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Sunday, April 11: Second Sunday of Easter

The Sacred Sounds Handbell Choir’s Prelude for the April 28, 2019 worship service was chosen to open the service this morning. The bell choir rang out the Irish folk tune “Be Thou My Vision,” arranged by Sandra Eithin.

Pastor Curtis Fussell gave the Welcome to Worship and the Assurance of Pardon. Celia McCullough and Gary Kaplan offered the Opening Litany, the Prayer of Confession and the Passing of the Peace via video from their home. Celia and Gary’s participation in leading the worship service was truly a blessing.

The morning‘s Anthem, also taken taken from the April 28, 2019 service, was “With a Voice of Singing” by Martin Shaw. It was sung by the Chancel Choir under direction of Dr. Michael Lancaster, with Angie accompanying on pipe organ.

The Scripture reading was John 20:19-23, which recounts the apostle Thomas’ moment of realization that Jesus has risen and is among the group of disciples.

Pastor Curtis’ sermon, “Surprised By Hope,” dealt with the unavoidable fact that grief, as it had come to Thomas after Jesus’ death, comes to us all sooner or later in our lives. Yet even in our grief we have hope. In the resurrection of Christ — this most defiant statement against death — we ourselves are also promised resurrection. We are “habitual believers”: Although we have not actually seen the risen Christ, because of the hope given to us by the Word, we do indeed believe.

Pastor Emily Wilmarth offered the Prayers of God’s People and led the congregation in The Lord’s Prayer and the Offertory Prayer

.Following the Benediction hymn, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again,” Angie’s Postlude on the pipe organ was a marvelous rendition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Alleluia” from Exsultate Jubilate, arranged by Gary Davidson.

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Easter Sunday Celebration, April 4, 2021

The flowers in the sanctuary on this Easter morning were given by Stell Huie and his family in loving memory of Madaline Johnson Huie on the anniversary of her death four years ago.

This service, recorded and available for viewing on YouTube, incorporates music from the 2018 Easter Service. It features a Brass Quintet consisting of trumpeters Andy Buckner & Tyrone Kiaku, hornist Courtney Stiwalt, trombonist Larry Trout, tubist Bob Buckner, and timpanist Mario Gaetano. The music was directed by Dr. Michael Lancaster and accompanied by Angie Jenkins, Organist. The Prelude was “Fanfare On Thaxted” by Gustav Holst, arranged by Kevin Hildebrand. The anthem was “Christ is Risen, Shout Hosanna” by Jeremy Bankson, and sung by the Chancel Choir. The choir also sang “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds” by John Behnke, as a Musical Offering. The Brass Quintet accompanied all pieces of music.

Reflecting on our perception of the seemingly “unfinished” Gospel of Mark, Pastor Emily Wilmarth acknowledged our struggle to receive the good news of Jesus’ resurrection in the face of much pain and grief still among us. Yet on the other side of grief, joy awaits, hope prevails. We can read Mark‘s gospel not as an unfinished story but as an invitation to consider what we will do with the good news of the empty tomb, for in life and in death we belong to the God of resurrection. Emily referenced the Lenten cherry tree in the sanctuary, overflowing with the origami butterflies bearing our prayers for the world, our community, and our loved ones, living and passed on. The tree will be planted on the church grounds and as it grows and blooms through the years will be a reminder and testament to the truth of God’s love for us all.

Emily brought her children, Clara and Elliot, into the sanctuary for a Children’s Moment, explaining to them the symbolism and significance of the Lenten tree and butterflies. Elliot proceeded to eat a butterfly during the chat.

Pastors Curtis Fussell and Emily together conducted the Sacrament of Holy Communion, inviting the congregation and all viewers to participate by taking the bread and cup in their homes, remembering that we are united as members of God’s family, and will be together in person again.

Angie played the magnificent “He Arose” by Robert Lowry, as Postlude, on pipe organ.

First Presbyterian Church wishes each and every one a blessed and joyous Easter!

Sunday Celebration, March 28, 2021: Palm Sunday & Passion of Our Lord

This annual worship service tells the story, in scripture and song, of the journey from Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem to his betrayal, trial and crucifixion. Following the joyful, palm-strewn opening, the service becomes ever more somber, incorporating the symbolic stripping of the sanctuary. In silence, liturgical and decorative objects including the Bible, the paraments, candles, and the pastors’ stoles, are removed. As we hear the drama of the desolation, abandonment, and darkness of the passion and death of our Lord in the hymns and Scripture readings, we also see that drama unfold in our sacred space of worship. The sanctuary will remain bare until the beginnings of the Easter celebration.

