Author: peg

February 21, 2019

Mondays can be rough. That alarm seems to go off way too early, and the coffee takes way too long to kick in. The to-do list for the week is at its longest, and everything seems to be urgent. Sometimes I’m already beginning the mental countdown to the weekend!

One Monday a couple of weeks ago was not one of those days for me.

As I walked into my office, I noticed the voicemail light blinking. It was a message from a long-time church member, asking me to call her. It seems the Camp Grier camper she and her husband had sponsored and mentored for many years, now an analyst at Wells Fargo, was interested in sponsoring a camper this year herself. Her experience at Camp Grier had been so meaningful to her that she felt called to provide that experience to someone else.

After that wonderful conversation, I went to a Read Charlotte Transformation Network meeting, where I had the privilege of sharing our HELPS tutoring successes as part of the “celebrations” portion of the meeting. We have been tutoring students since November 22, with breaks for holidays and testing during that time and I let them know that, of the eleven students we tutor at Westerly Hills, 82% showed growth (most, quite significant growth) in their mid-year fluency test scores.

In fact, 27% of the students we are tutoring showed so much growth that they would no longer be identified as needing the intervention. 

Neither Read Charlotte nor the administration at the school were expecting to see an impact yet. But we made an impact, and it wasn’t small. Read Charlotte is going back to the professor who developed the program to see how we should proceed because they didn’t expect this kind of progress!

When we serve others, we know that we are doing what God calls us to do. We know it makes us feel good, and we hope that it is really making a difference in this overwhelmingly broken world. Rarely do we receive such bold confirmation, though, that what we do does matter. HELPS is helping struggling readers hit their goals and move forward, more quickly than we could have ever dreamed. The relationships formed and memories made as a result of our summer camps program are long-lasting, meaningful and important.

Yes, what we do matters.  Yes, it takes time.  Yes, it takes commitment.  And it brings joy.  It creates hope. It matters.

Don’t you want to sign up online today to create hope.

~ Heather Herring, Child & Family Partnership Coordinator

February 8, 2019

The Christmas tree has long since been hauled off to the landfill. The boxes with Christmas lights and ornaments are safely tucked away in the attic gathering dust until next year. Christmas is pretty much a memory.

But not for everyone.

Many of you made purchases at our church’s Alternative Gift Market. Instead of buying another sweater or a pair of Christmas socks, you make contributions to organizations here in Charlotte and around the world that provide love and care and comfort to people in need.

Because of the gifts you gave, people are still today benefiting from your Christmas generosity.

This year’s Alternative Gift Market raised $5,500 to help people in need.

Local Missions

  • Camp Grier (a summer camp experience for students at Westerly Hills and Lakewood Preschool): $355
  • A Child’s Place (a program supporting children experiencing homelessness): $195
  • Community Link (supports homeless veterans, meals for homeless families): $230
  • Crisis Assistance Ministry (assistance for families in crisis): $190
  • Friendship Trays (supplies meals for elderly, handicapped, ill and homebound in our community): $525
  • Habitat for Humanity (safe, affordable housing for hard-working families): $115
  • Lakewood Preschool (provides free, high-quality preschool education ): $105
  • Loaves and Fishes (nutritious groceries for neighbors facing economic hardship): $490
  • Urban Ministry Center (serves people facing homelessness and poverty): $260
  • Westerly Hills Academy (gifts support our church’s literacy initiative at Westerly Hills): $655
  • YWCA – Central Carolinas (supports programs for women and families in transition): $10

Global Missions

  • First Presbyterian Church Mission Trips (work supplies and equipment for youth and adult on our church’s mission trips): $30
  • Cuba Partnership (supports programs at the seminary with which we have a partnership): $260
  • Haiti Partnership (supports the work of our partnership in Bayonnais, Haiti): $705
  • Mexico Partnership (supports the work of Acción Ministries with meals, housing, and scholarships for Mayan children): $1000
  • Russia Partnership (our gifts help to build a church in Russia where faith communities still face persecution): $10
  • Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (helps communities rebuild following natural disasters): $365

Thank you for your support. And if you would like to provide additional support to these agencies, your gifts will be greatly appreciated by those whose lives are being blessed because of you.

~ The Reverend Chuck Williamson

January 24, 2019
Sue Loeser

In the basement of the Poplar Street building, unknown to many FPC members, there is an area almost like a small convenience store.  About 15 times a month, Loaves and Fishes volunteer crews distribute food to clients…people with a referral from Loaves and Fishes who shop and pay with points, not cash.

Many distribution volunteers are FPC members, but other churches send entire crews, and some crews include friends of our church family. The role of a distribution volunteer, in addition to assisting with food selection, is to offer respect and kindness. Three years ago, after Ross and I moved uptown, I joined the First Thursday distribution team.

