First Church Notes: 02.19.2021

News regarding the life and ministry of our wonderfully diverse and energized faith community

Welcome to First Notes!

If you have articles for our notes we ask that they be submitted to the office by email no later than Wednesdays at 9:00AM.

Caring Team

A note from the caring coordinator team:

We would like to help you. The caring ministry consists of many volunteers who are willing to help those with needs. Maybe you are a new parent who could use delivery of a meal or two as you adjust to having a baby. Others who have had surgery or have been hospitalized might need a meal or two or rides to doctor’s appointments or to physical therapy. Others might need someone to get groceries for them or would just appreciate a phone call or a greeting card in the mail so that they knew someone was thinking about them. These are ways in which we can help. If you need us, please contact the monthly coordinator. We are happy to serve.

A note from the Gruver family

We want to express our deep gratitude for the love and support Marcia and I received from the First Church community during her struggle living with cancer. We love this church family.  She found great fulfillment working to restore and make the building more functional as a sacred space, but mostly she loved the community of faith.  For over 50 years she worked to make it even better.  Your many condolences and expressions of love and friendship have comforted our family as we face the future and strive to be grateful for all of the joy we shared with her.

Some of you have asked about memorial services.  We have decided to wait until the virus has subsided so family and friends can travel to Pittsburgh and we can all gather safely in person.  We will have a service at First Church, Marcia’s ashes will rest in the Memorial Garden, and we will have a reception to celebrate her life.  We will announce the time when it is set.

Gene and family

First Church Chinese New Year Zoom Dinners

The First Church Chinese New Year Dinner on Zoom is Friday, February 26th at 6:00 PM.  Now is the time to sign up to be a virtual guest at the table of one of our ten (10) dinner hosts.  Here are the names and email addresses of our hosts:

Carter Jury — High School Table   

Dave Krackhardt & Sharon McCarthy

George & Kathleen Porter

Jeff Miller & Dave McDougal

Jim & Megan Schriver

Joe Smith & Gwendolen Jackson 

Nancy Ross

RoBear & Glenna Wilson 

Stefan Frembgen & Susan Petersen

Tracy & Karen Merrick

To reserve your “seat at the table” of one of the above hosts, please send them an email indicating you would like to attend their Zoom dinner.  In order to allow for good conversation and fellowship, there will be a limit of eight (8) guests at each dinner, not counting the host’s family.  It’s important to get your “reservation” in as soon as possible to be able to attend the dinner of your choice.

If you email a host and their table is full, please choose another dinner to attend.  We encourage you to consider joining a dinner offered by a host you don’t know that well.  This is a great opportunity to make new friends during this pandemic time!

Closer to February 26th, the hosts will send their guests a Zoom invitation with a link to join their dinner.  Please be watching for this email from your host.  Remember each guest will provide their own food – perhaps a homemade Chinese dish or maybe take-out from your favorite Chinese restaurant.

First Church’s beloved, Ping Chan, has requested that we have a toast and wish all a Happy New Year in Chinese (“Xin nian kua ile”) as the dinner is starting.  According to Ping, you can ask Alexa how to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese or you can access a YouTube video that will instruct you!  Don’t you love technology!!

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Karen Merrick at or 412-779-0797.

Looking forward to a fun evening of celebrating the Chinese New Year 2021, the Year of the Ox, and sharing wonderful fellowship through Zoom!


FUMC Hospitality Team


This familiar saying can often be seen next to cash registers and referring to pennies. Give a Penny if you have one, take a Penny if you need one. Well, this saying applies to our Cold Weather Gear collection boxes as well. We will have two brightly wrapped collection boxes outside the Aiken Avenue entrance during the day. If you are able to give items such as hats, gloves, scarves, socks, coats or blankets, drop them in the box at any time. And if you or anyone you know needs cold weather items, please take one out of the box, use it and stay warm! 


First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh wants to hear from you! As part of our efforts to become an anti-racist church, we’d like to hear from the congregation and attendees about general experiences and perceptions of race and racism at FUMC. Your answers will help guide a team of FUMC members in creating an Anti-Racist church vision statement as well as the church’s next action steps on racial justice. Be on the lookout for virtual round table discussions early next year!

The survey is less than 10 questions and can be found at this link:

Thanks for your participation!


Over the last several months, each Wednesday at 6:00 – 6:30pm, there has been a faithful gathering at the corner of Aiken Ave and Centre Ave to be a voice of support for BLM. During this time, we pray in voice and in silence.

There is a constant stream of horns honking in support for the BLM. Voices can be heard from cars saying, “Thank you for your support,” and “We love you!” Conversations with those walking their dog, those coming off their shift at the hospital, and those just walking by have started. Some folks have even joined in the vigil.

Along with the growing affirmation, recently we have encountered voices of distraction. This coming Wednesday, there will be additional guidelines for safety for all to follow. This prayer vigil is a visible expression of FUMC’s voice to be a church that stands for justice.

Everyone and your neighbor is invited to come. Adherence to social guidelines for mask wearing and physical distancing is required. If you do not have a mask, FUMC will provide one.

***Looking for a volunteer to expand the vigil on social media. Could you help, or do you know someone who could?

Dear First Church Family,

Now more than ever, our thoughts, prayers, worries, time, and commitments are being pulled in endless directions. Many causes, both personal and national, fight for our attention. Knowing this, I would like to invite you to join our weekly prayer vigils on Wednesdays at 6:00-6:30pm in front of FUMC to pray for racial justice.

