FIRST PRESS    |  an online newsletter  |   June, 2017  
In recent weeks, I've been recommending J.D. Vance's New York Times bestseller, "Hillbilly Elegy," a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis-that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been documented with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been shared as personally as Vance has done in this book. His is an autobiographical account of what social, regional and class decline feels like when you're born with it hung around your neck.
At the center of Vance's world is his grandmother, Mamaw, a tough Appalachian woman with traditional religious and family values, indignant with anyone who dares to cross her or her kinfolk. It is a riveting read filled, all at once, with both pathos and humor.
In one critical passage, Vance asks is grandmother, "Mamaw, does God love us?" whereupon she begins to cry. Vance writes:
"The question wounded Mamaw because the Christian faith stood at the center of our lives, especially hers. We never went to church, except on rare occasions....Nevertheless, Mamaw's was a deeply personal (albeit quirky) faith. She couldn't say 'organized religion' without contempt. She saw churches as breeding grounds for perverts and moneychangers. And she hated what she called 'the loud and proud' - people who wore their faith on their sleeve, always ready to let you know how pious they were. Still, she sent much of her spare income to churches in Jackson, Kentucky, especially those controlled by Reverend Donald Ison, an older man who bore a striking resemblance to the priest from The Exorcist."
"By Mamaw's reckoning, God never left our side. He celebrated with us when times were good and comforted us when they weren't. During one of our many trips to Kentucky, Mamaw was trying to merge onto the highway after a brief stop for gas. She didn't pay attention to the signs, so we found ourselves headed the wrong way on a one-way exit ramp with angry motorists swerving out of our way. I was screaming in terror, but after a U-turn on a three-lane interstate, the only thing Mamaw said about the incident was, 'We're fine, dammit. Don't you know Jesus rides in the car with me?'"
"The theology she taught was unsophisticated, but it provided a message I needed to hear. To coast through life was to squander my God-given talent, so I had to work hard. I had to take care of my family because Christian duty demanded it. I should never despair, for God had a plan."
"Mamaw often told a parable: A young man was sitting at home when a terrible rainstorm began. Within hours, the man's house began to flood, and someone came to his door offering a ride to higher ground. The man declined, saying, 'God will take care of me.' A few hours later, as the waters engulfed the first floor of the man's home, a boat passed by, and the captain offered to take the man to safety. The man declined, saying, 'God will take care of me.' A few hours after that, as the man waited on his roof - his entire home flooded - a helicopter flew by, and the pilot offered transportation to dry land. Again the man declined, telling the pilot that God would care for him. Soon thereafter, the waters overcame the man, and as he stood before God in heaven, he protested his fate: 'You promised that you'd help me so long as I was faithful.' God replied, "I sent you a car, a boat, and a helicopter. Your death is your own fault.' God helps those who help themselves. This was the wisdom of the book of Mamaw."
To the surprise of many, "God helps those who help themselves" is not found in the Bible. It is, rather, a statement largely attributable to Benjamin Franklin. While "Hillbilly Elegy" is a fine book, and while Mamaw's conviction that God never leaves our side is spot on, her theology runs aground with her claim that we only know God's help in our lives if we first help ourselves.
Quite to the contrary, God helps those who cannot help themselves. That truth  is in the Bible, from start to finish.
And for it, we should all be thankful. 

John's signature
From the Associate Pastor

Acts 6 tells the story of how the leadership of the church came to be divided between those who would take care of worship and preaching and others who would take care of the benevolent work of the church such as caring for widows and orphans. In the Presbyterian church, we call those groups the Session and the Diaconate. Earlier this year, our deacons, in an effort to better care for and communicate with members of FPC, established Shepherd Groups. Each Shepherd Group was assigned one deacon and one elder to be shepherds for about 15 church families. Because this is new  to all of us, there has been some confusion about the purpose of these groups and I've heard a few recurring comments and questions:
When notified of a gathering of the Shepherd Group, a few of you have responded that you "cannot participate."   
Shepherd Groups are not primarily a social group within the church. Your shepherds may have planned a gathering so that your group members could get to know each other better, but social gatherings are not the focus of a Shepherd Group. You can attend or not, but you will remain on the list for that group.
"My Shepherd Group hasn't done anything yet."
Shepherds were given the option of getting their group together and some have not done so at this time. They may suggest that you sit together at a summer luncheon in June or not gather at all. Again, this is not primarily a social or fellowship group.
"When will I hear from my shepherd?"
The intent of the Shepherd Group is twofold: caring and communication. If there is a death or illness among the Shepherd Group, you may be invited to help make a meal for the family. If the church picnic or other church event is cancelled due to bad weather, or if there is a specific prayer need within the Shepherd Group, you will receive an email or phone call. Your shepherds will contact you as needed - and some may do that more regularly than others. Please don't ignore their emails and phone calls.
Will you take my name off the list?
All members of FPC are included in one of the 15 Shepherd Groups. Your level of participation is your choice, but this is a way for our deacons and elders to do their work more efficiently. It also gives you someone to call if you have a need and cannot reach one of the pastors.
In summary, you will continue to get emails from your Shepherd Group leaders in the months to come. Most of them will include information that you, as members of FPC, need to know about church life. The leaders of your Shepherd Group will be the people John or I call when we know of prayer, food or other needs within the congregation, and when we need a quick way to communicate information to the whole church. Please be mindful of these efforts to communicate and care for you, the members of FPC.

