FIRST PRESS | an online newsletter | January 2018  
Happy New Year!
Whenever we move into another year, most of us take a moment to think about what happened to us in the previous twelve months, both good and bad. And then, we think about what might be...and become filled with expectancy that this year will be a good one both personally and as a nation and world.
In this exercise, attitude is everything. Cynics will find little reason to believe much good will happen to them simply because things remain the same - yesterday, today and tomorrow, regardless of what the calendar may say. Optimists see nothing but possibility and can't wait for each new day to reveal its treasure trove of abundant blessings, realistic or not.
As followers of the Message, we fall somewhere in between those two emotional polar opposites. For Christians, yesterday is there to remind us what we've learned, but not a place in which to dwell. Today is the only thing about which we should concern ourselves. It's the only place in which we can reside and live. Tomorrow, Jesus makes clear, is not a time about which to worry. It will take care of itself.
If "tomorrow" has any value for us, it is that it serves as a repository for hope. Hope takes us places we want to go. It acts as the energy source for our souls, urging us to a desired outcome, guiding us through peril, leading us toward the cross where we find the one truth we need to go on. Hope through Jesus Christ fuels our quest for meaning and gives sustenance to our need for joy.
Our hopes, however, are not always aligned with those God has for us. So prayer becomes essential to reconcile the work of our dreams with the plans of our Lord, and to accept the outcome when those two things are disparate. Prayer is not a wish list from us to God; it is an ongoing, intimate conversation about the hopes of our lives laid bare at the foot of the cross. It is a holy discipline used to put our ears closer to God's mouth in order to hear of his love and longing for us, each one of us created in his image.
So for 2018, look forward with anticipation, but don't get too far ahead of yourself anymore than you lag behind, living in the past. Live for the now, hope for the future, pray without ceasing, and remember always that God is in control.
With fervent prayers for you and your life, 
John's signature
From the Associate Pastors

One of the perks of being a pastor is hearing faith statements of confirmands and church officers, or in informal conversations with church members. At the December Session meeting, the eleven newly elected deacons and elders made their statements of faith as part of an examination required by our Book of Order. As always, I was inspired by the variety of ways these new officers expressed their faith. The very first one moved me to tears just by saying how different her statement of faith would have been a few years ago. Life had caused her to wrestle with some of those things she'd always claimed to believe, and her faith statement was a testament to how her faith had grown. It was the kind of statement that made me want to shout, "Amen."
With each subsequent statement, I found myself thinking about how the beliefs being expressed were lived out in the lives of these new officers in the little things they do for others, in the way they care for and share their love for the earth's beauty, in their involvement in the church. To say that I'm excited about the future of this church with these folks on board as church officers is an understatement. They inspired me and made me want to sit down and reflect again about what I believe and how my beliefs are lived out in my life. It seems like a good way to start a new year. Instead of starting another diet or committing to more exercise, I invite you to join me in reflecting on what you believe and how you live out those beliefs in your encounters with others, your involvement in the church or your service to the community. How do your beliefs about the God we know in Jesus Christ impact your prayer life, your work, your family and your friendships? How do they influence the way you respond to success and failure, sorrow and celebration?
Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" It's a question for all of us seeking to live out our faith in these days.

