FIRST PRESS | an online newsletter | February 2018  
My mother died in the middle of the night, alone, in her Memphis home. She had been in declining health for several months, but none of us close to her expected she would slip away so soon. In fact, Cindy and our daughters and I had traveled to Chattanooga that weekend for a family wedding. My last conversation with her, by phone, was to tell her we had arrived there safely. After a few moments, I heard her doorbell ring in the background and she ended the call to let in a repairman she was expecting. Hours later, she would be gone.  

Death, as so many of you know, has its own schedule. It works in myriad ways - slowly, quickly, predictably, surprisingly - but in every instance leaves as its calling card a heavy weight of finality that can be suffocating. Our custom of funerals helps the recovery process at the outset but, at some point, loss becomes a lonely footpath along which no one else walks with you. Your connection with the one no longer here - your memories, your time together, your  unique relationship - makes grief a personal and singular experience to endure for a lifetime.
Grief is the cost of love, of course. One friend in Kentucky wrote me that "grief is love with nowhere to go." There are no rules for navigating it; anything that brings relief is fair game. And there is no timeline. Simply put, working your way out of grief cannot be rushed. The author and theologian, John Pavlovitz, puts it this way: " Most people understand grief as an event, not as the permanent alteration to life that it is."
A recent article by Jane Brody in  The New York Times referenced two new books from psychotherapists who have worked extensively in the field of loss and grief. Both are replete with guidance that can help those in mourning as well as the people they encounter, and both attempt to correct false assumptions about how - and how long - grief might be experienced. Each author emphasizes that grief is not a problem to be solved or resolved. Rather, it's a process to be tended and "lived" in whatever form and however long it may take ("Understanding Grief," NYT, January 15).
In processing my own grief, I write to encourage you to also process yours, whether it derives from a physical death or that of a relationship now ended. It's a healthy exercise despite the elbow grease required to do it well. And there are many resources to help - counselors, books, our own FPC grief recovery group, friends who are patient, and journaling, just to name a few.
But, importantly, there is also the unbridled mercy of our God that winds its way through all of it, a mercy on which I rely far more than anything else. We have a God who knows grief firsthand, who loves us beyond measure and who is the first to suffer when we suffer. Because of the cross, we can know God accommodates our pain and abides with us in it, condescending to us with grace, comfort and a peace that truly does surpass all understanding. In Christ's life, death and resurrection, I find the rest of the story, which is that life is indeed eternal and death will be no more. There is no stronger antidote for sorrow than that.
I've shared with many of you that my mom had a frequent saying I now use myself: This, too, shall pass. In this season of loss for so many of us, and in the ones to come, I trust those words will ring true in abundantly comforting ways for us all.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.

John's signature
From the Associate Pastor

During January, I had the privilege of attending a conference in Nashville to kick off a new year of the "Company of New Pastors." It was great to connect with old friends and to meet new colleagues as we talked with one another about the challenges we faced and the opportunities for new ministries in each of our contexts. People came from all over the country and from different sized churches, but one thing was crystal clear...the Gospel is alive and well, for God is not done ministering to the world through the Church!
So, what's the Company of New Pastors, you ask? It's a pastoral formation program for ministers in their first call beyond seminary. It might surprise you just how many pastors leave ministry within the first five years. That's where the Company of New Pastors comes in. It seeks to provide support for new pastors as they transition from seminary into a life of ministry. How? By creating mentored small groups that share together in regular spiritual disciplines like daily scripture reading and prayer.
I started the program in my last year of seminary when I joined a small group of students who, like myself, were about to begin their first calls. The group supported one another through regular scripture reading and prayer over a shared monthly meal. Now I'm grateful to have the opportunity to continue working with a new group of pastors throughout the Southeast over the next four years. We find ourselves from Nashville to Orlando, Oxford to Raleigh, and everywhere in between. For the next four years, my group will read scripture and pray with one another regularly as we seek to support one another in ministry. This fall, we will get together again for a week of study with the hope that our efforts will enhance our ministries and the ministries of our individual congregations.
One way I hope this program enhances the life of our own congregation is through the enrichment of our own small group ministry for our young adults. In some ways, our young adult small groups resemble the small groups within the Company of New Pastors. I'm thrilled that we are starting this new ministry with over 55 people in eight different groups. It's my hope that these new small groups will come to be sources of support and strength like my own small group in seminary was for me. It's my prayer that these small groups will deepen each member's life of faith and enrich what it means for each person to be a child of God. May all of us be blessed and nourished through the new ministries God calls each of us to be a part of.


