FIRST PRESS | an online newsletter | December 2017  
If ever there were a season on the Christian calendar totally at odds with our culture, it is surely the one in which we find ourselves this month.
Advent is associated with waiting, something we no longer do well at all. The age of instantaneous gratification is upon us - instant shopping and delivery via Amazon, instant, ready-to-prepare meals sent to the front door by HelloFresh, instant photos, email and answers on our smart phones, instant check deposits on those same cellular devices. We want it all, and we want it now.
The challenge, then, is to overcome the urge for instant Jesus...a kind of "fast-forwarding" to Christmas that does away with the laborious practice of waiting for the greatest gift God ever gave. Throw in the mundane, every-day challenges we all face, none of which take a holiday in December, and you have a recipe for stressful days ahead that leave little room for spiritual contemplation.
My counsel for you - and for myself - is to be deliberate in using the unique tools of the church to slow down and process the meaning of this season. Take advantage of our Advent devotional that provides a daily structure for waiting. Use wholeness and healing services to give room to the pain that accompanies your Christmas journey. Avail yourself of the beautiful music of Wednesday noonday concerts that help you anticipate the gladness of the coming Messiah. Learn about the meaning of Christmas with weekly Bible study participation. Worship each and every week to maintain balance throughout the very unbalanced days ahead. Pray daily that your heart can prepare a place for the godchild - that there can always be room in the inn known as your soul for Jesus.
For generations, our church has been a rock of faith for those who enter its doors. It continues to be a rock today because it offers something you can't find anywhere else. That something is hope...hope worth waiting for.
May you know the grace, peace and abundant hope of our wonderful God in new and meaningful ways this season.
John's signature
From the Associate Pastors

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  - Luke 1:41
The assignment was to choose a passage of scripture that said something about community and write a sermon on it. My best friend, Kathy, and I were scheduled to preach our senior sermons the first week of Advent and, not wanting to write more sermons than necessary, I chose an Advent text. When we got to class the next week, we'd chosen the same text which focused on Mary and Elizabeth's visit with one another while they awaited the arrival of their sons. What to do? We couldn't both preach on the same text in the same week. Should we toss a coin? No, we quickly decided that if community were the theme, what better way to show what "community" is than to deliver a sermon together. So, Mary and Elizabeth (Kathy and Ann) preached that first week of Advent, 1991.
Ever since then, Advent has been a time that speaks to me of waiting in community. Waiting for that sermon to come together...waiting for a baby to be born...waiting for the world to change...waiting for the Savior to come into our lives. It's all much so much better when there is someone to wait with you.
Earlier this fall, I attended the memorial service for a young family friend who died much too early. At the service, I felt a little overwhelmed when I looked up into the faces of people with whom Danny and I had awaited the birth of our children, and theirs. We'd waited in carpool lines, on soccer fields, at dance recitals, in long lines at the mall to see Santa and in the pediatrician's office. That afternoon, we found ourselves waiting again: to pay our respects, to comfort our friends, to hear a word of hope that someday the sense of profound loss and helplessness that we all felt would make way for something a little less painful. All we knew to do was to show up and wait together. That's what Mary and Elizabeth did for one another. They came together around a promise that God was doing something important within them that would change their lives... and the world in which they lived. Their waiting together helped them to affirm that promise in and for one another.
All of us are waiting for something this Advent season. May we be for one another the kind of community that is there for one another in celebration, and in sorrow, to remind us of the promise and presence of God...even in our waiting.