Blessings and peace,
PCUSA's Pentecost Offering is June 4
On Sunday, June 4, when we gather to celebrate the birth of the church at Pentecost, we will receive the Pentecost Offering. Gifts to this offering
support our congregation's efforts for faith formation in the first third of life, from childhood through young adulthood. Our congregation will retain 40 percent to support local ministries for youth and young adults, or to help one of our UKirk students serving as a PCUSA Young Adult Volunteer. The remaining 60 percent will support national initiatives of our denomination focused on helping children, youth and young adults develop their faith through supportive communities, caring mentors and faith-related nurture and service. The Pentecost Offering makes a difference in the life of the whole church, and for congregations like ours.
Financial Summary

Summary of Stated Session Meeting
The Session of First Presbyterian Church held its stated monthly meeting on Monday, May 8, 2017, at 5:30 pm in Fellowship Hall.  Thirteen Elders were present.  
Ministry Team Check-In:
1.  Finance:
  • As of April 30, 2017, year to date revenue was $349,478.42, and expenses were $308,748.66. 

2.  Property:
  • Nest security cameras will be installed in several locations on the church property.

3.  Children's Christian Education:
  • Five new televisions have been ordered for the children's Sunday school rooms and DVDs will be coming later.
  • Plans for VBS during the last week of June are going well.  The curriculum has been chosen, and online registration is available for attendees and volunteers. 

4.  Adult Christian Education:
  • A book club event is planned for Wednesday, June 21, 2017.
  • Fall Wednesday night programming is scheduled for September 20 - October 25, 2017.  The five weeks of programming will consists of the following two tracks:  Bible study and  family oriented sessions on teaching and maintaining faith at home.

5.  Membership and Hospitality:
  • The ministry team reported that the golf tournament was a success and that Cydni Kersey was the champion.

6.  Personnel:
  • The ministry team continues to search for possibilities for transportation of church members to Sunday worship services.

The next Stated Session meeting will be held Monday, June 19 2017, in Fellowship Hall at  5:30pm.

Summer Worship Schedule Reminder

10:00 am -Worship with communion
No Adult Sunday School
Nursery Weekly: 9:45 am - 11:15 am

Children's Worship for PreK-rising 2nd graders during June at 10:15 am

  Lectionary Texts for June

June 4 - Acts 2:1-21 or Numbers 11:24-30; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21; John 20:19-23 or John 7:37-39
June 11 - Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
June 18  - Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7); Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)
June 25  - Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11: Matthew 10:24-39
Sanctuary flower dates are available...
July 2, 30, August 6, 13, 20 and 27.
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

Summer at Camp Hopewell
Summer is here! That means staff training is well underway at Camp Hopewell  as they prepare for Day Camp, June 5-9 and the beginning of Resident Camp on June 11. Spending a summer at camp sounds like a lot of fun, but it's also hard work for college students to be on the job 22 hours a day, 6 days a week. One way you can make their day brighter is to send them a note of thanks for all that hard work. If you have a child who is planning to go to camp, let them send a note or a picture of what they are looking forward to or loved the most there. The staff loves mail and it's nice to know they have people outside camp who are thinking of them, praying for them and appreciating what they do. The camp address is Camp Hopewell, 24 County Road 231, Oxford, MS 38655. You can send a note to the whole staff or write individual notes to camp staffers, many of whom are members of our church or of UKirk Ole Miss. At the very least, pray for the staff and campers as their summer adventures continue.
The 2017 Camp Hopewell staff includes:
Anna Abel, Oxford, MS                              Daniel Morgan, Memphis, TN
Brynn Ashmore, Oxford, MS                      Chineice Parnell, Crystal Springs, MS
Gracyn Ashmore, Oxford , MS                   Cooper Patrick, Oakland, TN
Emily Blackmarr, Dickson, TN                   Cole Payne, Pontotoc, MS
Mamie Clark, Tupelo, MS                           Avery Roberson, Madison, MS
JT Forrester, Memphis, TN                         Sam Russell, Pontotoc, MS
Lindsay Fournier, Ripley, MS                     Chandler Strand, Germantown, TN
Maya Griffy, House Springs, MO               Cade Thornton, Hernando, MS
Robert Hall, Oxford, MS                             Ali Walker, Chattanooga, TN
Daniel Kelly, Oxford, MS                           Shalom Wallace, Alligator, MS
Patrick "Fish" Lane, Greenville, MS           Caleb Warren, Pontotoc, MS
Kelsey Moffitt, Hernando, MS                    Kaitlyn Wright, Marks, MS

