro — If you haven’t already played this 2014 minimalist transit simulator, now is your chance.
  • Kingdom Rush: Frontiers — This sequel to the hit tower defense game Kingdom Rush (also free) is one of the staple titles in the genre.
  • Kingdom Rush: Origins — The third game in the Kingdom Rush series is technically a prequel, and it truly perfects the formula. It usually costs $2.99.
  • Card Crusade — Fans of roguelikes will love this deck building game with eight classes and a randomly generated 10-floor dungeon.
  • Bottom of the 9th — This atypical sports game is a faithful adaptation of the tabletop game played with dice and cards.
  • Tokaido — Tokaido is a mobile adaptation of a popular board game, and it can be played both online and offline to pass the time with your friends and family.
  • Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery — If you’re looking for an unusual game with an incredible visual style, look no further.
  • JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword — This pixel-art action adventure platformer is usually $4.99, but you can grab it for free right now.
  • Lophis Roguelike — As the name implies, this is a roguelike game with deck building mechanics set in a dark dungeon.
  • Real Flight Simulator — Easily one of the most impressive mobile flight simulators, the base version of RFS is now temporarily free. There is a pro version with even more features for enthusiasts.
  • Prune — Time magazine’s game of the year for 2015 is temporarily free, but only on iOS ($0.99 on Android).
  • A Case of Distrust — This stylish 1920s narrative mystery is still $14.99 on Steam, but you can grab it for free (iOS only).
  • forma.8 GO — If Metroidvanias are more your style, this visually stunning action-adventure platformer will be right up your alley (iOS only).

Other deals and discounts

mint mobile logo

In addition to the free apps and games listed above, plenty of other companies are offering special deals for those stranded at home during the quarantine. Here’s a small selection:

If you have always wanted to get your hands on some premium mobile games, there’s currently a wide variety of great titles available at a heavy discount. Here are a few favorites:

  • 10000000$0.99 (was $2.99)
  • Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise$2.99 (was $6.99)
  • Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition$4.99 (was $9.99)
  • Death Road to Canada$0.99 (was $9.99)
  • Minit$0.99 (was $4.99)
  • Reigns: Game of Thrones$1.99 (was $3.99)
  • The Swords of Ditto$1.99 (was $5.99)
  • This War of Mine$1.99 (was $13.99)
  • Thumper: Pocket Edition$1.99 (was $4.99)

That’s it for the list of free and discounted apps and games to fill up your time during the coronavirus quarantine.

Did we miss any other great offers?  Let us know in the comments below!



Lenten Devotional – Day 23 – Riptides

Scripture:  Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

As a kid, I played a game with my friends at the pool. We would all take a big breath of air and then plunge underwater, trying to see who could hold their breath the longest. I remember fighting to keep my head below the surface for just one more second, ignoring my lungs that were screaming for oxygen and striving to outlast my competitors. The game was fun because I knew I could kick my legs and come up gasping for air within seconds.

A pool is very different from a river or an ocean. I have another childhood memory of being knocked over by a wave at the beach. Instantly, I felt myself tossed by the strong current, air knocked out of my lungs, flailing, unsure which way would lead me toward the surface. Until I felt my mother’s arm, pulling me out of the churning sea.

Prayer: God who is with us in both still and turbulent waters, make your presence known in times when we find ourselves gasping for air, unsure of where to find safety in a world that feels as chaotic as a riptide. When waters are calm give us the courage to seek you in farther depths knowing that the security of your presence is never far away. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

  – Abi Warmack | Durham, NC


A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”

Today’s hymn comes to us from the great and prolific hymnwriter, clergyman, theologian, and logician, Isaac Watts. Often described as the “Father of English Hymnody,” many of his hymns were Psalm paraphrases. This one is no different, based on Psalm 90, which begins like this:


Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations,
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

      – Psalm 90:1-6 (NRSV)


O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home;

Under the shadow of thy throne
thy saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defence is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting thou art God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home.

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!


Lenten Devotional – The Fourth Sunday in Lent – Oh, This is Bad…

Scripture:  Hebrews 10:22 and James 5:13-16

Hebrews 10:22

22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

James 5:13-16

The Prayer of Faith

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

My daughter-in-law called…my son had bacterial meningitis. With my heart in my throat and a fear so intense it brought me to my knees, I realized…I could lose my son!