It's that time of year again. The leaves have turned. Halloween happened. Thanksgiving had its day... well kind of.  As a holiday, it must be difficult to find yourself so close to Christmas, with its spiritual significance and its commercial appeal. Let's be honest... we've all seen Christmas decorations and heard Christmas music well before we gathered to share any thanks on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving shouldn't be some kind of holiday warm up party in preparation for the "real" event to come because there's value in not overlooking this holiday.
So as Advent begins this week after Thanksgiving, I can't help but think about what we might overlook as we prepare for the familiar Christmas story about a young woman, a young man, and a little baby promised to them that will change everything. One of those stories can be found in Luke 1:5-25. Take a look below.
(5) In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. (6) Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. (7) But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
(8) Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, (9) he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. (10) Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. (11) Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. (12) When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. (13) But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. (14) You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, (15) for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. (16) He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. (17) With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (18) Zechariah said to the angel, "How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years." (19) The angel replied, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. (20) But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur."
(21) Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. (22) When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. (23) When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. (24) After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, (25) "This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people."
When we think of Advent and Christmas, we think about Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus as the young woman, the young man and the baby who will change everything. But in Luke 1:5-25, we encounter a different family of characters in Elizabeth, Zechariah and the baby who will grow into John the Baptist. Each family is important to the grand story.
The family we think of first are descendants of David, heirs to the Kingdom given a son "through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith." (Rom 1:5a) The family we might overlook are descendants of Aaron (think Levites), heirs to the Temple given a son who will cry out, "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." (Isa 40:3)
These two families are inseparable. We shouldn't overlook Elizabeth, Zechariah, and John the Baptist because they "make a way" for Mary, Joseph and Jesus as they begin their familiar story. Elizabeth "makes a way" for Mary by confirming the miracle of Mary's child as the Christ by offering a Mary a blessing at the beginning of her stay (Luke 1:39-56). John the Baptist, son of a Temple priest, will "make a way" for the ministry of Jesus Christ, son of God, by preparing Israel to receive the Word of God shared through Christ's life, death and resurrection.
We too shouldn't overlook our role within the greater narrative of God's love for the world. We have a role to play by "making a way" for others. As we begin this Advent journey, may we be like Elizabeth and Zechariah, righteous before the Lord only by grace, responding to God's call and preparing the way for God's Kingdom by comforting those in need. May we be like John the Baptist, proclaiming the good news found in the one who is God's Word for us and who reconciles us to God. Amen.
  Financial Summary

Summary of Stated Session Meeting
The Session of First Presbyterian Church held its stated monthly meeting on Monday, November 13, 2017, at 5:30 pm in Fellowship Hall.  Fourteen elders were present. 
Highlights from the meeting are as follows:

         1.  Finance: 
    • As of October 31, 2017, year to date revenue was $834,731.95, and expenses were $826,945.59.  The ministry team reported that 93% of the budgeted pledges have been collected.
    • The ministry team was pleased to report that as of Stewardship Sunday, November 12, 2017, 115 family units had pledged $652,352.00 toward FPC Stewardship 2018.
         2.  Property:
    • The ministry team gave an updated report on repairs to the Annex building.
    • The Chrismon Tree will be placed in the church sanctuary after Sunday, November 26, 2017.
    • There was a discussion about common sense ways to keep the church campus safe on Sundays. An outside analysis of the church's safety vulnerabilities will be conducted before the end of the year, the results to be shared with the Session. Additionally, ushers will be more observant to ensure the entire campus is operating safely.
         3.  Adult Christian Education:
    • Rev. Ann Kelly will offer a Bible study on Wednesday mornings at 10:30 am during Advent.
    • Rev. David Randolph will have a kickoff event December 3, 2017, for the young adult ministry at Goose Creek Club.
    • The VIPs will take a trip to Shelby Farms to see Christmas lights.
    • The ministry team reported that the first session for creating new Chrismons for the tree was well-attended.  The second session will be held Sunday, November 19, 2017.
         4.  Children's Christian Education:
    • The Children's Christmas Pageant will be held Wednesday, December 13, 2017, at 6:00 pm.
    • PYF Christmas Tree sales will be held November 25-December 3, 2017.
         5.  Personnel:
    • The ministry team reported on their completed FPC staff evaluations.
         6.  Membership and Hospitality:
    • The church-wide Christmas fellowship event, "Christmas Cocoa and Lights," will be held December 20, 2017, at 5:30pm.
         7.  Mission:
    • Nine church members plan to attend the Haiti medical mission trip January 13-20, 2018.
         8.  Worship:
    • Advent Wholeness and Healing Services will be held December 5, December 12, and December 19, 2017, at 5:30 pm.  Following each of those days on Wednesdays, the Advent Concert Series will be held in the sanctuary at noon with lunch being served at 12:30 pm in Fellowship Hall.
    • A Festival of Lessons and Carols will be held Sunday, December 10, 2017, at 5:00 pm.
    • One worship service will be held Sunday, December 24, 2017, at 11:00 am.
    • Christmas Eve services will be held at 4:00 pm and 5:30 pm.
  The Session recited The Lord's Prayer and adjourned at 6:30 pm.
Regular Worship Services
  8:30 am - Worship (communion weekly)
9:45 am - Sunday School
11:00 am - Worship (communion first Sunday of the month)
Nursery Weekly: 8:15 am - 12:15 pm
Lectionary Texts for December
December 3 - Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37
December 10 - Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8
December 17 - Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126 or Luke 1:46b-55; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
December 24 - Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)
December 31 - Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 148; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40
Sanctuary flower dates are available on...
December 17, 24 and 31 (seasonal greenery only).
If you would like to provide flowers in
honor or memory of a loved one, please contact
Margaret Fancher at 234-1359 or
email to

