Week of May 31, 2020

  • Due to the COVID-19 virus, we will not have worship services at church until it is safe and in accordance with national, state, local, and CDC guidelines. We continue to worship online during this time (www.bethelpresby.org)
  • All activities, events, and meetings are cancelled or will be held remotely until further notice.
  • Childcare is now open with many protective measures in place.
  • The church office and building are closed until further notice.
  • Meals on Wheels is operating on a modified schedule.
Weekly Message
Rev. Dr. Cathie Smith
A Time to...

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In Ecclesiastes, the "Teacher" wisely notes that in our lives there is a time to mourn, a time to dance, a time to build, a time to love, and so forth- that there is a "time for every purpose under heaven." I have to say, however, that the events of this spring and summer have made that wisdom very complicated. The global pandemic has governments and businesses and schools and churches all asking: Is it time to close or time to open? A time to gather or a time to be apart?

And now, our nation is facing new questions as we come to terms with the stark reality of the needless death of George Floyd and other black men and women in recent days. Frustration at decades and decades of racism and lack of action have spilled over into protests in cities not just in our own country, but globally, demanding change and raising awareness in new ways. This frustration is echoed by police officers who want their departments to be places of help and not harm, who are speaking out against the systems that protect those who abuse power, and who are reaching out to protesters and communities of color seeking reconciliation and committing to reform. And yet, in some cities, law enforcement continues to address the protests, even those that are peaceful, by a show of force and violent acts that have caused significant physical injury to protesters and journalists. But then, there are groups and individuals who have infiltrated the peaceful protests inciting riots and looting and damage to businesses and attacking police officers. Government leaders are mixed on their responses- joining the walks for justice, reaching out to leaders with compassion and commitment, calling on more force, instituting curfews, using the pain of our nation and communities for publicity and political motives, and at times seemingly ignoring what is going on hoping it will go away.

It is a troublesome and confusing time- but it is a time that calls the Church to respond, as it has in all ages as it has been called to face new times and new situations. Each of these times have addressed the Church with new questions. But the Church has always sought its answers through prayerful discernment and application of the words of Scripture. And when it comes to questions of justice and mercy and compassion, Scripture is clear- quite clear...

God cares deeply and passionately for justice for the oppressed and care for the vulnerable and weak...

Psalm 10:17-18 O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror.

Psalm 82:3-4 A Prayer: Vindicate, O Lord, the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 103:6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed

Psalms 140:12. I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor.

Psalms 146:5-9 How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous; the LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.

God's Son, Jesus, came to bring that justice and compassion...

Isaiah 42:1-4 Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.

Isaiah 61: 1-3 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

God's people, Christ's followers, are called to do that work...

Isaiah 58:6-10 Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say, `Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.

Proverbs 21:3. To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice.

Isaiah 1:16-17 Wash your hands, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to evil. learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.

Jeremiah 22:3. Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Hosea 12:6, 15 Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually.

Amos 5:15 Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate!

Amos 5:24 Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Micah 6:8. He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Zechariah 7:9 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’”

Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

We can not ignore this mandate of Scripture: to do justice, to defend the cause of the oppressed, to care for those in need. This is core to our identity as God's people, as followers of Christ. That is clear. Crystal clear.

But because the issues around systemic racism and police reform are complicated enough and are further complicated by our current political climate and a worldwide pandemic- the questions of how and when we are to act and respond- what it is time to do- do not have as clear of an answer.

Below I share several articles and resource lists that have come to my attention in this last week to give us a starting place. What I have learned from these and from other sources is that as we respond, there are three "times" we will need to observe.

A time to LAMENT- to grieve the losses, the pain, the confusion, the fear...

A time to LEARN- to read and watch and listen- to try to understand the hearts of those who are affected and to get our heads around the systems and patterns that have caused this pain and failed to alleviate it over time...

A time to LEAN- to lean into the truth we have learned- to take action, to show love, to give care...

I humbly admit that I do not have the answers. I wish I did. I do know that the protests will end, but the work will continue. And that it will be in the continuing work that real change can happen.

I don't have the answers, but I commit to this: to lament with you... to learn for you and with you...and to prayerfully discern what and when and how we will respond. For we will. For we must. It is time.

