First Church Notes for March 12, 2023

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 9:00 AM.

Spring Forward

Just a reminder, Daylight Savings Time begins on Sunday, 3/12, at 2:00 AM. Spring forward!

Reminder About Scams

Just as a reminder, no staff member will send an email asking you personally for money. We are aware that scammers continue to send emails that look like they’re from us, but they don’t actually come from our email addresses. If you are in doubt about the validity of an email, don’t take any action on the email itself but instead call the church office at 412.681.8222.

COVID-19 Update on Levels for Allegheny County

As of today, the aggregate level for Allegheny County is marked LOW. One factor within that designation is transmission rate. The transmission rate as of today in Allegheny County is LOW.

Because of the overall LOW designation, masking will be optional in the church building this coming Sunday. As always, we encourage one and all to make sure you are updated with the latest vaccine booster that is available right now.

If you are showing any symptoms of sickness at all we ask that you heartily consider staying home and testing. If you are at a higher risk level you are encouraged to mask inside the building. We will continue to have masks available.

Fellowship Hour

Fellowship Hour on March 12th, 19th, and 26th will be hosted by members of the Chancel Choir.

Reparations Opportunity for Bethel AME – Presentation

If you missed our First Church conversation with Bethel AME, you would be welcome to join in with members from ELPC.

Sunday, March 12  1:00pm East Liberty Presbyterian 116 S Highland Ave 15206

“Join Bethel AME Church to discuss the theological and ethical call to reparations to the Black Community .

These will be hard, vulnerable conversations, calling all participants to recognize our own responsibility to repent and repair.”

Zoom Link to tune in online: Passcode: 257920

Pittsburgh Equality Center Potluck

The Pittsburgh Equality Center is sending a special invitation to the faith community at First UMC as they present SPRING WAKENING – a POTLUCK DINNER AND SPECIAL MUSICAL PROGRAM, SUNDAY, MARCH 19, 4:00-7:00pm in Fellowship Hall.  All LGBTQ+ persons and ALLIES are welcome! Bring your favorite dish to share.  Coffee, tea and soft beverage will be provided.  Please let us know you plan to attend and the food you’ll bring by visiting:

A special musical program will be presented by Lori Russo and Kelly E. Parker.

Vocalist Lori Russo has appeared and toured with Ray Charles, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Dorsey Brother’s Big Band, Kenny Rogers and John Faddis, among others.  An educator in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Lori is featured on numerous recordings of blues, rock and jazz as well as being the lead singer for the Uppercuts. Lori will perform as soloist at our Potluck.  She will be joined by her partner Kelly.

Kelly E. Parker teaches drumming, makes her own drums, and directs the women’s drumming group, Abafasi which means “many wimmin.”  Kelly and members of her company have provided music for InterPlay performances at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, the Community College of Allegheny County, north campus, and at the Center for Victims of Violent Crimes.

Widening the Circle of Discernment


First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh invites you to join us for another meeting with our consultant Dr. Sharon Higginbothan, as we continue to work towards becoming an Anti-Racist Church.


On Thursday, March 16th at 6:00 PM we will gather virtually and start using the framework of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as our strategy for intentional change. From the best of “What is
we want to pursue “What could be”. Together, we want to identify the strengths, passions,
and live-giving forces that hold the potential for inspired and positive change. We are looking for
our Positive Core in a process of discovery that leads to imagination and innovation.

We envision this as a process similar to the one that led us to our Living Stones displayed in the sanctuary. This time, however, we will focus specifically on the Affirmative Topic of becoming
an Anti-Racist Church.

Questions of Discovery we will be asking one another in the safe space of small groups…

  • Describe a time in the life of FUMC that you consider a highpoint experience, a time where you were most engaged and felt alive and vibrant.
  • Tell me what it is that you most value about yourself, your work, and the church.
  • What are the core factors that give life to the church when it is at its best?
  • Imagine FUMC ten years from now, when everything is just as you wished it would be.
    What is different? How have you contributed to the dream of this church?