  Financial Summary

Summary of Stated Session Meeting
The Session of First Presbyterian Church held its stated monthly meeting on Monday, January 8, 2018, at 5:30 p.m. in Fellowship Hall.  Fourteen elders were present.  

Highlights from the meeting are as follows:
  • 2017 has been an outstanding year for Finance. At the end of the year, revenues collected were $200,000 above the budgeted amount. Expenditures were approximately $32,000 less than budgeted. As of December 31, 2017, year to date revenue was $1,209,981.59, and expenses were $1,009,180.22. 
  • The ministry team reported that as of the end of the 2017 year, 181 family units had pledged $966,522.00 toward FPC Stewardship 2018. This is 13 units less than in the previous year. The Finance ministry team will continue to adjust figures as more pledges are received.
  • The final proposed 2018 budget will be presented at the February Stated Session Meeting.
  • Elders are charged to be observant of the church property and communicate to the Property Team any concerns or improvements about the church property.
  • The Moderator reported that Lent will begin on Wednesday, February 14. There will be an Ash Wednesday service of worship at 5:30 p.m. Easter Sunday is April 1, 2018.
        Membership & Hospitality
  • Elder Margie McLeod reported that the first First Sunday lunch was a huge success. Volunteers are needed to help provide set-up and clean-up in the kitchen. The Mission ministry team will provide the volunteers for the February First Sunday lunch. This Sunday will be advertised as a "Souper Bowl Sunday." Attendees will be asked to bring a can of food for The Pantry.
  • A Shrove Tuesday pancake supper /Mardi Gras children's parade will be held on Tuesday, February 13.
  • The 6th annual Jerry Warner memorial golf tournament is scheduled for April.
  • A new member class will be held February 11.
  • Plans are being made to partner with First United Methodist Church in assisting with a literacy program for adults seeking their GED certificates.
  The Session recited The Lord's Prayer and adjourned at 6:34 p.m.
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

Ash Wednesday Worship
February 14  +  5:30 pm
The Sanctuary
Lectionary Texts for February
February 4 - Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalm 147:1-11, 20 c ; 1 Corinthians 9:16-23; Mark 1:29-39
February 11 - 2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9
February 18 - Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
February 25 - Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
Sanctuary flower dates are available on...
April 22 and 29.  If you would like to provide flowers in 
honor or memory of a loved one, please contact Susan Joiner  
at 662-808-3240 or  email to Please refrain 
from  utilizing lilies  in chancel floral arrangements.
PYF News
PYF is back in full swing after returning from our Christmas break. We continue to meet on Sunday afternoons, when we gather for a time of fun and fellowship. PYF has a few busy months ahead of us. By the time you read this, we will have already attended our annual Sr. High PYC Retreat at Camp Hopewell. We also have the Jr. High PYC Retreat Scheduled for February 16 -17 . These retreats are a time for our youth to get to know other youth from around St. Andrew Presbytery. I would like to take this time to recognize our own PYC members, Daniel Hall, Jess Edge and Frances Abernathy, who have given their time planning this retreat for all the youth across north Mississippi. I would also like to thank all of the members of FPC for their continued support of our growing ministry.
College News

Another UKirk Ole Miss semester is underway! 
As you might've read last month, some of us kicked off 2018 with a trip to College Conference at Montreat. Our group of 21 presbytery students and leaders heard keynotes from Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms and former PC(USA) moderator Rick Ufford-Chase. Worship included sermons from current co-moderator Jan Edmiston, and we also attended workshops and discussion groups with students and leaders from around the country. There was plenty of fellowship time in the midst of it all...and a frozen Lake Susan!
As we move forward into our Spring semester, we're still working on filling our Tuesday night meal schedule. I'm so grateful for those of you who have already committed to doing ministry with us in this way. If you haven't yet had the chance, check out the calendar on our website. We'd love to have you with us on any of the available weeks. And an old reminder for a new semester: don't forget that you can get more detailed updates on UKirk by way of our monthly email newsletter. Subscribe via the button on our website's home page. 
Adult Education
Practice Resurrection

Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ , by Eugene Peterson, is the focus of a 13-week adult study each Wednesday at 10:00 am in the Session Room. The study began Wednesday, January 31 but it's not too late to join the conversation. "Peterson's book brings the voice of Scripture - especially Paul's letter to the Ephesians - and the voice of the contemporary Christian congregation together to unpack the crucial truth of what it means to fully grow up to the 'stature of Christ.'" Members of the pastoral staff will lead the study. Please call the church office to order a book ($13) and indicate your intention to participate in this study focused on Ephesians and the importance of Christian maturity and character formation.  
What's Happening in Haiti?

