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March Newsletter Deadline:

February 23rd

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From the Pastor's Desk

Here we are – already a month into 2023. It is difficult to know where those first weeks have gone, since the whirlwind has moved so quickly. 

Nevertheless, as we approach this next month filled with hearts and also the beginning of that season when we will explore the remarkable depth of God’s love for us, I find myself reflecting more than normal upon what it means to truly be God’s family here on earth.

This past Sunday, I reflected during Joys & Concerns that there are many things weighing heavily upon the hearts and minds of our neighbors within our Hollidaysburg community and our broader national community right now. Difficult things. Battles rage – none of which are new, yet they are painful and can devastate so many. We cannot truly know what our siblings may be going through, which means it is so incredibly important to be as kind and as gracious as we can possibly be.

Many people just need a safe place to decompress. To think. To breathe. To be themselves. 

We are so very blessed that our church family at FPCH has created an environment where that is the case. Our members and friends, young and old alike, are safe to ask any question or to wrestle with the challenges of life among a loving family who will walk with them through whatever is coming. Love grows here. And ALL are truly welcome to see how God is working in our midst.

Having lived through many battles, both within the church and within the world, I personally know that is not always the case. I have seen the hurt and the harm that can be done when we forget that Christ told us the only way people will know we follow him is by the way we love.

This is not the romantic love of cupids, nor even the brotherly love of that team that will be going to the Super Bowl in two weeks. No, this is God’s love. Agape love. It is unconditional. Extravagant. Merciful. Yet seeking equity for those it loves. Willing to give of itself to the utmost so that another can find flourishing in this life. 

That is the love that has been and continues to grow in our midst. 

It is ours to join in the fervent work that God is already stirring up.


Pastor Janie

Session has moved the Annual Congregational Meeting to THIS Sunday, February 5. We will have the Annual Report and the budget for 2023. Please plan to stay following worship.

Together in Worship

Holy Communion

This month we will celebrate the Lord's Supper on Sunday, February 4, 2023.

Did you know?

Every week when we gather for worship, we lift up those things that are on our hearts and our minds. We call them “Joys & Concerns.” These are people, life events, community anxieties, and sometimes even world affairs that impact us. Sometimes they bring us jubilation. Far more often we are hit with apprehension or sorrow. We share what is happening so that we might carry these burdens together and to “get them off our chest,” so to speak, because God already knows them all.

On weeks that we do not celebrate the Sacrament of Communion, I always ask everyone to do something that you may find a little odd: to take a few moments of silence to hold those on your minds in that heart space where God resides and to surround them with the love that Christ has given you. We do this every week before we enter into our spoken Prayers of the People. Where did this come from and why do we do it?

Well, in the third and fourth centuries, there were women and men who lived in the deserts of Egypt who were called mystics. It was their aim to commune with God by seeking to depend on God for their every need. Among their practices was to spend much of their day in a form of meditation called “Centering Prayer.” They would sit comfortably, with their eyes gently closed, and still their minds, emptying them of all thoughts. Once cleared, they would focus on their heart-space, that center-most spot within themselves where they believed God continues to reside within us through the Holy Spirit. There they could commune with God’s own presence.

As time went on, decades and centuries, mystics discovered two things. First, it is not so easy to keep the mind quiet for an extended period. So, they began to use a simple prayer, usually called either the Jesus Prayer or The Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” They would breathe in on the first two phrases and out on the last. In the Middle Ages, they added the phrase “a sinner” to the end of the prayer, but it was not on the original. If you find yourself wanting to try centering prayer, but having trouble quieting your mind, try using The Prayer to help.

The second thing the mystics quickly found is that God always pushes our awareness beyond ourselves, because Love simply is that way. And we were made in Love’s image. It should therefore not surprise us that mystics were often found in monasteries where they could serve their local communities. Julian of Norwich found a deep connection between Love and living out her connection with God, as did Teresa of Avila and Francis of Assisi. And while prayer should always push us to physical action to tangibly love our neighbors, the first thing we can always do is to connect those we are praying for to that space where we feel most connected to God, that space at the very center of ourselves where God resides.

Lent is coming on Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023. The season will be full of special music and art, along with opportunities for study and fellowship. 