College News

It's hard to believe another UKirk semester has come and gone! It feels like this term has flown by, and I enjoyed experiencing fall in Oxford for the first time. Our campus ministry community may be a bit scattered for winter break, but we have a lot to be thankful for -- especially all of you who have supported us by providing meals, buying parking passes, and keeping our students in your prayers. Next up: in January we'll be heading to College Conference in Montreat, with some of our UKirk neighbors from State and the W! 
In the meantime, I'm excited to have collaborated with other campus ministers in our region to offer our students a daily devotional for Advent. The reflections are geared toward college students of course, but if you'd like to follow along, feel free to visit (Although, I should also put in a plug for the Let There Be Color devotional. Make sure you pick one up at church -- I can't recommend enough the work of my friends over at A Sanctified Art!)
For the most up-to-date news about UKirk Ole Miss, don't forget you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter by visiting our website ( 
Etcetera . . .
Young Adult Christmas Kickoff!
There's a party Sunday afternoon, December 3 from 4:30-6:30 pm at Goose Creek Club! FPC's young adults (20s, 30s, and early 40s) will gather for a fun and food-filled Christmas celebration during which our new model of young adult ministry will be introduced. Come ready to enjoy fellowship and connect with other young adults in our church who desire real Christian discipleship and community just like you. Since we will be off-site, childcare will not be provided for this event. Email David Randolph at to add yourself to our new young adult email list for more details and future activities.

Christmastime Fellowship Event Scheduled

Come out and join your church family as we gather to sing Christmas carols throughout the Oxford community on Double Decker buses! On Wednesday, December 20,  we will gather at the church for hot chocolate and more before we carol and look at Christmas decorations in our community. Buses will leave at 5:30 pm and be back at the church by 7:00 pm.
Authentic Parenting Conference
Montreat National Conference Center outside Asheville, North Carolina will soon host a weekend conference about authentic parenting. This conference is NOT about experts telling parents how bad their parenting is, because there's no such thing as a perfect parent. Instead, it will provide a space to have conversations with educators and others about helpful resources for the parenting journey. This retreat is open to parents with kids of any age and features specific workshops focused upon families with children in elementary, middle, and high schools. 
The conference begins  Friday  evening, February 9, and concludes Sunday, February 11 after morning worship. For more details about speakers and specific workshops, visit .

A group trip from FPC can be arranged with enough interest, but organizing one is time-sensitive! Reach out today to David Randolph at if you are interested.
Prayers Requested for Haiti Mission Team
Nine members of FPC will be making the annual trip to Haiti, January 13-20, 2018. The group will be checking on the water system and how it's being used in the community as well as facilitating mobile medical clinics in rural areas around Bongnotte. Please begin to pray for these members who are giving up their time and using their gifts to continue this relationship with our Haitian partners. Mission team members include first-time Haiti travelers: Julie Field, Elizabeth Field, and Cliff Smith, as well as returning travelers: Todd Abbott, Allyson Ashmore, Darren Ashmore, Ann Kelly, Greg Patton and Ernie Williams. 
From the Greening Committee:
The church needs fresh cedar, pine, and magnolia to decorate the Sanctuary each Friday morning during the Advent season. If you have access to greenery and can bring it to the church starting December 1, please let Margaret Fancher know. 

