A Lenten Message from Rev. Shelley

God’s Beloved Dust

The season of Lent begins with a necessary but unpleasant reminder: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” As a pastor, I feel deep empathy for the people who approach me, awaiting this reminder along with the imposition of ashes on their foreheads. Sometimes the words catch in my throat as I say them, because the people who receive these ancient words are congregants whom I have been called to love.

Most of us who will hear this reminder of our mortality at the beginning of Lent are ordinary human beings living ordinary lives. And yet we believe that all people are treasured and held by the God who has created all things from the dust — galaxies strewn with stars, a biosphere of plant life, the fish of the sea, the birds of air, the beasts of the field, and us.

During the forty days of Lent, we prepare for the coming Easter season by taking time to reflect. We consider our lives and our relationships, our connection to all of creation, and our responsibility for a planet entrusted to our care. Some Christians choose to give up a creature comfort or two in order to be intentional about focusing on their relationship with God during this time. Others choose to take up a practice instead — giving weekly to a food bank or shelter, setting aside a specific time to pray or read Scripture, volunteering time at a school, or donating blood.

Lent is an invitation to be increasingly mindful of the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Join us in person or online at Shadyside Presbyterian Church as we journey through this season which mirrors the forty days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness. Because, while it is true that we are dust and to dust we shall return, the lives we live in between matter — and we believe that you and I and all of us together are God’s beloved dust.

The Reverend Austin Crenshaw Shelley
Senior Pastor and Head of Staff

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A Christmas Message from Rev. Shelley

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ, the One whose birth we await during this holy season of Advent.

The Church marks time slightly differently than does most of the world. Though Advent falls at the end of the calendar year, it represents the beginning of a new year in the Church. Advent simply means “coming,” so, in these days leading up to Christmas, we prepare our hearts once more for the inbreaking of God into human history. We rehearse the story of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem once more, and we also hope for our attention to become more and more attuned to the many ways God enters into our lives today and every day to come.

As humans, we tend to make sense of our lives through the telling and retelling of stories. Over time, the stories we tell about our families, our friends, and ourselves take on lives of their own, reminding us who we are and what it is in our history, both good and bad, that compels us to live with integrity and intentionality.

The story of Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem of Judea remains captivating more than two thousand years later, in part because it tells the story of God’s coming into the world in an utterly surprising way — not as a military hero who would rescue Israel from Roman oppression as many had hoped, but rather as a vulnerable Infant of refugee parents. This helpless Child would become the Messiah, the Savior of the world, not through power wrought by violence, but rather through the power won through love, justice, freedom, and peace.

There is a Kenyan proverb that says, “When you pray, remember to move your feet.” During Advent, we pray that God’s love will continue to break into a violent world that longs for God’s peace, into a despairing world that longs for God’s hope, into a broken world that longs for God’s healing. And, as we pray, we move our feet. We wait for God’s coming by feeding the hungry, tending the sick, encouraging the downtrodden, and freeing those who are captive to oppressive powers that threaten to render them anything less than the beloved children of God that they are.

In the act of reaching out to a world in need, we believe we encounter and embody the love of Christ, who came that all might have life, and have it abundantly. If you have ever had the sneaking suspicion that the holiday season compels us into a deeper longing than all the marketers of consumer goods would have us believe, join us in prayer and worship at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, either in person or online. And while you pray, remember to move your feet. Together, we can do something that will bring a glimpse of unexpected kindness and mercy into the world. And if we do, we believe the story of Christmas — with its astonishing angels, lowly shepherds, guiding star, and dingy stable — will once again take on a life of its own.

To you, to the ones whom you love, and to the ones whom only God loves, we wish a blessed Advent season and a Merry Christmas.

The Reverend Austin Crenshaw Shelley
Senior Pastor and Head of Staff

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Pastoral Message from Rev. Shelley

Blessings in Our Broken Bread

With joy and thanksgiving, I greet you, the people of God who are the Shadyside Presbyterian Church! Thank you for the hospitality you have extended to me and to my family as we have begun to settle into our new surroundings in Pittsburgh. Your kindness has woven its way into our hearts and seamlessly knit us into the fabric of your life together. For this gift of grace, we give thanks to God.

Though your warm welcome has stretched over the waning summer months and into the crisp days of fall, our first official Sunday is October 3, which is also World Communion Sunday. As you surely remember, and as the medallion embedded in the center of our chancel floor attests, World Communion Sunday began here at Shadyside in 1933, when the Reverend Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr served as pastor. That my first Sunday as your senior pastor coincides with such a historically significant celebration in the life of this congregation is both intentional and meaningful.

