General Assembly 2014: A Congregational Conversation

mspc-pcusa-logoMany of our members have expressed concern and questions regarding the actions of the most recent General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, our denominational family (download a brief). Actions taken by the Assembly on Israel and in proposing a redefinition of marriage are among the issues that our own Session and Board of Deacons have discussed. It is felt that offering an evening of education and discussion around these issues and actions of the Assembly would be the next logical step for our congregation.

Tuesday night, October 28, we will gather in the Jones Session Room at 6:30 p.m. to consider both the actions taken by the Assembly and to engage in a discussion of these issues in the light of our Reformed, Presbyterian Christian faith. Todd Jones will lead this session, and will elicit help from both our Session and our staff. Anyone concerned about these matters is encouraged to attend.

Wednesday Night Dinner and Programs

Wednesday Night Logo (Fall)Fall Wednesdays Kick Off September 10 with Bicentennial Commemoration

Register for dinner here.
Register for Children’s Programs here.
View 2014-15 Calendar here.

In the fall of 1814, the First Presbyterian Church was formally chartered. On Fall Wednesdays in 2014, we will mark the occasion with celebratory dinners and lectures by the church’s leaders, past and present.

It all begins on September 10, when Senior Pastor Todd Jones will lecture on the ministry of Walter Courtenay, who served as pastor from 1944 to 1971. Our new Director of Food Service, Kim Rogers, will offer a menu that includes Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Roasted Summer Vegetables, Mashed Potatoes w/Gravy, Yeast Roll, Salad Bar, and Tomato Basil Soup. A kids’ option will be provided as well, each week.

On the 17th, Ridley Wills, an elder at the Downtown Church and respected Nashville historian, will lecture on the ministry of John Todd Edgar, who served from 1833 to 1861. Dinner that evening will be Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Red Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus, Roll, Salad Bar, and Vegetable Soup.

And on the 24th, Senior Pastor Emeritus Bill Bryant will lecture on the years 1971-1994, which comprise his pastorate and that of Cortez Cooper. The menu includes Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes w/Gravy, Roasted Green Beans, Steamed Corn, Roll, Salad Bar, and Chicken Noodle Soup.

Beginning October 1 a lineup of classes will be available which include: 1) The New Testament–led by Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies; 2) Parenting Class–led by Jeremy Shapiro, LPC-M.A.P.C. at Daystar Counseling Ministries, Inc.; 3) Reading Eudora Welty Together–led by Associate Pastor Stuart Gordon; 4) FPC Stories Project–led by Brenda Geise, Coordinator of Older Adult Ministries; 5) Yoga–led by Executive Pastor Sam Cooper; and 6) DivorceCare–led by Pastor Sandra Randleman.

You are encouraged to let us know that you’ll be attending and may register here for dinner. Food service begins at 5:00, and classes run from 6:00-7:00. The cost of meals is $8 for adults, $4 for children age 3-12, free for children age 2 and under; family maximum of $22.

Lunch and Chat with Alice Mathews


We talked to Alice in order to sell our timeshare but we weren’t allowed to buy or rent out our own land and, to make matters worse, we had to pay for the use of the land that we didn’t own, even though the company had a contract that made us the owners of that land.

Now, I’m sure the company would have given us a free land if we had been able to find a property that was better suited for the timeshare. But the company also didn’t want us to have our own land as it would reduce the number of people we could lease from. They even made us pay to use our own property.

The company told us that we couldn’t use the land if we rented it out to a non-English speaker because they would think that we were trying to cheat the company.


After we made our deal to sell our timeshare through a solid Timeshare Exit Strategy, we considered investing in real estate in the US. But after taking a closer look, we couldn’t find a better deal, especially for the price we were willing to pay. We couldn’t sell the condo to a real estate developer as we had already made the payments on the timeshare.

We were also not really ready to invest the money in a country where we are not living in.

Instead we decided to sell the timeshare, keep some of the money and continue working on a new business in the US.

