Are you interested in deepening your exploration of Unitarian Universalism? We are looking for facilitators who would like to lead a book reading group or facilitate a class on an area of interest. It's easy, and you don't have to be an expert; materials are provided! Scheduling is often determined by participant and facilitator preferences. Some potential topics for the 2019-20 year are the following:
UU history, older and recent
"Building the World We Dream About" - living out our hope of truly inclusive, multicultural engagement and community
"Spirit in Practice," Exploring spiritual practices
UUA Common Read book choice
Other topics of interest can be proposed, as well. Please contact Erica Shadowsong if you would like to know more about what is involved in facilitating. This is a wonderful way to contribute service to the church, as well as engage in community and enrich your own learning!
The major news of the summer is that Rev. Connie Grant has agreed to serve as interim minister for our church. Along with welcoming an experienced leader to help the church on the next phase of our journey, the finance team and board are also happy that we now have clarity on what the 2019 budget will be for the remainder of the year. While there was no significant difference overall from what we expected, the devil is always in the details and it feels good to have that resolved.
The Membership Team extends an exuberant welcome to five new First Church members:
Sarah and Trevett Hooper and their children, who have been attending church for about a year; Robert Eshbaugh, who has been a friend of the church and of the Sunday Morning Forum for sometime; and brand new members Jayne and Chris Gall. Jayne did attend this church as a child. Thanks to all of you for choosing First Church as your spiritual home.
Physicians ask Gov. Wolf for Moratorium on Fracking
Following a panel discussion on June 19th, members of Better Path Coalition, the Philadelphia Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and other health professionals provided Governor Wolf with a copy of the new "Fracking Compendium." (Link: www.psr.org/blog/resource/compendium-of-scientific-medical-and-media-findings-demonstrating-risks-and-harms-of-fracking/)
They also presented a letter requesting a pause in authorizing unconventional well permits and an investigation to determine whether or not fracking in areas of southwestern Pennsylvania is the cause of a cluster of rare childhood cancers and fatalities.
Later, the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg hosted the same presentation, which was open to the public. UUPLAN's Environmental Justice Team Co-Chair Rachel Mark created a PHOTO DIARY (Link: www.uuplan.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/BPC-Panel-6-19-2019.pdf) containing her own pictures and tweets from the events. Thank you, Rachel!
What to the Immigrant and People of Color is the Fourth of July? | A Sermon for the Nation by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
Rev. Dr. Barber will speak about political violence against immigrants and people of color on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019 at 7:00 PM EDT on Fusion Films
Lead! Special Summer Series: Abortion & Faith Messaging
Join NCJW and Catholics for Choice for a webinar about Abortion & Faith Messaging on Wednesday, July 17 at 1:30pm ET (10:30am PT).
First Unitarian Church began using Breeze for its church management software in January. Breeze includes the capability to provide an online directory of church members and friends. After initial testing with a limited number of users, the church is ready to roll out the online directory to the church community.
Want to help us be a more welcoming congregation? Looking for a simple way to volunteer at the church? Like meeting new people? Then become an usher/greeter! This is something that requires very little commitment (just show up about 15 minutes before service starts) or training. Help is especially needed on the 1st Sunday of the month. Please contact Rob Schwartz at email@example.com if interested.
It’s Time to Think About Voting!
Our antiquated Pennsylvania election laws limit participation in elections to those who register 4 weeks before an election. Make sure your friends are registered!
Here’s the link to download the English version of the Voter Registration form: https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/documents/VoterApplication_English.pdf
Here’s the link to register to vote on-line. It’s in both English and Spanish. https://www.votespa.com/Register-to-Vote/Pages/How-to-Use-Online-Voter-Registration.aspx
What You Can Do About Abortion Bans
As you know, politicians in multiple states are passing laws that ban abortion at a point before most people know they're pregnant. What can we do here in Pennsylvania? CLICK HERE to find out how you can take action.
The Time is NOW to End Gerrymandering
Time is running out to end partisan redistricting in Pennsylvania before the next census changes our districts again for yet another decade.
Two bills in the Pennsylvania House – HB 22 and HB 23 – will end gerrymandering once and for all, by guaranteeing free and equal elections for all Pennsylvania voters.
Learn what you can do on the Fair Districts Website.
Tell Your Senator: Help Protect Families from Gun Violence
The PA legislature has the chance to do something that makes sense and saves lives: enact SB 90 / Extreme Risk Protection Orders. This bill creates a civil court process family members and law enforcement can use to temporarily bar access to firearms by a family member at risk of harming himself or others.