You are loved,
Pastor Cathie
This Sunday, in our Online Worship, we will continue exploring the wisdom of Fred Rogers for these uncertain times. It is not a coincidence that our scheduled exploration for this Sunday is Fred's understanding of Matthew 25 and Jesus' command to care for the "least of these." We will consider what that means for a time of pandemic and protest, and in all times...
Warner Brothers has made the 2019 film, "Just Mercy" free to rent during the month of June. This film chronicles courtroom struggles against racial injustice and mass incarceration. The film is based on the best-selling 2014 memoir of attorney, Bryan Stevenson. Warner Brothers is offering this free resource to help those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society. Check your streaming platforms to see if it is offered.
My Summer Reading List
for Racism Awareness

I haven't read these yet, so I can't provide a review or recommendation- but will let you know what I think after I read them...I will order two copies of each of these books and will be happy to lend them if you would like to join me in LEARNING this summer...

Understanding Racism's Roots

White Fragility: Why Its So Hard for White People to Talk About Race Robin DiAngelo

Stamped from the Beginning
Ibram X Kendi

So You Want To Talk About Race
Ijeoma Oluo

A People’s History of the United States
Howard Zinn


Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates

Michelle Obama

The Warmth of Other Suns
Isabel Wilkerson

Just Mercy
Bryan Stevenson

Fiction and Poetry

Yaa Gyasi

I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing
Maya Angelou

Beloved and The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison

Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston

The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas.

My Summer Watch List for Racism Awareness

I have not seen these yet (except Hidden Figures), so, like the books, I can't tell you how they are....but I will let you know my thoughts as the summer goes on...

Click on the title to see the trailer for these films...

Resources for Parents

Children need to be part of the conversation and to be exposed in natural ways to people who may not look like them. These resources may be helpful for you and your family. Click on the green bold words to access the resource...

A list of books for children that help open up conversations about race or just introduce children to people they should know...

A very helpful "toolkit" of information and resources to help parents and grandparents talk to children about race and racism.
A Letter from the General Minister
to Pittsburgh Presbytery
A Time to Mourn
June 4, 2020

A week ago, we surpassed the grim total of 100,000 American lives lost to COVID-19, and that number continues to grow daily. A few days earlier, the National Council of Churches hosted a solemn memorial service for the virus’s victims entitled “ A Time to Mourn .” It is well worth watching. Just as that gruesome milestone was being passed, we were further jolted and sickened by a widely circulated video of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, lying handcuffed on the ground, while Mr. Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Onlookers pled on his behalf as well, yet Officer Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, while fellow officers helped hold him down or watched in silent support. As is far too often the case, Mr. Floyd was black and unarmed, while Officer Chauvin is white. Chauvin and the officers on the scene were fired immediately, and Chauvin was eventually charged with third-degree murder, a charge that was subsequently upgraded to second-degree murder.

In response, our country has been roiled in turmoil for the past week, with demonstrations of outrage over this senseless killing spilling out to other countries as well. Pittsburgh has been the scene of numerous protests, some of which have turned violent.  Eastminster Church  hosted an ecumenical prayer service last Sunday night, attended by several hundred people. Clergy rallied more than three hundred people on Monday with prayer and proclamation at Freedom Corner, then everyone marched to the City-County building. The Pittsburgh Chapter of the  National Black Presbyterian Caucus  organized a silent noon vigil on Wednesday at  East Liberty Presbyterian Church , and anticipates doing the same on subsequent Wednesdays this month at other churches. Many of the participants in these three events are Presbyterians.

Between the ravages of the natural virus known as COVID-19, and the violence against George Floyd rooted in the unnatural virus of white racism, death is before us constantly in news cycles and stories that tear at our hearts. And with both the COVID-19 pandemic and violence against the defenseless perpetrated by those in power, the black community bears the brunt of the brutality. Yes, we must fight back. But first, we must mourn. There is a time to dance, and there is a time to mourn, says  Ecclesiastes 3:4 . Today we mourn. We join the psalmists’ laments. I have joined protests and rallies, yet I believe that our first recourse is prayer of lament. It may express itself in “sighs too deep for words,” ( Romans 8:26 ) or in high decibel outrage, “Shout out, do not hold back!” ( Isaiah 58:1)  Earlier this week I published a letter with  my own prayer of lament .

