FIRST PRESS | an online newsletter | October 2017  
He walked into my office, slumped down in the chair across from mine and, skipping any pleasantries, said, "I feel like God is so mad at me right now."
"Why do you think that?" I asked.
"It just seems like every time something good is about to happen to me, it blows up in my face," he says. "And I'm wondering if I've sinned so much that God is punishing me."
This brilliant kid - a college senior with outstanding grades and experiences, chiseled frat boy looks, a fine east coast family pedigree, perfect command of the king's English and enough friends to last a lifetime - is in my office because he thinks God is mad at him for personal transgressions too many to count. Somewhere along the way, he has become convinced our creator is a "cause and effect" God, a deity hell bent on getting even with us whenever we cross him or, worse, whenever we disappoint. 
This young man is just one person but, in truth, he is all of us. If we believe God is omniscient, who among us has not imagined God has a chart somewhere with our name on it that lists every screw-up we've committed? Surely God knows I just ran that red light, spoke poorly of that neighbor or took money from that office safe. And based upon the lousy week I'm having, God is surely not pleased; better get to Belk for some asbestos underwear before it's too late!
Hold on. If there is one thing I've wanted you to know in our thirteen some-odd years together, it is that God doesn't operate like we do. If revenge were God's primary  modus operandi , the earth would be a smoldering heap of ash from which no one could escape. Perhaps Fred Buechner puts it best when he writes,
"A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There's
nothing you have to do. There's nothing you
have to do. There's nothing you have to
do. The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you
are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you."
Our broken nature insures that we all disappoint God on a daily basis, yes. But our eternal status as children of God means that no heinous act, no mean-spirited accusation, no assault on the heart, no omission of kindness, no poor choice nor anything else that smacks of human sin is outside the bounds of God's ability to love us more than we ever deserved. To repent is to turn and face the Light with total transparency. To know the holy grace that follows sets us free from self-judgment and guilt.
But there's one catch, as Buechner has observed. "Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it."
After he left, I emailed my young friend with a call to action: let yourself off the hook. God is your biggest advocate, not your fiercest enemy.

For any of us to believe otherwise is just terrible theology.

John's signature

From the Associate Pastors

FPC Does Indeed Have Talent!

Wednesdays Together kicked off September 20 with a wonderful evening of music, laughter and entertainment provided by some of our talented FPC members. Thank you to all who shared their talents from cooking and cleanup to music, art and making us laugh. If you weren't there, here are some photos that captured some of what you missed.

You also missed wonderful food cooked on the grill by Mack Aldridge, Harry Alexander, James Day and Kevin McLeod and delicious desserts by Beth Vickers P ace. Thanks to Mary Haskell, Margie McLeod, Dorothy Lou Aldridge, Griffin Tanner and all of your helpers for making this such a fun night for everyone!
Rumor has it that there are people already preparing acts for future nights like this one. In fact, two of the pastoral staff said the pastors need to start working on our act for next year. Maybe so, but we need your talent throughout the year, too. What are some ways you and your family can share your talent with your church family?

It's funny how somethings stay with you. As part of my path to being one of your associate pastors, I had to take and pass five ordination exams. For one particular exam, I was given a passage of scripture and told to write a hefty academic paper and an appropriate sermon. It's called the "exegesis exam" and it's a beast. It takes about 25+ hours to complete.

            Fortunately, I was given Jeremiah 1:4-10 or the prophet Jeremiah's call story. To be honest, it wasn't that meaningful to me before this experience but it sure is meaningful now and I'd like to share it with you.

(4) Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, (5) "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (6) Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." (7) But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, (8) Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD." (9) Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth. (10) See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

There's a lot in this passage for all of us, no matter who or where we are. Maybe we cling to God's words saying, "before I formed you in the womb I knew you." Maybe we identify with Jeremiah's excuse in verse 6 that we can't do certain things because of our lack of confidence or experience. Maybe we are afraid of what we are being asked to do or where we will be asked to go.

            All of this is about Jeremiah's  vocation ; to proclaim the word God has given him; and when I say Jeremiah's vocation, I'm not talking about Jeremiah's  occupation or what he does for a living. I'm talking about what God has called Jeremiah to do just as God has called each of us to do something in response to God's will. As Frederick Buechner puts it, your vocation is the meeting between that which you need most to do and that which the world most needs to have done. It's where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet; where they and you are called together by God.

Each and every one of us has a vocation. It's not just something for ministers and holier-than-thou people. My  vocation is to share the Gospel and God's love to all God's people. I'm beginning to learn that my  occupation as a pastor includes my vocation and a few extra responsibilities that change day to day. So no matter what you do or how you spend your time, to what vocation are you being called?

