November 2017

As many of you know, Judy and I were on vacation the first part of October.  Last spring, we made our schedule to visit family in San Diego and then spend a week attending concerts and touring the surrounding areas of Las Vegas.  Little did we know someone was going to create a tragedy by shooting from the Mandalay Bay Hotel into a crowd who were enjoying an open air concert?  Thankfully, our visit didn’t coincide with that national tragedy.

I admit we were curious to see the place where it happened.  As we entered the city, we saw on the grassy median flowers, cards and a variety of memorials for the people.  The display extended about two blocks and was fenced in to make it safe for people entering and leaving.  At the end of the makeshift      memorial were two small tents for people to visit where someone would pray with them.  Seeing this     created a somber feeling for us.  This memorial was always crowded with visitors as well as creating a   traffic jam.

As I interacted with workers, they were open in telling us how difficult this terrible incident was for them.  It was a surreal experience to be in an environment where people were mourning and yet,       continuing to celebrate the city of Las Vegas.  The people were determined not to let this incident define them.  As a way to support the victims, they were selling T-shirts, caps, sweatshirts and other things with the slogan “Vegas-Strong.”  One hundred percent of the proceeds went to a victims’ fund.  Needless to say I was impressed!  Yes, we came home with several of them.

As a church, you have been and continue to experience transitions.  While your transition isn’t like the one in Las Vegas, you still have feelings which need to be supported.  I think we need to pay attention to the dynamics of change.  “Change” whether it’s chosen or imposed, creates the opportunity to either grow or regress.  What I experienced with you is a strong commitment to “keep on keeping on.” Because of what I have discovered about you, I firmly believe you will also embrace the ministry of Scott as you work and prepare for your next installed pastor.  I have seen your determination to acknowledge your loss and still maintain excitement about your future.  You are “FPC-Strong!”

On a personal note; I am deeply appreciative of the support and love you have shown to Judy and me.  As we change roles, I am thankful for the opportunity to be your bridge pastor.  I give my love and grace to all of you here at FPC.

 

FPC-Strong!

Preston

 

October 2017

October brings a mixed bag of emotions for me.  I am mostly a warm weather person but I also like the fall.  Cool mornings that turn into comfortable days, changing leaves from green to gold, yellow and red, people gathering for tailgate parties, and kids getting off of the school bus laughing and shouting to one another as they walk away in different directions.  There is something about fall that feels, smells and looks celebratory.  Maybe it’s for parents when children go back to school, maybe it’s the beginning of football season—ECU, UNC, NC State, Duke, Wake Forest or whichever school you hail from.

October 31, 1517 is another reason to celebrate fall of 2017.  This date is pivotal to what we know as the Protestant Reformation.  Just imagine what it may have been like prior to this time.  If you “sinned” you could only be forgiven if you presented yourself to the priest and paid penance.  If the priest, bishop or even the pope wanted to achieve a certain goal they could sell indulgences as a way to be reimbursed.  The religious structure was such that members were subservient to the authorities.  “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”  Are we not sure this isn’t Washington, DC?

Maybe I am over simplifying this important historical event in church history.  What I am not simplifying is the importance this event in 1517 had on us as Protestants.  Martin Luther didn’t intend nor could he have imagined the impact his personal struggle would have on church history.  He wanted to bring reform from within the Catholic Church but instead he became the lightning rod for a simmering discontent.  No doubt there were many priests and parishioners who wondered why they couldn’t talk directly to God and ask for forgiveness.  For us it seems talking with God and certainly asking for forgiveness has always been there.  In fact, we may take this concept for granted that absolution becomes a rote response.  How often have we read the prayer of forgiveness in worship and then heard the absolution proclaimed without an internal reflection?  I confess I have—now I am looking for absolution—how much is it going to cost me?

During the month of October you may hear much more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.  Some of the Wednesday evening studies in October will include viewing a DVD on Luther and a Sunday school class or two will discuss this topic.  Sunday October 29 we will celebrate Reformation Sunday in worship.

