Archive

Tag: Summer

June 7, 2018
One afternoon during last year’s Vacation Bible School.

In the summer issue of Tapestry, which will be available around the church in a couple of weeks, we asked some of our children and youth the question: How are you going to stay close to God this summer?

Instead of asking you that question, I thought I’d suggest an answer I plan to consider: By focusing on stewardship.

Not the stewardship campaign, which each fall asks us to decide on the financial commitment we’ll make to God’s work in the year ahead. I’m not even talking about fulfilling that commitment during months when we may be out of town or focused on family time—although we hope you’ll do that, too.

As important as our financial commitment to God’s work is, there is more to stewardship than pledging and giving. God also asks us to give of our time and talent.

In the summer, our routines are disrupted. We may be distracted by travel, by the pool, by summer concerts, by more family time, even by the luxury of time just to relax. I’m pretty sure those welcome distractions can make it harder to fill some of our community’s ongoing needs. God’s call to serve during the summer months could be even more urgent than usual.

Here are some ways FPC folks could answer God’s call to be good stewards this summer.

  • Picnic with Westerly Hills families on Sunday, June 10, at 3 p.m. Food will be provided and all are welcome to this opportunity for fellowship at The Core Church, 2300 Alleghany Street.
  • Give the gift of life by donating blood when the Bloodmobile is here at the church on Sunday, June 10, from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Watch this video to hear what Parish Nurse Kristin Foster and member Alex Ayer have to say about this year’s blood drive, then sign up to give from our website.
  • Deliver sandwiches to the Men’s Shelter, 3410 Statesville Avenue, by 11:30 on Sunday mornings. You are also welcome to help distribute the sandwiches and have lunch with the men. Sign up online.
  • Help out with Vacation Bible School the week of June 25-28, 9 a.m.-noon. Contact Tammy Winchip, Director of Children’s Ministry.
  • Stay strong this summer by helping out at the Loaves & Fishes Pantry. The Pantry needs of volunteers who are able to lift loaded crates, to bend and stoop as needed, and to catch loaded crates coming down the delivery chute. Contact Mary Scott Peterson to learn more.
  • Stay strong, part two, involves three hours once a month to deliver furniture for someone transitioning out of homelessness into a safe, comfortable home. This happens on the second Saturday each month, 9 a.m. until noon. Not everything is heavy, so don’t stay away because you can’t lift a sofa. This is a great service and fellowship opportunity for middle school age youth through adult. Sign up online.
  • Experience the joy of helping our BELL scholars. For six weeks, June 18–July 25, we will host 60 young scholars (rising first through third graders). They will work on reading and math skills in the mornings, then experience a wide range of field trips and enrichment activities—yoga, Lego robotics, dance and swimming—in the afternoons. Your time and talent makes this possible. Sign up here.
  • Worship needs volunteers to serve as sound board operators during the 11 a.m. worship. You’ll receive training. Contact Jesse Hite.

Those are just a few of the immediate ways you can focus on stewardship this summer. Keep your eyes on the Now@FPC page on the website, which is continuously updated with more ways to serve your community and your church.

Oh, and for those weeks when you are out of town, you can also visit the lower right of any page on the website to keep your contributions up to date through the summer. And you can attend a church where you’re vacationing, as well as watch us on TV or via live streaming on the website.

I hope you’ll join me in an unofficial time-and-talent stewardship campaign this summer. If you give this a try, let me know how it works to keep you close to God.

~ The Reverend Pen Peery

August 7, 2017

Sixty precious scholars left our church campus a few weeks ago, and we are missing them! They brought such joy, energy and light into our church this summer.

I have volunteered with BELL in the past with my children. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the program and how it benefits the families with whom we partner at Westerly Hills. I know now that I didn’t have a clue. What I learned this summer blew my mind and made me so very proud to be a part of this program and our church.

First Presbyterian Church began hosting BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) six years ago. BELL is a national program, headquartered in Boston and started in 1992 by students at Harvard Law School. The program seeks to serve children in under-resourced communities by providing summer instruction and enrichment.

Each class of 20 scholars (rising K-3rd, so 60 total) begins the day with a hot breakfast, then participates in community time, where they learn about the BELL core values (learning, collaboration, respect and excellence.) Each class receives literacy and math instruction from certified teachers for the first half of the day, reinforced by First Presbyterian member tutors and speech therapists from Charlotte Speech and Hearing. After lunch and playground time, the scholars participate in enrichment activities, such as dance, Legos and science, coding, yola (language-based yoga practice), Reading with Rover, music, cooking, recreation, character education, art and swim lessons. Every Friday is reserved for education-based field trips. This year the scholars went to Dan Nicholas park, Carolinas Aviation Museum, the Charlotte Raptor Center, the play James and the Giant Peach, the Nature Museum and a performance by a magician.

