October Pastor’s Pen

October Pastor's Pen

Years ago a gospel trio from Pennsylvania, the Couriers, had a song called Empty Hands:

Bishop T.D. Jakes says there is something about emptiness that attracts God; He enjoys filling empty things. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Hungry people know they are empty.

So why did we sell our home and move into a cabin north of Caledonia? When we purchased our cabin last December, we envisioned it to be a mountain getaway, perhaps a place I could go on Thursdays to work on my sermons or a retreat setting for both recreation and contemplation.

Sometime this spring, however, we sensed God’s Spirit working on us to downsize and lighten our load for what will eventually be the age of retirement. Real estate was selling well and our house on Acorn Circle – though it was a blessing for five years – was more house than we needed with more work than we wanted. One day we came to the realization that we were supposed to “empty our hands.”

One of the tenets of our Brethren Heritage is living simply. As I understand it the simple life is striking a standard of living which celebrates the blessings God intends for us while keeping things of the world in balance and perspective.

We gave a lot of our stuff away, we sold some of it, and we put more of it in a dumpster. But as the brothers and sisters who helped move us can attest, we still had far more than enough to put in storage, finding life to be not that simple after all.

I don’t think everyone should do what we did; ours was a definite “ask” from the Lord. He asked us to let go and trust him with our living arrangements. A few of you have asked if I think we’ll be happy with our decision. As with anytime the Lord calls and the Holy Spirit convicts, we wouldn’t be happy if we would have made a different decision. We firmly believe we were led to Acorn Circle and we were led to 2149 Pine Grove Road.

Where is your cabin? Many of you have asked and are even looking. If you take 30 east out of Chambersburg and proceed until you come to the traffic light at the Caledonia/Totem Pole intersection, turn right onto Rt. 233 North. Once past the driveway to Caledonia State Park, drive 4.2 miles. Our cabin (currently getting a bit of a face lift) is on the right, about 100 yards from the road. We have a mail box and a sign above it that reads, Emmanuel Cottage.

That’s what we’ve named our new home.

If you call ahead, you’re welcome to drop by and see for yourself. Our dogs are big but they

are friendly. Our phone numbers are

            Joel: 717-357-1333

            Kathie: 717-357-2191

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge our gratitude to Larry Bricker, Ray Burkholder, Bill McMullen, Gary Mills, Jerry Moore, Jim and Carole Prohaska, Joe Rankin, Rey and Todd Rankin, Jamie and Travis Rhodes, and Bob Witter for helping us pack and move.

As I’ve often said, whatever you do trust in the Lord with all of your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6


Joel Nogle

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September Pastor’s Pen

September Pastor's Pen

Four years ago, denominational leadership recognized that we had reached a critical moment in our life together. While individuals and congregations were engaged in faithful ministry, as a denomination, it could be said we were wandering without a sense of unified purpose. Further, we were mired in soul-sapping conflict. Something needed to change.

As a body, we were called into a time of intentional discernment. Like Noah in the ark, Moses before the burning bush, the Israelites in the desert, Ruth following Naomi to Judah, Elijah on Mount Horeb, Mary during her visit with Elizabeth, Jesus entering the desert following his baptism, and Paul after he had been struck blind, for almost two years, we dwelled in a challenging, disorienting, and uncomfortable, yet creative, exciting, and hopeful season of waiting and watching for God’s presence and direction. Throughout, as a community, we were centered in Jesus Christ, guided by Scripture, and led by the Holy Spirit, resulting in the emergence of a new, unifying, and compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren.

Vision Statement

“Together, as the Church of the Brethren, we will passionately live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ through relationship-based neighborhood engagement. To move us forward, we will develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.”

The vision was formally affirmed at Annual Conference 2021. Now the work really begins as, together, we seek to call and equip creative and courageous disciples to move into our neighborhoods with Jesus Christ. While the vision calls us to move in the same direction, as we venture into our neighborhoods, each individual, each congregation, each district, as well as the denomination as a whole, is called to be responsive to the unique needs of their neighborhood and discern the best ways to meet those needs in light of the gifts they have to share.

