People ask, “How are things at the church?” I say, “Good! God’s not done with this old place.”
People from all over the world come here and they marvel.
That’s always fascinated me. They’ve seen the great cathedrals of Europe, and they marvel at this place. I’ve come to understand that they’re having an experience of the Holy Spirit. They confirm my belief that God is not done with First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh.
Of course, I know better than most where the hurts are—who’s having an operation, who’s waiting for test results. There’s a mentally ill man who stops by every day. Like so many who live on the street, his problems proved too much for his family long ago.
There’s a lot of hurt on the streets of downtown these days, but since we’ve been here for 250 years, we keep things in perspective.
Our ancestors had to cross an ocean in wooden ships, then cross a wilderness just to get here.
The first Thanksgiving service was held in a burned out fort.
In the early years, you could literally get scalped if you went outside.
Two hundred years ago, the minister had to buy back the church property at a sheriff’s sale where it was being auctioned off to pay creditors.
The week this building was dedicated in 1905, police raided seven speakeasys downtown.
And as glorious as our building still is, it has many not-so-glorious needs.
But in 2021 we were one of only 15 churches nationwide to receive a grant from the National Fund for Sacred Places, recognizing our historic significance, architectural beauty, and impact in the community.
Partners for Sacred Places said we have a $2.3 million impact in the neighborhood, which is two and a half times our budget.
Our friends at Outreached Arms have served tens of thousands of meals here over the last eight years, most of them with folks sitting down, and on real plates with real silverware.
We still support missions around the world, like the Bread of Life Church in Ukraine, and Refuge for Women and Garden Home Ministries who help women escape human trafficking here.
There are four water wells in Uganda marked “First Presbyterian Church.”
When Billy Graham spoke at the 200th anniversary here 50 years ago, he said this was, “One of the two or three great churches in America.”
If that’s true it’s only because, by God’s grace, for 250 years folks here have kept things in perspective.
It’s not us that makes a church great.
It’s God, who’s still not done with us.