From the Pastor: A Year in Review

Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer… (Revelation 6:1-2 (ESV))

2022 provided many wonderful example of the amazing ways that Christ is riding ahead building His church!

First, He brought through our doors many visitors! I was recently looking back over the last three years of attendance records, and in 2020 we were blessed to enjoy 39 visitors, in 2022 He brought us 85 visitors, and in 2022 more than 170 people visited our congregations!

Second, of those whom He drew into our midst. He was pleased to see 11 become communicant members at First RPC (3 covenant children professed faith, 3 were received by transfer from other RP churches, and 5 adults professed faith). In addition to those additions to our fellowship, He saw us baptize six people (1 adult and 5 covenant children).

Third, he graciously preserved the lives of our members.

Fourth, He was pleased to draw more people into worship this year by increasing attendance in both morning and evening services.

Fifth, He has preserved and expanded our ministry opportunities at the RP Home and the Franciscan Manor. In addition to weekly services, I am also hosting a weekly Bible study at the manor. In recent months, I have been called upon to provide a memorial service for one of the residents. A request from another area nursing home is now being considered.

Sixth, He allowed us to enjoy more times of fellowship and study together in 2022. We saw the resurrection of the monthly men’s prayer breakfasts, multiple midweek book studies and membership classes, and the Kids’ Quest program. It is so great to see these programs resumed after the Pandemic!

Seventh, I am thankful for His enabling us to make it through the book of Revelation in just a bit more than a year. I appreciated the feedback from the congregation and certainly was encouraged myself as I worked through that book. In the coming year, we’ll be working through the Gospel of Luke and will keep working through the Minor Prophets.

Lastly, I give thanks to God for the love exhibited amongst the congregation and that they so lavished upon my family.

In Him,
Pastor Matt

A Long, Windy, Quarter-Mile Hike

This afternoon, we had a psalm sing at the Franciscan Manor. This is a nursing home a quarter of a mile from the church. We’ve held many psalm sings here, but the road to ministry at the Manor has been long, windy and sometimes even interrupted.

It was probably 8 years ago that retired pastor and then church member, Ken G. Smith reached out to the people at the Manor. Ken lived in the neighborhood and had been doing outreach for years. Around the time these inroads were being made, Ken moved away.

Our former pastor Steve Miller came in and picked up where Ken left off. He took an invitation to have services weekly at the manor and rolled with it. He and the associate pastors faithfully ministered week after week—even when it made the Lord’s Day exhausting.

As you remember, Pastor Miller’s ministry was cut short at First RPC because of a battle with ALS. Though ALS eventually took him home to his Lord and Savior, the ministry at the manor continued under our next pastor, Lucas Hanna, though primarily under the care of Associate Pastor Filbert.

We have met many neat people at them manor. One of them was a retired missionary from Africa and he took great interest when the Hannas accepted the Lord’s call to minister in South Sudan. Still services continued.


So many of our stories are punctuated with those words today. “Life was moving along swimmingly, then… COVID.” “I was an accomplished football player, then…COVID.”

Then COVID caused the shutdown of all ministry to the nursing home—a nursing home that was spared much of the horror of the pandemic until last fall when they lost a third of their residents to the dreaded disease. The doors were closed and rightfully so.

In the spring of 2021, as soon as he was allowed, Pastor Filbert (elected during the shutdown) got right back to the manor. His services were to be held on Thursdays and the room was limited in occupancy.

The first week back, they maxed out the room. And the week after that. A few months later, Pastor Filbert added a Tuesday Bible study.

Over the summer, he brought a group of young people from all over the nation to sing psalms for the retired folk.

Today, we repeated that endeavor with a few church members and a bunch of college students. A few at a time, we arrived on the front lawn with psalters and umbrellas in hand. The Lord was gracious and held back the rain for the hour that we sang WITH the residents—us on the lawn, them on the veranda.

It may have been a long and windy, sometimes interrupted, quarter-mile road to the Manor, but the Lord has made the path straight. We have been blessed by our ministry to them and hope to continue it for a long time to come.

—Mrs. Filbert

Pray for Synod

The RPCNA Synod will meet from June 14-June 17 on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. Because of a skipped Synod in 2020 and many weighty issues this year, our ruling and teaching elders will be very busy with the work of the church. Please pray for them as they do this important work.