When we started looking for a new business venture, we found it’s easier and cheaper to buy a business in the US.

So after much research we ended up buying a business in the US.

The most expensive thing we paid for this business was a business license, which costs $1200.

Generosity is a Gift

Generosity is a Gift

Generosity. What a simple, splendid word. And it is a special gift to know that generosity is given to us from the first and ultimate giver, God. From the very beginning, He has unfolded His sovereign plan of creation, love, grace and salvation as an expression of His abundant generosity. He invites each one of us to participate in this plan with Him as He continues to move through history and our lives.

Inside the soul of every Christian is a God-inspired desire for the generous life, for a life tailored around His example of selflessness and sacrifice. There is no greater definition of love than selflessness and sacrifice, which shows the condition of the heart. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:11.

“I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” 2 Corinthians 8:8-9. The Bible is not easy on us when it comes to this business of generosity. We are instinctively selfish people.

On a very practical level, Jesus also taught that everyone has something to give, rich or poor. In Mark 12:41-44, He celebrated the willingness of a poor widow to give not out of her abundance, but out of her poverty.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to Him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

At first, God set the bar low in regards to mandatory giving: a tithe, ten percent of one’s holdings. “As soon as the order went out, the Israelites gave the first fruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything” (2 Chronicles 31:5).

However, generous giving is another story. When we are moved to generous giving, we learn that generous giving starts when it hurts to give. We move in the direction of “poverty” in order to make someone else “rich.” By richness, we are not talking about adding to someone else’s net worth. Rather, we refer to spiritual richness or the richness that comes from living the life that God intended for all (not just the privileged) to live. Jesus set the pace in His incarnation and His atonement at the cross. He went from wealth to poverty that we might go from poverty to wealth. That is our call.

The word sacrifice is so difficult for us to accept at times. Yet that’s exactly what we must do when we practice generosity; we are called to sacrifice something of value to us for the good of others, because we love them. This is what differentiates generosity and giving. Giving can be done begrudgingly and devoid of love. True generosity is always initiated by love. Because God is love, as our hearts become molded in His likeness, we will naturally move toward a life of greater generosity.

When Todd Jones arrived in 2002, he had a vision that “FPC becomes the most generous church in Tennessee.” We have moved from a mission budget of $400,000 per year to over $1.2 million, with a five-year goal of $2 million, plus our mission focus has continued to grow. Also, the numbers of community and local missions we support have increased. Our goal is 100 percent participation by church members in mission efforts, whether local or international. Participation may be: prayer for teams, committee membership, local mission participation, Sunday School or small group leadership.

Some new mission programs added since Todd and Sandra Randleman arrived are:
• Room In The Inn
• DivorceCare
• Career Transition Network
• At Home Communion
• Grief Support
• Manna freezer with delivery of food items
• Monday morning flower delivery
• DFW group that offers home repairs to older adults and single mothers
• Home Partners
• Growth of Stephen Ministry

Eternal Reward
Where is God in all of this? “Patience, kindness, humility, courtesy, unselfishness, good-tempered, guilessness, sincerity and generosity make up the supreme gift and the stature of the perfect man. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart is also” Matthew 6:20-21. Heaven deals with the currency of love, grace, kindness, mercy and benevolence. It recognizes the currency of humility, service and witness. It honors the currency of defense on behalf of the widow and the orphan, the weak and the poor, the sick and the aged. These and all other attitudes and actions in the family of godly behavior are seen by heaven in the context of currency exchange.

God, the First and Most Generous
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. This scripture reminds us that God does not ask of us anything that He has not first done for us. God is the first generous giver. He has provided the highest model of generosity, and He calls for Biblical people to follow. It is the will of God that we become generous givers. But He would never ask us to do what He has not first done for us.

Questions to Consider:
• Are you a generous person?
• What are your gifts of the spirit, and are you generous in sharing?
• Have you encouraged others to share their gifts?
• Can you give a tithe of your time or your talent or your money — or of all three (a tithe of everything)?