As we embrace the challenge and seek to live into the vision, all are encouraged to read the full interpretive document / documento interpretativo / dokiman entèpretatif and make use of the Bible Study series / estudios bíblicos. We also encourage you engage in conversation around these questions as they relate to your own setting:

  • How does the compelling vision reflect the soul of your congregation? How does it reflect the soul of your district? How does it reflect the soul of the Church of the Brethren?
  • How do you see this vision being lived out in your own neighborhood?
  • What might you need to let go of?
  • What are the issues facing your community which could be healed/addressed by the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ?
  • How might we work more intentionally at calling and equipping innovative, adaptable, and fearless disciples to live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ?
  • What new steps could your congregation take to more closely align your way of life with the Jesus in the Neighborhood vision? What might you need to let go of?
  • How might you prepare your members? How can you get to know your neighbors better? How can you work to identify ministry partners in your neighborhood?
  • What are the creative ways your congregation, your district, or the denomination as a whole, might embody this vision?
  • How might we be known – both as congregations and as a denomination — if we truly embrace and live out the vision of Jesus in the Neighborhood?


Joel Nogle

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July Pastor’s Pen

July Pastor's Pen

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…

Philippians 4:11-12 NIV

Whenever I’m alone in my car I’m usually playing music. Currently I am listening to the quasi-Christian band, Switchfoot. There is a song on the CD that goes,

This is your life; are you who you want to be?


Are you satisfied with where you are in life? I just heard the true story of a young mother of three who is experiencing an internal struggle.


She loves her children and she loves being a mom, but her job fulfills her in a way that family doesn’t. Nevertheless, she is feeling called to quit her job in order to be a stay at home parent. Each time she prays about that decision she gets the same answer. She recently met a woman at the grocery store who has nine children and homeschools. The mother of three asked the mother of nine, “How do you do it? How are you content to stay at home with your kids and not lose sight of yourself?” The answer is surprising. I’ve learned to look for the holy among the mundane.


Perhaps that point of view was Paul’s secret to his being content in all circumstances: he looked for and worked for the holy among the mundane.


Maybe that’s the secret to our being satisfied as well. Most of us focus on the negative. Most of us look for what we can criticize among the mundane. To take the everyday, common ground and make it holy ground is significant. It puts the face of Jesus on every aspect of our lives and treats it as uncommon blessedness.


I’m more content today and more comfortable in my own skin than at any time in my life. I see more of Jesus and less of Joel in our church and in changing the oil in my car – whatever the circumstances.


We just sang the song Holy Ground for our 8:30 service of worship.


This is holy ground; we’re standing on holy ground, for the Lord is present and where He is is holy.


I encourage you to look for the holy among the mundane. Look for Jesus until you are content that you’ve seen Him.


Joel Nogle

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June Pastor’s Pen

June Pastor's Pen

The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Proverbs 18:10

By the time you receive this edition of The Pastor’s Pen and read it, children will be out of school for their annual summer vacation. Streets and parking lots will have an increase in bicycle traffic. The pool will be crowded. Skateboarders will be surfing the concrete and asphalt. And there will be a lot of extracurricular activities that are fun but also have an element of danger.



Once in a while, I think it’s good to be reminded to keep safety at the forefront of our minds. Drive with some extra caution, anticipating a ball, a bike, a child unexpectedly entering your path. Keep your eyes on your child if you go to the pool or an ocean resort. Sparklers and fireworks can be fun and have their place; just remember we only get two eyes and ten fingers.



I used to have a church member who, every summer, would give a children’s story on water safety because he was a member of the community fire and rescue department and knew firsthand what a family goes through whenever there’s an accidental drowning. He’d always stress the importance of swim lessons and wearing a floatation device when waterskiing or aboard a boat.



It may seem strange for a pastor to use his/her space in the church newsletter as a bully pulpit for summer safety. But the Israelites depended on the LORD to be their safety and shield and I would much rather have my sheep safe than keep vigil at a hospital bed or officiate a funeral.



Think safety. What applies to children applies to adults. And when you’re driving, don’t forget to be on the lookout for scooters and motorcycles. Look left, look right, and look left again before you enter an intersection.



Have a safe summer!


Joel Nogle

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May Pastor’s Pen

May Pastor's Pen

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter,

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

The Greek verb used is agapao, often used to describe self-sacrificial love. Keep in mind that Jesus told his disciples (and us) that there is no greater love than the love that lays it all down for the sake of someone/something else.


