Tag: Life Together

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


First Connect (private group on Facebook)


October 12, 2018

September 20, 2018

The following letter is an announcement from the Reverend Katelyn Gordon Cooke, followed by a communication from the Reverend Pen Peery.

Dear First Presbyterian friends,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I write this letter to you with a heart that is full – full of gratitude, sadness, excitement, grief, and love.

A little less than a year after Andy and I were married here at First Presbyterian, we have a received a call to serve as co-pastors at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia. My last Sunday at FPC will be October 7.

I have loved serving as one of your pastors for the past four years. This church has such faithful energy, and it has been a joy to be part of your work for Christ in the heart of Charlotte. You have helped me to grow in my faith and my role as a pastor, and I am so grateful for this chapter of ministry with you. Thank you for your trust, encouragement, and friendship. Personally, FPC will always hold a special place in my heart as the community where Andy and I began our married life together. We love you dearly.

God has made the way clear for Andy and me to be in ministry in Augusta, and we believe this is our call for this season of life. It’s important to us to be closer to Andy’s boys, who live in Newnan, Georgia, and we are excited to be able to serve a church together.

Transitions are often messy and difficult, and still we trust that God is faithful and steadfast. In the midst of this transition, I give deep thanks for the ways the Spirit has been at work here and continues to be at work in and through each of you.

In Christ,
Katelyn Gordon Cooke

Friends in Christ,

I find Katelyn’s news to be bittersweet. I am grateful to God for Katelyn’s ministry these past four years, and am grateful that she and Andy can grow together in their marriage and their ministry as co-pastors in Augusta, Georgia. At the same time, I will miss Katelyn’s gifts as a part of our staff team.

So I hope you will join me in wishing Katelyn well at a reception in the Wood Fellowship Hall after the 11 a.m. worship service on Sunday, September 30. For those who would like to show your appreciation in a tangible way (as you have done so generously with other pastors and staff), you can send a check to be collected as a love offering for Katelyn to the church office at Jan Gaddis’ attention.

One of the things I have appreciated about how Katelyn has navigated her new call to Augusta is that she has been very communicative with me. As such, I have been able to be in conversation with our church’s Personnel Committee about how we can continue to provide excellent staff support for our ministry and mission. Soon, I will come to the Session with a staffing plan – both short and long-term. Losing two associate pastors in consecutive months is not common or ideal, but it does afford us an opportunity to align our staff with God’s call. I am confident that God is at work through this transition to guide us to a faithful and vibrant place.

In faith, hope, and love –


July 10, 2018

Before I left work in March medical leave, somebody wiser than I (KATHERINE) said, “Let us take care of you. Food, visits – don’t be one of those folks who says ‘I’m ok, don’t worry about me.’ ”

That was a tall order. But I thought about my family. Who would take care of them? We’ve been down the extended illness road before, and it’s not easy.

So I said “Thank you. Maybe a meal?”

Three months later, we are still eating (and I am healthy). Lasagna, good homemade bread, Marwen’s miraculous banana bread. There’s actually something in the workroom freezer that Kay kept forgetting to bring to me and that I now keep forgetting to take home.

The husband chuckled when I said food would be coming. “You’ve got your buddies snowed,” he said. “YOU don’t do the cooking around here.”

Which is true. But when he was sick and I was running around like a chicken, this miracle ziti showed up from Kay, and the kids and I ate it while sitting on the floor in the living room, discussing Troy’s cancer.

We still call it “that ziti.” And we needed that time together, on the living room floor, just the kids and me, to regroup and to think and to cry and pray.

This time, when I was sick, Kay visited us two days after I was out of the hospital. She had bags and bags of everything – meatloaf, veggies, veggie meatloaf, high-protein casseroles, bread, cake – from herself and Addison and several other kind church members.

And then Peg came, with a stack of super spicy treats from the Dumpling Lady’s food truck.

And then Diane came, with Tupperware filled with fresh green beans (FRESH, as in she snapped those beans herself), and casserole, cole slaw and cake, from herself and from Jane.

The day after my second surgery, Troy had to run to Greensboro to get Alex from college. He also had to run to get medicine. He also had to pick Mack up from work. He had to have been tired of running around.

When he called and said “What do you want to eat?” I said “Mack put a lasagna into the oven before she left. There’s salad here. And cake. Just come home.”

I resisted the urge to say “see?”

It occurs to me that this is how God is, showing up, quietly sometimes, but there, taking care of you, a force that lets you know “it’s OK. You are fed, in more ways than one.” Stop worrying. Your family is cared for. That’s how God is, and that precludes anything that society can throw at us. It’s a vision of his kingdom here on earth, of being community, of taking care of each other, of bearing each other’s burdens, of simply sitting and being with each other. How uncommon is that these days, getting into a car and taking our lives into our hands on 177, spending an hour with someone, when we are perfectly happy to sit behind screens and type our thoughts and prayers.

But these small acts made big differences. And it’s simply what folks around here at First Presbyterian do.

Just come home, and sit, and be fed, and be. This is God, always.

Dartinia Hull, Communications Manager

February 28, 2018
Debbie Shirkey and her mother-in-law, Kathy Shirkey

I had the unique position of traveling with my mother-in-law the other week and watching her wonderful, dynamic way of noticing others. Kathy Shirkey strikes up conversations everywhere she goes.  And I do mean everywhere—the checkout line in the store, the elevator, with people in line at restaurants, those eating at the table beside her, even people in the restroom stall beside her. She is the definition of “I’ve never met a stranger.”

