Archive

Tag: Church mission

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.

March 24, 2017

For many months now, our Balcony Group has listened for the Holy Spirit in developing a strategic plan for the next three to five years. This group has listened through conversations with our officers; for the wisdom of our past efforts in strategic and long-range planning; during visits to other vital, center-city churches around the country; and during lots and lots of meetings.

The strategic plan they are drafting will be built on our existing shared vision—taking what we do well and enhancing/expanding it so that it moves us into the future.

The draft the Balcony Group is working on now will recommend specific, aspirational, yet attainable initiatives that flow from four objectives, or planks: Welcome, Serving our City, Life Together and Stewardship. As they aim for finishing that draft in April, here’s how the Balcony Group is defining those planks.

Welcome: In a time when there is a trend for people to choose spirituality over religion, our efforts in Christian hospitality matter more than ever. That welcome extends from our worship, to our physical campus, to our use of media and tools for communication.

Serving our City: We will always continue to reach beyond Charlotte—with mission to the world and cities other than our own. But now seems to be a time to pay special attention to being agents of transformation in the center of the city where we were established as a church for this community. To be effective agents of God’s transformation, we have to grapple with and seek to understand what Charlotte’s issues are. One providential piece of timing is that the Economic Opportunity Task Force is set to release its report, which will highlight particular areas of focus in our city that are in need of transformation. We imagine some of our initiatives under this objective will align with part of what the Task Force recommends.

Life Together: Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called Life Together, which describes what the family of faith looks like when we recognize the gift of Christian community. It is a stark difference from the frenetic, polarized, shallow existence that so often exists without the grounding of Christ’s presence. Initiatives under this objective will help encourage and affirm our life together as a community of every age and stage.

Stewardship: Stewardship is a spiritual practice that must be taught and valued. It does not happen by accident. Stewardship asks us to invest in a future that we do not get to see.  Initiatives in this area will develop strategies to deepen our commitments and diversify our approach.

This plan and this impact begin soon—this year. And our implementation of this plan will set a trajectory that will lead us into our third century of ministry, which begins in 2021. The Balcony Group’s work on the strategic plan will certainly be what the congregation and our neighborhood feel first.  It will energize, focus, and deepen our mission to be for Christ in the Heart of Charlotte.

Watch for a recap of my comments about God’s call to us from the March 12 Town Hall in the April issue of FirstNEWS, which will be available beginning March 26 in the historic lobby and on the website beginning Monday, March 27.

– Pen Peery

March 17, 2017

O Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2)

We’ve watched so much change from our corner of center city. And we are all so aware that change will continue. Yet, from generation to generation and through every way Charlotte has changed, we have offered a faithful witness to Christ. As we’ve embarked on strategic planning for the next 3-5 years and an exploration of what God is calling us to do with the asset and responsibility that is our Poplar Street parking lot, the big question both the Balcony Group and the West Campus Visioning Committee keep coming back to is this:

How will God use our church as an instrument for proclaiming Good News in our city?

The next step is for the Balcony Group to complete its draft of a strategic plan. That work is in progress. We might expect to have a look at that draft in April. One thing I can say with certainty is that welcome and hospitality will be part of that plan.

Regarding the Poplar Street parking lot, we are still in the process of asking that question, and your feedback continues to inform that process of seeking clarity. In other words, we are several steps away from having concrete initiatives in mind. And timing for any implementation of a plan with implications for the parking lot property may be years away and will be thoroughly evaluated by Session before any action occurs.

Watch for a recap of the four planks of the strategic plan being written by the Balcony Group in next week’s blog, which you can also access from the Now@FPC page on the website. A third follow-up from the Town Hall meeting will be in the April FirstNEWS, available in the historic lobby on March 26.

As these conversations about our future continue, I ask for you to pray for God’s wisdom and for our continued faithfulness in following God’s call to be a witness to Christ in the center of Charlotte.

– Pen Peery

September 29, 2016

Pen mug 7-16Last week, in the wake of the protests in uptown Charlotte, I’ve never been so clear that our church’s geography plays a big part in our mission. God planted us here in the center of town 195 years ago for a reason.

God needs First Presbyterian Church to be a place of healing and reconciliation. We must be a place where there is honest speech about brokenness and pain. We are called to demonstrate what the good news of the gospel looks like by the ways that we worship with, serve, learn from and provide welcome to all of those who are seeking to connect to God in Jesus Christ.

Many times last week I was uncomfortable. I attended gatherings with other clergy and was uncomfortable with some of the anger I heard and experienced. I met a group of clergy uptown Thursday night to pray at the site where Justin Carr was shot the previous night. The protests were peaceful, but I felt unsettled as I walked the streets that are usually filled with cars and commerce. I was asked by community organizers to open our church up for a city-wide prayer vigil, as well as to provide access to our campus overnight for protestors to rest and re-group. This was a request I declined – it made me uncomfortable to do so, but not as uncomfortable as leaving our church home vulnerable.

Since last week I have both asked and been asked the question “what can we do?” A lot of my discomfort this past week has been not knowing exactly how to answer that question. I am built to try to find quick solutions. Yet the pain we saw on display in our streets last week is not a result of a one-time incident with a police officer and an African American man, nor is it solvable by a few concrete action steps.

Perhaps what we can “do” for the moment is feel uncomfortable. Maybe our discomfort is the soil from which transformation can grow.

One of the reasons I am confident God is at work among us – providing for us, loving us, challenging us – is because a host of events and experiences had already been planned before last week happened. These events will engage us in conversation about race, or difference. They are experiences that connect us with our neighborhood and our community. You can read more about these opportunities online and in this week’s eFirstNEWS.

My invitation to you is to show up at two or three of these events and see how they affect the discomfort you may be feeling at the moment. I suspect that God will use these next few weeks to transform all of our hearts – hopefully to the point that we will be ready to hear where God calls us to go next.

– Pen Peery

June 6, 2013

Dear Wired Word Faithfuls,

The average American family gives about 4% of its income to charity, a percentage that is well below the biblical tithe (10%). It is also a fraction of the 50% donated each year by a young man in the world of finance named Jason Trigg. His generosity gives us an opportunity to think about Christian stewardship, the faithful use of money and what the Scriptures teach us about how our giving impacts the world around us. Although The Wired Word class will not be meeting in the summer, you will find the topic below of interest.

Continuing this Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, we will gather for one service (11:00) while we walk through a special summer series on the Ten Commandments. Each week, our worship will center on a particular commandment as we work our way through the “Decalogue” (“ten words”). The pastors have also written a weekly devotional to help you explore this rich and often overlooked text. You can find this devotional on our web site or in hard copy around the church.

During the Sunday Class time (9:45-10:45) we are offering two classes. The first is entitled “With Our Whole Heart,” (in the Chapel) and will unpack that Sunday’s respective commandment to deepen your worship experience. The second is a class titled “Being the Body of Christ,” (in the Pattie Cole Room) which will focus on the ever-changing missional nature of the church. We encourage you to join these classes through the summer.

We will continue to send the Wired Word topic for your own reflection and look forward to open discussions at the church in the fall.

Also, if you are looking for summer reading, check out our 2013 Willard Speaker’s work. You can find them all at brucefeiler.com. I would recommend that, by the September 29th event, you pick up a copy of “Generation Freedom.” Great read.

Enjoy the topic and we’ll see you this Sunday at 9:45 in the Chapel to hear Peter Buck lead “No Other Gods” found in Exodus 20:1-3, or in the Pattie Cole Room where The Rev. Pen Peery will begin a series on “Living Into a Missional Church.”

Kirk