If God is the author of our vocation just like Jeremiah's, then there is nothing, nothing that we can say or do that can separate us from God's call to our vocation. Jeremiah's qualities or age didn't stop God from calling him and there is nothing about us that can prevent God from calling us, either. God consecrates, delivers and appoints Jeremiah, effectively declaring him worthy of God's love and call all because God simply says so. Are we any different?

Rest assured, our vocation as Christians is to do and act upon the word God has given each and every one of us; because ultimately, our vocations are actually about God, not about us or any of the good deeds we do. So what are you being called to do? How are you being called to participate in the life of this church? Where is the intersection of your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger? 

Maybe that's where you're being called. Let's find out.

  Financial Summary
Summary of Stated Session Meeting
The Session of First Presbyterian Church held its stated monthly meeting on Monday, September 11, 2017.  

Highlights are as follows:
    • As of August 31, 2017, year-to-date revenue was $697,208.29, and expenses were $653,563.89.  The ministry team reported that 95% of the budgeted pledges had been collected.
    • The Stewardship Ministry Team will soon be communicating their plans for the 2018 stewardship season.
    • Ceiling insulation and tiles and lighting have been installed in the PYF building.  Repairs to the outside of the building will take place in the near future. The ministry team also plans to have the outside of the building painted next year.
    • New signage for Fellowship Hall rooms will be installed soon.
    • After discussion, the following motion was made and approved unanimously:
      • Movant, Property Ministry Team - Motion to spend $16,478 for ceiling and lighting renovations in the Education Building. 
  • Adult Education: 
    • The VIP's schedule for the upcoming year for the first Tuesday lunches and the third Thursday dinners is complete.
    • The adult Sunday school classes are going well.
    • Wednesdays Together will be held September 20 - October 25, 2017, at 5:45 pm in Fellowship Hall.  Meals will be provided by a variety of restaurants in Oxford. 
Children's Christian Education:
    • LaShaunda Sisk has begun her duties as the new FPC Nursery Director.
    • The children's Sunday school classes are well-attended.
    • The ministry team reported that, at the present time, nineteen youths have signed up to attend Montreat next summer. 
    • Sunday, October 29, 2017, at 4:00pm, Ben Pila, a classical guitarist, will perform in the church sanctuary.
    • World Communion Sunday will be observed October 1, 2017.
The next Stated Session meeting will be held Monday, October 9, 2017, in Fellowship Hall  at 5:30pm.       
The Session recited The Lord's prayer and adjourned at 6:30pm.
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 October

October 1 - Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-160; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32
October 8 - Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46
October 15 - Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
October 22 - Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22
October 29 - Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46   
Sanctuary flower dates are available on...
October and 29 and November 5 and 26.
If you would like to provide flowers in
honor or memory of a loved one, please contact
Margaret Fancher at 234-1359 or
email her at
PYF News
Yes, Virginia, Christmas Trees Arrive Soon!

October is here and that means Christmas tree season is just weeks away. PYF will once again be selling beautiful, fresh North Carolina Fraser Fir Christmas trees to support our youth and their annual trip to the Montreat Youth Conference in 2018. Tree heights will range from 6 to 11 feet tall. Sales begin Saturday, November 25. Come by (tell your friends to come too!) to purchase a beautiful tree and wreath for your home while supporting a great cause.

PYF Fall Retreat Draws Near

Our annual youth Fall Retreat at Camp Hopewell is scheduled for the weekend of October 13 through the afternoon of October 15. This is a time for our youth group to really come together and grow into a wonderful community of faith through Bible studies, games and much more, all in a beautiful fall setting. For more information, please contact Director of Youth Joseph Kelly at  
College News

It's been smooth sailing lately as we settle into this Fall semester at UKirk Ole Miss. It's hard to believe that September is already gone! It was great to see so many of you at our Open House, and our Tuesday night gatherings are going strong. We've enjoyed a number of delicious Tuesday night meals at the hands of FPC members, but we're still in need of a few more dinners this semester, and hope you'll get in touch if that's something you or your group might want to provide. This month we're also excited to welcome both Allyson Ashmore and David Randolph as guest leaders as we continue considering what it means to be a neighbor. 
As the football schedule kicks back up in Oxford, don't forget that there are one-day passes available for each home game day. We're grateful for your support in this fundraiser for UKirk, and hope you'll help us spread the word for the remainder of the season. 
Keep college students in your prayers this month as they wade through midterms, and remember that for more detailed updates you can still subscribe to our monthly email newsletter by visiting As always, if you have questions about or interest in getting involved please don't hesitate to get in touch by emailing me at
Thank You for Your Amazing Generosity!

