The Church Mouse Turns 50

Refreshed for the Future and Reflecting on Five Decades of Publication
The New Church Mouse: Upon entering its 50th year of publication, the beloved rodent has been re-envisioned as if captured in stained glass.

In 2019, the church’s mysteriously elusive yet seemingly pervasive reporter, The Church Mouse, turns fifty years young! To mark this auspicious occasion, with the first issue of the year (the February issue), the Communications Committee is pleased to introduce an updated design which features full color in its printed format for the first time; its electronic counterpart, The Mini-Mouse, began using the refreshed appearance in January.

The re-design was accomplished with the assistance of the creative team from Imagebox Productions. Imagebox is the same group responsible for the re-development of the shadysidepres.org website several years ago, and has since provided additional design support for several of the church’s printed projects.

“Origin stories” produce popular plots for book and film audiences nowadays — so, as the Mouse enters its 50th year of publication, we wondered, what is the background of the beloved rodent? We spoke to some of the Mouse’s closest associates to gain some insights about our furry and informative friend.

Compared to the full history of Shadyside Presbyterian Church, which spans more than 150 years of ministry and mission, the Mouse is a relative newcomer. Prior to the arrival of the Mouse, the narrative of the church was chronicled through The Shadyside Scribe. What might have been the impetus for the introduction of this modest mascot to the masthead of the church’s official communiqué?

Pictured: Earlier incarnations of The Church Mouse masthead, including the 25th year of publication in 1994 (top), and the Mouse for the new millennium, introduced in August 1997 (bottom).

The answer lies partly, of course, in the proverbial “church mouse” — a metaphorical symbol through the centuries for one who may be poor, but is perfectly positioned to observe all the goings-on in the curious building adopted as its home. This common image may have inspired the incorporation of mice into some of our church’s ornamentation. Wooden panels in the Sanctuary contain scrolling carvings of both field mice and birds nestled amongst thistles, leaves, and floral motifs.

Charles Marcus Osborn’s avian carvings may have been inspired by Psalm 84:3, but the presence of the mice invites more musing. It may not be too far-fetched to imagine that Osborn, while envisioning his designs in 1938, had in mind this Scripture: “The tree grew great and strong, its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the ends of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful, its fruit abundant, and it provided food for all. The animals of the field found shade under it, the birds of the air nested in its branches, and from it all living beings were fed” (Daniel 4:11-12, emphasis added). Scholars often think Jesus is recalling this imagery when He describes the Kingdom of God in the parable of the mustard seed.

Perhaps there is even more undergirding Shadyside’s selection of the mouse as the newsletter’s titular entity than carved décor. One former editor considered that “the Mouse provides a bit of whimsy” for an institution that could, at times, seem unwittingly imposing or austere. This “whimsical” and light-hearted nature of the mouse signals to readers that we do not have to take ourselves quite so seriously all the time and might prevent us from appearing overly staid or humorless. Another aspect of our meek mouthpiece is the inference that everything reported within these pages has been “overheard” by the little ears of one who is eager to share good news — The Good News, even — rather than a self-congratulatory broadcast intended to pat ourselves on the back.

Furthermore, in a way, the Mouse’s unassuming stature grants permission to pay attention to all things, great and small. Indeed, this humble creature with a huge heart has done just that for half a century and invites us all to do the same. We hope you will continue to enjoy reading The Church Mouse to be informed about and inspired by all the good God is accomplishing in and through Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

So — can you find Shadyside’s wooden mouse carving?

Here’s a hint: The Mouse doesn’t work alone — in fact, there’s a vast network of mice — and, over the years, the mice have been chummy with the Chancel Choir choristers. You might say they’re very close. “Seek, and ye shall find!”

Hear Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr Preach

Archival Recording of a Sermon Preached by Shadyside’s Fifth Pastor

Rev. Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr, fifth pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church from 1913-1945Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr served as fifth pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church from 1913 to 1945.  This recording is a sermon delivered on June 20, 1948, at the Mt. Lebanon Methodist Church by Dr. Kerr, who was then retired.  The transcription was made on twelve 78 RPM lacquer disks, which were carefully preserved by the late Reverend George Fulton and his widow, Mrs. Kathleen Fulton.  Mrs. Fulton recently arranged for Steve Zelenko, the church’s sound engineer, to transfer this audio treasure to a digital copy.  A generous bequest from Rev. Fulton’s estate supported Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s long-time radio ministry, broadcasting Sunday at Shadyside on multiple stations, including KDKA-AM and KQV-AM.  Presently, the Fulton bequest makes possible the church’s streaming webcast available during worship on Sunday mornings at www.shadysidepres.org/live.  We are grateful for the faithfulness and stewardship of the Fulton family, and we hope you will enjoy hearing this only-known recording of Dr. Kerr’s voice.