Ask your Senator to sign on, (or thank them if they already have!)
(Visit www.uuplan.org for more news and action alerts.)
If you ever wanted to do this pilgrimage, THIS is the year to do it since it will be the last trip led by long time Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council (UUPCC) travel coordinator/tour guides, John Dale and Csilla Kolcsar, before they retire. You will surely have a smooth, engaging experience.
March 12-22, 2020 may seem a long way off, but the DEADLINE IS NOVEMBER 5, AND IT MAY FILL QUICKLY because it is their last trip.
What an opportunity for an adventure and to connect with our Khasi Hills partners, representing our church and strengthening the bond. For 10 nights of lodging, most meals, and transportation within India, $1629 is quite a good deal. In the past our Social Justice Endowment Fund and the UUPCC Travel Grant Fund have generously supported this social service and denominational initiative. There is also an opportunity for fascinating pre-trip tourist extensions before the pilgrimage, a wonderful opportunity since you are halfway across the world.
For information go to https://uupcc.org/pilgrimages/pilgrimage-opportunities and/or contact Karen Litzinger at 412-242-7045.
The Annual Church Picnic is scheduled for June 2nd, immediately following the service and it’s a great way to enjoy each others’ company! Please consider volunteering for an hour or so to help make it a success. We could use help with set-up, keep-up, and clean-up. If you’d like to volunteer, please contact Raeann Olander-Murray at Raeann.firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-660-0012 (call or text).
The UUA is advising that several UU congregations have reported that their members are receiving scam emails that are requesting gift card donations for a charitable cause. Religious groups and congregations are becoming easy targets for these types of scams.
Even in this time of transition, the church's fund raising practices remain the same. No staff member or church leader will call, text, or email you asking for an "emergency" donation for a charitable cause. Marion's Purse is our reserve fund for use in these situations, so no one will be called. Donations to the church are only via cash (at events and services), check payable to the church, texting as listed in our order of service, or our online giving page. The monthly Share the Plate during Sunday Service is the intentional way the church collects funds to support community groups.
The Interim Minister Search Committee is very pleased to announce that the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh has completed a final agreement with The Rev. Constance L. Grant to become our Interim Minister, beginning August 1, 2019.
Connie (as she prefers to be called) earned her MDiv. From Meadville Lombard Theological School in 2000. She comes to us after a two-year interim ministry at the UU Fellowship of Midland, MI. Previously, she had served as the called Congregational Life Minister at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, IL, Minister for Education at the UU Society of Sacramento, CA, and Interim Minister of Religious Education at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland in Shaker Heights, OH. Early in her ministry, Connie also worked closely with the Lay Leadership Development Office of the UUA in their roll out of the Covenant Group Program.
The breadth of Connie’s experience in the ministerial transition process and in a wide variety of congregational ministerial roles were very appealing to your Search Team.
Connie is an accomplished and effective preacher, writer, and educator. Indeed, her use of metaphor and narrative in her sermons is masterful and moving. But she is not a flamboyant person. Her answers in her Ministerial Record and in our interview with her were concise, complete and reflected a no-nonsense experiential knowledge that we felt was extraordinary and particularly applicable to the challenges and opportunities we face here at First Unitarian.
The conversations that each of the members of the search committee had with the individuals whom Rev. Grant had suggested as references revealed that she has been consistently seen as an intelligent, warm, pragmatic leader. One of her former professors at Meadville Lombard said that Connie was the brightest students she ever had. Here’s what the president of the Board of The UU Fellowship of Midland said about her:
“Connie prioritized the things that needed to be done in order for us to become the healthy, functioning congregation we have the capacity to be and to complete the tasks needed to support our search for a settled minister. Although it may sound like hyperbole it is not an exaggeration to say that, within a few short weeks of her arrival, we felt like a community again.”
(Incidentally, the membership at the Midland congregation grew by 30% during Connie’s ministry there.)
We could go on, but we think you get the picture.
Connie is absolutely thrilled to be coming here and can't wait to begin her ministry at First UU. She requested that we share with you what she considers her professional mission: Helping people live lives of meaning and wholeness through Unitarian Universalist congregational life.
Our congregation has entered a transitional period when we move from who we were, to understanding who we are, to becoming who we are meant to be. Your Interim Minister Search Committee is confident that the Rev. Constance L. Grant is the minister to lead us on this journey.