Last year, when the plea came from presbytery for churches to gather clean-up buckets for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, elder Ernie Williams challenged members of FPC to assemble 15 buckets. We made 22. This year, we have 76 buckets to deliver to PDA in October! Twenty-two volunteers showed up late last month to either pack buckets or cook breakfast, making it a fun and easy project to complete. A special thank you goes out to David Shaw and Carmille Hovious for helping us gather supplies and organize the work. Thank you, FPC, for such a generous response!

Proclaim the Peace of Christ:
Give to the Peace and Global Witness Offering
Sunday, October 1, 2017
 "So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near." -Ephesians 2:14-17
The letter to the Ephesians tells us Jesus came to proclaim a universal peace. While the earthly ministry of Jesus occurred in a specific age and place, the peace he shared is limited by neither time nor geography. As followers of Christ, our call to work for peace begins in our own neighborhoods and extends to the ends of the earth. It is a demanding call, but one that Presbyterians at all levels of the church are seeking to follow. The Peace & Global Witness Offering supports the holistic and wide-ranging witness of the whole church.
At the national level, this witness means:
  • supporting those working to heal the divisions in violent contexts like South Sudan;
  • bringing leaders together who have made a profound witness for peace around the world and deploying them to congregations like ours;
  • creating materials that equip congregations to deal with important issues-from disagreements between members of Sessions to bullying at schools to gun violence in our communities;
    • using our seat at the United Nations table to speak up for the vulnerable around the world.
Twenty-five percent of this offering remains with our local congregation to allow us to reach out to our own community or region in an effort to create peace and proclaim Christ closer to home.
Thank you in advance for donating to this important offering of the church.
Etcetera . . .
We Welcome New Members to FPC!

Buchanan,  Irma                                        
1311 Pelican Loop
Oxford, MS 38655
Home: (662) 227-1283
Cell: (662) 417-5157

Howell,  Katherine
182 Private Road 3049
Oxford, MS 38655
Cell: (864) 630-0092

Meadors,  Kay
103 Farm View #1006
Oxford, MS 38655
Cell: (318) 751-8937

Neal,  Chase & Schum, LeAnne
403 Scarlet Cove
Oxford, MS 38655
Chase: 662-392-4042
LeAnne: 901-239-0004

Pyle,  Meredith
24 Private Road 3151, Apt #4
Oxford, MS 38655
Cell: (770) 324-7485

Quick,  Brynnen and Adam
336 Vivian Street
Oxford, MS 38655
Baker (5); Charlie (2)

Randolph,  Katherine
136 Oxmoor Ridge
Oxford, MS 38655
Cell: (256) 714-9418
Cragon (6 months)

White,  Allyn
517 Wedgewood Drive
Oxford, MS 38655
Cell: (662) 831-0531

Welcome to all!
VIP Reservations Are Needed for October Events

Two upcoming events for VIPs require reservations. On Monday, October 9, the VIPs will take the church bus to Pickwick for a potluck luncheon at the home of Bette and Jeff Butler. The Butler's are preparing pork tenderloin for the entree and VIPs are asked to bring side dishes and desserts to supplement our lunch. Participants will gather in the church parking lot at 8:00 am. Reservations are needed because of transportation and food prep, so please call the church office and let us know you plan to attend.
Taylor Grocery's farm raised catfish fillets, fried chicken tenders and homemade hush puppies are on the VIP menu for Thursday, October 19 at 5:45 pm in Fellowship Hall. In addition to good food and fellowship, entertainment will be provided by Joseph and Danny Kelly. An estimate of reservations is needed a week in advance, so if you know you are coming, please call the church office before October 12!
Your Suggestions Are Requested
For the 2017-2018
Officer Nominating Committee

The outgoing 2016-2017 Officer Nominating Committee is authorized to accept suggestions from church members to serve as its successors for 2017-2018. The sole function of this committee, once put into place, is to propose a slate of church members to serve as elders and deacons. Members of the ONC serve for one calendar year.
From the names you suggest (a list of church members is attached for your use), and dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit, the existing committee will move a slate of four names for your approval. As directed by our Standards and Procedures manual, those you elect to serve will join two Elders and one Deacon to form the new seven-person committee. Abiding by the Book of Order, the Session will call a congregational meeting to be held for this purpose on October 22, 2017.

The 2016-2017 Officer Nominating Committee members are Paul Chiniche, Christina Torbert, Julie Chadwick, Sharron Alexander, Sally Hines, Ferriday McClatchy and Monte Wood. They are ineligible for re-election.
The deadline for your suggestions is Monday, October 16.  Please return the list below to the church office or place it in the offering plate. You may submit more than five suggestions if you wish.