Twentieth Anniversary of the Columbarium

“God of our life, through all the circling years … Our heart’s true home when all our years have sped.” ­— The Reverend Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr
Sheep May Safely Graze: Immediately outside the Columbarium hangs a pastoral scene, painted by the late John Haughwout, which references the image of God as a shepherd caring for His sheep.
Sheep May Safely Graze: Immediately outside the Columbarium hangs a pastoral scene, painted by the late John Haughwout, which references the image of God as a shepherd caring for His sheep.

As we observe All Saints’ Sunday, we remember and give thanks for the lives of our deceased loved ones in light of the Resurrection — the ultimate source of solace and comfort afforded by our faith. Furthermore, we reverently recall those faithful departed whose families have chosen inurnment in the Columbarium at Shadyside Presbyterian Church for their loved ones. This year, All Saints’ Sunday marks the twentieth anniversary of the dedication of Shadyside’s Columbarium.

The Columbarium is a sacred and beautiful space for mortal remains in the peace and permanence of our beloved church home. Located in the Chapel Narthex, it contains over 300 bronze memorial niches available for those who prefer this form of memorialization.

The design of the Columbarium by the late John L. Haughwout, church member and architect, made use of several existing elements — including a screen wall with stained glass panels and a Virgil Cantini bronze bas-relief — in order to achieve a well-integrated final space. Authorized by the Session in 1994, the project was completed three years later, after much careful planning and construction. The Columbarium was then dedicated on All Saints’ Sunday, November 2, 1997.

The peaceful ambiance of this space provides a setting which invites quiet meditation, reflection, and prayer, while offering the comfort of familiar, well-loved church surroundings. Burial within or on church property has been practiced for many centuries, while the practice of cremation has become an increasingly popular option in the past several decades. Both methods of final disposition are supported by the Christian Church. Members interested in considering this memorial option may contact a member of the Columbarium Committee through the church office.

Contributed by Elder Robert G. Mayer Jr.

About World Communion Sunday

This six-foot banner at the denominational offices in Louisville was created to illustrate the Peacemaking Offering for World Communion Sunday on October 5, 1997. This design was originally drawn in oil pastels by Dorothea B. Kennedy and was translated into fabric by Gloiela Yau Dolak. As the mountains and hills rejoice, the thirsty of all nations are invited to come to the water; the hungry are invited to come to the table. Everyone is welcome.

The first Sunday in October is designated as World Communion Sunday, which celebrates our oneness in Christ with all our brothers and sisters around the world.

Paul tells us that we are to “discern the body” when we partake of Holy Communion, mindful that we note our relationship to all our brothers and sisters in Christ in the celebration (1 Corinthians 11:29).

World Communion Sunday (originally called World Wide Communion Sunday) is a gift of the Presbyterian Church to the larger ecumenical Church. The first celebration occurred here at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in 1933, when the Reverend Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr served as pastor.

John A. Dalles, a Pittsburgh native, a friend of Shadyside, and a PC(USA) pastor who has researched the history of World Communion Sunday, reported in the October 7, 2002, issue of Presbyterian Outlook:

“Davitt S. Bell (the late Clerk of Session and church historian at Shadyside) recalled that Dr. Kerr first conceived the notion of World Communion Sunday during his year as moderator of the General Assembly (1930). Dr. Kerr’s younger son, the Rev. Dr. Donald Craig Kerr, who is pastor emeritus of the Roland Park Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, was sixteen in 1933. He has related that World Communion Sunday grew out of the Division of Stewardship at Shadyside. It was their attempt to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity—in which everyone might receive both inspiration and information, and above all, to know how important the Church of Jesus Christ is, and how each congregation is interconnected one with another.”

Celebration of World Wide Communion Sunday was adopted as a denominational practice in the Presbyterian Church (US) in 1936. Churches in other denominations were invited to celebrate with us from the beginning, but it was not until 1940, when the Department of Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches (a predecessor body of the National Council of Churches) promoted extending the celebration to a number of churches around the world, that the practice became widespread. Today, World Communion Sunday is celebrated around the world, transcending boundaries of denomination, geography, and language.

Text partially adapted from resources available at www.pcusa.org/worship.

About the Artwork: This six-foot banner at the denominational offices in Louisville was created to illustrate the Peacemaking Offering for World Communion Sunday on October 5, 1997. This design was originally drawn in oil pastels by Dorothea B. Kennedy and was translated into fabric by Gloiela Yau Dolak. As the mountains and hills rejoice, the thirsty of all nations are invited to come to the water; the hungry are invited to come to the table. Everyone is welcome.