May 14, 2020
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This Weekend at First Unitarian Church
Worship Celebration News

Sunday, May, 17 2020  
Live-streamed at 10:30 am @

“Inherent Worth and Dignity and the Problem of Evil”

Does every person, without exception, have “inherent worth and dignity”?  What about “evil”?

Rev. Connie Grant speaking


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The First Unitarian Church VIRTUAL Annual Congregational Meeting is this Sunday!

TIME: 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

The First Unitarian Church Annual Congregational Meeting will take place this Sunday via Zoom video conference! 

Please keep an eye on your email for a link to join the meeting. 

Business to be conducted at the meeting will include:

• Endorsing a search committee that will conduct the search for a new settled minister, and

• Electing three new members each to the Board of Trustees and the Nominating Committee

The participation of every voting member of the congregation is extremely important. A quorum of 25% of the church’s voting members must cast ballots to elect new members of the Board of Trustees and the Nominating Committee. 

Voting during the meeting will be by anonymous electronic ballot. 

If you cannot participate in the meeting via Zoom, or if you do not wish to vote electronically (using a link sent to your email address), you may vote by absentee ballot. To request an absentee ballot, please contact Board Secretary Eleanor Mayfield (; 412-422-1406).

Meeting Documents

Meeting documents will be posted on the Congregational Meetings <> page on the church website ahead of the meeting. These documents will include the agenda; bios of Board of Trustees, Nominating Committee, and Ministerial Search Committee candidates; and the church’s 2019–2020 annual report.

Questions? Please contact Board President Martin Schmidt or Board Secretary Eleanor Mayfield

May 31  “Flower Celebration”
How is a congregation of people like a bouquet of flowers?  We’ll honor the unique beauty that each person brings as we celebrate the traditional Unitarian flower communion.  
Since we can’t exchange flowers in person this year, you are invited to share a flower picture!  Please send in a photograph of actual flowers or of your artistic representation.  Photos will be made into a music video that will be shown during the service and a Flickr album that will be available afterwards.  Please send your photo to  no later than Tuesday, May 26.  Please put MY FLOWER/S in the subject line.

General Assembly June 24-28 - Delegates Sought!
General Assembly (GA) is the annual meeting of our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Participants worship, witness, learn, connect, and make policy for the Association through democratic process.  Anyone may attend.  To represent the congregation as a voting delegate at the GA business meetings requires approval by the church’s Board of Trustees.  If you are interested in serving as one of our five delegates, please email Lynne Porterfield at by June 10 with your full name, email address and phone number, length of membership in the congregation, and a few words about why you wish to be a delegate.  The Board will make a decision about delegates at the June 17 meeting.
The UUA Board of Trustees has passed a resolution to make the 2020 General Assembly a 100% virtual event.  The cost of virtual GA Registration is $150.
This year’s theme is Rooted, Inspired & Ready!  Sessions will include the bases of our theological roots, ideas about how to transform our faith, and inspiration for taking action in the world.  A variety of workshops and special events will provide registrants with tools to live into our mission and continue the work of our faith—both within UU congregations and in the greater world.  More information about workshops and other special events is here:
All GA registrants have access to the GA Virtual Participation Portal, which combines multiple modes of participant engagement that include chat, Q&A, and polling. Registrants are able to watch and ask questions in live sessions including workshops and business sessions. 
Delegates are also be able to propose amendments in the live business sessions, participate in debates, and vote in general sessions.  More information about the role of delegates is available here:
A Message From Your LRED

How I Learned to Read

There’s an article from recent history in a magazine that no longer exists, that takes an in-depth look at the poverty of the people living in tenements in NY in the 1960s.  There is a picture of a teenage girl, looking listless and despairing, sitting on a bed, and another photo of an older woman who is their mother.  They have brown skin and dark hair.  The teenager is my mother, and the older woman is my grandmother, now deceased.   They are beautiful, haunting pictures.  

My mom tracked the article down years later, and we still have it.  It’s from Look magazine, that used to be owned by Timelife, I think.  For my mother, that article is not evidence of a past that she longs to forget.  It is a badge of pride, because it shows what she survived and came to be, even as some reporter who cared about the forgotten wondered if there was any hope that these families would ever escape poverty.