Being present at these vigils for a brief 30 minutes allows me to feel hopeful. I often feel paralyzed by the idea that no thought, prayer, or action ever seems to be enough. Our street corner vigils may not “solve” racial injustice (if only it were that easy). Instead of looking for The Answer, I cherish the ability to come together in a time when we are so isolated to pray, to reflect, to grieve, and to reinvest in our commitment to fighting for a more just nation for our siblings of color.

If one person passing by feels seen because we acknowledge that our country does not default to valuing Black lives in the way that we should, we have taken a step in a positive direction. If coming together in this way restores in us our commitment to allow God to guide us to seek racial justice in a world that has been imperfect long before we got here, we have gained the stamina to be a part of creating something better.

Olivia Migliori


The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened our awareness of deeply rooted inequity within our institutions and our communities that have been built on systems of white supremacy and oppression. We would like to create space in our weekly worship video to share moments where we have grown in our awareness and understanding of inequity, and have felt the call to take action to promote a more just world. As we are all on a journey of growth, there is no step too small to be significant.

So, we invite you to share your heightened awareness to an injustice or inequity in a short video and, if you’ve taken action, describe what you’ve done to respond to that new awareness.

 If you are interested in recording a video, or want to learn more, please contact either Anais ( or Claudia ( We look forward to continuing this justice-seeking journey together! 


Most of you by now have seen or heard of our weekly worship experiences we are posting on YouTube. We hope they have been meaningful to all of you. We invite you to share the experience with friends and family far and wide. If you search for “fumcpitt” on YouTube it will take you to our church page where you can find all past videos and also the live SundayCast .

An email will still be sent out to the FUMC email list each week by early Sunday morning with a link for each “live” experience. We are grateful to be able to connect in this way.


Tuesdays with Lent

Tuesday evenings (March 2 – March 23), 7:00 – 8:00 pm

Pastor Tracy will facilitate a study of four Lenten Hymns that have sustained the hope of many through the years. Lyrics and composers will be studied along with Scripture references. We will remember these hymns from our own past we search for new paths of comfort and challenge.

·         March 2: Were You There?, No. 288

·         March 9: Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, No. 301

·         March 16: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, No. 298 & 299

·         March 23: What Wondrous Love Is This, No. 292

To get the Zoom link for this study, please RSVP to

Beyond the Bloodthirsty God

Sunday evenings (Feb. 21 – March 28)

The story that is often said to be at the heart of Christianity is of an angry God sentencing his son to die a cruel and gruesome death to somehow appease his wrath against all humanity. How can we come to grips with a God like that? How could a God who stands for justice and love abandon his child to such a fate? In this series, Joe Smith will facilitate a discussion about the broad array of ways that Christians throughout the centuries have understood the meaning of Jesus’ death. We’ll explore these ideas carefully and fearlessly so that you can develop an understanding of the cross that coheres with your sense of justice and nourishes your spirituality.

Here’s Joe talking about the study: Beyond a Bloodthirsty God trailer – YouTube

Sunday School Classes

Haven’t been part of a Sunday School class before? This may be a better time than any! Sunday School classes meet each Sunday at 10:00 am (Seekers begins at 9:45) by Zoom.

Due to the increasing concerns about strangers logging into Zoom calls to cause trouble, we are not publishing invitations to Zoom meetings publicly. So to receive a weekly invitation to a Sunday School gathering, please email the convener:

Seekers – Kristi Woolsey

Spirit of Justice – Sam Procter

Coffee and Chat – Michele Jury

High School – Alyssa Stadelman

Middle School – Joe Smith

And Godly Play is now offering a virtual story time each Sunday morning at 9:30 am on our FUMCPitt YouTube channel.


Annie Dillard, a Pittsburgh native, wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in 1974 as an exploration of the relationship between God and nature. Specifically, she questions why God would create a world that is so abundant both in its beauty and its suffering. Pilgrim is always a beautiful, engaging, and challenging read, but especially now in these difficult times when we have had to refocus our lives on that which is immediately before us. The following is a brief excerpt from Pilgrim’s first chapter.

“That it’s rough out there and chancy is no surprise. Every live thing is a survivor on a kind of extended emergency bivouac. But at the same time we are also created. […] Pascal uses a nice term to describe the notion of the creator’s, once having called forth the universe, turning his back to it: Deus Absconditus. Is this what we think happened? Was the sense of it there, and God absconded with it, ate it, like a wolf who disappears round the edge of the house with the Thanksgiving turkey? ‘God is subtle,’ Einstein says, ‘but not malicious.’ Again, Einstein said that ‘nature conceals her mystery by means of her essential grandeur, not by her cunning.’ It could be that God has not absconded but spread, as our vision of the universe and understanding have spread, to a fabric of spirit and sense so grand and subtle, so powerful in a new way, that we can only feel blindly of its hem. In making the thick darkness a swaddling band for the sea, God ‘set bars and doors’ and said, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.’ But have we come even that far? Have we rowed out to the thick darkness, or are we all playing pinochle in the bottom of the boat?”

FUMC Staff

Tracy Cox
DeaconAnais Hussian
Director of Music and Community Tim Coles
Director of Spiritual Formation Joe Smith
Office Administrator Gwendolen Jackson
Office Assistant Sherrie Kaiser
Building Maintenance Manager
Custodians Lamont Hunter
Tacoma Woods
Music InternMichael Dodin