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November 30, 2020

First Presbyterian has been in partnership with Hope Baptist Church in Ryazan, Russia, since 2003. We have watched them grow, plant other churches, and develop a network of Protestant churches in the region despite resistance and intolerance from their neighbors.

When our partnership started, the congregation of Hope Baptist was renting space for their worship services and church activities. Over the years, they bought that space with help from the funds our church sent, but they still faced discrimination from their neighbors. Russians identify strongly with the Russian Orthodox church as a matter of national pride, so Protestant congregations, especially those with American friends, are viewed with some skepticism. The members of Hope Baptist expanded and enhanced their church space, but they still encountered suspicion because they were housed on the first floor of an apartment building, leading people to believe they were more of a cult than a church.

Several years ago, Hope Baptist was able to purchase land to build a structure with a sanctuary that looks like a traditional church; they were able to buy this land through careful stewardship and with the generous gift of funds from our Global Mission budget. Because of laws in the city of Ryazan, they had to finish construction within five years or lose it all. They have been working tirelessly. The new space includes a sanctuary, a kitchen, offices, and a basement fellowship hall to host church events and retreats for other congregations in the area. The third floor, which will house Sunday school rooms, will have finishing touches and furnishings as funds allow. Members of the congregation have tithed both to the church and to the new building, and they have pitched in time and energy to the construction.

Hope Baptist also has property in the Russian countryside for a rustic camp where they host retreats, youth camps, and other gatherings. This space is used by the Protestant churches within their network, and traveling into the countryside offers a welcome change of scenery and a respite from tense relationships with neighbors.

We were sad to postpone the trip this summer, but we look forward to visiting and seeing the new building when travel is more advisable. When we can travel, we will take funds from First Presbyterian to help with the new building, and we will collect gifts for their Sunday school programs, kitchen, and camp. What Hope Baptist has been able to accomplish in the face of adversity is inspiring, and it is a joy to partner with such a faithful congregation.

– Mary Elizabeth Coley

November 24, 2020

Virtual Giving Tree: This Christmas, we will support our partner school by providing gifts to families experiencing financial hardship and monetary gifts to all staff.

Virtual Giving Tree: Unwrapped gifts (with name tags attached) may be brought to First Presbyterian Church on December 8 (10 a.m.-noon), December 10 (2-4 p.m. or December 13 (12:30 -2 p.m.). The Core Church will host a festive distribution in their parking lot on December 19 (10 a. m.-4 p.m.), where families can safely pick up their gifts and enjoy hot chocolate and gift wrapping.

Sign up online to volunteer with gift delivery, setup/cleanup, gift distribution, serving hot chocolate and wrapping gifts.

Acknowledging WHA Staff: After a challenging year requiring additional work and flexibility, we want to acknowledge every staff member at Westerly Hills Academy with a holiday gift.  You can support this effort by check or online via Realm. Checks should be mailed to the church with “WH holiday staff appreciation” in the memo line.

Books for Every Student: We are partnering with Promising Pages to provide two books for every student for winter break. Ten volunteers are needed to package books for distribution before December 8.

JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS

We are excited to offer for sale packs of notecards and envelopes featuring a pen & ink watercolor by Lucy Caldwell of the beautiful Ascension window in the FPC sanctuary. 

The cost is $15/pack.  You can choose to have the cards sent to one address (8 cards per pack) OR you can pick up the cards at church (10 cards per pack).

Enter your login information to place your order. 

If you choose to pick up your order at the church, you will be notified by email when you may do so. Contact barbarajenkinswilliamson@gmail.com with questions.

Order your cards today!

Purchases made through the Alternative Gift Market will benefit the organizations you designate. The organization will use the funds where they are needed most.

You will be mailed a card for each donation of $10 that you can then provide to someone as a gift! Cards can also be picked up if you prefer.

November 12, 2020

If you would like to honor or memorialize a loved one this Christmas with a wreath for a church door or a poinsettia for the sanctuary, you can order online now. Poinsettias are $10 each and wreaths are $35 each.

You can also send a check, made payable to First Presbyterian Church, to Diane Maye, PO Box 1008, Huntersville, NC 28070.

Please include the name of y our loved one and indicate if the gift is an honorarium or a memorial.

Wreaths, roping, poinsettias and trees can be ordered now as part of the FPC Schools’ Greenery Sale to benefit the schools’ scholarship fund. Order now online. Contact Debbie Shirkey with questions.

July 24, 2020

Members of First Presbyterian Church:

At last month’s Session meeting, your Elders engaged a substantial conversation on how our church might respond faithfully and meaningfully to issues of racism that have been a perennial problem for our country, and a topic of national conversation over the past two months.  

The Session believes that responding to the presence of racism is the work of faith because we understand that the promise of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ the dividing wall and hostility between peoples has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14). As we are the body of Christ, we have a responsibility to continue the work that Jesus started.   