Presbyterians are celebrating the 500th anniversary of reform.  Our motto is “reform and being reformed.”  What this means is that we are never complete but always in process.  God continues to forgive and to claim us through his grace.  Thank you FPCRM for who you are and for what you will continue to become.

 

Peace and blessings,

Preston

 

September 2017

     Here we are in September; this summer has really gone fast.  We stand on the edge of fall—new academic year, new Sunday School curriculum, Rally Day with church picnic, meeting new people or being reacquainted with people we haven’t seen for a while—time and life steadily goes on. 

     As I put my thoughts on paper I am feeling overwhelmed with the tragic news of unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia and North Carolina.  How will our community be impacted?  How will I participate in the conversation affecting our community and nation?  To be honest, I really don’t know.  On one hand history, whether I like it or not, is part of who we are.  On the other hand I don’t want to support injustice of any kind.  Even worse, I don’t want to stick my head in the sand and pretend we don’t have a problem.  I think we are part of the problem and the solution.  I’m just trying to understand where I fit in.

      Many will struggle to integrate the emotional fury within our larger community with the theological understanding of our faith.  The emotional fury within our nation and community cannot be separated from the life of FPC.  What we feel and think about in everyday life will be with us in Sunday School and worship, whether it’s our health issues, family dynamics, underlying forces at work or political and social complexities. Life is both a mess and a blessing.

      It is so easy to jump on the bandwagon of emotional issues and get caught up in group mentality where we say and do things that normally we would not say or do.  I need others to help me stay grounded and remember humans are basically good people.  I struggle with how to look beyond the surface of anger, unrest and violent behavior to see the pain, disappointment, and misunderstanding.  When a child acts out in our family it’s usually because of an underlying issue.  Of course the behavior needs to be addressed but if we deal with the underlying issue then there is less need for the unacceptable behavior to occur again.  The social and political dynamics, like family systems, are difficult and convoluted to understand.

      When I peel back the layers of social behavior and attitude, I am better able to remember my core value.  My core faith value is the North Star which guides me to engage and interact with others regardless of where they stand politically, socially, or religiously.  My North Star boils down to what Jesus said to the young man who asked him the greatest commandment.  Jesus said to love God with all your heart, mind and spirit and to love your neighbor as yourself.  The way I understand this is to respect God and to respect others.  While I may not agree with you I will respect who you are.  Remember in my first newsletter article I said my prayer was: “Lord help me to accept people for who you created them to be and not the way I want them to be.”  Sometimes I am able to pull this off.

      Thank you for who you are and may we continue our struggles together so others may see to whom we belong. 

Shalom,

Preston

 

August 2017

Hot! Hot!  Every day I hear something about the hot weather.  I watch the weather forecast at least once and sometimes three times a day. “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it,” was contributed to Mark Twain.  However, research indicates that Charles Dudley Warner, editor at the Hartford Courant, may have used it earlier than Mark Twain.  Reference to Twain was in 1905 whereas Warner used it as early as 1889.

 

Regardless, we have weather all the time and we (humans) like to complain about things we have no control over.

 

That sounds like me!  I remember those July and August hot days in the tobacco fields.  One year, dad’s rows of tobacco seemed like they were 5 miles long.  Actually, they were only about 6 blocks long.  The flowers in the top were to be removed, called topping.  In between each leaf another little tobacco plant grew which needed to be removed in order to produce quality tobacco.  Of course, many of you know removing this little plant is called “suckering.”

 

As we began the task of topping and suckering (which I thought was crazy) it appeared we would never reach the other end of those long rows.  Looking at the other end of the row and across the field was a daunting feeling—we will never get there, so I thought.

 

I have since discovered if I focus only on the outcome then I miss the importance of the journey.  The journey may be difficult at times but necessary to have the desired outcome.  For   example, the weeks and months planning a vacation often brings more joy than the vacation itself.

