Month: September 2018

September 27, 2018

With the departures of the Reverend Erika Funk and the Reverend Katelyn Gordon Cooke, we find ourselves in a staffing transition. The Personnel Committee, the Session and I have been at work paying attention to where God is at work in this season of our church’s life and where we can find opportunities to build a staff that aligns with our Strategic Plan and continues to build vitality as a witness for Christ in the center of our city.

Soon, the Session will adopt a long-term program staff model that will accomplish those ends. Now, however, we have the need to bring in high-performing talent to help us in our transition. I am pleased and grateful to share that we have found two part-time Parish Associates who I believe are especially gifted to help us meet that need—the Reverend Dr. Rebecca Davis and the Reverend Mary Margaret Porter.

Beginning on October 1, the Reverend Dr. Rebecca Davis will be our Parish Associate with a focus on Christian Formation. Becky is a native of West Virginia. A graduate of Marshall University, Becky also hold degrees from Union Theological Seminary, the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, and her Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia.

Becky is deeply committed to the church, the way God is at work through the ministry of Christian education and formation, the gift of community, the joy of worship and sacraments, and the value of children. Her life demonstrates these commitments, as she has worked at the Children’s Defense Fund, as a pastor (in Texas, Arkansas and at Myers Park Presbyterian Church here in Charlotte), Presbyterian College (where she was a professor for Christian Education), and now at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, where she is a professor for Christian Education. The focus of Becky’s ministry will be to supervise and support our Directors of Christian Formation and the Christian Formation Committee, as well as to lead in worship. Becky will work 12 hours a week.

“Faith formation engages all aspects of the Church’s call and mission,” Becky said. “The model of ministry at First Presbyterian, Charlotte, intentionally seeks to build bridges between personal faith and public engagement as well as between church and world. It is a deeply joyful and compelling experience to join with others on this sacred journey where faith is formed, explored and practiced.”

Also beginning on October 1, the Reverend Mary Margaret Porter will join our staff as a Parish Associate with a focus on connection and fellowship. Mary Margaret will be familiar to many of you. She grew up at First Presbyterian and her husband (Fritz) and two boys (Mason and Hill) are actively involved. Mary Margaret is a graduate of Davidson College and received her Masters at Duke Divinity School. Most recently, she served as the Parish Associate at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.

Mary Margaret finds joy in connecting people to one another, building community and celebrating the ways God is at work in the relationships between God’s people. While at First Presbyterian, Mary Margaret will work with the Reverend Katherine Kerr and the Congregational Care Committee to cultivate and support ways our congregation can build and celebrate our connections to one another. Mary Margaret will be working seven hours a week.

“I am thrilled to be back in my home church to help strengthen our connections to one another and have some fun along the way!” Mary Margaret said. “I look forward to working with you all to think of new and exciting ways for our congregation to meet and grow as a community of faith both in the heart of Charlotte and beyond.”

Mary Margaret also wanted everyone to know that she plans to attend the congregational retreat in November and looks forward to meeting and getting to know folks in the mountains.

~ The Reverend Pen Peery

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Church isn’t limited to inside the plaster walls or iron fence of FPC—and our new podcast will enable people to access programming wherever they are.

“Church happens wherever we study, gather and do Christ’s work,” said Director of Adult Formation Garrell Keesler, who is spearheading the new offering. “To fully be the church, we need to take content and conversation to the people. That was the inspiration for our new podcast, Voices from Church and Trade.”

Over time, Garrell expects to build a library of podcasts that will help connect the church to the world by providing brief (15-20 minute) conversations to refresh the ways we practice faith.

Why “Church and Trade”?

“For 200 years, FPC has stood at the intersection of these streets listening to the city and telling stories of faith,” Garrell said. “These podcast conversations will explore the places where the sacred and the secular flow together. They’ll focus on the energy and vibrancy that occur when different streams of thought merge. And they’ll explore the new ideas that arise from sharing different perspectives.”

The first podcast features the Reverend Pen Peery and FPC member John Horne. Access it from the Now@First page on the church website, as well as from various social media outlets.

September 26, 2018

More than 40 years ago, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) created West Charlotte High School, which merged students of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds. And it was successful. The story of that school has been captured in the book Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the Struggle Over Educational Equity by Pamela Grundy, a former West Charlotte High student.

CMS is taking similar steps now, combining Dilworth and Sedgefield Elementary Schools.  If you live in a neighborhood affected by this change, you may want to participate in a Sunday class in October to discuss Grundy’s book and hear from students who lived that experience.