New “Old” Window Installed

In 2004, Geneva RP Church merged with First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Beaver Falls, Pa., becoming the congregation we have today.

There were many reasons for the merger of the congregations, but the rerouting of Highway 18 directly in front of the former Geneva RPC building and the mounting costs of repairs and renovations helped make the decision to leave that building and head to the newer building in Patterson Township.

This was a return to our roots as the First RPC had planted Geneva RPC years before.

This week, Geneva College tore down the old church building. We had plenty of warning that this would happen so members and former members had the option to claim stained glass windows from that building.

The church claimed the old Blue Banner Window. This week, the same week the church came down, this window had new life breathed into it as it was installed in the First RPC building.

It looks like it has always been there. It is a definite celebration of the Lord’s faithfulness to this congregation.

New Pastor Called

On May 13 during a socially-distanced congregational meeting online, the church voted to call Associate Pastor Matt Filbert to the senior pastor position.

Pastor Matt, who had been the director of RP Missions for more than 20 years, accepted this position in early June and plans to start as full-time pastor at the beginning of August.

Having grown up in a small, rural Kansas town, Matt has had a heart for ministry from an early age. As a young boy, he was surrounded by pastors who had retired to the area and was discipled by them– Bob Tweed, Wylie Caskey, Howard Elliott, Renwick Wright, Jim Pennington, Paul White, and John Tweed were among them.

During his time at Kansas State University, Matt and fellow RP James Tweed, began Bible studies with fellow students. They petitioned the Midwest Presbytery for funds to pay for these studies and to help transport youth to quarterly retreats.

After three and a half years, Matt transferred to Sterling College where he graduated in 1995. During that year, he took a mission trip to Russia that would forever change the course of his life. There was no way to follow up with the contacts they had made there. This would be the impetus of the RP Missions program.

In 1998, Matt graduated from the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, where he stayed on as Admissions Director and also Director of RP Missions, which he had started the previous year.

In 2008, Matt left the seminary to work for the RP Global Mission Board to work on development as he continued with RP Missions. In 2017, Matt became a half-time associate pastor at First RPC in addition to the missions program.

Pastor Matt is excited to be able to give himself full-time to the ministry of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Beaver Falls. He looks most forward to shepherding the sheep who he already loves deeply.

Congregational Meeting Called

Edict to Conduct an Election to Call a Senior Pastor

That the session call a congregational meeting on Wednesday, May 6th at 7PM for the purpose of electing a Senior Pastor. The meeting will be held in person at the First Reformed Presbyterian Church, unless the session makes the decision prior to conduct the meeting as a remote meeting. In order to prepare for the eventuality that the meeting will be required to be remote, the congregation is asked to mail their ballots to the Clerk of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church Session prior to the date of the meeting. Each member’s ballot should be sealed in an envelope with the member’s name on the outside, and a slip of paper on the inside with the name of the single candidate (or the word “no” or the word “abstain”) on the inside. The session will collect ballots by roll call, and those ballots which are represented via mail will be entered into the ballot when each member’s name is called. In the event that a 2/3 majority is not reached on the initial ballot, and the meeting is being conducted remotely, a second meeting will be held on May 13th at 7:00 PM for a subsequent vote, conducted with the same procedure as the previous meeting. If a 2/3 majority is not received at the second meeting, a third meeting will be held on May 20th at 7 PM for a subsequent vote, conducted with the same procedure as the previous meeting. If a 2/3 majority is not received by a single candidate at the third meeting, the process will be concluded for the time being.

Given this 11th day of April in the year 2020, by the order of the Session.

Tim McClain, Clerk of the Session
Matt Filbert, Moderator of the Session

Changes to the Church Schedule

Because of the COVID-19 virus, all church activities are temporarily on hold. There will be no gatherings at the church during the week.

Those with Internet access are asked to join the worship service online—for the next few weeks that will be via online meeting, but we will try to offer it on Facebook live as well.

Please contact Associate Pastor Matt Filbert at 412-901-3553 or any of the deacons and elders if you have any needs or prayer requests.

In the meantime, keep our country and the entire world in prayer as this virus spreads. Pray that the Lord would arrest it and bring healing. Pray that the whole world would turn to Him and praise his name.

The Lord’s Provision

Yesterday, Facebook reminded us it was the 6th anniversary of the installation of our two associate pastors. Long-time pastor, Rev. Bruce Backensto, was planning to retire the following May, and we had also begun the candidating process for our next full-time pastor.