INTERIM MINISTER SEARCH COMMITTEE
John Hooper, Chair
Al Schwartz, former Chair, who formed and led the team through 80% of the process
Azi Mussalehdan Block
Others: Martin Schmidt and Claus Makowka
As part of First U governance, and of particular importance now that we are lay-led, the congregation is asked to come together in conversation twice a year to share thoughts about the work of the church. Sessions are designed both to build community and to assure that all voices at First U are heard in the decision making processes.
Please join together in guided conversation pertaining to First Unitarian Church Priorities:
* Create a strong sense of BELONGING for ALL who enter our doors
* Explore paths to the formation of a long-lasting and meaningful FIRST UNITARIAN / COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP
Conversations are being held the following days and times:
Wed May 8 7:00-8:30 pm, Thurs May 9 6:30-8:00 pm, Sunday, May 12 noon - 1:30, Sunday, May 12 7:00 - 8:30 pm, Mon May 13 6:30-8:00 pm, Tues May 14 7:00 - 8:30 pm, Thurs May 16 5:00 - 6:30 pm
The link to sign up is:
Childcare provided if requested in the comment line.
We are also thinking about offering a virtual session. If you are interested in this option or have any questions, please contact email@example.com.
1st Unitarian held several work parties at the homes at 6928 Bennett St. The end product is a beautiful energy efficient and safe home for the new women owners. There are 3 spacious bedrooms and 3 bathrooms plus living room, kitchen and dining area. You can see the homes from the outside by driving by at 6928 Bennett St.
We just received these exciting photos regarding progress of the first graduates of our new Higher Secondary School, Badashisha and Philinsimai, who are in post-high school training in Cosmetology and Fashion Technology respectively. These are the two graduates who scored 100% on last spring’s graduation exam. We also learned that they are the first two children from the Children’s Village orphanage to be professionally trained. The Children’s Village was co-founded by a student in our campus ministry program, Catie Scudera, and celebrated the 10-year anniversary in February. For more information about participating or contributing, please contact Karen Litzinger at 412-242-7045.
All members and friends of First Unitarian Church are invited to attend the Annual Congregational Meeting on Sunday, May 19 in the Undercroft Gallery.
This month's exhibit will feature the work of Shellie Sherman and her sons and daughter-in-law. It's a multi-generational show which includes Rochelle's abstract colorful collaged paintings, Kate's stained glass mobiles, Yaniv's cut-paper assemblages, paintings by Moshe and photographs by Ilan. It showcases the creative diversity of two generations of one family.
A reception will be held on May 12 at noon.
Welcome to the next step on our journey to the future. Now that your donation information is being recorded in our Breeze Church Management Software, your quarterly giving statements are being sent electronically to the email address on file in Breeze. The church will continue to mail quarterly giving statements if we do not have your email address or if you request a paper statement via postal mail from me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the church office.
As part of this change, the quarterly letter from the Treasurer is becoming a blog post on the church web site rather than an insert (or attachment) to your giving statement. No more paper to recycle and also available for later reference, if you wish. To keep this post from getting too long, I will keep my financial news brief to allow more space for explaining the new giving statement.
I welcome your feedback on how these changes are working for you.
Claus D. Makowka
The church finances continue to be healthy. Our budget in this transitional lay-led period is now clear and I appreciate the work by staff and volunteers that makes this possible. Gifts and pledge payments continue to be strong and the church is also benefiting from healthy rental income. Expenses are in line with the budget. Until we are able to finalize a contract with an Interim Minister, there are some budget uncertainties for the fall and winter. The church's strong financial performance in the first quarter makes me comfortable that the church is in a good position to deal with these.
While lay volunteers are contributing significantly with scheduling Sunday speakers, pastoral care, and event planning, I think we all miss the coordination that a minister provides. I appreciate the dedicated work by church program and operations staff in filling that gap and keeping the church running smoothly. I have been especially enjoying the well integrated services with a diversity of viewpoints in the pulpit and the greater visibility of the Pastoral Care Team.
I am also looking forward to the Fantasy auction. David Doorley and his team have lined up a wonderful array of offerings. Be sure to attend and invite your friends. The funds raised here will help cover the extra Interim Minister expenses not normally in the budget, like moving expenses and special training .
While the new giving statements from Breeze will look a little different, they contain the same information and hopefully are a little easier to read.