What Happened in Haiti?

The happiness of the people of Haiti was what struck me. The things we take for granted everyday are unheard of in Haiti, yet they show love and compassion through the toughest environment imaginable. I look forward to continuing to support Haiti with our church and Dr Gladys. 
                                                                                                                                            -Ann DeVoe                     
It's Pantry Volunteer Time!

The Pantry is a not-for-profit community-wide organization providing food for eligible residents of the Oxford and Lafayette County area since 1982.   Volunteers from area churches and civic organizations staff The Pantry, and June is First Presbyterian Church's month to do so.

Men and women volunteers are needed to stock shelves on Tuesdays between 9:00-11:00 am, and Wednesdays between 10:30-11:00 am.

Volunteers are also needed to shop with clients on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:45-11:00 am.

It is hoped that volunteers will be available for the same time slot every week (every Tuesday, every Wednesday, etc.), therefore avoiding training new people every day.  

It would also be helpful to have 'relief' volunteers who could be called at the last moment, in case of last-minute conflicts.

Please contact Monte Ochs at: 704/763-8446 or at: to volunteer. Your support of this very important local program is much appreciated.  

Children's and PYF News
Save the Dates!

Vacation Bible School at FPC is scheduled for June 26-30.
Register your child (or yourself as a volunteer) right here, right now!

PYF News

Congratulations to our newest members!

Front: Riley Mullen, Megan Bundren, Katherine Estes, 
Ann Caroline McIntosh, James Ling, Mack Schuesselin and Walker Coon

Back: Marshal Williams, Wyatt McCool, Lock Elliott, 
Russell Coon and Hayden Williams

We are very proud of our 2017 confirmation class  
who  joined  the church on May 14 .

Kudos to the Class of 2017!

Congratulations to our high school seniors, who were honored during 
the  annual baccalaureate service held on May 21.

Spencer Patton, Miller Elliott, Daniel Kelly, Brum Abernathy, 
Gracyn Ashmore and Max Williams

Not pictured: Shelby Goza, Spencer Huggins, Davis McCool,
Anderson McIntosh, George Moak and Claire Stevens

PYF Takes a Summer Break

PYF enters the summer months during which we take a break from our regularly scheduled activities. However, eighteen youth and three chaperones will travel to the annual PCUSA national summer conference at Montreat, NC June 4-10. The trip is made possible by your support of PYF Christmas tree sales each holiday season. Please keep the group in your prayers as they travel eastward and represent First Presbyterian Church this summer!

Director of Youth

Greetings, friends! 
Just like that, UKirk Ole Miss has wrapped up another school year. It seems like time has flown since I started in late February! Across the parking lot at UKirk, Tuesday night dinners and worship services continued to be a staple, and starting in April, our communion celebrations even included homemade bread, thanks to a bread maker donated by an FPC member. We also had a building workday to get things organized and a Sunday lunch to enjoy some fellowship time together. New student orientations at Ole Miss are already underway, and we're looking forward to welcoming new friends to our community. If someone you know is headed to Ole Miss in the fall, let us know so we can be sure to connect.
We're already planning some exciting things for next year, and there are ways to join us for every budget and time frame. First and foremost, we'll always appreciate your prayers for our ministry and the students who are part of it. Additionally, information about our football parking fundraiser will be coming soon, and it's never to early to schedule Tuesday night meals! See our fall schedule and more on our website ( For ongoing news, join our new "Friends of UKirk" email newsletter. These monthly updates will include highlights of UKirk goings on, as well as ways you can support us throughout the year. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe Here" in the bottom left corner of our website's homepage. Thank you for the ways you all continually nurture this important ministry! If you ever have questions about UKirk itself or how to get involved, please don't hesitate to ask. 