Pastor Bruce Backensto reads the queries of ordination to Associate Pastors Tim McClain and Matt Filbert.

Back in December of 2013 when we installed two associate pastors before calling our next full-time pastor, it seemed unorthodox. As in all things, the Lord knew just what we needed.

These associate pastors provided stability as we had to call a pastor twice in three years, and now look toward calling again.

In May of 2014, we installed Pastor Steven F. Miller. He came on just after Pastor Bruce Backensto retired. The following February, Pastor Miller began to notice a loss of sensation in his legs. In May he was diagnosed with ALS. For the next year, he continued to minister to us in every way he could, eventually preaching from a wheelchair in front of the pulpit. He was determined to use his gifts for the Lord as long as he could. In April 2015, he resigned his position as pastor. He and his wife, Jane, returned to their farm in Volant, Pa.

Photo Courtesy of Jane Miller

We learned a lot during this time. Our church banded together and raised over $60,000 to renovate the manse to make it handicap accessible. This included a large addition, first-floor bathroom and bedroom, and a ramp. Unfortunately, time was not on our side and the Millers did not get to enjoy the addition. Through everything, we learned how to minister to a pastor.

(Pastor Miller entered his eternal rest in July of 2018. His wife, Jane, plans to continue work on the book he had begun before his passing.)

That fall (2015), we began the canidating process again. In December 2016, we called Pastor Lucas Hanna to be our pastor. His family had been considering serving full-time on the mission field in South Sudan. After an exploratory trip, they realized it wasn’t yet a good fit for the entire family, but South Sudan was still on their hearts. Pastor Hanna committed to spending 4-6 weeks at least twice a year on the mission field training indigenous pastors and helping in any other way possible.

For most churches, this would be a less-than-ideal situation, but First RPC already had two associate pastors! With that in mind, he was called to pastor our church with the understanding that for at least two months out of the year, he would be on the mission field. He was installed in July 2017 after returning from his second solo trip to Africa.

In January 2018, Associate Pastor Matt Filbert began in a half-time role, filling in for Pastor Hanna during the majority of his trips. Pastor Tim McClain continues to be a tent-maker while preaching at the Reformed Presbyterian Home twice a month and leading Bible studies out of his home.

Without us realizing it, the Lord had placed us in the perfect symbiosis between ministering to the church at home and the church worldwide.

In October 2019, the Global Missions Board of the RPCNA issued a call to the Hanna family to return to the field in South Sudan full-time. After much prayer and consideration, they decided to accept the call.

In 2020, for the third time in 6 years, we will hopefully be calling another pastor. As in all things, the Lord will provide, and we are thankful for His provision.

—Heidi Filbert

Sending Servants to South Sudan

Nearly 130 people gathered at the church tonight for a sending service for our pastor and his family as they prepare to head to the mission field in South Sudan.

Pastor Lucas Hanna and his family were joined by his parents, friends from near and far, a member of the Global Mission Board, members of previous congregations, and his church family for this service.

Associate Pastor Matt Filbert preached from Acts 13:1-3 about the setting apart of servants for missionary service. Our congregation recognizes that the Hannas are answering the Lord’s call on their life, and we commit to praying for them and supporting them and look forward to hearing their reports from the mission field.

Eastvale RPC Pastor Micah Ramsey, who is a close friend of Lucas’s, gave the charge to the Hanna family. It was an emotional charge where Pastor Ramsey reminded them of the need to shepherd their family as well as those on the mission field. One child of the congregation said, “I really thought Pastor Ramsey was going to convince them not to go.” But despite our personal emotions, we know they need to answer God’s call.

The Hanna family was called to the front where Elder David Schaefer led in the commissioning prayer. Elders from around the denomination laid on hands.

After Associate Pastor Tim McClain gave the benediction, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

Fellowship was enjoyed over dessert refreshments provided by the social committee.

Please continue to pray for the Hannas and the mission in S. Sudan.

A Call to African Missions

It was announced last week that Pastor Hanna and his family will be accepting a call to serve on the mission field in Africa. This will begin as a three-year commitment.

Pastor will continue in his work of training indigenous pastors and will care for the other mission team members. They will join another young family and will depart as early as January.

The congregation has been greatly blessed by their ministry and will miss them dearly. Please pray for the church and our pastor during this time of transition.