Category

Being an Urban Church

November 6, 2019

A Sunday-morning Formation series about housing, eviction and homelessness continues on November  17 and 24 in Wood Fellowship Hall Overflow at 10 a.m.

Kathy Izard, Tommy Holderness and Liz Clasen-Kelly will share their calling to work with our neighbors to create not just places to live, but also a sense of home.  Their stories will help us learn more about our neighbors’ lives and how we can respond with love and compassion.

  • November 10 – Kathy Izard, author of The Hundred Story Home and A Good Night for Mr. Coleman, was instrumental in establishing Moore Place, permanent housing for those who had been chronically homeless. She will talk about belonging and what home represents.
  • November 17 – Tommy Holderness, FPC Member and attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina, will talk about the connection between his calling to Union Seminary and how it led him to leave a corporate law practice for his present role.  He sees home as central to belonging and will focus on evictions and their impact on individuals and communities.
  • November 24 – Liz Clasen-Kelly, CEO of the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Urban Ministry Center, will address the status of homelessness in Charlotte.    

Kathy Izard, who led the first session on November 10, found that her work with those who have been chronically homeless transformed her life and her faith. Izard is the author of The Hundred Story Home and A Good Night for Mr. Coleman, and she was instrumental in establishing Moore Place, permanent housing for those who had been chronically homeless.

November 1, 2019

Hi, FPC!

You likely have already read in the November issue of FirstNEWS that I am changing roles, switching from being Communications Manager to FPC’s Digital Community Manager.

It sounds like I get to hang out online all day, and I definitely am on Facebook and Instagram and the website for a chunk of time. But the word “community” in my new title also means that I’m here now on Sunday mornings, except for when I need to take my Mama to church, so if you have specific questions about communications, ask me! I’ll be moving around, gathering video and photos to use in future communications. (I especially LOVE getting pictures of our newly baptized babies and their joyful families.) Quite often, I run into members who say you’ve heard my name but haven’t had the chance to put the face to it. Come grab me, and we can chat. I’ll talk your ear off.

Now let’s get digital.

Being a digital manager means we’ve recognized the need to grow our connection with our community through digital communications. Especially for a church, being a digital community manager means we value the importance of faithfully building community, connectivity and awareness digitally within our staff, our congregation, our hometown, our local mission partners, and our international partners. Being digital community manager means we recognize what this space can mean to outreach, ministry, formation and evangelism.

While focusing on creating content for our ministries, we’ve also expanded that content to nourish our growing online and social media presence. The Communications Department already has discussions with our program areas to create  graphics, bulletins and other plans, but I’ll help us hone in on priorities that can serve the congregation and audiences outside the church. Our hope for this is creation of connected, consistent presence across our public and private social media pages. Check the bottom of this post for links to pages.

Peg Robarchek and I continue to tag-team on managing the website. Click the Now@First button at the top of the home page on the website for the latest news. Take a look at the Events listing at the bottom left of every page for upcoming programs. There’s also a link to sign up for Realm, so if you haven’t started your Realm account, you can do that on the website and make it easier to receive signups to programs and events.

I’ll be visiting with our staff members and ministries regularly to find out their priorities, and to help them discern where other ministries could benefit from cross-awareness.

I’ll also work on developing a more consistent blog/vlog of written and video content for the church’s website. The Communications Department has been creating videos for various ministries for a while now, but I’ll focus on making sure our videos are aligned with program-area priorities and distributed effectively across social media channels.

Another new digital channel is Faith Unfiltered: Seeking God in the 21st Century, a weekly podcast that discusses the intersection of the spiritual and the secular in our evolving world. Communications and Formation have teamed up to produce Faith Unfiltered and I’ll work on building awareness and a community around this podcast. Keep an eye out for the links and for the Spotify playlists of the folks we’ve interviewed and the podcast staffers who are doing the productions.

All of this sounds fancy, but it’s really an extension of the communications we already have in place, and it doesn’t mean a disconnect in those communications. We continue to send out the weekly e-news blast every Friday that has links to events, programs, Sunday worship and our Tapesty and FirstNEWS magazines. If you aren’t receiving that eblast on Fridays, please let me know. If you aren’t opening the email, then start opening it! It’s the best and easiest way to know what’s going on and how to stay connected important to be informed about your church. It makes me happy when you open your emails because I know we’re helping you connect to the church.

The Communications Department also continues to give out the hard-copy Tapestry and FirstNEWS on Sundays. FirstNEWS remains our go-to monthly newsletter, with a month to six weeks of information about gatherings, meetings, worship, classes, fellowship, outreach and mission. Tapestry, a quarterly magazine, features longer-form stories about our members and our faith journeys. Both publications are posted on the website and are linked in the weekly e-news, and I’ll be looking for ways to use these stories digitally.

