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A Letter to Our Congregation
Published Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that our congregation continues to mourn the loss of our interim pastor, Rev. Dr. Phil Gittings who died on February 26th. Many gathered as a church family to mourn Phil the following Sunday. We are offering an opportunity to those who missed this gathering, or wish to gather again, to join Rev. John Long in grieving and remembering Phil at 9:30 a.m. in the chapel on March 20th.

A memorial service will be held in the sanctuary on Saturday April 2nd at 1:00 p.m. for Phil. A catered reception in the chapel will follow. Sympathy cards may be sent to Phil's family as follows: The Gittings family

c/o First Presbyterian Church

1 Symphony Circle, Buffalo, New York 14201

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Phil's honor to any of these three charities:

First Presbyterian Church, 1 Symphony Circle, Buffalo, New York 14201

One Symphony Circle, Inc., 1 Symphony Circle, Buffalo New York 14201

The JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition (Falletta Competition)

c/o The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, 499 Franklin St., Buffalo, New York 14202

Rev. John Long and Quinton Meyer will be available for pastoral care needs, as well as the Deacons. As always, we ask that information concerning hospitalizations, illness, injuries or death be shared with Christina in the in the church office. This information will then be passed on to those providing pastoral care.

Events for Holy week will begin with Palm Sunday on March 20th. Adult education will not meet that morning, due to the special event to remember Phil. The children will distribute palms during the Children’s message. We will have a special Maundy Thursday program on March 24 at 7:00 p.m. led by Rev. John Long and members of Worship and Music. On Good Friday, all are invited to Meditations on the Last Words from the Cross at St. John's Grace Church on Colonial Circle from noon to 3:00 p.m. For those who wish to sit in quiet contemplation, our sanctuary will be open from noon to 3:00 p.m. A sunrise Easter service will be offered at 6:45 a.m. on the front steps of the church. Our traditional Easter celebration will begin at 11:00 a.m. with flowers and festal music.

Dr. David Bond and Christina Banas are competently managing the day to day concerns of the church. The Personnel and Administration Committee is functioning as Head of Staff as the need arises. Other committees are meeting, setting goals and developing plans. The absence of a pastor is not a situation where the Presbytery would step in to run the church. The Session wishes to assure the congregation that we are continuing to move forward with the business of the church. With John Long as our Moderator, we are meeting regularly to continue building our future. The mission study has been completed and Session approved for the new pastor search. It needs now to have a statement about Phil's passing added before being sent to Presbytery for approval. We are receiving support and information from the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry for this process and finding a temporary pastor. In the interim, Session is working with church staff to invite ministers from across the region to preach on Sundays. You will be hearing messages from several elders as well.

You will have an opportunity to be updated on all aspects of First Church’s life and ministry at our upcoming Annual Meetings of the Congregation and Corporation. This will occur on May 15 after our Pentecost worship. Please mark your calendars and join us. In the interim, questions or concerns can be shared with staff or members of the session.

We are a congregation in transition but we are resilient. In the months ahead, the Spirit will be guiding us in new directions, toward new missions and closer to God. We ask for your prayers and your presence as we begin this new phase of our faith journey together.

Sincerely,

Janet Hill, Clerk of Session

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