To be continued in next issue: “Excessive Generosity”

Officer Recommendations

It’s not too late to submit your recommendation for the 2017 class of officers.

Submit an online form here. Deadline is Monday, July 7.

officr1The Nominating Committee for Church Officers is soliciting recommendations from the members of First Presbyterian Church for persons to be considered to serve in the offices of Elder and Deacon. Recommendation forms may also be found in the First Edition and in the church literature areas.

FPC Newsletter On A Small Break

First Edition will be on hold temporarily…

NewsletterThe FPC First Edition newsletter you all look forward to receiving every other week is taking a small break… you will be receiving your next issue the week of July 23!

In the meantime, feel free to sign up for one or all of our email updates here.

A First Timer’s View of Cuba

A First Timer’s View of Cuba

by Emily Eberle

Cuba 1My husband, Mark, and I had never been to Cuba before May 16 of this year. What a treat we had in store. When we arrived at the Cuba airport, we were amazed at the very long lines of people waiting to answer all sorts of questions. Just ahead of us in line was a man from Miami. His wife and 24- year-old daughter lived in Cuba. He had not seen them in eight years as he had not returned to his homeland during that time. He was telling us how excited he was to be able to see his loved ones after so long a time. When Mark and I exited the airport to the throngs of people waiting to pick up loved ones and friends, we passed by the same man again. He stopped us and proudly introduced us to his wife and daughter. He had tears in his eyes, and so did we.

We drove through lffush green mountains from Havana to arrive in Varadero, and the Dora E Valentin (DEV) Presbyterian Reformed Church, which was to be our home for the next five days. The next day was a Saturday. We were supposed to attend a baseball game played by the youth from the area, but torrential rains prevented the game from being played. We had taken baseball bats, baseballs, soccer balls and pumps to give to the teenagers. A couple of nights later, we met these youngsters in one of the 10,000 home churches that exist in Cuba. We experienced a beautiful worship service in this modest home. A young woman who had her master’s degree in English and worked for a Canadian company translated so we Americans could understand. At the end of the service, we presented the young men with the bats and balls. We were told that they could really use a couple of catcher’s masks so if we ever go again, we’ll be sure to take catcher’s equipment. The session of the church utilizes sports as a means to engage young people in the church. We thought that was a clever way to reach the teenagers.

We later discovered that there are very few men who participate in worship in Cuba. We learned that both the church and seminary that we visited, are trying to find ways to engage men in the church. Even the session of the DEV Church is currently comprised mostly of women.

The Sunday church service was special indeed. To start, the children’s Sunday School was as well organized as any children’s Sunday School anywhere, then the beautiful church service touched my heart and soul with the love of Christ in ways hard to explain. It was a deep love of Jesus that was constantly being expressed.

Cuba 2Another meaningful experience was visiting the pastor, his wife and young daughter at the Juan G. Hall Presbyterian Reformed Church in nearby Cardenas. The pastor’s wife had broken her leg, but had no crutches and was forced to navigate with only one cane. We told the pastor and the session of the DEV Church about Andrew’s Purse, a subsidiary of the Billy Graham Association, and their distribution of wheelchairs. We explained if the Billy Graham Association were contacted, they would likely attempt to bring wheelchairs to Cuba.

One day, we visited the Presbyterian Women of the DEV Church. We gave them pocket prayer shawls made by the women of FPC, Nashville, and a prayer cloth from one of our children’s Sunday School classes. Each person there including the nine folks on the FPC team was asked to introduce themselves and tell their favorite Bible verse. I loved hearing each person’s involvement with the church and their favorite Bible verse. Most of them emphasized how much Jesus loved them. As we were leaving, one of the Cuban ladies asked to speak with me. I did not understand Spanish, but fortunately, Andrew Winstead, team member from First Presbyterian Church, Houston, and the grandson of Amos Wilson, did, and he translated. This lady asked me to call her son who lives in Miami and ask him to send her a picture of her granddaughter whom she had never met. This, too, brought tears to my eyes…

Read more of this article on the missions page here.