It is intentional because I pray that our ministry together in this place will be characterized by an appreciation of those who have gone before us who have served God with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. The Reverend Dr. Kerr and many of my predecessors, staff, and lay people alike prayerfully and faithfully discerned the ways in which God was calling them to love their neighbors in their particular time in this place. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

World Communion Sunday’s overlap with my first opportunity to lead worship in your midst is also meaningful. It not only reflects my appreciation of your worship life which is well-rooted in tradition and beauty, but also affirms our shared sense that God is calling us to a future we cannot yet imagine—one that depends on those deep, established roots to nourish our ability to notice new ways God is at work among us, fostering new growth that compels us to go out into the world to join in God’s transformation of the entire landscape.

World Communion Sunday holds a special place in our history, but its significance is not relegated to the past; nor is it contained by our gorgeous stone walls, intricate carvings and mosaics, or historical slate roof. Like the sacrament of Communion itself, this day transcends time and space. When we celebrate World Communion, we proclaim the good news that Christ is among us, present to us in the bread and the cup—and not to us alone, but to every soul throughout time and space who has ever longed to be fed by the living God.

I was recently introduced to an Argentinian blessing that is a fitting prayer as we begin this new chapter in Shadyside’s mission and ministry:

God bless to us our bread
And give bread to all those who are hungry
And hunger for justice to those who are fed
God bless to us our bread

This blessing echoes the Lord’s Prayer in that it asks God for our bread. Not my bread, but rather, our bread—bread that belongs to all of us, nourishes all of us, sends all of us out with the help of the Holy Spirit to continue the work of feeding those who hunger. This blessing acknowledges the truth that our well-being is bound up in the well-being of every other child of God on the planet. And it tells the truth, too—that our hunger for the goodness of the Lord will inevitably lead us to remember our oneness with the refugee fleeing Afghanistan, with the victim of rising flood waters or threatening wildfires, with everyone who has ever heard and will ever hear God’s answer to our prayers for bread: Take, eat. This is my Body, broken for you.

Grace and peace,

The Reverend Austin Crenshaw Shelley
Senior Pastor and Head of Staff

Note: This pastoral message first appeared in the October 2021 issue of The Church Mouse newsletter.

About Rev. Shelley

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Pastoral Statement

Artwork: Detail of Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s “Digital Mosaic,” illustrated by Mark Bender. All rights reserved by Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

Hope and Healing in the Love and Grace of Christ

The pastors of Shadyside Presbyterian Church are profoundly dismayed by the tragic murder of George Floyd. We stand with our Lord Jesus Christ and in unity with all who honor all persons and seek their well-being. We stand opposed to any form of hatred, prejudice, or racial injustice. We pray for the world, for our society, and for all who live in fear because of the cruelty of others. We pray that all will hear with compassion, and that our wounded nation might be changed in ways that are in accord with the love and grace to be found in Christ. Grant us healing. Grant us hope – in these days and in all our days.

Rev. Dr. John A. Dalles
Interim Senior Pastor and Head of Staff

Rev. Lynn M. Portz
Associate Pastor for Parish Life

Rev. Todd E. Leach
Associate Pastor for Missions

Rev. Kendra L. Buckwalter Smith
Temporary Associate Pastor

Armistice Day Centenary

Detail of the World War I memorial plaque below the “Easter Morn” art glass window panels in the north transept of the Sanctuary of Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Presented in 1920 by Mr. and Mrs. James H. Hammond to the glory of God with thanksgiving for peace and victory, the bronze tablet was created by Signor Giuseppi Moretti.Remembering Those Who Have Passed; Praying for Peace

November 11, 2018, will mark 100 years since Germany and the Allies signed an agreement to end hostilities during World War I. The years that this war raged have left their mark around the world, including in our own congregation. Take a moment to read the names of those in our congregation who served in WWI written on the plaque on the pulpit side transept in our Sanctuary. The placement of this plaque could not be more appropriate, for when you take a step back from reading the names and look up, you see, portrayed in the beauty of stained glass, both Mary grieving by the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ hovering above you. As wars continue around the world, the juxtaposition of this plaque and the stained glass remind us that, even as we grieve like Mary for the loss of loved ones, when confronted with death, our hope is in the resurrected Christ — for we are promised, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

On November 4, when we celebrate All Saints’ Day as a congregation both in our morning and afternoon services, we remember all who passed before us and entered the Church Triumphant. And on November?11, as a nation, we remember all who served and work for peace, including those who are forever etched on the plaque in our Sanctuary. Please take time this November to remember and honor those who have passed; to give thanks for those who promote peace; and to pray for Christ’s reign of peace, in which we place our hope, to come.

Contributed by the Reverend John F. Magnuson, Associate Pastor for Discipleship

Architectural Photograph: Detail of the World War I memorial plaque below the “Easter Morn” art glass window panels in the north transept of the Sanctuary of Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Presented in 1920 by Mr. and Mrs. James H. Hammond to the glory of God with thanksgiving for peace and victory, the bronze tablet was created by Signor Giuseppi Moretti.