My first instinct was to rush to the hospital, be there with him, just do something, and make it “all better”. His wife and children were sent to a children’s hospital under quarantine. He was all alone…but a voice inside of me was insisting that I wait.

Hebrews 10:22   let us approach with a true heart in full assurance  of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

How as a mother could I “wait” five hours away, knowing my son had been moved from the intensive care unit to the critical care unit in just a few short hours? We were preparing for the worst… he could die! Yet the Holy Spirit still told me to wait, and I obeyed.

As I waited, I was not idle…I prayed! I called family, friends, co-workers, and sent emails to prayer partners. I had everyone I knew, and thousands I didn’t know, praying. As quickly as the meningitis was consuming my son, the power of prayer began washing over him, healing his body.

Just like that tiny organism weakened my son, sin that has gained access to our hearts can separate us from the presence of God and destroy our lives. If we ask, and believe in the power of prayer, our heavenly Father will cleanse our soul and renew us with the Living Water.

Prayer: Father, as we enter the season of preparing for the sacrifice of Your Son, help us to remain obedient in our thoughts, actions and prayers, just as Jesus was obedient to your will when he died a horrible death on the cross for us. In Your name I pray.

  – Barbara Lipford | Bedford, VA




A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Today’s hymn is the most famous to come out of the Protestant Reformation.

This recording is from the National Day of Mourning service on September 14, 2001 at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.




A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

That Word above all earthly powers
no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours
through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever!

  -Martin Luther, 1529, trans. Frederick H. Hedge, 1852



Coronavirus Humor

Just sayin’

A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “Be Still, My Soul”

On the eve of our first Sunday without gathering for worship at Central Church due to the coronavirus, may you take comfort in this hymn, courtesy of First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The organist is Tom Trenney, who is brilliant artist, adept at expressing the poetry of a hymn with his instrument.

The tune, FINLANDIA, was originally an excerpt from a longer composition by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, who later edited it into a single work.


Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

– Kathrina von Schlegel, c. 18th century; trans. Jane Borthwick

Coronavirus 2020 Outbreak: Latest Updates

News about the coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan, China, is changing rapidly.

The respiratory infection, named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), is closely related to SARS and MERS. The majority of cases are no longer in China, and the disease has been diagnosed in more than 100 other countries, including the United States. We’ll provide the latest updates on cases, deaths, travel restrictions, and more here.

What is the latest news?

More States Tighten Restrictions as Coronavirus Rages

New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, California and Illinois have issued  “shelter-in-place” orders that ask residents to stay home and request that non-essential businesses close.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy issued a “stay-at-home” order Saturday.

“We know the virus spreads through person-to person contact, and the best way to prevent further exposure is to limit our public interactions to only the most essential purposes. This is a time for us all to come together in one mission to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow – and eventually halt – the spread of coronavirus,” Murphy said in a statement.

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont asked that all non-essential businesses close starting Monday at 8 p.m. and he urged residents to stay home and work from home is possible. The order does not include services such as health care and law enforcement.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order  will require all Illinois residents to remain at home except to go the grocery story, visit a health care professional, take walks and go to the drug store. Illinois has nearly 600 cases and five deaths.

New York’s order will go into effect Sunday night. In addition to banning non-essential services, it also bans any type of gathering for any reason, among other restrictions. New York has more than 8,500 cases and more than 50 deaths.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued a statewide stay at home order effective at midnight March 19, that will remain in place until further notice. Essential services such as groceries, banks, laundromats, car repair and restaurant take-out will be open. Essential state and local government functions will continue. Residents are asked to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care or get to an essential job.
Newsom projected that up to 56% of California’s residents, or about 25.5 million people, could be infected with COVID-19 in the next 8 weeks if strong measures are not taken. President Donald Trump says he doesn’t see a need yet for a national “lockdown” to curb the spread of the new coronavirus and supports states making their own decisions.

20 Prayers to Pray During This Pandemic

As COVID-19 sends the globe into crisis, it also sends us to our knees.

