Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jesus Prince of Peace or Can You Lead When_____?

I have decided there should be a course in seminary entitled- "Can You Lead with Peace When It Looks Like This?" I speak from experience. Last year I preached while I heard the furnace blowing a pipe off the wall in the basement. Because "here I stand I can do no other- Lord help me." And that turned out alright- I mean not for the pipe or the furnace for that matter, but we were all OK. Frankly that is a miracle. And as it was happening I knew I should be scared, but oddly I wasn't. Then there was my non-worship event with the guy who broke into the office which I blogged elsewhere.
So tonite, I had agreed to cover for my sister in ministry in the city so she could be at a quinceanera for one of her confirmation kids. Simple informal evening worship- thank you Jesus, that sounds lovely. And it was. But I always travel with my phone because I have parishioners in ill health and a family and the three buildings of the parish. I put the phone on vibrate in my bag behind the altar. As I am leading the prayers I hear it buzzing. Then as the elements are coming forward I hear it and while the congregation is singing I look down and see it is the sexton and the alarm company's calls I have missed, and as I am saying the words of institution a third call.
I have to confess that by now I was seriously believing there is the real possibility of a fire at my church. But here I am and the people are about to encounter Jesus and all I can do is lead them in the best prayer of all, the one Jesus taught us.
Ironically I had just preached about how we can let our anxieties get the best of us and we can forget about the fact that every thing we do is in Jesus name believing in God's power. And so, struck by the irony, I picked up the bread and just kept telling people that this is Jesus for you.
As it turned out I must say that trying to tighten a screw on one of the alarm pulls had set off the system. The sexton was calling to say he had it under control and then the alarm company telling me they were sending trucks and another call to tell me there really was no fire. For which I indeed give thanks.
But the last line of my sermon ( the one I will probably post after it is preached again tomorrow) is this-
Jesus gives us good advice and they don't call him the Prince of Peace for nothing.

That may indeed be the thesis for the class entitled " Can You Lead When..."
And for that matter when all we are trying to do is follow you, Lord.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hey There is This Church...

This week began a new year for our afterschool ministry, the Dove's Nest. Last year we welcomed a little more than 40 kids each week and have navigated our first year together. Over the summer we gave things a fresh coat of paint, did some planning, picked up some new volunteers. And I was feeling ready to start a Bible club come October because some of our kids want to talk about Jesus and what it means to follow Him. And as we made our usual contact with the schools, I was feeling like we had this thing NAILED! We were lookin' good and ready to go.. The neighborhood was eager, the kids were excited. And that first day we had 36 kids. More than first days of the past, but before we could wonder what that meant we got to Day Two and it was like the sky opened up and rained kids. Almost Sixty of them. They just kept coming! An amazing thing! We had prayed to be able to reach out to our neighbors and here it was! But sixty kids was overwhelming. I was away with other obligations and when I opened the door to come downstairs I could hear the noise, and then I saw the almost pandemonium. It was just about too much.

There was lots of prayer, and Carmen and I did quick brainstorming, creating entirely separate spaces for homework and reading from the areas for eating and games and crafts. I found that moving furniture is quite therapeutic when thinking about big things with God. A lot of worry, trying to stay sane, and think about safety and our mission as the church. And wouldn't you know that Jesus is talking about welcoming children “Whoever welcomes a little child welcomes me.” “Let the little children come to me.”

If you’re like me you’ve seen these sayings with cherubic children dressed immaculately, with perfect hair and blue eyes, depicted in pictures in the Sunday School. Innocent, trusting, attentive, and delightful children at the knee of a fresh and glowing gentle Jesus.

Yet this was not the world of children in Jesus’ day where 30% would die by age six, and 60 percent were gone by age sixteen. They had no status, subject to the will of others, sometimes seen as one more mouth to feed, or an afterthought. Although children represented the future, they had to survive the present- hunger, disease, and dislocation. Even worse some would lose one or both parents. Then there was no safety net. The orphan was the weakest and most vulnerable member of society. Being an orphan was almost certainly a death sentence. Children were always on the margin, affected by all the squabbling of others looking to be the greatest, by adults acting out disputes in ways we call “childish” – those things we hear of the gospel and James this day.

And for our kids here, some of the statistics are different but much what they face is the same today. They’re hungry, and insecure, and longing for a future, caught in effects of the decisions of adults. The fray of school budget cuts. Shuffled around because landlords in Nueva York told their parents it’s cheaper to live in Reading, but not about the lack of jobs. They take your money and run, til you find yourself locked out when the landlord was finally "sheriffed" for failure to pay taxes, and you’re scrambling. Some kids are here because no one is home or wants them home. Some are so far behind but hope we’re their resource for change. Some are so desperate for attention and love they’d stay forever if we let them. Some are so hurting, with desperate needs, but money is in short supply. Facing hunger and need and dislocation.
And the school, taking us at our word that food and tutoring and literacy matter said-

 "Hey, there is this church..."
To the powerless- Hey there is this church. Our church at 4th and Windsor.

