Blog Archives

Welcome Heather Herring to the FPC Staff

March 9, 2017

Long-time FPC member Heather Herring has now joined the church’s staff as the new Children and Family Partnership Coordinator.

Heather and her family have been involved in Children’s Ministry for a long time, especially in the area of mission. Many of you may know her from her years-long leadership of the Christmas Village Toy Store and the Giving Tree. She is a perfect fit for our church to manage and develop our children and family partnerships, specifically with Westerly Hills Academy, Camp Grier and the summer BELL program.  If you have any questions or want to get involved in this area, please contact her athherring@firstpres-charlotte. org

FPC is blessed to have Heather on staff.  She brings many gifts and a faithful passion for children and mission.

Living without a home in the world’s coldest capital city

January 25, 2017

What happens when you live in a manhole in a city where winter nights can reach 25 degrees below zero?

As bad as that is, how much worse might it be if you are also sick and old?

. . . Read More

Hard Conversations about Race

January 12, 2017

How hard is it to talk about racism?

Fifty pastors and leaders from Presbyterian congregations in Charlotte are finding out today and tomorrow here at First Presbyterian.  Some of us are white, some of us are people of color.  I know from experience this conversation will be uncomfortable at times.

All 50 us have been given the ministry of reconciliation by Christ (2 Corinthians 5) – and we are all called to pursue that ministry in a city whose need for reconciliation is painfully obvious, as evidenced by the protests around the shooting of Keith LaMonte Scott last September.

So we are gathering to learn – to grow – and to talk honestly about race and racism.  The two-day workshop we are taking is called “Dismantling Racism.”  It is a facilitated conversation that takes an honest look at how we arrived at the place where we are – taking seriously our American history and tracing the thread of race through it all.

I’ve experienced this workshop previously. That’s why I wanted our church to host this for other pastors. I have experienced the value of the uncomfortable conversations we’ll be having. I know we will have to confront some inconvenient truths.  But I also know that facing our racial history together – as sisters and brothers in Christ – is a necessary step to witnessing the power of the gospel to transform this broken world into the kingdom that we know is to come.

– Pen Peery

Want to step outside your comfort zone and participate in dismantling racism? The Charlotte Observer offered a list of events and conversations  taking place in houses of worship in our area in the weeks ahead. Check out their list and make plans to witness the power of the gospel to transform our broken world.

Hard Conversations about Race

Pen mug 7-16How hard is it to talk about racism?

Fifty pastors and leaders from Presbyterian congregations in Charlotte are finding out today and tomorrow here at First Presbyterian.  Some of us are white, some of us are people of color.  I know from experience this conversation will be uncomfortable at times.

All 50 us have been given the ministry of reconciliation by Christ (2 Corinthians 5) – and we are all called to pursue that ministry in a city whose need for reconciliation is painfully obvious, as evidenced by the protests around the shooting of Keith LaMonte Scott last September.

So we are gathering to learn – to grow – and to talk honestly about race and racism.  The two-day workshop we are taking is called “Dismantling Racism.”  It is a facilitated conversation that takes an honest look at how we arrived at the place where we are – taking seriously our American history and tracing the thread of race through it all.

I’ve experienced this workshop previously. That’s why I wanted our church to host this for other pastors. I have experienced the value of the uncomfortable conversations we’ll be having. I know we will have to confront some inconvenient truths.  But I also know that facing our racial history together – as sisters and brothers in Christ – is a necessary step to witnessing the power of the gospel to transform this broken world into the kingdom that we know is to come.

– Pen Peery

Want to step outside your comfort zone and participate in dismantling racism? The Charlotte Observer offered a list of events and conversations  taking place in houses of worship in our area in the weeks ahead. Check out their list and make plans to witness the power of the gospel to transform our broken world.

Kum Ba Ya: A Plea for God’s Presence

November 23, 2016

We’ve all heard people make fun of a Kum Ba Ya moment—times when somebody thinks a corny little song means we’re glossing over the harsh realities of the world and having a feel-good moment instead of taking real action.

