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.



May 2019

Fifty Days of Easter

No, Easter is not over yet. We often think of Easter as one day in the Christian Calendar, but actually it is a season that lasts 50 days. Beginning with the Easter Vigil on the Saturday before Easter and lasting until Pentecost, “Eastertide” is the longest season of the Christian year. Pentecost means 50 days and was originally a harvest festival in the Jewish calendar and was celebrated 50 days after Passover. Celebrating Easter for fifty days is not

duplicating Easter Sunday fifty times over, either. Rather, it’s taking time to reflect upon and delight in the truth of Easter and its implications for our lives. The basic truth of Easter is simple. In the classic litany of the church, it’s this: Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! On Easter Sunday, we celebrate this good news, rediscovering for ourselves what the earliest followers of Jesus realized on that first Easter Sunday. Yet the implications of the

resurrection are more than we can adequately ponder on one day. It takes a season to think about all the things this great event has brought to us. But even that is not enough. Every Sunday can be thought of as an Easter Sunday and we could spend our lives thinking about the meaning of the resurrection.


So, happy Eastertide. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!




April 2019

Fifth Sunday Event

On Sunday, March 31st, we will meet in the fellowship hall starting at 10:00 AM for breakfast. We will have worship around the tables and enter into a discussion that concludes at noon.  The following Scripture will be presented and these questions will be discussed. Be thinking about how you might answer and where we might go from here. Keep your church in your prayers.


Acts 2:41-47

  1. How did you come to attend this church?

Who invited you; who brought you?


Matt. 16:13-20

  1. Who does the community say that we are?

Who do we say that we are?


Matt. 28:18-20

  1. How are we a welcoming church?

How are we an inviting church?





March 2019

“And now for something different.” (From Monty Python’s Flying Circus)  The Session recently voted to initiate a Fifth Sunday Worship experience on Sunday, March 31st. What is it? It is an opportunity to experience worship in a different way. The plans for that Sunday are still in the works, but it will look something like this: We will meet in the fellowship hall at 10:00 AM on that Sunday; it will begin with fellowship for all including brunch; worship will take place at the tables; we will sing, pray, hear God’s word and discuss what we can do and be to become an Inviting Church as well as a Welcoming Church. You are invited to come in casual dress for the day and bring your ideas on reaching out. The message will be presented in the form of feedback based on Scripture in which you will be encouraged to discuss the right questions about transformation.


An example of the wrong question is this: “How do we do things like the Baptists and the charismatic churches who are growing?” But rather: “How do we as a Presbyterian congregation become more open and inclusive in our worship, mission, and church life that others might be drawn into our worshiping community?” “That, detective, is the right question.” (From the movie, I Robot)


We hope to plan future Fifth Sunday Worship services during the year. These may or may not be in the sanctuary. They may follow closely with our regular service or be a little different. “Don’t Panic!” (From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) This is not an attempt to get rid of or replace the traditional service of this church with a “contemporary” one. I hope you come with an open mind, excitement about your church, and a desire for sharing the good news of God’s gracious love to a hurting world. You should be expecting a call in the near future from an Elder or Deacon personally inviting you to attend!




February 2019

Charity Lodge


I would like to continue introducing the staff of First Presbyterian Church. Charity Lodge is our housekeeper and nursery attendant. Unless you have children in the nursery or show up at the church early in the morning during the week, you might not have run into Charity. She does her work long before most of us arrive at church. If you do have contact with her, you will be met by a very cheerful greeting and a smiling face. Charity is always quick to help and   thorough in her work. It is very evident that she cares about people and takes her job seriously. Charity is the longest serving member of our staff and will celebrate 35 years with us soon. Or, better yet, WE are thankful for her many years of faithful service to this church and to the families that she has so lovingly cared for. If you do run into Charity some early morning or on Sunday near the nursery, thank her for being a part of First Presbyterian Church and for her faithfulness to us.