Where God is sending kids and telling us to welcome them. Jesus keeps telling us to welcome them.

Because there is this church.

It is not lost upon me that Jesus keeps placing children here saying, “Look.” Draw near to what God is showing.”

The child in the gospel shows us God’s grace. This is what it means that Jesus loves them. The little children are more than just something to be managed they are grace breaking in. Being servants in this way truthfully takes everything we’ve got. It tests our patience, our resources and capacity for the things we think we shouldn’t have to do. And to see just how long our arms can stretch to embrace them. Yet Jesus says see them, welcome them, feed them, lift them up.

We have a history of this in this church- 101 years of meeting needs even when it seemed hard. From starting a Sunday school because people needed it, to building a church. From drawing orphans from the Childrens' Home  to caring for the myriads of children in the neighborhood. People have told me with a gleam in their eyes that we used to just open the doors and the children came.
God is still sending the children of the neighborhood through these doors. And the challenge is to see them  not just something for us to manage but for us to see in them and to share with them God’s grace.

We are the powerless who cannot earn our salvation, but are blessed by our savior. And then we’re reminded that Jesus’ words to keep welcoming “little children” are a challenging task for those already graced.
To love like Jesus- to keep embracing and keep serving as God continues to appear to the world in the small and powerless.

This past week it was not easy. After moving a lot of furniture I was feeling stooped low. And yet this is where I saw God. An old rabbi once said that to see God you must stoop low. We see God when we continue to stoop low, draw near and share God’s embrace. This past week I watched our people stoop to hug a boy so angered by another who taunted him he wanted to punch someone’s lights out. They embraced him and helped him to let it go. And I watched as little ones almost too small to get their meals were lovingly embraced by volunteers stooping to help them not get knocked over by the herd. As someone stooped to clean the mess another left behind for the umpteenth time. Cleaned it up so no one would slip. And I watched a girl with learning disabilities struggle to read and share a hug as she confessed she was panic stricken to read it at all but glad someone let her.

Jesus placed kids in our midst and this is a glimpse of what God is up to in our dedicated volunteers.
I saw God in them and in the children. God is here!!

There ARE still so many...

There are still just too many "little children"

As I read the lead in to today’s gospel I told you how those disciples empowered by Jesus to preach and heal and cast out torment were so mystified by why they could not help one boy and Jesus’ response was that this one takes prayer. As we contemplate how we will indeed welcome all the children, it does take prayer. So my prayer is that you will help.

Can you help to listen to a child read, or check homework or just listen to someone tell about their day?

Can you reach out to others you know and ask if they can join us in this ministry?

Most importantly, you can pray- pray that God will send not only the children but the hands to embrace them. Pray for our volunteers- I know they will be thankful.

God is still sending children.

Because there is this church.

This day as we celebrate the grace of our history

let us also pray God’s grace and guidance to keep stretching our arms and hearts wide in welcome.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Holy Fibs and Holy Truth

Yesterday I again found myself in the sacred space of sitting with a dying woman. Death and I have sat together alot in the last eight weeks. Each time I am with a saint laboring toward peace there are themes that emerge. Some are looking for resolution, others are longing for reunion. There are often things they say that reveal the core of their being.
Over the last weeks of visiting this particular saint she has been most concerned that she has not been able to be in church to bring her offering envelopes.
She is a person of few means who literally puts a couple quarters in each envelope. She does not drive and had been dependent upon a ride to get to church
but whenever she came, there were enough envelopes for the number of weeks since the last time.
She would toddle in to "her" pew and would be there early. I always knew she was in church because the fluffy white wig that was outsized in proportion to the rest of her was usually the first thing that would catch my eye.
Over my time here as the pastor, I came to know that she had been married and then after her husband died, had found love again, but for an elderly woman on Social Security with no pension and an elderly veteran, marriage was unaffordable. It was hard enough.
I had visited and provided food, and fuel assistance. And communion and anointing.
I was told by many that the old vet was gruff and hard to like.
Little by little I learned that while the old veteran was still a curmudgeonly guy who was never going to come to church, but in his way he did what he could for her and for her faith life.
Even calling a few months ago to tell me she was pretty sick, and on a hot day I made the trek out.
She was in bed with a fan blowing, not dressed like church, but in pajamas and sans wig. But her three wigs were all resting on the dresser on their hairdresser heads. She was very worried about those envelopes of quarters and out of the corner of my eye I saw the old vet shaking his head "no." He did not share and I left wondering. But before I did, we had shared communion. He joined us and owned that it was the first time he had been offered communion in years. It changed things

