Month: February 2018

February 28, 2018
Debbie Shirkey and her mother-in-law, Kathy Shirkey

I had the unique position of traveling with my mother-in-law the other week and watching her wonderful, dynamic way of noticing others. Kathy Shirkey strikes up conversations everywhere she goes.  And I do mean everywhere—the checkout line in the store, the elevator, with people in line at restaurants, those eating at the table beside her, even people in the restroom stall beside her. She is the definition of “I’ve never met a stranger.”

I’ve always known this about Kathy. She’s outgoing and gregarious, quick with a story and easy to talk to. But on holiday these traits seem to be exaggerated. I must admit, I’m a bit jealous of her ease in talking with others. Conversations seem to flow so effortlessly.

This is also not the first time we’ve traveled together, so I’ve heard a lot of “Kathy stories” before. Like how she lived in Hawaii when she graduated college, or how she met her husband Nick in a bar in California, or how she taught swimming at the Y for years on a lake, but when she saw the ocean the first time, she ripped off her swimming badge because there was no way she was going to dive into that water and try to save someone.

What was different about our recent trip, however, was my focus not on the stories she told, though of course they are great, but on the people with whom she chose to share these stories. The people she befriended both by sharing her stories and by asking others about theirs. I made a conscious effort to watch the reactions of others.

It’s a wonder to behold the dynamic that takes place when Kathy gets going.

“Is that scallops you’re eating? They look good. Would you recommend them?”

“Hi, I see you’re in line for the Polynesian Show. Have you ever been to this show? I hear it’s a hoot.”

From there the conversations usually delve into either a shallow or deep trough of past experiences. “The scallops are great.” “No, this is my first time to Hawaii, and I’ve heard the show tells the history of the islands.” You get the idea. It’s the dance of people making small talk and finding out a little bit about one another.

What I found fascinating was that people, though they knew it was unlikely that their paths would ever cross again, loved being noticed. Someone had taken the time to notice them, to talk to them, to ask about them. To see them. Not the person beside them or behind them, but them.

Yes, there were a few people who didn’t want to engage (like the couple beside us at the fancy French restaurant, who I can only imagine thought Kathy must be an undercover-planted chaperone). But the huge majority seemed to thrive on Kathy’s advances. To have someone take a moment out of their day to ask about theirs.

I wonder sometimes what it would be like if we all took that time to notice those around us. Not those we already know necessarily, but the strangers whose paths we cross every day. What if we took a note from Kathy’s playbook and said, “Hi, that’s a great smile you have. Are you headed to this corner, too? I’d love to walk with you.”

– Debbie Shirkey

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February 27, 2018

Watch this space for the weekly Lenten Devotionals. You can also contact Elizabeth Cook about receiving the devotionals by email each Monday through Lent.

Following the worship theme The Promises of Lent, each devotional offers you the opportunity to hear a Promise using scripture, to consider and reflect on the Promise, and to pray the Promise.

February 19, 2018

February 26, 2018

March 5, 2018

March 12, 2018

March 26, 2018

This post will be updated weekly so you can easily stay current or look back at previous weeks.

February 23, 2018

Sunday is the deadline to bring in books for the book drive for Westerly Hills Academy. More than 400 books have been donated so far and about 180 books are still needed to assure that each child is able to choose a book for their home library before spring break.

New and gently-used books for students in grades K-8 will be collected in bins in the hallway behind the sanctuary March 1-18. To make sure we’re contributing books that today’s students will enjoy and benefit from, teachers have provided four lists of suggested books.

Volunteers are needed to help sort and distribute the books March 19-26. You can sign up online. Contact Heather Herring with questions.

February 19, 2018

Registration is open for children and youth (current third-twelfth graders) who wish to attend the Montreat Worship and Music Conference June 17-22. Daily activities include three core courses (Choir, Bible Study and Fun and Games) and 2-3 electives. Electives vary by age and include art, instrumental ensembles, auditioned chamber choirs, drumming, improv and worship, photography, and handbells. Evening activities include a talent show, movie and pizza night, and rock hopping. Housing and meals are in rented homes and the cost will be $375 or less, depending upon the number registered.

For additional information, you can read more online or contact contact Caryn Overbey or Will Young.  Registration will be done as a group, so contact Caryn to register your child or youth. A deposit of $50 is required and registration closes April 10.

February 7, 2018


You wouldn’t believe what happened at First Presbyterian Church in the wee hours of the morning on February 1.

At 4:30 a.m. on that date, almost 100 volunteers arrived at FPC for the Mecklenburg County annual Point in Time count—an annual snapshot of people experiencing homelessness in our county. This was our fourth year to host the event and it was amazing to see how it has grown.

