Sunday, May 16: Seventh Sunday of Easter

The flowers in the sanctuary this morning were given to the glory of God by Marty Boone in loving memory of her mother, Jean Boone.

This Sunday’s Prelude was a recording of Vivaldi’s “Allegro from Trio Sonata in G minor.” It was performed on July 15, 2018 by Franklin Keel, Cellist, Linda Lancaster, Flutist, and Kelly O’Dell, Oboist. The Anthem was ”For He Is Our Peace” by Philip Stopford, offered by the Chancel Choir on July 29, 2018, under Dr. Michael Lancaster’s direction and accompanied by Angie Jenkins, Pianist.

Pastor Emily Wilmarth welcomed all to worship, and Obie Oakley offered our Call to Worship, Prayer of Confession and Passing of the Peace. We are immensely grateful to Obie for his eloquent and meaningful contribution to the worship service.

Pastor Emily’s Scripture reading was John 17:6-19–a passage which contains some of Jesus’ final words, in which he prays for his disciples. Emily’s sermon reflected on the nature of prayer, what it is, the various forms it takes, how integral prayer is to our lives. She suggested that ultimately prayer is about relationship — with God, with the world around us, with other people. In prayer, we bind ourselves to God. True prayer involves not only words, thoughts, meditation, but also action, as we seek to do Christ’s work in the world.

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

As has been our tradition throughout this time of separation, Angie Jenkins closed the service with the Benediction hymn, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again.” Her Postlude on the pipe organ was a beautiful arrangement by Charles V. Stanford of Anna Laura Page’s “Voluntary on Engelberg.”

Sunday, May 9: Sixth Sunday of Easter

The spectacular flower arrangement in the sanctuary this morning was given by Betty Fisher to the glory of God and in loving memory of Don Fisher upon the first anniversary of his death.

The morning’s Prelude was a beautiful arrangement by Karl Weinland of “My Jesus, I Love Thee” offered by Jillionna Bailey-Plemmons, Harpist, and provided on video.

Pastor Curtis Fussell gave the Welcome to Worship and the Assurance of Pardon. John and Jennifer Martin came into the sanctuary to offer the Opening Litany, the Prayer of Confession and the Passing of the Peace. The worship service was greatly enhanced by John and Jennifer’s very meaningful liturgy, and we truly appreciate their participation.

We were delighted this morning to observe our first Sacrament of Baptism since before the beginning of the pandemic. Lauren and Ryan Kenyon brought their infant son, McClain George Kenyon, into the church along with family members for the joyful ceremony. Ann Sullivan, Elder for Children’s Education, assisted Pastor Emily in conducting the sacrament and presented the family with a Children’s Bible.

The morning‘s Anthem was “You Will I Love” by Kevin Hildebrand—a recording taken from the October 29, 2017 worship service, sung by the Chancel Choir under direction of Dr. Michael Lancaster, with Angie Jenkins accompanying on pipe organ.

The Scripture reading was John 15:9-17, in which Jesus issues God’s command to his followers to “love one another as I have loved you.” Curtis stressed the value and joy of friendship with Jesus: the attending to, commitment to, and nurturing of our relationship with God through Christ. This relationship by its nature extends to love for our neighbor—a deep phileo love that involves our entire being, and stems from our abiding in Christ.

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 a beautiful arrangement of “Lift High the Cross” by Lani Smith.

Sunday, May 2: Fifth Sunday of Easter

This worship service, again recorded and available for viewing on YouTube, incorporates music from the May 20, 2018 service. The Prelude, arranged and performed by pianist Patricia Black, was “Improvisation on ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’ and ‘This is My Father’s World.” The Anthem was “My Song In the Night,” an American folk hymn arranged by Mack Wilberg and performed by the Asheville Symphony Chamber Chorus, our guest musicians on that date. Patricia Black accompanied on piano.

This 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, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit to join us as one with the body of Christ.