In these last weeks, after trips back and forth between the hospital and the extended care facility, and the decision to simply provide palliative care, it has become clear. What she had been too proud to share was that she has an inoperable tumor. What is now taking her life is the onset of pneumonia and I watch each day as she becomes more and more a shell of her former physical self. Her jawline and collarbone more pronounced. Now the old vet and I have talked out in the hall about what is to come. Where it is clear that the reason he shakes his head "no" about those quarters is that with the cost of her care, there are no quarters.
And yet this has been her fixation.

As though as she ponders it all she worries that in the absence of being caught up with her offering the holy gates will be locked and she will be lost.
And so we collaborated in a holy fib.

It reminded me of years ago on the medical drama "House" where a woman had been driving her family in a car and made an error in driving that resulted in a terrible accident that took the lives of her husband and family. As she lay dying in a hospital bed a couple years later, still punishing herself for the accident, she was calling for her husband. The normally curmudgeonly doctor who had unearthed both her story and her husband's wedding band, put the ring on and held her hand. She stroked the hand with the wedding band, and a tear rolled down her face.  She believed her husband was there and she could have peace. Though no one would consider a "House" character and holy in the same sentence, it was a holy fib.

So here the old vet and I found ourselves. Confronted with this fixation that left no peace. And in the face of the repeating theme of the offering envelopes we knowingly colluded. As she worried about the envelopes I assured her that he and I had taken care of things and everything was caught up. She looked at him and he nodded his head and assured her that was right. It took two times but she eventually accepted the holy fib and could lay to rest the issue of the envelopes. That was a couple days ago.

Yesterday when I came to sit with her the mere opening of eyes was a struggle as was speaking. I just sat and held her hand and offered a prayer. At the end of the prayer, she became very alert and very concerned.
Will God REALLY take care of me?
I need to confess because I have done things wrong
Will I be in trouble?
She was not able to speak about what the wrong things might be about
But it was kind of like the back story of what the envelopes represented-
what if I am not "caught up" with God?

I spoke God's forgiveness and reminded her of God's promises
for her
God's love
for her
and made the sign of the cross on her forehead to remind her
this is how much God loves you
God is here with you
and will be there to greet you where you are going
Replacing the holy fib with words of holy truth

She looked up at the ceiling and said
God if you love me just take me
take away this pain

My prayer for her is that this indeed what happens for her soon
Rest in God's everlasting arms

I held her hand til she fell asleep and hope perhaps there will soon be a good and peaceful transition to the world where there is no catching up to do.

Monday, September 17, 2012

So here is what it takes to vote

Since Alex does not have satisfactory photo ID issued by a government agency or government employer and is not attending a PA state University, she must have the right birth certificate and a valid passport to now obtain a PA non-driver ID so she can vote. Here is what it takes. Only once she has these forms can she have ID to vote. She cannot even request her own birth certificate. This also means that until we have the right documents she cannot drive.
Oh yeah and no one told her about this whole other process because it was not operable in August.
And this is not the PennDOT employees fault- they were just doing what they were told.

She can register to vote in Ohio where she is in college which however does nothing for her status in Pennsylvania.

See below:

Obtaining a Free PennDOT Secure ID for Voting Purposes

New Department of State Voter ID

All forms and publications related to obtaining an ID for voting purposes are now available or will be available shortly in the following languages; Arabic (العربية), Chinese (中文), French (Français), Hindi (हिंदी), Khmer ( ), Korean (한국어), Russian (Русский), Spanish (Español), Ukrainian (Украинский) and Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt). Please check back periodically; as forms are translated they will be posted to PennDOT's website.

For a Secure Pennsylvania Photo ID

If a voter does not POSSESS PROOF OF IDENTIFICATION FOR VOTING PURPOSES as defined at section 102(z.5)(2) of the Pennsylvania Election Code (25 P.S. § 2602(z.5)(2)) and requires proof of identification for voting purposes, the following applies:

You must declare under oath or affirmation by completing the Oath/ Affirmation Voter ID form that you do not possess any of the following forms of identification: In particular,

-Identification issued by the United States Government that includes my name, a photograph, and an expiration date that is not expired.*

- Identification issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that includes my name, a photograph, and an expiration date that is not expired (unless issued by the Department of Transportation, then the expiration of the identification cannot be more than 12 months past the expiration date).