When I was little, my grandma Gloria spent a lot of time looking after me and my brother.  I loved her to death!  When I remember her, one iconic image I have of her is sitting and reading her Bible.  My grandmother was a simple, country girl (I know, right?!) from Puerto Rico who had married a veteran Puerto Rican man haunted by war and alcoholism, and who terrorized the family with his abuse of his wife and his unpredictable mood swings.  

Between this and living in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods at the time, she never really got out anywhere.  They were dirt poor, living on assistance, and they were that Spanish family whose kids translated with adults because their mother’s English was still rudimentary.

So my grandmother never got much of an education.  But the one book she read with literal religious devotion, was the Bible.  And so I remember her often sitting and quietly reading, as a very young child, unable to understand what could be so interesting about that object with those pages of lines I was unable to make sense of.  How could she sit there so quietly, and read for a few minutes, obviously immersed, as if she had forgotten I was there?  What could possibly be that interesting?!  

So when I gave up trying to distract her from her reading time, which probably didn’t even last that long, I would simply join her.  I’d grab some book from my parents’ library, and sit next to her, quietly staring at and turning the pages, pretending to read.  Imitating.  Because that’s what children do; whatever they see.

My mother was a different story.  She went farther in her education.  Books liberated her; otherwise, life might have turned out differently for her.  In her case, she was terrified of being outside.  Gang violence and even simple accidents threatened the lives of children every day.  She saw things that would later resurface in her memory as an adult and land her in a treatment program for post-traumatic stress syndrome.  

My mother read books because she found escape and inspiration in them.  They opened the world to her.  But the crazy thing is, it is a miracle she was ever exposed to them to begin with, because she had never been to a library.  The moment of change came when a book fair came to the school.  That was the moment that provided the liberation that my mother followed out of the violent, poverty-stricken world that was all she and her family had ever known, and because of that, reading was a very important part of her life.  

Seeing that, and being surrounded by books at home, some which I could not read at all, made the inevitable process of learning to read just an expected part of my life.  It was something we were all going to do eventually, no question.  But I think what really, really impressed the interest in reading in my mind was not because I had to for school or anything...not at all.  It was because I wanted to understand how people, grown-ups, could stare at a page of writing and be so engrossed in something that was completely invisible to me?

So both my brother and I learned to read through a combination of encouragement from both my parents, who both valued education above all else (my father’s story is very different, but he came from a middle class African American family that had its own reasons for emphasizing reading, education, and self betterment), and seeing my parents do it.  Like music, it was just there.  So we did it.  

Sometimes I would come across a book that was just above my reading level, but it had been sitting in the house, and I had read everything else I got from the library or owned, and so my boredom made me pick up the book.  My reading skill would improve so dramatically and fast just because of my curiosity, and conviction that there must be something about this book that made others want to read it!  Otherwise, why would my mother have kept it?

Right now, the hardest thing for many of the children in our church and greater community, is their isolation from their peers, and even from other adults besides their parents.  They can’t go anywhere, because nowhere is safe.  Their access to society is now limited.  Their home is suddenly their whole world.  It is undoubtedly traumatic for many of them.  In fact, it is demonstrably traumatic for some of them.  

In thinking about how to offer any kind of encouragement for this difficult time for parents and children, all I could think of was how reading shaped and changed and blessed my life, and literally changed the future of an entire generation of my family.  

But reading was easy to me, because I got good at it quickly.  And because I was accustomed to having books spark my imagination from a young age, spending time alone in another vast world full of endless possibilities, with fictional protagonists as friends, was natural to me and my family.  But today is different.  There is more knowledge that this ease someone like me might have with reading is not necessarily a privilege everyone has.  

My husband is autistic, ADHD, and has some reading comprehension disabilities that have given him a completely different experience than I, one that to this day marks a stark difference between us.  What about people like him?

While my husband does not get as much from reading, as it is very painful and frustrating for him, there was one thing that did ensure that at least he would continue to nurture curiosity in his own way, and with it, inadvertently gain a pretty high vocabulary.  He is a gamer, and playing tabletop roleplaying games was something he so desperately wanted to do that he learned to read from gaming books...books that were far, far above his reading level already.