Seven clinics in 4 1/2 days may be a record for FPC's medical mission trips, but the 2018 Haiti mission team was up for the challenge. Members of this year's team found their niches quickly and worked together well. Except for the icy departure, the lost luggage and the animals who kept us up all night, it was a pretty smooth week! Come to the First Sunday Lunch in March to hear more about the trip. In the meantime, here are some pictures from our week in Haiti.

Don't Forget Lovepacks

Spring Break is just around the corner, which means Lovepacks will be sending additional food home with Oxford & Lafayette County students who might be hungry without meals provided at school. Bring your donations by the church office and we'll deliver for you. Lovepacks sends home bags of non-perishable, kid-friendly food each week with students who have been identified by their school counselor. Here are the foods you can donate:

          Pop Top cans of Chicken Noodle or Vegetable Soup
             Pop-Top cans of Ravioli
           Peanut Butter Crackers
           Cheese Crackers
           Saltine Crackers
           16 oz. Jars of Peanut Butter
           Non-refrigerated Pudding
           Granola, Breakfast, or Protein bars
           Pop Top cans of Beanie Weenies
Etcetera . . .
February 4, 2018

When you come to the "First Sunday" lunch on February 4, consider bringing canned goods for the Pantry or items for Lovepacks. Help reduce hunger in the Oxford/Lafayette County area and restock the shelves for these organizations that serve our community. Bins will be located inside the doors of Fellowship Hall for donations. The Pantry will take any healthy, non-perishable food. Lovepacks prefers non-perishable, kid-friendly food such as those listed in the article above.
Together Begins in February!

Wednesdays Together for Lent begins  February 21,  with supper served at 5:45 pm and Bible study following until 7:00 pm. We will study one chapter of the book of Ruth per week as we walk with Jesus' ancestors - Ruth, Naomi and Boaz - into communal life together. A nursery and children's programming will be offered each week. Wednesdays Together will run four weeks through   March 21,  with no programming scheduled for  March 14  during Spring Break. The cost of the meal is $6 per person and $3 for children 5 and under, with a maximum cost per family of $20. An opportunity to pre-pay using a credit card will be available at the door.

The kids menu will alternate each week between cheeseburger sliders and chicken nuggets, fruit, chips & juice boxes.   
Young Adult February Event!

Mark your calendar for Saturday evening, February 24 ...a night of fellowship and study at FPC. We will share a meal together and then take time to study what it means to be part of a Christian community. Our nursery ministry will be available for our little Presbyterians. More details will be announced via the Young Adult email list. Contact David Randolph at to get on that email list today!
Your FPC staff thanks all who contributed to the 2017 Christmas staff gift. Your generous outpouring of love and support is deeply appreciated. We each look forward to serving you with gladness in 2018!
Haven House
Haven house residents are delighted to receive various translations of the Bible and also other religious material. All may be left at the church office and thanks to all who have responded.
A Continuing 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!

Esther Ethridge Circle
Sunday, February 11 at 4:30 pm @ the home of Maggie Abernathy - 103 Orrwood Drive, Oxford, MS 38655

Carroll Barr Circle
Tuesday, February 20 at 6:00 pm @ the home of Carmille Hovious - 112 L'Acadian #113, Oxford, MS 38655
Alma Shaw Circle
Tuesday, February 20 at 9:45 am @ the home of Barbara Davis - 206 Clubhouse Drive, Oxford, MS 38655

Lula Gregory Circle
Tuesday, February 20 at 9:45 am @ the home of Betty Abdo - 1100 Augusta Drive, Unit 1101, Oxford, MS 38655

Gerry Duvall Circle
Tuesday, February 20 at 12:00 pm in Fellowship Hall

PW Council 2017-2018
Moderator - Sharron Alexander -
Vice - Moderator - Mary Haskell -
Secretary - Julie Field -  
Treasurer - Margaret Fancher -
Historian - Karen Stockton -
Ex-Moderator - Becki Felts -
News from the Pews
 VIP Schedule for February

 Thursday, February 22
  Dutch treat supper at The Grill House
Reservations are needed for this event. Please call the church office and let us know you plan to attend!

