"Downtown by history and by choice"
FPC Bi-Weekly Newsletter
December 1-13, 2020
The season of ADVENT is here!
Click ADVENT to see what's happening at FPC!
From the Pastor/Head of Staff
Dear friends,

It seems as if we have been in Advent for nine months and counting. Waiting for a vaccine. Waiting for a treatment. Longing for “normalcy” (whatever that is). Hoping for a cure. Hoping for protection from the virus. Praying that friends, family, and neighbors with COVID-19 would get better. Longing for the days when we will gather again. Anticipating family reunions, and worship, and singing together in one place.

In between our pandemic nightmares, may we dream Advent dreams. 
In addition, we have also been waiting for racial justice, longing for racial equity, hoping for a world made new where the beloved community is represented in every place and in every time, anticipating a new day dawning when racism does not rear its ugly head in the marketplace, in our schools, in our justice system, and in our economic and health policies.

In between our racism nightmares, may we dream Advent dreams.
This Advent, we are using worship and devotional materials written and created by a team of artists and visionaries. The theme of these materials is “Those Who Dream.” Each Sunday we are reminded of those who dreamed of the Christ child and of God’s Kingdom of peace, hope, love, and joy. We are reminded of Isaiah, John the Baptist, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph. We are reminded of the Shepherds and the Angels, the Wisemen and the prophets of old. We join our dreams with their dreams in our Advent longings for Christ’s promises.

One writer in the “Those Who Dream” series reflects on her understanding of Advent dreams. She writes:

“Lately, I’ve had the most vivid dreams. I wake unsure of what is real and what are figments of my imagination. Sometimes it’s difficult to navigate the space between dream and reality. In the midst of a pandemic and what Time Magazine calls, “America’s Long Overdue Awakening to Systemic Racism,” what is the function of dreaming? Dreaming helps people escape reality. There are those who dream, curating their own world, protected from news cycles, sirens, echoing cries, and responsibility. Dreaming helps people survive. There are those who dream, holding tight to the hopes of ancestors while imagining a better future for generations to come. Dreaming helps people transform reality. There are those who dream, resisting the status quo while fighting for a just and equitable world. Sometimes our dreams are small because to dream big feels frivolous. Sometimes our dreams are small because to dream big might threaten our reality. Sometimes our dreams are big because our lives depend on it. This Advent, how can we harness the power of dreaming? What can we learn from dreamers who came before us? How can we narrow the space between reality and God’s dream—a dream imaged in the flesh of the Christ child?”                                
—Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman, A Sanctified Art

           This Advent, I hope you will find ways to “narrow the space between reality and God’s dream imaged in the flesh of the Christ child.” I hope you will find ways to bridge the gap between the fears that occupy our minds and bodies and the hopes of God’s promises of peace and leveling – when every valley shall be lifted up and the rough places made plain. I hope you will feel God’s presence with you, as close as the very marrow of your bones, and know that as you wait, you are not alone. None of us are. God is with us. Emmanuel.

May the God of Advent peace be with you all, now and always.

With love,
Congratulations to Jenna Kneepken-Susen and Matt Susen on the birth of their first child. Hailey Rae was born Thursday, November 19. Mom and baby are home and doing well.

The love and concern of the congregation are extended to:
  •  Lea Bingham and Rob Dilworth, Gwendolyn and Eleanor, on the death of Rob’s mother, Marcella Aldridge, on November 22;
  • Christy and Jim Gudaitis on the death of Christy’s father, Frank Myers, on November 23;
  • the family of Rebecca "Becky" Crockett, FPC member who died November 27 in Durham. Becky, age 94, had recently suffered a stroke and had been hospitalized. A service and burial will be held in Wytheville, VA at a later date
Please contact the church office if you need contact information for these families.

Kathy Parkins, recovering from shoulder surgery
Harold Dunlap      
Kerry Holbrook
Jane Rourk     
Carol Wills
Walter Chambliss, father of Will Chambliss, preparing for surgery
Maureen Darcey, friend of Brianna Bennett, diagnosis of brain cancer 
Ann Loebrich, mother of Bruce Loebrich, in Ohio with COVID-19
Joe Rudigier, brother of Jeanne Hervey, complications from a stroke
Holly, friend of the Klinck family
The many households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
Those who are grieving during this holiday season   

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

Family and Friends of the Congregation:
Brendan Bequette, family friend of Margaret & Miguel Rubiera
Peggy Boulden, mother of Dick Boulden
Linda Capers, friend of Li-Chen Chin
Meg Courtney, daughter of Bob and Mary Lee Clark, active friends of the congregation
Phil Goss, friend of the congregation
Peggy Mordecai, mother of Beth Eisenson
Ellen O’Brien, mother-in-law of Mindy Douglas
Shannon Putman, daughter of Mary Putman
Robert Reaves, husband of Floalice Reaves, friend of the congregation
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who lived in a land of deep darkness-on them light has shined.” -Isaiah 9:2


Members and friends,
 Over 100 of you responded to the challenge to raise $25,000 in two weeks to care for those who are struggling in darkness during this COVID pandemic! Your gifts will be matched by a member of our congregation to provide $50,000 for Walk-in Ministry to share with our community.

