Month: March 2017

March 30, 2017
Four-year-olds make sandwiches for our Room in the Inn neighbors.

Thank you to our amazing volunteers who host groups of folks living on the margin.

Throughout the winter months, you provide food, fellowship, a listening ear and an open heart to 12 guests each Monday and Tuesday night through the Urban Ministry Center’s Room in the Inn program. Without you, First Pres would not be able to sustain this partnership. I promise you, this is the God’s honest truth!

Here are a few snapshots from this season, shared by FPCers who made time for our Room in the Inn guests. Some are happy and some are gut-wrenching and all reflect time spent in community with one another.

  • A pan of brownies transformed into a birthday cake for a six-year-old girl—the first birthday cake she has ever had.
  • Guests schooling some young FPC whippersnappers in basketball, only to let them take the lead in the end and win the game.
  • Two men sharing the experience, strength and hope—as well as love—that they’ve learned in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous…emphasizing that addiction knows no zip code.
  • Four-year-olds in our Weekday School making lunches for our guests.
  • Clemson and Alabama fans alike cheering on their respective teams, coming together at the end of the game with a prayer of solidarity.
  • Two moms from different worlds sharing a meal and tears over the struggles of raising young children.
  • Bumping into a guest who works at Which Wich and meeting his co-workers.
  • A letter left by a guest expressing gratitude for the laughter of young children in the dining room.

These are just a few exchanges. I feel sure there are countless others just as profound and moving. All are examples of how we spend time with our neighbors for Christ in the heart of Charlotte.

I also want to thank the Urban Ministry Center for allowing us the opportunity to spend time with men, women and children who find themselves in challenging and sometimes traumatic circumstances. What a gift it is to connect with new and old friends and share parts of our lives, our struggles and our dreams with each other. Also, a list of the volunteers is at the bottom of this post, with my apologies for anyone who was inadvertently left out.

Glory to God for the love being shared, friendships being formed and souls being nurtured within the walls of this building.

– Mary Scott Peterson

Ward and Sally Davis, John Graham, Kory Eubank, Don and Anne Schmit, Mike and Debbie O’Hara, Georgia and Ken Johnson, Melissa Walker, Holly Ham, Stephanie Owens, Jenni and Rob Grier, Page and Martin Hull, Suzy Nurkin, Emily Johnson, Lisa Ku, Kathryn Raby, Caroline Sink, Ingrid Johnson, Jen Dauska, Sarah Moody, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Bowman, Carol and Milt Childress, Chad and Mary Scott Peterson, Amy Hilyard, Susan Keesler, Rebecca Morris, Caroline Veronee, Patti and Steve Mayo, Anne Bridgeman, Elizabeth Fagg, Heather Hayes, Holly Loeffler, Caroline Sharp, Ros Mallory, Addison Ayer, Marwen McDowell, Grace Hoover, Katie Williams, Nick Valaoras, Christian and Sarah Flohr, Ward McKeithen, Kitty Ray, Frances Campbell, Jane Lomax, Marilyn Armstrong, Lisa Dillard, Rich Neidinger, Liana Humphrey, Amy Jones, Crystal Sellers, Sarah Lockhart, Lauri Clark, Dennis Elliott, Vicki Sutton, Elise Barksdale, Rick Rogers, Diane Carey, Don Olmstead, Sonya Snowdon, Ann Temple, Rich and Jen Evans, Claire Tate, Natalie Raygor, Drew Quartapella, Roy Michaux, Alison Dalton, Al Riddick, Sally Billington, Debbie Barberr, Tiffany Guy, Graham Johnson, Roger Lovelett, Tripp Monroe, Fritz Porter, David Taylor, Renna Massey, Katie James, Ron Hankins, Kent Main, Doug Williams, Martha Ogburn, Allen Shifflet, Austin Tate, Jane Gustafson, Bart Landess, Tim Ryan, Bradley Griffin, Dan Ogburn, George Climer, Joe and Sonja Elliott, Kelli Mallory, Marc Gustafson, Tayna Gaspar, Roberta Fox, Lee Bradley, Stacey Stevenson, Gretchen Bottrill, Libby Bell, Grace Ulrich, John Tate, Ruth Ellen Gill, Erika Funk, Walter Bridgeman, Dick Ridenhour, Rich Lyman, John Corder, Marty Griffin, Rick Winn, Jim Sharp, Lee Cory, Shana Hetherington, Elizabeth Clark, Joe Bossong, Carroll Walton, Margaret Dunn, Warren Snowdon, Ron and Vicki Hankins, Bowen Caldwell, Mary Caroline Lee, Beth and Doug Williams, Bryan Morris, Zenny Aycock, Barret and Bryan Butler, Young Adult Bible Study, Middle School and High School Youth

Please note that the Tenebrae Service on Maundy Thursday, April 13, has been moved to 7:30 p.m.

The Men’s Morning Bible Study scheduled for March 28 will be postponed to April 11.

It’s time to update the code for exiting our parking lot when you are at the church during the week. The code changed on April 4, so be sure to check at the reception desk before you leave the church.

Paxton Williamson, a junior at South Mecklenburg High School, has been named the recipient of the Will Appleby Award for Spirit, Dedication, and Leadership.

This lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church is the son of David and Tracy Williamson. Paxton has served on the Youth Council throughout his middle and high school years and has participated in mission trips to Baltimore and Mexico. He is currently in his fourth year as an Ivey Handbell Ringer and has been on three tours with the group to the northeastern US, Canada and Chicago. He is looking forward to their tour of the Pacific Northwest/Canada this summer. Paxton also plays the bass with the youth band on Youth Sunday and serves as an instrumentalist for the Children’s Musical in the spring. Paxton attended the Montreat Youth Conference last summer, where he enjoyed meeting and getting to know youth from across the nation. In middle school, Paxton was asked to speak to the rising sixth graders about his experience in youth group and what it has meant to him. He has also participated in the 30-hour famine with other youth in the Charlotte area. Paxton currently serves as an Impact Group leader for the middle school youth and enjoys participating in PYC service projects.

Paxton follows the tradition Will Appleby set by being an outstanding member of the youth program at First Presbyterian Church. Please join us in congratulating Paxton Williamson!

March 27, 2017

Adults, high schoolers and middle schoolers are invited to volunteer as Vacation Bible School guides to get to know and lead our children from station to station this summer, June 26-29, 9 a.m.-noon each day. Volunteering includes one organizational meeting, VBS set-up day and hanging with your group for four mornings. Contact Tammy Winchip (, 704.927.0265) if you can be part of this experience with our children.

If you work with children as a volunteer or an employee, the next training is Sunday, May 7, 9 a.m.-Noon. Contact Garrell Keesler (

The jewelry, scarves and purses you’re no longer using can help us fill our Summer Camps buses with children who would love a life-changing experience this year. PW (Presbyterian Women) will host a jewelry and accessories sale in May, with all proceeds supporting the church’s Summer Camps program. To make this happen however, PW needs the sparkle! You are invited to donate their jewelry, scarves and handbags. So comb through your jewelry boxes and closets for those under-used pieces that someone else can rock!

All donations are due by April 30, so bring them to the collection box at the reception desk, to your next Circle meeting, or to donation tables in the Historical Lobby on Sundays in April.

To volunteer or for details, contact Mary Margaret Porter, 704.315.9848).

March 24, 2017

For many months now, our Balcony Group has listened for the Holy Spirit in developing a strategic plan for the next three to five years. This group has listened through conversations with our officers; for the wisdom of our past efforts in strategic and long-range planning; during visits to other vital, center-city churches around the country; and during lots and lots of meetings.

The strategic plan they are drafting will be built on our existing shared vision—taking what we do well and enhancing/expanding it so that it moves us into the future.

The draft the Balcony Group is working on now will recommend specific, aspirational, yet attainable initiatives that flow from four objectives, or planks: Welcome, Serving our City, Life Together and Stewardship. As they aim for finishing that draft in April, here’s how the Balcony Group is defining those planks.

Welcome: In a time when there is a trend for people to choose spirituality over religion, our efforts in Christian hospitality matter more than ever. That welcome extends from our worship, to our physical campus, to our use of media and tools for communication.

Serving our City: We will always continue to reach beyond Charlotte—with mission to the world and cities other than our own. But now seems to be a time to pay special attention to being agents of transformation in the center of the city where we were established as a church for this community. To be effective agents of God’s transformation, we have to grapple with and seek to understand what Charlotte’s issues are. One providential piece of timing is that the Economic Opportunity Task Force is set to release its report, which will highlight particular areas of focus in our city that are in need of transformation. We imagine some of our initiatives under this objective will align with part of what the Task Force recommends.

Life Together: Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called Life Together, which describes what the family of faith looks like when we recognize the gift of Christian community. It is a stark difference from the frenetic, polarized, shallow existence that so often exists without the grounding of Christ’s presence. Initiatives under this objective will help encourage and affirm our life together as a community of every age and stage.

Stewardship: Stewardship is a spiritual practice that must be taught and valued. It does not happen by accident. Stewardship asks us to invest in a future that we do not get to see.  Initiatives in this area will develop strategies to deepen our commitments and diversify our approach.

This plan and this impact begin soon—this year. And our implementation of this plan will set a trajectory that will lead us into our third century of ministry, which begins in 2021. The Balcony Group’s work on the strategic plan will certainly be what the congregation and our neighborhood feel first.  It will energize, focus, and deepen our mission to be for Christ in the Heart of Charlotte.

Watch for a recap of my comments about God’s call to us from the March 12 Town Hall in the April issue of FirstNEWS, which will be available beginning March 26 in the historic lobby and on the website beginning Monday, March 27.

– Pen Peery

March 20, 2017

Each week, the Sunday bulletin offers suggestions for Lenten practices throughout the week. This week, a suggestion for embodying our faith is to walk a labyrinth. Look for the list of nearby labyrinths or use the image in the bulletin.

And don’t forget to stop by one of our picnic tables on the lawn to write a prayer for yourself or someone else between now and Easter. As a community of faith, our voices are woven together in the Apostles’ Creed. As children of God, our hopes and sorrows are woven together in prayer. Picnic tables covered in cloth will be in on the lawn front of the sanctuary daily between now and Easter. You are invited to write a prayer for yourself or someone else on the cloth. We hope all children, youth and adults will visit the tables often and share your struggles and blessings as a way of embodying your faith.

Prayer prompts on each table include:

  • Pray for someone who is suffering
  • Write a 1 line prayer
  • Write where you see God’s love.

These prayers will be woven together and used in worship on Youth and Confirmation Sunday, April 23.