We Extend Sympathy to :
Mary Jack Mullen, whose brother, Bill Faulkner, died January 8, 2018 in Jackson, MS.

Edna Wright, whose sister, Alta Belle Bristo, died January 10, 2018 in Monroe, LA.

Linda and John Scarbrough, whose grand nephew, Jackson Roberts
, died January 12, 2018 in Greenville, SC.

Richard DeVoe, whose mother, Frances DeVoe, died January 18, 2018 in Oxford, MS.

John Schuesselin, whose aunt, Carol Heckler, died January 23, 2018 in Sidney, OH.

Kristina Carlson, whose mother, Evelyn Carlson, died January 25, 2018 in DeLand, FL.

Memorials and Honoraria

  ~ With gratitude for contributions to First Presbyterian Church ~
In memory of:

Joan Semmes Bullard

JJ Jones
Rose Paris
Bobbie & Syd Shaw
Sue Treas
Kay & Larry Tyler

Dr. David Cook

JJ Jones

Jerry Warner

Chloe Brown

In honor of:

Dorothy Lou & Mack Aldridge

Missy Aldridge Saxton

Upcoming Birthdays and Anniversaries

February Birthdays:

1     Lila Luster, Marianna Ochs
2     Charlie Quick
3     Gail Hercules
4     William Elliott, Kate Embry, Hollins Hardin, Tommy Smith, Annie Grace White
5     Jim Jackson
6     Michael Abraham, Joan Westmoreland
7     Jeb Bishop, John Callery, Ann Dickins, Cynthia Freeland
8     Trey Byars, Roy Selvidge
9     Carolyn Hopkins
10   Hayden Williams
11   Margaret Blake Embry, Spencer Huggins, Donna Ruth Roberts
12   Darren Ashmore
13   Michael Blackburn, Lucy Chiniche, Vicki Stevens, Daniel Payne
16   Olivia Briscoe
17   Caldwell Embry, Tad Wilkes
18   Catherine Field, Leslie Orrell, Linda Scarbrough, Aubrey Wigginton
19   Shirley Crawford, Angela Manley
20   Will Lewis
21   Sarah Smith
22   Max Hill
24   Sallie Abernathy
25   Edward Duke III, Katherine Estes, Chase Neal, Mary Williams
26   Riley Mullen
28   Kris Kersey, Matt Moore

February Anniversaries:

4     Kathy & John Neff
5     Susan & Tom Meredith
15   Gail & Richard Gurner
17   Patsy & Jay Eads
22   Beth & Chris Pace
   First Dates
Prayer Shawl Ministry  will meet Monday, February 5 at 1:00 pm in Room 101.
The Property Ministry Team will meet Tuesday, February 6 at 5:30 pm in Room 101.
The Adult Education Ministry Team will meet Wednesday, February 7 at 5:30 pm in Room 101.
The Membership & Hospitality Ministry Team will meet Thursday, February 8 at 5:30 in Room 101.
The Diaconate  will meet Thursday, February 15 at 5:30 pm in the Session room.
Piecemakers  meet each Thursday at 9:00 am in Fellowship Hall and Saturday, February 10 at 10:30 in Fellowship Hall.
The Finance Ministry Team  will meet Monday, February 12 at 4:30 pm in Room 101.
The Session  will meet Monday, February 12 at 5:30 pm in Fellowship Hall.
FPC Book Club will meet Tuesday, February 13 at 1:30 in Room 101. The book will be The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan.
The Children's Christian Education Ministry Team will meet Thursday, February 15 at 5:30 pm in Room 101.

Reminder: The March deadline for submissions to First Press is
Thursday, March 15. 

The Session
  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

CLASS of 2020
Ashley Callery, Ann DeVoe, Ben Griffith,
Matthew Hall, Monte Wood

The Diaconate
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

CLASS of 2020
Todd Abbott, Rosie Cooper, Ed Croom,
Lisa Hickman-Tollison, John Schuesselin, Amy Wilkes

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