"Downtown by history and by choice"
FPC Bi-Weekly Newsletter
February 9-22, 2021
Letter from Associate Pastor, Mitzi Lesher-Thomas
In spite of many unanswered questions, I believe;
I was not alone in the sanctuary on Jan. 31
and Sunday as we broke bread or bagels or goldfish
we were and are, mysteriously,
the body of Christ.

In spite of many unanswered questions, I believe;
I’ve heard echoes of laughter
the rapid, rat-a-tat rhythm of young feet
the murmurings of quiet conversations
the soft brush of fabric as arms enfold the grieving
the FPC community pulsing,
and there
and there.

In spite of many unanswered questions, I believe;
the building still reverberates with the spirit of FPC
is filled by the Spirit of God
and in time will fling wide the doors
welcoming friends familiar and new into the physical space.

Friends, it is difficult to convey how real was your presence – the weight of your hands in the weight of the questions we answered in turn. And in the quiet, a humbling reminder – more than celebrating FPC’s call or my response we gathered to worship and give thanks to God who calls us all into particular ministries – using all our gifts whether we’re 8 or 80 to bring about God’s vision for a new heaven and a new earth. And, if you’re like me, it amplified my hunger for that day we can really, literally gather and raise the roof with our laughter and song.

The good news is that day is coming. We are closer now than we’ve ever been and that optimism was reflected Thursday evening in a Zoom conversation with our COVID team. If you missed it, here’s a link to the conversation with medical experts answering a host of questions about the different vaccines, who can and should get one, options for pursuing an appointment, just what you can consider doing, and how soon after receiving the vaccine and yes, even touching on when we might regather in the sanctuary. While it’s too soon to speak of a date, the optimism and hope in the conversation were palpable.

I know we’re all tired of masks, distancing, elbow bumps, and air hugs. Reflecting on this weariness, a fellow runner likened it to that ‘I want to quit’ feeling every athlete confronts at about the three-quarter mark of any race; and, shared her mantra for pushing through: “This doesn’t feel great. Nobody feels great. It will end. Keep going.”

A pale comparison to be sure and yet, ‘This doesn’t feel great. Nobody feels great. It will end. Keep going.’

With love and gratitude,
The love and concern of the congregation are extended to the following:

  • Mary Gitata and family on the death of her brother. Dr. James Kinyanjui Mbugua died Friday, January 29 after a year of failing health from brain surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. 

  • Peggy Hammond and family on the passing of her husband and FPC member Dr. Charles Hammond. Charles died February 1 at Duke Hospital. Due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the family held a private service in the memorial garden of FPC on February 6th.

  • Marilyn (Mickey) Velkey and family on the death of her brother-in-law, Dr. Frederick K. McCune (Fritz). He joined the church triumphant on February 2 in Virginia Beach, VA.

  • Chris Brown and family on the sudden death this week of Chris' friend, Ed Richards.

  •  Ann Prospero, diagnosed with COVID-19, and now residing in a care facility in Chatham County
  • Margaret Nelson, sister of Charlotte Nelson (hospitalized in Asheville) and Margaret's daughter, Melissa Graham (recent recovery from COVID-19)
  • Alfred Tisdale
  • Maddie Tisdale, recovering from a sledding accident this week

Recovering at their homes
Tom Bloom, recovering from spine surgery
Catherine Dumas, recovering from hip replacement surgery
Dub Gulley
Kerry Holbrook
Robin Morey
Kathy Parkins, recovering from shoulder and bicep surgery
Margaret Sims, undergoing treatment for cancer
Carol Wills

Care Communities:
Brookdale Durham: Julian Boswell 
Croasdaile Pavilion: Bob Rankin
Dubose Center at The Cedars, Chapel Hill: Arthur Clark
Durham Regent: John Kerr
Durham Ridge Assisted Living: Phillip Herndon
Emerald Pond: Paul Cornsweet
Hillcrest Convalescent: Walter Chambliss, father of Will Chambliss
The Forest at Duke: Fran Bryant

