Won’t You Be My Neighbor – Fred Rogers

Have you seen the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor yet?

Fred Rogers Documentary Review
By Rev. Dr. Darrell Knopp

2018 is an important year for looking again to the life and times of Fred Rogers. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the very first Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood television show on WQED-TV in Pittsburgh.

The first ever full length biography of Mr. Rogers life, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King, will be published and on bookstore shelves in early September.  In the fall of 2019 a feature film, You Are My Friend starring Hollywood heavyweight Tom Hanks (as Mr. Rogers) will debut from Sony Pictures.

Each of these entrees will have to climb a large mountain to be favorably compared to the recent standard set by award-winning storyteller, Morgan Neville, Neville’s recent documentary of Fred Rogers life, is a near perfect portrayal of who Fred Rogers was/is and in 95 cinematic minutes, Neville speaks volumes with Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

This stellar production is a deeply penetrating look into the heart and soul of this irreplaceable giant. Neville reaches out to (and into) the heart of a man who in turn reached into the lives of some estimated 5 to 10 million children with his powerful message of love.

Using ten different voices to address his audience with ten different puppets on a simple stage, made up as simple TV sets, Mr. Rogers was able to bring to life many important biblical concepts, such as “I like you just the way you are,” “love your neighbor,” “love yourself,” and perhaps most important, “always keep your heart open.”

Despite childhood illnesses which challenge a lonely little boy to use his imagination, he discovered creative ways to spend extended hours alone in bed. Forced to find ways to pass long days and nights, Neville shows us a person who, when his time had come, had learned to use the challenges of adversity to present to the whole world important Christ-like concepts without use of a pulpit.

Mary Rawson, a cast member (Cousin Mary) of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, had this to say about Neville’s work.

“It is wonderful the attention that the 50th Anniversary of the first Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood program is bringing to Fred Rogers work; that, and the excellent documentary by Morgan Neville , Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Without ever saying so to his audience, Neville allows us to see Mr. Rogers’ accomplishments as a direct reflection of who Fred was as a person and a believer.

To Neville’s credit, he allows Fred to tell the story, not Morgan Neville. This is a rare accomplishment in a documentary. Neville allows Rogers to share regarding his struggles as an ordained Presbyterian minister, feeling led by God to work in front of a television camera, working with and for the most vulnerable members of society, children, as his call to ministry.

So it is that Fred tells the story, by means of his faith, compassion, gentleness, openness, creativity, vulnerability and most of all, his Christ-like humility. Yet these words are seldom heard in this film to describe who Fred is.

Neville never gets in the way of the audience – he permits the subject of his work to tell the story.

n Pittsburgh, PA, there is a sign on the lawn in front of a house on Highland Avenue. The sign reads:

“No matter who you are, or where you’re from, you are my neighbor.”

Reading this sign, one cannot help but think of Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Two thousand plus years ago Jesus of Nazareth told the story of the Good Samaritan to challenge a hardened young man to keep his heart open to whoever his neighbor might be. Perhaps nobody since has done more to challenge all of us, especially the children, to do the same that Mister Rogers’ has done.

Allow us to again quote Ms. Rawson as to who she believed Fred Rogers to be:

“Fred was an amazing person who did such good work in this world, and I’m very happy that his message of total kindness and respect for others continues to reverberate. He never let the present pass without being fully engaged.”

“Fully engaged” is a wonderful description of audience response to the film. Neville neither exalts Fred for his goodness nor crucifies him for his faults. He simply tells the story of who Fred Rogers was and what Fred did. He allows the truth to tell the story, and the story is wonderful.

If you see this film, be prepared to laugh and to cry. Your inner child may surface, for good or ill. Mr. Rogers was a strong proponent that children should be permitted to express/show their feelings. Give yourself permission to do the same.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a worthy representation of who Fred Rogers was and continues to be. That’s high praise for this work. See the film. You will be blessed!

(Note: The Rev. Dr. Darrell Knopp is a retired Presbyterian minister who served on the Presbyterian Media Mission Board of Directors and now is a board member Emeritus. He served churches in Lake Erie, Kiskiminetas, and Pittsburgh Presbyteries. He is an avid movie goer/reviewer and Pittsburgh Pirate fan.)

Watch movie trailer by clicking on link below ….


Fred’s widow Joanne talks about the documentary click on the link below ….


Release dateJune 8, 2018 (USA)
Box office12.7 million USD

Kicking Heroin Addiction

“Many experts have documented that patients who started legal, prescribed, regular opioid painkillers and became addicted, then switched to heroin when their doctors cut them off or they could no longer afford the pills. Some addicts originally were workers injured on the job, victims of auto accidents, or even young athletes with sports injuries who started taking opioid-based pain medication like Vicodin or OxyContin for a legitimate pain condition and end up addicted.” (from the book “Our 50-State Border Crisis”)

Rico got caught-up as a teen with being a heroin addict on the streets of New York.