- Identification issued by a municipality of this Commonwealth to an employee of that municipality that includes my name, a photograph, and an expiration date that is not expired.

- Identification issued by an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning that includes my name, a photograph, and an expiration date that is not expired.

- Identification issued by a Pennsylvania care facility that includes my name, a photograph, and an expiration date that is not expired.

*In the case of a document from an agency of the armed forces of the United States or their reserve components, including the Pennsylvania National Guard, that establishes the voter as a current member or a veteran of the United States Armed Forces or National Guard and that does not designate a specific date on which the document expires, the document must include a notation indicating that the expiration is indefinite.

$13.50 fee for acquiring an Identification Card will be waived for individuals completing the Oath/ Affirmation Voter ID form. All identification documentation is still required to obtain an Identification Card as follows:


To obtain a Pennsylvania Photo Identification card for voting purposes, an individual needs to visit a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Driver License Center with a completed Application for an Initial Photo Identification Card; form DL-54A, and the following:

Social Security Card


One of the following:

• Certificate of U.S. Citizenship

• Certificate of Naturalization

• *Birth Certificate with a raised seal


• Two proofs of **residency such as lease agreements, current utility bills, mortgage documents, W-2 form, tax records

*If they do not have a birth certificate with a raised seal and are a Pennsylvania native; and do not have one of the acceptable, alternative forms of photo identification to vote; and will provide a signed oath/affirmation form, when visiting the PennDOT driver license center, they must:

• Tell the PennDOT customer service representative they are a Pennsylvania native who needs a photo ID for voting purposes, and do not have a certified copy of their birth certificate;

• Sign an oath/affirmation that they do not have an acceptable form of ID for voting purposes and the photo ID is needed for voting purposes;

• Show a Social Security card and two proofs of residence, such as a deed, lease, tax bill, or utility bill;

• Fill out a DL-54A form requesting a non-driver photo ID and;

• Complete the HD01564F (Request for Certification of Birth Record for Voter ID Purposes Only) form, which collects information such as birth name, mother and father's name and place of birth. This Department of Health form is available at all Driver Licensing Centers.

PennDOT will then forward the completed form to the Department of Health, which maintains birth records. After verifying the birth record is on file, the Department of Health will securely transmit this information to PennDOT. PennDOT will then notify them by letter that their birth record has been confirmed. They may then return to any driver license center, with the above noted documentation, to receive your free photo ID for voting purposes. This verification process will take up to ten days and does not require the payment of a fee.

**Students at least 18 years of age: Accepted proofs of residency include the room assignment paperwork (considered a lease) and one bill with their dorm room address on it. Bank statements, paystubs and credit card bills are all acceptable. Other Individuals who may not have any bills, leases or mortgage documents in their name may bring the person with whom they are living along with their Driver�s License or Photo ID to a driver license center as one proof of residence. Homeless individuals can use the address of a shelter as their residence provided they visit a Driver's License Center with an employee from the shelter that has an employee photo identification issued by the shelter and a letter on the shelter's letterhead indicating that the homeless individual stays at the shelter.

Step 2

When their application and supporting documentation have been reviewed and processed, a Driver License Center staff member will direct the applicant to the Photo Center to have their photo taken for their Photo ID card.

Step 3

Once their photo has been taken, they will be issued a Photo ID card.

So you just want to get a better birth certificate? No problem:

From Pennsylvania Department of Health Website

An applicant must be eighteen (18) years of age or older to apply for a certified copy

of his/her birth record or the record of an immediate family member. The Division of

Vital Records issues only certified copies of birth with the raised seal that are acceptable for numerous uses, i.e. passport, Social Security, employment, and personal identification. Records are available for births from 1906 to the present.

Eligible Persons Who May Request a Birth Record

• Person named on the birth record

• Legal representative

• Immediate family members (husband; wife; parent/step-parent; brother/sister/half

brother/half sister; son or daughter; stepson/stepdaughter; grandparent/great

grandparent (specify maternal or paternal); grandchild/great grandchild). If the

person named on the birth record is deceased, a family member who is not an

"immediate family member" must submit a copy of the death certificate to be eligible

to receive the birth record. A step-parent or step-child is required to submit

additional documentation supporting their relationship.

• Power of Attorney: If you have been granted Power of Attorney (POA) for the

person named on the record, it will be necessary to submit a notarized POA

document that contains the original signatures of the parties involved, including the

original notary's signature and seal. If you do not wish to send the original POA, you

may file the original notarized POA with the Clerk of Orphans' Court division of the

Court of Common Pleas (usually in the county where the person granting the power

of attorney resides) to obtain a certified copy of this document issued by the court.