Distracted by all the fun, the children seem to forget they are attending a little bit of school when they are at BELL.

Parent involvement in BELL is also a huge part of the program. Attendance is critical for success, so each family pays a $20 goodwill deposit that is refunded if the scholar misses no more than 3 days. Parents are also responsible for attending an open house and participating in a scholar showcase, where they visit the classrooms, attend an active reading workshop and eat lunch with their scholar. This year 37 families attended the scholar showcase. The scholars were SO excited to read with their parents, and the parents were hilarious pretending to be kids during the active reading workshop. We all know how important parent involvement and commitment are for a child’s success at school, and programs such as BELL help build that vital commitment.

Did you know the lack of learning during the summer causes up to 2/3 of the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers? According to statistics published by Read Charlotte (learn more at www.readcharlotte.org) 96% of third graders reading at grade level go on to graduate high school on time; third graders reading below grade level are four times more likely to drop out of school. At the end of 2016, 72.5% of Westerly Hills’s third graders were reading below grade level, the worst reading scores in all of CMS. 

Last year, our BELL scholars gained reading proficiency rather than backsliding during the summer. This year, our scholars gained again. Clearly, literacy is critical to the success of our city’s children, and this program is a way our church is having a direct, positive impact on the children of Westerly Hills.

Periodically, our BELL program receives a visit from the national Quality Assurance team to be observed and evaluated. Our program remains one of the best in the country, if not the best.  The QA team raved about the standards we set for our program and the amazing enrichment and field trips we offer. The wonderful BELL staff sets the same expectations for the scholars, and they rise to the occasion again and again.

This program requires significant time, money and commitment from our church, but it is so absolutely worth it.  If you have contributed to this amazing program, thank you! I hope you know how valuable that contribution is.  If you haven’t yet contributed, please consider doing so. It costs $1,500 per child to run this program, and we still need to raise money to cover the cost for this summer’s program. Any and every contribution helps to change the life of a child.

I saw just how much every little contribution matters this summer.

– Heather Herring, Child & Family Partnership Coordinator

July 21, 2016

bell scholar 5Our BELL Summer School Camp for 60 rising first through third graders from some of Charlotte’s most fragile neighborhoods concludes next Wednesday afternoon. I hope you can join us to celebrate this fifth year of partnering with BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life).

Before I tell you what to expect at our celebration, I want to tell you about the minds that were opened this summer, thanks to your contributions.

  • These energetic and enthusiastic youngsters have excelled in their morning studies, which centered around reading and math.
  • They’ve experienced yoga, science, Legos, cooking, art, music, character education and swimming lessons at the Dowd YMCA.
  • On Fridays, they’ve enjoyed field trips to Stowe Botanical Gardens, Concord Aquarium, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Knight’s Stadium, a play at Central Piedmont Community College and bowling.

What a rich summer you’ve made possible for these children!

I want you to know that these children weren’t the only ones who have had their minds opened this summer. In addition to volunteer tutors from our congregation, this program brings together Speech and Hearing therapists, certified teachers and classroom assistants. If they are like me, they’ve had their minds and hearts opened during our six weeks with our BELL scholars. We’ve been blessed by their smiles, their laughter, their spontaneous hugs, and the light in their eyes as they’ve had experiences that some of us might take for granted in our own children’s lives.

I’d love for you to experience a fraction of what I’ve experienced from being around these children this summer. So please consider joining the scholars and staff for a celebration in the Wood Fellowship Hall from 1:00 – 2:15 pm on Wednesday, July 27.  Each class will perform a song or skit and we’ll show a video capturing our summer. Awards will be given and ice cream will conclude the event.

Thank you for your participation, prayers and financial contributions.  The lives of the most fragile in our city were made abundantly richer! And if you join us for the closing ceremony, I can pretty much guarantee that your life will be made richer, too.

~ Lisa Dillard, Community Engagement Coordinator

Look for more photos from our BELL Summer Scholars in this week’s issue of FirstNEWS             in the mail or on information tables at church on Sunday.

July 1, 2016

“You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…in the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

BELL 2016 little sisterIf you want to see what church looks like when we are really being church, come to the campus of First Presbyterian the first six weeks of the summer.

We are about halfway through hosting the BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) program – a tutoring initiative that provides experiences in the classroom and the uptown community for 60 students from the K-8th grade Westerly Hills Academy, with whom our church has a partnership.

These six weeks our campus is buzzing: in the courtyard at drop-off, in the Wood Fellowship Hall for breakfast, on the third floor for classes, and through the hallways as children make this church their home.

Additionally, in the summer our church also makes a commitment to send children to Camp Grier for a total of 65 camper weeks.

Our summer program is one of the finest examples of where our faith and our stewardship become salt and light in our community. These programs make an impact. Reading scores go up. Parents are more plugged in. Children grow in confidence. And God is glorified.