Have you ever tried to kick an addiction? Rico shares about his addiction on Passages.

We go inside the world of the heroin addict with Rico. Listen to him talk about fading into despair.

Rico struggles with his withdraw from heroin. Support and care by people help to bring him out of being high.

It is an emotional war with being addicted to heroin. “I couldn’t open up to admit to my addiction.”

Hope is found in the early part of Rico’s treatment. Again, he tries to kick the heroin habit.

It takes special support to have healing begin! Rico goes onto beat the heroin addiction and is now a professor at a United Methodist seminary.


Preventing Drug Abuse: The Best Strategy

Why is adolescence a critical time for preventing drug addiction? As noted previously, early use of drugs increases a person’s chances of developing addiction. Remember, drugs change brains-and this can lead to addiction and other serious problems. So, preventing early use of drugs or alcohol may go a long way in reducing these risks.

We keep in our thoughts and prayers all those folks in the process of recovery and healing in their lives!


A Special Time In Seattle!

This week Special Olympic Games will be held in Seattle!

What a great opportunity for fun competition and building of relationships as we affirm those around us that face some of the most difficult physical challenges that a human being can deal with in a lifetime.

Here is a link to the Special Olympics website for the all the details and some super photos.


Now from Survivors and Passages stories of hope and inspiration are stories from some special Olympic athletes and a motivational story from Special Olympics.

Listen to Joann tell of her Special Olympics experience …

Tony is an amazing wheelchair athlete and he knows that practice only makes him better …

Setting the context for Special Olympics by life coach Carl Mays …

We pray for a great week for all the Special Olympic participants and their families in Seattle.

A form of child abuse! Border problems and immigration

Separating families at the border is “a form of child abuse.”

Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics

The debate and controversy over who is allowed into the U.S.

“Patrolling our borders effectively today…demands a combination of law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and foreign adversary engagement skills and tactics beyond basic law enforcement.”   Howard Buffett “50-State-Border-Crisis”

An interesting book to read and here is a review of an author’s attempt to a balanced approach to the immigration issue from Mexico.  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/howard-g-buffett/our-50-state-border-crisis/

Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus were a refugee family as they fled to Egypt.

So in looking back we have all had our families histories lift-up the fact we migrated from somewhere.

The lack of self-respect and esteem to be so insecure about the stranger and what he or she brings to a new place and experience seems to threaten some Americans today.

Listen to the stories from Passages that share insights in our needing to be empathetic towards those crossing our borders as families and living here legally.  The importance that family is for those coming to this country is critical too.

Manuel speaks about being Mexican and living in the southwest on Passages stories of hope and opportunity!

Roberto shares his struggles in being of Hispanic decent on Passages ….

Olfa has great appreciation for her new country and the importance of family.  Caring for her family is an

important part of her daily life and living in the U.S.

Talaki is very appreciative in being a new citizen of the U.S.  Family values are important to him.

Let us all pray for less politics and more common sense in working at resolving some or all of the issues with immigration.




Filled with Grace and Hospitality

It has and continues to be one of the best things there is about being involved in mission and ministry, the wonderful people you meet along the way!

The Presbyterian Media Mission (PMM) journey couldn’t have been complete without Joan Humphrey of Unity Presbyterian Church https://unitypresbyterianchurch.org/ and Pittsburgh Presbytery http://www.pghpresbytery.org/  .

Joan a former board member from the early days in the 1980’s was dependable and knowledgeable about how to get things done.  She stepped in when the first PMM Board President was pregnant (Rev. Mary Marks King from Union Church in Cowansville, PA) http://www.cowansvillechurch.org/ and needed to step aside for almost a year.  Joan who was serving as VP stepped in as Interim President.without hesitating to serve.  She did an excellent job for this newly formed mission organization.

Joan also was active in seeing a need and as a result put the wheels in a motion to help people during some of the most demanding times in their lives.  Joan was interviewed for our Passages Radio Show about her ministry work at one point in her life when Pittsburgh was first on the map as a medical transplant headquarters in the U.S. and the world.  She formed a mission called “Those Who Wait” for patients and their loved ones who found themselves in Pittsburgh with limited resources and needed a place to stay.  Listen to Joan share about “Those Who Wait” by clicking on the audio button below.

On Saturday, June 9, 2018, a celebration of life and service of witness to the resurrection was held for Joan.  She passed from this life to the next life on May 22nd.  Read more about her by clicking on the link


We thank Joan, her husband Roy, and daughter Julie for being such good friends who have and continue to share in the mission of the Church and PMM!  Great people caring about all of God’s people.