As we wait for the birth of our Savior during this Advent season, your gifts will provide light to those struggling to stay housed and warm. In November, we assisted 75 families with rent, utilities, and medications for a total of $9,600.
Our congregation has not allowed the isolation of the pandemic to isolate us from the needs of the community. Instead we have reached out more than ever before to help others who are hit with financial hardship due to COVID 19. It is our hope that your gifts from this challenge will carry our neighbors through the rest of this pandemic.

We are so grateful to be a part of a congregation that understands our call as a downtown church. We thank each of you for your gift for this calling. We will keep you informed of our work each month. Feel free to contact any of us with questions.

                                       In Christ’s loving light and grace,
                                          Walk in Ministry Volunteers
Judy Arrowood, Linda Carter,
Mary Jo Keenan, John Mozart,
Marie Sappenfield, Jane Williams
Year-End Giving

Contributions statements are being mailed soon to all those who had pledge balances as of November 30. Timely payment of pledges by December 31 will allow First Presbyterian to pay its end-of-year bills promptly and to meet its benevolence obligations for 2020.

Please remember that the church must receive your charitable contributions by 12:00 p.m. on Monday, December 31, 2020; or the gift must be postmarked by December 31, 2020, if mailed, to be deductible on your 2020 taxes.

If you wish to make a contribution by credit card, this may be done through the parish’s website ( at any time. To be deductible on your 2020 taxes, please initiate the gift by Tuesday, December 29. On-line contributions scheduled for December 31 will not reach us in time.

If you wish to make a donation through a gift of stock, please notify Tom Bloom, Business Administrator ( as soon as possible.
Members aged 70 ½ + who own an IRA may be able to make a tax-excludable gift directly to First Presbyterian and have that gift satisfy any required minimum distribution for this year. Please contact your IRA administrator ASAP if you wish to consider this giving option for tax year 2020.  
December 6th - 2nd Sunday of Advent
Worship with Communion
Assemble your elements at home
Mindy Douglas, preaching
Drive -Thru Advent Festival begins at 2:00 p.m. in church parking lot - all are welcome to join us (Click here for details).

December 13th - 3rd Sunday in Advent
Virtual Caroling via Zoom begins at 6:30 p.m.

December 20th - 4th Sunday of Advent
Annual Lessons and Carols service at 11:00 a.m. (streamed live)

Sunday School
The children's (virtual) classes begin at 9 a.m.
Adult (virtual) classes begin at 10 a.m.

Worship is streamed live each Sunday at 11 a.m. on FPC's YouTube channel via the church's website:
Children's Sunday School
Contact Lenore Champion for class kits and links
to the Children's Sunday School classes
Missing the Alternative Giving Market? Fear not! Your chance to learn about some fabulous and faithful organizations – as well as to donate to them as gifts for the important people in your life – has moved onto Zoom. Each week in Advent, friends from two of our favorite AGM organizations will speak during the Faith & Community class. This Sunday, December 6, it’s Our Children's Place and Step-Up Durham. Click here to join this Sunday's class.
This Sunday, December 6, Journeys will discuss chapter 7 from Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World. This chapter is titled “The Practice of Living with a Purpose.” Join via Zoom. Contact Andy Henry for more information.
  • Lectionary – Join us each Sunday for online discussion at 10:00, preceded at 9:45 by sharing of news and concerns. On December 6: Who is proclaiming God's message today? The preacher in the pulpit? The celebrity in the commercial? The talk show host, or the politician, or the homeless person on the corner? Or maybe you? On December 13: “There was a man sent from God....” How did John know that? “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me....” How did Isaiah know that? “The one who calls you is faithful....” Are you listening? 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.

  • SCRATCH – Looking forward to seeing everyone at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday evenings! Join via Zoom. This fall we are using "Home by Another Way" by Barbara Brown Taylor to guide our discussions. The book is a series of short sermons by Taylor that will walk us through the church year. The readings each week are short. We're going to set up the discussions so even if you haven't read the chapter, the leader will provide a short summary. If more info is needed, contact Emily Diy.
Contact John Weicher for link information
on YOUTH Sunday School classes and other activities
Congregational Events with deadlines ...
Time is running out to receive your photos/videos for our Christmas Eve Pageant which will be a virtual presentation this year.

We need all photos and videos by December 12th
in order to complete
video editing on time.

Everyone can participate.
Click here to sign up for a scene or music in the pageant.

Contact Lenore Champion
at 919-616-2360 for more info.

We normally receive paper nominations over the course of a few weeks that are placed in the offering plate during worship. Since we can't do that this year, we are calling for nominations via a Google form: click here OR you may contact Mary Ann Compton, one of our ruling elders who is serving on the Nominating Committee. Mary Ann can be reached by email OR call her at 919-452-6500. Thank you for your help.