 

As a church family, it’s important to remember the journey (living today) is where we find the meaning of life.  A pastoral transition for churches creates anxiety and could lead to unhealthy shortcuts.  I am convinced that if we do our work appropriately, we will have the right outcome.

 

I needed to be reminded how important the tedious work on each hill of tobacco was for quality outcome.  Likewise, trusting the leadership of the Holy Spirit will guide us in our journey.  I am thankful to be in journey with you at this time and place.

Shalom,

Preston

 

July 2017

Each day upon waking up, I have an expectation of what my day may be like.  Breakfast, morning coffee with friends at a local watering hole, chores, hobbies, lunch and dinner with Judy, visiting grandchildren for ballgames and recitals, etc.  You too, have your expected daily routine.  Oops! Then life happens.  A dreaded phone call telling you that a loved one has died, a health report stating you have a significant illness, a neighbor in trouble, job change, etc. 

 

While I know life consists of unexpected events (positive and negative), I arise every morning not anticipating them today. 

 

My plans for the summer and fall consisted of relearning how to fish (new boat), golfing, weekly motorcycle trips with friends, visiting grandchildren in Utah (and their parents) and traveling with Judy.

 

It was an unexpected life event the day FPCRM leaders called to ask if I would consider serving as bridge interim  pastor while they searched for a full-time interim minister.  FPC was not on my radar screen but it didn’t take long before I realized this is what I was being called to do.  You see, I have lived my life with the attitude, “Lord, guide me in ways to serve you.”  However, I expected to serve in smaller “bites,” you know the kind that would match my retirement plans, a little bit here and a little bit there.  

 

As each of you know quality of life is not in the content of what we do but in the attitude we have.  One could play golf and it could be the worst experience or the best experience ever–attitude.  Likewise, I would never have chosen my dad to have Alzheimer’s disease.  Many of you know how difficult it is to have loved ones live with this disease.  When this happened , I learned to pray, “why not us, we are not any better than anyone else.”  When our son was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer we approached it the same way.  Now that doesn’t mean we didn’t cry, hurt, and struggle.  It meant we were not alone as we faced life challenges.  Family, friends and our faith family were there to give us strength and support.

 

I have been blessed to be a part of the FPC family and I think it is in part to my being open to new possibilities (and certainly, the wonderful people I have met.)  I have great appreciation for who you are.  While there are many personalities and multitudes of life experiences in this family, it is my prayer to respect you as God has created you and not the way I think you should be.  I invite you to join with me in living this prayer this summer—“Lord, help me to respect others for the way you have created them rather than the way I think they should be.” 

  Peace and blessings,

  Preston

 

June 2017

At the recent Sunday School Teacher Appreciation Breakfast, our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, Lydia Wingo Kane, delivered a beautiful blessing and with her permission, a portion of it is being shared with you below.  No matter where you may find yourself during the summer months, whether near or far, facing new beginnings or endings, you can rest assured that God is with you.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not bedismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

                                Blessings,

                                     Dionne Seale

                                     Church Ministry Coordinator

“God of Beginnings and Endings,

 …God, it feels like we are constantly coming to forks in the road of life. Any way that change happens, God, it’s hard. Goodbyes are never easy, and we have experience with these forks in the road. We have made both easy and hard decisions, and we have seen where the road leads. Let us take that experience and make decisions that sustain your church, nurture our children and youth, and further your kingdom. We will pray. We will listen. Help us, God… Amen.”                                                                                                

      Lydia Wingo Kane – May 21, 2017

 

May 2017

May marks a number of transitions and special events in the life of our congregation. On May 7, our youth will lead worship, and some of our seniors will preach. It’s one of my favorite Sundays of the year. That same Sunday is also the last day our choral scholars will be with us until the fall. Noli, Mikaela, and James will be returning, but we will be saying goodbye to Rebekah, who is graduating. I hope you will join me in thanking her for being a part of First Pres this last few years and wishing her well as she moves on to what’s next for her.