“Do you love me more than these?” It’s been hotly debated what these Jesus is comparing himself to. The question could read, “Do you love me more than these other guys love me?”


“Do you love me more than you love them, more than you love your boat, more than you love fishing, more than you love the fish you just caught? It’s important to know how our love for Jesus compares to our love for something else.


Do you love him more than the television shows you binge on? Do you love him more than you love Penn State football?  Do you love him more than you love Amazon or Wayfair? Do you love him more than money, your home, your family? Jesus’ question of Simon Peter naturally leads to pondering the ones listed above.


When Simon Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, the Greek verb is phileo, which is a brotherly/sisterly kind of love and affection – a love that is between good friends. In the past, Peter had claimed that his love for and commitment to Jesus were greater than that of the other disciples. And yet, here on the shoreline after the resurrection, perhaps unconsciously, he stops short of an all-in commitment to Christ.


If your love for the Lord were put to the test, would you pass? Would any of us pass? I yell and scream when Penn State scores a touchdown but I don’t like getting too emotional in church. I seem to collect books, many of them taking me months or years to read, but I can’t seem to find the time to meditate on Scripture.


How great is your love for the Lord?  Do you love him more than ________? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you excel and where you fall short in the language of your love. What changes are you being asked to make?


I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you.

O, my soul, rejoice!

Take joy my King in what you hear;

may it be a sweet, sweet sound

in your ear.


Words and music by Laurie Klein

©1978 House of Mercy Music


Joel Nogle

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April Pastor’s Pen

April Pastor's Pen

God has been faithful over the past few years! We have been blessed with needing more help due to the growth we have experienced. Even with the hurdle of COVID-19, God continues to pour out his blessing on our church.

2020 Blessings


Virtual Vacation Bible School – 95 Children, plus their families attended.

Smart Cookies – 16 students, and a first time EVER since we reopened in 2011,

we have a waiting list!

CCOB Youth Group – 15+ consistent youth each Wednesday this year.

C-Groups – A new ministry which provides spaces and opportunities for people to connect with each other in the church, grow together in Christ, and serve our community. 

Childcare Ministry – This ministry has exploded! We have 5+ children each week, plus more babies to arrive this year!

Sunday School Classes – We have regathered, and have offered a first time EVER, Hybrid Sunday School Class! 

Worship Services – We are LIVE each Sunday morning for our church members and many others who enjoy great worship and a relevant message.

Missions – We were able to bless those who were in financial distress by the pandemic by raising $8,050.00 for organizations in Franklin County to distribute to those in need. We fundraised $5,765 to help purchase a Milk Truck for Maranatha Ministries and we have offered a To-Go Meal to our community members every 1st Wednesday of the month. In December, we were able to provide 300 families with a mass food distribution.


And the list goes on…

God continues to bless the CCOB in ways that we can never imagine. God’s word says in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.” Brothers and Sisters, I believe that we are in the mist of reaping generously in the Ministries of the Church. BUT … when we reap generously, that doesn’t mean that our work is done. It means there is MORE work to be done.

The famous saying, “more hands make less work” is what we are asking for. There are a lot of volunteer positions available that need to be filled to continue the growth of the blessings that we have received. Here is a list of what is needed to continue the Christian Education Ministries.

Adult Sunday School Teachers

Youth Sunday School Teachers

Children’s Sunday School Teachers

Children’s Sunday School Floaters

Childcare for our parents who attend Sunday School

2nd Service Childcare (ages birth to 3 years old)

Church Librarian

Youth Leaders for Wednesday Evenings

Vacation Bible School

The Christian Education Commission wants to thank all those who have been faithful throughout the years. If you are interested in finding out more about the ministries above, please contact Jamie in the church office or by e-mail; jamie@chambcob.org

Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Jamie Rhodes

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January Pastor’s Pen

December Pastor's Pen

“God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him… If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

I John 1:5 & 7

I find the first week of January a sad time of year. Don’t get me wrong, Kathie and I had a nice Christmas even though we were alone. I felt the online Christmas Eve service was very well done and very effective. We spent two days in northern Pennsylvania visiting our grandchildren. And given the medical issue I had in February, I was thankful to the Lord that I was alive and able to celebrate another Christmas.


I do, however, become a little maudlin whenever the Christmas lights come down. I take pleasure in seeing homes brightly lighted and displayed. In fact, at least once during the month of December Kathie and I drive through our neighborhood and around Chambersburg just to look at the lights.