Dawn Shelton and Mary Anne Compton
Co-chairs of the Nominating Committee

Do you have a picture to share? If so, will you scan and email it to Celia Dickerson? We want as many visuals as we can collect for this celebration.  

Get your cards and well wishes ready. We will ask for a shower of cards very soon!

The Session has approved a love offering collection for Robert. Please send your donation to Tom Bloom at the church office by December 10th. Make check payable to FPC. Memo: Robert's Retirement. 

We are looking forward to our congregational thanks to Robert for his many years of service.  
From the committee for Robert's retirement,
Celia Dickerson   Beth Stringfield   Kate Busa   Barbara Buckley 

Join us on Tuesdays
at 5:00 p.m.

Click here for ways to
access the class.

Mindy Douglas
leads the class.

We are meeting every other week this fall.
Winesdays Meeting ID: 975 6934 9009
Join us on our FACEBOOK page for Advent Vespers
Thursdays, December 3, 10, & 17 at 8:00 p.m. (online, live)
Looking for a Christmas present idea for the human in your life? Or a little something for yourself? Faith & Community will be returning to Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice for 6 weeks in January and February, potentially including some outside speakers. We encourage folks to purchase this book ahead of our January 3 return to the topic, as we explore so many of the important issues it discusses.
Support for Those who Mourn
Growing thru Grief offers year-round support to people who have lost a loved one. Currently we are meeting on zoom each week.

Here is a preview of our coming speakers:
        December 8       Debbie Davis                       Cello Performance
        December 15     Andrea Bowen                     Care for the Grieving Self
                                                                              through the Holidays
        December 22     Janet Stolp                          To be determined
        December 29     Vivian Harris                       The Ugly Shoes Club

If you would like to attend any or all of these sessions, please send request to Then we can send you the information. Everyone must register every week. We need to receive your inquiry by 8 am on Monday for Tuesday’s session.

We meet each Tuesday from 4:15-6, with a presentation plus small group discussion. For more information about Growing thru Grief, check out our website,
Service and Mission Opportunities
Below are stories from the Walk-in Ministry of two clients we have been able to help with your donations to this ministry. (Submitted by Mary-Jo Keenan)

A.S. was $300 behind on rent. She lost her job as a home health aid due to COVID-19. She had a good paying job lined up to work for the Census but was afraid of the risk of COVID to her and her children. She now has a few interviews lined up for administrative work and hopes one of those pans out. She is 42 years old and is also an online student with Strayer University. We were able to help her with $200 towards her rent.

E.H. was a manager at Taco Bell  for 10 years but then got cancer and was out for an extended time on disability. She is now looking for a job in elder care but is unable to get work due to COVID-19.  We were able to help her with $200 towards her rent.
Final Call to help Families Moving Forward

A small group of faithful First Presbyterian volunteers prepares meals and provides childcare for Families Moving Forward (FMF) throughout the year, but, in the current situation, FMF has asked us to prepare a meal for all the families sheltering there on Monday, December 7, about 60 people. So we need your help! If you are willing to prepare part of this meal, please sign up using this link.

Instructions: You will bring your meal contribution to FMF (on N. Queen St., near FPC) at 5:30 p.m. on December 7, and, for the safety of residents and volunteers alike, just leave it on the picnic table outside.

Looking for other ways to help? 
FMF asks for your help in the following ways:
  • Assist with FMF's Study Buddies program. They need volunteers to help virtually one day a week to help kids with homework. E-mail Courtney at
  • Provide support for FMF's annual holiday NEST Adopt a Family for the Holidays of holiday toy donation program. Contact
  • Donate NEW twin and full comforters and sheet sets for our families to enjoy when they move in. They could also use donations of laundry detergent, cleaning supplies and other essential household items. Contact if you have a donation to drop off.
Questions? Please contact Lea Bingham, or 919-358-1774.

Supporting the Food Pantry at Iglesia Emanuel
This Christmas holiday season is going to be different for all of us, but we can still find wonderful, practical ways to share God’s love with our neighbors. The Food Pantry at Iglesia Emanuel continues to provide large boxes of healthy food to almost 500 families a week, thanks to the dedicated help and generous donations from our community. We would welcome your participation or contributions at any time! Here are a couple of easy ways to be part of this special ministry:
  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 with 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.
Muchas gracias! 
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been in communication with our partners and is responding to the urgent needs in Central America following Hurricanes Eta and Iota. Iota made landfall one week after Eta and hit many of the same regions. The double impact of these storms has resulted in over 100 lives lost and significant damage from flooding and mudslides; mass evacuations are further complicated by COVID-19. Priorities for the response include WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), food security, shelter and livelihood restoration. PDA needs our help to ensure that it can continue providing emergency response and long-term recovery support. Give online: DR000194.
The next church newsletter will be issued Tuesday, December 15. Please submit your articles to Valerie in the church office
by Sunday, December 13.