The holidays are filled with traditions. Some are older and almost second nature, like the lighting of the candles each Sunday of Advent. Others are new, like Double Decker caroling, and come to be expected again as a new tradition is born. Either way, traditions are powerful. They hold weight in our lives as they provide consistency from one year to the next. In my family, our chex-mix is a family tradition. My grandfather used to make it. My father and uncle make it still. With each batch, I think about the members of my family and how one person started a tradition that spread across three generations. Maybe one day, it will carry into a fourth.
As the new year begins, it's inevitable to have a conversation about another tradition, the making of a New Year's resolution. If you have the willpower and discipline to stick to one, more power to you. The few I've tried have never stuck. Others have fared better than I in this endeavor, but for me, I've never had a New Year's resolution important enough to remain passionate about all year long. The resolutions I've made that stuck didn't have anything to do with the coming of a new year, but with a goal I've set, like when I gave up soft drinks for almost three years to seriously run track in high school. Other resolutions were made as commitments during important events in my life, like the promises I made to Katherine when we got married five years ago or the ordination vows I took this past August.
I write all this to say that maybe the time of year isn't the most important part about making a resolution. We can make resolutions any time during the year because every day is a new beginning. We don't have to wait until January 1 st to receive our one and only fresh start. What matters with our resolutions is the commitment we share in honoring them. Sometimes that means making sacrifices to keep our word and discipline to carry it out. Sometimes that means making sure we don't say something we really don't mean or know we cannot do.
So, if you don't have a new year's resolution, that's okay because you don't need one to successfully ring in the new year. You can make a resolution at any time during the year and I hope you will if you are moved to. If you have made a New Year's resolution, I hope you keep it (and wish you all success in doing so). Maybe next year, we will all have stronger traditions in honoring our word to each other and, most of all, to ourselves.

  Financial Summary

Summary of Stated Session Meeting

The Session of First Presbyterian Church held its stated monthly meeting on Monday, December 11, 2017, at 5:30 pm in Fellowship Hall. Twelve Elders were present. 

Order of the Day:
           Officer Examinations:  New officers for Elder and Deacon for the Class of 2020 read their faith  statements to the Session and offered their observations of important elements of being an  officer.  After this examination, the following motion was made and passed unanimously:
  • o   Movant, Elder Christina Torbert - Motion to sustain officer examinations and that the elected Elders and Deacons be installed and/or ordained on Sunday, January 7, 2018.
  Ministry Team Check-In:
         1.  Diaconate:
  • Deacon Dianne Scruggs gave an overview of the Diaconate's 2017 activities.
         2.  Finance:
  • As of November 30, 2017, year to date revenue was $926,561.96, and expenses were $922,468.79. 
  • At present, the ministry team reported that 156 family units had pledged $845,000.00 toward the operating budget of 2018.       
        3.  Membership and Hospitality:
  • "Christmas Cocoa and Lights" will be held December 20, 2017, 5:30 pm to 7:00pm.
  • The ministry team will host the first Sunday monthly lunch January 7, 2018.
         4.  Mission:
  • After discussion, the following motion was made, seconded, and passed unanimously:
    • o   Movant, Moderator - Motion to donate $5000.00 from the Securing Our Future agency fund to go toward ICM's challenge gift.
    • The Haiti mission trip will be held January 13-20, 2018.  The mission group will also meet with Dr. Gladys Memnon and their mission co-worker during the week to discuss the future possibility of participating in an agricultural mission.  The members of the mission team are Todd Abbott, Darren Ashmore, Allyson Ashmore, Ann Kelly, Cliff Smith, Julie Field, Elizabeth Field, Greg Patton and Ernie Williams.
         5.  Worship:
  • The Joy Gift Offering will be included in the church bulletin Sunday, December 17, 2017.
  • Appreciation was expressed to the church choir, the musicians, the readers, and Joe Garrison for the superb performance in A Festival of Readings and Carols.
         6.  Children's Christian Education:
  • The ministry team reported that the children's ministry program is going well.
  • Gifts were distributed to the teachers and nursery director.
         7.  Property:
  • The ministry team reported that a new cabinet with a sink will be installed in the youth room of the Annex building.
Old Business:

Elder Darren Ashmore reported that Captain Jeff Kellum, an officer with the University Police  Department, has agreed to inspect the church campus regarding safety issues. Captain Kellum  has offered to do the inspection as a community service before the end of January 2018. He will  meet with three elders during the walk-through and make suggestions to ensure safety on our
church campus.
The Lord's Prayer:  The Session recited The Lord's Prayer and adjourned at 7:02pm.
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 January
January 7 - Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11
January 14 - 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
January 21 - Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
January 28 - Deuteronomy  18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
Sanctuary flower dates are available on...
January 7, 14, 21 and 28.  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 Please refrain 
from  utilizing lilies  in chancel floral arrangements.
New Officers to be Installed January 7
Recently elected members who will serve as Deacons and Elders for the Class of 2020 (and one unexpired Deacon term for the Class of 2019) will be installed and/or ordained during 11:00 am worship Sunday, January 7. All previously ordained Elders are invited to participate in the laying on of hands during that portion of the service.
PYF News
We'd like to give a big thank you to Greg Patton for hosting our annual PYF Christmas party. We had a wonderful evening with delicious food and tons of holiday fun. We have a lot that will be happening in the life of PYF in the coming weeks. First, a parent meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 7 at 12:45 in the young adult room on the second floor of Fellowship Hall. A church-wide lunch that day will follow 11:00 am worship, so we invite all youth and parents to attend both the luncheon and the meeting immediately following. At the meeting, you will receive your calendar for the spring semester as well as learn about all our upcoming spring events.

PYC Winter Retreat
Coming up soon are our annual PYC retreats. There are two retreats scheduled; one for Jr. High and another for Sr. High. Both are an annual events put on by St. Andrew Presbytery during which youth from all over North Mississippi get together for a weekend of worship and fellowship. Three of our own youth presently serve on our Presbyterian Youth Council and have given up much of their time to help plan this retreat for our youth. Youth who wish to attend will receive registration packets.
College News

We wrapped up a great semester last month, with a Christmas party the last week of class and a festive movie night after finals. Many thanks to those of you who brought us delicious cookies. We certainly put them to good use! Throughout Advent, we also reflected on some "Words for Waiting," our joint campus ministry devotional with contributions from campus ministers and students in Alabama, Tennessee, and of course Mississippi. If you're curious, even though the season is over, you can find the whole devotional online at
As this newsletter is published, we're in the mountains of North Carolina, exploring the theme of "Home" at the Montreat College Conference. Our group includes 22 people altogether, college students and campus ministers from Ole Miss, State, and the W (plus a few friends!). I'm sure we'll return with plenty to think about as we head into a new semester.
Although our regular UKirk meetings don't start up for another few weeks, we're already busy planning. Those plans, as always, involve plenty of food! I hope you'll consider supporting UKirk Ole Miss by provided a meal for us some Tuesday night. You can find our Spring schedule here. For more in depth monthly updates, feel free to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter.
Dear First Pres Oxford,

Greetings from DC! I hope all is well in Oxford. I have appreciated your cards, prayers, and financial support as I engage in this year of service in our nation's capital. I have learned so much about the church, community, privilege, and service while living in this city over the past few months. YAV life is difficult, but it is so comforting to know that people back in Mississippi are praying for me. I hope you continue to keep in touch with me by writing, reading my blog, or visiting. I will find a time to visit Oxford when my service year comes to a close in August.

Sam Russell

PS-At Church of the Pilgrims (my work placement) there is a pew in honor of First Pres Oxford's financial contributions to the building of this church in 1929!
Etcetera . . .
A Greening Thank You
On behalf of the Worship Ministry Team, thanks go to Betsy Holcomb, Kay Meadors, Nila Williams, Kay Tyler, Gabrielle Saralvarez and Fannie Elliott for coming week after week to decorate and keep the sanctuary fresh during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Kay Meadors and Julie Chadwick provided pine and cedar each week, with magnolia from Fannie Elliott and Ashley Windham and holly given by Kay Tyler, Lindsey Estes and Mary Sims rounding out our supply of natural greenery. A huge thank you also goes to Wade Simpson for help and general kindness during the season. You all are greatly appreciated.