Some people find Christmas lights an unnecessary expenditure of money and resources. But for me, even when the lights and displays are secular, I’m still reminded of something John said in his first letter to the church:

God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.


Christmas lights, even the secular ones, convey to me the promise and hope that God is in the house! He showed up in that little baby who grew up to take away the sins of the world.


Jesus said we are to let our light shine before people so that they can see what we’re about and give God the glory. He wasn’t talking about colored LED bulbs and inflatable snowmen that inevitably come down when the season is over. We have the Light of the World inside our hearts and no January darkness can overcome (John 1:5). Let there be light, brothers and sisters, and let it be a blessing this brand new year.


Pastor Joel

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December Pastor’s Pen

December Pastor's Pen

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel words by John Mason Neale

 “Christmas is probably not gonna be possible this year”


That was Sunday, November 15th’s top story after CNN’s Jake Tapper’s interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci.  Fauci was talking about the surge in COVID cases that is tampering with the hopes of millions seeking to restore a sense of normality with the upcoming holiday.  Fauci said that even with the advent of a vaccine the public “can’t abandon fundamental public health measures.” That prompted Tapper, the Chief Washington correspondent for CNN, to observe that Christmas is “probably not gonna be possible.”  Technically speaking, I know what Tapper was suggesting.  He was suggesting that many of our beloved American Christmas traditions that involve crowded rooms and places – parades, parties, caroling, services of worship, shopping, to name a few – would best be observed with restraint this calendar year.


But Christmas not possible?  I can assure you we can put a halt to all our traditions but that won’t stop Christmas or Jesus from coming.  Herod the Great already tried that once!


One of my favorite poems by Ann Barr Weems is called “Christmas Comes.”  It’s part of her 1980 collection, Kneeling in Bethlehem, by the Westminster Press.  It begins…..


Christmas comes every time we see God in other persons.

The human and the holy meet in Bethlehem or in Times Square,

for Christmas comes like a golden storm – determinedly, inevitably…

Even now it comes

in the face of hatred and warring,

no atrocity too terrible to stop it,

no Herod strong enough,

no hurt deep enough,

no curse shocking enough,

no disaster shattering enough.

Someone on earth will see the star,

someone will hear the angel voices,

someone will run to Bethlehem,

someone will know peace and good will:

the Christ will be born!




I don’t know if we’ll be forced to ungather.  I can’t say what Christmas Eve online would be like.  I’m not wild about the necessity of masks and social distancing, though I respect why we’re doing them.  I have no idea how many will sit at my holiday table. 


I just know that the One who is the resurrection and the life resurrected me this year and gave me new life.  In my hour of need, nothing prevented Him from coming.  So do not let one trace of doubt enter your mind: He will come to a weary people who need Him now more than ever.


Christmas Blessings!

Pastor Joel

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November Pastor’s Pen

June Pastor's Pen

Give thanks with a grateful heart!


I saw a wonderful meme on Facebook the other day – The three hardest things to say are: 

  1. I was wrong
  2. I need help
  3. Worcestershire Sauce


I thought you might like that too…

When I was a freshman at Penn State I had an Educational Psychology class that met twice a week. A one-hour per week “lab” was also a requirement.

At the end of the hour, each student had to write a one-page paper that summarized the class reading assignment for that week. The papers were returned with a checkmark at the top whenever class reconvened.

My roommate took the lab with me. He was certain that no one was actually reading the papers. One day, in the middle of his page, he wrote, Does anyone ever read this? then he finished the assignment. He continued this prank for more than a month. Believe it or not, five weekly papers were returned with a checkmark before somebody made a comment on his hidden question!


Of all the things I get to do as your pastor, the only thing I do with some trepidation is write my Pastor’s Pen.  I have this secret fear – call it suspicion – that it really isn’t read. And if it IS read, my fear is that it won’t be meaningful for you. For as long as I can remember, I have always fought the temptation to include my roommate’s question in the middle of my article just to see if anyone catches me!

Assuming you ARE reading this, I just want to say that, in the U.S., November is the month for returning thanks – thanks to our family, thanks to our neighbors and friends, and most especially thanks to the Lord.

