First Church Notes for Oct. 23, 2022

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

This is a new segment in our weekly “First Notes” to keep you updated and informed regarding the COVID-19 levels each week as you make your decisions about church. We had sent information out previously stating that when the level was LOW, masking in the church building would be optional according to your own risk-budgets and unique situations. Please note that the level that we report is an aggregate and factors in many different metrics that result in the level designation. We are grateful for long-time member and compassionate part of our church family, Kathy Maddox who helped us, along with our own weekly investigation, determine our course of action.

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 Medium.

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.

This information will be updated for you weekly and included in First Notes. We are so very thankful that our Christ-Centeredness allows us to consider each other in the ways of health, love, and compassion.

Warren Anniversary Day Celebration

You may remember that before the pandemic, FUMC and Warren UMC would worship together in the first weeks of November. This is a relationship that began through the efforts of the Wrestling with Racism team.

We have an opportunity to reconnect with that tradition in a new way. Warren UMC is celebrating their 142nd anniversary celebration on November 6th. We at First Church are invited to attend that celebration. Normally we would arrange to travel there for worship that Sunday, but it is also All Saints Sunday so First Church will be celebrating in our own sanctuary as well. What a day full of remembrance and celebration.

As we are now offering livestreaming for worship that can be accessed later on, there is a possibility to participate in both experiences. If you do decide to attend Warren, immediately following the worship service, their amazing Chef Diane will serve a delicious meal. You can RSVP to Warren at and also to inquire about the cost for adults or children for the meal.

The following Sunday, Nov. 13th, Warren is invited to worship here at First Church. It will be a day of worshiping through story and song, prayer and fellowship. An all-church dinner, complete with many Thanksgiving favorites, will be served after worship.

All Saints Sunday

All Saints Sunday will be celebrated on Nov. 6, 2022. If you’d like us to remember your loved one in worship, please call or email the church office.

Hospitality Update

Attention parents of recent graduates – If you have a student of higher learning in your family, please send their snail mail address at school to the church office. The Hospitality Committee likes to keep in touch with students.

Becoming an Anti-Racist Church at FUMC – You Are Invited

As we have previously reported, the Leadership Council of FUMC has committed itself over the past year to leading the church on a journey toward becoming an “anti-racist” community. Our journey toward awareness of the depths of racism in our society and toward creating better relations between Black and White members of our community began several years ago with our Wrestling with Racism Team.  We were inspired by the insights of that group and the revelatory events of 2020 and 2021 (think George Floyd and pandemic disparities, for example) to become more than a place where people of all races feel welcome. Not only did we desire to root out conscious and unconscious ideas of the superiority of while people over people of color in our own lives; we aspired to become “anti-racist.” 

An anti-racist abhors a system of oppression that relies on beliefs that one race or group of people is superior to another based on biological characteristics like skin color, facial features and hair, and abhors the political, economic and social domination of one group over another based on racial perceptions.  More than that, an anti-racist refuses to support such systems and forms of domination, either by action or inaction.

Over the last year, the members of the Leadership Council have been participating in intensive training led by Dr. Sharon Higginbothan, a well-respected bioethicist with advanced training and experience in leadership development and diversity, equity and inclusion.  So far, she has led us on a powerful journey of discovery. We created an emotional space where we pledged to each other the assumption of good faith and the gift of frank and honest, though respectful, discussion. As it happens, all present members of the Council are White. We have had rich conversations that laid bare the ways in which we, as White people, have been subjected to attitudes, forces and behaviors that are the basis of racism and which we must intentionally resist and combat. We have developed a better understanding of how easy it can be for White people to ignore or take a break from worrying about the effects of racist ideas and behaviors, worries from which Black people cannot escape for a day. We have discovered how many societal “norms” inescapably marginalize Black people.  We hope these insights will help us to discover where changes need to be made, in our lives and in our church and in our society.

We are now ready to start to include the whole congregation on our journey. And we hope that the journey will lead us all to a place where we cannot tolerate racism any longer, where we do not practice it in thought, word or deed and where we actively work to dismantle its systems.  We invite you to join us on this quest. Save the date of October 27, beginning at 6:00 p.m., for an online meeting of the Leadership Council, the rest of the congregation and Dr. Sharon.

