First Church Notes: 03.19.2021

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

Welcome to First Notes!

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


We are so pleased that Gabe Amri has joined our staff as the Building Maintenance Manager. He will be introduced during this week’s online worship, so please be sure to watch!


We have ordered composted soil to be delivered to the church for distribution throughout our gardens that are immediately adjacent to the building. Volunteers will be greatly appreciated to help distribute the soil Saturday, March 20, at 9 AM and prepare the gardens for a great growing season of flowers. Questions? Contact Dave Keller.

What’s Been Happening?

A lot of activity has been happening at First Church while we’ve been enjoying our online services! This has been a perfect opportunity to do some serious maintenance. The biggest project is repairing the damaged plaster on the ceilings and arches in the sanctuary. Master Craftsman Harry Stites has erected scaffolding to restore the beautiful plaster moldings and ceilings culminating several years of work to stop water from leaking from around the lantern section of the sanctuary. 84-year-old Harry, along with his son and grandson, recently completed the plasterwork in the historic Wilkinsburg Train Station. You can check out his beautiful work at

Higgins Painting has also completed plaster repair and painting in the two stairwells on either side of the gathering space. Associated with our ongoing water leaks, Burns & Scalo Roofing has done several roof repairs including tiles broken when a large sycamore tree blew down on the Baum Ave. side of the church, the flat roof over the Fellowship Hall entranceway, and broken tiles over the east stairwell mentioned above. We are also employing them to repair the flat trim roof over the Memorial Garden/Groom’s Room.

Nancy Ross, David Hounshell and Fred Watts have been busy cleaning out the maintenance rooms around our old boiler and 1893 air handler. They discovered significant asbestos problems in these rooms that will be removed or encapsulated. Nua Havili, with help from Vili Siale and Guallo were amazing in moving a lot of heavy items out of these rooms with some going to the landfill, some to Construction Junction and some to the catacombs. In addition, the steel ductwork and baffles providing fresh air intake for the air handler has deteriorated and needs to be replaced. Fred contacted Tower Engineering to advise us on this project. They are also looking at all of our fresh air intake and recycling in the church to reduce the risk of transmission of airborne viruses like Covid-19 when we return to in-person services.

The most exciting news for our congregation is the hiring of a new Building Maintenance Manager to replace Curtis Mitchell who left us to pursue further education. The Search Committee composed of Susan Petersen, John Jacobs, Betsy Shaw, Renée Davis, David Hounshell, Fred Watts, Nancy Ross and Pastor Tracy Cox has worked exceptionally hard since early October to find the right person for this position. Unfortunately, they had to advertise the position 3 times, but God has grown our faith and trust in His perfect timing.

A Special Thank You! Everyone mentioned above has worked extremely hard over the past several months to accomplish all of this work, but I would like to especially recognize David Hounshell. David’s knowledge of the systems of our building is invaluable. He sees something that needs done and does it! David has repaired and replaced lights, troubleshot plumbing issues, and done a lot of work in the basement maintenance area. His next project is fixing the dumbwaiter in the kitchen. Nancy Ross says, “I simply don’t know what I would do without David’s expertise and willingness to tackle any job.”

Planting Flowers

FUMC will be planting flowers on Friday, May 15th, at 9 AM, rain or shine!

Family Promise Update

Due to the pandemic the Family Promise Program has faced major challenges and a need to restructure their program.  All families who were in the program last year have found adequate housing and Family Promise is providing rent and utility assistance, furniture and household goods, bus passes, and grocery store gift cards.

As a result of these challenges Family Promise of South Western PA has developed a partnership with Bridge of Hope, an established program in Eastern PA that helps families find housing and offers aftercare to the families for about 2 years.  This will strengthen and increase the supports for the families.  This partnership will take some time to organize so it is anticipated that they will be getting started in the next few months.

Because of our setup, using tents and one common space, we are not able to foresee when we can host families again.  Certainly it will be after we return to face to face worship and activities. In the meantime, financial gifts and prayers for FPSWPA will be a good way for us to continue our support.


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), 6:30 – 8:00 pm

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.

A Prayerful Reflection

“Christianity is a living religion that changes and grows as it moves from one culture to another. The church should not remain the same but must also change and adapt itself to ever-changing societies and cultures.”

–From The Grace of Sophia by Grace Ji-Sun Kim


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 Gabe Amri
Custodians Lamont Hunter
Tacoma Woods
Music InternMichael Dodin