We are so excited to welcome Diane Turnshek, our Guest Speaker for September’s theme: Space.

Our next Sunday Assembly is this Sunday, September 18, 2022, at 10:00a. This will be a hybrid event, with an in-person, community celebration happening at our space at Wilkins School Community Center (lower level), or via Zoom (registration at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwtf-ytrD0qG9BazCf_iQy4AJ5R5bCfWJkX. Hope to see you there!

Now, let’s meet our Guest Speaker!

September’s Guest Speaker, Diane Turnshek

Diane Turnshek is a lecturer in the Department of Physics at Carnegie Mellon University and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh. She runs the Astronomy Public Lecture Series at Allegheny Observatory. Her love of both astronomy and science fiction led her to crew the Mars Desert Research Station (featured in the documentary “Above and Below”), where she turned her attention to dark sky advocacy and earned an International Dark Sky Association’s Defender Award. She has given over one hundred light pollution talks including one for TEDxPittsburgh, curated a series of space art galleries, and founded the Pennsylvania Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association. In 2019, she edited the genre anthology Triangulation: Dark Skies with twenty-one starry night short stories. She has been interviewed by the New York Times, PBSNewsHour, NPR Morning Edition, Canada One Radio, Chinese Global Television Network and 50 more news outlets. She hosted a Dark Skies Conference at CMU and is co-running the 9th International Artificial Light at Night Conference in Calgary, Canada in August of 2023. Her research focuses on measuring the light of cities with drones, aircraft, satellites and astronauts aboard the ISS.

How Native Plants & Natural Gardening Can Help us Live Better, Help Often, and Wonder More!

I am a founding co-president of the Western PA Area Chapter of Wild Ones Native Plants, Natural Landscapes. I am also a board member at Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh. In preparation for the SAPgh Wondershop on April 23, I started to think about the ways in which the goals at Wild Ones complement those at Sunday Assembly. What I realized is that we, at Wild Ones, provide hands on help with Sunday Assembly’s goals to Live Better, Help Often, and Wonder More in many ways!

Live Better

Compared to the more typical yard of 1 or 2 species of non-native lawn with a few mostly non-native ornamental plants, a mostly native plant garden is a lovely, ever-changing ecosystem of varied plants. 

  • It is alive with many species of beautiful and fascinating insects such as butterflies and many species of native bees. These insects, which have co-evolved with the native plants attract birds, almost all of which feed their young exclusively on insects such as caterpillars. That’s why I say “Native plants are for the birds!”
  • Instead of, or in combination with native plants, organically grown food is healthy, fun, and money saving. Beneficial insects will often control less desirable ones.
  • Gardening and appreciating natural spaces reduce stress, are joyful, and build community. They can be low maintenance and inexpensive.
Help often

Most gardeners like to help other gardeners in both individual and community gardens. More natural gardens help humans and most other species by:

  • Providing healthy, inexpensive food.
  • Ameliorating climate change by reducing fossil fuel use in very inefficient tools such as lawn mowers and “leaf blowers,” and by sequestering carbon in soils and plants. Shade trees also decrease the need for air conditioning.
  • Avoiding other harmful synthetic chemicals as in fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, etc. Also wasting less potable water.
Wonder more
  • A more natural garden is a place of wonder about  the many plants and all of the animal species as above. It is more like a movie than a still life.
  • Curiosity about native plant ecosystems can be a driver for scientific hypotheses and research as demonstrated by Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass, which we will be discussing in our Multi-media Meetup on April 10.

Please email us at wildoneswpa@gmail.com if you would like to get involved in leadership or other volunteering or with any questions.

Join us for one of our events mentioned above!

Ed Wrenn, M.D., Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh Board Member

A Partner Post and Announcement from our Friends at Pittsburgh Freethought Community!

In her preface to The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander writes, “This book is not for everyone. I have a specific audience in mind – people who care deeply about racial justice but who, for any number of reasons, do not yet appreciate the magnitude of the crisis faced by communities of color as a result of mass incarceration.” Since its publication in 2010 there have been more books, studies, documentaries, all demonstrating not that our criminal justice system is failing, but rather that in enforcing a racial caste system, it is doing exactly what it has been designed to do. Register below for this virtual lecture to learn more about the harm resulting from mass incarceration and how we can work toward real justice and true public safety.

