Updates

November 24 Update
The Sanctuary will be open for quiet prayer on 4 evenings in December. Check here for more information.

November 23 Update
We plan to hold an outdoor service at 9am in the Cameron Center parking lot each Sunday through December 20, weather permitting. Guidelines and the current signup sheet are here. Cancellations will be sent through email by 7:30am on the morning of the service.

November 19 Update
Neighborhood Advent service signup is open! There are several dates in December to choose from in various areas around town. Check the dates/times/locations, and sign up here.

November 16 Update
An outdoor service with a participant limit of 50 is scheduled for 9am November 22 in the Cameron Center parking lot.
A recorded service will be posted on the website and on Facebook at 11am.

November 10 Update
Registration is closed.
A service will be streamed on the website and on Facebook at 11am.

November 4 Update
A 9am Nov 8 outdoor service is scheduled. The recorded service will be available at 11am.

October 18 Update
A 9am Oct 18 outdoor service is scheduled. The recorded service will be available at 11am.

October 11 Update
Oct 11 outdoor service is canceled due to rain. The recorded service will be available at 11am.

October 7 Update
We’re trying again! Poor weather forced us to cancel the outdoor service last Sunday, so we are going to try again. You’re invited to join us for an outdoor worship service on Sunday October 11th, 9am, in the Cameron Center parking lot. Space is limited to 50, so please sign up, and we’ll know to expect you. Participants are required to wear masks for entering, exiting, and singing.

September 25 Update
OUTDOOR WORSHIP SERVICE
You’re invited to join us for an outdoor worship service on Sunday October 4th, 9am, in the Cameron Center parking lot. Space is limited to 50, so please sign up, and we’ll know to expect you. Participants are required to wear masks for entering, exiting, and singing.
Find more details and signup HERE.

August 20 Update- Congregational Survey Responses

July 31 Update- Congregational Survey

Fill out the survey here.


BUILDING USE PLAN, JUNE 6 UPDATE
The Session continues to think about planning for accessing the church facilities as North Carolina moves through the phased lifting of the Governor’s stay at home order. We still have no specific timelines or dates as to when that will be. Therefore, our progress towards returning to the church will be based upon achieving and maintaining effective control of the pandemic in our community and state.

As we await further information, our Ad-Hoc Committee is working to plan for what we describe as First Presbyterian stage 2 for worship. In stage 2, we will shift from on-line services to a hybrid of limited attendance at the church and continued individual or outdoor small group gatherings that would participate remotely. Services will be streamed live from the church. At this time, the committee is working on preparations based upon recent guidance for communities of faith which was issued by the CDC and recommendations from the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina.

As a part of the preparations, several groups and committees are helping us think about the order of worship, music, needed supplies, and resources such as masks, hand sanitizing stations, and numerous other details. Soon you will receive a request to participate in a brief survey to help us understand how our community is thinking and feeling about our plan and our return to the church for worship. We hope that you will help us with this important work by responding to the survey as we look forward to the time when we can be together in worship.



VIRTUAL COMMUNION MESSAGE (This Sunday, May 31)
Dear FPC Family,
I want to tell you about our worship service this coming weekend, May 31st, as it will be a brand new experiment for us. We will be celebrating the Day of Pentecost with our first ever Virtual Communion Service! The service will be streamed live from our sanctuary at 10am, with the added bonus of a Facebook Live feed, so that those who are on Facebook can greet and interact with one another during the service.

Find the usual streaming here on our website: https://www.firstonthird.org/todays-service/
Find the Facebook Live stream here: https://www.facebook.com/firstonthird/

Our leadership has thought long and hard about how to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in a way that is both permissible and safe, given our current challenges, as well as theologically sound. One of the crucial elements, we have decided, is that we gather for worship at the same time, sharing in the sacrament together. The reason this is so important is that communion, as it’s sometimes called, is about nothing if not community. We’re together in this – that’s the message. Jesus has bound us together as one by his Spirit. Therefore, even when we can’t be in the same room, we want to be together as much as possible in our worship.

Here are some practical things you’ll want to think about as you prepare to participate in worship this weekend: First off, you’ll want to create a good worship space for yourself and whoever else will worship with you at home. Removing clutter and distractions, set a table with a simple cup and plate, as well as other Christian symbols, such as the water of baptism and the light of Christ. Set out simple bread and grape juice, enough for everyone, and wait to partake until that time in the service when the minister invites you to do so. Also, reflect on the togetherness you feel, not only with those in the room but with the entire body of Christ. Make a point to reach out during and after the service to friends and loved ones, especially those in the FPC family. Wish them all the peace of Christ.