We continue to have announcements on the Sunday bulletins, on the back page. It’s easy to post this on your fridge at home and get a daily glimpse of the life of your church.

It’s a space I enjoy, the digital world, and this an opportunity for us to be completely thoughtful in our digital and social endeavors. This new opportunity excites me with its possibilities, encourages me to think bigger, broader, and in ways that can encourage all of us in our mission and our ministries. And it means we can expand our voice of love and hope and inspiration in Charlotte and beyond, and for simply offering a reminder that wherever you are, and whoever you are, you are loved.

~ Dartinia Hull, Digital Community Manager

Instagram: @firstprescharlotte

Facebook

First Connect (private group on Facebook)

 

September 17, 2019

Last fall, local counselor and Charlotte Observer contributor Justin Perry came to our church to speak on educational equality in Charlotte as part of our Color and Character book study.  After his presentation, I asked him what he thought was the most important thing we could do to support Westerly Hills Academy. He said, “Watch Resilience.”

We can do what Justin Perry suggested on Sunday, September 22, beginning at 5 p.m. in Wood Fellowship Hall, when we’ll have a free viewing of Resilience. This documentary is about how trauma impacts both our mental and physical health, and how we gain the resilience needed to recover from the trauma.

What, exactly, is trauma? In a brochure from Presbyterian Psychological Services, various experiences that qualify as “trauma” include:

  • Abuse/neglect
  • Incarceration
  • Mental illness or substance abuse in the family
  • Divorce
  • Witnessing domestic violence or a violent crime

My heart sank when I read this list. Here is what those experiences look like in the lives of people I’ve encountered recently through my work here at First Presbyterian:

  • A church member told me that dad was being released from prison soon, and asked for prayers, as they were nervous about the transition.
  • A BELL scholar whispered to me that her family was moving because there were “too many bullets” in their neighborhood.
  • Another BELL scholar was late because a man showed up at their house the night before with a gun.
  • A nine-year-old I’ve tutored was dropped off at his dad’s house by his mother, who said, “I’m done with him” and never returned.
  • Many young scholars and students I’ve tutored that have brothers and sisters who have died.

There are experiences on this list that many of us will never have to deal with. But there are plenty that we do experience, despite our “privileged” status:  substance abuse, mental illness, physical and emotional abuse, divorce. When it comes to traumatic experiences, Father Gregory Boyle’s words come to mind: “There is no us and them.  There is only us.”

Marc Dickmann, who is currently the Director of Education for Freedom Communities and has been a longtime west Charlotte advocate, told me recently that  he thought the biggest need in west Charlotte was “trauma support.”

Watching Resilience together on Sunday evening is a great place to begin understanding this piece of the equation called trauma and how we can care for one another, for our community and ourselves.

– Heather Herring, Child & Family Partnership Coordinator

Details: Sign up here for the free documentary, accompanied by a light meal, on Sunday, September 22, 5 p.m. The movie is suitable for middle school youth through adults. An elementary program, Identifying Emotions, will be offered concurrently. Preschool care will be provided at no cost but registration is required. We will also have the opportunity following the film to be part of small group conversations led by experts in outreach and advocacy, understanding stress, mindfulness and meditation and movement as a stress buster.

 

August 7, 2019

Once a month, member Sue Loeser spends an afternoon volunteering in First Presbyterian Church’s Loaves and Fishes pantry. Here is one of her experiences from last spring.

Empathy was on my mind in April when I helped Jane (not her real name) as she shopped for her family of six. Jane was my dream client because she liked to cook and was searching for healthy options. We were offering several fresh vegetables that day, and Jane used her points to “buy” everything fresh.

Jane was especially excited about an extra-large bag of salad greens she chose, exclaiming, “My daughters love salad…they will be thrilled!”

Just then, another client entered the vegetable aisle, engaged in a discussion with a volunteer about what that client might like. He spied Jane’s bag of salad greens, pointed to it and said, “I’d like one of those!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I told this second client. “We had just two bags of salad greens and that’s the last one.”

That would have been the end of it, except beside me Jane smiled and said to the young man, “If you give me a bag, I’ll give you half!”

Wow.

If you give me a bag, I’ll give you half.  You have no idea how often I’ve wondered if I would share my family’s desperately-needed food—food I couldn’t replace—with another person in need.   I can’t say for sure I would.

The people who come to a pantry are screened by the Loaves and Fishes organization. Their need is documented, their visits to a pantry are limited, and they have a referral for our FPC pantry that specific day. No walk-ins are allowed.  The system is well-organized. As a volunteer, I help clients select items from different food groups, using their family size to determine how many points (i.e. currency) they have in each food group.

