First Church Notes for May 21, 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.

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 hosts for May 21st and 28th will be members of the Coffee & Chat Sunday School Class.

Nigel’s News

Nigel’s News, the newsletter from the Pittsburgh District Anti-Racism Team, can be requested by contacting the church office.

First Annual Rev. Paul D. Taylor Antiracism Award Dinner

You’re invited to the 1st Annual Rev. Paul D. Taylor Antiracism Award Dinner on Saturday, May 20, 5 8pm at Calvary UMC (971 Beech Avenue Pittsburgh).  Rev. Taylor labored tirelessly to dismantle institutional racism in the corporate world and in the church. In honor of his dedication and service, the Pittsburgh District Antiracism Team (Pittsburgh ART) is establishing the Rev. Paul D. Taylor Anti-Racism Award.  This year’s recipient is Tracy Merrick.  To learn more and register for the event visit

Warren Jazz Coffee House Is Resuming!

We’re excited to welcome The Brooks Brothers on Sunday, May 21, 4:00 pm at Warren UMC! Tickets are $15 and can be reserved or purchased from Nancy Ross or Tracy Merrick by Wednesday May 17th when Nancy will pick up the tickets for you. You can also purchase tickets at the door. Checks can be made out to Warren UMC.

WPC Garden Day

Volunteers are needed to help plant the Western PA Conservancy flower garden on Saturday May 27th at 9am.  We’ll be planting the flowers and mulching.  Tools will be provided, but please bring your own gardening gloves.  Contact the church office for more information or questions.

A related update on the raised beds installed above the WPC garden…they will be back in use again this year!  These specially designed planters is WPC’s first (there are now several more) ADA-accessible flower garden to provide gardening opportunities for people with disabilities or other physical limitations.  The program had been paused for several years due to COVID, but is re-starting this year and will be planted in early May.

PGH Wear Orange – National Gun Violence Awareness Day

PGH Wear Orange Day will be held on June 2, 2023, in honor of victims and survivors of gun violence.

Pittsburgh Pride Parade – Save the Date: June 3, 2023 12:00 PM

The Pittsburgh Pride Revolution 2023 will be held June 2-4 in downtown Pittsburgh and on the North Side. (

The Pittsburgh Pride March & Parade has been scheduled for Saturday, June 3rd with a start time of noon.

This year, Sewickley United Methodist Church and the First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh have already decided to participate by marching in the parade on June 3rd and by providing an information table the afternoons of June 2nd and 3rd.

Please consider participating!

Please join this celebration and be a witness of God’s love for ALL people!!!!

Please pass this Save the Date announcement to anyone who might be interested!

Additional details will be shared in the coming weeks and a link to a sign-up sheet will be available soon.  

If you have questions about this event, please contact the church office.

Annual Shoe Drive

We will participate in the Conference Annual Shoe Drive as described below, by collecting shoes at First Church through Sunday, June 11.  Our representatives to Annual Conference – Tracy Merrick, Chip Rowan and Nancy Ross – will deliver the shoes at the start of Annual Conference on June 14.

A box will be located in the sanctuary for the shoe collection.


Greetings from your EUMA and All God’s Children Ministries – and thank you for your continued support of our missions!

As you know, we work together each year to host the Shoe Drive. Because of your support, this fruitful effort has raised more than $25,000 over the years to help those impacted by disabilities or experiencing homelessness.

Why participate?

  • The Shoe Drive is a little to no-cost outreach activity for your congregation to work on together.
  • The shoes you collect are turned in for program funds for AGCM and EUMA.
  • Shoes are kept out of landfills, and are sent to supply micro-enterprise ventures in third-world countries.

How to participate

  • Get involved by hosting a Neighborhood Drive.
    • Pick a date/time to host your Neighborhood Drive
    • Decide whether to host a drop-off drive at your church, or offer at-home pick up

After your drive – bring your collected shoes to The WPAUMC Annual Conference to be held at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center on Wednesday, June 14 through Saturday, June 17. EUMA’s truck will be there to receive your collected shoes. Our contact, Tonya Braendel will be receiving the calls at: 814-456-8073. To make arrangements to bring your shoes to the Rainbow Connection Thrift Store, 1516 Buffalo Rd., Erie, PA 16510

From all of us at EUMA and AGCM, thank you! Who knew your gently used shoes gifted to EUMA and AGCM could change the trajectory of lives!? They are and for you we give thanks!


Kurt B. Crays, MDiv.                                                                        Leslie Skidmore

EUMA, Chief Executive Officer                                         AGCM, Executive Director

Save the Date: RMN Convocation 2023

Reconciling Ministries Network Convocation will be held Oct. 13-15 at First United Methodist Church of Charlotte. We will provide more information on this event as we receive it.

Save the Date: Conference Events

WPA Annual Conference:  June 14-17, 2023 in Erie, PA

UMC General Conference: April 23 – May 3, 2024 in Charlotte, NC

WPA Annual Conference:  June 6-8, 2024 in Erie, PA

Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference: July 10-12, 2024 in PITTSBURGH, PA – we may be asked to assist!

First Food and Friends Items Needed

For the month of May, Monique McCain is gathering tuna 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.

Additionally, FFF is looking for a free stackable washer/dryer. Please contact the church office if you know of anyone who might be willing to donate.

FFF Volunteer Appreciation

A Volunteer Appreciation Picnic for First Food and Friends will be held on June 17th from noon to 2:00 PM in the Fellowship Hall and Courtyard. RSVP at

Hands-On Mission

This Sunday, May 21, we will be packing Snack Bags for the Caring Cupboard.  This activity will take place in the Fellowship Hall immediately after the Worship Service.  Each week we find that two or three snack bags have been taken from the Caring Cupboard, a positive sign that friends and visitors to the church can sometimes use a little snack.

Other Hands -On opportunities this month include planting of the Western Conservancy gardens, and participating in the Conference Annual Shoe drive.  See more information included herein.

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:

Lectio Divina

Sunday, May 21

9:45 am, in the Nursery

This small group experience, which began during Lent, will continue for the next five Sundays.  New participants are invited and welcome!  Together we will learn and practice Lectio Divina, a peaceful method of listening, reflecting and discussing a reading from the Bible as the Spirit leads us.  Each class will include:

  • Welcome and check-in
  • Prayer
  • Scripture Reading
  • Quiet Reflection 
  • Discussion

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 is being co-led by Sharon McCarthy and Donna Anderson. 

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.

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

Did you know that John Wesley wrote a medical book devoted to home remedies?  And did you know that John Wesley traveled over 250,000 miles in his lifetime?  Our Godly Play children learned those two fun facts along with several others about John Wesley.

Miss Helen and Miss Becky will have another John Wesley story on May 21.  We will not have Godly Play on May 28, Memorial Day Weekend, but we’re looking forward to an end of the year celebration on Sunday, June 4 (for all children).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

Keep some room in your heart for the Unimaginable.

–Mary Oliver

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