Family and Friends of the Congregation:
Brendan Bequette, a family friend of Margaret & Miguel Rubiera
Peggy Boulden, mother of Dick Boulden
Linda Capers, a friend of Li-Chen Chin
Flora Estrella, a relative of Beth Stringfield and Cris Rivera
Phil Goss, a friend of the congregation
Roberta Kessler, mother of Kristen Brigman
Peggy Mordecai, mother of Beth Eisenson
Ade and Sowande, sons of Tolokun Omokunde, pastor of Timothy Darling PC in Oxford
Shannon Putman, daughter of Mary Putman
Nellie, sister of Hendrika Vande Kemp, diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer
Dear Friends at First Pres:
Thank you so much for your 2020 contributions of $2,587 in support of Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham (RCND). In ways we could never have imagined, your generosity in this grief-filled year rose to confirm and sustian the boundless belonging that has always defined this Coalition. ... In every space we found ourselves - navigating the traumatic public grief of violence, renewing community in the wake of incarceration, pursuing justice that repairs and restores - you were there, giving us vision to begin again, renewing our hope for what can still be, lining the path that brings us back together. More than (even all these) words can say: thank you! Humbled and grateful for your strong support, friends, thank you for trusting us to carry forth your love for Durham.
- Ben Haas, Director, RCND
Well, not quite yet, but soon!
December 31, 2021 to be exact!
This is a BIG DEAL and we want to celebrate appropriately!
We are looking for a FEW GOOD PEOPLE to help us celebrate this milestone in our lives. If you are a good event planner, if you love history, and if you are looking forward to gathering in person together, we invite you to join our CELEBRATION TEAM.  Be a part of something that happens only once every 150 years! We need you! Contact Mindy Douglas to join the team.
Annual Meeting
of the Congregation
The FPC Session has called the Annual Meeting of the Congregation for Sunday, February 21. The purpose of this meeting is to hear a report from the Finance Committee, to vote on changes to terms of call for the pastors, and to elect church officers and persons to serve at-large on the Nominating Committee. The virtual meeting will take place immediately following worship.
Virtual Election of Officers and Nominating Committee

As we are in different times, the election of officers being held next Sunday, February 21 will take place in a different way.

  • Instead of presenting the nominees in person at the end of a regular worship service, we will present the slate at the end of our live-streamed worship service next Sunday, February 21.

  • Instead of voting in person, you will vote using an online link or by phone (a special number will be provided if you do not have internet access). 

  • The link for voting will be sent by email before 1 p.m. next Sunday, February 21 to members who have email and you will have until 3 p.m. to vote. Those voting by phone can call the special number at any time after the end of next Sunday's worship.
Stewardship Campaign Update
Thank you for the extraordinary support for our Stewardship Campaign – One Body, Many Parts and The Church is the People– during these challenging times and a virtual campaign! While we did not reach our ambitious goal, we have come close and have been able to support our budget for 2021. As a result of the campaign, we have budgeted $972,496 in pledges, but there are still some whom we expect to participate but have not officially pledged, totaling about $95,000. We still need to complete the puzzle!