Perspective on Stewardship

Abounding in Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

In today’s digital age, it is increasingly difficult to manage the information and opinions our children see and hear. Much of the content we consume is filled with despair, and how this information manifests in our youth is of great concern to caregivers everywhere. As our ability to filter this noise diminishes, it is exceedingly important for our children to build a true understanding of the world around them – to see, hear, speak, and demonstrate hope and joy in daily life.

We strive to expose our girls to the teachings of Christ in both active and passive ways. Whether it is through a lesson at children’s chapel on Sunday or an act of kindness by one of us, we seek to provide and demonstrate examples of God’s steadfast and abounding love at every opportunity. Some time ago, we heard a pastor compare Sunday worship to a symphony warming up before a performance. This metaphor rings true for us today, especially as we work to instill values in our children. Sundays at Shadyside help us to stay “in-tune” with our beliefs and renew our efforts to rejoice as a family in all that is good and hopeful in the world around us.

Contributed by Trustee Alexander G. Dick and Rebecca H. Dick

Perspective on Stewardship

Abounding in Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Hope, joy, peace, power — all very emotionally strong words. I have found all of these from within the people of Shadyside Presbyterian Church.

I joined the church back in 2008, coming off a time in my life when I felt hopeless and as far from joy, peace, and power as I could be. The church and its ministry, particularly missions, carried me to a place where I could see joy and understand the power in giving and the peace that it brings.

Today, I am blessed to be a part of our community outreach and am honored to work with such faithful and caring people. So, to the incredible pastors and parishioners who have had me in their prayers over the years, sharing laughter and tears, I thank you!

I look forward to what the next ten years bring with my family here at Shadyside Presbyterian Church!

Contributed by Deacon Lisa Iadicicco

Perspective on Stewardship

Abounding in Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

For all of us, hope, trust, and discipline complement one another. These were instilled into me by my parents and my father’s mother. These attributes were further reinforced by my wife after we got married.

I was brought up as a Lutheran, and I came to Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) three weeks after my arrival in the United States, and then Pittsburgh, in August of 1963. The SPC ministers, staff, and congregation made me feel immediately at home. A similar welcome was extended to my wife. Both of our children were baptized at SPC, both of them were married here, and our granddaughter was also baptized at SPC.

Helga and I, as grandparents, continue our membership here, as the “younger” generations live much farther away, but their spirits are always at home. We are very thankful for the continuing expressions of love. In the last two years, we also received lots of support from the SPC staff and congregation, providing for our lasting hope, another beacon in our lives.

Contributed by Peter J. Freymark, with Helga G. Freymark

Perspective on Stewardship

Abounding in Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Hope. What is our reason for hope? Is it not Christ alone? Dear ones, we have been given so much hope – we have been given the very gift of Christ Himself, the hope of glory who dwells within us (Colossians 1:27). Where, O death, is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55). The grave cannot keep us. And if the grave cannot keep us, then what a life we have to live! Are we living, friends? Are we living to please God? Are we available to be used by Him – not in a striving manner, where we seek to check off a box, but rather in a manner that seeks to lay down our lives in humble obedience in order to take up His call? What adventure is calling! In whatever circumstance or life situation you find yourself, you have the opportunity to respond to His call this day. Smith Wigglesworth said it best when he noted, “God does not call those who are equipped, He equips those whom He has called.” What is He calling you to do this day? Answer His call, dear friends.

Contributed by Elder Krissy K. Moehling

Advent Reflection: Dec. 25, 2017

Seasonal Devotions

Scripture: John 1:1–5  (Today’s Readings)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  (John 1:1-5)

In the dramatic opening of his gospel, John the apostle boldly declares the identity of Jesus. Jesus is the incarnation of Almighty God. He is both fully human and fully divine. He is God. In Him exists creation, redemption, and salvation.

Jesus Christ is the light of life and salvation, yet He came to us as a humble Child, born in a stable. Despite the truth He shared and the healing He brought, we often deny Him, His Word, and our desperate need of salvation which only He can provide.

Yet, He loves us still.

The darkness of the world and the darkness of our own sin have not diminished the radiance of our Lord. His light shines in our darkest hours, illuminating His love, His mercy, and His invitation to us to come and live in His light.

What do you face this glorious Christmas Day? Amidst the celebrations of this day, are you facing illness or the loss of a loved one? Do you face joblessness or financial stress or severe marital discord? Whatever you face today, celebrate the brilliant light shining in our darkness: the light of our Lord, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem!

Merry Christmas!

The Reverend Dr. Conrad C. Sharps and Mrs. Lauren Ford Sharps

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Artwork: Detail of No Between © Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com. Inspired by Isaiah 64:1: “O that You would tear open the heavens and come down … .”