On Ash Wednesday, February 22, we will once again have Curbside Ashes from 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at the corner of Walnut and Clark Streets. Pastor Janie will be present to distribute ashes to those who are unable to attend our worship service or to those who would prefer to have their ashes earlier in the day.

On the evening of Ash Wednesday, February 22, we will have our annual Ash Wednesday Worship Service at 7:00 p.m. including Communion and the imposition of ashes. As we enter into this season of reflection and preparation for the final week of Jesus’s life, this service will offer a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the wonder of God’s love for us and the remarkable things God can do with dust.

This year, the Hollidaysburg Ministerium will be hosting monthly Lenten Lunches. The first one will be on Thursday, February 23 at First United Methodist Church at noon. The leaders of American Rescue Workers will be sharing a reflection. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend this wonderful opportunity to fellowship with our siblings in Christ.

Learning Together

Lenten Devotional

This year, our devotional for Lent will be coming to us from the Presbyterian Outlook. It is based around Scripture and several ancient prayer practices, most especially the practice of examen. This devotional will be available either in print outside the Church Office or can be delivered to your email (as a whole devotional) as the season approaches. Please email Pastor Janie if you would like to receive this devotional via email. Thank you!

Family Lenten Devotional

This year, we will once again have an additional devotional for our families with children that will offer specially developed reflections and activities to help even our youngest disciples dive into this special season. As a compliment to our main devotional, our family devotional will also focus on prayer. This devotional will automatically be sent to our families as the season approaches.

J.A.M. is back for Lent!

Everyone's favorite Night Church program is back for the season of Lent. Beginning Sunday, February 26, we will gather at 5:30 p.m. for a light supper before programs for all ages.

Have you ever wondered why we always seem to be studying and using our brains so much? Or why we talk about love and grace all of the time? For our adults, we have a very special class, "Why Presbyterians Are Like That" which will be taught by beloved friend of our congregation, Lay Pastor Ken Lynch.

Our youth and children will be kicking off the new season of JAM with a Mardi Gras Party. Bring your favorite mask from home (no, not the COVID kind) and get ready to let the good times roll!

As a gift from your Christian Education Team, here is a preview of one of the coloring pages from our Family Devotional this year... Enjoy!

Together in Fellowship

Our final Soup Saturday hosting is THIS Saturday, February 4th. We can always use an extra bit of help around Smith Hall. Service is from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Thank you to everyone who has made this years events such a huge success!

Coffee Walk

Join us for a warm break from the winter cold over a cuppa joe and cozy conversation among friends.

Tuesday, February 7th:

Allegheny Creamery & Crepes

505 Allegheny Street in Hollidaysburg

A few shots from Soup Saturdays so far this year...

Serving Together

SOUPerbowl of Caring is here at FPCH! We start today with our annual competition to see who we think will win Super Bowl LVII. We have baskets for both the Eagles and the Chiefs and one basket for the commercials. Be sure to put your canned soup and nonperishable items (don’t forget that diapers, wipes, and feminine products are super helpful to food pantries) in whichever basket you want to vote for! All proceeds will go to benefit American Rescue Workers. Thank you for supporting our community!

Easter Flowers - lilies, tulips, and hyacinths - will go on sale the first Sunday of Lent. All of the flowers will be coming from Warners Greenhouse. As the season approaches, we will have more information about the cost of the flowers and the organization to which the extra funds raised will be donated this year.

Caring Together

Please hold in prayer members of our church family and friends who are in special need: Reggie Arford, Ann & Laird Benton, Nancy Buchanan, Cameron, Eleanor Carson, Sharon Denk & Family, Anne Forsht, James Hammonds, Rodger & Sally Hammond, Paula Heim, Ticky Hendricks, Bobbi Hill, Ron Kennedy, Norma McPhee, Betty Meyer, Tristan Myers, Vivian Norris, Sarah Ocker, Ray Overdorff, Pat Parnell, Ed Pratt, Aleta & Brad Reist, David & Judi Rhoades, June Slep, Doug Soisson, Todd Sponsler & Family, Carol Stultz, John & Diane Stultz, Bill & Deb Wandersee, Bonnie Ward, Phil & Stacey Willis & Family, Avery Marie Wineland.