If you are not sure if your pledge was received, please contact Tom Bloom (we have had some glitches with online pledges this year). Look for a survey from the Stewardship Committee in February as we work to improve our campaign next year after this unusual virtual campaign for 2020. Thank you for your generosity and support for the life and mission at First Presbyterian!
The FPC Investment Subcommittee is seeking 1 or 2 new members. The Subcommittee meets 4 times annually via Zoom (January, April, July, October) to review the church portfolio’s performance for the previous quarter. It works with the portfolio manager at Bank of America and reports to the Finance and Investment Committee. A background in finance is not necessary. If interested, please contact Ed Pritchett (Chair) at
Don't Forget!
You can help us create
a new pictorial directory . . .
Need help remembering what people look like without masks? Longing for a church picture directory? You know, the kind where the corners get crinkled and you write notes in the margins. Help us make it happen! If you haven't already uploaded a picture to our online directory now's your chance and here are directions! The instructions to install the ChurchLife app on your smart device are here. The instructions for uploading your picture to the online directory are here. We'll use photos from the online directory to create our print version so we need your help. We want to see your smiling faces, so please take a moment and upload those photos! If you wish to replace your existing photo, delete it first, then upload the new one. For more information on using the ChurchLife app or the kind of photos that work best in a directory, contact Tom Bloom or Sybil King in the church office: 919-682-5511, ext. 217. The DEADLINE has been extended to February 12, 2021.  You can also email photos to Sybil at Thank you.
Sunday, February 14,
Mindy Douglas, preaching
Sermon: “Can You Imagine?”
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Mark 1:9-15
Amy Dillon, liturgist
Children's Sunday School Classes are virtual . . .
Contact Lenore Champion for class kits and links
to the Children's Sunday School classes
Faith & Community Class:
We will continue our discussion of what it means to work for reproductive justice as people of faith and as a community of faith. Click here to join the discussion via Zoom.
Feb 14: Where do we go from here? How can we as individuals and a church community trust and support women as they discern whether to become parents? What social problems can we address to make it possible for every woman and family to thrive, especially women facing unjust racial, economic, and social constraints? What resources can we help provide for young people to help them understand sexuality and be prepared and empowered to make crucial moral decisions about their bodies and lives? How can we bring healing to women who feel shame for making responsible moral decisions for the sake of themselves and their families? How can our church be a place that affirms and trusts women? Join us this week to brainstorm ways we can respond faithfully to the challenges of reproductive justice.
Feb 21: Join us this week for resources to support you in reflecting on what you can do to help bring about reproductive justice, whether it is as small as reframing the way you talk about your own decisions, or as ambitious as getting involved in existing organizations or proposing next steps for our community of faith. We will use the framework from the nonprofit "because I said I would." to commit ourselves to individual concrete actions going forward. Everyone is welcome to these discussions whether or not you have read the book or attended past classes. If you would like a copy of the PowerPoint slides from our classes, email Heather Wallace.  This class is for all people. 
SCRATCH – We're on for our usual meeting time, Sundays at 8:00 pm via Zoom. As always, no pressure to read the assigned chapter in Home By Another Way ahead of time. Come for some good conversation and fellowship. Join via Zoom.

  • Journeys Class: For Sunday, February 14, Journeys will discuss the Rodger Nishioka lecture on 21st Century Reformation. Also, folks are asked to review the contents of the three options (click here) that Paul Baldasare has suggested so the class can discuss and identify Journey's curriculum for the remainder of the Sunday school year (i.e., spring). Join via Zoom. Contact Andy Henry for more information.

  • Lectionary – Join us each Sunday for an online discussion of the lectionary texts for the day at 10:00 a.m., preceded at 9:45 by sharing of news and concerns. February 14: Have you ever discovered that someone you know is greater – more esteemed, more famous – than you were aware? It happened to Elisha, and it happened to Peter, James, and John. How did they react? How would you? February 21: Something decisive happened to Jesus at his baptism. The heavenly voice, the temptation in the wilderness, the preaching and teaching, the controversies – his old life, whatever it was like, was washed away by the waters of the Jordan, and his new life began at that moment. Did your baptism change your life? Join via Zoom. For phone access (audio only), call 253-215-8782.) If you need a copy of the handout of scripture readings or need the ID for the Zoom connection, contact David Smith.

  • Women’s Spirituality Group - Contact Leah Graves for the links to join us on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. for spiritual formation, following worship for a virtual lunch, and checking in with one another on Tuesdays - all three events via Zoom.

Contact John Weicher for link information
on YOUTH Sunday School classes and other activities
Congregational Life
Lent begins on
Ash Wednesday,
February 17
(FPC will hold a virtual worship service at 7:00 p.m.)

How will FPC observe Lent during the pandemic?
Watch this video!

Plants, animals, people -- we all need a little tending to help us grow. What happens if we approach our faith with the tender care and watchfulness of a gardener nurturing a seed?
More than simply being a long time to give up things like soda or chocolate, Lent can be a time to nurture our faith by taking on life-giving practices like time with family, reading, prayer, and caring for others. 
As we prepare for Lent, on Sunday, February 14 from 2:30 - 3:30 p.m., you're invited to drive thru the church parking lot and receive an ash cross marked on paper; devotional resources and instructions for all ages, as well as your own small seed to tend. 
Please bring donations of boxed cereal for the food ministry at Iglesia Emanuel for our "donation station."  Join us as we prepare for a season of cultivating and letting go. For more information contact Mitzi Lesher-Thomas or Lenore Champion.
New book study for Lent!

Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness

We will read this seven-chapter book one chapter at a time as we make our way through Lent.

Here is a summary of the book:

This book replaces the current study of CASTE. Contact Mindy Douglas if you would like her to order you a copy. The bookstore price is $18 but available through FPC for as low as $8.00.
FPC Legacy Society

Building a
Christian Legacy

Tuesday, February 23
11:00 a.m.  via Zoom
All are welcome! 

Dear friends, 
The FPC Planned Giving Committee would like to invite you to join us for a "Forum on Building Your Christian Legacy" on February 23, 2021, at 11 a.m. on Zoom (see registration link below). We hope that whether you are already a Legacy Society member or are interested in learning more about planned giving, that you will join us for this special event.

What is the Legacy Society?
Planned gifts, no matter the size, have the power to change lives for generations to come. You can become a Legacy Society member by providing for the future mission and ministry at First Presbyterian Church in your estate plans or through a life-income gift. Whatever your financial circumstances or your charitable goals, you can make a gift that benefits you and your loved ones as well as the church's mission of following Jesus through the love of God and love and care for our neighbor. Here is a video that tells a little about the Legacy Society at First Presbyterian Church.

We especially hope you will join us for our Zoom event on February 23 at 11 a.m. (register using the link below). Read about the presenter, Joseph Moore, here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Mindy Douglas, Pastor
Sheila Breitweiser and Sandy Roberts, Forum Planning Team members

Please REGISTER in advance to attend. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Wallace McPherson Alston III, known to all as Macky, was a small boy when his father, Wallace Alston, served First Presbyterian Church as pastor from 1969 through 1974. Macky graduated from Columbia College in 1987 and has become well-known as a documentary filmmaker. Family Name, Love Free or Die, and Questioning Faith: Confessions of a Seminarian are available on Apple TV. There are links to these and other films on Macky's website.

In his presentation on February 28 at 9:30 a.m., Macky will guide us in a conversation about repairing historic harm in regard to slavery and the Native American genocide and their legacies that live in our political, social, and individual systems today. A documentary filmmaker who has also worked for decades equipping prophetic leaders to speak effectively through the media, Macky is currently co-directing ACTS OF REPARATION, a personal quest to learn from groups across the country committed to acting in ways that establish equity and justice in this nation in the light of what many call its “original sins.”

Macky’s father was Pastor here from 1969-1974 and the roots of Macky’s commitments pass through Durham and the years he spent with us. In our shared conversation, Macky will tell stories of his own quest and the models for repair he has observed. He will then invite us as individuals and as a community to imagine our region and country healed and how we might act toward that end. As a part of the Lectureship, we have invited Macky to return for a follow-up engagement when it is safe to travel and gather.
This study is led by Mindy Douglas
Click here for ways to access the class.
Meeting ID: 975 6934 9009
Join us every other Wednesday:
February 3 and 17; March 3, 17 and 31
No gathering this week (February 11). We will gather for prayer on February 18 and February 25, then take a break until further notice.
Upcoming we are Events 
"we are," which stands for working to extend anti-racist education, is a non-profit organization that provides anti-racism training for children, families, and educators. We use a three-pronged approach to dismantle systemic racism in education by offering summer camps for children in rising 1st-5th grade, professional development for educators, and workshops for parents & families."
Registration for our annual "Let's Talk Racism" Conference is now live! Be sure to join us March 19-20, 2021 for our first virtual conference! If you registered for the conference last year, we still have your registration and payment on file and you will not need to take any further action. If you are unable to attend this year's conference and you are already registered, click here to transfer your registration to someone of your choosing no later than March 17, 2021. If you have any additional questions or concerns please feel free to email us at

