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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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February 2020


Dear Partners in Ministry,


“Our GOD Is An AWESOME GOD.”  These are more than just words of encouragement or a hymn we have heard or possibly sung.  It is the persistent reality of where we collectively, as the congregations and “Partners in the Ministry of the Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM)”, continuously find ourselves.  To begin with, I would like to welcome the members and ministries of HOPE Lutheran Church, in Forest Hills, who are beginning their trial year as part of our PLUM Ministries. They, HOPE, along with the call and ordination of our Pastor Brenda Henry, are but the most recent revelations of how, “awesome our God is.”  With the transitions a year and a half ago of Pastors Beth, (who I might say, stepped into the “ministry of retirement” where she, from all accounts, is as busy serving our Lord as when she was in our puddle); and Melba (who is always challenging things at Bethany Lutheran in Bethel Park); it’s been an amazing year of fascination, challenge, and wonderment about the future and what is around the next bend in the road of ministry.  I must say, though, that if this is what Moses experienced in the wilderness, I am tempted to say that I don’t know how he made it work for 40 years; but then again, I do know how it worked for Moses, as God continually placed support in his midst, such as Aaron, Joshua, and Moses’ family, to mention a few.  Likewise, God has placed support people in the ministry of PLUM, who have encouraged us, such as, Pastors Jocelyn Johnston and Martin Rafanan, not to mention the countless ways so many of you stepped up to the plate and did/do all that needed and needs to be done.


With the ADVENT of 2020, we can see some of God’s plan coming to fruition, using some of the energies of our past to build our futures.  With the call of Pastor Brenda Henry, in November, and the upcoming vote on Vicar Sue Devine, on February 2nd - along with our vicar, Vicar Mandy Gilberti, Pastors Paul Koch, Liz Mayforth, Martin Rafanan, and myself, I am excited about the future God has planned for us. 


I see God retooling us for the future, not just changing the guard.  As we begin this 3rd decade of the 21st century, I believe that God is challenging us and His Church.  Is it possible that He is making us leaner and stronger, preparing us for the journey to come, as he did with His “Children of Israel”, in Egypt?  With the introduction of challenges of change for two of our congregations, Trinity Evangelical in Mt. Oliver and East Liberty Lutheran, who reside in significantly different contexts, yet are finding themselves in similar plights.  Ironically, as they contemplate the task of envisioning what the church could, should, or will look like in the future, they are becoming aware that the important structures of their future are not buildings, but rather who or how they will serve.  We, the pastors of your/our past, were all educated when telephones had rotary dials.  The pastors of your/our futures all graduated last year around the time the iPhone 11 was coming out or had hit the market.  We are exploring the uses of social media at the time when the mass communication tool of print media is coming to an end.  We are addressing new experiences in outreach, as the “Rise Against Hunger” emergency food preparation is morphing into becoming more “welcoming congregations” looking at sanctuary and “Entertaining Angels” experiences.


One of the most uplifting parts of our quarterly PLUM Board Meeting experiences is the “Sharing of Our Congregational Stories” of how we see the Lord working in and through each of our various congregations, as we attempt to be relevant with a world that is ever changing.  What happens if the Lord is using the collective supportive connection of our 11 small congregations to assist us in being the agile Body of Christ in the 21st century?


Oh, to be sure, there will always be the pain of change and adaptation that is ever-present, as we live in an ever-evolving world.  But, isn’t that where our collectivity can be helpful, as we allow this “awesome God” to be our strength?


Recognizing the blessings of our past, I am so excited when I look to the journey of our future.  And to borrow “and modify” the mantra of Captain James T. Kirk, of the starship Enterprise in the Star Trek episodes of the mid 1960s, “May we boldly (be willing to) go where no one has gone before.”




Pastor John




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