"Downtown by history and by choic e"
FPC Bi-Weekly Newsletter
May 5 - 18, 2020
From the Pastor/Head of Staff
Dear friends,

           I planted my tomatoes this week. This is one of my favorite times of the year – the time when I get to take the seedlings that my father has planted and nurtured and nourished for the past many weeks and put them gently and faithfully into the ground.
           My father grew up planting tomatoes, just as his father and grandfather had done before him. It was a natural part of spring, just as the birthing of the calves and the blossoming of the flowers on the trees. My father no longer lives on a farm, but he rents space on one near his community and daily journeys to tend and care for his vegetables there. In late winter, his tomato preparation begins. He plants seeds of many tomato varieties in small containers and warms them under special florescent glow lights. As they grow, he moves them to larger containers and raises the light so it is just above the top leaves.
As the days warm, he begins to “harden them up” by placing them outside in the sunshine for a few hours each day and then for longer periods of time until they are strong enough to withstand the heat of the sun. This is when I receive my delivery, having placed my order (just as my sisters have) weeks earlier – a few Early Girls, two Better Boys, several Sweet Millions, and a Goliath, Big Beef, a couple of Big Bush to spare. My mouth almost waters as I think of the fruits these young plants will eventually bear.
When I plant them, I work most of the day, digging gallon sized holes and filling them with compost, manure, and potting soil. A touch of Epson salt is added before I mix in enough water to make the soil slightly mushy and ready to receive the plant. Low leaves are pinched off and the plant is buried deep in the ground so the stalk will be fully supported. Nails are placed on either side of the plant so the cutter worms won’t attack the fragile stalks.
The next day, I rest my muscles sore from all the bending, stretching, and digging. I gaze out at the garden, small and innocent, but ready to blossom and grow into large and winding vines full of the most delicious of fruits (which I will have to share with the squirrels and would be happy to share with you, if you ask when the harvest is plentiful!), and I am grateful.
My planting this year has been different in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, but not in a bad way. It has been less rushed, less forced between events and activities, meetings, and appointments. This has been a mysterious gift of the virus, and I imagine you have had a few of these mysterious gifts in your life these days as well. In the most important ways, however, my spring gardening has been the same. The planting of these tomatoes still connects me with my father and sisters, my grandparents and great-grandparents for generations back. The planting of these tomatoes still connects me with the cool earth, the wriggling earthworms, and the nutrient-rich soil which will feed and tend these plants in the weeks and months to come.
It is a blessing.
Jan Richardson has a book of poems on blessings and I close with one today, with the hope that you will be able to find your own blessing in the midst of this strange and chaotic time we are in. The poem is called “Beloved Is Where We Begin.”

“If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing. . .
I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.
But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.
I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.
I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:

My friends, may you all know the peace that passes all understanding. And may you find your blessing this day - the blessing of the earth, the river, the sky, the sun, the moon, and most especially, the blessing of being God’s beloved.

With so much love,

  • Valerie McMillian, upon the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, Tyrone McMillian, on Monday
  • Linn Lopez and family on the death of her husband, Anthony “Tony” Lopez, on April 26th . A private graveside service was held May 1st at Oak Grove Memorial Gardens, Durham
  • Tom and Sandy Roberts on the death of Tom’s sister, Julie McLean, who died April 21st in Hartford, CT
  • Lee Tubbs, mother of Nora Tisdale, recovering from a fall
  • Asher Wilson, son of Mike and Emily Wilson and grandson of Chuck and Jean Wilson, home after a brief hospital stay
  • John Kerr
  • Camilla Crampton, companion of Mal King, at home on Hospice care
  • All who have been impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic

Home and in Care Communities :
Margaret Mubanga (home)
Brookdale Durham: Julian Boswell, Becky Crockett                 
Croasdaile Pavilion: Bob Rankin 
Dubose Center at The Cedars (Chapel Hill): Arthur Clark
Durham Regent: Ann Prospero, John Kerr
Emerald Pond: Paul Cornsweet
Hillcrest Convalescent Center, Durham: Jean Lazarides
Southern Living for Seniors, Louisburg: Phillip Herndon
The Forest at Duke: Fran Bryant