In the fifth of the Church’s six “Great Ends,” Presbyterians affirm that one of the church’s core callings is “the promotion of social righteousness.” (Book of Order F-1.0304) Not just “proclamation,” but “promotion.” We need to do more than merely spout platitudes of justice. We need to advocate, to come alongside, to roll up our sleeves and get to work in in the face of injustice. Ralph Lowe, our Director of Justice Ministries wrote  a powerful letter  to his “white siblings in Christ” on Monday. I urge everyone to read and reread it, and especially to ponder his bullet list at the end detailing things we can do. They are forms of enacted lament-prayer.

The scourge of racism in both its loud and silent forms is abetted as much by quiet onlookers as it is by those who visibly and actively perpetrate it. None of us can wash our hands and say, “Not my problem.” It is not just an inner-city problem. It is not just a problem for black and brown people. The problem belongs to all of us. We must own it, and we have no option but to lament it before holy God, investing our hearts, hands, and feet in the promotion of “the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” ( Matthew 6:33 ) We proclaim a Gospel in which Christ has broken down the walls of hostility between groups that have been long separate, making us one new humanity. ( Ephesians 2:14-15 ) If anyone should be at the forefront of tearing down walls that separate us, it should be those who claim to follow Jesus. Reconciliation lies at the heart of the Gospel. Racial reconciliation is only one form of Gospel reconciliation, but in America today it is crucial. We must yearn for it, work for it, hope in it, and rejoice in it when God mercifully grants it to us.

The church is immeasurably more powerful in its witness as a reconciled community than as a segregated community. It is no accident that at Pentecost the Christian church was born as a community that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, actively reached out to and included Europeans, Asians, and Africans. ( Acts 2:9-11 ) Pentecostal power and racial reconciliation are joined at the hip. May our mourning over the racism among us be turned into the dance of the reconciled! May those who “sow in tears” of lament find a homecoming in God’s kingdom with “shouts of joy!” ( Psalm 126:5-6 )

Yours in shared lament,
The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister
A Letter to White Presbyterians
Monday, June 1, 2020
from Elder Ralph Lowe
Director of Justice Ministries, Pittsburgh Presbytery

Dear White Siblings in Christ, Another news cycle, another black life taken, and another city in rage and in flames. I am tired; I am angry; I am scared; I am outraged; I am desperate; I am hurt; and I am Black. I am the Director of Justice Ministries, husband, father, coach, brother, best friend, student, and I am Black. Again and again in America it is clear that the last adjective is the only part that determines my worth. I am Breonna Taylor, Antwon Rose, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, George Floyd and Ralph Lowe.

As a father of four African American young men I have constant conversations with them about living while Black. We talk about how to effectively comply when pulled over or stopped on the street by the police: make sure your hands are always visible, always announce your actions, “I’m reaching for my wallet, I’m opening the glove compartment for my insurance.” This conversation is framed by the false narratives of black men and women whose noncompliance resulted in death. How do we explain the evil (violence) to our children of the George Floyd murder? I chose not to use the word violence because violence seems balanced, fair or justified and what we have seen recently is none of these. I educate my sons to speak truth always, but it’s heartbreaking to speak the truth when it means looking into my beautiful, young teenage boys’ eyes and declaring the reality that the world says their black lives do not matter.

The arrest of Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin does not correct the issue of racism. The issue is systemic and historical; regardless of race we are affected by the realities of this societal injustice. We are all affected by this injustice; we are all responsible to correct it. Thank you for changing your Facebook profile or liking a post – but more is needed. The Holy Spirit calls us to embody justice. The book you read on white guilt is a good start, but the Holy Spirit calls us to action. Praying for these issues is not enough, the Holy Spirit calls us to be “doers of the word and not merely hearers…” (James 1:22a).

Last Sunday was Pentecost, a time when denominational lines dissolve as we celebrate with united hearts the start of the church.  According to the PCUSA website , on the Day of Pentecost “we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit descending in a mighty rush of wind and flame to inspire the church’s proclamation of Christ’s rising and to empower its mission and ministry to the world.” We read throughout scripture that the Holy Spirit is more than charismatic experiences. The outward manifestation of the Holy Spirit is more than dancing and speaking in tongues. When the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples they are empowered to break from societal norms and live life in a new way.

