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 February 23, 2020

February 2017

This past Monday we resumed our Brown Bag Bible Study on Mondays at noon. Our format is changing again, this time looking much more like it has in years past. For now, we will be studying the scripture passages that will be used in worship on the following Sunday. Generally, whichever pastor is preaching will lead the discussion. My hope is that our time together will add depth, context, and understanding when we worship on Sundays. Selfishly, I’m also looking forward to hearing what you all have to say about the text so that I can share your insights with the congregation in my sermon!

I’ve found myself drawn toward the Sermon on the Mount recently, which is the lectionary gospel text for the coming weeks. Most likely we’ll spend a good amount of time reading and exploring what Jesus had to say in these few chapters from Matthew’s Gospel, and what he still has to say to us today. Whether you’ve read through the Bible cover to cover every year, or you only pick it up on occasion, I promise you’ll have something to contribute and you’ll have something to learn.

I hope that if you have Mondays at noon free, you will join us for fellowship, food, and study.

Blessings,
 
Chris

January 2017

Friends,

Happy New Year! My hope and prayer is that the Advent and Christmas seasons have been a blessing to each of you. This past month I have especially enjoyed gathering in homes, at the church, and around the community to celebrate Christmas, birthdays, and one another. I am thankful for the opportunity to partner with each of you in the work of ministry as we live out our callings as Christ’s disciples.

It has been years since I’ve made any New Year’s resolutions, but I do try to set goals each year for what I want to accomplish. In 2017, one of my goals is to strengthen relationships – with family, friends, and community. I hope that when you come by the church during the week, you’ll pop by my study to say hello. Know, too, that I’m a phone call away should you want to talk. As part of this goal of mine, I’ll be looking to spend more time gathering in folk’s homes, in our Sunday School classes, and for a good meal or drink at the Mills.

May you and yours find abundant blessings in 2017!

Chris

November 2016

2016 is one of those years where Advent starts in November, the first Sunday after Thanksgiving. Which means that the Christmas season is fast approaching! I confess that I’m one of those people who refuses to play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, and who will frown upon businesses that start playing carols before then, as well.

There’s much to look forward to in the life of our church before the Christmas season begins. On November 6 we will conclude our sermon series on the Great Ends of the Church, and will also have a time during worship to offer our 2017 estimate of giving cards to God.

This is the time of year when our lives become even busier than they already are. We drive around looking for the perfect Christmas gift, or for the right food for Thanksgiving dinner. In the midst of the chaos, we so often find ourselves tired, but refusing to rest. For the two Sundays before Advent, we’ll talk about this in worship. More specifically, we’ll talk about Sabbath. What does it mean? Does it really apply to us? How do we obey the commandment to honor the Sabbath?

Join us on November 13 and 20, and bring a friend.

Peace,

Chris