Pastors Emily and Curtis gave the Call to Worship, the Opening Litany, the Prayer of Confession, and Passing of the Peace. Emily preached on a reading of John 15:1-8, in which Jesus refers to himself as the True Vine, declaring that his followers will bear much fruit if they abide in him.

Emily’s sermon title, “Abiding in Love,” reflected on these words from Jesus. She affirmed that Christ has in fact already made a home in us, and that we discover our most authentic selves in the love of God that abides in each of us. When we are returned to our authentic selves, we return to the place where Jesus abides in us; we are returned to love. It is in this transformative love that we as the Church “bear much fruit.”

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 Angie Jenkins’ magnificent Postlude, “Festive Trumpet Tune,” which she played live on the pipe organ.

Sunday, April 25: Fourth Sunday of Easter

Our previously recorded Prelude this Sunday was “Allegro, Opus 3, No. 2,” by Areangelo Corelli, performed on April 22, 2018 by Erin Hansen, Harpist, Linda Lancaster, Flutist, and Kelly O’Dell, Oboist. The anthem, recorded on the same Sunday in 2018 and with the same accompanists, was “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” by Mack Wilberg. It was sung by the Chancel Choir under direction of Dr. Michael Lancaster.

Carol and Jimmy Grantham offered the Opening Litany, the Prayer of Confession, and Passing of the Peace We are thankful for their meaningful contribution to the richness of our worship service.

Pastor Curtis read Jesus’ words from John 10:1-5, which likens God to the good shepherd whose sheep recognize, listen and respond to his voice. Curtis‘ sermon affirmed this passage with the acknowledgment that we, the “sheep” or members of God’s flock, derive blessing from the voice of Jesus. Our lives become full of grace and joy, vastly more meaningful, compassionate and enlightened, when we hear and listen to Christ’s word to us.

In Pastor Emily’s absence as she attends a pastoral retreat, Curtis offered the Prayers of God’s People and led the congregation in The Lord’s Prayer and the Offertory Prayer.

Angie Jenkins once again closed the service with the Benediction hymn, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again.” Her marvelous Postlude on the pipe organ was Handel’s “Overture” from Royal Fireworks, arranged by Diane Bish.+964People Reached16EngagementsBoost Post

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Sunday, April 18: Third Sunday of Easter

This morning’s Prelude, recorded during the February 24, 2019 worship service, was “Sinfonia” from Cantata No. 145 by J.S. Bach. It was performed by Rabun Gap-Nacoochee students Rosine Yin, Pianist, and Simon Park, Flutist.

Pastor Emily Wilmarth gave the Call to Worship and Assurance of Grace.

Keith Crawford and Ken Proctor offered the Opening Litany, the Prayer of Confession, and Passing of the Peace from their home. We are delighted to have Keith and Ken’s participation in the service.

A 2013 recording of ”Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” arranged by Edwin Childs, was the morning’s Anthem. It was sung by the Chancel Choir and accompanied by Angie Jenkins on piano, under the direction of Dr. Michael Lancaster.

Pastor Emily preached on a Scripture reading of Luke 24:36-48, which recounts the reappearance of Jesus to the disciples after his resurrection, and after meeting and dining with two of them on the road to Emmaus.

Emily explored the concept of Christian hospitality, which flows from a generosity of heart and spirit, with no expectation of return in kind. It has to do with engaging in relationship with and valuing the other, offering ourselves sacrificially without counting the cost. As we move through and beyond the pandemic with its isolating distancing, we will begin to learn new ways of doing the work of “Holy Hospitality.”

A special musical offering was provided via video by a group of Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School vocalists. With Allegra Boggess directing, they sang a beautiful rendition of the African-American Spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

Pastor Curtis Fussell led the congregation in the Prayers of God’s People, the Lord’s Prayer and Offertory Prayer.

Angie closed the worship service with the Benediction hymn, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again,” and the Postlude, “O Lord, You Are My God and King” by Charles H. Perry, on the pipe organ.+1146People Reached6EngagementsBoost Post

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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.