Margaret Fancher, Chair, Greening Committee
First Sunday Lunches Begin Sunday, January 7
Beginning on Sunday, January 7 the congregation is invited to gather for lunch in Fellowship Hall following the 11:00 am service. This does not replace the Summer Sunday Lunches program in June, but provides opportunities for that kind of fellowship throughout the year. The meals will be catered by a local restaurant and donations will be accepted to help cover the cost of the meal. The Membership and Hospitality Ministry Team will be arranging for meals and seeking volunteers to help with cleanup or setup each month. Please join your church family for fun and good food at our First Sunday lunch on January 7. 
Oh What Fun it is to Ride...on a Double Decker Bus!
Thank you to everyone who participated in "Cocoa and Carols" last month. We have some kinks to work out, but the general consensus was, "Let's make this an annual tradition!" All ages enjoyed riding through town on the double decker buses, singing to some of our members and seeing the Christmas lights around town. Even with the threat of rain, there were 80+ people who enjoyed cocoa and singing carols. Thank you to the Membership and Hospitality Ministry Team for making it happen, and to all of our carolers for making it so much fun!
What is a Shepherd Group?
New leadership will be assigned to some of our Shepherd Groups this month. The primary roles of the shepherd and the group itself are communication and care. Shepherds will not fill your inbox with numerous messages each week, but they will communicate important news such as the cancellation of a church event due to inclement weather. The shepherds are among the first to be contacted when there is a need within the congregation, or when a family needs food following an illness or death, or a homebound member needs to be checked on more often than the pastors are able to visit.
Shepherd groups are not meant to be groups that gather regularly for social events or Bible study, though some do. Shepherd groups may choose to sit together at a church event or go to lunch after church, but the primary reason these groups were formed was to help facilitate the care of our congregation, including communication about events in the life of the church. Shepherds will be contacting you early in 2018 to let you know of changes in leadership and also to help them get to know you a little better. Please let them know if you have particular needs the church might be able to meet.
Prayers Requested for Haiti Mission Team
Nine members of First Presbyterian make up the 2018 Haiti Mission Team. They will be in Haiti from Saturday, January 13 through Saturday, January 20. During the week, they will facilitate mobile medical clinics in the rural areas around Leogane, check on the progress of the water system and do some routine maintenance and meet with Presbyterian mission co-worker Cindy Corel to learn more about her agricultural ministry in Haiti. Please keep the team members, as well as our Haitian partners, in your prayers during the month ahead. Members of this year's team include: Todd Abbott, Allyson Ashmore, Darren Ashmore, Elizabeth Field, Julie Field, Ann Kelly, Greg Patton, Cliff Smith and Ernie Williams. These folks look forward to telling you all about the trip upon their return, and hope that some of you will consider making the trip in 2019!

There is Still Time to Provide Supplies for the Haiti Trip

The Haiti mission team is collecting crayons, coloring books, reading glasses and sunglasses for its 2018 trip to Bongnotte. There is no need to buy great quantities because we have limited packing space. However, we'd love for you to be part of this mission by helping us fill a suitcase with these items. Just bring them by the church before Wednesday, January 10. Thank you!
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.
Haven House
Female residents are requesting devotional books for women. If you have some to donate, please bring to the church office.
A Continuing 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!
Transportation to Church Resumes Sunday, January 7
Bus transportation to church for the 11:00 worship service will resume on Sunday, January 7. Anyone who would like to park at The Blake and ride the bus are welcome. Pickup is at 10:30 sharp. Don't miss the bus!

Esther Ethridge Circle
Sunday, January 7 at 4:30 pm @ the home of Cindy Semmes - 402 Woodland Hills Drive, Oxford, MS 38655

Carroll Barr Circle
Tuesday, January 16 at 6:00 pm @ the home of Marianna Ochs - 917 Bonnie Blue Drive, Oxford, MS 38655
Alma Shaw Circle
Tuesday, January 16 at 9:45 am @ the home of Grace Feller - 613 Royal Oaks Drive, 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
VIPs Gather in January
The VIPs, aka Very Important Presbyterians, will gather in Fellowship Hall on Tuesday, January 9 for a soup and salad lunch, fellowship and discussion of spring events for those who are 55 and over. Donations are appreciated to help cover the cost of lunch and reservations are helpful to those preparing it. Call the church office to make reservations. Come join us for warm fellowship and good food. It's a great way to beat the winter cold!

