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PLUM Churches:

Bethany (Dormont)

Christ (Duquesne)

East Liberty

Hope (Forest Hills)

Luth. Church of Our Saviour

Messiah (Munhall)

Resurrection (Oakdale)

St. Andrew (East Carnegie)

St. Paul's (Canonsburg)

Trinity (Mt. Oliver)

Zion (Coraopolis)


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December 2018


Dear Partners in Ministry,

Growth vs. Change


Can you believe, I must figure out new and creative ways to get off the floor without looking like a beached walrus?  Why?  Because I have two thigh high grandsons; who for now, the floor is where they spend their time running, falling, tumbling, rolling, giggling, pondering, and looking up at the clouds, the ceiling, and the monsters (grown-ups) in their midst.   

Do I need to change or grow?

I must learn a new language (the one kids speak), new songs, new stories, new words, large print books with lots of pictures that they have already studied.  (The large print at my age is not all bad, but I’ll not admit it in my “professional life.”)  And I must find the mouse in the picture, next to the bookshelf, that they take glee at pointing out because I’m the new kid on the block.

Do I need to change or grow?

I can no longer depend on my 15-minute power nap to revitalize me for the next race of the day as it can easily become an hour or more coma.

Do I need to change or grow?

Who would have put together the PLUM picture of the last 6 months?  At this time last year, as pastors, our big sweat item was how do we cover 24 worship services in 12 hours?  If you will recall, in 2017 the last Sunday in Advent was Sunday morning and Christmas Eve was Sunday night.  (For many in our congregations it was, “Do we have to do church twice in the same day?”)  But look at us now.  With Pastor Jocelyn coming on board in June 2018 and Pastor Beth retiring in July, Vicar Brenda formally starting her 9-month internship in August and Pastor Melba resigning her call with PLUM and taking up a part-time call with Bethany, Bethel Park, who decided their time with us helped them discern and recommit their efforts to go it on their own. Trinity Lutheran in Sheraden has merged with St. Andrew in E. Carnegie, while East Liberty is in the process of selling their property and sorting out as a congregation with prayer and discernment what their new ministry might become.

Is it change or growth?

Although change and growth share some significant elements in that they both offer newness, challenge, possibilities, options, and potential, I think change just for the sake of change can be and many times is counterproductive--If its purpose is to keep us off balance, distracted, or just collective busy work--then it is truly not helpful and for most part is usually a waste of time and energy.  However, if on the other hand, its purpose is to move us from where we are to where the Lord wants us to be, it can be very powerful, meaningful, and righteous. 

Our lessons in the new Narrative Lectionary series this fall have helped us focus on some of these challenges. Yes, we are revisiting Biblical stories of the Mighty Acts of God working in the midst of his people that we may not have heard since our Sunday school days.  (Yes, similarly some of the “new” stories I’m reading to our grandchildren Logan and Connor, I have not read since I read them to our kids over 35 years ago in the mid-1980s.) 

Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that God frequently takes the small and what the world might see as inconsequential and uses that to change the world for good.  He took David, a shepherd and his five stones and slew the giant Goliath.  He took Moses, a refugee, ex-convict to free his people from oppression in Egypt. He took Abraham, a nomad in the middle of the desert and made him the father of many nations.  Repeatedly, the stories point to the fact that we celebrate a God that continually uses what the world sees as insignificant to make the world a better place.  

And then there is us.  PLUM is a collection of what the world sees as irrelevant and trivial.  Now, 10 small congregations, and yet we are and can change and challenge the communities in which we reside.  In the words of the prophet Micah from last Sunday’s narrative lectionary reading Micah 6:8b, we can, “do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.”  This is what we are doing when we fight for justice, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and humbly walk with our God in prayer and perseverance.  Looking at our past excites me for our future as we face the ever-changing landscape of the world surrounding us.  When we accepted the challenge to join other small congregations to grow and adapt to our ever-changing world, who would have thought that it was for something more vital than just perpetuating our existence?  The ministries from our 10 small bands of servants are changing worlds and lives, providing hope and wholeness to those we serve.  May we continue accepting the changes the world places in our paths, growing in our faithful actions, and keeping our eyes on the Lord God Almighty whom we serve.  May we be always thankful for the Blessings He showers on us.  Besides, personally, I think the best is yet to come.

In Christ’s Service, 

Pastor John



Merry Christmas to All from

Pastors Jocelyn, Liz, Martin, Paul, John, and Vicar Brenda





Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110        412-466-7773