Click here to print the suggestion form and member list.
Deadline Approaching for 2018 Haiti Mission Trip
The 2018 Haiti mission trip will take place January 13-20, 2018, and now is the time for interested participants  to make a commitment by submitting deposits and registration forms to the church office no later than Monday, October 16. If you need more information or would like a copy of the registration form or packet, please contact the church office.
Camp Hopewell Friends Day 2017 Upcoming

Come spend the afternoon at camp and help support the ministry of Hopewell! 
There will be many activities for the whole family to choose from, including a fishing tournament, pumpkin painting, hey! ride, a bonfire and many more of your favorite camp activities followed by a delicious dinner!
Donations will be accepted to support the annual ministry and scholarship funds at camp.
More details regarding registration and events of the day are to come. For now, mark your calendars for this can't-miss event!

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! 

Presbyterian Women Logo

Circle updates for October:
Alma Shaw Circle

October 17th  @ 9:45 am at the home of Jody Scruggs: 3904 Eagle Cove, Oxford, MS 38655

Carroll Barr Circle

October 17th  @ 6:00 pm at the home of Dorothy Lou Aldridge: 132 Lakeway Drive, Oxford, MS 38655  

Esther Ethridge Circle

October 1st @ 4:30 pm at: 604 Tyler Place Condominiums #8, Oxford, MS 38655

Gerry Duvall Circle

October 17th @ 12:00 pm in Fellowship Hall.

Lula Gregory Circle

October 17th @ 9:45 am at the home of Rosie Cooper: 12 CR 3070, 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 -

Memorials and Honoraria

~ With gratitude for contributions to First Presbyterian Church ~
In Honor Of:
JoAnne Oliver
Dorothy Lou Aldridge
Martha Burnett
In Memory Of:
Clinette Conlee

Dr. & Mrs. Joe Burnett

Myrna Cook
Rayna & Andy Bogue
Eddie Crawford

Dr. & Mrs. Joe Burnett
Julie & Billy Chadwick
Meredith & Jimmy Creekmore
Martha Kelley
Ruchell Phillips
Mr. & Mrs. Larry Ross
Elaine & Ike Sayle
Carlisle & Billy Wood
Jean Crawford
Dr. & Mrs. Joe Burnett
    October Birthdays

2 - Richard DeVoe, Emma Williams, Owen Wilkinson
3 - Leon McCullouch
4 - Anne Lowry Hardin, Bailey Mize, Don Newcomb, JoAnn O'Quin
5 - Evie Logan
6 - Julia Lewis, Charles Wilkerson
7 - Amy Lewis
10 - Sally Booke, Elizabeth Kelly
12 - Michele Howie, Avery Lewis, Christina Torbert, Dana Williams
13 - Bob Westmoreland
15 - Julia Jimenez, Daniel Kelly, Miles Morgan, Sage Morgan, Nancy Warner
16 - Martha Heffner, Harleigh Huggins, Max Williams
17 - Betsy Holcomb
18 - Cheryl Hayward, Howard Hyneman
19 - Brett Rosson
20 - Beth Andrews, Madeline Williams
21 - Bo Elliott, Catie Hester, Elliott Mayo, Haley Spragins
22 - Francis Boateng, Ferriday McClatchy, Catherine Mize
23 - Marshal Williams
24 - Charly McClatchy, Anne Margaret Wilkinson
25 - Jack Abraham, Charles Byars, David Flautt, Sr., Anastasia Jenkins, Ann Kelly
26 - Jennings Cluck
27 - Scottye Boone, Dennis Feller, Slade Lewis, Emily Newcomb
28 - Grace Feller, Sarah Hollis, Mary Liles, Paul Manley
29 - Greg Goodwiller, Barbara Ruth Googe, Joe Murphey, Meredith Rawl
30 - Beth Kennedy
31 - Brum Elliott, Joe Joyer, Laura Montgomery, Monte Wood
October Anniversaries

1 - Susan & Bob Joiner
4 - Ingrid & Peter Kondos
13 - Pierce & Doc Buford, Kay & Larry Tyler
    First Dates

The Diaconate  will meet Tuesday, October 3 at 5:30 pm in the Session Room.
The Property Ministry Team will meet Tuesday, October 3 at 5:30 pm in Room 101.
Piecemakers meet each Thursday at 9:00 am and Saturday, October 7 at 9:30 am in Fellowship Hall.
The Finance Ministry Team will meet Monday, October 9 at 4:30 pm in Room 101.
The Session  will meet Monday, October 9 at 5:30 pm in Fellowship Hall.
The Book Club  will meet Tuesday, October 10 at 1:30 pm in Room 101. This month's book is Victoria by Julia Baird
The Personnel Ministry Team will meet Wednesday, October 11 and Thursday, October 12 at noon in Room 101. 
The Worship Ministry Team will meet Monday, October 16 at 4:30 pm in Room 101.
The Children's Christian Education Ministry Team will meet Thursday, October 19 at 5:30 pm in Room 101.


 Reminder: The November deadline for submissions to First Press is

Monday, October 16.  

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