In recent days, as COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic and countries have taken urgent measures to stem the spread of infection, we wish that we could say that our first impulse has been to pray.  It’s probably more honest to say that we’ve obsessively watched the news for the latest updates.

The crisis is urgent, and we feel powerless.  But perhaps feeling small is our best reminder to pray.

Prayer is how we actively practice believing, so simply, so confidently, that God has the whole world in his hands. It’s where we “let petitions and praises shape our worries into prayers, letting God know our concerns” (Phil. 4:6–7, The Message).

Prayer is never the last resort of God’s people.  It is our first point of action.

  • With that in mind, here is a suggested list of 20 prayers that you might pray during this pandemic. Each one addresses the specific needs of a specific community.

This list isn’t comprehensive, of course, but it’s a good place to start.  Our hope is that it can provide words for us as we pray collectively (if also virtually!) as a church body.

We believe there is a God who bends his ear to listen, and so we pray:

1. For the sick and infected:  God, heal and help. Sustain bodies and spirits.  Contain the spread of infection.

2. For our vulnerable populations: God, protect our elderly and those suffering from chronic disease. Provide for the poor, especially the uninsured.

3. For the young and the strong: God, give them the necessary caution to keep them from unwittingly spreading this disease. Inspire them to help.

4. For our local, state, and federal governments: God, help our elected officials as they allocate the necessary resources for combatting this pandemic. Help them to provide more tests.

5. For our scientific community, leading the charge to understand the disease and communicate its gravity: God, give them knowledge, wisdom, and a persuasive voice.

6. For the media, committed to providing up-to-date information: God, help them to communicate with appropriate seriousness without causing panic.

7. For consumers of media, looking to be well-informed:  God, help us find the most helpful local information to equip us to be good neighbors.  Keep us from anxiety and panic, and enable us to implement the recommended strategies, even at a cost to ourselves.

8. For those with mental health challenges who feel isolated, anxious, and helpless:  God, provide them every necessary support.

9. For the homeless, unable to practice the protocols of social distancing in the shelter system: Protect them from disease, and provide isolation shelters in every city.

10. For international travelers stuck in foreign countries: God, help them return home safely and quickly.

11. For Christian missionaries throughout the world, especially in areas with high rates of infection:  God, provide them with words of hope, and equip them to love and serve those around them.

12. For workers in a variety of industries facing layoffs and financial hardship: God, keep them from panic, and inspire your church to generously support them.

13. For families with young children at home for the foreseeable future: God, help mothers and fathers to partner together creatively for the care and flourishing of their children. For single mothers and fathers, grow their networks of support.

14. For parents who cannot stay home from work but must find care for their children: God, present them with creative solutions.

15. For those in need of regular therapies and treatments that must now be postponed: God, help them to stay patient and positive.

16. For business leaders making difficult decisions that affect the lives of their employees: God, give these women and men wisdom, and help them to lead self-sacrificially.

17. For pastors and church leaders faced with the challenges of social distancing: God, help them to creatively imagine how to pastor their congregants and love their cities well.

18. For college and university students, whose courses of study are changing, whose placements are cancelled, whose graduation is uncertain: God, show them that while life is uncertain, their trust is in you.

19. For Christians in every neighborhood, community, and city: May your Holy Spirit inspire us to pray, to give, to love, to serve, and to proclaim the gospel, that the name of Jesus Christ might be glorified around the world.

20. For front-line health care workers, we thank you for their vocational call to serve us. We also pray:

    • God, keep them safe and healthy. Keep their families safe and healthy.
    • God, help them to be knowledgeable about the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, as well as the changing protocols.
    • God, help them to stay clear-minded in the midst of the surrounding panic.
    • God, deliver them from anxiety for their own loved ones (aging parents, children, spouses, roommates).
    • God, give them compassion for every patient in their care.
    • God, provide for them financially, especially if they fall ill and are unable to work.
    • God, help Christians in health care to exhibit extraordinary peace, so that that many would ask about the reason for their hope. Give them opportunities to proclaim the gospel.

God, we trust that you are good and do good.  Teach us to be your faithful people in this time of global crisis.

Help us to follow in the footsteps of our faithful shepherd, Jesus, who laid down his life for the sake of love.

Glorify his name as you equip us with everything needed for doing your will.  Amen.