Believing that a faithful response is found in an outward affirmation and an inward commitment to examination and change, the Session took five actions that I would like to share with you:

  • We have put up a banner on the fence around the front lawn of the church that is a replica of the Black Lives Matter mural on Tryon Street, which has become a place of community gathering and conversation.* This action is meant to signal to our neighbors and community that our church recognizes the disproportionate loss of life in the African-American community and the need to say, unequivocally, that until Black lives matter to us as a society we cannot assert that all lives do. 
  • Believing that it is important to create a space for worship that welcomes all and does not send subtle messages that might be stumbling blocks to people of color, the Session voted to remove two plaques on our pews that honor Gov. Zebulon Vance and Mrs. Stonewall Jackson. These plaques will be re-located in the Historic Lobby with an explanation to acknowledge honestly our history and describe why we removed them.
  • We have instructed the committee planning next year’s Bicentennial celebration to render an honest account of our history—that is both faithful and flawed, as all histories are—through the history book that is being written on the occasion of our 200th year, and in programs and publications.
  • We are forming a Racial Justice Task Force to examine and audit our institutional life through an anti-racist lens: looking at our facility, our investments, and our Personnel policies. This group will make recommendations back to the Session in November of this year.
  • We are committing to continuing to provide anti-racist education and training for members and staff.

Additionally, the members of the Advocacy Committee are exploring ways that individual members of First Presbyterian can take action to respond as followers of Christ to the injustices of racism both to express our support for racial justice and to work for change. Soon, you will have an invitation to participate in a personal way.  

Christ has given each of us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). It is a holy, demanding, and transformative work.   

As a church that proclaims Christ in the center of our city, I am grateful for the ways that you and I can commit to heal, change, and mend the places where the legacy of racism has wounded our community.   

In faith, hope, and love –

Pen

July 13, 2020

One of the initiatives of the Advocacy Committee to help with the affordable housing crises is to find lawyers who are willing to consider volunteering to serve as counsel for tenants who are facing eviction. Member Tommy Holderness is leading an effort at Legal Aid of North Carolina to provide counsel to those facing eviction who cannot afford to hire counsel.

An important dimension of the affordable housing crises in Charlotte is the number of tenants who are unrepresented in eviction proceedings brought by landlords. In 2019, more than  32,000 evictions proceedings were brought against tenants. In only a fraction of these cases were the tenants represented, generally because they cannot afford counsel. As a result, most tenants do not have an opportunity to have counsel assess and assert potential defenses and claims they might have under North Carolina law that that would delay or prevent their eviction. This story in the Charlotte Observer describes what tenants face. This Charlotte Observer article describes what tenants face.

Tommy Holderness is a Legal Aid of North Carolina attorney who represents tenants and coordinates Legal Aid of North Carolina’s program to provide volunteer lawyers in the community to eligible tenants. Tommy would like to recruit lawyers willing to represent tenants facing eviction.

The eviction process is in flux now due to the pandemic. When the courts resume eviction hearings, there will likely be a large number of pending cases. The court is hoping to resolve many of these using a voluntary mediation procedure. Tommy expects that many hearings and mediations will be done remotely, but details have not been decided at this point.

Tommy is adamant that landlord-tenant law is not that complicated and that every lawyer would be a huge benefit to tenants facing eviction. Please consider volunteering to serve or at least to take time to learn more about the commitment required and the training offered. If nothing else, you will benefit from learning more about a significant process within our community.

Later in June, Tommy will host a Zoom call which will have two parts. In part 1, Tommy will give an overview of the program and what is expected of volunteer counsel. He will answer questions about the program and your participation should you agree to volunteer. In part 2, Tommy will provide training in the substantive law, the eviction court’s procedures and the processes of Legal Aid of North Carolina.

Please consider volunteering as a pro bono lawyer or at least join the call to see if this opportunity is right for you. To register for the Zoom meeting, email Hal Clarke.

Here are some questions and answers which may be helpful as you consider volunteering:

Q. What would be the time investment to be trained to serve as a volunteer lawyer?

A. The initial call plus any additional time that you would like to invest in learning. Tommy has written materials that he’d be happy to provide for additional study (though that is not necessary).  The vast majority of cases are straightforward non-payment cases.

Q. What is the time commitment that I should expect in representing an eviction client?

A. It depends on how the case is resolved. At a minimum, you should expect at least an hour to interview the client. If the case is resolved in mediation or small claims court, it may require no more than an additional hour or two. If the case is tried and then appealed to District Court, it could require ten hours or more. But your initial commitment would be no more than handling the matter through small claims court, so continuing the representation in District Court would be optional.

Q. Would I be working under the supervision of Legal Aid of North Carolina?

A. Yes, Tommy is contact person for all volunteer lawyers. He is willing to answer questions and provided suggestions and advice.