If you cannot be present for this event, you may also make your voice heard by sending your thoughts on these questions to Pastor Tracy (

Here is the link to the Zoom event on March 16th at 6:00 PM:
Meeting ID: 850 4955 3775                           
Passcode: 769301

I Go On Singing: Paul Robeson’s Life in His Words and Songs

Where: Warren UMC, 2606 Centre Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Sunday, April 23, 2023 3:00 PM

The story of this American hero, Paul Robeson, who struggled and triumphed comes alive in a rousing 90-minute song-filled presentation performed by Pittsburgh native and gifted American baritone and international ambassador of peace, Anthony Brown.  “I Go On Singing” brings music and history alive with equal parts documentary and live concert experience.  Musical numbers range from spirituals to Broadway, and include Robeson’s original arrangements of favorites like “Wade in the Water,”  “Ol’ Man River,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “Water Boy,” and many others.  Robeson’s musical colleague, the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, makes three video appearances discussing his friendship with Robeson, the music they shared, and the turbulent times in which they lived.  “Once in a lifetime a human being comes along who stands head and shoulders above the rest.  Paul Robeson was such a man.”  A freewill offering will be accepted. Tony Brown is an active member of the Wrestling with Racism Team!

Hands-On Mission

Our next Hands On Mission opportunity will be on March 19, which is also UMCOR Sunday.  Meet in the Fellowship Hall after worship to pack 25 hygiene kits to be delivered to the UMCOR Mission Barn. You may have seen Katie Peterson who leads the Mission Barn on the news recently.  ( The train accident in Eastern Ohio has raised the need for cleaning buckets and hygiene kits right in our own backyard.

If you are interested in contributing items for the hygiene kits, contact the church office.

First Food and Friends Items Needed

For the month of March, Monique McCain is gathering peanut butter for First Food and Friends.

FFF is trying to offset the reduction in SNAP allowances by providing some pantry staples for individuals and families, so be on the lookout for updates about needs.

Exciting News about the Sound and Media Upgrades

Thanks to the generosity of many in the congregation, the fundraising for the Sound & Media Upgrades project is now getting close to our goal of raising $45,000. While we are now past the 90% mark with almost $41,000 raised, there is still the opportunity to make a contribution to this significant investment into enhancing creativity, connection, and outreach for the mission of First Church. The upgrades will be a critical tool for promoting our values and message and for re-imagining how we define community. Some of the goals of this project are:

·         To provide accessible, high-quality experiences for all participants – in-person and on-line

·         To unify, as much as possible, the community of in-person and on-line participants

·         To maintain creativity and intimacy for staff and for participants that is authentic to our identity as a community

A milestone has been reached also for the project itself. This week, all the equipment has arrived and technicians from the vendor are starting the process of installation. While this will take a while, and we cannot expect the systems to be operational for some time yet, keep an eye out for the visual changes in the sanctuary.

Thank you again for your generosity.

Black Lives Matter Prayer Vigils

Please consider joining the vigil at 6 pm on the first and second Wednesdays of each month!

Our Prayer Vigils for Social Justice, at the corner of Centre and South Aiken, where we hold Black Lives Matter signs and, during the winter season, candles that glowi in the dark, are a very important, loving witness to the people of the community who pass First Church! These vigils are held now on the first two Wednesdays of each month, at 6:00 PM, for about 30 minutes. It is important to demonstrate our stand on the questions of social justice on this busy street corner while we reflect on how we can become Living Stones that act against the racism that still pervades our society. Numbers matter, so we encourage you to prayerfully consider your participation. Please also prayerfully consider how you can lead one of these vigils, sharing from your own personal journey to become an anti-racist. Please contact the church office if you need more information or would like to contribute to this witness as a leader. You can also sign up to lead via this Doodle poll:

FUMC Sunday Cast for Congregation and the World

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.

Spiritual Formation Opportunities During Lent

Lent: A Time to Follow the Spirit

Sundays, February 26 – April 2

9:45 am, in the Nursery

This small group experience will use a newly released resource to explore issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and faith. Together we will learn and practice Lectio Divina, a peaceful practice of listening, reflecting and discussing a reading from the Bible. Each class will include:

  • Welcome and check in
  • Scripture reading
  • Lectio Divina
  • Reflection and discussion

This new group is open to anyone who wants to deepen their connection to the Spirit during the six weeks of Lent. There is no homework and there are no prerequisites; just a real opportunity to connect and reflect with others in our church community. The group will be co-led by Sharon McCarthy and Donna Anderson.