Coronavirus – 15 Days to Slow the Spread

Giving to Meet Continuing Needs

Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community.  By giving to our church on a regular basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart.

We want to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.

During this period when we cannot gather together for worship, please keep in mind that the financial obligations of our church continue.

Donating to the church on a regular basis allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help during this coronavirus crisis through our vastly expanded food ministry.

Through the help of our dedicated members, friends, and partners, our hungry neighbors now receive hot, nutritious meals at Central Church Monday through Friday each week!

Currently, due to the latest coronavirus guidelines, these meals are being provided on a take-out basis only, but we look forward to the day sometime soon when we can once again open our Fellowship Hall to those in our community who seek the food and fellowship that only loving followers of Christ can provide.

We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.

As always, you can contribute toward the work of Central Church in three ways:

  • By Mail

Central United Methodist Church

P.O. Box 311

Beaver Falls, PA 15010

  • In Person – through the mail slot in our 13th Street side door –

Central United Methodist Church

1227 Sixth Avenue

Beaver Falls, PA 15010

  • Online – by clicking the “Donate” button on Central’s website at:

Clicking on our website’s “Donate” button will take you to our PayPal site at:

There you will be able to contribute to Central directly via PayPal, or by use of a credit or debit card!

We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you.

If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out.  You are a valued member of our church family.  And your financial support is making a difference.

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!

Lenten Devotional – Day 22 – From Flat to Full

Scripture:  Psalm 103: 1-6

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

I was drained this past summer. Having given so much of myself to others out of obligation, my personal well was dry. I realized that I needed nourishment and attended a women’s spiritual retreat.

Arriving Friday afternoon, I felt uneasy. One of my friends noticed my flat expression over dinner. I told her I vowed to be “in the moment” at the retreat yet doubted my ability. Realizing that I was surrounded by 16 godly women, the tension drifted. I felt my body and spirit lighten over the next two days. Tears were shed; true feelings were shared. After each song and testimony, I sensed the Living Water filling me up.

To cap off the retreat, we had a baptism. As a sister in Christ confessed her sins and immersed in a blow-up pool, we all watched with wonder. At the end, the woman slipped! The memory of her dressed in a white robe, hands together in prayer, sitting in the pool-soaking wet, and smiling with pure joy will be etched into my memory for years to come!

We often believe spiritual renewal happens when we experience a single extraordinary event. Yet, don’t we need to be fed consistently? This Lenten season take the opportunity to drink the Living Water multiple times every day through the experience of amazing, God-led encounters.

Prayer: Everlasting God, make us aware of your presence each day. Fill us with your love so we can share it with others. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.

  – Kelly Desclos-Estes | South Boston, VA

In Memoriam: Rev. Walter B. Hehman

We regret to announce that Rev. Walter B. Hehman, passed away on Thursday, March 19, 2020 in Orchard Manor following a lengthy illness. He was 78.

Fondly remembered by his many friends in Central Church, Walt pastored here from 1973 – 1980.

He is survived by his wife Barb at home, a daughter, Jodi Ozmun, Butler, and a son, Walter, Jr. “Wally” and wife Sereina, Ellwood City, PA, 6 grandchildren, Alexandra Soule, Gavynne, Connor, Aiden, Jorgia, Ozzy Hehman, a great granddaughter, Penelopea Hehman, 2 sisters, Jeanne Hehman, Grove City and Carol Probst, Pittsburgh.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to: Orchard Manor (Activities Fund) (20 Orchard Dr., Grove City, PA 16127) or to Slippery Rock United Methodist Church (130 Franklin St., Slippery Rock, PA 16057).

A private family funeral will be held in Cunningham Funeral Home, Inc., 306 Bessemer Ave., Grove City, on Monday, March 23, 2020 at 11:00 AM.  Burial will be at: Jefferson Memorial Park, Inc., Pleasant Hills, PA.

A public “Celebration of Life Service” will be held at a later date.

Cards and expressions of sympathy can be sent to his wife, Barbara, at:

Mrs. Barbara Hehman

712 Spring Street

Grove City, PA   16127

Spiritual Life without Corporate Worship this Week

This Sunday, Central Church, like many, will be practicing social distancing out of love.