Also, the church needs volunteers to help green the sanctuary each Friday morning during Advent, beginning December 1. If you can help us, please call Margaret Fancher at 234-1359 or email her at

Thank you!
Church Now Receiving Poinsettia Orders
Poinsettias are available this year for $12 each. The deadline for ordering one or more in memory or in honor of friends or loved ones is Monday, December 4. Please print the order form here and return to the church office with your payment.
Haven House
Female residents are requesting devotional books for women. If you have some to donate, please bring to the church office.
An Important Sunday Parking Reminder
Bridge Properties, 1000 Tyler Avenue at 10th St., now tows all unauthorized vehicles on its parking lot, including Sundays. Please do not park on the Bridge Properties lot to attend worship or other church events!
Ride the Bus to Church!
Make plans now to park at the Blake and ride the bus to church each Sunday so that you won't have to worry about parking downtown. Time of departure from the Blake is weekly at 9:30 am. The bus returns immediately after 11:00 am worship. Thanks to all our volunteer drivers who make this service possible! 

Esther Ethridge Circle
Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm @ the home of Blair Hobbs - 913 South 11th Street, Oxford, MS 38655. There will be a gift exchange!

Carroll Barr Circle
Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 6:00 pm @ the home of Lynn Sloan - 117 Cedar Hill Drive, Oxford, MS 38655
Lula Gregory Circle
Tuesday, December 19, 2017 at 9:45 am @ the home of Nancy Warner - 1139 Wellsgate, Oxford, MS 38655
Alma Shaw Circle
Tuesday, December 19, 2017 at 9:45 am @ the home of Emily Newcomb - 1108 S. Lamar Blvd., Oxford, MS 38655

PW Council 2017-2018
Moderator - Sharron Alexander -
Vice - Moderator - Mary Haskell -
Secretary - Julie Field -  
Treasurer - Margaret Fancher -
Historian - Karen Stockton -
Ex-Moderator - Becki Felts -
News from the Pews
Join the VIPs for Starry Nights
At the request of many VIPs, FPC's 55 and older members will enjoy "Starry Nights" at Shelby Farms in Memphis on Thursday, December 7. The bus will leave the church at 4:00 pm and the group will enjoy an early dinner before going to Shelby Farms. The only cost is that of your meal. Please make reservations by calling the church office. Space is limited to 25 including the bus driver, so call soon.

VIPs Plan for the New Year
Join the VIPs for a soup and salad lunch on Tuesday, January 9 (note that this is the second Tuesday rather than the first!) and share your ideas for the upcoming year! Donations are accepted for lunch. Please make reservations by Monday, January 8 at noon.

We Extend Sympathy to :
Rev. John Semmes, whose mother, Joan Lovell Semmes Bullard, died November 18, 2017 in Memphis, TN.

Memorials and Honoraria

  ~ With gratitude for contributions to First Presbyterian Church~
In memory of:

Joan Bullard
Dr. & Mrs. Robert Cooper
Shirley Crawford
Dr. & Mrs. Ed Field
Kay Meadors
FPC Staff
Eddie Crawford

Dr. & Mrs. Ed Field

Jean Crawford
Di Ann & Harvey Lewis
Sally Cribbs
Dr. & Mrs. Don Newcomb

John Rikard

Dr. & Mrs. Robert Cooper

Sherrie Rikard

Dr. & Mrs. Robert Cooper

Upcoming Birthdays and Anniversaries

December Birthdays:

