The Spire - May 2022

A monthly column by Senior
Minister J. Douglas Patterson
From the President's Pen
The Future
by Jon Colburn
From the Desk of the Editor 
Parting Thoughts
by Sean Michael O'Donnell

Dear Friends,


As I approach my last Sunday with you, May 22nd, I find myself thinking more and more about the “end of days.” Indeed, my days are numbered! So I’m quite busy with the practical aspects like clearing out my office, sorting books and files, putting together transitional information, clearing my computer, changing the voicemail message on my phone, etc. Each of these tasks brings forth a myriad of memories.

I’m contemplating the missed opportunities, numerous mistakes, errors of judgment, persons I’ve neglected, and the things I’ve left undone. For these, I beg your forgiveness.

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I’ve been with you at the best of times, celebrating weddings, baptisms, confirmations, sacraments, youth summer camps, assisting several people through the journey to ordained ministry, and becoming close friends with members of our staff. I’ve also been with you at the worst of times, conducting funerals, offering support through family crises, and giving individual guidance and counsel in time of need.


Consider what we’ve accomplished together over the last twenty five years. Through holy awareness we’ve formed a faith community that not only welcomes all persons, but truly loves all persons. There are no purebreds in our congregation. We’re all mongrels. We’ve been harmed, shunned and excluded because of what we believe, or who we are as God created us to be. But together we are a beautiful rainbow, a prism through which God pours healing, restorative love, affirmation and inspiration. We are what a church should be! I’m humbled and so very thankful to be a part of it!


Several of you have asked these questions. 1. Where will Ramona and I go to church after retirement? I don’t know. 2. What will I miss the most? Preaching. 3. What will I do in my retirement? I don’t know, except for the few months over the summer when I will be rehabbing following my left knee replacement surgery on June 7.


here’s so much more I can share. Suffice it to say that I will miss all of you and truly love all of you! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me to be your pastor for these past twenty five years! And may the peace of Christ be with you!




J. Douglas Patterson

What  a joy to celebrate Easter in the Sanctuary for the first time since 2019. The music was befitting the space: Andres and Tino Cardenes-violin and piano, Will Teegarden-Cello, Barbra Benvin-piano, James Varner-our Music Director, at the (freshly tuned) organ and directing the Choir. Prayers from Susan Cherian and a message from Doug Patterson. If you were not in attendance, please seek out the service on YouTube. Andres Cardenes’ rendition of Ashokan Farewell  by Jay Ungar & Molly Mason as a tribute to Doug was a true gift to all.

Smithfield United Church of Christ continues through our time of transition. The Search Committee, tasked with finding a new Senior Minister has been meeting. Council has met with one of several Interim Minister candidates. The schedule of guest preachers for June, July, and August is filling in nicely. 


We have learned from Allegheny County Health and Human Services that the Cold Weather Shelter will not be using our facilities next winter. With the opening of the new Second Avenue Commons, it is anticipated by the County that our space will no longer be needed. At first blush, this may seem to be bad news for us. We have become accustomed to the financial support we received from the County to use our space. I see a great opportunity in that our spaces will now be available for other users. The moneys we received from the Urban Redevelopment Authority and several Pittsburgh foundations allowed us to do the life safety  improvements (smoke alarms, pull stations, fire suppression, etc) to our building that we could never have done ourselves, and yet, they are done.  God is good.


April 27-29, the Society of Architectural Historians conference was again in Pittsburgh. Smithfield United Church of Christ and our neighboring former ALCO Building were featured in a tour called Aluminum: Ecclesiastical and Commercial. The SAH conference was last in Pittsburgh in 2007. It was then, as a conference participant, I was first in our building. It was through our participation in Doors Open Pittsburgh that planners of the conference knew about Smithfield’s aluminum steeple, the first use of aluminum as a structural building material. 


It is a gift to me to serve as Congregation President at this time. Together, we will continue the great works we have historically done in our beloved City. Peace.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to God’s purpose.

I have been editing the church newsletter since I was hired nearly 13 years ago. I remember on the day of my interview I could not find any parking (consequently, I had to pay $20 to park for one hour) and as I walked into the church, $20 poorer, I thought, “I better get this job.”  Little did I know then that not only would I get the job, but I would meet people who would profoundly change my life. One of those people was Rev. J. Douglas Patterson, or Doug as we formally call him in the office.


It is not often one gets to work for a genuinely good human, and it is an even rarer privilege when that genuinely good human becomes your friend. Doug has made me laugh and think and look forward to work for 13 years. I have become friends with his family. He was there for my wedding and for the arrival of each of my four kids, whom he has shown great kindness to over the years. In many ways, he is everything a boss should not be, which oddly makes him the best boss I’ve ever had.


Filling Doug’s ministerial shoes every Sunday morning will be a great task, but I think even more difficult will be the task to fill Doug’s boss shoes every Monday through Friday.