If it had not been for this, this person failed by the U.S. school system might have grown up illiterate.  Maybe we never would have met.  Our social circles would never have overlapped.  But because he found something he loved, even needed, he was able to find something he could read.  It still challenges him, but he did it of his own volition; no one encouraged this.  No one would have thought to.  Though he doesn’t read for pleasure, he is able to read...and he has a vast, incredible wealth of knowledge that was nurtured by his natural curiosity and what was available to him.

So in this difficult time, where each child is completely unique and has different needs, I cannot say how useful it is to offer reading as a possible course of liberation when they are forced to spend so much time isolated from the world, like shipwrecked sailors.  But, I can offer my experience, one which I know many share, and say that if there is anything that can help treat the lack of social interaction and stimulation they are currently experiencing, I do think reading could be at least part of it. 

Not reading for school, or reading they have to do necessarily; it is good that so many parents realize the importance of reading and require and encourage our children to challenge themselves. But there is a natural curiosity that has a way of saving us, and it has everything to do with exposure.  If you can, if you have access, try keeping some random books in your house, and don’t say anything about them, and see what happens.  It might be that a child will just get bored enough and desperate enough to look for something of interest to them, and get unexpectedly, hopelessly hooked….for what it’s worth.



Visit the RE Reflections Blog for Weekly Inspiration!
The blog will be updated periodically

Adult Religious Education
Three - Session Virtual Book Discussion on An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States on Thursdays, May 14, 21, and 28 @ 7pm with Erica Shadowsong.  This book is the UUA Common Read (  ***Registration is required.  

A minimum of 6 registrations is required for the class to take place.  Please email if you would like to register.  Thank you!

                                                               Anti-racism workshops continue
The series of anti-racism workshops offered by the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Freethought Community will continue as one-hour virtual sessions using Zoom.  

The schedule for the next four sessions is below. In order to participate, please register for individual sessions at
 so we can provide you with registration information.

Sunday, May 24, 1 to 2 PM.  Anti-Racism Workshop - Racial Triggers for White People: whiteness accrues privilege and surrounds itself with protection. To have honest conversations about racism we need to get past these protective barriers. We will refer to Robin DiAngelo's work in White Fragility. There will be a presentation followed by a discussion.  


Young Adults Religious Education 
Young Adults Small Group   
Weekly Meetings on Zoom
Please join us for our weekly meeting at 7:00pm on Wednesdays.

We are currently going through a program called Spirit In Practice, which explores spiritual practices for Unitarian Universalists.

  Click on the following link on Wednesday, when you are ready to join:
1st U YA Meeting
Zoom Link:


Children and Youth Religious Education 
On Thursdays, beginning with 5/14 (THIS Thursday), I will host a parent check in @ 8:30 pm.

On Sundays, beginning with NEXT Sunday, 5/24, we will have a morning social hour before the service @ 10 am, with an opportunity for the children to share joys and sorrows.

Visit the RE Reflections Blog for Weekly Activities and Resources!

The blog will be updated periodically
 Covenant group Opportunities  
Consider joining or creating a virtual covenant group.
If you are interested in joining or creating  a new covenant group, you can complete a 
Covenant Group interest form or contact Alice Bright

If your group would like to set up meetings using the church account please contact Rev. Connie Grant at

Church Sponsored Activities and Community Events
Khasi Hills 
Meet our India Partners
The Share the Plate message this Sunday, May 17 will include a brief personal greeting from our India partners, Nangroi Suting and Barri Mukhim.  They are the power couple that advances our school and village, and both have visited here since our partnership began in 2003. With stay-at-home in effect throughout India, our teachers are working extra hard remotely using Whats App to prepare our high school students for exams.  They need our emotional and financial support more than ever, since having high student scores is what will allow government funding to kick-in for our new high school.

We have been sponsoring two teachers with a yearly salary of $4800. Sponsorship funding is already a bit low having raised $5,500 toward the goal of $9600, which means we still need to raise $4,100. We know that many have financial hardships due to the pandemic, so if you are in such a circumstance we understand and our thoughts are with you. We still hope many can give to help continue our much needed support.  Questions? Contact Karen Litzinger,

Face Masks 
Many members of our congregation have been sewing reusable and washable face masks to help their family, friends and neighbors do what they can to be safe. 
If you need a mask or two, please email Julie Childers of the Pastoral Care team at with your request, including your street address, so we can mail or deliver a mask to you.