Family and Friends of the Congregation :
Tiffany Barber, niece of Christyn Klinck
Ken Chambliss, father of Will Chambliss
Becky Evans, sister of Vernon Neece
Dolores Ewald, mother-in-law of Susan Ewald
Chris Kovach, friend of Jeanne Hervey
Doug Neece, brother of Vernon Neece
Shannon Johnson, daughter of Mary Putman
Jim Vacca, father of Jamie Chambliss

Congratulations!! : Miriam Morey has been awarded the Veteran’s Administration Rehabilitation Research and Development Service's highest honor—the Paul B. Magnuson Award. It is given to recognize humanitarianism and dedication in service to Veterans. Way to go, Miriam!
Please welcome Omar Guess
to the First Presbyterian Apartment

Omar was born and raised in northern New Jersey. He has lived in Durham for the past 20 years. He works for Durham County with their Recycling team. He just completed his Commercial Driver’s License and is about to start training as a HVAC technician.

He is a busy father with 7 kids in Texas and Wilmington, NC. He also has 4 grandchildren. He loves sports and is active with weight training and tennis. He is a big Dallas Cowboys fan and loves Duke Basketball. He was lucky enough last year to meet Zion Williams twice.

Please extend a warm welcome to Omar when you see him. He moved in to the apartment on May 1 st .
We are grateful for your prayers and expressions of concern for our grandson Asher while he was in the hospital for tests and treatment for viral meningitis. He is at home now and is feeling much better as he recovers.

Jean Wilson & family
Special thanks to Jody Maxwell, Pat Dillon, and John Weicher for their tireless "behind the scenes" technical assistance keeping us informed and connected via YouTube, Zoom, Facebook, and the church's website during this pandemic.
On Monday, April 27, the FPC Session voted to receive Mark Higgins and George and Annie Gentithes into membership. Learn more about these new members here.
Congratulations to the following persons who were elected on Sunday, April 26 to serve as officers and at-large on the Nominating Committee for officers:

Ruling Elder - Class of 2022: Andy Henry

Ruling Elder - Class of 2023: Johanna Bernhardt, Alec Bethune, Conrad Carter, Mary Ann Compton, Lucie House, Leslie McDow, Keith Rokoske

Deacon - Class of 2023: Barbara Fish, Christy Gudaitis, Elizabeth Jones, Amy Sanchez, Josh Walters

2020-2021 Nominating Committee (at-Large): Walt Barron, Stephen Berry, Clarabelle Brown, Carlo Diy, Jean Wilson
Sunday, May 10
Fifth Sunday of Easter / Mother's Day

Sunday School: Virtual classes begin at 10:00 a.m.

Worship streamed at 11:00 a.m. via the church's website:
Mindy Douglas , preaching

Sunday, May 17
Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sunday School: Virtual classes begin at 10:00 a.m.

Worship Streamed at 11:00 a.m. via the church's website:
  • Faith & Community – May 10:  Tyler Momsen-Hudson will present about Rebuilding Together. This organization makes a sustainable impact, ensuring vulnerable homeowners – including seniors, individuals with disabilities, and families with children – live in safe, healthy homes. Sharon Hirsh will facilitate discussion. May 17: Gann Herman of the North Carolina Power People’s Campaign will be our guest speaker. The Campaign is working on a national call for moral revival amidst the evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and more.  