Point in Time counts happen all over the country in large cities, usually in the middle of winter.  It is a one-night, unduplicated estimate of sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations. Sheltered means that a person was in an emergency shelter or transitional housing at the time of the count. Unsheltered means, sadly, what it sounds like—that a person was on the street or in some other place unfit for human habitation.

Volunteers, bundled up in their warmest gear, gathered in our fellowship hall for a hot breakfast and to pick up the amazing amount of donations collected from individuals and agencies across the city. While out seeking individuals to count, they also handed out sleeping bags, blankets, socks, hand warmers, water and hygiene products.

It makes sense that FPC hosts such an important event, as we are located in the heart of Charlotte and serve the heart of Charlotte. Most volunteers head out our doors and walk to where people sleep on the streets or in outdoor camps. Their work is done by 8 a.m. You would never know they had been here. In that way, their work is not unlike the existence of too many of our neighbors who walk, eat and sleep unnoticed and unaccounted for on our city’s streets.

I am grateful that we are able to use our space and our location in way that embodies Christ’s call to see and to love the most marginalized of our society.

~ The Reverend Erika Funk

Take a look at photos taken in Wood Fellowship Hall during the Point in Time count last week.

You can read the 2017 Point in Time Report while waiting for the 2018 report to be published, usually in early April.

You can learn more about the Point in Time count.


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February 6, 2018

Join the Reverend Pen Peery and other FPC men for this new opportunity for discussion and fellowship on Tuesday, February 13, at Duckworth’s Taphouse on Park Road (4435 Park Road), 8-9:30 p.m. <RSVP to Pen> ( if possible, but don’t stay away if it’s a last-minute decision.

February 5, 2018

First Presbyterian Church will take a team to Villa Infantil Maya (VIM), a residence that enables Mayan students to attend middle and high school away from home in a spirit-filled, caring environment.

During the mission trip, First Presbyterian team members will stay in the dorm, interact with the VIM students and perform some construction work to improve the facility. Past groups have painted, sanded and installed concrete. A variety of tasks suit all ages and abilities.

If you are interested in being a part of this exciting and long-running mission, contact Martha Eubank for more details.

The approximate cost for the trip will be $1300-$1400, with scholarship help available.

Here is the anticipated itinerary:

  • Monday: Leave around 9:30 a.m.  Arrive in Cancun in time to shop for supplies for the week.
  • Tuesday-Friday: Work at VIM, meet the students and visit the schools VIM students attend.
  • Friday afternoon: Travel to the quaint colonial town of Valladolid for an afternoon/evening of R&R.
  • Saturday: Return to Charlotte

Watch this video to learn more about the work of Accion Ministries, our mission partners in the Yucatan.

This year during the Lenten season, our worship will be focused on the promises God makes to us in preparation for the ultimate promise that we find in a tomb that is empty and a world that is changed. Plan your Lenten season around these opportunities for worship.

Sunday, March 25, Palm Sunday: The Reverend Katelyn Cooke preaching

Thursday March 29, Maundy Thursday: Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and Service of Tenebrae. Sanctuary, 7:30 p.m.

February 2, 2018

Dear FPC youth and families,

When Director of Youth Ministries Natalie Raygor shared the news of her pregnancy back in September, her March due date seemed so far away! And now the time is coming for baby Raygor to make a big debut, and the time is coming soon!

As you may have heard from Natalie or through the FPC grapevine, Natalie is scheduled to deliver on Monday, February 12. We are so excited for her and Kyle to welcome their little one, and we know the FPC family is looking forward to celebrating with them too.

Natalie will be on maternity leave through the beginning of May, and we are grateful for the multitude of advisors, teacher,s and families who will keep things going during her time away.

While Natalie is out, the Assistant Director for Youth Ministry search committee will continue its work as well, and we appreciate your prayers for our discernment. We have every intention of continuing with business as usual over the next three months, and we also appreciate your patience and grace as we don’t have a full youth staff currently.

You will continue to receive weekly newsletters with info about upcoming events and retreats, and you are welcome to reach out to me or Elizabeth Cook if you have questions about youth ministry.

I’ll also be available this Sunday, February 4 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in Wood Fellowship Hall to meet with parents and answer any questions you may have about our plans while Natalie is on maternity leave.

Being a church together means we get to experience life’s sorrows and celebrations with each other, and this is a fun season of celebration for Natalie and Kyle! Thank you for being part of it!

Grace and peace,

Katelyn Gordon Cooke, Associate Pastor for Christian Formation