The next Sunday, May 14, we will take up the annual Presbyterian Women Birthday offering, which goes toward projects involving health, education, economic development, and the needs of women and children. On May 21, we will hear from Mickey Bailey, who will share an update about the AGAPE Village Orphanage in Zambia. We will also have our annual bucket brigade, to collect funds to help ship supplies to the orphanage.

 

Finally, Memorial Day Weekend marks the beginning of our shift to 10:00 worship for the summer. There are lots of wonderful opportunities for worship and mission this month, and I hope that you will join us on Sundays and during our weekly activities as we continue to strive “to be a congregation of believers carrying out the Word of God and joyfully bringing the community to the church and the church to the community.”

Gratefully,

 

Chris

 

April 2017

The last Sunday of March marked a significant transition for First Presbyterian Church. We said farewell to the Duncan family and marked the end of Mary Kathleen’s nearly six years of ministry with us. So many wonderful people helped make the celebration possible, from preparing flower arrangements to cooking food, to presenting gifts, and more. To all of you, I offer my thanks and gratitude. With this transition, as with any transition, there is a sense of uncertainty. The good news is that we have a terrific group of staff and volunteers who are working to ensure our youth programming continues. We’ve already shared that Olivia Roberson will be here Sunday nights to lead youth group, and Lydia Wingo Kane has taken on some of the administrative responsibilities of the youth program. That same Sunday in March, we also welcomed six of our youth into membership in the church. Our confirmands, Bea Barnhill, Virginia Feagans, Shelton Honey, Anna Brooks Gaynor, Carley Outlaw, and Mari Robin Tharin, met with the session to share their statements of faith, and then during worship affirmed the vows given at their baptisms. If you did not get to congratulate them yet, I encourage you to do so. Times of change can be difficult, and losing Mary Kathleen and the Duncan Family is a great loss for this church. But, with six new church members, a growing children’s ministry, and a thriving youth program, we have much to be excited about! Later this month we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, and claim once again the promise that nothing in life or in death can separate us from God’s love and God’s calling for us to serve him and to serve one another. Spring is a season of rebirth, of growth, and of hope. That is a great description of our congregation’s current season of life, and I’m looking forward to walking through it with you. May you find hope, joy, gratitude, and love in this holy time of year.

Grace and Peace, Chris

March 2017

I always struggle a bit this time of year when the Church season of Lent begins. Not because I dislike Lent (I don’t), but because it was just a couple of months ago that we were celebrating Jesus’ birth. Now we’re entering a season of self-examination and contemplation as we look toward Holy week and the cross. Last year, Lent began only six weeks in to the New Year and was over in March!

This year, March 1 marks the beginning of Lent. First Presbyterian will again start Lent with a pre-season celebration, Shrove Tuesday. Together with the Boy Scouts, our Deacons will host our pancake supper and fellowship event. The following night, March 1, at 5:30, we will worship together in the chapel to begin the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday and the imposition of ashes. In this service, we remember that “from dust we have come, and to dust we shall return.” I hope that you will join us for this holy event.

Throughout the month of March, we will walk the Lenten journey together; a journey of examination, reflection, and penitence. Some of us will be giving something up for Lent. Others may be adding a routine. If you do give something up or add something, I encourage you to choose something that draws your attention to God’s kingdom around you. Giving up certain luxuries might remind you of those who do not have much. Adding a time of prayer and scripture reading to your daily routine may bring new insights to your faith.

I invite you to join me in exploring the depth of this holy season, growing in our faith, and gaining a greater appreciation for the work of Jesus Christ.

 

Faithfully,

Chris

Week of July 21, 2019

Join us on this sixth Sunday after Pentecost at 10:00 a.m. for worship.  There will be a Called Congregational meeting at the end of worship.

The following scripture will be referenced:

Isaiah 43: 18-21

John 11:32-44

Sermon Title:

“Grasping God’s New Life Now”

The Rev. Bettie Kirkpatrick

Click July 14, 2019 to see the previous Sunday’s bulletin.

If you would like to read the PC(U.S.A.)’s lectionary readings for today, click here.