Open and Relational Theology

Sundays: March 19, 26, April 2, 16, 23

9:45 am, in the Parlor

Facilitated by Joe Smith, the Seeker’s class will study the book Open and Relational Theology, by Thomas Jay Oord. This accessible, non-technical book presents a radical vision of the world and human suffering that matches our deepest intuition about the character of God. In one session (April 2), Dr. Oord will join us by zoom for Q&R. Reading the book is not a requirement to join the discussion, but if you would like a copy, please contact Joe:   

Buddhism for Lent

Fridays: Feb 24, March 3, 17, 24, 31

1:00-2:30 pm, in the Parlor

This down-to-earth introduction will explore both Buddhist philosophy and practice. We’ll compare Buddhist philosophy with Christian theology and consider how Buddhist practice might be incorporated into Christian spirituality. Facilitated by RoBEAR Wilson and Joe Smith.

Films of Faith

In line with the duality of Lent messages given in worship, that FUMC is continuing to wrestle with racism and taking steps to learning about what it means to be anti-racist, the movies shown this year will promote conversations concerning where is God in race relations. These films are adult in nature, except for Zootopia, the last movie shown which will be a family movie time shown after church with pizza for lunch. There will be intentional questions asked that may challenge the understanding of our theology.

All movies have met the 2-hour maximum show time. Each movie will be shown on a different day and time. Last year Sunday evening was not a great night for folks to come back to church.  Perhaps we can find a good night and day.  Popcorn will be provided at all showings!

  • Wednesday, March 15, 6:30 pm: “Brian’s Song”

1971 (made for TV): James Caan, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Warden, Bernie Casey

Based on the real-life relationship between teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers and the bond established when Piccolo discovers he is dying.

For this movie night, we are asking people to bring their favorite tailgate food to share!

  • Thursday, March 23, 2:00 pm: “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”

2008: Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend, Zac Mattoon

Through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a German concentration camp, s forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of camp fence has startling and unexpected consequences.

  • Sunday, March 26, 12:45 pm: “Zootopia” (Family day with pizza lunch!)

2016: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Bonnie Hunt

In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Model Passover Seder

Sunday, March 26th, 2:00-4:00 pm

Fellowship Hall

You are invited to FUMC’s second annual model Passover Seder. Members of Warren United Methodist Church and the Community Outreach and Social Action Committee from Rodef Shalom have been invited to join this celebration of the struggle of all who seek freedom from oppression. The event will feature special music by Ira Ross, the keyboard player from Warren UMC. And a small ecumenical “pick-up” choir will lead the congregational singing. Please bring a potluck dish to share, labeled with ingredients.

Please RSVP to Gwendolen at or 412.681.8222.

Sunday School at 9:45 AM

The Seekers is facilitated by one of our former pastors, Rev. David Keller. The Seekers discuss various topics related to the Bible, spirituality, justice, and personal growth. We meet each Sunday 9:40-10:40, in the Parlor. Note: Contact the church office if you would like to participate in the class via phone or zoom.

The Seekers Class this Sunday will feature a report from David and Kathy Keller about their recent Road Scholar trip to visit Civil Rights sights in Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham. March 19 Joe Smith will continue leading us in a discussion of Relational Theology.

Coffee & Chat is a more organic conversation in that takes place in the church library (off of the Gathering Space). Just pour a cup of coffee or tea and pull up a chair.

Children and Youth

Miss Helen and Miss Becky have a special series of Godly Play stories for Lent. Our youngest children are learning about the “Bee – Attitudes”. “Bee” sure to check out all the great decorations popping up in the Godly Play room.

“Bee Reverent” In our first week, we learned about Lent and where it falls in the Church calendar.  And we heard the story of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness.

“Bee Brave” In our second week we heard the story of David and Goliath. There are lots of brave people in the Bible, and many ways for us to be brave in our daily lives.

“Bee Helpful” Last week we heard one of the most familiar stories of being helpful – the Good Samaritan.  We also learned about how Jesus explained things through parables.

There are more exciting stories from the Bible to come, and fun facts to learn about bees!

Older children and youth are invited Joe and Rudeene in the courtyard or Fellowship Hall (depending on the weather) for games and discussion.

The nursery (just outside the sanctuary) is staffed by our loving and nurturing childcare professional, Emily Burke 9:30 – 12:30 each Sunday.

A Prayerful Quote

The path forward may sometimes be unclear. And it may be messy. But the shared heart is calling, and we have an opportunity to make lasting shifts toward love and justice in our world.

–Kristi Nelson

Church 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 Nelson Viola
Custodians Tacoma Woods
Freddie Griffin
Digital Tech Engagement SpecialistMichael Dodin
Youth & Community InternRudeene Jackson