Please share this widely.

Ending Death by Incarceration and Prison Abolition 
PFC’s monthly virtual lecture is scheduled for Wednesday, April 13th at 7pm. and will feature Xelba Gutiérrez and Jennifer Black from Straight Ahead

There are 2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails–a 500% increase over the last 40 years. Changes in sentencing law and policy, not changes in crime rates, explain most of this increase. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and fiscal burdens on states to accommodate a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not an effective means of achieving public safety. The reach of carceral control, which disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities, also impacts greater numbers of poor, white rural communities, as well as growing numbers of women of all races and ethnicities. Our speakers will address what we can do to understand the issues, to advocate for change based on evidence, not myths and prejudice, to reduce the harm it causes, and to build a system that works to protect and promote public safety.

Register here!  

More about our speakers:
Jennifer BlackJennifer Black (she/her) is the Central PA Community Organizer for Straight Ahead and hails from a background in both activism and academia. Shaped by her experiences in the Free Mumia movement and other important initiatives for justice, Black began to understand prison justice as the foundational linchpin for all aspirations towards transformative social change.Following this recognition, Black attained a Master’s degree in African American Studies and a PhD in Comparative Studies where her research focused on high-risk activism, state terror, criminal (in)justice, police brutality, Black Power, the Free Mumia movement, mass incarceration and social movement theory. Since graduating Black worked as a college instructor at The Ohio State University, and for the non-profit organization Prison Radio doing research, educational support work, and prison outreach. Whether in the street, or meeting hall, a prison visiting room, or the classroom–the focus and commitment is the same: to coordinate, unite, and build on the activism occurring around prison justice issues, to envision an abolitionist future.
Xelba GutiérrezXelba (they/she) is the Political Educator for Straight Ahead. They are a queer, immigrant, community organizer, educator and facilitator made of fierce indignation and gentle compassion. They were born in Venezuela, from revolutionary parents, and spent their formative years between Santiago, Chile and Miami, Florida. After living on the West Coast for some years, Xelba made Philadelphia home where she became increasingly involved in organizing across many issues and earned a master’s degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Justice from UPenn.Xelba brings a global view, heavily influenced by their South American roots and they are passionate about challenging systems and having hard conversations about decolonizing and unlearning harmful frameworks. They firmly believe that there is a world without prisons and police in our future and is happy to join Straight Ahead to deepen that work.

The Timeless Relevance of Charles Darwin

by David Lampe, Ph.D.

This Saturday, February 12, marks the birthday of Charles Darwin.  He was born in 1809, on the same day in the same year as Abraham Lincoln, for whatever that little tidbit is worth.  Darwin dropped out of medical school and entered Cambridge University in the divinity track, graduated, but escaped ordination to the Anglican priesthood by becoming the naturalist on the HMS Beagle, a ship assigned to make maps of the South American coastline.  Darwin visited tropical, temperate, antarctic, montane, and island South America and arrived back home convinced that species were not immutable creations, but entities that changed.  He spent the next 20 years gathering evidence to prove his point.  Incidentally, Darwin avoided a paying job by marrying his rich first cousin, Emma Wedgewood, and could thus afford the time to be a gentleman scientist.  

In 1859, Darwin published his most famous work, On the Origin of Species, where he laid out the evidence that evolution had occurred.  More importantly, he described a mechanism for it that he called “natural selection”.  Basically, individuals that contain traits that make them better able to survive and reproduce than other members of the population leave more offspring (I.e., they are more fit), these traits become more common generation after generation, and the whole population subsequently evolves.  These changes ultimately result in new species being formed thus generating the amazing diversity of life we see on earth.  Darwin’s basic framework remains intact and forms the theoretical basis for all of biology.  Indeed, it would be impossible to understand, for example, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic without evolutionary insights.  Even the way we visually describe the evolving viral strains (through ”phylogenetic trees” that show relationships) we owe to Darwin.  Good ideas are timeless, and that is especially true for evolution by natural selection.