UKirk-Ole Miss at our final gathering of the year.
Thanks, FPC Deacons, for the delicious cookout!

                     Allison Wehrung
                                  Pastor, UKirk Ministries

Etcetera . . .
Don't Forget to Sign Up for Camp!
If you haven't signed your child up for camp already, there is no time like the present! Camp Hopewell, located five miles west of Oxford just off Highway 30, is our presbytery camp...and it's practically in our own backyard. The summer schedule offers many opportunities for children and youth who have completed kindergarten through 10th grade to spend a week making new friends, enjoying the great outdoors and learning more about themselves and God. 

You can find the summer camp schedule and more information about Hopewell  at Check it out today!

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 10:00 am worship. Thanks to all our volunteer drivers who make this service possible! 

Summer Sunday Lunches are Back!
Make plans now to join your church family for lunch in Fellowship Hall on Sundays in June following 10:00 am worship. Everyone is invited to gather for a simple meal provided by various groups within the church. There is no cost for lunch and all ages are welcome.
Here's Something New for Those Who Love to Read:
BYO Book Club and Dessert
What are you reading and what did it teach you about God (or Jesus or your faith)? Do you have that one book you can't stop thinking about because it changed your vision of the world? We know you are reading and thinking when you are away from church. Here is a chance to share your excitement.
On June 25 at 7:00 pm in Fellowship Hall, you are invited to bring your favorite spiritually uplifting book (or two) to share with your FPC family. We'll have dessert and tell each other about our books. It doesn't have to be a " Christian " or a " spiritual " book. It could be a novel, or a history or a memoir. It just needs to have spoken to your heart. Come even if you don't have a book to share and take home some ideas for future reading. Physical books on hand are not required.
For families who require child care, please RSVP to the church office no later than June 16. 

The Prayer Shawl Ministry


...will meet Monday, June 5 at 1:00 pm in Room 101.

Presbyterian Women Logo

Presbyterian Women: If you would like to join a circle, change circles,
or are not able to attend a circle this year, please fill out a card found in the Friendship Register on your pew and place it in the collection plate.  

If you wish to remain in your current circle, it is not
necessary to fill out a card. 

We will be studying Hebrews, and look forward to seeing you in
September when we begin another great year of worship and fellowship!

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
Remaining FPC Men's Softball Schedule

Come join the fun & fellowship as we cheer on our team!

What's Happening with VIPs this Summer?
The VIPs, FPC's 55 and older group, will continue to meet for their third Thursday Dutch treat dinner this summer at 5:45 pm. The dates are:
                               June 15  at Tallahatchie Gourmet

                               July 20  at El Agave

                                August 17  at the new Oxford Burger
VIPs will not meet on the first Tuesday for lunch in June or July. However, on Tuesday, August 1, the group will visit the Grammy Museum and lunch in Cleveland, MS so mark your calendars now and be on the lookout for more information about the trip. The regular schedule of first Tuesday lunches and third Thursday dinners will resume in September.
Please remember that reservations are necessary for all VIP events because they usually involve ordering food or making sure there is space for everyone at the table. To make a reservation for any VIP event, just call the church office.

We Extend Congratulations to:

Dr. Bill Mayo, who  received the Henry Pace Service Award from the College of Osteopathic Medicine at William Carey University in Hattiesburg. Dr. Pace was also a member of FPC prior to his death in 2015.
John T. Edge, whose newest book, "The Potlikker Papers," has been included as one of "Ten Titles to Pick Up Now" by Oprah Winfrey's O Magazine.
The Elliott family, upon celebrating Elliott Lumber's 100th anniversary in business.

Dr. Caroline Wigginton, who was one of 71 recipients chosen from nearly 1,200 applicants to receive the American Council of Learned Societies fellowship for 2017. Wigginton is assistant professor of English at Ole Miss.

We Extend Sympathy to:
David Cook, whose wife, Myrna, died May 7,  2017 in Oxford, MS. 

