Archive

Tag: The Stories We Tell

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

Facebook

First Connect (private group on Facebook)

 

January 8, 2018
My first church trip, three weeks into my tenure. I really don’t like being cold. Or snow. Or skiing. But didn’t I look like I knew what I was doing?

On January 14, 2008, I began my ministry at First Presbyterian Church. When I accepted the call to be your Associate Minister for Pastoral Care, I told the members of the APNC (Julie Caldwell, Bruce Grier, Jane Ives, Mike James, Mary Margaret Porter, Woods Potts and Hank Ralston) that I intended to be here for a long time. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant and couldn’t have known what that would look like. But I knew that I was excited to be a part of what God was doing in this place.

This month, I celebrate ten years as one of your pastors.

These past ten years have been rich, both professionally and personally. Many things have changed, and in reflecting upon some of those things, I wanted to share a few of them with you.

In the time since my ministry here began,

  • Charlotte has had 7 mayors.
  • The Panthers have had 2 head coaches and 3 starting quarterbacks.
  • Wachovia became Wells Fargo.
  • The Bobcats became the Hornets (again).
  • The landscape of uptown has changed, with numerous new buildings, restaurants, and a professional baseball stadium
  • I have worked with 10 pastors (Bill Wood, Katie Crowe, Jim Miller, Wes Barry, Kirk Hall, Roland Perdue, Pen Peery, Chuck Williamson, Erika Funk and Katelyn Cooke).
  • Almost the entire staff has turned over, with the exception of William Andrews, Willie Atkins, Donna Dendy, and Milton Kidd, all of whom have served this church far longer than I have.
  • My title has changed. Twice.
  • I have participated in eight congregational retreats, ten PW retreats, one handbell tour (to Scotland), one mission trip (to Haiti) and one youth ski trip.
  • I have officiated 27 weddings, 71 baptisms, and 97 funerals, and preached 86 sermons.
  • Three of the most significant experiences of my life have happened—my marriage to Bill, the birth of our daughter, Caroline, and my mother’s illness and death.

What I have also realized in reflecting upon this time is that, while much has changed, much has also remained the same. This church is as committed to being for Christ in the heart of Charlotte as it was ten years ago. The care, compassion and commitment to the gospel that drew me to this place are as vital and central to your mission as they ever have been. This remains a community grounded in faith, full of love, and committed to service, and it remains my privilege to be in ministry with you all.

Over the course of ten years, I have gotten to know you as individuals, families and a community. I have shared in your joys, grieved your losses, and journeyed with you through ordinary time. I have seen you at your best, and at times I’ve seen you at your worst. And you’ve seen the same of me. I have made mistakes and I’ve learned many things about myself, about ministry, and about this extraordinary community.  You have taught me more than I can ever express about love and faith, grief and loss, perseverance and forgiveness.

It is one of the richest gifts of my life to navigate the joys and challenges of these years with you all, and I can honestly say that I am stronger and better for the time I have shared with you. Through the highs and the lows of these past ten years, I have grown and developed a great deal as a person and as a pastor, and I have been challenged in ways I never could have imagined. Whether you’ve been here for all of it or some of it, you are a part of this community, a part of the history of this church, and a part of my life, and I am so grateful to be in this with you.

As someone who loves words, and for whom words are an integral part of my daily work, I struggle in this moment to find any words that feel adequate to express my gratitude to you for being the church you are in this place and at this time. Please know that I love you all and am deeply grateful for the countless ways you have modeled faith and servanthood to me. It is a joy to be on this journey with you, and I look forward to whatever is to come.

~ The Reverend Katherine Kerr

November 23, 2016

We’ve all heard people make fun of a Kum Ba Ya moment—times when somebody thinks a corny little song means we’re glossing over the harsh realities of the world and having a feel-good moment instead of taking real action.

I see that differently after listening, a couple of weeks ago, when Krista Tippett replayed an interview with a former civil rights activist on her NPR show On Being. Tippett, who will speak here at First Presbyterian Church in April as part of our Willard Lecture series, had interviewed Vincent Harding, a leading voice in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and beyond. Krista Tippett describes Mr. Harding, who died in 2014, like this:

He was wise about how the Civil Rights vision might speak to 21st century realities. Vincent Harding pursued this by way of patient yet passionate cross-cultural, cross-generational relationship. The Civil Rights Movement, he reminded us, was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; it aspired to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society.