Please also hold our troops in your prayers, including Trent Sipes, Kyle Gardner, Andrew Rosamilia, Cameron Sellers, and Harrison Heim, who are directly related to our congregation. Pray for our leaders and the leaders around the world as they are making decisions in the coming days. And please pray for all those who find themselves in harm's way that they may know God's presence and that they will have what they need.

Giving Together

What does FPCH mean to you?

Every gift, tithe, offering, and donation to FPCH enables a story that began two-hundred-and-thirty-five years ago to continue. Christ's ministry that was planted at the head of Scotch Valley over two centuries ago, continues to bloom and blossom across the generations of our members as we worship, learn, eat, serve, play, and grow our faith together. Never forget - God has a place for you in this story, too!

Every year, we take part in the mission of the larger church by paying a portion of the budgets for our Presbytery (local region), our Synod (larger region), and General Assembly's Mission Efforts. The reason is that we are these governing bodies and they are us - we take part and are able to send commissioners to every level. The portion we pay is called "per capita," which means per full member (adults and confirmed youth members). This year we are paying $39.24 per person, most of which will stay within our very own Huntingdon Presbytery. Click on the emboldened words above to learn more about our higher governing bodies. We encourage you to consider paying your own portion as we take part in Christ's larger mission in the world!

Did you know?

One way to ensure the longevity of First Presbyterian Church is to remember her in your will? In the last two years alone, FPCH has been blessed to receive two rather large bequests from former members who have transferred to the Church Triumphant that have helped offset the magnitude of the deficit and keep our church functioning. A final gift can make a bigger difference than you may realize to the future of our church.

Donate Now

Leading Together

Our Session met on Tuesday, January 17, for our regular, stated meeting. In addition to receiving updates from several of our committees, Session reelected Sally Unger as Treasurer and elected Alan Musselman to serve as Clerk of Session beginning in the summer of 2023. It was also affirmed to abide by the national standard of 39% package dues set by the Board of Pensions as recommended by Administrative Committee, after it was caught in communications from Presbytery that we did not include the correct percentage when approving Pastor Janie’s 2023 package. The change will be reported to the congregation at the Annual Meeting on February 5. 

To get your copy of the latest edition of the FPCH Church Directory, just click on the image above!

Presbyterian Cemetery Lots For Sale

Want to be laid to rest near the site of our church's founding? Contact John Stultz of Stultz Real Estate for more information, 814.695.4463.

Our Leadership Team


Rev. Janie McElwee-Smith, Moderator

Jessica Stanek, Clerk

Alan Musselman ('25), Assistant Clerk

Sally Unger, Treasurer

Gail Allen, Brandon Burns, Shannon Carper, Kathryn Gardner, Joel Seelye, Diane Zink

Deacons - Pastoral Care & Mission

Nancy, Michael, Moderator

Joe Carper, Vice Moderator

Kathy Draskoczy, Barb Evans, Molly Goldstein, Binky Moxin, Carroll Osgood, Pat Parnell

Administrative Committee

Dorothy Moore Liller & John Stultz, Co-Chairs

Gail Allen, Susan Musselman, Joel Seelye, Linda Snider

Christian Education Committee

Becky Burns & Amanda Seelye, Co-Chairs

Kathy Draskoczy, Diane McClanahan, Nancy Michael, Ashtyn Whyte

Fellowship & Outreach Committee

Leigh Casey & Brenna Tatusko, Co-Chairs

Sue Ann Hess, Lynette Luke, Alan Musselman

Property Committee

Brandon Burns, Chair

Bill Edwards, Barb Huff, Kathryn Gardner, Carroll Osgood, Dennis Zink

Worship Committee

Julia Benton & Diane Zink, Co-Chairs

Catherine Cone, Janet Hines, Bonnie Ward


PDF Calendar

Our Staff

Rev. Janie McElwee-Smith, Pastor

Email: revjaniefpch@gmail.com

Walter Yatta, Music Director

Email: walyatta@verizon.net

Angela Koelle,

Church Administrator

Email: churchmouse10@gmail.com

Phone: 814.695.9019

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