As we shop together, I talk to my clients about food, and sometimes they move on to stories about their life and family.  What I hear is often heartbreaking.  While we bag their selections, it’s not uncommon for a client to weep with relief and gratitude on seeing all they have to take home to their family.

Yet, in spite of their need, a client like Jane is not rare. I often hear clients say, “I have enough (vegetables, fruit, etc.) so I won’t take any more.”  It would be easy to assume they refuse the items because they can’t carry more cans on the bus, or they don’t have storage at home.  But almost always the client adds, “Leave it for the next person.”

I started volunteering at Loaves and Fishes because I wanted another service opportunity, and I thought the distribution team’s camaraderie would be fun. (And it is!) What I didn’t expect was an education in sacrificial generosity.

—Sue Loeser

April 26, 2019

At 8:15 a.m. on a recent rainy Saturday, the guys at the Furniture Bank were preparing to make deliveries to two different households, a middle-aged man and an elderly woman. When I say rain, I mean serious rain! FPC’s Moving Ministry was on the scene, loading furniture, talking with the Furniture Bank team, who have become friends–real friends, with a genuine appreciation for one another. As we made our way to the two locations, the rain never let up. When we arrived, the look on the faces of the residents who were waiting for their furniture to arrive was nothing less than thankful surprise.

Think of this: not long ago, the two people now living in these two homes would have been outside in the rain, trying to find warmth and shelter under building structures, bridges, cardboard boxes, or just laid out wet and freezing on a city park bench.

To be able to follow through and make those deliveries in the rain was a reminder that God shows up even in one of his downpours!

The feeling of total thankfulness exhibited by the people who we helped that day was beyond words. We all felt it. To say “God bless you” as we left was as much a blessing to them as it was to us–we sure had been blessed.

The Moving Ministry invites you to be part of this awesome outreach ministry on the second Saturday of every month–our next delivery will be on May 11. It’s easy to sign up online, or just show up at 9 a.m. at the Crisis Assistance Ministry Furniture Bank, 333 Dalton Avenue.

I personally would love to see 20-somethings, 30-somethings, youth and anyone else bring their energy to this ministry that has operated for more than five years now. We grow each time we connect with our neighbors and with each other, and this program is definitely a place for great conversations.

If you’d like to read more about how deeply this experience touches the people involved, here’s an article that really demonstrates what I see every month. In my experience, the Moving Ministry is the best 90 minutes you will ever spend on a Saturday morning.

– Michael White

March 29, 2019

This year’s Easter Sunrise service at Romare Bearden Park will be at 7 a.m. on April 21. About a dozen churches and a community choir are expected to participate. Gail Henderson-Belsito, Director of Worship at Caldwell Presbyterian Church and a member at First Presbyterian Church, will preach. Breakfast pastries and coffee will be available at the park during fellowship after the service.

Participating churches are Caldwell Presbyterian, Center City Church, Core Church, First Presbyterian, First United Presbyterian, Grier Heights Presbyterian, M2M Charlotte Worshiping Community, Myers Park Presbyterian, St. John’s Baptist, St. Luke Missionary Baptist, Statesville Avenue Presbyterian, The Avenue and Trinity Presbyterian.

Visit the event page on Facebook and post any questions that you might have, and let us know you’re coming!

October 10, 2018

September 7, 2018

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.

 

 

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.

 

You can now visit the landing page for our blog, where you can search previous blog posts by date, category or key word.

January 8, 2018

During an Opportunity Forum last October, Munro Richardson of Read Charlotte challenged our congregation to support literacy at Westerly Hills Academy in one of three ways:  1) help students gain regular access to books by building home libraries, 2) ensure students experience active reading three times per week, and 3) ensure every kindergartener knows his/her letters and phonics by May 2018.

We are putting our energy behind not one, but all three of these challenges—the next one comes up on January 16.

For the next challenge—encouraging active reading—we will sponsor parent dinners and training sessions at Westerly Hills. The first of these is scheduled for Tuesday, January 16, at 5:30 p.m. If you can help with these events, please contact Heather Herring.

Thanks to your generous response to our Christmas Book Drive, we presented each Westerly Hills student with two books to take home on December 18. We plan to add to these home libraries throughout the remainder of the school year. Look for additional collections of gently used books before Spring and Summer breaks.

For the third challenge, FPC members have been working with Read Charlotte and the Westerly Hills administration for two months to develop the curriculum and process around letters and phonics tutoring. We look forward to offering this opportunity to the congregation soon.