At one point in the interview, Mr. Harding was talking about some of the songs that were a part of the Civil Rights Movement, songs like We Shall Not Be Moved and This Little Light of Mine. Then he talked about how the experience of singing that song in the African American church had become something people made fun of. He told a story that shed new light on the old song from Africa.

Whenever somebody jokes about Kum Ba Ya, my mind goes back to the Mississippi summer experience where the movement folks in Mississippi were inviting co-workers to come from all over the country, especially student types, to come and help in the process of voter registration, and Freedom School teaching, and taking great risks on behalf of the transformation of that state and of this nation. There were two weeks of orientation. The first week was the week in which (Michael) Schwerner and (Andrew) Goodman and their beloved brother Jimmy (Chaney) were there. And it was during the time that they had left the campus that they were first arrested, then released, and then murdered.

The word came back to us at the orientation that the three of them had not been heard from. Bob Moses, the magnificent leader of so much of the work in Mississippi, got up and told these hundreds of predominantly white young people that, if any of them felt that at this point they needed to return home or to their schools, we would not think less of them at all, but would be grateful to them for how far they had come.

But he said let’s take a couple of hours just for people to spend time talking on the phone with parents or whoever to try to make this decision and make it now. What I found as I moved around among the small groups that began to gather together to help each other was that, in group after group, people were singing Kum Ba Ya. “Come by here, my Lord, somebody’s missing, Lord, come by here. We all need you, Lord, come by here.”

I could never laugh at Kum Ba Ya moments after that because I saw then that almost no one went home from there. They were going to continue on the path that they had committed themselves to. And a great part of the reason why they were able to do that was because of the strength and the power and the commitment that had been gained through that experience of just singing together Kum Ba Ya.

There are so many places in our world and in our lives here in 2016 where we desperately need God’s presence. There are global issues—Syria, Isis. There are national issues—racism, economic inequity, political division. There are local issues—schools, affordable housing. There are personal issues—health, family.

For me, this is one of those times when we need to pray Kum Ba Ya—Come by here, Lord. Take a moment and think about some of those areas when we long for God to be present.

Kum bah ya, my Lord. Kum bah ya.

Someone’s crying, Lord. Kum bah ya.

Someone’s praying, Lord. Kum bah ya.

Someone’s singing, Lord. Kum bah ya.

O Lord, kum bah ya.

– Chuck Williamson

Read more about the history of this song as a plea for God’s intervention  from a generation of African Americans.

August 31, 2016
Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor

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.

– Katelyn Gordon

August 24, 2016
Nick Kepp cropped
Nick Kepp Chef, Eat@First

As a professional cook, my focus when I’m in the kitchen is constantly changing.

In the beginning, my focus was very narrow, almost as if my white jacket and the bandana I used to wear before I cut my hair so short had come with a pair of blinders. Those blinders directed my view to a very specific spot. Let’s call it the Don’t Screw Up and Get Yelled At spot. I suppose a lot of us focus on that spot early on, no matter what career we’re in.

Once cooks get that down, our focus begins to change as we think about creating new flavors and dishes, being different, having our own style.

Then, as we gain more control over that area, our focus broadens more. The focus may evolve into creating a great experience as a whole, understanding now that the bigger picture includes more than food on a plate. The bigger picture involves how a server interacts with guests, the timing of food coming to the table, the ambiance of the dining room, the music, the temperature and so much more.

After that is locked down, the focus broadens even more. Cooks who really get the power of food begin to focus on how food impacts their community, outside the walls of the kitchen, the dining room, the business.

This is where I am at now. I feel I skipped a few steps as a technician of food because cooking here at First Presbyterian Church challenged me very quickly to broaden my viewpoint and mindset beyond just the food on the plate.  Today I view food as a catalyst to provide fellowship, to help establish relationships with those in need, to support a community, and (most importantly) bring people together.

The impact I wish to make has more to do with people and their stories than it does items on a menu.  My focus as a cook is to use my gift to bring people together, to break bread together, and to impact each other’s lives through our interactions around the table.

I have been passionate about food for many years now.  It has taken this long for me to mature enough to realize that what is on the plate isn’t the most important thing about being a cook; what’s most important is how the food acts as a catalyst to have impact on the community.

– Nick Kepp