Remembering on Memorial Day

We honor those who sacrificed their lives for country on this Memorial Day!

Here is the story of a daughter of a World War II veteran during his last days on earth.

Listen to Keri’s Story of her father, a WW II veteran, at the time of the construction of the memorial in Washington D.C.

Keri’s story ends with the most important thought her father wanted her to remember about those who served their country.  What do medals really mean?  Final challenge from a dying father.

WWII Memorial

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Howard is a vet who served on the USS Wasp.  He helped NASA recover the capsule from the Gemini Space Program and also served in Vietnam.   Some of his friends didn’t return after the war.  They served their country well.  Howard has struggled since returning to civilian life and is a homeless vet.

Listen Howard’s story on Passages ….

Vietnam War Memorial click on the link below …


Memorial Day

We pray for those who gave their lives for their country and the families of those who gave their all!

Have a safe and blessed Memorial Day!

God Sightings – Pentecost 2018

Friday started out full of death and destruction in Santa Fe, TX.


Our prayers go out to families, friends, and the entire community for those who died and were wounded in this tragedy. We also pray for the young man who because of possible delusions and mental instability did this horrible act of violence.

Saturday came with an over-the-top experience of the Royal Wedding bringing hope to the world found in the love that is in and through God in Jesus Christ. Love is much stronger than evil in this world!

Sunday evening the Billboard Music Awards you heard the person recognized for her volume of work in the music industry and her humanitarian efforts Janet Jackson. She speaks of God!

The religious and the secular come together to lift-up and give the God of love the attention and share the need for a redemptive healing love in the world for all people!

Do I hear an amen! For a profound and powerful Pentecost that only God can orchestrate through our looking back on it to see the holy imprint.

Gregg Hartung, Director
Presbyterian Media Mission


Celebrating Mother’s Day

It was a number of years ago, when visiting Dennis and Marilyn Benson in Michigan,  that Dennis took my wife aside and interviewed her for Passages. Dennis had Tina share about her mother Thelma. Thelma was a great lady having raised 9 children! Tina is the youngest.

So here is Tina telling her love for her mother on Passages this Mother’s Day weekend.

Click on the audio link below.

History of Mother’s Day. Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.”


Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service.

Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
Did You Know?
More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year. These holiday chats with Mom often cause phone traffic to spike by as much as 37 percent.


The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.
Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the 1870s. The duo of Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering, meanwhile, both worked to organize a Mothers’ Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some have even called Hering “the father of Mothers’ Day.”

We appreciate and pray for all the women who call thenselves mom’s this Mother’s Day! We are thankful for them everyday.


“All In” is the theme for First Presbyterian Church 1793

Media Mission earlier this year helped develop and produce a video for First Presbyterian church 1793 (Washington, PA) for their capital funds campaign in making improvements to the current campus.

All In Capital Improvement Campaign Video

The renovation of First Presbyterian Church 1793
is not just a project of repairing and updating a building.
It is also an opportunity for the members to reflect on who they are
as part of the congregation and what the church means to them.

We were fortunate to have Gregg Hartung,
Director/Producer/Church & Media Consultant at Presbyterian Media Mission,
work with us in producing a video which captures the story of FPC and its members.

First Presbyterian Church,1793 – All In Video

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To find out more on Presbyterian Media Mission and how we help serve congregations in the media oriented world we live and move on a daily basis, contact Gregg Hartung at gregg.hartung@presbymediamission.org

A Song About Laughter and Life

Driving to worship at church this morning I heard a song that captured my imagination in thinking about life and God!

I share it with you via this blog.

Regina Ilyinichna Spektor (/rɪˈnə ˈspɛktər/, Russian: Реги́нa Ильи́нична Спе́кторIPA: [rʲɪˈɡʲinə ˈspʲɛktər]; born February 18, 1980)[1] is a Russian-born American singer-songwriter and pianist. She was born in Moscow (former Soviet Union, now Russia), and began classical training on the piano at the age of six.[2] When she was nine and a half years old, her family emigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States, where she continued her classical training into her teenage years; she began to write original songs shortly thereafter.

Regina Spektor – Wikipedia

Regina Ilyinichna Spektor (, Russian: Реги́нa Ильи́нична Спе́ктор, IPA: [rʲɪˈɡʲinə ˈspʲɛktər]; born February 18, 1980) is a Russian-born American singer-songwriter and pianist. She was born in Moscow (former Soviet Union, now Russia), and began classical training on the piano at the age of six.

What makes you laugh with God about life?

Presbyterian Media Mission