March 2020

Dear Friends,

We have entered the season of Lent. The music shifts to contemplation and longing. The scriptures challenge our understanding identity and our perpetual need for grace. The messages and prayers of confession step on toes and unnerve the soul. Worship continues to touch the spirit, but the impending shadow of the cross weighs heavily on the horizon.

While worship leads us up the mountain to the cross, the sun is reemerging from the winter haze, and dormant plants are springing forth with new life. Church is buzzing with ministries of immense beauty and hope. Families are planning their upcoming vacations, and the excitement of summer is beginning to peak around the corner.

I invite you to live in the mystery between the markers of the seasons and the markers of Lenten worship. Look for the places where sin, evil, and death seem prevalent. Discover the places where grace is springing forth. Let the longing for redemption and the joy of resurrection’s promise sit in tension with one another.

If I can be of any help to you in this highly spiritual season of reflection- please do not hesitate to reach out or come by to sit and chat.

Grace and Peace,

February 2020

Dear Friends,

Every pastor throughout history has lied to him or herself concerning the “Myth of January.” We think that the busyness of the Christmas season will ebb into a winter lull of rest, reading, and planning in January. One would think that we might have learned that this myth has no basis in reality, but we persist in believing it none-the-less.

It has been a remarkably productive January around our church. There is fresh exterior paint and sealant around the exterior of the building and multiple adjusted doors and items around the offices. We’ve upgraded a computer, laid carpet, renovated a bathroom, and installed more drinking water.

We’ve held events for the youth and children as well as the annual ski trip. We are planning for Lenten and Holy Week services. We trained officers for ordination and installation on February 2nd. The APNC is reviewing possible candidates for the Community Pastor. All of this and more helps us fulfill our mission in God’s kingdom.

I celebrate the wonderful work that we have been a part of during this past month, and I’m glad that this season has been full of energy and activity. I’m also hoping that this year will be the year when the “Myth of February” finally brings rest, reading, and planning. We’ll see!

As we look forward, I am eager to see us band together more and more to help our church proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. There are several places around our church that need your participation. We always have an open choir seat, quilt to sew, or committee to join. Thank you all for how you love and support our church and know that you are in my prayers.


Grace and Peace,



January 2020

For lo, the days are hastening on, By prophet bards foretold,

When with the ever circling years Comes round the age of gold;

When peace shall over all the earth Its ancient splendors fling,

And the whole world give back the song Which now the angels sing.


I remember how long it took from Christmas to Christmas when I was a child. One year was an eternity. Now, Christmas seems to come sooner and sooner every year. While some days drag on, the years are beginning to race. The lyrics of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” poetically portray this reality. The days are hastening on as the seasons of the year continue to circle.

Parents are frequently reminded that their little ones grow in a blink. Students are told to cherish their youth. Every rapidly approaching Christmas confirms our suspicion that time is limited to enjoy the world around us.

Here I pause to say, “This is fun!” The culture around the church office, the worship services in their variety and similarity, the special events in their decadent hospitality are all so special here at First Presbyterian Church. I have met unique people from other faiths, cultures, and backgrounds. I have been blessed to serve alongside some brilliant servants and learn from dedicated disciples. As time seems to be flying by and another Christmas has crept out of nowhere, I celebrate the time that I’ve been here and the vast experience and opportunity that you have afforded me.

My continued prayer for you is time to stop and say, “This is fun! This is special! This is beautiful!” I hope that you are caught up in the overwhelming love of Jesus’ birth. It was a story that caused the heavens to rip open with angelic song. It took shepherds to a newborn in a manger. It called magi from afar. I hope that you can experience some glimpse of glory, which causes you to stop and give praise for the blessed beauty in the brevity of life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,



December 2019


Thanksgiving and Advent are peculiar times of the year. We spend a day in gratitude for all that we have, but we rush out the next morning to spend and spend on more and more. We have a season for quiet waiting, but we fill it with noise and activity. As the weather cools and the evenings lengthen, we know we should pace ourselves for the winter to come. Instead, we run a mad dash to January 1st and crash into the New Year.

I want to say that the church is counter cultural. I want to tell you that the church is a place that exhibits the truth of Thanksgiving and Advent. The truth is: we are busier than ever as the celebration of Christ’s birth approaches. We are rehearsing Christmas music, writing liturgies, and preparing bulletins. It is a busy season. It has been a busy time of transition. It has been a very, very busy 2019.

My prayer for each of you is one of rest. I hope that you are able to pause for a moment and soak in the beauty of God’s presence in our midst. I cannot promise an entire season of reflection. Rather, I pray that you would feel and know the love of God through Evensong worship, the music of the season, the warmth of Christmas Eve candles, the laughter throughout the church office, or the simple act of joining in prayer. May the Prince of Peace be a source of peace this Advent Season.


In gratitude for you all,



November 2019

Dear Friends,


Thank you for the warm welcome that you extended to my family on Installation Sunday! October 6th was a glorious day with incredible music in both services, moments of laughter, and a feeling of hope. I am so delighted to be working alongside you in ministry, and I know that God has a lot in store for our many years together.


I want to offer a special thanks to Preston for his service to this church. Preston has maintained a high level of pastoral care and calm during this time of transition. His door has been open to members, staff, and myself for care, guidance, and support. It is incredibly tough for pastors to release control, but Preston has handed the roles of visioning, planning, and leading to me with grace and love. Our church is better place because of Rev. Dr. Preston Smith.


I want to echo something that Preston has been sharing with me. As our church plans, works, and assesses- we cannot forget the spiritual element. Jesus is at work in this church and this community by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is not to force fit our agenda onto God’s plan. Rather, our responsibility is to discover together what  amazing things God has in store. I am excited to join in that mission with you!