Memorials and Honoraria

~ With gratitude for contributions to First Presbyterian Church ~
In Memory Of:
Jean Davidson Crawford
Ann & Robert Gowdy
Di Ann & Harvey Lewis
Nila & Max Williams
Mildred & Euell Dickard
Emily & Don Newcomb
Lillene Condon
Susan & Tom Meredith
David Brevard
Corrine Cullen
Mary Kay McDowell
June & Robert McDonald
Carlise & Billy Wood
Dr. Michael B. Ellis
Mary Kay McDowell
Kirby J. Crawford
J. J. Jones
Nila & Max Williams
Clinette Conlee
Myrna & David Cook
Ann & Robert Gowdy
J. J. Jones
Mary Kay McDowell
Mrs. Bradley A. Sanders
Nila & Max Williams
Yung & Dean Chow
Sue G. Treas
Mary Glynn Wright
Alice McCormick
Mary Kay McDowell
Nila & Max Williams
Myrna Cook
John Page
Patsy & Guff Abbott
Kay & Larry Tyler
Mary Kay McDowell

Upcoming Birthdays and Anniversaries

June Birthdays:

2 - Emily Semmes, Gary Wright
3 - Margie McLeod, Jane Henderson, David Flautt, Jr.
4 - Patsy Abbott, Dora Leache, Elizabeth McLellan
5 - Brad Mayo
6 - Allison Ashmore, Susan White, Jacquelyn Gage
7 - Jennifer Williams
8 - Elizabeth Black
9 - Ben Neff, Faye Grissinger, Molly Tanner
11 - Brum Abernathy, Lock Elliott, John Semmes, Brian Hyneman, Henry Johnson, Sarah McLellan, Thomas Franklin, III
13 - Will Rogers
14 - Hunter Haney, Sallie Wilkerson, Judy Edgar
15 - Katie Goodwiller 
16 - Teresa Flautt
17 - Cindy Snellgrove, Lucy Manning
18 - Suzanne Black, Whitney Bolen
19 - Lindsey Estes, Frances Sullivan-Gonzalez, Jimmy Williams, Jack Johnson, Blair Hobbs
20 - Niles Lovelady, Heath Stevens
21 - Miller Callery, Jenna Atkinson, Rose Paris
22 - Olivia Estes 
23 - Amelia Lindley
24 - Sam Haskell
25 - Keith Hayward, Catherine Freeland, Talmadge Lewis 
26 - Ruchell Phillips, Edward Duke, IV
28 - Sharon Fenger, Mary Rhodes Manley, Samuel Thompson, Caroline Wigginton
29 - Anderson McIntosh
June Anniversaries :
1 - Caroline & Kerry Wigginton
2 - Erin & Hayden Alexander
4 - Maggie & John Abernathy
6 - Betty & George Abdo, Allison & Nat Harris
7 - Gail & Dick Hercules
8 - Nila & Max Williams, Amy & Granville Sherman, Cindy & John Semmes
12 - Sandy & Vaughn Grisham, Vicki & Michael Stevens
13 - Barbara & J.T. Davis, Ferriday & Charly McClatchy
14 - Laura & Don Whitten
16 - Moni & Stuart Simpson
18 - Nana & Francis Boateng
19 - Blair Hobbs & John T. Edge, Julia & James Jimenez
20 - Katie & Bradley Goodwiller
21 - Mary Yurkow & Edward Duke
24 - Carolyn & Randel Gibson
27 - Becky & Joe Murphey
    First Dates

The Men of the Church will meet Tuesday, June 13 at 6:30 am at the Beacon Restaurant . The regular schedule will resume in September.  
The Adult Education Ministry Team will meet Thursday, June 1 at 5:15 pm in Room 101.
The Mission Ministry Team will meet Thursday, June 1 at 5:30 pm in Room 102.
The Property Ministry Team will meet Tuesday, June 6 at 5:30 pm in Room 101.
Piecemakers  meet each Thursday at 9:00 am in Fellowship Hall and Saturday June 8 at 10:30 am in Fellowship Hall.
The Finance Ministry Team will meet Monday, June  19  at 4:30 pm in Room 102.
The Session   will meet Monday, June 19 at 5:30 pm in Fellowship Hall.
The Dewey Hickman Grief Support Group will meet Tuesday, June 25 at 10:00 am at the home of Fannie Elliott.
The Book Club  will not meet again until September 12. 


 Reminder: The July deadline for submissions to First Press is

Thursday, June 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
Kevin Christian, Catie Hester,
Laura Montgomery, Diane Scruggs, Cliff Smith
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
Joseph W. Garrison
Dir. of Music/Organist
Terrell Hall
Dir. of Elementary Music

Allison Wehrung

Joseph Kelly
UKirk Ministries 

Director of Youth


Frances Saralvarez
Office Administrator
Suzan Clark
Jasmine Hill
Wade Simpson
Property Manager

Whitney Allen
Nursery Coordinator