"Downtown by history and by choice"
FPC Bi-Weekly Newsletter
March 23 - April 5, 2021
Letter from Pastor/Head of Staff:

Dear friends,
One year of COVID-19.
One year of online worship.
One year of isolation.
One year of not visiting the sick and dying in person.
One year of no memorial services/funerals in the sanctuary.
One year of not fellowshipping with congregation members.
Etc., etc. etc.
It has been hard, y’all.
I have felt the exhaustion of it all over again.

Part of the exhaustion we are experiencing right now is the fact that we are in this in-between space. Some have been vaccinated: some have not. We also are faced with still more unknowns about transmission and variants. Add to this the confusion about when to open and for how many and with what precautions in place? Gets to be a lot. 

But the amazing side of this in-between space is that some people who have been completely isolated are beginning to be able to see loved ones. If you missed Laura Hanson’s minute for stewardship yesterday, I urge you to go back and listen to it on our YouTube Channel (Click the link and start at minute 4:10 - Her brief message clearly shares the ways that we have suffered in our isolation and loneliness and the ways the vaccination is offering an end to both of those things (she came to us from her parents’ house in Kansas City). We are also seeing previously closed spaces, such as the Forest at Duke, opening for visitation. Fully vaccinated grandparents are hugging their grandchildren for the first time in a year! Hope is no longer on the horizon. Hope is here.

The question on all of our minds now is this: “What does this mean for the church? When and how will we be able to gather?”

As we seek to answer these questions, we need to walk together. We need to join together to as we do the mental, emotional, and physical work of reopening. We are looking ahead with hopes and dreams for the future. But we must be careful as we move forward. Until our whole community has the chance to be vaccinated and numbers in our community stabilize, we will continue creatively and compassionately to find ways to reconnect and regather in small groups. We know we will be together soon. The date of our first time in the sanctuary, however, is not yet set. It may not be set for a while. We need to make sure that everyone who wants to be vaccinated has had a chance to get vaccinated. We need to make sure that when we gather it can be safe. We also want to make sure that those who don’t feel safe gathering can still worship online with us. The COVID-19 Task Force has recently shared some new guidelines, based on the CDC guidelines. At the end of this letter, I share some of those guidelines in an FAQ form. 

As each day passes, more and more ways of connecting are open to us. We don’t know for sure what the new normal will be, but we know that we are moving toward it together.

In the meantime, we continue – staff meetings, worship planning, book discussions, Sunday school classes – all on Zoom. We also will push to open up some new opportunities as more and more people are vaccinated. We will find ways to be safe and to be together. We will continue to minister to the needs of the community around us. We will continue to worship, pray, and serve. We will continue to give thanks for the past and to look to the future.

We will continue to be the First Presbyterian. We will continue to be the Church.

I, for one, am just glad I am in this with you all. Thanks be to God for the Body of Christ and for the grace that comes with that.

We move forward in faith. We go together in love. We look to the future in hope.

May God continue to guide us every step of the way.

With love,

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q - When will we be back in the sanctuary for Sunday worship?

A – The date for our first time in the sanctuary has not been set. It may not be set for a while. We need to make sure that everyone who wants a vaccination has had a chance to get a vaccination. We also need to wait until levels of COVID-19 have decreased to a level that indicates that it is safe to gather.

Q – What gatherings are considered safe for FPC now?

A – 1) Outdoor gatherings of no more than 25 people, masked and distanced;
      2) Indoor gatherings of no more than 15 vaccinated people, masked and distanced, with good ventilation.

Q – Can we sing together?

A – Not yet. Hopefully soon. We miss it, too.
Q – What about low-risk unvaccinated individuals?

A – At this time, the same guidelines above apply. Exceptions will be for low-risk unvaccinated individuals in a single household recording or live-streaming for worship or other church-related activities.

Q – How do these guidelines affect our summer youth trips?

A – Late summer trips are still a strong possibility. Organizations running summer conferences (such as Montreat and Massanetta) are making decisions throughout the spring. John Weicher, Associate Pastor for Youth and Their Families, is in regular contact with these organizations and with our COVID-19 Task Force and will keep youth and their families informed throughout the spring.

Q – When will our pastors and staff be fully vaccinated?

A – The entire staff should be fully vaccinated by the end of April.

