FIRST PRESS    |  an online newsletter  |   May, 2017  
Can you feel Oxford growing?
All you have to do is drive down West Jackson Avenue on any given day to feel the street itself almost straining to handle an oppressive volume of traffic. New apartments and homes seem to be sprouting everywhere like weeds. Our secondary schools are at or near capacity. Today, a new 600,000 square-foot, $300 million general hospital rises out of the clay soil off South Lamar that will handle an ever-growing patient base in our region. Big box national retailers continue to saturate the retail market scene here. The Square has a new verve brought about by more and more people walking its sidewalks. Both tourists and visitors to athletic events are en route to Oxford 24/7/365, and they're staying in several new hotels that have opened to handle the demand...with more on the way. At Ole Miss, the frenzy of new construction is evident all over campus as the state's flagship university tries to keep pace with record enrollment. Indeed, these are exciting times to be living in one of America's most vaunted small town communities.

But with rapid growth come rapid challenges. Our infrastructure is woefully inadequate thanks to poor planning and unbridled construction projects. Affordable housing is a dwindling commodity inside the city's limits and real estate values are at head-shaking levels. New bond issues are being proposed to fund the construction of more schools for our children. Many would argue we've lost the innocence and uniqueness that once was so characteristic of Oxford.
Such is the story of First Presbyterian Church, too. Our church rolls have expanded ever quickly, but that growth has been difficult to manage. Our sanctuary is too small now for a church of more than 800 members; it was never built with so big a congregation in mind. Parking is woefully inadequate. Our youngest Presbyterians need more room to learn and grow beyond the antiquated, 60 year-old building that presently houses them. Our choir suite capacity is strained to its limits thanks to Joe Garrison's renewal of the music program here. Our youth director's office is an old closet that has been refashioned for his use in managing a burgeoning number of teens in our midst. And most importantly, we don't know each other as well as we used to; it's just not easy to recognize every name anymore, every story, every face.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining! Most other small southern towns and churches in our denomination would give anything to have the issues with which we are now dealing. But the reality of exponential growth, in particular at FPC, causes me to arrive at two conclusions. The first is that, like our city leaders, we are working as a church to solve our problems at hand. Building renovations and expansions have helped, and so too will another pastor to join Ann and me (and UKirk pastor Allison Wehrung as well). But it is shepherding groups and the hard work of our deacons, along with the many other educational, missional and fellowship opportunities established to help us get to know one another better, that have yielded the finest fruit and will continue to do so moving forward. With each link of the chain of faith strengthened, we become a church all the better equipped to build up the kingdom of God on earth - a worthy goal by all standards.
The other, and more critical, conclusion is this: in the midst of unencumbered growth and change around it, First Presbyterian Church remains as a beacon of light in the city, just as it has for nearly 180 years, summoning all who will come her way to experience a fuller and deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and with one another. Like other faith communities around it, FPC is the glue that holds the soul of Oxford together and that reminds us of the firm foundation of faith God has given us all, solid as a rock even when it seems the world may overwhelm that faith.
For those reasons, I'm bullish on Oxford. And I'm really bullish on First Presbyterian Church.
For all of you who are the church - this church - I give thanks to God. 

John's signature
From the Associate Pastor

"For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all." -Acts 2:39
Each year on Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.
Acts 2 tells the story of the Holy Spirit descending on the disciples as tongues of fire, and casts them from their place of contemplation and fear out into the streets, preaching in languages they couldn't understand for the benefit of all the people gathered there. They told the story of Jesus and taught the people what it meant. This was the beginning of faith formation, meant to inspire and encourage all who gathered into a lifetime of faith. Then, as today, the Holy Spirit empowers anyone who will receive it to change their lives, to radically share, to gather across lines of difference, to join in communities of compassion and care.

On Sunday, June 4, when we gather, we will receive the Pentecost Offering. Gifts to the Pentecost Offering celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and support our congregation's efforts of 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 Young Adult Volunteer. The remaining 60 per cent will be forwarded to the Presbyterian Mission Agency to support national initiatives of our denomination focused on helping children, youth and young adults develop their life of faith through supportive communities, caring mentors, and faith-related nurture and service. The Pentecost Offering makes a difference for the life of the whole church, and for congregations like ours.
Thank you for your support of the Pentecost Offering.
Blessings and peace,
Financial Summary
Summary of Stated Session Meeting
Ministry Team Check-In:

        1.  Finance:
  • The ministry team reported that as of March 31, 2017, year to date revenue was $282,996.12, which was $11,000.00 ahead of budget, and expenses were $233,690.74, which was $22,000 under budget.
        2.  Property:
  • The ministry team reported that everything is finished and signed off on the contract for Fellowship Hall.
  • Signage for Fellowship Hall will be installed soon.
  • Landscape work is scheduled to be done on the Tyler Street entrance of Fellowship Hall.
        3.  Personnel:
  • The ministry team hopes to staff a church bus driver for the Sunday morning worship services and a marketing/communications person in the near future.
        4.  Adult Christian Education:
  • The Lenten series for Wednesdays Together was successful,and the meals were enjoyed by everyone who attended.
  • The ministry team will meet later this month to plan programs for summer and fall.
        5.  Children's Christian Education:
  • Youth Sunday will be held May 7, 2017.
  • The Confirmation Class will have their retreat May 5-6, 2017, and Confirmation Sunday will be held May 14, 2017.
  • Baccalaureate Sunday will be held May 21, 2017.
  • Children's church will be held at the 10:00am worship service during the month of June.
  • The youth will attend Montreat June 4-10, 2017.
  • VBS will be held June 26-30, 2017.  The curriculum will be Digging for Treasure, and co-chairs for the event are Jenna Lovelace, Molly Tanner, and Catie Hester.
  • Rev. Alison Wehrung, pastor for the UKirk college ministry at Ole Miss, is finishing the end of the school year activities and will spend the summer connecting with people and making plans for the fall.
        6.  Membership and Hospitality:
  • The ministry team will schedule groups to provide Sunday summer lunches during the month of June.
  • A new member class will be held Sunday, May 7, 2017, from 3:00pm - 6:00pm.
        7.  Mission:
  • Volunteers will be needed at The Pantry during the month of June.
        8.  Worship:
  • A concert for the community will be held Sunday, October 28, 2017, at 4pm in the sanctuary by the Juilliard trained classical guitarist, Ben Pila. 
        9.  Deacons:
  • The deacons will provide a meal for UKirk May 2, 2017, and have made plans for the church picnic to be held May 20, 2017, at the home of Kristina Carlson and Doug Alexander. 

Regular Worship Services 

8:30 am - Worship with communion weekly
9:45 am - Sunday School
11:00 am - Worship with communion each first Sunday
Nursery Weekly: 8:15 am-12:15 pm

Summer Worship Reminder

Our summer worship schedule begins Memorial Day weekend, May 28
10:00 am -Worship with communion
No Adult Sunday School
Nursery Weekly: 9:45 am - 11:15 am

Children's Worship for K-3rd grade during June at 10:15 am

Upcoming Worship Events at FPC

Youth Sunday - May 7
Confirmation Sunday - May 14
Baccalaureate Sunday - Ma y 21 

  Lectionary Texts for May

May 7 - Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-35; John 10:1-10
May 14 - Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
May 21  - Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
May 28  - Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68: 1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14: 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
Sanctuary flower dates are available...
July 2, 9, 23 and 30.
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

What Happened in Haiti?

One of my responsibilities in Bongnotte was to deliver funds from FPC. Dr. Gladys Memnon is the director of the medical clinic and elementary school there. As I dispersed the money to Dr. Gladys, I assured her that the gifts to pay the operators of the water purification system and to replace the filters for the water system, as well as a donation made to the elementary school, were all from the members of FPC. The smile that covered her face was a wonderful blessing to receive. She told me to tell the church how much these gifts mean to her and to the people of Bongnotte.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                                                                                       -Martha Heffner


It's Almost Pantry 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.  

Donate to Lovepacks!
Don't forget to continue donating to Lovepacks to help fight hunger in our local schools. Children who are placed on the Lovepacks list are those who've been identified by school counselors and others as those most likely to be without adequate food on weekends when they are not receiving breakfast and lunch at school. Items needed include: 16 oz. jars of peanut butter, granola and protein bars, pop-top soups and pastas, non-refrigerated pudding, peanut butter crackers.
Thank you for all of your generous donations throughout the year! Please keep them coming in the months ahead!
Christian Education
Most Adult Sunday School Classes Concluding Soon

The following classes continue, with most concluding on May 21:   
The Wired Word  -- Discussion revolves around a current news event and its implications for the life of faith. The class meets with Rev. Semmes in Fellowship Hall, Rooms 1&2.
Young Adult Class -- Young adults meet in the library of the Education Building to discuss the lives and stories of familiar and not-so-familiar characters in the Bible and how their stories are relevant in our lives. Matthew and Melissa Hall, along with Rev. Ann Kelly, facilitate the discussion.  
Men's Bible Class - Meets in the Session Room for theological study with Hale Freeland as moderator.
Men's II Bible Class -- Members of the class rotate leadership of this Bible study class which meets in Room 102 of the Sanctuary building. They are currently studying the Book of Matthew.