One of the things I’ve learned from reading and teaching the Book of Revelation is how important worship is in God’s Word. Worship is central to John’s vision. The angels, the elders, the four living creatures, the saints frequently fall before God and return thanks, giving Him all the praise and glory He deserves.


I need to be better at counting my blessings instead of my problems. And I need to make it a habit to give thanks with a grateful heart. Psalm 103 checkmarks the blessings that come from the Lord:

  • He forgives our sins
  • He heals our sicknesses
  • He redeems our lives
  • He crowns us with love and compassion
  • He satisfies us with good things
  • He executes justice

And that’s only the beginning! Are you intentional about thanking the Lord? May I suggest we write a page of blessings and praises in a journal or tablet this Thanksgiving? No one but God will read it. But I just think it might help me to write him a “love note” and get it out during December whenever I feel underappreciated and overwhelmed. I will be blessed and so will the Lord!


By the way, thank you for reading this; thank you for allowing me to be your shepherd; thank you for all the support you show to both Kathie and me: and thank you for four wonderful years!

Pastor Joel


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Regathering at 4th Street

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Psalm 122:2 ESV

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

With a unanimous vote on June 24th our Church Board has set Sunday, July 5th, as the day we can finally regather for in-person worship! The times of our services of worship will be 8:30 a.m. (in our sanctuary) and 10:45 a.m. (in our Brethren Life Center). For the time being there will be no Sunday School, church nursery, or in-house children and youth ministries. The church library will be closed and there will be no Coffee Corner.

In recent weeks we know that many of you have inquired about the date for our regathering at Fourth Street.  There has been considerable interest in getting back together. That said, we are sensitive to the fact that, for any number to reasons, some of you are not yet comfortable with being in a public setting. We want you to be comfortable with whatever decision you make and we realize for some of you, that decision will be to remain at home awhile longer. For those of you who do begin attending services, we want you to be assured we are taking every precaution we can to ensure your safety and well-being as well as the safety and well-being of others.

While our beloved church is regathering for the first time in several months, you can expect a few changes and a “new normal” for the foreseeable future.

Below are some guidelines to help all of us sort things out.

  1. Face masks will be worn at all times. If you do not have a face mask when you arrive, we will gladly give you one to wear. If you have not been feeling well or have cold/flu symptoms, please remain at home.
  1. When you come in the door, there will be a welcome table with face masks, hand sanitizer, and bottled water for your use.
  1. Families may sit together. As a general rule, however, we will follow the CDC guidelines and practice social distancing (a minimum of 6-feet apart) in and around the church.
  1. All singing will be done at the close of each service.
  1. When services are over, you are encouraged to exit the building without much interaction with one another. For Brethren who place a high value on fellowship, this will be the most difficult guideline to follow.
  1. You are encouraged to bring a bottle of water. Because our drinking fountains will be closed, a bottle of water will also be provided if you need one.
  1. The main door of each restroom will be propped open to keep door handles touch free. Only two people at a time will be our restroom policy for the first weeks/months.
  1. For those of us who rely on handrails, hand sanitizer will be available at the top of the stairs (as well as other places throughout the building).
  1. Instead of passing offering plates, we will receive your tithes and giving in one common area at the close of each service. For the time being, there will be no bulletins.
  1. Please respectfully refrain from shaking hands, hugging, fist bumps, and the Brethren kiss no matter how well-meant and well-intended.

In addition, all staff and ushers/greeters will have their temperature checked 20-30 minutes prior to the services.  Our restrooms will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and our church will be cleaned and sanitized as much as possible between Sundays and other days of heavy use.

For the most part, our guidelines comply with the CDC regulations to which we’ve all become accustomed during our time of quarantine. Good old fashion courtesy and common sense will go a long way to make our time with the Lord and with one another a meaningful and pleasurable experience.

In approximately three weeks we are going to begin live-streaming our 10:45 service. That means for those of us who are at home, we will be able to get online and worship in “real time” with those who are at church. DVDs of the 8:30 service will be available as they have been in the past.  For the next three Sundays, you can log onto our website or Face Book page on TUESDAYS and watch the 10:45 Sunday service as well.

We are really excited about the opportunities God will give us as we venture forth in our regathering. They are a process and we respectfully ask for your patience and your love.

Pastor Joel


For an official list of guidelines and processes that will be followed throughout the week, click here.