Sunday Formation is the space between worship services to study God’s word and deepen relationships with others. Class discussions help us apply the Word to our lives. Format varies among classes. There are no age specifications for these adult classes.
Here are the classes we offer on Sunday mornings, 10-10:45 a.m. Learn more about the weekly details for each class, as well as a monthly roundup of Adult Formation classes.
The Chapel class uses The Present Word curriculum to study Genesis, about the beginning of God’s activity in the world through relationships, family and divine promises. (Meets in the Chapel)
The Passages class presents topics that invite exploration of Scripture and ways of living the faith personally and for the world. The lessons are attentive to the interests of those navigating mid-life passages, but the class is open to all. This group gathers for social events at least twice a year. (Meets in Pattie Cole, S203)
The Conversations class uses a round-table setting to explore the ways we understand Scripture and apply it to our lives. This fall, the Reverend Mary Margaret Porter leads a series on Ten Prayers that Changed the World to illustrate the ways God was, and is, active in our lives. (Meets in Frances Browne Dining Room, P212)
The Good Samaritan Class
The Good Samaritan Class considers events in our world and discusses how people of faith respond and live. (Fresco Lobby)
Fellowship Group is a welcoming table for all to build community through connecting with others. It is minimally structured and open to all. (Meets in Wood Fellowship Hall)
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
I’m totally hooked on the TV show Friday Night Lights. Yes, I know the show has actually been off the air since 2011; I tend not to catch on to the good stuff until it’s released in box set. Thanks to the convenience of Netflix, I don’t have to wait a week to watch the next episode, so I’ve been watching an episode or two almost every night for the past few weeks.
It’s gotten to the point (the sad point?) where I think of the characters on the show as real people. I find myself seeking out friends who’ve watched the show and saying things like, “Don’t you just love Matt Saracen?” Or “Buddy Garrity drives me crazy,” and “I can’t believe Lila did that!” Events in everyday life make me think of something that happened two episodes ago, and I wonder WWCTD (What Would Coach Taylor Do?). I bring up Friday Night Lights in conversation and encourage people who haven’t seen it to start watching it.
I’m now in the last season of the show, and I’m trying to slow myself down so I don’t get to the finale too soon. I’m not ready for it to be over.As silly as it may seem to feel so strongly about a TV show and its characters, I’m guessing I’m not the only one. Maybe for you it’s West Wing, Friends, LOST, Breaking Bad, or The Good Wife. (If you’re a fellow Friday Night Lights groupie, let me know!) Our love for these shows and their characters is a testament to the power of stories. A good story captures our attention and sticks with us even when it’s over. A good story can challenge us and inspire us to make a change in our lives, to work to heal a relationship, to try again.
This understanding of the power of stories is what’s behind “The Stories We Tell,” our formation theme this year. As Christians, we learn and study the stories of the Bible, trusting that they help us better understand who we are and who God is. We share our own stories – stories of success and loss, stories of defining moments in our lives and of mundane daily routines – and we listen to the stories of others.
The more I think about it, the more I think that story may be one of the greatest gifts we share with each other as the church. This community is one where we practice being honest about our own stories and where we open ourselves to being transformed by the stories of Scripture and our neighbors.
As we begin this new program year at FPC, I hope you’ll find a place to connect with the story of our church and our ministries and a place to share your own story. Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens next in the story God is telling through the people of First Presbyterian.
The week concluded with a powerful charge to be the change we wish to see in the world. It began at keynote where we were reminded that when we stand together, as a community, we can overpower evil in the world. The keynote leaders exhibited that ordinary, small actions can have incredible ripple effects on the world. This notion was carried over in to small group discussion, prompting many groups into deep personal conversations.
It was sad to say goodbye to all of our friends made throughout the week in small groups, but we remain excited about newly formed relationships.
During the afternoon the seriousness was put aside for a moment while we played our 2nd Annual First Presbyterian Montreat Tennis Tournament. We enjoyed beautiful weather and friendly competition (Alex Glontz was crowned champion).
Lastly, it was time for the candlelight worship service. The service was characterized by a moving final sermon, calling each of us to action. All 1000 of us then gathered around Lake Susan to light candles and sing songs in remembrance of an unbelievable week. First Presbyterian said an emotional goodbye to seven graduated seniors (George Valaoras, Stuart Ayer, Amelia Keesler, Ann Mariah Burton, Alex Glontz, Jackson Proctor, & Harrison Ferone). It capped off an amazing and powerful week.
Our beautiful Thursday morning started out with keynote in Anderson auditorium. Erika and Laura reflected upon the story of Peter and Jesus and changing perspective. A fellow Montreat attendee, Gavin, shared a powerful testimony of his faith.
After morning small group and a delicious lunch of homemade grilled cheeses by Rob Grier, we all attended afternoon small groups to discuss further about the story of Jesus and Peter. After small group, our group hiked to the peak of Lookout Mountain and experienced amazing views and bonded over our perspectives atop the mountain.
In worship, Billy addressed the importance of having a variety of types of friends and being a listening ear in times of need. We are all looking forward to another great day tomorrow and to the conclusion of our time here in Montreat.
– Ann Mariah Burton, Kimberly Morgan, Alexanne O’dell,
Today’s main topic for keynote this morning was Pentecost. We talked about incorporating language and opening our eyes to our church and its importance. We also discussed how the Holy Spirit brings us together under one tongue. After small group, we had our free afternoon in Asheville.