  • Journeys –  Journeys participants check in with how our lives are going during the Covid-19 lock down and how we might help with some of the growing community needs, especially food. We will also wrap up our thoughts on “Building the Good Life for All” by L. Shannon Jung, and will discuss possible topics for upcoming Sunday School. One book has already been suggested, Climate Church, Climate World, by Jim Antal. You can participate in Journeys by downloading the Zoom app onto your computer and clicking the Join via Zoom link. If you’re having trouble obtaining the book or connecting to the class via Zoom, contact Eric Wiebe

  • Lectionary – Join us each Sunday for online discussion at 10:00, preceded at 9:45 by sharing of news and concerns. May 10: The exhilaration of Easter is fading into memory, and we are left with more mundane matters. Will our faith help us grow in holiness and do great works? Will it preserve us in times of uncertainty and suffering? May 17: Are we alone? Must we, as Paul said, "search for God and perhaps find him"? Or do we have a better way? Join via Zoom. (For phone access (audio only), call 253-215-8782 or 301-715-8592.) If you need a copy of the handout of scripture readings or need the ID for the Zoom connection, contact David Smith.

  • We Make the Road by Walking – Check-in, support, and devotional on Sundays at 8:00 p.m. Join via Zoom. Contact Emily Diy if you need help connecting to the class.

  • Women’s Spirituality Group -  Support and check-in during these strange times. Be in touch with Leah Graves for access to the class information. We meet virtually on Sundays at 10 a.m.
If you are not receiving a separate weekly email connecting you
to FPC online activities for children and youth,
contact John Weicher to be added to the list.
All three of FPC children’s classes are now meeting Sunday mornings via Zoom!
  • 2s, 3s & 4s – 9-9:30 am. 
  • Kindergarten, 1st & 2nd grades – 9:45-10:25 am.
  • 3rd, 4th & 5th grades – 10:30-10:55 am.

To receive the links – and weekly activities, resources and encouragement for children’s faith formation – be in touch with John Weicher ( ). He sends out a weekly note on Fridays with all of this information. 

A Special Thank You to all of our children’s teaching teams for their great care of our children and their flexibility.  ~ John Weicher, Associate Pastor
You do not need a Facebook account to participate in these services. Simply go online to: / each Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m.
Leaders this week:
Amy Wilson (May 5)
Griffin Momsen-Hudson (May 7)
All are invited to join this Lenten Study led by Mindy Douglas on Tuesdays, 5:00-6:00 p.m. via Zoom. Contact Mindy if you need the Zoom ID to connect to the group.

All are welcome to join the Women's Spirituality Group in this study of Helpmates, Harlots and Heroes by Alice Bellis. We meet via Zoom on Wednesdays, 7:30-8:15 p.m. During this time we discuss, learn some new things, have social time, and share joys and concerns and how God is acting in our lives d uring these crazy days. Contact Deborah Momsen-Hudson if you need the Zoom ID or wish to listen in to the discussion.
The Things That Matter Book Group will meet on Tuesday, May 12 at 3:30 p.m. to discuss Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Click Join the discussion to participate via Zoom. Celia Dickerson has also provided this discussion guide for those participating in the discussion.
We still have many These Days devotional booklets for April - June 2020 in regular and large print at the church. Contact the church office (call 919-682-5511 or email Valerie) to arrange to pick up a copy at the church, or to have a copy mailed to you.
Winesdays on Wednesdays Fellowship
The First Presbyterian Fellowship group has decided to start doing weekly Virtual Winesday Happy Hours on Wednesdays at 5:30. Regular attendees to the Coop have been sent a link to participate via zoom. You can join the gathering by connecting via Google Hangouts Meet . Contac t Laurie Williamson or Mindy Douglas to b e added to the group's listserv.
  • Until further notice, the pastoral staff (Susan, John, Kathy, and Mindy) will be working remotely from their homes. You can reach them by email, mobile phone, or texting. 

  • Administrative staff (Valerie, Tom, Sybil, and Robert) will continue working as needed at the church and will be available by email or phone/text during normal business hours. 

  • Office volunteers are not needed at the church at this time. 

  • The Walk-in Ministry will interview clients between 9:00 a.m. -12 noon, only on Mondays, and only by telephone. We are not handing out blessing bags.
See Ways to Give for the many options available to pay pledges, make donations, and give to special offerings. Thank you for your continued generous giving to the church and its partners while we practice social distancing.