  • Arthur Clark, a patient at UNC Hospitals
  • Carlton Round's mother who is fighting cancer; Carlton is a friend of Li - Chen Chin.
  • John Samulski, owner of Tiger Cleaning and friend of FPC
  • Mamie Watson, assistant director, FPC Dayschool

  • Family of Juan Esparza - colleague of Josh Walters, who died unexpectedly last week;
  • Family and friends of Camden Cohick, student at Western Carolina University, who died suddenly

Recovering at their homes:
Grace Abels
Tom Bloom
Catherine Dumas
Kerry Holbrook
Margaret Sims
Carol Wills
Care Communities:
Brookdale Durham: Julian Boswell 
Croasdaile Pavilion: Bob Rankin
Dubose Center at The Cedars, Chapel Hill: Arthur Clark
Durham Ridge Assisted Living: Phillip Herndon
Emerald Pond: Paul Cornsweet
Hillcrest Convalescent: Walter Chambliss, father of Will Chambliss
The Forest at Duke: Fran Bryant
The Laurels of Chatham County: Ann Prospero
Family and Friends of the Congregation:
Carolyn Bonner, wife of Deborah Momsen-Hudson’s coworker Al Bonner
Peggy Boulden, mother of Dick Boulden
Flora Estrella, a relative of Beth Stringfield and Cris Rivera
Chris James’ mother, suffering from dementia
Grace, Chris James’ great-niece, suffering from a degenerative condition
Phil Goss, a friend of the congregation
Peggy Mordecai, mother of Beth Eisenson
Margaret Nelson, sister of Charlotte Nelson
Shannon Putman, daughter of Mary Putman
Jeanne Sommerville, mother of Katharine Whitmore
Dear amazing church members,
On Saturday March 6, we were able to safely hold the Florence Forth road race with about 240 in person participants and 270 virtual & global participants. Many of you walked, ran, volunteered, and cheered. We remain eternally grateful for your continued support in our efforts to raise awareness for autoimmune encephalitis. Thank you all! Wishing you peace, health and safety as we continue to navigate an isolating time.

Much love,
Will, Leslie, and Laura Mishler McDow
Calling all young adults!
(you know who you are... footloose and fancy free on a Wednesday evening – somewhere after college and before you're supervising someone else's homework)

Pop-up @ the Co-Op
TOMORROW, Wednesday, March 24
6:00-7:00 p.m.
We'll meet over masks (Optional: grab food from the Co-op)
Bring your own chair (so we can spread out)
Bring a question - about a particular scripture, about faith, about why the church does that
Bring an idea = what do we want to do next?
Questions, contact Mitzi.
Sunday, March 28, 2021
11:00 a.m. Virtual Worship
(Watch it live-streamed on FPC’s YouTube channel.)
Palm branches will be available for pick up at FPC beginning Friday, March 26 and will be available through Palm Sunday, March 28. Feel free to pick one up for a friend, neighbor, or fellow FPC'er!
Missing the mingling that always followed worship?
Join our virtual narthex fellowship and take a few moments to catch up with friends!
WHEN: This Sunday, March 28 immediately following worship - use this link.
Hosted by your friendly FPC Deacons
Throughout Holy Week you are invited to experience the Stations of the Cross through the eyes of artist Mary Button. The series explores the intersection of Christ's journey to the cross and the global stories of forced migration, relocation of indigenous peoples, and the movement of refugees. Numbered art installations will be set along the sidewalk outdoors at the back of the church. A brochure will be available at the first station, offering information about this ancient practice, each of the stations, and a prayer. 

Maundy Thursday, April 1
7:00 p.m. - Virtual Worship with Holy Communion
(Watch on FPC's YouTube channel.
Click on WORSHIP from the church's website.)

Good Friday, April 2
All Day - Stations of the Cross
(FPC grounds; see information above)

Easter Sunday, April 4
11 a.m. - Virtual Worship with Holy Communion
(Watch on FPC's YouTube channel.
Click on WORSHIP from the church's website.)
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
Discussing Holy Week from Gospel of Mark
Zoom link Class begins at 10:00 a.m.
Lectionary Class: Join us as we discuss the lectionary texts for the day at 10:00 a.m., preceded at 9:45 by sharing of news and concerns.
March 28: From public acclaim at the beginning of the week to disgrace a few days later... was this really necessary?
April 4: How can we believe an unbelievable story? Those who tell it have little credibility -- fishermen, fanatical converts, frightened women who said they saw an angel. But we are commanded not just to believe but to help spread the word. "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." 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 actual ID for the Zoom connection, contact David Smith.
Journeys Class: Journeys will continue with the Living the Question series. Join via Zoom. Contact Andy Henry for more information.