This year, we are is sponsoring four, week-long summer camps for kids in rising 1st-2nd grade and rising 3rd-5th grade. We are encouraged by the new administration’s COVID action plan. Accordingly, we aim to hold this year’s camps in person. Registration per camp is $300. Scholarships & transportation are available for families who have a financial need. Because the guidelines for this summer are yet to be determined, we are only seeking a non-refundable $25
deposit at this time (not applicable if requesting a scholarship).
Email if you have questions.
Jane Williams shares two recent client stories from the Walk-in Ministry:

We received a call from an individual who had been justice-involved. He had been working but lost his job due to COVID-19. He went on a lot of interviews but felt that his record was keeping him from being hired. The day that we talked to him, he was hoping to pick up work. He was most appreciative of the rental assistance that we provided. He and his wife had a 6-week old baby who arrived early and weighed 5 pounds. They were in need of clothing for the baby. Several people in the church bought baby clothes and a quilt was donated by our quilting team who previously made quilts for babies in Honduras. The family was thrilled with the items and it felt good to know that the baby would be warm at night with his new quilt made by caring hands from FPC!
We received a call from a woman who worked at a local affordable housing non-profit. She had lost hours due to the pandemic and was behind on her electric bill. She had worked out a payment plan but needed some assistance to keep her electricity from being cut off. As we talked, she asked me about our church. When I described FPC, she suddenly said, “I know that church. I went to the Day School when I was four years old.” She told me of her fond memories of the care she received. I thought to myself about the impact that FPC had on her life as a child and now as an adult in her time of need.

Your on-going support is appreciated. Thank you.
Iglesia Emanuel Food Pantry needs our continued support!
2021 started off really rough on a national level (quite the understatement), but locally, we continue to work together as people of faith to provide nutritious food to over 500 families in need every single week at Iglesia Emanuel. Come join us as we seek to share God’s love in this most tangible way! New volunteers are always welcome.
1.   Bag rice or beans from home. For instructions and to sign up, simply click this link. Put on music, sing, and have fun while you fill those bags!
2.   To help in person at Iglesia Emanuel, grab your trusty mask, and come join others in a safe environment to help organize donated food, fill bags and boxes in preparation for the Wednesday food pantry. You will work hard but leave after your 2-hour shift knowing you have made a big difference in the lives of many families. For more information, and to sign up, click here: Iglesia Emanuel COVID-19 Food Bank Signup Genius 
3.   Your financial support is always welcome, and will help us purchase more food. Online:, or mail your check to Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel, 2504 N Roxboro, Durham 27704.

Thank you so much!
Margaret and Miguel 
Items Needed for Day School
The First Presbyterian Day School has a pressing need for personal protective equipment and other supplies for which it does not have current funding. Like so many other organizations in our community, the Day School has been seriously impacted by the pandemic and was forced to close in mid-March. After reopening at the end of June to meet the needs of children of essential workers, the Day School has seen its enrollment remain at around 25, or half of normal capacity. Through heroic efforts by the faculty and staff, the school has not experienced any cases of Covid 19, has maintained its 5 Star status, and has kept all faculty and staff on board. At her presentation to the Service and Mission Committee earlier this month, Executive Director Michele Miller-Cox noted that the school is doing well and providing a vital service to the community, but it has a need for supplies that are beyond its current capacity to purchase.

Rather than asking for donations of supplies, the Day School has set up an Amazon site that lists the supplies needed. Those wishing to contribute can go to the site, purchase items of their choosing, and the supplies will be sent directly to the school. The link for the site is listed below. Thanks.

Growing thru Grief offers year-round support for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. We meet each Tuesday from 4:00-6:00 p.m. on zoom. Those who attend need to have both audio and video available. Each meeting begins with a short presentation about a part of the grief journey, and then we break into small groups for sharing and conversation. Here are our speakers for February:

February 16: Amy Onstad, “Anger: Ally or Enemy?”
February 23: Mike McCleod, “What Is the Condition of Our Hearts: How Do We Heal?”

Growing thru Grief meets each Tuesday from 4 to 6 pm. To register for one of these zoom meetings, please contact by 8 am on the Monday before the meeting. 
The next church newsletter will be issued Tuesday, February 23. Please submit your articles to Valerie in the church office
by Sunday, February 21.