From the Holy Spirit, we receive the gift of strength and ability to act. From the Holy Spirit we receive our commission to proclaim God’s justice “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) God through Jesus Christ has not orphaned us but empowered us through the Spirit of Truth, an Advocate forever.

We must respond to the call to action by the Spirit. No longer can pastors and congregations sit idly by as the progression of structural, systematic, and institutional racism continues to support the eradication of sisters and brothers of color. The time to act is now!

If you faithfully say “Black lives matter” you must get involved in Black life. Assume racism is everywhere, every day. Support the leadership of people of color. Talk to your children about racism. Understand and learn the history of racism and how it has evolved over time.
I know many of you don’t know what to do individually or as congregations. Here are some general and pragmatic things you can start doing now: 

  • Lead your congregations, friends, and family members into relationships with individuals and communities of color. Technology can destroy the barrier of separation by geography.
  • Intentionally seek out the perspectives of people of color through writers, leaders, and scholars (the Office of the Director of Justice Ministries for the Pittsburgh Presbytery has great resources).
  • Help organize a small task force to be in constant prayer over a few days to seek spiritual guidance for what your church can do to fight racism and injustice.
  • Create small groups or committees focusing on racial harmony and awareness (the Office of the Director of Justice Ministries for the Pittsburgh Presbytery has great resources).
  • Invite people to write a one sentence prayer on your Facebook page, “I pray for…..”

The Holy Spirit has given us tools to do these things. The only faithful way to honor Pentecost is to act. Please don’t waste this gift. 
Ralph Lowe
Director of Justice Ministries, Pittsburgh Presbytery
A Message from the Finance Committee...

The ongoing virus crisis has given us many challenges at Bethel Church. The finance committee wondered how the crisis would impact the giving of pledges and offerings and our ability to attend to ongoing expenses- utilities, salaries, insurance, etc. In a nutshell- your offerings and financial gifts have been steady even in this time of crisis.  People have found a way through standard postage, bank and retirement account transfers, or other means to keep up with pledges.  On behalf of the Finance Committee and Session of our church I would like to offer a huge thank you to the congregation for the excellent steadfast support of our wonderful church! Cliff Decker, Finance Committee  

DONATIONS:  We have received several phone calls and emails asking how to make donations to BPC. There are two ways to make your donations:

1.     Write a check and mail it to the church office, to the attention of Nancy Carr (2999 Bethel Church Road, Bethel Park, PA 15102).
2.     Log onto your bank website. Select “bill pay” and set the church up as a business you would like to pay. It takes a few moments. You should be able to select the date to send the check and, if you like, you could set up your donation as a recurring payment. The nice thing about paying through the bank is that there are no fees charged. If you send $20, the church receives the full $20. (There is usually a field to write a comment stating where the funds should be applied.)

Send Some Love!!

SEND SOME LOVE:  Several of our Bethel Church family members are in facilities that are not allowing visitors at this time. They would love to receive notes and emails from us! Thanks to Marilyn Beckstrom and Kathy Young for gathering the following information for us! Please, if you know of someone we should include on this list, let us know!

Artis Senior Living (Art Brandenburg, BJ Gamble, Betty Bauer, Jean Smith)
Maria is the Activities Director. Send emails to her … she will see that the right people get them. Her email is  mdeangelis@artismgmt.com ; 1001 Higbee Drive, Bethel Park, PA 15102.
Bethel Park Retirement Residence (Twila Fanning, Donna Kilmer, Charlene Paupa, Rodney Payseure, Betty Ramsey, Nancy Reiche) 2960 Bethel Church Road, Bethel Park, PA 15102.
Concordia of the South Hills (Helen Spence) 1300 Bower Hill Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15243.
Country Meadows (Jean Fishel, Louse MacLachlan) 3570 Washington Pike, Bridgeville, PA 15017.
Heritage Manor (Marylou Booth)  The Activities Director will see that the residents receive emails.  The email address is activities@heritagemanorsl.com ; 4220 Sawmill Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15227.
Masonic Village at Sewickley (Bette Wetzel) 2316 Masonic Drive, Sewickley, PA 15143.
Strabane Hills Village (Ginny Flynn) 317 Wellness Way, Apt. 102, Washington, PA 15301.
The Residence at Bethel Park (Bert Drummond) 5851 Keystone Drive, Bethel Park, PA 15102.
The Residence at the Willows (Mary Jane Hoff - a new member) 30 Heckle Road, McKees Rocks, PA 15316.
The Sheridan - Bethel Park (Meredith Goodwin, Phyllis Criss)
Holly is the Activities Director. Send emails to hbowen@seniorlifestyle.com ; 2000 Cool Springs Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15234.

