Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, December, 2021

posted Dec 2, 2021, 1:45 PM by Lois Kerchner

Christmas Can Make Us Real!


“To love and be loved is the greatest joy on earth.”     This is a loosely translated quote from Victor Hugo. Indeed, this is true; but love is not just wedding day euphoria. It is a journey and with it comes ups and downs and challenges; but if you stick it out you become “real.”

What is “real.”    How many of us are “real?”

When I say “real,” I’m quoting from the “Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams Bianco and the wisdom of the Skinned Horse ….

“When a child or someone loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real. It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and are very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are real, you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.”

There it is, friends.    And Jesus’ birth can help us become “real.”

Merry Christmas!


Pastor Tom


Is there actually a war on Christmas?


Here’s a little piece of historical trivia to keep in mind this time of year:


The word holiday is a combination of the words holy and day. It comes from the Old English “haligdæg,” which is defined as a consecrated day or religious anniversary. A holy day. This word became a common Christmastime greeting in America by the 1930s. Much like how the church celebrates the season of Advent and Christmas as "holy days."


This is important to remember when someone wishes us "happy holidays” this time of year instead of “merry Christmas.” Between November 20th and January 14th, there are at least 14 different religious holidays. So, they may just be wishing you a happy or holy season as a sign of respect for whatever you may be celebrating. It’s wise not to assume that anyone would know what we personally believe or what we might be celebrating in this season or not.


So, saying “happy holidays” is actually really fitting and respectful. It should not be seen as a war or an attempt to take Jesus out of Christmas. In fact, Jesus is taken out of Christmas as soon as we respond in unholy and unloving ways to the season's greetings of others, especially those whom we do not know. Moreover, Jesus is taken out of Christianity when we Christians are seen as caring more about what someone says than we are about loving them as our neighbor.


May we Christians be known for taking up the responsibility of embodying Christ’s ethic of justice, peace, hope, love, and joy in our service to others, which is the true meaning of these seasons, rather than imposing the responsibility on our culture to say our preferred greetings.


Source Unknown,

Pastor Tom


After living in Fellowship House in recent months, I have relocated to my retirement home, which is located in East Hempfield Township. I am now close to my children and grandchildren, and within easy driving distance to Leola UMC. I made this move as I would need to be in a permanent location by next June,2022, when I will be fully retired.

            As you know, I retired from full time ministry on July 31 of this year. I was asked, and agreed, to remain with Leola UMC in a Part Time basis until next June. My formal designation is “Retired: Part Time.” In this time of transition, Leola SPRC will work with the District Superintendent to secure a full time pastor.

            My primary role is preaching on Sundays, attending administrative meetings, and trying to organize a lay led ministry of care and visitation. I will also participate, as able, in current church activities.

I no longer receive a housing allowance or full-time salary, as I am on Medicare, a pension, and social security. Leola UMC has agreed to help with some Medicare related costs.

Please keep me in prayer as I relocate and enter a new phase of life and seek to discern what the future has in store for me.



Dear Friends and Fellow Leaders,

I wanted to share some things I have done since our “Future/Align” initiative which we began approx one year ago. I hope this demonstrates my commitment to our work, as we have discussed in numerous meetings.

•          Have worked with our Care Team, empowering team members, supporting team as they revisioned how best to do their work, embracing new members, supported new ideas and approaches, expanding options for care.

•          Included For “Prayer & Reflection” items for each sermon on most Sundays.

•          Created a Prayer Page, which lifts up our mission commitments to better inform people of our projects and where the funding comes from, along with prayer for a partner church, which shows our concern for Gods work beyond our own, and conveys a mature and larger vision.

•          Have attended all administrative meetings on zoom except for Trustees. However, I communicate

regularly with Trustees when necessary.

•          Have been present at all community events.

•          Have led the Worship Team monthly meeting and empowered and supported the input of team members.

•          Submitted to monthly newsletter.

•          Have led the Nominating Team to fill open leadership positions, though our numbers of available servants continue to dwindle.

•          Have met in advance of Council meetings to review and focus agenda.

•          Spend numerous hours on the phone with people who call to talk, seek prayer, seek council and advice, or simply need to talk.

•          Embraced the Blessing of the Animals outreach as per our “Aligned” initiative.

•          I have met with a family of four who wish to become members.

•          I have conducted two weddings, one of which resulted in a 2000.00 contribution to our apportionment.

•          Have worked, in my own way, to prepare the way for my successor, that they may enter their ministry here in the most helpful and healthy fashion.

•          And, of course, participated in Conference related requests and requirements.

As you know, as of August 1, My status is Retired/Part Time. Although in clergy Terms “Part Time” is difficult to measure in hours. It has been an interesting challenge to transition to Social Security and Medicare and etc. and now I am preparing to move to what I hope to be my forever home. Your prayers and patience is requested.

I could add to this list. But my purpose in this update is to let you know that while I am part time, my heart is full time for Leola United Methodist Church.

You have become, to me, cherished friends.

Pastor Tom                                                                            November 10, 2021