Greencastle-Antrim community members will virtually give thanks together
Saundra Wingert said God tapped her on the shoulder after she heard there would not be a community Thanksgiving service in Greencastle this year.
After much debate, the Greencastle-Antrim Ministerium had decided to sideline the long-standing tradition because of COVID-19 safety concerns and restrictions.
"I hated to see us not have a community service this year," said Wingert, who is music director at Trinity Lutheran Church.
"Saundra came to me about a month ago and said she had been praying about it and felt the community needed a service and why couldn't we do it differently," said the Rev. Barbara Barry, pastor of the church.
They knew it was possible because early in the pandemic, the community's virtual National Day of Prayer service was taped at Trinity Lutheran, with the assistance of the church's young technology whiz, 17-year-old Brandon Sidoli.
"Saundra has a gift of organization and a heart for worship," Barry said.
She added that Wingert "took the bull by the horns," received the blessing of the ministerium and organized a virtual community Thanksgiving service that was taped Nov. 12 and will be available for viewing by early next week.
Like a traditional service, it features elements including Scripture, prayer and a devotional, as well as information about the Greencastle-Antrim Food Bank.
There is a skit about different responses to Thanksgiving, based on I Corinthians 14:15: "I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also."
Viewers who want to sing will find vocalist Hannah Ruffner "leading" the hymns "Praise and Thanksgiving" and "For the Beauty of the Earth" to the accompaniment of Zak Reynolds. Words to the hymns will scroll across the bottom of the screen.
Music also is provided by Wingert, Matt Cessna and Pastor Ryan Whisel. In addition to Whisel and Barry, Pastors Jesse Miles, Jeff Ehko, David Rawley and Josh Fowler are part of the service.
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Food pantry's 'challenges and blessings'
President Barbara Grane is featured talking "about the challenges and blessings" the pandemic has brought to the Greencastle-Antrim Food Pantry housed at Greencastle Presbyterian Church, where more people than ever are seeking help.
"We've been able to remain open the entire time," Grane said. "We've had to change the way we proceed — we're blessed with new volunteers as some had to back out due to pandemic."
Schools and churches have not been able to hold big food drives, but individuals and others are picking up the slack, including the Greencastle Police Department, which is holding a "10 Most Wanted" collection for the food pantry through Nov. 30. Information about supporting or visiting the food pantry is available by calling 717-597-8333, Ext. 2.
"Also, if you know people who need help, encourage them to come," said Grane. Food pantry distributions are held three times a month.
"The recording went superbly," Wingert said. "Brandon has a lot of work ahead of him, what a blessing he would do this voluntarily."
Sidoli helped Trinity Lutheran quickly move online after the pandemic began, and its outreach now includes the website tlcgreencastle.org, YouTube and Facebook. The service will be available via all three, and the link will be widely shared with other churches for use on their websites and social media.
"Our community will be worshiping together, just not as we normally do," Barry said.
The Echo Pilot asked Wingert if she had a prayer for her community after organizing the service, and she wrote:
"I thank God for allowing me to live in this great nation and in this particular community where we have absolute freedom to proclaim Christ publicly in word and song! And I thank God for the 14 individuals representing eight local churches who partnered to make this community Thanksgiving service video a reality.
"O God, please help us to see our abundant blessings and to express the gratitude to You that You truly deserve, not just in this Thanksgiving season but every day! In these tumultuous and confusing times, in Your mercy, Lord, and according to Your Word in Numbers 6:24-26, would You bless us and keep us, make Your face shine on us, and be gracious to us. May You lift up Your countenance on us, and give us peace! I ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen!"