When I was little, some of my favorite books were from the Mr. Men Little Miss series. My oldest cousin had given me his collection along with the set of cassette tapes, so I could listen to the stories even if I couldn’t read them yet. I would set myself up in my playroom with a stack of books and my bright red Fisher Price tape player, and I’d get lost in the stories of Mr. Messy and Little Miss Trouble.
I still love stories. If you were to come to my home, you’d see bookshelves in almost every room, and a stack of books almost as tall as the lamp on my nightstand.
Stories can move us beyond ourselves and give us a different perspective on the world. They help us to know ourselves better and to understand others more fully.
As Christians, we are story people. We read stories of Scripture to learn more about who God is and who we are in relationship to God. Jesus himself told stories to help his followers understand more about God and what God hopes for God’s people.
The centrality and poignancy of stories were two of the reasons why we chose “The Stories We Tell” to be our Formation theme this year. Over the course of the past nine months, we’ve shared a lot of stories with each other. FPC friends of all ages have listened to God’s story in Scripture together. We’ve shared our life stories with each other at Bible studies and grade level dinners. We’ve seen how God is writing a larger story for First Presbyterian Church in uptown Charlotte that began long before we were born and will continue after us.
As we wrap up this formation year, we are grateful for the ways you’ve shared your stories with each other, and we’re looking forward to seeing what’s in God’s next chapter for FPC.
~ The Reverend Katelyn Gordon
(Please view some of the art that has been created as part of telling our stories over the past nine months, and scroll down to read what a few of our members believe about the importance of telling our stories.)
Why is it important to tell stories?
“Because God is in them!” – Fox Staub, age 4
“Stories let us know about the Bible and what Jesus did for us.” – Avayanna Simpson, age 8
“Stories help us worship and remember what Jesus did.” – Jane Young, age 7
“Telling stories is so important for in doing so we can let people into our lives and cast light on the seemingly inexplicable feelings and emotions we experience. When we seek to share events in our life—either light-hearted or vulnerable—we foster community, and a topic that we once felt alone in becomes one that is relatable. For me, stories are a space where people can bare themselves, be vulnerable, and find solace within the group of people who receive those words and find meaning in them.” – Grace Burud, age 18
“Stories are important. We need to tell them so that we pass them down from generation to generation. If we don’t tell them then people won’t ever hear them!” – Elijah Johnson, age 12
“Stories link us together. We learn about commonalities between ourselves and others to build relationship, and can understand the experience of those around us more fully when we share our stories.” – Katherine Stewart, FPC middle school youth advisor
“Because we forget so much. We forget the goodness of God, the beauty of life, and the many blessings we receive simply from being alive. We also forget or exaggerate our suffering and pain, and stories remind us of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. Stories connect us to each other, to ourselves, and also, perhaps most of all, to God. Who is a better, more unpredictable, more creative story teller than God? God’s stories are planted in our hearts, watered and fed by the stories we hear and the stories we read in Scripture. They then grow to become the stories God writes in us and in our lives. If we are paying attention, we will notice that God writes such good stories that we have to tell them; we have to share them. We simply cannot keep them to ourselves.” – Gail Henderson-Belsito, FPC elder
Last Saturday was our annual spring work day at Lakewood Preschool. My kids (James, 13, and Kate, 9) and I had the privilege of attending with six other members of our church.
Years ago, when the playground was built, we volunteered at the work day and it felt great to see how that playground has been enjoyed since. Watching the precious children who sang at the Lakewood luncheon several weeks ago, I could picture them laughing as they ran through the mulch and squealing as they slid down the slide. I pictured those same faces as I pulled weeds and wiped away spider webs (and, yes, spiders) from their cubbies.
I often arrive to work days such as this with a heart and head full of noise from the busyness of life. I confess that I am very much a Martha type of gal, hustling and getting things done, though I long to be a Mary, sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus. This day was no different, with demands at home nagging at me in the back of my mind as we pulled into the school. As we entered the gates of the playground, I told my children, “We’ve got one hour to help as much as we can.”
Two hours later, I looked at my watch in disbelief. How could the time go so quickly? Then it dawned on me that my focus hadn’t been on the work, but on the people with whom I was doing it. We talked about our children, congratulating one another on their achievements and rolling our eyes at the phases they go through. Experienced gardeners shared advice with novices, while the novice’s children mocked her black thumb. (That may or may not have been me…) We got to know each other’s children, noticing how their mannerisms mirror their parents’ and how one sibling is so different from the other. We teased a friend about putting her type-A gifts to work organizing the school’s shed. We learned that other friends had helped lay the roof on the school building when it was first built, before they were married, before they had the teenagers we were getting to know.