Q. Is malpractice coverage provided?

A. Yes, through Legal Aid.

Q. Are there a minimum number of cases that a volunteer should plan to handle?

No, volunteers typically handle only one case at a time.  Tommy hopes people would want to keep taking new cases as old cases finish, but there is no expectation or requirement that they will do so.

May 31, 2020

Dear Members and Friends of First Presbyterian Church,

I am resigning from my role as Director of Children’s Ministries as of June 30.  It has been a joy to serve in and among the members of the church and schools.

Thank you for your involvement in, leadership with, and support of Children’s Ministry programs.  My prayer is that you continue to share your gifts with the children of the church and community that they would be nurtured in this faith and flourish as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

Grace and Peace,

Tammy Winchip

Dear FPC Family,

We want to thank Tammy for her work as the Director of  Children’s Ministry. We appreciate how Tammy has shared her love of Jesus Christ with the children and all people of our church.  She has used her talents to help our children discover God in their lives  and how to live as beloved children of God. We are grateful for the impact she has made in Christian Formation, the FPC Schools, and the larger congregation.  We ask for prayers for Tammy and Joel as she begins this new stage.  Tammy will continue to serve in her role through June 30th. We hope to celebrate Tammy and thank her at the end of June as safety and COVID related guidelines allow, more details to follow.  If you have any questions about the transition please email me.

In Christ,

The Reverend Robert Galloway

Comments and prayer from the Reverend Pen Peery on Pentecost 2020

Before I call us to come before God in prayer, I would like to take a moment of pastoral privilege to address, directly, the moment we are in with our country roiling after the death of a another black person at the hands of law enforcement. What happened to George Floyd in Minnesota was tragic and wrong. Unfortunately, it was not new. George Floyd is a name we will add to a litany of names of black and brown people whose lives have been lost because of systematic racism. 

What we are seeing around the country is the cumulative impact of so many wrongful deaths. It’s not only about one black man. It needs to be addressed. It requires action. It is change that God desires and demands.

For the past 10 weeks I have treasured and been enriched through partnering with First United Presbyterian Church in worship.  To have our congregations – one proudly African-American, the other largely white, with our shared history – worshipping together in these times has been, I think, evidence of the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

But what I am very clear about – informed by my sisters and brothers of color – is that the work of being anti-racist (not simply “not-racist”) is work that white people must engage. So this morning I want to challenge the members of my congregation – First Presbyterian Church – to join me in getting serious about that work of being anti-racist. And I want to suggest two ways we can start – or continue – that work.

First, we need to educate ourselves about the impacts of racism and privilege. At noon today on our church’s webpage and social media pages we are publishing a curriculum of sorts for white people. I hope you will join Lindsey and me in reading, discussing, and learning from it. 

Second, we need to agree that we will confront racism in our own lives, circles, places of work…even families. Change starts small, but it starts with us. 

I believe this work of being anti-racist is a way we can respond to the good news of God’s claim on our lives and God’s hope for the world.

Now let us pray…

Most Holy and Gracious God –

On that day of Pentecost, when your presence was made manifest in the rush of mighty wind…

When you mixed up speech, in order that your name might be more widely shared…

When you agitated what seemed so decent and orderly, so that a small band of followers might become the body of Christ…

When you set your Spirit upon us, giving us both courage and boldness to face a broken world with resurrection hope and the conviction that what is broken will be redeemed…

On that day of Pentecost you reminded us that in these days, our young would see visions and our old would dream dreams.

And that in these days, our business would be about living into the promise of your kingdom, so that all who call upon your name would be saved.

And so, on this day of Pentecost, we pray that we might be so bold as to believe that there are still visions for us to see. And dreams for us to dream. That your Spirit still mixes us up, and agitates our order, and infuses us with courage, because we are still your people, anointed and charged with being your body in the world.

We pray for your world – that you call us to love.

And we ask, O Lord, that by your Spirit, you would dismantle systems and racism and free us from its stain and legacy. We pray for the family of George Floyd. We pray for communities who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We pray for people of color who are too familiar with pain and fear. We pray for white people to wake up and get about the work. We pray for local and state officials who are charged with maintaining order and ask that they also practice patience. 

We pray for your church, that when people see us – be it in this room, or in our place of work, or in our neighborhoods – we pray that when people see your church, they would see love…love willing to sacrifice and stretch…willing to be odd for the sake of your promise and your vision.

And, finally, we pray for ourselves. A people who navigate many different worlds. A people who are capable of mischief and of mercy. A people who have all experienced joy and pain.

Bind us up where are a broken and weary.

Fill us up when our reservoirs are low.

Help us to shine as we reflect the light of your grace.

And keep us aware to the freshening wind of your Spirit.

We make this and all of our prayers in the strong name of Jesus.  AMEN