One last thing: this weekend’s service will of course be available as a video recording afterwards, allowing those who were not able to join us at the appointed time to watch later at their convenience. If you do choose to participate in that way, however, I urge you to strive for as much connection with the body of Christ as possible as you watch. Christian worship in general, and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in particular, are not intended as solitary events.

I look forward to worshipping with you all this Sunday, as we celebrate the Spirit’s gift of togetherness in Christ!

Dan




FPC PLAN FOR USE OF THE CHURCH BUILDING BEGINNING May 18, 2020
The Session has approved a plan for a staged process for accessing the church facilities as North Carolina progresses through lifting the Governors’ stay at home order. The stages will progress based upon progress in achieving and maintaining effective control of the pandemic in our community and state, no specific timelines established at this time.

Stage 1
Worship:
Worship will continue to be led by our ministers using recorded video from various locations. Some may want to consider gathering as small groups (less than 10) in outdoor spaces such as decks or patios to view the worship services together with time for discussion, prayer, and fellowship. Recommend participants wear masks, stay 6 feet apart, and use hand sanitizer.

Meeting/Events:
Strongly encourage groups and committees to continue to meet via video conference. If in person meetings are necessary, groups of 10 or are allowed to meet in the church under the following guidelines:
1) Continue to have a video connection for members who are unable or choose not to attend in person.
2) The group must be 10 or less and meet only in the gathering place.
3) Entry only through the Orange Street courtyard door and use only that space and adjacent restrooms if needed.
4) All attendees should wear masks, use hand sanitizer, stay 6 feet apart, travel in one direction so as not to cross paths, limit contact to objects, items, furniture, hymnals, etc., only one person in a restroom at a time.
5) All meetings must be scheduled with the church office in advance and meeting times should provide for the room to be vacant at least 3 hours between meetings for cleaning and disinfection of the gathering space and restrooms.

Stage 2
Worship:
Shift from on-line services to hybrid of limited attendance at the church and continued individual or outdoor small group gatherings that would participate remotely. Services would be streamed live from the Church. Specific details will be determined based upon our ability to maintain proper social distancing and any restrictions such as maximum size of gatherings in place at the time.

Meeting/Events:
Continue to follow Stage 1 guidelines. Group size may be adjusted depending upon public health and government guidelines.

Stage 3
Ideally, we would return to near normal operations.


OPPORTUNITIES TO CONNECT
Sunday: Forum Class meets at 4pm over Zoom. Contact Becky Jones if interested in joining.

Monday: Centering Prayer 6pm over Zoom; email Richard Aylor if interested in joining.

Tuesday: Morning Prayer posted at 10am on the video prayer page and the church’s Facebook page, led by Richard Aylor.

Wednesday: Children’s worship posted at 10am on the video prayer page and the school’s Facebook page, led by Nicole Newton; and Centering Prayer at 2pm over Zoom.

Thursday: Morning Prayer posted at 10am on the video prayer page , led by Dan Lewis; Thursday morning Men’s Bible Study at 8:30am over Zoom on the Book of Acts; email Richard Aylor if interested in joining. ‘Companions in Christ’ women’s small group Bible Study and Spiritual Formation at 10am over Zoom; email Marion Mayes if interested in joining.

Friday: Centering Prayer at 10am over Zoom. Journey Class meets at 4pm over Zoom; email Barbara Jamison if interested in joining.


Friday, April 10
Dear FPC Family,

I have been missing you all on this holiest of weeks!

I thought it would be good for me to reach out again and make sure you know how to stay in touch with your church family through this deeply challenging time. By now you know that we have had special Daily Prayer services and other worship opportunities this week, as we approach Easter Sunday. But did you know that there are ways to connect with FPC every single day, even beyond Holy Week?

Sunday 11am worship, recorded (Follow this link)
Monday 10am Centering Prayer, live on Zoom (Contact Richard Aylor for link)
Tuesday 10am Daily Prayer Service, recorded (Follow this link)
Wednesday 10am Preschool Chapel, recorded (Follow this link), 2pm Centering Prayer, live on Zoom (Contact Richard Aylor for link)
Thursday 10 am Daily Prayer Service, recorded (Follow this link)
Friday 10am Centering Prayer, live on Zoom (Contact Richard Aylor for link)
Saturday Weekend e-news (Email the office to sign up)

The list above only begins to scratch the surface, of course. So many of the ministries of the church are coming back to life now in new and creative ways. Adult Sunday School classes are hosting Zoom meetings (contact Richard Aylor for more information). Children and youth are reaching out in service to the vulnerable, both within and outside our congregation (contact Nicole Newton to learn how you can help). Anna Martin and our preschool staff are continuing in the work of education by holding online classes including reading, singing, and much more! Community Service Committee is undertaking a comprehensive assessment of how our mission partners are responding to the pandemic, and will be providing the congregation with information on where and how to help.