Sound and Media Upgrades Fundraising

We are raising funds for the Sound & Media Upgrades project. This is a significant opportunity to invest in our staff and lay participants to enhance 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

Our staff and leadership have spent a lot of time discerning how to create intimate, authentic experiences throughout the pandemic; and how to best serve our community, expand our community, and make our worship and other events as accessible and welcoming as possible. The sound and media upgrades will provide the tools for these goals.

We are launching a fundraising campaign that will give all of us the opportunity to become a part of this effort.  Our fundraising goal is $45,000.00. Please consider making a contribution. Thank you.

Black Lives Matter Prayer Vigils

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

Recently, fourteen of us participated in the Prayer Vigil for Social Justice, most of us holding Black Lives Matter signs, as hundreds of people passed the corner of Centre and South Aiken. One African American woman who had just seen her doctor drove by and parked so that she could take pictures. She spoke at length with one of our members, expressed how deeply moved she was by the vigil, and indicated that she would like to join us for worship! Others who were walking by took photos and thanked us while oodles of drivers honked their horns or waved. These vigils are a very important, loving witness to the people of the community who pass First Church! We are holding these vigils now on the first two Wednesdays of the month, at 6:00 PM. It is important to demonstrate our steadfastness on this busy street corner and speak and pray about the issues that constitute injustice. Numbers matter, so we encourage you to prayerfully consider your participation. Please also prayerfully consider how you can lead one of these vigils, giving your own personal journey to become an anti-racist. Please contact the church office at 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:

Pittsburgh District Lay Servant Ministries School – Fall 2022

The Fall 2022 Pittsburgh District Lay Servant Ministry School is pleased to be offering the classes listed below to help laity respond to their personal call in ministry and the life of the church. Each class is being held on different dates, allowing you to take more than one class if you wish.  There is a $15 fee per class plus you need to purchase the class book.  This flyer has more information.  You may register online here or through the flyer.  The Book of Discipline (¶251) urges Church Lay Leaders to become Certified Lay Servants.

  • Spiritual Gifts (Saturdays, 10/15, 10/29 and 11/12, 1 – 4:30 pm)
  • UM Polity (Sundays, 10/2, 10/9, 10/16 and 10/30, 2 – 5:30 pm)

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.

Sunday School at 9:45 AM

The Seekers is facilitated by one of our former pastors, Rev. David Keller. They discuss various topics related to the Bible, spirituality, justice, and personal growth. For now, The Seekers meet each Sunday 9:40-10:40, in the Parlor. (Note: The Seekers class is working on devising a better way to also include our ZOOM members, but that is still being arranged.)

From David: Our own Joe Smith will lead us in a theological discussion of his choice.

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

Mrs. Helen and Mrs. Becky will offer Montessori-inspired Godly Play and storytelling for our preschool and kindergarteners.

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.

What Is the Bible?

Joe has created a series of short video to tackle the questions What is the Bible? And how should we read it? The first four installments of the series are available now on our YouTube channel, Be sure to subscribe to be notified of new videos each week.   

Joe’s Bible Study

NEW DAY AND TIME! Fridays beginning November 4th, 1:00-2:30 pm, online.

Painting the Stars: Science, Religion, and an Evolving Faith. Featuring more than a dozen leading theologians, this curriculum celebrates the communion of science and faith and explores the promise of evolutionary Christian spirituality.

Please RSVP to

Weekend of Queer Theology with Keegan Osinski

Saturday, October 22, 5:30 pm Dinner, 6:00 Lecture

Baldwin Community United Methodist Church – Asbury Hall

5001 Baptist Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15236   

Keegan Osinski is a theologian and author of Queering Wesley, Queering the Church. This summer, a small group of First Church members studied the book and found it both enlightening and challenging. We are pleased to be able to continue the conversation with the author in October. You are invited to join whether you have read the book or not.

Please RSVP to 412-882-9300 or

A Prayerful Quote

The most fundamental law is to recognise that we share the planet with other beings, and that we have a duty to care for our common home.

–Vandana Shiva

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