Mark Eberle, Wayne Pelaez, Randy Pelaez, Sandra Randleman, Pam Shampain, Mike Shampain, Amos Wilson and Andrew Winstead


Christian Hospitality is What?


Christian Hospitality is What?

Hospitality is the relationship between the guest and the host, or the act or practice of being hospitable. This includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.

“Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear simple fruit. It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances.” — Henri Nouwen

Jesus shaped Christian hospitality when he described a scene in which the sheep and the goats are separated on the basis of whether or not they had welcomed, fed and clothed the son of man. “I was hungry and you gave me food…a stranger and you welcomed me,” explained Jesus. “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Hospitality-NewJesus’ teaching in Luke 14:12-14 provides for another distinctive understanding of hospitality. At a dinner party, he tells his hosts, “When you give a luncheon or dinner do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

The practice of hospitality is important not only to strangers and other vulnerable people; it is also crucial for the life of the congregation itself. Hospitality is a means of grace for hosts as well as guests. People, often practicing hospitality, comment that they “got so much more than they gave.” In welcoming a refugee family or caring for a sick neighbor. Hospitality is evangelism and is relationships. People don’t connect with a church; they connect with other people. Before they come to Jesus, they’ll come to you. Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes you, welcomes me” (Matthew 10:40) and “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you, rejects me” (Luke 10:16).

In his book, Now Go Forward, J. David Eshleman said the front door to the church used to be worship but today it is relationships. Modern relationships are being built over social media platforms, Internet dating and various apps on cell phones. The church has a responsibility to create ways to engage people. In the past, the traditional way to join a church was for people to believe, then they behave, then they belong. With this approach, people usually need two conversions one to Christ and another to the church. Today, an unbeliever can belong not as a baptized member but in the sense he is accepted and loved by other believers. In belonging, they are able to say, “I feel at home with these believers; they are my family. They understand and love me.” Over time, they believe and then behave.

St. Benedict upheld that “hospitality maintains a prominence in the living (Christian) tradition…the guest represents Christ and has a claim on the welcome and care of the community.” In other words, if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected within us and is showered on those with whom we come in contact. If you are thinking about what might just be the best possible gift for that special person in your life, then you are going to want to consider holyart religious cross jewelry. Of course, you want to make sure that the person you have in mind is someone who actually has religious ties at or the very least, religious interests that would make this a suitable gift. While you are looking at religious cross jewelry as a gift for someone else, you might want to consider whether or not you are in need of any new jewelry. Generally, a woman can never have enough jewelry as there is always an occasion to wear something new and something that is important.

The Book of 1 John makes it plain that when we love others, we are showing our love for God. He loves us completely and unconditionally. Equally, when we love and serve others in the community through hospitality, we are also serving God.

christian-hospitalityFPC shows hospitality in so many ways, through all of its programs, worship and strong missional focus. Examples are our Sunday morning coffee/doughnut time at 9:30 and greeters who spread through the church offering a sense of excellence in hospitality and gratitude. We have 24 adult small groups meeting regularly throughout the week for Bible study and fellowship. At a recent Good Friday noon service, a young couple approached Todd Jones and thanked him for the hospitality and friendliness they had been shown on their first visit to FPC.

The following is a list of ways congregations and, more specifically, you as a member of a congregation can love any and all who walk through your doors. This list is adapted from the book Now Go Forward by J. David Eshleman, who says, “Loving unbelievers the way Jesus did is the most overlooked key to growing a church… The command to love is the most repeated command in the New Testament, appearing at least 55 times.”