Worship tonight moved us as it discussed using our voice and action to praise God, despite how small we may seem in our world. One of our favorite points today was when Billy said he talked at a church where women aren’t allowed to speak on the stage like the men. He didn’t think this was fair and he said that he was going to talk below the stage “with his sisters.” Today we also gained an appreciation of our world lens, as stories from small group showed how important your community from childhood is in building the foundations of faith.
– Caroline Dittner, Jackson Proctor, Alex Glontz, Abigail Justis and Grace Guinan
Our second day in Montreat proved to be even better than the first. Throughout keynote, small groups, and worship we discussed the importance of family. The keynote speakers challenged us to think about how we can define ourselves uniquely while still keeping our family close to us. At the end of the service, two First Presbyterian Youth (Elizabeth Pandos & Ann Mariah Burton) performed a contemporary dance to further elucidate this message.
Discussions continued in small group in which we could intimately share our own experiences and struggles. This naturally promoted deeper conversation and by the end of the day everyone reported positive small group experiences. The day concluded with Billy leading an awesome, thought-provoking worship service. He shared stories from his past, including the murder of his father, but assured us that we can still write our own stories. In his typical charismatic fashion he dared us to be the best version of ourselves. In his words, “Nobody can beat you at being you!” To which Anderson Auditorium responded with a resounding “Amen!” It was an amazing day and we cannot wait for tomorrow.
– Harrison Ferone, Davy Rayner, Margaret Lloyd, Elizabeth Pandos, Caroline Keesler
We woke this morning to an amazing breakfast provided by our parents. During Keynote we did energizers and sang songs.
We then listened to our very own Erika Funk and Laura Becker preach about a world of difference. The congregation was encouraged to be aware of the lenses through which we view the world. Erika included a personal story about her experiences growing up with her mom, who worked for a nonprofit organization that followed up on police complaints. The story taught us the importance of being aware of our biases that result from our experiences.
After keynote we went to our first small group and each of us enjoyed the experience and playing games and learning new names. Post small group we feasted and played foosball. After lunch we went to small group again but unfortunately the afternoon rec event was rained out. Later we came home and spent some quality time together until dinner was ready. After much suspense, all of the BBQ was gone in a matter of minutes. With full bellies we listened to Billy enthusiastically preach about the Tower of Babel and the similarities we all share to the people who God separated. The major take-away was that diversity is important and that God wants us to appreciate different than us. Looking forward to another day!
– Stuart Ayer, Elizabeth Rayner, Paxton Williamson, Cole Mallory and Anne Carlton
In May, I attended the first two sessions in a learning series, “United by Faith, Divided by Race,” hosted by First Presbyterian Church and one of our neighbor churches, First United Presbyterian Church, a historically African-American congregation.
I’ve been the pastor of First Presbyterian for about four years and knew my congregation has shared history with First United Presbyterian. The predecessor congregation to First United dates back to 1866 – a date that is not lost on someone who was born in the South and has relatives who served in the Confederate Army.
In May, however, I was confronted by the details that I had previously not known of the relationship between First Presbyterian and First United Presbyterian.
For years, leading up to 1866, African-Americans worshipped at First Presbyterian. Many of those African-Americans were slaves; some were free. They were baptized at our baptismal font. They attended Sunday school classes – which was against the mandate of the Presbyterian Church at the time, because those classes about the Bible also served to teach literacy to African-American children who had little other access to education. But they were always “they.” African-Americans were not allowed to sit in the main floor of the sanctuary. They were not allowed to be officers of the church.
Eventually, the African-American group within First Presbyterian’s congregation developed a worshipping community who were told they could meet – not on Sunday – but on Monday. And they could meet not in the sanctuary, but in the basement.
Sometime during the Civil War, the Session of First Presbyterian Church voted to expel this worshipping community from the premises. After this vote, a few leaders in the African-American community met with the pastor of First Presbyterian to help them charter three new congregations: the Colored Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn Presbyterian Church, and Seventh Street Presbyterian Church. In the middle of the last century, this constellation of churches became First United Presbyterian Church.
History is a funny thing. It’s rich. It’s complicated. It’s messy. And sometimes there are parts of it that we wish we could forget. When I heard about this part of my church’s history it made me queasy. I wish that the Session of First Presbyterian Church hadn’t taken that vote, a vote that clearly violates the commandment Jesus gave us: “to love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.” But I also know that that Session was a product of its time. In the mid-1800s a number of both Elders and Ministers at First Presbyterian Church owned slaves.
As a person with Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in my family tree, I wonder how I would have voted if I were around that table at the Session meeting?
Being confronted by a history in which you did not participate doesn’t change the fact that history shapes the reality of the world in which you do participate. That’s the place where I so often get stuck. So in our class, it was helpful when our teacher, Dr. Julia Robinson – a history professor at UNCC and an ordained minister – encouraged us with these words: “when you know this kind of history, it is easy to allow yourself to get swallowed up in either guilt (if you are white) or anger (if you are black). Instead, as people of faith, these are the moments when we need to turn to Jesus.”
I want Jesus to walk with me…with us, actually…as First Presbyterian and First United Presbyterian continue to grapple with what our shared history means for our shared future.
– Pen Peery
(The final two sessions of “United by Faith, Divided by Race,” will be on Sundays, June 5 and 12, at 12:15 p.m. Details here.)