See Ways to Help for a list of some of the opportunities available to assist our Durham community partners and neighbors in need. Please support them as you are able.
On-going Help Needed
at Iglesia Emanuel
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on so many struggling families who have lost their source of income. Our sister church, Iglesia Emanuel, is working overtime to help address critical food shortages not only in the Hispanic community, but well beyond. Their food pantry has gone from serving 60 families a week to 360   families . That computes to well over 1,000 people who will now have food on their tables for the coming week. The heartbreak was that this past Wednesday, there were still at least 100 more cars waiting in line for food after they ran out of all supplies.

This is a huge undertaking week after week for such a small church, and Iglesia Emanuel could not possibly continue their mission to feed the hungry without ongoing support from others. We have been incredibly moved by the generous response from so many caring members of FPC, with financial as well as food donations. Please, let us not grow weary in our support, as the immense needs continue to grow. There are several ways you can help:
  • New option: provide practical support by dividing large bags of rice or beans into ziplock baggies, help sort donated food items, pack bags of food. Check SignUpGenius for shift openings -Iglesia Emanuel COVID-19 Food Bank Signup Genius.  
  • Newest items needed: Donate disposable gloves, reusable (non-disposable) shopping bags, and paper shopping bags with handles
  • Make a financial donation on line by going to
  • Mail a check, written to Iglesia Presbyteriana Emanuel, 2504 N Roxboro, Durham, NC 27704
  • Donate food, preferably bulk items. Most needed are rice, beans, other staples such as Mac ’n Cheese, cereal, canned goods, etc.
  • Food donations may be taken to Iglesia Emanuel, but call Guillermo Salamea at 919-451-6626 to confirm time of drop-off
  • Food donations may also be taken to Miguel and Margaret Rubiera’s house, 3108 Chelmsford Dr, and we will deliver for you, or we will pick up from your front porch!
Feel free to contact us with any questions, and thank you again for your loving commitment to help others. Contact: Miguel Rubiera or Margaret Rubiera.

Volunteers needed at Urban Ministries of Durham
For the month of April, FPC and Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) are asking that only people under the age of 60 work in the kitchen at UMD, so share this message broadly with all your younger friends! Remember to respond to Margaret Rubiera if you meet the criteria to volunteer during the pandemic. FPC continues its regular volunteer schedule: 3rd and 5th Fridays (prepare breakfast trays); 4th Thursdays (prepare lunch bags) and 3rd Mondays (prepare lunch bags) of the month.

There are many openings for volunteers to help with breakfast, lunch or dinner shifts in addition to our regularly scheduled ones. For these additional shifts, please contact FPC member Jen McGonigle
  • Prepare lunch bags containing a sandwich (no condiments so it keeps safely for 1-3 days), piece of fruit, cookie or granola bar, bottle of water
  • Or just prepare sandwiches in ziplock baggies (again, no condiments, but some protein, please)
  • Prepare casseroles for dinner
  • Donate deli meats/cheeses/bottled water/fresh fruit/snack items
  • And last, but certainly not least, send a monetary donation to
Stronger Together Fund is a relief fund that will help Durham Habitat meet the ever-evolving needs of our homeowners, partner families, and the Durham community during this difficult time. With over a third of our homeowners out of work, many will be unable to make their mortgage payments, which average about $650 per month. Your support will help us fill that need immediately. In addition, we face a serious backlog of critical repairs and a significant disruption in new home construction. We need your help to build capacity so we can hit the ground running when the time is right.
This is the first time StepUp Durham’s annual campaign will be entirely virtual. There will be four short videos and a 20 minute online presentation was posted today. The program will include images and words from staff, volunteers, employers, and participants. For more information about the celebration event, click here .  
The next church newsletter will be issued Tuesday, May 19. Please submit your articles to Valerie in the church office
by Sunday, May 17