Two surprises have been:

  1. how often someone says “I don’t need any more than this, so I won’t take more.  Leave it for the next person!” and
  2. how many people ask for healthy food. They have medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension) and want to avoid salt in canned vegetables, sugar in canned fruit.

The pantry receives some fresh vegetables and fruit in deliveries from the Loaves and Fishes Warehouse, but mostly we offer canned food. I started asking clients what produce they would “buy” if available, and the answers were unexpected:  strawberries (shrug), blueberries (NO), cauliflower (Never ate that!)…but YES to cabbage, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, corn, potatoes, yams.

A cost-efficient way to obtain fresh produce is to become a Second Harvest Food Bank shopper. So with FPC’s support, I attended training last November at Second Harvest so I can shop in their warehouse. There are shopping rules: you must make an appointment, time limit in the warehouse is 30 minutes, you may bring up to three helpers, and you can shop once a week.

At Second Harvest, fresh produce costs $.03/lb. On a January visit, I bought 20 pounds of potatoes and a large shopping bag filled with onions. The cost was $1.11.  Moreover, they were offering free orange juice, so I also brought back 16 large carafes of orange juice.

On a second trip in January, I bought 30 pounds of onions, 10 bags of carrots, 12 pounds sweet potatoes and 23 pounds of bananas—all for $2.46. When Operations Manager Jim Tyndall saw the bananas he warned of fruit flies if they stayed in the building too long. Not a problem. All the bananas “sold” within the first hour of the afternoon shift

~Sue Loeser


Want to help? 

  • Distribution shifts are Wed-Thurs-Fri 1-4 pm, and Sat 9-12. There are also Delivery crews (who receive and unpack supplies from Loaves and Fishes), one Thursday and two Tuesdays, 9:30–11 am. Contact Diane Carey for more information.
  • February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. We’ll place a plastic bin in the hallway outside the FPC kitchen for toothbrush and toothpaste donations. These items are rarely available in the Pantry and will be very appreciated.  Thanks!
January 11, 2019

January 4, 2019

Things at First Presbyterian Church will be different in 2019. Two associate pastors answered God’s call to set out in different directions in the last half of 2018, creating both challenges to keeping things rolling and opportunities to reshape our staff in response to God’s changing call to us as a congregation.

Here are a few questions you may have about staffing changes here at First Presbyterian. And we invite you to send us your questions so we can expand this information as the changes unfold.


Q. How many pastors are we going to have?

A. Three pastors—the Senior Pastor, the Senior Associate Pastor for Congregational Ministry and Care, and an Associate Pastor for Christian Formation and Young Adults.


Q. Why won’t we have an associate pastor for mission?

A. Session determined that FPC can elevate its historic commitment to this ministry by hiring a full-time Director whose sole focus is mission and outreach. Pastors have many other functions to fill—pastoral care and participation in worship, for example—that can pull them away from the work of mission. This director will report to Pen and will be part of the church’s Senior Leadership Team.


Q. When will the new Director of Mission be hired?

A. Since this is not an ordained position, the hiring process could move more quickly than calling a new pastor. We hope this role can be filled in the first six months of the 2019.


 Q. What roles does a part-time parish associate fill?

A. Parish Associates are typically part-time ordained pastors who fill specific roles as well as provide backup for full-time pastors with pastoral care and worship. The model here calls for three part-time parish associates—one for Formation, one for Fellowship and Connection, and one for Senior Adults. Our parish associates will provide oversight and leadership in ways that complement the work of our installed pastors.


Q. Will Chuck Williamson still work with senior adult members?

A. Yes, that is certainly our hope and intention. The Reverend Chuck Williamson currently fills a broad spectrum of needs for our older members, who require different levels of care.


Q. Will Mary Margaret Porter continue to be one of our parish associates?

A. We are delighted to have the Reverend Mary Margaret Porter as our Parish Associate for Fellowship and Connection, with the goal of expanding the ways we share our lives and our faith journeys.


Q. Will Becky Davis become our Associate Pastor for Formation and Young Adults?

A. The Reverend Rebecca Davis will serve as an interim parish associate in the area of Formation. In that role, she will teach on Sunday mornings and provide other forms of theological enrichment to the congregation. The new Associate Pastor for Formation and Young Adults will hire the permanent parish associate.


Q. When will we have a new Associate Pastor?

A. An Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC), to be chaired by Libby Bell, was elected in late 2018 and will begin the search for our new pastor immediately. The hope is that someone will be with us by the time we start a new program year in September, 2019. The APNC will update the congregation about progress.


Have more questions? Send them to Tanya Gaspar, Executive Assistant to the Senior Pastor.