Social distancing is a protocol for disease prevention. Our world is currently experiencing a pandemic. The COVID-19 illness is spreading around the globe at an unprecedented rate. It is more lethal than influenza. It is caused by the novel coronavirus to which humanity has no immunity. There is currently no vaccine. There is a scarcity of tests, of hospital beds, and of protective and therapeutic equipment.

For some, the illness comes and goes after a fever and aches, but for a terrifyingly high percentage of individuals of all ages, especially the elderly and those with underlying health issues, the disease attacks the lungs leading to fibrosis and lethal pneumonia.

Social distancing is proven statistical tactic to slow the spread of this and other contagious diseases, to buy precious time, and to relieve pressures on overwhelmed healthcare systems.

Evidence suggests that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts adults over age 50. Fifty-four percent of UMC membership in the USA is over 50, and the age of the friends and members of Central Church (or most churches) is not significantly different. I

During this time of separation, with God’s help, let us withdraw socially but reach out spiritually.  Let us keep this discipline for the love and well-being of our neighbors.

In the remaining three weeks of Lent, let us continue our spiritual discipline by reading and meditating over each of the daily Lenten devotionals that appear on Central Church’s website.  Hopefully, our staying apart for a short season will reap a bountiful harvest of lives spared from suffering and death by the coronavirus, and we can soon resume meeting together for worship as a Church family.

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!

Coronavirus – Be the Church at Work

For all of our members and friends of Central Church, here is a call to action: 

As the restrictions on moving about become more stringent as we attempt to blunt the impact of the coronavirus, we are asking everyone to reach out to each other by phone, or even by mail, to check on each other, and to offer emotional and/or physical support.

We are sure that you remember a moment when you were feeling down and someone checked up on you.  You remember what you felt after that moment.  Maybe you felt a burden suddenly lift off your shoulders.  Maybe your eyes opened wide in astonishment and you thought to yourself, “how did they know I needed this?”  Or maybe you felt a pressure valve open completely and you immediately just let everything out to that person.

We encourage you to check up on people more often, and especially during this time of crisis with the coronavirus.. Even in the best of times, there is not a single soul in this world who has the strength to go through life alone because we were not created to go through life on our own.

Make sure to appreciate the people in your life who check up on you.  Cherish those people and be there for them when they need you too.  Notice we did not say “if” they need you because they will need you to be there for them one day.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”Proverbs 27:17

We all have struggles and we are all capable of being there for each other.  None of us are perfect.  We can all use a little more sharpening, and for the immediate future, we may especially be in a position to provide a little direct help to our friends and neighbors as well.

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!


Lenten Devotional – Day 21 – Waterfalls of Living Water

Scripture:  John 7:38

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

I’ve always enjoyed looking at waterfalls. Feelings of awe and wonder especially accompany gazing at tall, majestic cascades flowing down into a stream or brook below, whether watching these great parts of nature on a movie or television show, looking at pictures in a book, or when having the opportunity to witness them in person.

One particular summer while vacationing with my family in Rocky Mountain National Park, I had an extraordinary experience while viewing one of my favorite waterfalls there. As I sat on a nearby boulder, I watched the water thunder down the side of the bluff into an awaiting stream. I envisioned the mighty healing powers of Jesus within the roaring water. Then, I looked at the stream below as the water calmed and peacefully continued its journey through the park. A feeling of spiritual renewal filtered through me.

I could feel the peace that only Jesus can give to us filling me up once  again as I visualized his power flowing down the cascade into the stream. It was a wonderful time of revitalization and rejuvenation. Now, whenever I see a waterfall, I think of the Living Water of Jesus, and the feeling of renewal always comes with it too.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the beauty and majesty of the world in which we live. Thank you for the renewal that enjoying nature can provide, and most especially for the Living Water of Jesus to regenerate and sustain our souls. Amen.

– Julie Erickson | Olathe, Kansas

Coronavirus – Worship Services at Central Church

As events continue to unfold relating to the spreading coronavirus, each local church must consider the issue of whether it is better to meet on Sunday for worship, or to defer worship for a period of time while medical experts and civil authorities continue to work to contain the spread of the disease and blunt the growth of new cases.