Women of Faith -- Women of various ages meet in Room 4 of Fellowship Hall to share in a group study.
The Alton Bryant Sunday School Class  -- This co-ed Bible study class, under the leadership of Nolan Waller, uses The Present Word curriculum and meets in Conference Room 101 in the church office building. f vailable:  ations for the life 

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

We'd like to ask you all to remember all of our students in this time as 
they enter into their exam preparations. We'd especially like you to keep our 
seniors, who  will be graduating in the coming month, in your prayers.

Our PYF spring semester is coming to a close. This past month, we had the privilege of participating in the church's annual Easter egg hunt. The youth had a great time hiding eggs and entertaining children during this event. Our confirmation class has been hard at work and will soon be presenting faith statements to the Session. Prior to that, we have the confirmation class retreat May 5-6 at Camp Hopewell, followed by Confirmation Sunday on May 14. Youth Sunday is coming soon and our seniors are working hard preparing a wonderful worship service that will take place at 8:30 am and 11:00 am on May 7. See you then!

Director of Youth
Etcetera . . .
Mark Your Calendars!

First Presbyterian Church Spring Potluck Picnic
Saturday, May 20 11:30 am - 1:30 pm

Kristina Carlson and Doug Alexander's Home 
14 County Road 3024  (off of South Lamar)

Entree will be provided! 
A to N last name: Bring a Dessert; O to Z last name: Bring a Side Dish

There will be pony rides, games, bounce houses and time for fellowship 
with your FPC family -- bring lawn chairs and blankets for seating. 

Let us know you're coming by calling the church office, 234-1757.

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 10:30 am. The bus returns immediately after 11:00 am worship. Thanks to all our volunteer drivers who make this service possible! 

The Prayer Shawl Ministry


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

Presbyterian Women Logo

Alma Shaw Circle will meet at 9:45 am, Tuesday, May 16, Glynna McKendree & Jane Roy, 112 Quail Creek Drive. 
Carroll Barr Circle  will meet at 6:30 pm, Tuesday, May 16,  Fellowship Hall. 
Esther Ethridge Circle will meet at 4:30 pm, Sunday, May 21,  TBD.
Gerry Duvall Circle will meet at 12:00 pm, Tuesday, May 16, Fellowship Hall.
Lula Gregory Circle will meet at 9:45 am, Tuesday May 16, TBA.
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
FPC Men's Softball Schedule
 Come join the fun & fellowship as we cheer on our team!

What's Happening with VIPs in May ?
Tuesday, May 2 -        Catered lunch with Reverend Allison Wehrung, UKirk                                           Ole Miss campus pastor, at 12:00 pm in Fellowship                                               Hall;
Thursday, May 18 -    Dutch treat dinner at Proud Larry's at 5:45 pm;
Wednesday, May 24 - Overnight trip to Little Rock; Lodging at Ferncliff Camp                                       & Conference Center; Visit Heifer Project International,                                       Clinton Library and our own Mary Freeman! 

Cost of the trip is $135,  which includes lodging, 4 meals (Wed. lunch/dinner, Thurs. breakfast/lunch), Heifer International tour, Clinton Library tour and transportation. Participants will be responsible for one meal on the trip home and for bringing snacks to share. The deadline to sign up for the trip is May 12th.
Make a reservation for any or all of the above events by calling the church office at (662) 234-1757. 

Memorials and Honoraria

~ With gratitude for contributions to First Presbyterian Church ~
In Memory Of:
Jean Davidson Crawford
Mrs. Norman E. Dilley
Mary L. Poole
Nancy Rodgers
Dorothy & Mack Aldridge
Sandra & Vaughn Grisham
Kirby J. Crawford
Bonnie J. Schoenknecht-Siebert
Mary L. Poole
Nancy Rodgers
June & Bob McDonald
Dorothy & Mack Aldridge
Sandra & Vaughn Grisham
Clinette Conlee
Louise & Ernest Waller
Emily & Don Newcomb
Ellen & Cliff Nash
Kay & Larry Tyler
Andrew Howorth
John T. Edge
Mary Carrington
Corrine T. Cullen
Sally S. Booke
Syd & Bobbie Shaw
Dr. & Mrs. Max Williams
Deborah & Jerry Davis
Sallie Wilkerson
Lisa Martin
Billie D. Maddox
Ann Marshall
Sara M. Lepicier
Gina Phillips Kilgore
Toni C. Everett
Mr. & Mrs. J. David Orlansky
Christine & Michael Blackburn
Nancy Rodgers
Alice McCormick
Kay & Larry Tyler
Nancy Rodgers

Dr. Leslie L. McDowell
Mary Kay McDowell
Barbara Conlee
Brown Insurance Agency
In Honor Of:

Martha Grace Mize
Jennifer & George Thagard
Kay Tyler
Julie & Billy Chadwick
Babe Carr

Upcoming Birthdays and Anniversaries

May Birthdays:

1 - Debbie Dykes
2 - Olivia Williams
3 - Hassell Wilkinson, Jr.
4 - Stuart Simpson, Dave McDowell, Ruby Jane Baquie
5 - Mary Michael Morrison, Scott Manley
6 - Alisa Elliott, Mack Schuesselin
8 - Bill Mayo, Nolton Rawl, Stefanie Goodwiller
10 - Mary Jack Mullen, Evelyn Carmean, Jane Reeves Carmean, Pat Atkinson
11 - Jane Lyle Byars
12 - Harriman Abernathy, Olivia Lovelace
14 - Case Embry
15 - Lewis Smith, David Robinson, Nana Boateng
17 - Gabrielle Chiniche, Ashley Johnson, Dick Scruggs, Kaitlyn Flowers
18 - Lynda Huggins, Isla Jenkins
19 - Anna Claire Franklin
21 - Kathy Neff, Phil Baquie
22 - Beth Ann Fennelly, Mary Shields Craft
25 - Lauren Goodwiller, Lucille Jones, Jenny Luster
26 - Allen Elliott, Jeff Butler, Georgia Wigginton
27 - Harrison Atkinson, Alan Eads, Kevin Christian, Bradley Goodwiller
28 - John Scarbrough
29 - Christopher Newman
30 - Duvall Flautt, Paul Hester
31 - Shae Orrell, Bill Webb
MayAnniversaries :
3 - Amanda & Brian Hyneman, Ramey & Brent Hardin
5 - Glynna & John McKendree
7 - Gina & Wil Matthews, Whitney & Patrick Bolen
8 - Diane & Dick Scruggs
10 - Jacquelyn & Robert Gage
12 - Tina & Tony Montgomery
19 - Martha & Lucius Brock
21 - Melba & Bill Bowlin
23 - Carlisle & Billy Wood
24 - Shelley & Tommy Cribbs, Beth Ann Fennelly & Tom Franklin
26 - Kathy & Ben Griffith, Syd & Bobbie Shaw
28 - Nancy & Don Giles, Sharon & Al Fenger, Lindsey & Phil Baquie, June & Duke Goza
29 - Randall & Lee Mize, Beth & Bobby Kennedy
30 - Teresa & David Flautt, Molly & Griffin Tanner
We Extend Sympathy to:

The family of Alice McCormick, who died April 13, 2017 in Oxford, MS.

We Extend Congratulations to:

OHS senior Gracyn Ashmore, who was awarded Broadcast Editor of the Year in the state of Mississippi at the 2017 Mississippi Scholastic Press Association convention. She also received the Ed Meek UM Scholarship and will study journalism in the fall.

OHS senior Davis McCool, who was named by the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association as this year's Mississippi High School Journalist of the Year. Davis is editor-in-chief of OHS's The Charger newspaper and will advance to the Journalism Education Association's (JEA) national Journalist of the Year contest to compete against other state winners. Davis will also study journalism at Ole Miss in the fall.

Guff Abbott, who was named  the UM Foundation's 2017 Professionalism Award recipient, recognizing a lawyer whose life, practice and service have displayed outstanding character and integrity.

    First Dates

The Men of the Church meet each Tuesday at 6:30 am at the Beacon Restaurant . A fish fry will be held Thursday, May 4 at 5:30 pm on the church's west courtyard and in Fellowship Hall for those interested in joining the class. 
The Worship Ministry Team  will meet  Monday, May 1  at 4:30 pm  in Room 101.
The Diaconate will meet with UKirk on Tuesday, May 2 at 5:30 pm for a cookout in the courtyard.
The Property Ministry Team will meet Tuesday, May 2 at 5:30 pm in Room 101.
The Finance Ministry Team will meet Monday, May 8   at 4:45 pm in Room 102.
The Session   will meet Monday, May 8 at 5:30 pm in Fellowship Hall.
The Book Club will meet Tuesday, May 9 at 1:30 pm in Conference Room 101. This month's book is, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie.
The Membership & Hospitality Ministry Team   will meet Thursday, May 11 at 5:30 pm in Room 101. 
Piecemakers  meet each Thursday at 9:00 am in Fellowship Hall and Saturday May 13 at 10:30 am in Fellowship Hall.
The Dewey Hickman Grief Support Group will meet Tuesday, May 23 at 10:00 am at the home of Fannie Elliott.


 Reminder: The June deadline for submissions to First Press is

Monday, 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