Supporting these ministries is the work of our team of office and facilities staff, who are doing a remarkable job despite the challenges. Repair work, major and minor, continues around the church, including the replacement of large support beams beneath the educational building, and the painting of our hospitality wing upstairs in the Cameron Center.

I share all this with you so that you can continue to be proud of our church and the ways God is leading us to respond in faith to these difficult days. We’re also continuing, under the leadership of Richard Aylor and the Congregational Care team, to reach out to our most vulnerable members. If you know of a pastoral or other need, for yourself or someone else, please do not hesitate to contact the Pastor on Call at 910-338-9109.

Finally, I cannot finish here without saying once again how thankful I am for the financial faithfulness you have shown these past few weeks. It is a real sign of faith and love that you continue to support the church so generously. May it continue and may God bless you and those you love, now and always.

May God bless and keep you,

Dan


Message from Dan


Thursday, March 19

Dear FPC Family,

I want to offer a very brief update on ways to serve our community through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic…

First off, The Good Shepherd Center, an FPC partner ministering to the homeless in our community, is still in need of volunteers to help prepare and distribute bagged meals to residents at the center. Interested persons should contact Liz Carbone to learn more: lcarbone@goodshepherdwilmington.org .

Secondly, Nourish NC, another FPC mission partner, is working hard to feed children in our community who are out of school and thus, for many, at risk of missing the best two meals of their day. They’ve set up a drive-by distribution point for meal boxes, which you can read about here: https://www.wect.com/2020/03/17/nourish-nc-opens-up-drive-thru-location-food-distribution/ .

Watch the Nourish NC Facebook page for regular updates on the most needed foods and volunteer opportunities: https://www.facebook.com/nourishnc/.

Also consider financial gifts, even small ones. Through efficiencies in purchasing and distribution, Nourish NC can turn every dollar donated into 4-5 dollars worth of food for hungry children. You can give to Nourish NC online here: https://nourishnc.org/donate/ .

Of course your regular giving to FPC also supports the good work of these and many other local organizations on the front lines of serving our neighbors. Your continued financial faithfulness helps us continue being the hands and feet of Christ through difficult times. You can learn how to give to FPC here: https://www.firstonthird.org/give/ .

Keep the faith and find ways to multiply the good cheer around you.

“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” (1 Peter 4:10)

Dan


Monday, March 16, 5pm

Dear FPC Family,
As this unprecedented situation continues to develop, you should expect to continue hearing from the church with some regularity, as we seek to keep you informed on how we’re responding to the pandemic with faith, hope, and love. We want to maintain a discipline of communication not simply for practical reasons, but so that we might continue to feel a sense of closeness and togetherness despite the obligatory “distancing.”
First a note on this weekend’s worship service: I want to thank all of you who joined us via streaming on Sunday, especially those of you who’ve reached out to say how much you appreciated the service. It was certainly odd (to say the least!) to conduct an entire worship service in an empty sanctuary, listening to our voices bouncing off the stone around us. But it was also a strangely holy time, as we really did feel your love and support, your prayers, as we all did the best we could under the circumstances. Now we look to another week of doing the same (Yes, we’re streaming again this Sunday at 11am), and I want you to know that we’ll be working to build on the success of this weekend and improve the service in a number of ways.
We will also be working to offer additional online worship experiences to strengthen and sustain our faith through these trying times. The first of these is the discipline of daily prayer (a short worship service including scripture and prayer), which our pastors will lead each Tuesday and Thursday, beginning tomorrow at 10am. You may download the daily prayer app (Search “Daily Prayer PC (USA)”) to follow along with the service, or simply watch and listen without the app. We also plan to offer a brief chapel service for our preschool children at 10am Wednesday. In order to stay on top of these resources, follow the link to this portion of our website: https://www.firstonthird.org/updates/ (Note: The page will be updated with these resources as they are set up.)
Just a few more items of note: Our staff will be encouraged to work from home in the weeks ahead, with only limited trips to the office for essential tasks. All the usual committee meetings and other gatherings remain cancelled until further notice. For questions your ministry leaders are not able to answer, you may contact the church office by phone (910-762-6688) or email (info@firstonthird.org), the latter being the faster option. Remember also the Pastor on Call number for pastoral emergencies: 910-338-9109. Finally, a simple thing that bears repeating: As the ministry of the church continues to operate, we continue to count on your financial faithfulness. Please give online or by mail. Follow this link to learn how: https://www.firstonthird.org/give-now/
Let us remember that these days are unprecedented only from our limited perspective. God in Christ has walked this way before. This is not to shirk our duty to respond in love and faith, but to remind us who gives us the strength to do so, the One who “by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” To that One be glory in the church and the world.
Love to you all,
Dan