At Central Church, the significance of this decision is even more important since many of our members and friends fall into one or more of the most significant risk categories relating to the coronavirus, making the decision to attend a public worship service virtually a life or death decision.

We all understand that the Church is not a building, but rather the people of God, and, in making decisions regarding whether to gather together for corporate worship, we must balance the benefits of  congregational worship with the painfully serious risk to many of our members and friends of gathering in contravention of the limit imposed by our civil authorities on gatherings of 10 people.

  • After much conversation and prayerful consideration, Central Church has decided to forgo our formal worship services for the next two Sundays (even though we all love the creepy Lenten music), with decisions on future worship services being deferred as necessary, based upon the progress in the continuing fight against the coronavirus.
  • In lieu of gathering together each Sunday, we ask everyone to continue devoting time to the study of our daily Lenten devotions that will continue to appear on this website each day through Easter Sunday on April 12, 2020.  (After Easter Sunday, we will return to our regular series of daily devotionals.)

We pray that God’s comfort and blessings continue to be abundantly provided to each of you as we move forward in faith through the days ahead.

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!


Lenten Devotional – Day 20 – Wellspring of Life

Scripture:  John 4:10-13 & Revelation 7:17

John 4:10-13

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,

Revelation 7:17

For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

I was fortunate to grow up at time and in an area where regular youth revivals and retreats were held. I have fond memories of these events. Some were very emotional, but all the events led me to stop and question how I should lead my life, and what I should do with it.

As I grew into adulthood, there were occasional church services and retreats that provided time to step back from the world and be renewed. However, these seemed to get fewer and fewer.

Several years ago, I was able to attend a retreat that turned out to be special for me. I can remember thinking and feeling that the retreat community interacted, supported, and loved each other much like I imagined heaven to  be. There was time to interact as a whole, in small groups, and for individual

reflection. The highlight for me was the communion service. Two clowns led the service without saying a word. However, the message was very clear. It concluded with the opportunity to step forward and drive a nail into the cross as a symbol of laying my burdens at the foot of the cross. Just the memory of that weekend can renew my spirit.

While we work for God, we still need rest from ‘doing’ and time just ‘being’ with Christ.

Prayer: Ever loving God, please help me to find time to stop and just spend time with you. Renew my spirit and help me do and say the things that please you. Amen.

  – Alvin Jenkins  |  Lenoir City, TN


Lenten Devotional – Day 19 – Mystifying Moments of Some Magnitude

Lent 3Scripture: Isaiah 43:19

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

In a foreign country, how do you cope with day to day living…how to eat, travel, act, and most of all, be messengers of God’s love in a ‘wilderness’ when you stand out like a sore thumb? God provided in abundance when Nancy and I moved to Sierra Leone as UMC missionaries. God sent us a devout Muslim, Musa, to help with the maintenance of our oversized home.

Our daily custom was to have devotions, study the scriptures and pray. No pressure for Musa to renounce Islam, no disrespect for his long-held beliefs, only a daily time was set aside for a devotional time together. On his own accord, Musa went with us to church every Sunday, and his Muslim faith was solid, so we thought.

During one fateful Sunday morning worship service, Musa stood up and announced “I am Musa Sundai. I am a Muslim, but I want to become a Christian and know more about Jesus Christ!” Muslim Musa became a Christian!

How did all this happen? We were not forcing him to change; yet God was acting through us, and we didn’t know it. Living Waters flowed through what we thought was wilderness. Funny how God works sometimes.

Prayer: Papa God, thank you for the Living Waters of our lives in places and ways that we don’t even know. Use us in the way that makes a wilderness fruitful and in all the ways that build up your kingdom. Amen.

  – Kip Robinson  |  Henrico County, VA

Lenten Devotional – Day 18 – My Hero – My Mother

Lent 3Scripture:  John 7:37-39

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[a] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

It took me years to realize that I am who I am because of my mother.

Though I will never hold a candle to her, she is the voice in my head and in my heart. When I find myself in trouble, I wonder – what would she do? I rarely call to share my predicaments, as I know she would never get into the position in which I found myself. Whenever I have been in deep despair, I am lifted up and renewed by her faith, determination and love of life. She helps me see that nothing is insurmountable – there is always hope and a way to get through it.