You may then submit the certified copy of the POA document that includes the seal

of the court, to our office to process your request. We will return this document to

you upon completion of your request. If you cannot comply with these instructions,

an eligible requestor is required to apply for this record.

Information Required

• Full name at birth of person named on the birth record (if name has changed since

birth due to adoption, court order, or any other reason other than marriage, include

changed name)

• Date of birth

• City and county of birth

• Gender of person named on birth record

• Parents' names, including mother’s maiden name

• Relationship to the person

• Reason for the request (if applicable, include specific information, such as name of

foreign country for which certified copy is needed, etc.)

• Applicant's signature

• Applicant's daytime telephone number, including area code

• Applicant's mailing address


• $10.00 fee per copy (Please do not send cash. Make check or money order payable

to "Vital Records.")

• This fee may be waived for individuals who served or are currently serving in

the Armed Forces and their dependents.

Online Requests can be made at this website:

Obtaining Certified Copies of Birth Records by Mail Request

• Mail requests are processed in approximately three weeks from the date of receipt.

• Include $10.00 fee per copy. Please do not send cash. Make check or money order

payable to “Vital Records." This fee will be waived for individuals who served or are

currently serving in the Armed Forces and their dependents. Refer to application

form for more information.

• The individual requesting the record must submit a legible copy of his or her valid

government issued photo identification. Examples of acceptable identification are a

state issued driver's license or non-driver photo ID that verifies the eligible

requestor's name and current address. If possible, enlarge photo ID on copier by

at least 150%. Photo identification will be shredded after review.

• If you do not have acceptable photo identification, it may be necessary for an

eligible requestor possessing government issued photo ID to apply for the

certified copy of this birth record in your behalf. Eligible requestors must be 18

years of age or older and includes the spouse, parent, grandparent, child,

grandchild, or sibling of the individual whose birth record is being requested. If an

eligible requestor is unable to apply for this record in your behalf, you may complete

and submit a Statement from Requestors Not Possessing Acceptable

Government-Issued Photo ID with two documents verifying your current address.

• If you have been granted Power of Attorney (POA) for the person named on the

record, submit a notarized POA document that contains the original signatures of

the parties involved, including the original notary's signature and seal. If you do not

wish to send the original POA, you may file the original notarized POA with the Clerk

of Orphans' Court division of the Court of Common Pleas (usually in the county

where the person granting the power of attorney resides) to obtain a certified copy of

this document issued by the court. You may then submit the certified copy of the

POA document that includes the seal of the court, to our office to process your

request. We will return this document to you upon completion of your request. If

you cannot comply with these instructions, an eligible requestor is required to apply

for this record.

• The individual requesting the record must mail the completed application form(s)with

a copy of his or her photo identification, payment, and self-addressed stamped

envelope to:

Division of Vital Records

101 South Mercer Street, Room 401

PO Box 1528

New Castle, PA 16101

• All requests must be submitted on an application form and include the signature and

photo ID of the individual requesting the record. To download the application form

for mail requests right click and "Save Target As..." this file to your desktop then

open the file from your desktop by double clicking on it.

Obtaining Certified Copies of Birth Records in Person

You may apply in person at one of the six public offices:


Division of Vital Records

Erie Branch Office

1910 West 26th Street

Erie, PA 16508-1148

(814) 871-4261

Office Hours

Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding State



Division of Vital Records

Room 129, Health & Welfare Building

Harrisburg, PA 17120-0012

(717) 772-3480

Office Hours

Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding State


New Castle

Division of Vital Records

Room 401, Central Building

101 South Mercer Street

New Castle, PA 16101

1-877-PA-HEALTH or

(724) 656-3100

Office Hours

Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding State



Division of Vital Records

110 North 8th Street; Suite 108

Philadelphia, PA 19107-2412

(215) 560-3054

Office Hours

Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday excluding State



Division of Vital Records

Room 512, Pittsburgh State Office Building

300 Liberty Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15222-1210

(412) 565-5113

Office Hours

Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding State



Division of Vital Records

Room 112, Scranton State Office Building

100 Lackawanna Avenue

Scranton, PA 18503-1928

(570) 963-4595

Office Hours

Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding State


*In conjunction with Act 18 of 2012, Pennsylvania citizens may request a birth certificate for Voter ID. The certificate will be issued free of charge to those individuals without proper ID that will allow them to vote. The free birth certificate will include a stamp indicating that it is only to be used to obtain identification relevant to voter ID and is not valid for any other purpose.

• If you do not have acceptable photo identification, an eligible requestor possessing government issued photo ID may apply . If an eligible requestor is unable to apply, you may submit a completed Statement from Requestors Not Possessing Acceptable Government-Issued Photo ID with two documents verifying your current address.

