Pastoral Letter

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

A Congregational Update for the New Program Year

Dear members of Shadyside Presbyterian Church:

We are so grateful to all of you for your faith, patience, and fortitude throughout these past months as COVID-19 has brought necessary reconsideration and restructuring of our church life. The Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) COVID-19 Task Force (formerly the Back-to-Church Task Force) continues to meet weekly, paying close attention to the science and data about COVID-19, comparing notes with other churches throughout our region, and prayerfully considering best practices for the health and safety of our congregation.

We know that everyone misses seeing one another in person. As your pastors, we feel that loss profoundly. We understand that being unable to worship in person as the body of Christ is no small thing. It is also true that we are learning new ways of being the body of Christ during this time. We rejoice in the generosity that our congregation has exhibited in caring for one another and our mission partners. The words of support from all of you to one another and to our leadership have provided both encouragement and hope. Our online worship services continue to draw a wonderful diversity of people from a wide range of geographic locations. Other virtual ministry gatherings continue to provide rich and deeply faithful opportunities for learning and fellowship. And as we approach the beginning of a new program year, we are so excited for all of the new (or newly structured) ways we will be participating in Christ’s work! Please see below to learn more about some of these opportunities and discover ways you can be involved.

As we look to the year ahead, we embrace a mindset of flexibility and grace. Plans are underway for the staff to return to the church office in stages over the coming weeks. In time, we then hope to open the building for smaller gatherings of a pastoral nature. In the coming weeks, you will receive communications from the SPC COVID-19 Task Force, including anticipated timeline, hours of operation for the church office, and safety protocols.

While we look forward to these developments, we also recognize that plans may change depending on fluctuating virus positivity rates, as well as state and county guidelines. We remain committed to communicating with you on a regular basis as circumstances change and decisions are made. Updates are available on the church website at and the church office answering message (412-682-4300). The church also sends multiple email messages each week to keep members informed and to provide convenient links for accessing online opportunities. If you are not receiving these messages, please contact the church office to share your updated email address with us; you may find it most convenient to send your subscription request to

Please know that the grace of God remains visible in our community of faith, and that the vitality of our congregation continues during this unexpected and challenging time. Together, let us seek to discover the new things God is doing in our midst! We hold all of you in our prayers, and we request your prayers as well.

In Christ,

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

Virtual Opportunities: Fall 2020


  • Virtual services of worship continue each week on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. through the church website, Facebook, and YouTube.
  • Midweek vespers will resume on Wednesday, September 16, at 7:00 p.m.
  • We especially look forward to celebrating World Communion Sunday on October 4! Our ability to worship virtually will allow us to share in this experience with some of our mission partners from around the globe, together celebrating the Lord’s Supper, in which Christ unites us with all people of every time and place.

Care and Support

  • Grief Support Group will continue to meet online monthly, resuming on Monday, September 21.
  • Prayer gatherings occur online on Tuesdays from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. and Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • Caring ministries continue through the Deacons and Care Team. Please reach out to us!


  • All are welcome to join our virtual Time of Fellowship every Sunday following the service of worship.
  • “Happier Hours” will resume in September. Parents and friends gather online for fellowship on Thursday evenings after their children are in bed.

Mission and Urban Ministry

  • Ministry with our various mission partners continues, connecting us with members of Christ’s body near and far.
  • Shadyside Presbyterian Church (SPC) is sponsoring Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s McClure Lecture Series, “Jesus Christ and the ‘Dividing Wall’: Race and God’s Mission.” The lectures will take place online each Wednesday evening in October at 7:30?p.m., followed by national conversations, then a time for SPC members to meet together.

Children’s and Youth Ministries

  • Our youngest disciples continue to gather online for Children’s Chapel each week before Sunday worship.
  • Ask a Pastor: Conversations between Children’s Ministry staff and pastors will help children grapple with some of their more challenging questions about life and faith.
  • Our youth in grades six through twelve will connect weekly — sometimes virtually and sometimes in person for outdoor, physically distanced prayer, games, and service opportunities.
  • Youth will help to plan and lead an online Bible study for children.

Adult Ministry

  • Adult Christian Education studies occur online before worship on Sunday mornings. New studies begin September 13.
  • Friday Evening Scripture and Prayer: Participants spend time reading the daily lectionary and praying together online at 7:30 p.m.
  • A new book study group for families and parents will begin in the fall.

Other Exciting News

  • Through the Quarantined Kitchen, published in the blog section of the church website, Chef Steven Bright shares recipes and ideas to help you stay healthy by eating well during the pandemic.
  • On the evening of Monday, October 5, we will host a New Members’ Welcome Meeting online. Do you know of someone who has been participating in the life of Shadyside? Please invite them to consider becoming a member!
  • We are excited to welcome our new student pastor, Wesley Smith, from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in September.

We would love to hear from you! What are other ways you feel God calling you to connect with and serve in the Shadyside Presbyterian Church community? Please reach out to any of the pastors or contact the church office.