My childhood memories are warm and loving with the sound of her singing hymns throughout the house. She defines the phrase ‘bloom where you are planted’ and quickly turned each place we moved into our home. I believe her priority was to make sure her family was safe and happy.

To this day, she constantly changes and improves her surroundings, encouraging things to grow; outsmarting garden invaders. Any request from her family, church or

community is quickly met. She is indefatigable and lives life to the fullest every single day. If I had a tenth of her spirit, I would consider myself blessed.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us learn from the many lessons given us every day from those we love and who love us. Help us to be renewed by the Living Water poured out for us from each other. Amen.

  – Kathi Wise | McLean, VA

Lenten Devotional – Day 17 – Molecular Theology

Lent 3Scripture:  Revelation 22:2

down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Many biblical writers used the phrase “Living Waters” to describe Yahweh’s sustaining presence for creation and the life of the people. That literary model spans even to Revelation where the tree with leaves for the healing of the nations is planted by the river of life. Their phrase holds true even when we look at water at its molecular level.

Most children learn at some point in their school science class that the chemical formula of water is H2O where two atoms of hydrogen bond with one oxygen atom. Pure hydrogen fuels rockets. Its combination with chloride and fluoride creates acids that can burn skin. Combustion cannot occur without oxygen and breathing pure oxygen for long durations can be toxic at certain pressures. Nevertheless, these elements combined with carbon, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus form nearly every biomolecule on the planet. These elements make not only water but also sugars, proteins, fats, and nucleic acids that compose 99% of each living cell.

Lent is the time where we examine the elements that compose our being.

Our traits, habits, and talents can appear caustic and debilitating when isolated. Allowing one part of our self to override our relationships can indeed prove as explosive as pure hydrogen and oxygen. When we let the Creator fuse all our elements into wholeness, our lives gush with Living Water.

Prayer: O God, who ordered the elements to form stars and my own body, transform the seemingly explosive elements of my life into the molecules of Living Water that your joy may be complete in me. Amen.

  – Adam Graham | Atlanta, GA

Lenten Devotional – Third Sunday of Lent – Where is Our Oasis?

Lent 1Scripture:  John 4: 10-15

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

In the early 70s, I found myself far from home in my first year of college at Duke University. I marveled at the beauty of the campus and relished staying up all night playing cards, listening to music and enjoying life with few rules  or restrictions. There were parties, fun athletic events, classes, homework and stimulating intellectual challenges.

However, over the course of several months I began to feel profoundly lonely. I was not fitting in with my roommates and their lifestyle and found it difficult to find my niche. I was in a beautiful setting, surrounded by diverse fellow students, yet thirsty for connection and meaningfulness.

One fall Sunday, feeling emotionally down and spiritually adrift, I attended worship services at the Chapel. I had visited before but neglected to make it part of my college experience. I suppose not going was a bit of rebellion. Now, in keeping with my new found freedom, I was choosing to go and searching for an oasis.

As the service began, I felt my neck tingle as the magnificent choir processed in, bringing forth the cross, the light of Christ and a familiar hymn echoing with a thousand

voices joining as one. I don’t recall the sermon, but I do remember feeling safe in Christ’s arms, unconditionally loved, and no longer alone. Christ’s Living Water quenched my thirst and renewed my weary soul.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord for reminding us to seek your Living Water when we find ourselves in the desert places of our lives. Amen.

  – Bob Brooks | Fredericksburg, VA

Lenten Devotional – Day 14 – Forever New!

Lent 3Scripture: Philippians 3:20-21

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Although I am blessed with many new wonders of contemporary medicine that were science fiction when I was a boy, I am struck by the fact that human nature has not basically changed since biblical times. In our daily lives, even as Christians, we still struggle with our old sinful brokenness and alienation from God and each other. As we prepare to celebrate Easter, we must remember that in fact God has indeed done an astounding NEW THING in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus which is Good News for the present and the future.

Recently taking my “adopted” grandson, Trey, out to lunch, I was amazed at his boundless energy as he bounced from seat to seat, all the while gulping down his food. Suddenly, I realized that I was tired just looking at him. Having survived open heart surgery, I know that my body will never equal his in this world.