Helping Each Other
During these trying times members of the church may occasionally need a helping hand. The Pastoral Care Team asks you to identify ways you may be able to assist. We expect you would be called only a few times during the year. Please Contact a member of the team if you are able to help. 

You’ll be asked to indicate which of these you may be able to help with from time to time:

□ Transportation

□ Providing a meal for an individual or family

□ Shopping

In the event of a need in the congregation, you may be contacted to see whether you are available to help at that time. Your help will be appreciated!

Pastoral Care Team Contact Information:
Christine Beregi: Phone:
Jan Carlino: Phone: 412-727-0200
Julie Childers: Phone: 412-726-3590
Jim Cunningham: Phone: 412-256-0205 (Co-Chair)
Kathy Miller: Phone:
412-639-8012 (Co-Chair)
Bob Sullivan: Phone:
Rev. Connie Grant: Phone: 847-840-8542 (Church Office: 412-621-8008)

 The 2020 Annual Report is available at and documents what has been happening around the state with the Justice Teams.  There is a section in the report on “PA UUtheVOTE” that provides an overview of how UUPLAN is supporting both non-partisan and partisan electoral work. Look for these activities to ramp up during the coming summer.

If it feels like this primary season has been eclipsed by other concerns, perhaps these LWVGP forums  can provide a better sense of the some of the races.  I am interested in watching 3 of them with my incumbents & their challengers-it is good to be better informed, our choices are important! (Becky Studer)
LWVGP VIRTUAL Candidate Forums. Listed below by date are the forums which will be conducted on Zoom and posted to the LWVGP Facebook page shortly afterwards.  YOU DO NOT have to have to have a Facebook account to access the forum videos.
Forum List in Chronological Order: Noted is the start time of the recording of the forum. Facebook posting of the forum will appear within 24 hours or as soon as possible.
Thurs. May 14, 7:00 PM, PA House 34, Rep. Summer Lee and Chris Roland 
Mon. May 18, 2:00 PM, PA House 30, Marco Attisano and Lissa Geiger-Shulman 
Tues. May 19, 7:00 PM, US Congress 18, Rep. Mike Doyle and Gerald Dickinson

Mail-in ballot applications will be accepted through Tuesday, May 26, 2020. If a voter has already applied for an absentee or mail-in ballot, they do NOT need to reapply.

In Pennsylvania, you now have two options for mail ballots. You may either choose a mail-in ballot or an absentee ballot to request, complete and return to your county election office

  • Absentee ballot – If you plan to be out of the municipality on election day or if you have a disability or illness, you should request this ballot type, which still requires you to list a reason for your ballot. 
  • Mail-in ballot – Any qualified voter may apply for a mail-in ballot. You may simply request this ballot without a reason.

In order to request either ballot type, you must be registered to vote. Please visit Check Your Registration Status to review your registration information

Some ways to receive a periodic dose of spiritual sustenance:

Life is full of hard edges and complicated choices. Braver/Wiser gives you weekly message of courage and compassion for life as it is. Every Wednesday, an original written reflection by a contemporary religious leader, and brief prayer, grounded in Unitarian Universalism.   Subscribe at

A Common Meditation for All Souls
A daily meditation from All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, intended “to help spark our moral imagination and set our moral compass as individuals.”  To sign up to receive a daily meditation via email, contact

The Daily Compass
“Inspiration for your spiritual expedition.” The Daily Compass offers words and images to inspire spiritual reflection and encourage the creation of a more loving, inclusive and just world. Produced by The Church of the Larger Fellowship, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation with no geographical boundary.  Subscribe at
Need an answer to a question and don’t know who to ask?  Want to pass along some feedback and not sure who to contact?  Reach out to your Board Ombudsman Ebe Emmons.  Ebe will coordinate with staff, committees, and the board to get an answer or pass along feedback.  Ebe can be reached at
Copyright © 2020 First Unitarian Church, All rights reserved.

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First Unitarian Church · 605 Morewood Avenue · Pittsburgh, PA 15213 · USA

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