Statement from Requestors Not Possessing an Acceptable Government Issued Photo-ID

If you are unable to meet our photo ID requirements, we suggest that an eligible family member submit a request for this record. It will be necessary for the eligible family member to complete and return the enclosed application form with a legible copy of his/her government issued photo-ID. A birth record can be requested by a spouse, parent, sibling, child, grandparent, or grandchild. A death record can be requested by any family member of the person who died. If it is not possible for an eligible family member to apply for a certified copy of this record, you may complete the form below and return it with photocopies of two documents that include your name and current address. Examples of acceptable documents are noted below. Please allow sufficient processing time for review and approval of these documents.

***************************************************************************************I declare that I do not have a government issued photo-ID and that I am presenting the attached two documents, including my name and current address, as proof of identification in order to process my application for a certified copy of birth or death record. (Note: Acceptable documents are a utility bill, car registration, pay stub, bank statement, copy of income tax return/W-2 form, or lease/rental agreement. If your mailing address is a P.O. Box, one of the documents submitted must reflect that you have used the P.O. Box for at least two months.) Submit photocopies, as this documentation will be shredded after review.

By my signature below, I state I am the person whom I represent myself to be herein, and I affirm the information within this form is complete and accurate and made subject to the penalties of 18 Pa.C.S. §4904 relating to unsworn falsification to authorities. In addition, I acknowledge that misstating my identity or assuming the identity of another person may subject me to misdemeanor or felony criminal penalties for identity theft pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. §4120 or other sections of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.

Signature of Applicant (Person Making Request)

Date of Signature

Please PRINT the following information:

Name of Applicant

Residence Address:

If PO Box, one document must reflect that you have utilized the P.O. Box for at least two months.




Full Name on Birth/Death Record Being Requested

Official Use Only Below This Line

Clerk’s Initials:


For Use of DVR Staff Only: Please check the two documents presented, which verify the name and current address of the requestor from the list below, and attach photocopies of both documents. Utility bills Bank statement Car registration Pay stubs Income tax return/W-2 Lease/rental agreement Other – Description: Approving Clerk’s Initials

Division of Vital Records
101 S. Mercer Street, P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103-1528

Order Online

• The fee for each certified copy of birth is $10.00. An additional $10.00 service fee per each application will be charged to your credit card.

• The birth record(s) or a response to your request will automatically be shipped by UPS Air unless you select regular mail delivery for the Shipping Option. If you do not change the Shipping Option to regular mail, the UPS Air delivery fee will be charged to the credit card used for ordering the certificate. A signature is required for UPS delivery.

• Typical processing time for certified copies of birth certificates with a date of birth of 1968 to the present is ten to fifteen business days (from the date the order is received) which does not include delivery time. For certified copies of birth with a date of birth of prior to 1968, please allow an additional ten to fifteen days for processing time, excluding delivery time.

• The status of a request cannot be verified unless it has been a minimum of two business days from the date request has been submitted.

So how does a university student now in Ohio comply when she did everything right in relying upon her birth certificate?

A Year into This Journey

A year ago, “According to apostolic usage I was entrusted with the office of word and sacrament in the one holy catholic church by the laying on of hands and by prayer.”

Surrounded by the Word of God:

Jesus said to his disciples, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (John 20:21-23)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

“I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

And then words I hear with deeper richness now- Hear the words of the apostles:

The words of those who have gone out and dared to attempt such ministry-

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. (1 Timothy 6:11-12)

Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. (Acts 20:28)

Tend the flock of God that is in your charge, not under compulsion but willingly, not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. (1 Peter 5:2-4)

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. (1 Cor. 4:1-2)

All those questions:

Will you be diligent? Will you pray? Will you be faithful? Will you lead? Will you nourish?

Will you make God’s love known?

Questions that in part that day were too ponderous to consider as my tiny “I will and I ask God to help and guide me” issued forth.

Care for God's people, bear their burdens,and do not betray their confidence.

So discipline yourself in life and teaching that you preserve the truth,

giving no occasion for false security or illusory hope.

Witness faithfully in word and deed to all people.

Give and receive comfort as you serve within the church.

But also..

And be of good courage, for God has called you,

and your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

And we prayed that God, through Jesus Christ, would pour out the Holy Spirit, fill me with the gifts of grace for the ministry of word and sacrament. Bless my proclamation of God’s word and administration of God’s holy signs, so that God’s church may be gathered for praise and strengthened for service.