We Extend Sympathy to :
Mary Glynn Wright, whose mother, Bobbye Henderson, died December 24, 2017 in Madison, MS.

We Extend Congratulations to :

Allyson Ashmore, who was recently awarded the Certificate in Spiritual Formation from Columbia Theological Seminary.

Memorials and Honoraria

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

Joan Semmes Bullard

Dorothy Lou & Mack Aldridge
Debbie Dykes & Becky Evershed
Kathy & Ben Griffith
Tina & Tony Montgomery
Emily & Don Newcomb
Diane & Dick Scruggs 
Mary Sims
Louise & Nolan Waller
Nila & Max Williams

Susan E. Burkett

Homer H. Burkett

Dr. David Cook

Samuel Deleeuw
Greenleaf Nursery Company
Judi Johnson
Karen & Bruce Ringleb
Vivian & David Roach
Kay & Larry Tyler

Sally Cribbs
Dorothy Lou & Mack Aldridge

Rev. and Mrs. S.L. McCullouch

The Elmer Stout Family

Nancy Roberson Wilkie

Margaret Newton

In honor of:

Dr. & Mrs. Rosie Cooper

Mari Askew & Patrick Foley

Dr. Eric Dahl

Dr. & Mrs. Robert Cooper

Carmille Hovious

Dr. & Mrs. Patty Robbins
The Elmer Stout Family

Dr. Greg Patton

Phyllis & Cleve Johnson

Dr. Steve Rice

Dr. & Mrs. Robert Cooper

Dr. & Mrs. Max Williams

Dian & James Leeper

Dr. Ernie Williams

Carah Walker

Upcoming Birthdays and Anniversaries

January Birthdays:

1     Frances Crawford, Edna Wright
2     Kathryn Hill, Steve Mauldin, Jody Scruggs, Kerry Wigginton
5     Barbara Davis
6     Nancy Giles
7     Lindsey Baquie, Maribel Sullivan-Gonzalez, Lynn Treas
8     Thelma Curry
9     Ney Williams
10   Lu Ann Smith
11   Marleah Hobbs
12   Pat Bittmann, Don Felts
13   Melba Bowlin, Samuel Cribbs, Suzan DeLoach
15   Caroline McIntosh
17   Toni Joyer, Ann O'Dell, Sam Shannon
18   Sally Hines, Catherine Servati
19   Becky Murphey
20   Nolan Franklin, Suzy Phillips
21   Jon Crawford, Shelby Goza, Ed Holcomb, Avery Laughlin
24   Emory Barrios, David Coon, Alli Hayward, Cydni Kersey, Pick Scruggs
25   Jay Chain, Pat Lowe
26   Patsy Eads, Jeffrey Hollis
27   Monroe Alexander, Charles McClatchy, Henry Tanner
28   Amy Wilkes
30   Rob Howell
31   Pratt Wilkinson

January Anniversaries:

14   Linda and John Scarbrough
22   Sarah and Cliff Smith
24   Yung and Dean Chow
30   Allyson and Darren Ashmore

   First Dates
The Property Ministry Team  will meet Tuesday, January 2 at 5:30 pm in Room 101.
The Diaconate  will meet Tuesday, January 2 at 5:30 pm in the Session room.
Piecemakers  meet each Thursday at 9:00 am in Fellowship Hall.
The Finance Ministry Team  will meet Monday, January 8 at 4:30 pm in Room 101.
The Session  will meet Monday, January 8 at 5:30 pm in Fellowship Hall.
FPC Book Club will meet Tuesday, January 9 at 1:30 in Room 101. The book will be Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

Reminder: The February deadline for submissions to First Press is
Monday, January 15. 

The Session
  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

CLASS of 2020
Ashley Callery, Ann DeVoe, Ben Griffith,
Matthew Hall, Monte Wood

The Diaconate
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

CLASS of 2020
Todd Abbott, Rosie Cooper, Ed Croom,
Lisa Hickman-Tollison, John Schuesselin, Amy Wilkes

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