The 10 a.m. discussions will be in Lemma Howerton (S202) on the following dates:

October 7:  West Charlotte History and Era of Busing (Chapters 1-3) with Kenny Archie and David Dillard

October 21: An Integrated School (Chapters 4-5) with Lanier Hoy and Sara Hoy

October 28: Re-segregation and Looking Ahead (Chapters 6-9 and Final Thoughts) with Melissa Toth

Hurricane Relief: Wilmington, NC/October 2-6

Contact David Burton ( or 704-363-8511) to find out how you can get involved in this fall’s mission trip to assist with hurricane relief in eastern North Carolina.



September 20, 2018

The following letter is an announcement from the Reverend Katelyn Gordon Cooke, followed by a communication from the Reverend Pen Peery.

Dear First Presbyterian friends,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I write this letter to you with a heart that is full – full of gratitude, sadness, excitement, grief, and love.

A little less than a year after Andy and I were married here at First Presbyterian, we have a received a call to serve as co-pastors at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia. My last Sunday at FPC will be October 7.

I have loved serving as one of your pastors for the past four years. This church has such faithful energy, and it has been a joy to be part of your work for Christ in the heart of Charlotte. You have helped me to grow in my faith and my role as a pastor, and I am so grateful for this chapter of ministry with you. Thank you for your trust, encouragement, and friendship. Personally, FPC will always hold a special place in my heart as the community where Andy and I began our married life together. We love you dearly.

God has made the way clear for Andy and me to be in ministry in Augusta, and we believe this is our call for this season of life. It’s important to us to be closer to Andy’s boys, who live in Newnan, Georgia, and we are excited to be able to serve a church together.

Transitions are often messy and difficult, and still we trust that God is faithful and steadfast. In the midst of this transition, I give deep thanks for the ways the Spirit has been at work here and continues to be at work in and through each of you.

In Christ,
Katelyn Gordon Cooke

Friends in Christ,

I find Katelyn’s news to be bittersweet. I am grateful to God for Katelyn’s ministry these past four years, and am grateful that she and Andy can grow together in their marriage and their ministry as co-pastors in Augusta, Georgia. At the same time, I will miss Katelyn’s gifts as a part of our staff team.

So I hope you will join me in wishing Katelyn well at a reception in the Wood Fellowship Hall after the 11 a.m. worship service on Sunday, September 30. For those who would like to show your appreciation in a tangible way (as you have done so generously with other pastors and staff), you can send a check to be collected as a love offering for Katelyn to the church office at Jan Gaddis’ attention.

One of the things I have appreciated about how Katelyn has navigated her new call to Augusta is that she has been very communicative with me. As such, I have been able to be in conversation with our church’s Personnel Committee about how we can continue to provide excellent staff support for our ministry and mission. Soon, I will come to the Session with a staffing plan – both short and long-term. Losing two associate pastors in consecutive months is not common or ideal, but it does afford us an opportunity to align our staff with God’s call. I am confident that God is at work through this transition to guide us to a faithful and vibrant place.

In faith, hope, and love –


September 7, 2018

The final class in the series on Ten Prayers That Changed the World concludes on Sunday, December 16.

First Presbyterian will participate in a community-wide reading of Pamela Grundy’s book Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the Struggle Over Educational Equity.  

The Good Samaritan Class will host discussion on Sundays Oct. 7, 21 and 28 at 10 a.m. in the Fresco Lobby. Former students and volunteers will help lead the discussion. Books will be available at a discounted price of $10 (while supplies last) on Sundays beginning August 26.

Reading the book is not required to participate. The discounted price is possible thanks to a grant from the Catherine Grier Fund.

FPC is invited join other area churches for facilitated conversation in October, dates and times to be determined.

The final program for this fall’s Opportunity Forum is Wednesday, October 24, when we will hear from a panel from Communities in Schools. The focus for this series is on raising awareness and empowering action for change through first-hand stories of how inequity and racial discrimination affect students in our school system.

Dinner is available for $8 cash or check beginning at 5:15 p.m. The program is in Wood Fellowship Hall, 6-7:30 p.m.

Register for childcare for Wednesday, October 24.



September 4, 2018

A new sermon series on Welcome continues through Commitment Sunday, October 14. The Reverend Pen Peery is preaching except where noted. Remaining sermon topics and scripture are:

  • September 23 – Place of Welcome (Genesis 18:1-8)
  • September 30 – Challenges of Welcome, the Reverend Katherine Kerr preaching
  • October 7 – Tables of Welcome (John 6:1-14)
  • October 14 – Fruits of Welcome (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)