This Sunday’s pericope is from John 15: “I am the true vine, and my Father is gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…” In our staff worship on Tuesday, we discussed the difference between being cut off and being pruned: to wit, being pruned hurts. That which is dead and cut off does not feel, but the living, growing thing smarts when part of it is removed – even if the change is needed, even when the result is something better.
Watching the Olympics, I’m reminded of the contemporary adaptation of this verse: no pain, no gain. As Paul would certainly remind us, this is one of many ways the Christian life parallels sport. But instead of the 400 meter relay or the parallel bars, our events look like this: We are in the midst of several key staff transitions within the church and everyone has been stepping in to fill in the gaps as we search for the right people to fill these roles. The fall, which seemed far off until it didn’t, brings with it the anticipation of a restart, a reset for the church after the surreal season of COVID – the decisions of what to keep, what to add, what to change are challenging ones with longterm impact. The URC and the City are looking ahead to how our partnership can continue when our temporary homeless shelter, The Center, closes and the permanent services center opens in October. All great things with overwhelming promise and possibilities. All things that require us to stretch, to drop the dead weight, to work as a team, to embrace discomfort with a bold certainty in the victory that has already been won for us in Christ. Most importantly, all things that will make us better. I’m excited. On a personal level, it is great to have Sheryl back home.
I look forward to our called Session meeting next week. I look forward to working together to discern the next steps for our church family, rooted as we are in His love and grateful for each cut that brings new growth, in us and in His Kingdom. Thank you for all you do. Your leadership and love mean more than you will ever know.
MASSANETTA FAMILY MISSION CAMP
Our Family Mission Camp is coming up next week, Aug. 5-8. On Thursday of this week, Joel, Jim, Hunter, and Jackson took a day trip up to the camp to meet with the hosts and make sure everything was squared away for our trip.
We have over 50 people signed up for the trip, families, singles, and all ages. It’s going to be a great time!
Valena won’t be heading to Massanetta this year, yet she says, “I see myself as part of the trip as I continue the great work and worship we do in Norfolk. I am so grateful for our hard working staff team.”
SUMMER AT FPC
Join us on Sunday, Aug. 22 for our FPC Pie Party! We’ll gather in the FPC parking lot at 6 p.m. to enjoy all different kinds of pie, along with vanilla ice cream if you want yours à la mode. It’s going to be a sweet end to the summer! Don’t miss it!
Our summer book clubs continue, studying Everybody, Always by Bob Goff. Valena is leading a virtual group on Wednesday evenings. Study guides are still available in the Common!
Valena’s weekly high (1): My awesome Summer Bookclub Small Group. They keep me smiling and growing and stretching my faith practices
SUNDAY WORSHIP & EVANGELISM
8:30 a.m. worship attendance: 114 in-person; 55 online connections; 10 on Facebook Live
10:00 a.m. worship attendance: 157 in person; 64 online connections; 8 on Facebook Live
11:00 a.m. worship, online only, attendance: 38 online connections
87 prayer requests
8:30 a.m. worship attendance: 97 in-person; 57 online connections; 13 on Facebook Live
10:00 a.m. worship attendance: 170 in person; 64 online connections; 11 on Facebook Live
11:00 a.m. worship, online only, attendance: 40 online connections
103 prayer requests
Valena writes, “Reforming, adjusting and perfecting our worship experience is always on my “to do” list. Honoring and glorifying Jesus is central to our life as a church family. I am excited that we are bringing our monthly celebration of the Lord’s Table this Sunday, August 1.”
As you can see from the numbers above, our in-person attendance continues to grow. Good stuff!
Our eyes are set on the fall as we discern a way forward. As part of the discernment process Valena, Hunter, and Joel have been making calls to worshipers collecting information for our Session. It is always wonderful to catch up with FPC family!
Our next FPC 101 class is on Sunday, Aug. 29. This will be an in-person event with a meal and childcare. Please invite anyone you meet who is new to the church and let Kacey know so she can reach out to them!
Our two new digital resources are a big success: We had 26 listeners/downloads for the sermon podcast on July 25 – and this without even promoting it except through the service on Sunday! Joel is working on the platform to get everything ready to launch in the public sphere. In the meantime, each sermon is free to download on our website here: https://www.fpcnorfolk.org/podcast/ Once downloaded on your device they can be replayed anytime and anywhere. You can also share them with a friend!
We also had 40 views on the Deep Dive videos, which have been a wonderful way for folks to dive deeper into the text ahead of the sermon on Sunday Morning. There is a link to each week’s video in the Saturday email, and the videos for the Gospel of John can be found here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLG1CZLAJgMIIGNVwoQMp16QaWPmLsZugk
Kacey’s weekly highs: The choir coming up and surrounding Stephen for the Celtic Alleluia on his last Sunday [July 18] AND We had lots of new people [on Sunday, July 25]. YAY! I met at least 6 first time (adult) guests at 10 am. Please be sure to introduce yourself to new faces. We need all the help possible to welcome them!
CHURCH ADMINISTRATION & FINANCE
Week of July 18 giving: total $35,871.28. $21,987.58 was from checks and $13,883.70 was online.
Week of July 25 giving: total $15,585.00. $4,575.00 was from checks and $11,010.00 was online.