Members who are unable to access the online worship videos are receiving a printed version of the service through the mail. Kathy Young has offered to add messages from church family to those materials. If you have a short message you would like her to include, you can send it to her at bethelpres@verizon.net. Or if you have a video greeting you would like me to add to the worship videos, please email that to me at pastorcathie.bethelpc@gmail.com.
In a Time of Pandemic...

Worship and Learn at Home

Though we may not be together in person during these weeks, we can still learn and worship along with one another. Here are resources to help us in this new adventure in discipleship...

Worship: Here are the video s for online worship

Bible Study: Online Bible Study is off to a great start! It is easy to jump in, even if you missed the first weeks. Watch you email for this week's Zoom link and study details, and join us Wednesday evening at 7 pm!

Make A Difference:
  • If you venture to the store, grab a few extra items for SHIM to help provide for our neighbors in need.
  • Go to FREERICE.COM to play a fun game and help feed hungry populations around the world through the World Food Program. You can play from "easiest" to "hardest" so all ages can play. Choose categories ranging from vocabulary and geography to the arts and world languages. Download the app and play on your tablet or phone!

Kids Activities:
  • Here are worship packets for the week of May 24 and May 31

Parent Resources:
  • Here is helpful article on talking to children about the coronavirus and all that is happening in their world.
  • Here is another helpful article on how children can be a blessing to others in this time of isolation.

This year, as a church family, we are focusing on how we can engage in our life of faith in new and fresh ways. One of the ways I encourage all of us to focus on our spiritual growth is to spend intentional and consistent time in God's Word. I'd like to invite you to join me this year in reading through the Bible- all of it!- in 2020. A helpful and refreshing way to read the Bible is chronologically- which in some cases will be in the way it is ordered in our Bibles, and in other cases will be a "little here, little there" order. To help us with this challenge, I'll put together a packet for each week with the readings that will move us chronologically through scripture at a pace that will get us through the- whole Bible in a year. I"ll post the packet on my Midweek Message and on the website each week. I'll also have a couple of hard copies available at the church. I'm excited about this challenge and hope you will join me!

The most current reading packets are below (all packets are available on the website). You can attack them however works best for you- either a little each day, or big chunks on one or two days.
Let me know if you are joining the challenge!

May God bless unto us the reading of His Holy Word!

Did you miss a sermon?
Past sermons are now available to listen to on our website!!  
Recordings include music, prayers and other parts of the worship service, too!

This Week
at Bethel Presbyterian
All activities, meetings, and programs are cancelled this week. Pray for a quick return to learning, serving, and worshiping together in person!

For a time, we hold our plans in the palm of God's hand...


 1   Cathy Misko       
2  Ryan Anderson
2       Mary Burford
2       Geno Lavezoli
2       Mary Pursglove
4       Henry Barr
5       David Kunkle
6       Walter Bown
6       Rebecca Lavezoli
 8       Twila Fanning
9       Cheryl Pantano
9       Linda Jones
12       Jacob Smith
13       MacKenzie Fetsick
13       Marian Rhodes
13       Pamela Rawlings
14       Justin Pratt
15       David Cobb
16       Jean Fishel
16       Jason Szymanski
16       Steven Zeiler
18       Shirley Gales
18       Jesse Virgin
19       Cynthia Quinlan
19       Maria Jay
20       Kristen Ericson Szott
22       DJ Lucidore
27       LaVerne McConnell
27     Craig Placke
28     Steven Ericson
30       Fred Shoemaker
30       Martin Webler


412-835-0405    www.bethelpresby.org