Dr. Lampe is a Professor of Biological Sciences at the Duquesne University Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Science in Pittsburgh.


In case you didn’t hear, today is #GivingTuesday! This annual, worldwide celebration of generosity gives folx a chance to support all of the great things happening around the world. At Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh, we exist as a secular community that believes in celebrating the one life we know we have. In that, we strive to Live Better, Help Often, and Wonder More!

“GivingTuesday is an opportunity for people around the world to come together through generosity in all its forms by sharing acts of kindness and giving their voice, time, money, goods, and advocacy to support communities and causes.”  We hope that you will take the time to support Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh.

To make a donation, please visit our Donate Page at https://sapgh.org/donate. To learn more about what we do at Sunday Assembly Pittsburgh, check out our website: http://www.sapgh.org; or our Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/sundayassemblypittsburgh.

Join us THIS week…

Join us this week as we hit the reset button and try again. If you followed along last Sunday evening, we made it about 10 minutes into our annual theme of “Death & Dying,” before the skies let loose and dropped rain and hail on our live broadcast. We were forced to end, but as promised, we are back this week with take two.

Join us this Sunday, October 24, 2021, at 10:00 a.m., as we revisit our theme of “Death & Dying: Remembrance.” The re-do will be ***VIRTUAL ONLY****.

The Zoom link for this week’s Assembly! will be posted here, one hour before the event, as well as on Facebook and through an email sent to all of our current subscribers. If you are not a current subscriber, you can register to receive our monthly newsletter on our Home Page!

What You Can Do To Help Afghan Refugees

The situation in Afghanistan and the desperation of the people have left many feeling helpless. There are many amazing organizations out there that are working to make the best out of a terrible situation. Here are a few of them.

Women for Women International

Woman for Women International is an organization that ” invest where inequality is the greatest by helping women who are forgotten— the women survivors of war and conflict.” They have an emergency program for Afghanistan.

Link: https://support.womenforwomen.org/donate/afghanistan-emergency-2x-match?src=HHUA21082A

International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee “responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.” They are taking donations for an emergency Afghanistan program.

Link: https://help.rescue.org/donate/afghanistan?ms=gs_ppc_fy21_afghanistan_dmusa_aug&initialms=gs_ppc_fy21_afghanistan_dmusa_aug&gclid=CjwKCAjw4KyJBhAbEiwAaAQbE1VMIyiPhK716AYLau1K8sbUwkVdY2UJonQbEJVeseeVP3TGDcRJfhoCZToQAvD_BwE

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania

If you want to help out locally United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania is having a fundraiser to “welcome Afghan SIV refugees to their new lives in Pittsburgh”. You donation “will be allocated directly to help ensure their needs are met with safe housing, food and clothing.”

Link: https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/WelcomeRefugees

What Does (In)Equality Mean to You? Your Community Wants to Hear

Inequality has many forms and perspectives. Whether it be on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or income, it is something that is important to be mindful of and to discuss.

In(equality) will be the topic of this week’s Community Circle. Community Circle provides a chance to dig into big life issues we all deal with, and to connect with others in a cozy space. The event will be hybrid, giving community members the choice of participating in person or virtually.

If you’d like to join us IN PERSON for this Community Circle (in Swisshelm Park), please message us at community@sapgh.org . Weather permitting, we will gather outside; otherwise, we’ll be masked indoors. If you’re joining VIRTUALLY, please check back here for the Zoom link the day of the event.

When: Wednesday, August 25th, 2021 @ 7p – 8p

Where: Online or virtual

Visit sapgh.org/virtual for the Zoom link the day of the event!

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/533571137952396

This Month, You pick!

The July Assembly is both Virtual and In-Person this month! If you need the link to participate virtually, here it is:

Topic: SAPgh July Assembly: Your Power
Time: Jul 18, 2021 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 891 1914 8871
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If you plan on joining us in person, our address is:

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