God bless you this month as the weather (hopefully) continues to cool and the preparations for the holidays commence.

                                                                             Grace and Peace,



October 2019


     There is a cautious optimism that surrounds a new pastor.  Can they preach?  Can they lead?  Will they try to change everything?  Will they have an open door and easy personality?  Are they relatable?  Are they coming in with an agenda on their mind?  I hope that many of your initial questions have been answered, and I pray that the tense period of transition is slowly ebbing away. 


     As I hit the ground running, I saw who this church is at her core, and I could not be more impressed.  The leadership on every level has a heart for God and a commitment to the church.  The staff are brilliant.  The worship is powerful.  The facilities are welcoming.  The commitment to the community is a beautiful expression of love.  You, the church, are wonderful people whom I already love. 


     Here is my excitement for what is next. Jim, Jennie and I are planning an Evensong Worship    Service.  The youth have a lot of energy for youth group and trips.  We are assessing and expanding our digital presence.  The staff and I are working together to create systems to free our time for more ministry.  The APNC will begin meeting soon to see who the next person to join the team will be.  It is a busy and exciting time at First Presbyterian! 


     Let’s nestle into the new groove around the church as we worship together, show hospitality, and reach out into the community.






September 2019


Words cannot adequately express my thanks for the warm welcome that you have extended to my family and me. We are so excited to be here in Rocky Mount, and I am especially pleased to begin serving the church this month. I have many ideas that I am eager to refine and adapt as I listen and learn about the rich history, hopes, and concerns for First Presbyterian Church.

September brings the hope of cooler fall weather, the wonder of empty school notebooks with future journal entries and notes, and the excitement of Rally Day! The new beginning in the air is not just for the Baker family and the school year. Rather, this Rally Day is a great chance to recommit to the church, the Sunday morning ritual, and the risen Christ. As the new pastor, I don’t know who has been an every Sunday attender and who has just come back to the church after some time away. This September can mark a new beginning for anyone and everyone who wishes to redefine their commitment to the church. It is my hope that the warm welcome and excitement that have been extended to my family would also be extended to folks who are using this autumnal transition as a time to rejoin the community of faith at FPCRM.

I am beyond impressed by the commitment and skill of the church staff. I am indebted to the PNC for their graciousness in the call process. I can feel the

excitement and hope surrounding the church session. There is so much to commend and celebrate; it is evident that the Spirit of God is working in wonderful ways all around this church and this community. I am thrilled to walk alongside you, lead you, learn from you, and follow in the footsteps of our Lord, Jesus the Christ.

In Christ,



August 2019

This is a check list of the process in finding a new pastor.  We will provide this as a way to keep you  informed about where we are and what needs to be done next.


July 2017  Bridge interim is hired and search for an interim begins.

November 2017 Interim minister is hired and begins work.

March 2018 Mission Study Review Committee is appointed and begins their work. 

July 2018  Mission Study report approved by Session.

September 2018  Updated Mission Study is approved by Presbytery.

September 2018  Pastor Nominating Committee is elected by congregation.

November 2018    Ministry Information Form is circulated and search begins.

July 2019    Candidate is found, and approved by Presbytery COM.

July 21, 2019    Congregation votes on candidate.  

_____September 1, 2019    The Rev. Matthew K. Baker will begin employment as Head Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Rocky Mount


Dear All,

On behalf of my family, I would like to thank you for the thoughts, prayers, cards, and gifts given during my recovery. You continue to be a generous and caring congregation. If you offer the same kind of support to your next minister, I believe that it will be a blessed relationship for many years. Thank you again for allowing me to serve you as your interim minister.

Yours In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Scott V. Solether





July 2019

Preparing for New Leadership


As your PNC (Pastor Nominating Committee) draws closer to finding and presenting a candidate for your consideration, it is important to begin preparing for new leadership. There always seems to be some anxiety when an unknown is pending. If your committee truly reflects the makeup of the congregation, their reaction to the new pastor will be the same as the congregation. In other words, if the committee likes the candidate the congregation probably will as well. Trust the PNC.

Here are some words of advice to both the congregation and staff. First, be open to new ideas and new directions of leadership. Though comparisons will be made, do not expect the person to be like any other minister you have had, either positively or negatively. They will have their own style of ministry. Be open to that. Do not allow the “ghosts of pastors past” to influence how you evaluate the new minister.

Second, be careful of expectations for the pastor’s family. Remember, you are calling the minister not the family. Be inviting, but let the minister’s spouse and children decide how active they will be in the church and what roles they will play. Often, unreal expectations are placed on minister’s families that are unhealthy.

Third, realize your role in ministry in this church and step up. Even if you are not able or willing to be an elder or deacon there is something you can contribute. The first is your regular attendance to all church functions as much as possible. This is your church, support it. Don’t rely on the minister to do everything. God calls each of us to contribute to the ministry.

Remember that the success of a new call is a two way street. The minister has their responsibility and the congregation has theirs. I hope that you will support your new minister and commit yourself to the ministry of the church.




June 2019

A Thank You


Many of you have heard that I am facing a life challenge in the near future. On July 16, I will be having kidney transplant surgery. This is not an end of ministry event. In fact, if all goes well, it will allow me to continue in full time ministry as long as I desire. At our last

meeting, the session granted vacation time for my recovery from July 15 – August 15 and Preston has agreed to cover pastoral needs

during my time off. My contract with the church was renewed until November and I hope to be fully back at work until a new minister is installed. I want to thank the session and this church for your gracious understanding and prayers. I feel blessed to serve you during this time of transition for both of us.