A Word from Pastor Neil

The numbers mattered. I was given the number 138.

On December 1, 1969, at Selective Service National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., there was a lottery drawing – the first since 1942. This event determined the order of call for induction into military service during the calendar year 1970 for registered young men born between January 1, 1944, and December 31, 1950. There were 365 blue plastic capsules containing birth dates placed in a large glass container and drawn by hand to assign order. With radio, film, and TV coverage, the capsules were drawn from the container, opened, and the dates posted in order. The first capsule drawn contained the date September 14, so all men born on September 14 in any year between 1944 and 1950 were assigned lottery number 1. They would be the first ones required to report to induction centers where they could be ordered into active duty and possibly sent to the Vietnam War to serve.

I was in college when that lottery occurred, but college draft deferments were no longer a given. As the draft sequence started to climb up towards “138”, I wasn’t sure what I would do. Apply for “Conscientious Objector” status on moral and religious grounds? Move to Canada? Hope that my flat feet would become a medical deferment? I paid much careful attention to the sequence as the draft notices continued to be issued. My number certainly mattered to me, their numbers mattered to any young men who were lower in the lottery sequence. Now that number is just a personal memory.

The colors mattered. At least, for a brief time in the very beginning.

In response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks that occurred in the United States, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 3 on March 11, 2002 initiated the “Homeland Security Advisory System”. This was a color-coded terrorism advisory scale ranging from a safe green (“low” alert) to a red (“severe” risk) warning of imminent terrorist attack. There were five colors representing five levels of danger, and in January 2003 the new Department of Homeland Security began to publicly announce terrorist threat conditions. Each level was supposed to trigger specific actions by federal agencies and state and local governments; and each level was supposed to keep American citizens informed and advise increased or decreased vigilance, reporting to authorities, and emergency preparation.

In those first months after September 11, so many Americans were grieving, anxious, and afraid; and the announced color level mattered. But there was no published criteria for the threat levels, so some began to question the accuracy of various alerts as the colors were changed. There was also some confusion to citizens about what each color represented, and the two lowest level colors were never ever issued. So, after a while, the color-coded system was largely ignored, criticized, and even mocked. It was not very practical or effective. On January 27, 2011 the Department of Homeland Security announced that the color-coded terrorist threat system would be replaced in April 2011 by a simplified two-level “National Terrorism Advisory System”. Does anybody remember anymore the five colors and what each color represented?

The colors matter again. But not those old terrorist threat colors. As the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania seeks to respond to our earth’s current COVID-19 pandemic in a way that protects humans and lives within our state, we are following a state-mandated three-color phase – red, yellow, and green – for reopening. Each color represents a level of social distancing, universal masking, closures of non-life sustaining businesses and schools, and building safety protocols. Currently, the five-county area that includes Philadelphia is in the “red” phase. On June 5 we anticipate moving to the “yellow” phase for reopening. What does that mean for St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church? This word comes to us from our Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (ELCA) Bishop, the Rev. Patricia Davenport, on May 22:

I certainly agree with President Trump that houses of worship are “essential”; and in the language used by Governor Wolf, “life-sustaining”. But our churches are not just the building, rather a people sent by God to bring wisdom, healing, and wholeness to the world. I am grateful that you have been doing just that.

Notwithstanding the President’s comments (eagerly pushing for public worship in religious buildings as early as May 24), our counties are governed by the state’s phased reopening plan, which still lists our region as in the “red” phase. You do not need to feel pressure to immediately open. Under our guiding principle of putting people first – especially those most vulnerable to this disease – I encourage you to refrain from indoors, in-person worship until at least July 1. While we all long to worship in person, there remain significant health risks to our members and our communities.

The elected St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Council values Bishop Davenport’s advice, values your life and the lives of your loved ones and of this community and city and the planet, and will do our faithful best to carefully listen, reflect, pray, decide, and prepare for the future. We are seeking to follow city, state, and Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod guidelines. We are seeking to GIVE LIFE rather than SACRIFICE LIFE for the wrong reasons. Let’s walk together in faith, hope, and love. We’re gonna get to the other side!

And, one day in the future… like Vietnam War-era draft lottery numbers… and like post 9-11 terrorism threat level colors… pandemic recovery phase colors won’t matter either… defined social distances and crowd limits and maximum health room capacities won’t matter either… and our lives as individuals and as a community will be revived and renewed again. By God’s grace, it’s coming!

This Sunday is Pentecost!

Wear red, yellow, orange, or bright pink!

Have a candle present to safely light!

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,

and kindle in them the fire of your love! Amen.

Upcoming Events

Jul
14
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jul 14 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jul
17
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jul 17 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jul
21
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jul 21 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jul
28
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jul 28 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jul
31
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jul 31 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.