As First Presbyterian Church is still closed due to Covid, the service was again recorded to be aired on YouTube. Pastors Curtis Fussell and Emily Wilmarth offered the biblical readings and prayers in the empty sanctuary, while the Prelude, anthems and hymns were taken from the March 25, 2018 worship service. The anthems were sung by the Chancel Choir, directed by Dr. Michael Lancaster, and accompanied on organ or piano by Angie Jenkins. Our choir intern, Christine Reeder, submitted a beautiful solo via video of “Were You There.”

The Prelude was “The Palms” by Gabriel Faure, played by Angie on piano. The anthems were Donald McCullough’s “Ah, Holy Jesus,” Thomas Keesecker’s “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” and Emily Lund’s “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed.” Angie brought the service to a close with the powerful “March to the Cross” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, as Postlude.

Sunday, March 21: Fifth Sunday in Lent

Origami butterflies have begun to venture out from the Lent Tree to other areas of the sanctuary; Sandy Barrow helped one into its spot in the flower arrangement this Sunday.

The service opened with a March 18, 2018 recording of G.F. Handel’s “Aria” arranged by Mark Schweizer and rung by the Sacred Sounds Handbell Choir, with Dr. Linda Lancaster accompanying on flute. Linda and clarinetist Steve Loew also accompanied the Chancel Choir in the Anthem–Bernadette Farrell’s “Unless a Grain of Wheat.” Both pieces were conducted by Dr. Michael Lancaster.

Duncan Greenlee offered the Opening Litany, the Prayer of Confession, and Passing of the Peace. His contribution to the worship service is of tremendous value and very much appreciated.

Pastor Emily Wilmarth gave the Welcome to Worship and Assurance of Pardon. She read John 12:20-33, and preached on Jesus’ words to his disciples concerning his impending death. Her sermon, “Come and See,” dealt with our calling to approach our faith with openness and curiosity. We are urged to open our eyes and see with our hearts Christ‘s journey to the cross, his suffering manifest even today in the suffering of the world; to recognize our complicity in this suffering, and to let what we see change us. Even as we come and see the cross, we live in the promise of the resurrection and participate in the act of making things new for all people in the world.

Pastor Curtis Fussell led the congregation in the Prayers of God’s People, the Lord’s Prayer and Offertory Prayer. Curtis and Emily then conducted the Service of Ordination and Installation of Elders. The candidates, Sandy Barrow and Scott Carter, have agreed to step in to fill Session vacancies for Worship and Personnel. Sandy and Scott responded to a series of Constitutional Questions, after which they knelt for prayer and the symbolic Laying On of Hands for new Elders.

Angie Jenkins closed the service with the Benediction hymn, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again” and as Postlude, Handel’s “Allegro in G” arranged by Charles Callahan, on pipe organ.

Sunday, March 14: Fourth Sunday in Lent

The morning’s Prelude was “Sarabande” from Cello Suite No. 6 in D, by Johann Sabastian Bach, played live by Angie Jenkins on the pipe organ.

Pastor Curtis Fussell gave the Welcome to Worship and the Assurance of pardon, and Leslie and Skip Randolph offered the Opening Litany, the Prayer of Confession and the Passing of the Peace via video from their home. We are very thankful for Skip and Leslie’s willingness to take part in leading the worship service.

The morning‘s Anthem was “God So Loved the World” by John Stainer—a recording taken from the March 11, 2018 worship service, sung by the Chancel Choir under direction of Dr. Michael Lancaster, with Angie accompanying on pipe organ.

The Scripture readings were Genesis 12:1-3 and John 3:14-17. The New Testament verses contain John’s very familiar words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Pastor Curtis emphasized in his sermon that this verse, so often taken out of context and used as an admonition or judgement, should always be followed up with the next: “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Curtis’ message presented the strong conviction that, far from condemning us, God does indeed love the world and all its inhabitants, imperfect and stumbling as we humans are, with unbounded extravagance.

Pastor Emily offered the Prayers of God’s People and led the congregation in The Lord’s Prayer and the Offertory Prayer.

Following the Benediction hymn, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again,” Angie’s Postlude on the pipe organ was “Komm, Susser Tod, BWV 478” by Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged by Frej Wedlund.

Our origami prayer butterflies continue to multiply on the Lenten cherry tree in the sanctuary. You are invited to join us in “Praying Through Lent”: send in your prayers to be folded into butterflies and placed on the living tree. The email address is: FPCHLentPrayers@gmail.com+6118People Reached5EngagementsBoost Post

Sunday, March 7: Third Sunday in Lent

Once again, this Sunday’s worship service included the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The congregation was invited to join in this celebration of Holy Communion by taking the bread and cup in their homes, until we are able to join together in person again to observe this sacrament.

Angie Jenkins, Organist, played the Prelude, “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” during the recording session. Pastor Emily Wilmarth gave the Welcome to Worship and the assurance of God‘s grace. Chad Lucas offered the Opening Litany, the Prayer of Confession, and Passing of the Peace, standing before a breathtaking view of Whiteside Mountain. It was wonderful to see Chad’s face and to have his tremendous contribution to our worship service.