1     Baxter Elliott, Brett Estes, Kathy Griffith, Brent Hardin, Jimmy Heidel
2     Mary Glenn Carrington, Margaret Fancher, Sandy Grisham, Tyler Lovelace, Mary Kay McDowell, Kay Meadors
3     Ashley Abraham, David Cook
4     Monte Gibbs, Ernie Lowe
5     Mary Clark Hayward, Robert Williams
6     Charles Cascio, Dean Chow, Ty Gillespie
7     Ralph Kersey, Tom Meredith
8     Sandra Webb
9     Rosie Cooper, Sharon Lovelace
10   George Abdo, Syd Shaw
11   June Goza, Miles Luster, Ben Pettis, Damein Wash
12   Emma Flautt, Merrel Johnson, Jenny McPhail
13   Guff Abbott
15   Kristina Carlson, Thomas Embry, Vaughn Grisham, Mary Miers, Laura Whitten
16   Kate Rosson
17   Debbie Boutwell, Logan McPhail, Wes Snellgrove
18   Mary Mauldin
19   Gracyn Ashmore, Derek Baker, Joyce Gibbs
20   Matthew Chow, Hale Freeland, Grace Gillespie, Mary Sims
21   Julie Field
22   Maggie Abernathy, John Edge, Robert Hall, Mike Lovelace, Davis McCool, Randall Mize
23   Jack Hill, Robert Lake, Liza Orrell, Antje Webb
24   Lee Mize
25   Lynton Dilley, Marjorie Selvidge
26   Luke Gibbs
27   Cliff Smith
28   Allison Crawford, Lainey Schuesselin
29   Kristen Phillips
31   Ashley Callery

December Anniversaries:

4     LuAnn & Tommy Smith
5     Susan & Todd Abbott
6     Machelle & Ernie Williams
8     Maribel & Doug Sullivan-Gonzalez, Suzan & Jim DeLoach
9     Cary Lee & Justin Cluck
12   Jenny & Sparky Luster
15   JoAnne Oliver & Gary Wright
18   Melissa & Matthew Graves
21   Jody & Pick Scruggs, Ann & Bill Dickins
22   Ann & Richard DeVoe, Patsy & Guff Abbott, Susan & David Shaw
24   Marianna & Monte Ochs
28   Mary Donnelly & Sam Haskell
29   Joyce & Monte Gibbs
30   Lele & Guy Gillespie
   First Dates
The Property Ministry Team will meet Monday, December 4 at 5:30 pm in Room 101.
The Diaconate will meet Tuesday, December 5 at 5:30 pm in the Session room.
Piecemakers meet each Thursday at 9:00 am and Saturday, December 9 at 10:30 am in Fellowship Hall.
The Finance Ministry Team will meet Monday, December 11 at 4:30 pm in Room 101.
The Session will meet Monday, December 11 at 5:30 pm in Fellowship Hall.
FPC Book Club will meet Tuesday, December 12 at 1:30 in Room 101 to choose books or 2018.

Reminder: The January deadline for submissions to First Press is
Friday, December 15. 

The Session
CLASS of 2017
Tom Meredith, David Shaw, Griffin Tanner,
Christina Torbert, Mary Glynn Wright (Clerk)
  CLASS of 2018
Darren Ashmore, Dorothy Lou Aldridge,
Jane Lyle Byars, Paul Chiniche, Kathryn Hill
  CLASS of 2019
Trey Cobb, Jon Crawford, Margie McLeod, 
Karen Stockton, Dana Williams
The Diaconate
CLASS of 2017
Kevin Christian, Catie Hester,
Laura Montgomery, Diane Scruggs, Cliff Smith
CLASS of 2018
Whitney Bolen, Julie Chadwick, James Day,
Teresa Flautt, JoAnne Oliver
CLASS of 2019
Lee Borden, Kristina Carlson, Dean Chow,
Lele Gillespie, Pick Scruggs

The Congregation

John M. Semmes
Ann H. Kelly
Interim Associate Pastor
J. David Randolph
Associate Pastor 22
Allison C. Wehrung
UKirk Pastor

Joseph W. Garrison
Director of Music/Organist
Terrell R. Hall

Director of Elementary Music

Joseph H. Kelly
Director of Youth
Frances Saralvarez
Office Administrator
Jessica M. McGee
Director of Communications
Wade Simpson
Property Manager

LaShaunda L. Sisk
Nursery Director