I see that differently after listening, a couple of weeks ago, when Krista Tippett replayed an interview with a former civil rights activist on her NPR show On Being. Tippett, who will speak here at First Presbyterian Church in April as part of our Willard Lecture series, had interviewed Vincent Harding, a leading voice in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and beyond. Krista Tippett describes Mr. Harding, who died in 2014, like this:

He was wise about how the Civil Rights vision might speak to 21st century realities. Vincent Harding pursued this by way of patient yet passionate cross-cultural, cross-generational relationship. The Civil Rights Movement, he reminded us, was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; it aspired to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society.

At one point in the interview, Mr. Harding was talking about some of the songs that were a part of the Civil Rights Movement, songs like We Shall Not Be Moved and This Little Light of Mine. Then he talked about how the experience of singing that song in the African American church had become something people made fun of. He told a story that shed new light on the old song from Africa.

Whenever somebody jokes about Kum Ba Ya, my mind goes back to the Mississippi summer experience where the movement folks in Mississippi were inviting co-workers to come from all over the country, especially student types, to come and help in the process of voter registration, and Freedom School teaching, and taking great risks on behalf of the transformation of that state and of this nation. There were two weeks of orientation. The first week was the week in which (Michael) Schwerner and (Andrew) Goodman and their beloved brother Jimmy (Chaney) were there. And it was during the time that they had left the campus that they were first arrested, then released, and then murdered.

The word came back to us at the orientation that the three of them had not been heard from. Bob Moses, the magnificent leader of so much of the work in Mississippi, got up and told these hundreds of predominantly white young people that, if any of them felt that at this point they needed to return home or to their schools, we would not think less of them at all, but would be grateful to them for how far they had come.

But he said let’s take a couple of hours just for people to spend time talking on the phone with parents or whoever to try to make this decision and make it now. What I found as I moved around among the small groups that began to gather together to help each other was that, in group after group, people were singing Kum Ba Ya. “Come by here, my Lord, somebody’s missing, Lord, come by here. We all need you, Lord, come by here.”

I could never laugh at Kum Ba Ya moments after that because I saw then that almost no one went home from there. They were going to continue on the path that they had committed themselves to. And a great part of the reason why they were able to do that was because of the strength and the power and the commitment that had been gained through that experience of just singing together Kum Ba Ya.

There are so many places in our world and in our lives here in 2016 where we desperately need God’s presence. There are global issues—Syria, Isis. There are national issues—racism, economic inequity, political division. There are local issues—schools, affordable housing. There are personal issues—health, family.

For me, this is one of those times when we need to pray Kum Ba Ya—Come by here, Lord. Take a moment and think about some of those areas when we long for God to be present.

Kum bah ya, my Lord. Kum bah ya.

Someone’s crying, Lord. Kum bah ya.

Someone’s praying, Lord. Kum bah ya.

Someone’s singing, Lord. Kum bah ya.

O Lord, kum bah ya.

– Chuck Williamson

Read more about the history of this song as a plea for God’s intervention  from a generation of African Americans.

Our Letter to First United Presbyterian Church

November 17, 2016

On Sunday, November 13, First United Presbyterian Church–our sister church in Center City–celebrated its 150th Anniversary with an uplifting service that remembered, rejoiced and rededicated. FUPC traces its roots to the black parishioners who left our church in 1866, after the Civil War. 

Below is a letter written by our Session and read by the Reverend Erika Funk during the service. After you’ve read the letter, you may want to visit our Facebook page and browse through the photo album from the day. Even if you aren’t a member of Facebook, you should be able to follow the link and view the photos.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The pastors, officers and members of First Presbyterian Church Charlotte rejoice with the pastors, officers and members of First United Presbyterian Church on the occasion of your 150th anniversary. We recognize the significance of this milestone, and thank God for sustaining you as a congregation. You serve as a shining example of servant leaders in Christ—a beacon of grace, perseverance and warm welcome to those who pass through your doors and enter into worship with you. Despite the many challenges you and your forebears have faced over the past 150 years, you have stood strong in the Lord and in God’s mighty power. You have forged ahead in the face of uncertainty and difficulty. Thank you for being a witness to and for the love, the power and the faithfulness of God. God has been faithful—and so have you.