We’re about halfway through the summer and our fundraising for BELL and Camp Grier (total of $60,000) is about halfway finished, too. Whether you are a member of First Presbyterian or a fan, I encourage you to help us make a difference in the lives of dozens of children by supporting this vital ministry of the church.

– Pen Peery

June 21, 2016

Summer reading lists sometimes lean toward lighter beach reads. But books with some weight—emotional, spiritual or literary substance—can be a good choice when you’re packing your beach bag, too. Here are some suggestions for your summer reading list—fiction and non-fiction—from First Pres clergy.

From Erika Funk: 

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyles – I return to this memoir again and again. Boyle came to the barrios of Los Angeles 20 years ago as a Jesuit priest hoping to bring peace between the gangs. Realizing that lack of jobs was the real issue, he founded Homeboy Industries, an economic development and jobs program for at-risk and gang-involved youth. Each chapter is a compelling and often sorrowful story, easy to read, but impossible to forget. Each time I read it compassion is made flesh and I am encouraged for what is possible.

Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann – Brueggemann never disappoints and his book of prayers is challenging, hopeful and biblically based. I have used it countless times for group devotions, staff training and personal prayer.  It always lands on a shelf not far from my desk or bedside.

Designer Living: What Happens When the Real You Meets the Real God by Susan Sutton – On my “to read” list is this book handed to me by the author’s sister in law, a member of FPC. The author and her husband are missionaries with WEC International in Singapore. FPC has supported their work for many years and they will be speaking here in January for Global Mission month.

Race in a Post-Obama America: The Church Responds – The list of contributors to this book made me want to read this book, which is also on my “to read” list. Writers, pastors and faithful activists share their thoughts on the church’s role in discussing and dismantling racism in America.

From Katelyn Gordon:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce – A friend lent this book to me a few summers ago, and I doubted her recommendation for the first half of the book because it moved slowly. By the end, I was convinced. This is an adventure story for adults and raises questions about what motivates us, the people who are in our lives for a season, and how we reconcile ourselves to those things in our lives that are beyond our control.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – One of my top five favorite novels of all time. John Wheelwright tells the story of growing up in small town New Hampshire in the 1950s with his best friend Owen Meany, who believes himself to be an instrument of God. The book has serious themes, but Irving approaches them with humor and wit. I love how Irving tackles questions of faith, the complexity of relationships, and the beauty of people who are broken (which is all of us in one way or another!).

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor – My go-to book when I’m feeling stuck spiritually. BBT (as I affectionately call her) describes spiritual practices that most of us are familiar with, but she gives her reader a new framework for understanding them and practicing them in their own lives. Her chapter on prayer—particularly her paragraphs about struggling with prayer—has been especially helpful for me.

From Katherine Kerr:

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman – This is a surprisingly charming novel about a curmudgeonly Swedish widower named Ove. Despite his best efforts to shut out the outside world and do things his way (which he knows is the right way), Ove finds himself surrounded by people who might actually be friends. This is an easy to read, entertaining and inspiring novel that reminds us all of the power of community.

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church, by Rachel Held Evans – This faith memoir is a beautifully written, honest account of Evans’ experiences in a wide range of church communities.  From her childhood in a southern Evangelical church to participation in a small church plant, years away from the church and eventually finding a home in a mainline protestant denomination, Evans chronicles her journey to find her place in Christ’s church with candor and humor.

From Pen Peery:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo – A work of non-fiction that tells the story of a world we never see. It’s a bracing look at the thorny issues around globalization in the new city of Mumbai (that sits on the old city of Bombay).

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit (2015) – I read this after our trip to Israel/Palestine this spring and it is an honest view of the complex history of how the nation of Israel came to be.

Christianity After Religion, by Diana Butler Bass (2013) – A compelling and hopeful look into the seismic change that is effecting the church in America. This book has a lot to say to FPC Charlotte and how we might be called by God to embrace our neighbors who are “spiritual but not religious.” I have used this book with the West Campus Visioning Committee.

How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor, by James K. A. Smith (2014) – Written in response to Charles Taylor’s 2007 book A Secular Age, this book is on my list per a recommendation from two of my colleagues.

Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America, by Ebo Patel (2013) – I read this book as a part of my Doctor of Ministry project. Written by a young Muslim American, the book calls upon “our better angels” and calls our country to embrace the promise of a pluralistic future.

June 2, 2013

Dear Wired Word Faithfuls, 

Starting 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 entitled “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 here. I would recommend that, by the September 29th event, you pick up a copy of “Generation Freedom.” Great read.

We’ll see you this Sunday at 9:45 in the Chapel (the Mission class will start meeting next week, 6/9) for Pen’s overview of the 10 Commandments!

Peace

Kirk