The first section will report the status of your financial pledges. Typically there will only be the pledge to the operating budget, listed as General Fund 2019. However, Breeze does allow multiple pledges, say for a Capital Campaign, to be active at the same time, and any active pledges, including ones fully paid, would appear here. Next comes the date range over which the pledge is active. Then you will see something like "$250 of $1000," followed by a percentage The first number is the amount that you have paid towards your pledge, the second is the pledge amount, and the percentage is how much of your pledge has been paid. Below this you will see something like "$750 Remaining," which is the balance remaining on your pledge. The amount given may be larger than the amount pledged if you have made contributions in addition to your pledge. If your household pledged as a family rather than as individuals, contributions from any family member are included in the amount paid toward the pledge.
The next section provides the details of each individual contribution that was recorded by the church during the statement period, January 1 to April 15 in this case. This includes the date recorded (may be later than the donation date), donor, method, fund, and amount. The donor is listed to help households that donate as a family. Following the detail section is a summary section giving the totals given to each fund. There are many ways to support the church with charitable contributions beyond the General Fund for the operating budget. These include the Endowments, Marion' Purse, Khasi Hills Sponsorship, Habitat for Humanity, and many more.
The following notes may apply in some cases:
First Sundays: July 7, August 4, Sept. 1: Last names A-F
Second Sundays: June 9, July 14, August 11: Last names G-L
Third Sundays: June 16, July 21, August 18: Last names M-R
Fourth Sundays: June 23, July 28, August 25: Last names S-Z
5th Sunday: June 30: everyone!
Please bring FINGER FOOD
Remember last year, when 6 sparkly eggs were hidden throughout the church, and people found them throughout the entire course of the year? (Well, all except one, maybe two that we still can't account for!) Well, we're doing it again!!! This year, families can participate in our annual Easter Egg Hunt! The Egg Hunt takes place after the service, and the service is multi-generational, so there are no religious education classes. Eggs will be hidden in a variety of developmentally-appropriate places as usual, but we will again add a few special eggs to be found by those who find the challenge irresistible! Special eggs come with special prizes...and this year, there might be a big, golden egg in the mix! Our overall egg hunt will feature some fair trade, environmentally friendly treats and prizes this year. As for the special ones...you'll just have to wait and see!!! Would you like to help out to make this event a success? We could always use help filling eggs, hiding them, and collecting them at the end! If you are interested in helping, you can email email@example.com. (The "epic" part of the egg hunt is hosted and designed by Erica's spouse, another half, and serious Easter enthusiastic ALF; feel free to say hi when you see him!)
PIIN (Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network) is a coalition of churches working for equity and social justice across the state. Every May PIIN celebrates its achievements and work with an annual banquet. This year the keynote speaker is Diane Nash who was one of the unsung “Foot Soldiers” of the 1965 Selma March. She is a true Civil Rights leader and her story is worth hearing.
In 1959 at the age of 19, Nash was a student activist in Nashville,Tennessee. She was elected the first Chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She married activist James Bevel in 1961 and they moved to Jackson, Mississippi. There they began organizing voter registration and school desegregation campaigns. Nash and her husband received the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) Rosa Parks award in 1965. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. cited the couple for their contributions to the Selma Right-to-Vote movement. Their leadership eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
First Unitarian Church is a founding member of PIIN with church members actively involved in two of its task forces: Education and Public Safety. Every year First Unitarian supports PIIN’s efforts by purchasing a table and seating for 10.This year we would like to sponsor 10 of our teens and young adults so they can learn firsthand about the Civil Rights Movement from one of the movements “Foot Soldiers”. Please consider attending the banquet or contributing towards seating for one of our youth. Over the next several weeks, you will be able to visit the PIIN table during coffee hour and speak with Sandy Woolley, John Ballance and Kathy Miller about their involvement with PIIN. There you will be able to reserve your ticket. Tickets are $75 each. Tickets are on sale now on the PIIN website [piin.org].
The Khasi Hills Partnership Team is in awe of the generosity of the congregation for the March 24 Share the Plate collection on Khasi Hills Sunday. You graciously opened your hearts to give $2330! This makes the goal of $9600 to fully fund the two teachers at our new school almost reached. With just about $600 to go, please consider contributing if you have not yet done so. Details are on the web site under Social Justice or contact Karen Litzinger at 412-242-7045. Thank You and Khublei!
One of the members of the Interim Minister Search Committee has taken on another role at First Unitarian, which leaves a vacancy on the committee. Anyone interested in possibly joining the committee is invited to contact the chair, John Hooper, at 203-451-9668 to discuss the mission of the committee and the responsibilities of its members.