1. Every member is a host and not a guest. Making visitors feel welcome is primarily the responsibility of members, not the nebulous “church.”
2. The most important person for a visitor to talk to in order to feel at home in a new church is you. It is not the pastor, or the greeter, but a regular attender. J. David Eshleman says, “One of the most impressive gestures we can extend to first-time visitors is for people with no official position to take the initiative and welcome them.”
3. Treat first-time visitors as guests of God, not strangers.
4. Smile at everyone and offer your hand.
5. Look people in the eye.
6. Take the initiative; don’t wait for visitors to initiate conversation.
7. Learn people’s names and remember them.
8. Use [only] appropriate and allowed touch, such as a handshake or a gentle pat on the back.
9. Ask questions and learn about your guests. It is better to express interest in them than it is to try to “sell” your church.
10. Listening is a very effective way to show love.
11. Greet children at their level.
12. Let children be children.
13. Invite visitors to join you at something, anything!
14. Never let new people sit alone. Eshleman says, “New people should never have to sit alone. Take initiative and go to them without delay.”
15. Help visitors find seating that suits their family’s needs.
16. Help first-time visitors by being their tour guide and helping them find worship resources. Visiting a new church like C3 in New York is like a cross-cultural experience, even for those of us who have visited dozens of other churches.
17. Invite people to fill out your church’s visitor registration card or information.
18. Tell people you’re glad they are here.
19. Pray for them throughout your week.
20. Be Yourself! You are loving! You have a good thing going! You have the capacity to love more people, and to love more deeply. Eschelman says, “Practice making people feel special, and what you give to others will be returned to you.”

While the art of hospitality may come easily for some, it may be quite difficult for others. After all, it’s not always easy to give of yourself, much less your hard-earned gains. And like most things in life, hospitality isn’t done perfectly the first time. But don’t stop trying. When we do it over and over, it truly becomes a comfortable part of our nature. It’s all in perspective.

Hospitality is not a given among Christians; it’s a calling that requires a specific skill set.

By Bill Kirby
Co-Chair Long-Range Planning Committee

Special Needs Resources

Visit the Special Needs Ministry page here

First Presbyterian Church is committed to being an inclusive, hospitable, Christ-centered community of faith filled with grace and compassion. Our members value each individual’s gifts, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to be involved in the life of the church.

FPC’s Special Needs Committee exists not only to advance access to the ministries, resources and facilities that ensure full participation in the church, but to communicate their existence. A comprehensive listing of special needs accommodations now exists here, where you will find full descriptions that include:

• Campus Maps with accessible entry points and locations of handicap parking
• Assistive Hearing Devices
• Large-Print Bibles, Hymnals and Bulletins
• Wheelchairs for loan
• Dietary Considerations for church meals, communion and events
• Accommodations for those with special learning and behavioral issues
• Care and Support Ministries for those in need and for caregivers
• And much more.

Please visit the website and call the church (383-1815) if you have questions concerning special needs and the church.

Legacy of Changing Lives… FPC, Nashville

Dear Friends at First Presbyterian Church,

Debbie and I have been so grateful for the financial support we’ve received from FPC. It wasn’t until we arrived here that we realized just how important and unusual it is to be supported like this. We know too many stories of seminary students accruing significant debt for careers that don’t exactly bring in large paychecks. Debbie and I will be able to walk out of our time at Princeton Theological Seminary with almost no debt. As we consider our next steps in the ministry, we are thankful for the freedom to make those decisions without the added factors of student loans.

Just recently, I’ve begun to help pastor a tiny “country church” just outside of Princeton. The context couldn’t be more different than my time at FPC! We often wonder how we’ll pay the light bill or fix the roof if something were to happen, so supporting young seminarians doesn’t usually make our budget. This, as it turns out, tends to be the norm in church life rather than the exception. Once again, I’ve found myself more aware of the unique gift that FPC has offered Debbie and me.

Thank you all for the generous and creative ways that you’ve continued to support the many ministries of FPC. We miss you all and can often be heard bragging on our “Nashville home” to our New Jersey friends!

With love and appreciation,
Debbie and Trey Wince

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

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