We are grateful for the growing bonds of friendship and the deepening relationships that are forming between our churches, especially in the past six or seven years. We are hopeful that we can foster deeper connections and strengthen the ties that connect our congregations to each other.

Even as we celebrate the faith, dedication and love that have sustained First United Presbyterian Church for 150 years, we acknowledge that there have been acts of racism, prejudice, indignity and indifference perpetrated by members of our congregation, acts that contributed to the separation of our two congregations. We recognize that the separation still exists in the present day. We apologize for all that we have done, and all that we have not done, that has given rise to and perpetuated division between our two communities of faith. We humbly pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us to true and complete reconciliation.

As you look toward the future God has for you in building God’s kingdom here in Charlotte, we commit ourselves to pray for you and we hope there will be many opportunities for us to work alongside you in your ministry, here in the city and beyond.

May God continue to richly bless and prosper your ministry and your entire congregation, and may you have many more years of worship, growth and service—all for the glory of God and the furtherance of the work of God in the world.

Grace and peace to you all.

– Brent A. Torstrick, Clerk of Session, First Presbyterian Church, Charlotte

The FUPC/FPC Partnership Ministry Team, a group of 16 people from both churches working toward reconciliation between our churches, wishes to thank everyone who participated in this historic event.

 

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From Our Home to Theirs: Trusting that God Provides

October 26, 2016

Pen mug 7-16I give you a new commandment: that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you ought to love one another. (John 13:34)

Our focus and goal in this year’s annual stewardship campaign is to increase our commitment to care for our neighbors:

  • through a commitment to support Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools;
  • providing more affordable housing for families in danger of falling into homelessness;
  • supporting a medical clinic in Bayonnais, Haiti;
  • an investment in the Villa Infantil de Maya in Mexico;
  • sponsorship of mission co-workers in Havana, Cuba;
  • and upgraded infrastructure for Friendship Trays as they provide meals for the homebound in the Charlotte area.

In order for us to meet these goals two things have to happen: you and I need to share our financial resources with the church, and the church needs to trim the amount of money we spend inside our gates.  Our leadership has a plan to achieve the latter (trimming our expenses).  It’s up to you to deliver on the former (by making a pledge).

This Sunday (October 30), you are invited to bring your pledge card with you to worship.  During the final hymn, you’ll be asked to make your financial commitment by placing your pledge card in baskets on the communion table. (We’ll also have I Pledged cards for all who have pledged already by mail or online.)

What I want you to know is that when you make that commitment this Sunday it is about a whole lot more than making sure our church meets its budget for next year. It is even about a whole lot more than our desire to increase our commitment to outreach.

At the core, committing to give your money for ministry in Christ’s name is how you demonstrate your trust that God can and will provide…for you and for your neighbors.

One of my favorite teachers believes the great test of life and of faith is for us to decide what narrative we will believe: a narrative of scarcity—that there’s not enough to go around—or a narrative of abundance—that God provides us with more than enough.

The reason Lindsey and I make it a point to stretch ourselves a little bit more each year around stewardship season is because we have found joy in discovering—again and again—that our God is a God of abundance.

– Pen Peery

From Our Home to Theirs: A Quick Look at Giving for 2017

October 18, 2016

What does it mean to give more to mission in 2017? Check out this 2-minute video about this year’s Stewardship Campaign.

https://youtu.be/FyNo_XTwEjk&rel=0

Commitment Sunday is October 30. Join us as we commit ourselves to doing more for our neighbors around the corner and around the world in 2017.