I’ve always known this about Kathy. She’s outgoing and gregarious, quick with a story and easy to talk to. But on holiday these traits seem to be exaggerated. I must admit, I’m a bit jealous of her ease in talking with others. Conversations seem to flow so effortlessly.

This is also not the first time we’ve traveled together, so I’ve heard a lot of “Kathy stories” before. Like how she lived in Hawaii when she graduated college, or how she met her husband Nick in a bar in California, or how she taught swimming at the Y for years on a lake, but when she saw the ocean the first time, she ripped off her swimming badge because there was no way she was going to dive into that water and try to save someone.

What was different about our recent trip, however, was my focus not on the stories she told, though of course they are great, but on the people with whom she chose to share these stories. The people she befriended both by sharing her stories and by asking others about theirs. I made a conscious effort to watch the reactions of others.

It’s a wonder to behold the dynamic that takes place when Kathy gets going.

“Is that scallops you’re eating? They look good. Would you recommend them?”

“Hi, I see you’re in line for the Polynesian Show. Have you ever been to this show? I hear it’s a hoot.”

From there the conversations usually delve into either a shallow or deep trough of past experiences. “The scallops are great.” “No, this is my first time to Hawaii, and I’ve heard the show tells the history of the islands.” You get the idea. It’s the dance of people making small talk and finding out a little bit about one another.

What I found fascinating was that people, though they knew it was unlikely that their paths would ever cross again, loved being noticed. Someone had taken the time to notice them, to talk to them, to ask about them. To see them. Not the person beside them or behind them, but them.

Yes, there were a few people who didn’t want to engage (like the couple beside us at the fancy French restaurant, who I can only imagine thought Kathy must be an undercover-planted chaperone). But the huge majority seemed to thrive on Kathy’s advances. To have someone take a moment out of their day to ask about theirs.

I wonder sometimes what it would be like if we all took that time to notice those around us. Not those we already know necessarily, but the strangers whose paths we cross every day. What if we took a note from Kathy’s playbook and said, “Hi, that’s a great smile you have. Are you headed to this corner, too? I’d love to walk with you.”

– Debbie Shirkey

Visit the home page for the First Presbyterian Church blog, where you can search the archives by date, by key word or by category.

January 2, 2018

Want to have fun playing softball while having fellowship with other churches in our area?

First Presbyterian Church is exploring the idea of putting together a team to join the South Charlotte Church Softball league this spring. Games will run from June through August on Monday and Friday evenings. All levels of experience are welcome, so don’t worry if you haven’t picked up a glove or a bat in years.

Contact Josh Humphrey ( if you’d like to be included in organizational gatherings.

December 27, 2017

Motherless Moms, a support group for women grieving the loss of their mothers as they are raising children, meets on the first Tuesday of each month at Noon in the Frances Browne Dining Room (P212). Participants are welcome to bring their lunch. For more information, please contact the Reverend Katherine Kerr.


September 8, 2017

Around the corner from our house, along my typical route in to work, there’s a church with a marquee out front. You know the type—they are ubiquitous in the south. They hold removable letters and have space for announcements, preachers’ names, sermon titles, and most commonly, pithy sayings about God, faith, and church.

Whenever I drive by a church with a marquee, I have to check out what it says. I must admit, it’s not always because I’m curious who the preacher is or what she will be preaching on that Sunday. More often than not, I check out those signs to get a chuckle at the puns and turns of phrase that are commonly posted there. And I’ve seen some funny ones. One of my favorites is this:

If you love Jesus, tithe. Anybody can honk.

I usually find the signs amusing, and sometimes they cause me to think a bit, but mostly I have a little laugh and keep driving.

Recently, however, this church near our home has had the following on its marquee:

Church is a gift from God. Assembly required.

Clever, right? And oh, so true. Reading these words each morning as I drive in to my job at this church has inspired and challenged me. Church is a gift from God, ushered in through Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 16:18) and nurtured at the outset by women and men who lived in community as Christ’s followers. Critical to the success of the early church was that communal living—the “assembly” referenced in the church sign.

Too often, people believe that faith is a dyadic relationship, just “me and God” against the world. This belief assumes that God’s primary concern is with the status of their personal faith, and that prayer and scripture reading are sufficient to ensure a robust life of faith. There is absolutely nothing wrong with nurturing personal faith; in fact, it is crucial for all Christians to do so. But if this is where an individual’s faith journey begins and ends, something is missing.

Throughout scripture, we are shown and reminded that life and faith are not individual endeavors. God created us from relationship and for relationship.

“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity… For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:1, 3).

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5)

Church is a gift. Assembly is required. And that is not always easy. There are lots of other things that crave our attention and attendance on Sunday mornings. There are always chores to be done, papers to be read, coffee to be drunk and snooze buttons to hit. And when we do make it to church, there’s always the chance that something won’t go our way—someone might snub us or the coffee might not meet our standards, we might not like what we hear from the pulpit or feel like our contributions are valued.

Many years ago, my dad and I were talking about some conflict that his church was facing and he was sharing with me the challenge of watching fellow church members act rudely and dismissively to someone for whom he cares deeply. He was trying to wrap his mind around how this could happen at church of all places. I said to him, “Church would be a perfect place, if it weren’t for the people.”

It is no accident that the only perfect human being called us to follow him by surrounding ourselves with other imperfect human beings. We are all in this together, and the only way we can worship, serve, experience and follow God is by acknowledging that truth and getting together anyway.

We’re not called to be perfect, we’re called to be together. We will stumble and fall more times that anyone will care to count, but along the way, some miraculous things will happen.

People will be fed and comforted, challenged and changed. God’s word will be spread and God’s will done—around us, within us, through us and even in spite of us.

It will be amazing to witness. Hope to see you in church.