Thankfully, I look forward to Christ’s ultimate victory when He will make all things new. My lowly body will be changed to be like His glorious body as St. Paul promised. Yes! In the New Jerusalem, I will be changed from old Reverend Bill to new Bouncing Billy as I leap for joy in God’s forever new life.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, when we are tired and feel old, even worn out, renew us to serve you. Help us to trust your promise of new life, which we will know even more fully in your eternal kingdom. Amen.

  – William Nash Wade | Strasburg, VA


A Prayer for a Pandemic

May we who are merely inconvenienced –

Remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors –

Remember those who are most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home –

Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have to cancel our trips –

Remember those that have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market –

Remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home –

Remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country,

Let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,

Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.


During these uncertain times, we also ask for your prayers in support of our continuing free community feeding ministry outreach here at Central Church.

Working with our dedicated partners and friends, selfless volunteers are continuing to prepare and provide warm, nutritious meals to many in our community who include the least, the lost, and the lonely.

Currently, our friends and neighbors can find warm food and fellowship at Central Church:

  • Every Monday for dinner from 4-5 pm;

  • Every Tuesday for lunch from 12 Noon-1 pm;

  • Every Thursday for dinner from 4-5 pm;

  • Every Friday for dinner from 4-5 pm; and

  • Saturday breakfast from 9-10:30 am on the first two Saturdays of each month.

Since many of the souls who come to us depend upon these important meals to make it through each week, we are striving in the face of ever-increasing closures and curtailments  to continue providing this valuable outreach for as long as we are able in light of future coronavirus developments.

We ask your support by holding Central Church and all of our partners and friends up in prayer as we continue to lean on God in the face of the unknown.

Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!

Lenten Devotional – Day 15 – Room for Living Water

Lent 3Scripture:  Jeremiah 2:13

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

I had a seminary student who resisted learning about the course topic. The course objective was to explore human sexual identities, so that the students would truly be able to minister to all of God’s children. I did everything I knew to try to connect and provide a pathway for the student to benefit from the course. No response. What was in that earthen vessel?

As the course concluded that student wrote that I was going straight to hell, without that student having done the work for the class, participating in the course sessions, or meeting with me to discuss concerns. I expressed my regret that the student had not experienced a successful outcome and suggested that the student discuss concerns with the dean.

I was sad that the water that might have helped the student prepare and wrestle with understandings and readiness to help parishioners in their sexual lives found no place in that vessel.

Years later at the end of a chapel service, that student came, embraced me, and apologized for prior behaviors. Later, the student took another course with me, exhibiting the truth that the earthen vessel was newly ready for Living Water that the student had had no place for before. Had seminary opened up room for Living Waters?

Prayer: Lord, empty each of us of anything that hinders your Living Water from filling our earthen vessels. Amen.

  – Youtha Hardman-Cromwell  |  Washington, D.C.

Lenten Devotional – Day 14 – Simply Stated

Lent 3Scripture:  John 4:13-15

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Recently, I was on a mountain retreat. Like other retreats, the time had come to leave that idyllic setting and ‘spiritual high’ to return to the dry-faith spells that were sure to follow. Afterwards, one image stayed with me, a rock garden focal point with a stream flowing through it.

The rocks were gray plastic bags; the stream was draped blue fabric dotted by twinkling white lights. Yet, they served to remind me that I live between the Garden of Eden and the promised River of Life described in Revelation 22. Impressive, but that wasn’t all. Behind the rocks and stream was a very large wooden cr Seeing it, I remembered that Christ Jesus is with me every moment regardless of what any day brings.

God, through Isaiah proclaimed, “I am about to do a new thing . . . do you not perceive it?” Jesus, in his conversation with the Samaritan woman, assured her that through him she can have water that will quench her thirst into eternal life. The Living Water of Christ Jesus is the ‘new thing’ God was and is doing.

If God can use plastic bags, fabric and a simple wooden cross to speak to me, then surely God isn’t limited to retreats to renew us whether we are on the mountain, down in the valley or somewhere in-between.

Prayer: Holy One, help us to seek and to find the Living Water of Christ wherever we may be. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

  – Chris Suerdieck | Emmitsburg, MD