We prayed God would make me a faithful pastor, patient teacher, and wise counselor. That the people

Would be renewed and God’s name be glorified. Then the enormity of the laying on of hands. Hands of people I had known for a long time and people I had known for a couple weeks.

Thomas Tallis in Spem in Alium writes- “ I have never put my hope in any other but you.”
and the music he wrote is so joyful and peaceful.
I wish I could say that every day I achieved those words or was in fact the person we all prayed I could be in all respects.

And yet there are two days in the past year where I glimpsed it as clear as day and it was true.
The first was one of God's peace in utter chaos
The day that I encountered a drug addict who had broken into the church office and who I encountered on third floor of the building where I was all alone and where he was angry. He had grown up for many years in the church and had been allowed to store things there and to come and go, but over my months there he had also stolen things from my desk, used the church computer to look at inappropriate things and without permission, had pilfered our mail. He had taken the locks off of windows. After many efforts to monitor his access, I had forbidden his presence unless I was there. But this had been related to him as simply-“it’s because of the pastor you cannot be here” or “I shouldn’t let you in here because if the pastor finds out she will be mad.” So on his last unmonitored visit to the building he rigged an access point which had allowed him to be on the 3rd floor of our office which is an old house. I had come upstairs to look for supplies for our afterschool program and suddenly realized I was not alone. There in a chair sat this man. Who was none too happy to see me. When I suggested it was time to go he got agitated and began to reach into a backpack for something. Everything that happened after that that led him to stand up and decide to simply leave was surreal. Though my heart felt like it would beat right out of my chest the words I heard myself speaking were authoritative but calm and I had this sense that in the midst of what could have ended very badly, it would be OK because it wasn’t me doing this. It’s the closest I can imagine to what the Israelites felt like walking between the walls of the water of the parted Sea.

That day I wasn’t putting hope in anything but God.

But before that was the other day when it was as clear as day- joy in the midst of the utter unknown. The day of my ordination. The day when as all of those words about taking on word and sacrament ministry are piling up, the transcendent swirl of the power of the Spirit was palpable. And while I knew that day I was about to move and buy a house and immerse myself in an entirely unknown sea, that by the grace of God and trusting in that power, the response was “yes.” Since then there have been days when I have found myself in places I never imagined, both beautiful and heartbreaking, but as I have again this day pondered what it means to dare to serve God and the people, I pause and grasp that saying “I will and I ask God to help and guide me” is not just a set of words but is about placing my hopes for myself, personally and in ministry, for the people and for the world, all in the hands of God because there is none other.

And the journey continues- Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Voter ID Ruse

I tend to not use this space to focus upon the political but recently the Pennsylvania legislature found its way into the voter fraud ruse, enacting a law whose stated purpose is combatting voter fraud which is actually statistically not a threat in our state. Aside from the crass comments made about how this law will throw the state in favor of Republicans in this election cycle, the more practical consideration is how to respond to the self-assured statement that "anyone who is legitimate will have no trouble obtaining ID or already has it." This is patently false.
The case in point is my own recently turned 18 daughter. She is the child with the September 11th birthday. She was born in and only lived in one town in one county in Pennsylvania. She is the biological child of two United States citizens and has only ever had one birth certificate, the one that came in the mail a couple weeks after she was born. She has obtained a US Passport and has traveled abroad with People to People Student Ambassadors. She is an honors scholar at a church related university. She has only ever worked at a church camp where she has not been issued an ID because you do not need one. She was away working at said church camp this past summer when her passport expired a couple weeks before she was to leave to for college.
When she came home and before she was heading off to college she went to obtain a non-driver photo ID in Pennsylvania, the one that would allow her to register to vote.
She was rejected.
Even though under Pennsylvania law a PA ID that is expired is good for a year, a passort that is a couple weeks beyond expiration is invalid.
A high school ID is invalid
And best of all and most important the state issued birth certificate was deemed invalid.
The state issued it in the condition in which it has lovingly been maintained in a lock box and it is invalid.
Because although it has a raised seal, it is not "raised" enough.
You can turn it over and see the embossed imprint but it was declared invalid.
She was told she could drive to a main center some distance away and wait for hours but it "would be a waste of time."
She was told she should just apply for a new passport and for a new birth certificate
and then after that she could return
But by then:
She would have spent the money on a passport, plus the appointment to process it since the last was issued to her as a minor
And she would have to wait for the new birth certificate
And it would be...
too late
Later in the news it was announced that a special voting only ID would be issued for people like her with "faulty" birth certificates
Faulty because of what?
But then came the caveat
You can only obtain this ID IF
if you can obtain other ID, no matter the cost, and time and waiting and lost hours of your life
You cannot qualify

