September 23, 2020

Dear friends,

They’re back! By back, I mean North Carolina’s version of grapes – scuppernongs and muscadines. Alex found the vine on the back of our WPC campus as Chris, Marietta, Alex, and I had the rare chance to be on campus together in preparation for Rally Day.

I love this time of year. It’s a mellow, earnest, remembering time of year as we plow into our work, finally burned out on summer’s heat and sobered by winter’s coming cold. The muscadines and scuppernongs take me back to a time when every fall I would gather the “Wee Presbyterians,” a group of 3-5-year-old saints from Calypso Presbyterian Church, to teach them how to suck in the sweet, meaty pulp of a scuppernong, spit out the seeds, and eat (or not eat, according to personal preference) the thick skins of this native grape. We would talk then about how grape juice and even wine was made. We'd bake some bread and talk about Jesus and communion in the church. I sure miss those sweet days of communion with those children, many of whom now have children of their own.
Henri Nouwen once wrote about how when we come to the communion table this side of the Great Feast of Glory, we drink from a common cup that refreshes and yet leaves us thirsty for more. We eat bread that nourishes but also churns our stomachs with deeper hunger. During this time of COVID-19, I have felt the truth of this in regards to many things, haven’t you? We have so much, and yet we long for so much more.

This fall I invite you to look for the scuppernong and muscadine grapevines that grow wild and domesticated here in North Carolina. Find someone (maybe yourself) who needs to learn to eat one of these grapes like a real North Carolinian and ponder our communion at this time -- how it was, how it now is, and what it will be again one day. Think about all those vine and grape and vineyard stories from the Bible. We have quite a few of them coming up - one, in fact, this very Sunday. A man with a vineyard had two sons . . . .

See you soon!
Westminster This Week - Quick Links 

Fall Church School Elective: â€śIn These Trying Times”

Continue the conversation from September’s Aperture event in this three-week Fall Church School elective, facilitated by Geoff Vaughn. This class will serve as an extension of the Aperture event, but attendance at that initial session is not necessary. (Watch the recording of September’s Aperture). We will continue our investigation of how the myriad current stressors in our communities continue to generate significant internal stress, as well as ways we can find relief, comfort, and support as this season of uncertainty wears on. This class will meet October 11, 18, and 25. 
September Update on WPC & COVID-19
From the WPC COVID-19 Operations Committee: 
Andy Dunk, Kim Garcia, Jim Ketch, Russ Lange, and Helen Tharrington

As we are zooming into Fall, we now do so with some experience in hand when it comes to navigating through the pandemic season. It’s been a month since our WPC campus usage and meeting application form and process went live. We’ve hosted a successful Rally Day. We’ve hosted people on campus for a variety of reasons and as we have, we’ve learned things.

With these learnings, we’ve been able to simplify some of the ways we visit on our campus. While we can’t yet spend time together in our buildings, if you’ve prearranged to pick up or drop something off at Westminster, no form needs to be completed. Just wear your mask, social distance, and log your visit on the clipboard that is by the front door of the Holderness Mission Center if your drop-off/pick-up takes you there. Another clipboard is inside the garage if you are heading there. 

This update and the rest of our current regathering guidelines are summarized in the table below. The full set of our COVID-19 Operating Guidelines – now reflecting the most recent updates from our state and local governments – is available online. As we move forward together as a community, seeking both spiritual and physical health, we’ll share more updates as they develop. In the meantime, if you have any questions and/or suggestions as together, we navigate these times, please share them with us at Thanks for your support and care.
Next Month: Child & Youth Protection Policy Training

Our top priority is to maintain a safe and wholesome environment for children and youth in all of Westminster’s programs – even those that take place online. We have a Child & Youth Protection Policy for Preventing Sexual Abuse in place for the protection of children, youth, and the adults who care for them. Volunteers who wish to serve in our ministries for children and youth must complete Westminster’s Child & Youth Protection Policy Training and renew their training every three years. We will offer CYPP training via Zoom on Thursday, October 15, at 7:00pm. Training will be led by the Rev. Kerri Hefner from New Hope Presbyterian Church and Alex Stayer-Brewington. Register now or contact Marietta Wynands with any questions.
Growing Through Grief: 6-Week Series Begins in October  

Growing Through Grief provides a weekly gathering (via Zoom) for persons who have lost a loved one. Attendees listen to a 10-20 minute presentation on Zoom, then break out into small groups for discussions led by facilitators. The next programs will be on September 29: Bill Dahl, “Where Exactly Am I Now?”

Next month Growing Through Grief will offer its six-week â€śIntroduction to Grief” series. William Holloman, manager at Duke HomeCare & Hospice, will lead these sessions. Topics are:
  • October 6: Dimensions of Grief – What is Normal?
  • October 13: Experiencing the Pain of Loss?
  • October 20: Difficult Emotions
  • October 27: Remembering
  • November 3: Important Events
  • November 10: Reinvesting in the Future

On November 17, Duke HomeCare & Hospice will present “Grieving the Holidays.” 

If you or someone you know might be interested in joining the group or in serving as one of its presenters, please contact Cherrie Barton Henry.
Responding to Disasters During the Time of COVID
From the Global Missions Committee

What can we do in the face of hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and other disasters that tear people’s lives apart while we are social distancing? This is the question your Global Missions committee has been addressing. For a few frenzied days, the news is full of the latest disaster, our hearts go out to the people affected, and then the news and our lives move on. However, the people at ground zero must still deal with the devastation for months or years to come. 

In the past, we have collected contributions for a particular disaster and even sent teams of volunteers to places such as Tarboro and the Gulf coast. We may do both of these things again in the future, but we also wanted a way to support you in individual giving or volunteering during the pandemic. Below we have identified three organizations you may want to consider. Please prayerfully reflect on how God is calling you to respond.
  • The Red Cross is always one of the first organizations to provide food and shelter for disaster victims.
  • Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is our denomination’s disaster program through which you can both give and volunteer. Click here to read an update on how PDA is responding to victims of Hurricane Laura.
  • All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response is a nonprofit that works globally and has received the highest ratings from Charity Navigator for finance, accountability, and transparency. According to its website, All Hands and Hearts comes early, stays late, and listens to the local people to understand their needs. The organization’s focus is rebuilding homes, schools (which are often neglected by other disaster relief programs), and infrastructure that are disaster-resilient.