March 28: Use this link to access and view the Painting the Stars video called “Evolutionary Christianity” (title #5). It is 25 minutes long.
If you are asked for a password, use the following: sm9843pts.
Women’s Spirituality Group: Contact Leah Graves for the links to join this class at 10:00 a.m.on Sundays for spiritual formation, and/or following Sunday worship for a virtual lunch together, and checking in with one another on Tuesdays - all three events via Zoom.
SCRATCH: We're still on for our usual meeting time, Sundays at 8:00 p.m. via Zoom. We are currently discussing chapters in "Home by Another Way" by Barbara Brown Taylor. Join via Zoom
Contact John Weicher for link information
on YOUTH Sunday School classes and other activities
Congregational Life
Remember a Loved One this Easter
Lilies will grace our sanctuary this year on Easter Sunday. If you would like to honor or remember someone in the bulletin on Sunday, April 4, you can give a lily by completing TWO steps. The deadline is Monday, March 29.
Online Users
STEP 1: Sign up to donate a lily using this link to complete the lily donation form.
STEP 2: Go to the church's website to make your corresponding donation. Click here.
For those without internet access
STEP 1: ASAP, call the church office: 919-682-5511 x 215 and request a lily donor card be mailed to you, or share your donor info with FPC staff.
STEP 2: ASAP, complete and return the donor card and/or your donation (any amount) by US mail to the church office. Make check payable to First Presbyterian Church, memo: Lilies.
Funds received in excess, of the amount needed to purchase lilies, will be ADDED to the annual One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering. This PCUSA special offering is received on Easter Sunday and provides relief to the hungry, poor, and oppressed, and those affected by natural disasters. The link to give online is now active. Click here to contribute separately to the OGHS offering.

Our Stewardship Team would love your feedback on our fall 2020 campaign, our first-ever that was 100% virtual. Your feedback will help us improve for next year! Thanks for taking less than 5 minutes by clicking on the survey button below. Please complete the survey by the end of March.
Once again this year FPC is participating in the CROP Hunger Walk to help families who are struggling with hunger. We're asking you to join us - with your steps and your donations - to provide more meals for the growing number of people in our community who need them, and greater food security in communities around the world. 

This year's CROP Walk is being held virtually due to the pandemic, meaning walkers will walk on their own or in small groups during the week of April 10-18. We'd love to have you join us as a walker, but if you are unable to walk, please consider sponsoring one of the walkers from FPC. Those walking include Emily Wilkins, Julie and Jody Maxwell, Kerry Holbrook, Marie Sappenfield, Caroline Rourk, Sharon Hirsch, Shirley Frederick, and Tom Bacon.

Click on the link below to either join the FPC Team or to make a donation in support of those walking.
Small Group Gatherings
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.  
 - Ps. 100:4-5
Are you 65 years of age or older? Fully vaccinated? (2 weeks or more after your second vaccine) If so, we're thrilled to offer the opportunity for small groups of 13 people, masked and distanced, to meet in the sanctuary for a time of prayer and fellowship. Come to hear the organ, see dear ones and be in prayer together. Sign up at this link or by calling First Presbyterian (919-682-5511 ext. 217) and state the date for which you're signing up from a list of available dates in April and May. Please let us know if you need a ride when you sign up, we may be able to help.

Flower donors are needed for Sundays this spring and summer. If you would like to donate flowers for worship, you can sign up using this link or go to the church's website and click "Flowers for Worship" from the home page. Click here for more detailed instructions on how to donate flowers. During the pandemic, a typical arrangement costs $40.00.
These Days devotional books for April - June 2021 have arrived. Free copies in large and regular print are available for pickup at FPC or you can request a copy be sent to you by mail. Simply call the church (919-682-5511 x 217) or email Sybil King to request a copy.
Class meets on Tuesdays during Lent.
Note the new start time is 6:15 p.m.
This study is led by Mindy Douglas.
Click here to join the class.
Multiplying the Blessings
At the Iglesia Emanuel Food Pantry, we see miracles every week. We prepare for 550 families. 590 families show up, and there is enough food for all.

Come, be part of the miracle at 2504 N Roxboro. Join other volunteers for a 2-hour shift, bag rice and beans from home, donate food, or give a financial donation. Together, we will continue to spread God’s love throughout our community in this most tangible way. 
  •  To sign up for a 2-hour shift, click here
  • To bag rice and beans from home, or donate food, click here
  • To make a financial donation, go to and click on “Donate.”
  • More questions? Contact Margaret Rubiera.
The next church newsletter will be issued Tuesday, April 6. Please submit your articles to Valerie in the church office
by Sunday, April 4.