Friday, March 13, 5pm

Dear FPC Family,
A brief follow-up to yesterday’s letter about the church’s response to COVID-19…
The funeral service for Grover Gore will continue as planned for this Sunday, 2pm, in the sanctuary. I want to remind us, however, that health professionals are recommending that all of us, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, avoid large public gatherings. We are continuing with this service only out of care for a grieving family; we cannot expect or recommend that many of you attend. You may view the funeral online by following this link: https://boxcast.tv/view/2020-march-15–funeral-service-grover-gore-sr-mk5d7iqfj1mp5jsejel7
In a similar vein, I want to let you know about an emerging volunteer opportunity… but only for those for whom it is safe. One of our mission partners, The Good Shepherd Center (a ministry to the homeless), is in need of help next week, as many of their regular volunteers are unable to come. The work involves preparing bag lunches (not a seated meal) for guests from 8:30am to 11am, with opportunities available Monday through Friday. Contact Community Coordinator Liz Carbone to learn more about volunteering: lcarbone@goodshepherdwilmington.org. Again, in offering this opportunity to you, we are seeking to balance two things: our call to help our mission partners continue the good work they do, and our call to be good stewards of our own health and welfare.
What is certain is that we all have a role to play in being the body of Christ in this difficult time. One of the most important things we can do does not involve our leaving the home at all – that is, prayer. Pray for those who are scared and confused, the medically vulnerable, and for those who live on the margins and find themselves without the resources to cope. May God make us all wise, creative, and compassionate beyond our expectations.
Grace to you all, and peace,
Dan

Thursday, March 12, 5pm
Dear FPC Family,

As we all continue to monitor the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), I want to update you on a number of decisions we’re making at the church. These are difficult decisions, of course. And what seemed appropriate only yesterday can seem less so today. Such is the nature of a rapidly changing public health situation.

We are postponing until further notice all large group activities at FPC including public worship this Sunday, the 15th of March. We will, however, continue with streaming our worship online, a modified service from the sanctuary at 11am, here. The only exception to this is our Preschool and Kindergarten, which will continue to follow the lead of New Hanover Country Schools in making its closure decisions. Preschool parents, expect to hear from Director Anna Martin in days to come. Finally, we are still awaiting word on whether and how the funeral service for Grover Gore will proceed this weekend. Expect a later email on this.

Here is a fuller list of other important postponements:

Thursday evening choir rehearsal and 9am band rehearsal
Grandparent Support Network (already canceled)
Centering Prayer
Sunday school for all ages, including Confirmation
Sunday worship services, except 11am online streaming
Inquirers/New Members Classes
Girl Scouts
Youth group
Basketball
Children’s Choir
Disciple Bible Study
Committee Meetings
Fellowship at First

We look forward to rescheduling as many of these events as possible at the soonest possible time. We will also be working to facilitate online alternatives to committee meetings and other gatherings whenever possible. If you have questions about specific programs and events, please contact the appropriate ministry leaders or email the church office, info@firstonthird.org.

This will seem a radical step to many of us. But let me offer this simple explanation: Instead of thinking only of ourselves as individuals, or even of our own church community, let us think of the entire greater Wilmington area and beyond – that is, the whole community of God’s children. Refraining from large group gatherings is a way for us to do our part to slow the spread of the virus (regardless of whether we ourselves are vulnerable), so that medical resources can continue to be available for those who need them most. In short, this is about being a good neighbor.

Yet we do not cease to be the church in difficult times. In fact, we rise to the occasion in response to God’s call to use our creativity, our technology, and whatever other tools are at our disposal, to care for one another and the world in the name of Jesus Christ. So do these things: pray for one another, check in on one another, and look for ways to serve. If you yourself are sick or distressed, please use the Pastor on Call number (910-338-9109) to let us know, or contact one of the pastors directly, so that we can find a way to help.

Expect further updates from me as the situation continues to develop in weeks ahead. Know that I remain deeply proud to be one of your pastors.

Grace to you all and peace,
Dan