We have started requiring FUFs (Facility Use Forms) again for internal events, as things ramp back up. In the absence of an administrator, these forms should be given to Valena, who is temporarily managing the church calendar.
We have several staff positions open at the church: Administrator, Facilities Manager, Director of Music/Organist, and Children’s Ministry Coordinator. If you know of anyone who might be interested in any of these positions, please refer them to our website (About → Jobs) for more information or to apply!
We are receiving great candidates for the Director of Music/Organist position. Valena has spent time on the phone with our top candidates and is in the process of putting together a selection board to chose the next person to lead our traditional music ministry.
FAMILY & CHILDREN’S MINISTRY
We have been brainstorming about the fall and how worship and Sunday School will come together. We are hoping to announce Sunday School and how it will work to the congregation within the next few weeks.
The Sunday School closet has been completely cleared out and reorganized for the first time in 10 years! Hopefully we can keep it organized!
Thanks to Noel and Jackson for filling in and doing the Children’s Sermon the past two weeks while Hunter was on vacation.
The nursery is currently open during the 10 a.m. service for children 2 and under. This is in Room 101 on Sunday mornings.
We have had an average of 20 kids (ages 3 and up) go with Hunter for a fun time outside during the sermon at the 10 a.m. service.
Joyce has been working with our families to put together music numbers for the kids for in-person performances. Some songs she has coming up are The Fruit of the Spirit, You Never Let Go, Peace like a River, One Thing Remains, and Jacob’s Ladder (chimes).
Joyce’s weekly high: Watching the VBS kids sing with Bryant on Sunday morning [July 18].
Noel’s weekly highs: Watching the kids sing their VBS song on Sunday. AND Crafting the Sunday School curriculum for the year!
YOUTH & YOUNG ADULT MINISTRIES
Last week, we had the final event in the Youth Summer Olympics – Capture the Flag – as well as the Closing Ceremonies on Wednesday, July 21. Liam Abney took first place, and Dixie and Daisy Hansen tied for second. The youth had a great time during this month-long competition. Thanks to Jackson for coming up with such a neat idea and organizing it so well!
Jackson also used the Olympic theme in his Bible study with the youth. They discussed Paul’s passage in 2 Timothy 4, about finishing the race that God has given every single one of us to finish.
The Monday night Young Adults group is discussing James 3, and the use of our tongues. That group has an average of 8 people who attend each week.
The Thursday night Young Adults group is focusing on Ephesians 1 and has about 5 people each week.
Be sure to check out our sermon podcasts and deep dive videos each week (see above for more details!).
Facebook page likes up 33%! That’s awesome – keep engaging and liking and sharing our posts!
Rebecca has already begun working on the Men’s Retreat materials. Our FPC men will be headed back to the OBX October 15-17! Save the date!
PASTORAL CARE & LIFE EVENTS
On July 25, Jim baptized Magnolia Katherine Collins, covenant daughter of Whitney Davis and Brian Collins. Her sisters, Marea (9) and Michaela (6) sang “Jesus Loves Me” as Jim walked down the aisle to introduce Magnolia to the congregation.
After VBS, James and Valena headed to Missouri to see their sweet Abigail. They had some wonderful family time and safe travels. We are so grateful for Joel Phillips leadership and preaching on Sunday. What a beautiful word of hope and promise.
Valena sent over 20 emails in response to prayer requests and followed up with folks whom we haven’t seen in a while and those who returned to worship over the past couple weeks.
Jim is back from vacation and sent 105 prayer project emails, along with 10 letters/cards, and 12 emails to check in on those we haven’t heard from in a while.
Valena’s weekly high (2): The privilege of praying with those in need of the Lord’s presence, discernment and direction.
Our vaccinated choir began in-person rehearsals again this week! They sounded amazing at rehearsal and will debut on Sunday, August 1 for an a cappella Sunday! We are grateful for Joanne Whitaker’s leadership in this transition period.
Our search for a new Director of Music and Organist is in full swing. Stephen was a rich gift for our congregation and we know that the Lord will be faithful as we seek the next person called to lead and serve with us.
Valena’s weekly high (3): Hearing our choir rehearse on Wednesday evening. All glory and honor to our awesome Lord, Jesus Christ
Scarlett has been busy preparing the Preschool for the upcoming school year! All enrollment packets have been updated in the system, she submitted our licensing packet, and is working on parent and staff handbooks.
The Preschool is also in need of 3 lead teachers as well as assistant positions. Please see Hunter if you have anyone interested in applying. Lead teachers must have a 4 years degree.
Scarlett’s weekly high: Noel’s brownies (Noel is a fabulous cook!)
URBAN RENEWAL CENTER/ THE CENTER
The URC continues to gain valuable partnerships and relationships in this pivotal season at The Center! Here are some of these amazing organizations from past week: New Macedonia Christian united church of Christ, the women of steel, Taco Bell of Chesapeake in Greenbrier, Ohef Shalom, and First Baptist Church of Norfolk’s with their Vacation Bible School donation.
The latest URC newsletter is up. Please take a look and share with others: https://theurcnorfolk.com/newsletter
Our director of research, Alex, and our interns from NSU and CNU continue to gather important information for our amazing projects highlighting issues of homelessness and housing in Norfolk and beyond. Great job team!