The morning’s Anthem was “In the Heart Where Love Is Abiding,” arranged by John Barnard. It was sung by the Chancel Choir, directed by Dr. Michael Lancaster and accompanied by Angie Jenkins on organ. It was included as a recording from the February 16, 2020 worship service. Later in the service we were blessed to have a musical offering submitted by Christine Reeder, Soprano. She sang as a solo the beautiful Spiritual “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley.”

The Scripture reading was 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Pastor Emily’s sermon reflected on the vast chasm of difference between the world’s, and God’s, understanding of success and wisdom. Our “foolishly” loving God willingly entered into the depths of human pain and suffering through the crucifixion of Christ. The truth we celebrate at the Lord’s table is that in life and in death, we belong to God, and seek to live into God’s loving wisdom and grace.

Pastor Curtis Fussell led the congregation in the Prayers of God’s People and the Offertory Prayer. He and Emily then together introduced the sacrament of Communion with the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving and the Lord’s Prayer, encouraging all to join in taking the bread and cup of salvation.

The service closed with the Benediction Hymn, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again” and the wondeful Postlude, “O Lord God, Heavenly King” by J.S. Bach, played by Angie on the pipe organ.

Sunday, February 28: Second Sunday in Lent

Our Lenten Tree, aflutter with a growing number of origami butterflies encasing prayers from the congregation, is suddenly bursting with cherry blossoms!

Angie Jenkins opened the worship service with John Innes’ stirring arrangement of “What Wondrous Love Is This?” on the pipe organ.

Pastor Curtis Fussell welcomed all to worship, followed by Judy and Tom Joyner who came into the sanctuary to offer the Opening Litany, the Prayer of Confession and the Passing of the Peace. Thank you for your very meaningful contribution to the service, Tom and Judy!

The morning‘s Anthem was “take Up Your Cross” by Thomas Keesecker. It was a recording from the February 25, 2018 worship service, sung by the Chancel Choir under the direction of Dr. Michael Lancaster, and accompanied by Angie on pipe organ.

The Scripture reading was Mark 8:27-34, in which Jesus asked his disciples who it was that people said that he was, and whom the disciples understood him to be. Curtis’ sermon, “Who Do You Say Jesus Is?” turned this question around to who we ourselves are in relation to Jesus: what meaning his suffering and death has given our lives. Our response to Jesus who gave his all for us, can be none other than that we too, in love, give of ourselves, even suffer, for the wellbeing of others.

Pastor Emily offered the Prayers of God’s People and led the congregation in The Lord’s Prayer and the Offertory Prayer.

Angie Jenkins closed the service with the Benediction hymn, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again.” Her Postlude on the pipe organ was “Allegro Moderato” by Charles H. Rinck.

Praying Through Lent

During this season of Lent, we invite you to pray and share your prayers with us. Each week of Lent, we will send you a different prayer subject. You are invited to email your prayers to FPCHLentPrayers@gmail.com.

Our Monday Morning Prayer group will be receiving and praying your prayers each week at our Zoom meetings. As always, we welcome anyone who wishes to join us. Additionally, we will turn our prayers into a work of art. Each prayer will be printed on a piece of paper that will be folded into an origami butterfly. Throughout the season of Lent, we will hang the prayer butterflies on the tree in the chancel. This will be a beautiful, visible reminder of our connection to God and to one another. 

The theme for this week of Lent–February 21-27– is PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING. Please email prayers FPCHLentPrayers@gmail.com.

May the peace of Christ be with you these 40 days!

Wednesday, February 17: Ash Wednesday Service

A short, contemplative service was recorded for YouTube on Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. Pastors Emily and Curtis led the service together, offering the Welcome and Opening Litany, Prayer for Ash Wednesday, and an Invitation to the Observances of the Lenten Discipline. Curtis gave a homily entitled “Create In Me a Clean Heart” based on a Scripture reading of Psalm 51:10-12. He encouraged us to remember that we are ambassadors for Christ, and in so being, we may lean into and live out of God’s grace and love through Jesus Christ.

The Prelude, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” by Stuart Townend, was played live on piano by Angie Jenkins. A Special Music offering was given as a video by Keely Smith, a former Chancel Choir intern. She sang a beautiful rendition of the classic Spiritual “I Want Jesus To Walk With Me.” We are very blessed by Keely’s generous contribution to the service.

The service closed with Angie’s organ Postlude, “Ah, Holy Jesus” written by Johann Cruger in 1640.Following the worship service, Curtis and Emily offered the Imposition of Ashes as a drive-through or walk-up observance in the church porte-cochere.