Help us understand how it is that a lifelong, wage earning native born American who possesses identification given by the government is denied use of it?
How can a state issued ID card be valid when a federal ID becomes instantaneously obsolete?
So she cannot vote in PA
I cannot even begin to imagine how frustrating it is for her

And for every person who does not drive, has no employer ID
Who has limited funds or limited mobility?
I know how frustrating it is for me

No one should ever feel like life becomes about doors closing in your face for no reason

There is one thing I can guarantee
The party who thought this was a great way to keep "illegals" from voting has guaranteed a couple things-
she will never vote for your party
she will likely decide to work and use her talents in another state adding to the Brain Drain
she may well go to law school just to advocate for people who are disenfranchised
And if she does
I suspect she will not be nice about it

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Strange New Holy Space

For the last couple months I have been in a kind of writing wilderness. There are many reasons why, starting with the fact that writing about Chick #2 graduating and the nest thinning out being too fresh to process. Or it could be the ridiculous schedule of my own creation that took me many places over the summer that were too close in proximity for me to breathe. Or it could be that this was followed by the sending off both girls to college interspersed with a festival of funerals. And my general uncertainty about who I was blogging for, what was blog-worthy or how to filter what would be shared. I have been grateful for those who have encouraged me to simply write for myself and decide how to do that and in what context. I have also been grateful for those who found my musings helpful, comforting or a-musing. And I am now trying to work toward setting aside time for writing each day, along with that time for praying and exercising and spending time with loved ones, both two and four-legged, and occasionally experimental cooking. I am not really a routine building person so it is hard to say how long this will last. Rather than try to decide if this will be writing about life in ministry, life in the neighborhood, life in general, sermons, reflections or whatever, in this "post-children, still new ministry and new neighborhood" phase, it will be whatever it is. All of that is frankly a lighthearted entry leadup to what led me to start writing again today. Which is one of those moments where my first life and second life have full-on collided in a way that makes me stand back and ponder.

In my pre-seminary life I was a band Mom and  lawyer in addition to spending alot of time in church.
And in the band Mom role I got to knowing some very strong and talented ladies one of whom works as a first responder.
In my seminary life when I worked as a chaplain at the Large Trauma Center in Amish Country, sometimes our paths would cross in the ER as she brought in patients and I was meeting families. And our conversations would perhaps be brief as we both were in the midst of doing what we do, each of us believing the other person had the really hard role. And even when some people were not quite sure about the whole change to seminary thing, she was always a big support. And in her medical role there was no one else I would want to fix my problems. We once even both showed up at an accident scene, me on my way to work at the hospital and her with the ambulance knowing full well we might see each other again later that night.
Since then I have moved on, literally to another county in my first call and once Chick#2 graduated it seemed that our only contact might be virtual, and in a sense it is.
But my friend's Mom is terribly unwell and out of the blue I got a text asking if she could text me because she is in a place she has never been before. That place is not the hospital, but the place where your Mom is dying and you cannot fix it. With all of the knowledge and skill in the world, still powerless.
The journey from a visit to the hospital for an unusual day has careened wildly across the last few weeks to a diagnosis of cancer, to hospice paperwork and in the last couple days, from talking to silence. It is unreal. And in such a place no matter how many people are helping there is a vacuum.
And from two counties away was a request to pray.
But because she did not want to disturb Mom, all of this had been by txt.
And so, believing in the power of God to work in any medium, I texted prayer.
For a person whose whole life as a caregiver was not enough for this sadness.

O Lord we are at the limits of our power to help. We place ________ in your hands.
For what you have helped us to do, we give thanks. Give strength for what must be done by others and shelter us in your peace which surpasses our understanding.
We thank you for the gifts of love and companionship ___ gave which are greater than words can express. With the faithful of every time and place we place ourselves in your hands and put our trust in you
and ask you to meet us in our sorrow.
We have done what we can in hope, in sorrow and in love.
Embrace ______ and each person who loves her. Encompass us with your grace.
We cannot see how we can travel this road, but give us faith to know your hand is leading us
And your love supporting us.
Help us to watch and to wait.
Thank you for allowing us to come in anger and pain, and bitterness,
knowing you love us still and never turn away.
Light our path and may you send your hope and love
in the hands and feet and voices of all who enter here.
Thank you for ____, ___'s daughter, and for her fierce determination and love
She has been a blessing.
Be with her now.
We give this all to you Lord in the name of Jesus Christ our light and hope.

And even though we are still two counties away and so often we consider our electronic media to be impersonal, the Spirit willed two old buddies the moment that was needed. And while I would not have thought it possible, it really did feel like prayer, not just data- a strange new holy space.