Looking up at the end and seeing what we had done together, serving together while being together, was powerful.
Relationships take matters beyond my head, even beyond my heart, and straight to my soul. Worshipping on Sunday is wonderful, but the church is much more meaningful when I grapple over scripture with others or receive a card or meal when I’m struggling. Think of how much it means when someone says they are praying for you when they know you.
Relationships play such a part in our commitment to anything we do that has meaning in our lives. Without relationships it is so difficult to become truly engaged. Think about the causes you believe in passionately. More than likely you have a personal connection that stirred your interest and commitment.
Soul stirring should happen at church, if nowhere else. Isn’t that part of the church’s job? My invitation to you is to think about what does stir, or could stir, your soul. Make a connection. Make it a priority. See what happens.
– Heather Herring, Child & Family Partnership Coordinator
If you’ve had lunch or dinner at First Pres over the last two years, there’s a good chance you’ve already experienced the talents of Angelica Ellis, our new Food Services Manager. Angelica has been an assistant to the previous manager and has just joined the staff full time to fill that role.
Having served as a medical technician working with those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s for nine years, Angelica moved to Charlotte four years ago to follow her dream to become a chef. She grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where her grandmother taught her to garden and to cook, beginning when Angelica was seven years old.
“She always said, ‘Make sure it’s made with love and you can never go wrong,’” she said.
Our new Food Services Manager has two daughters, ages 12 and 8. They live on a farm where Angelica gardens in her free time.
Your help is needed in the nominating process for church members to serve on the Session and the Diaconate from 2018 to 2020. Recommendations are due no later than June 12. You can use this form to submit electronically or pick up a paper form in the Historical Lobby.
Additional information about the roles of members of the Diaconate and the Session is included on the nomination forms.
Please give careful and prayerful consideration about whom God might be calling to serve as an officer in the ministry of our church.
Your recommendations will be passed along to the Officer Nominating Committee, which will be elected at a Congregational Meeting on June 11. The Committee will include elders, deacons and at-large members of the congregation. With your recommendations, the Officer Nominating Committee will to prepare the slate of new officers to be elected in the fall.
On Wednesday, May 31, the Wednesday Worship season will conclude in Wood Fellowship Hall with a meditative service that offers the opportunity to walk labyrinth and focus on scripture and sacred music. The service will be at noon, followed by lunch in Wood Fellowship Hall Overflow.
The labyrinth will also be available for contemplative walking and quiet meditation beginning at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 30. It will be in place until 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31.
Our WSOC-TV broadcast will be pre-empted on Sunday, May 28. The 11 a.m. service that day will air on WAXN-64 or you can stream the service online from the website. Check your local listings for specific channels.
Saturday, May 20, is a work day at Lakewood Preschool, one of our community partners.
Drop in as you can between 8 a.m. and noon to help clean, paint and organize. You’ll find plenty of opportunities for to work together as a family, including children, or with groups of your friends. Contact Heather Herring if you have questions.
My first thought was, Oh this must be the profile of some crazy church where everybody sits around in a circle, sings Kumbaya and waits for God to take care of everything.
Then I came to my senses and remembered that Jen posted it and she definitely does not take the sit-around-and-wait approach to life.
Still, as the person whose job it is to help members and prospective members explore opportunities for meaningful engagement inside and outside the walls of FPC, the piece intrigued me.
Here’s one thing the blog said that really hit home for me:
“You cannot volunteer at your own church, in the same way you cannot babysit your own kid. Because the church belongs to you in the same way your family does. It’s your own place, your own people…A volunteer, in most cases, is just visiting. A fly-by. Maybe it’s a helpful fly-by, but it’s not the same as belonging to something. It’s not the same as contributing to something bigger than you, something that’s part of who you are… whatever we do, we should remember that we don’t just belong to the church—it belongs to us. And we do not babysit that which is ours.”
Here at FPC, I don’t see us as people who “volunteer,” either. We don’t serve our community as a way to check something off our “Good Christian” checklist. I believe God has a purpose for our lives and that each one of us is called to a particular ministry or service in this world. Frederick Buechner describes “call” or vocation as “Where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
So I ask you:
What intrigues you?
What makes your heart beat?
What sparks your curiosity?
Do you want to feel more alive?
Think about these questions as you ponder actively engaging in something bigger than you, something that might become part of who you are!
Call (704.927.0242) or email me if you want to know more about joining God and fellow FPCers meeting the world’s deep hunger with our deep gladness.