Messages from our pastors and staff
 
A Message from Senior Pastor Will Robinson 
 
March 30, 2020
Dear FPC family of faith,
 
Paul urges us to “give thanks in all circumstances.”  I give thanks that we don’t know of any cases of the coronavirus/COVID-19 in our staff or our congregation. By now, however, all of us probably know someone who’s been affected by it. So, let’s “pray without ceasing” for one another, for our community, for our world and for an end to this scourge.
 
We also know the financial toll of this crisis.  While we’ve encouraged “fearless generosity,” we understand that some of you have been hit especially hard.  We pray for you to weather this economic tsunami, and we’re here for you.  Please let me or pastor Lisa know if we or the church can do anything to help you or your family.
 
Many of you have asked how you might be God’s helpers.  As emphasized in worship, we encourage you to call those who sit near you in worship and check on them or on anybody you think might be isolated at this time.  Also, click here to learn about how you can help people in our community by bringing canned goods/food to the church.  
 
The sermon yesterday urged us to stay connected to God so that we’d experience God’s presence during this very trying hour.  To hear the sermon or to worship with us, click here.  
 
In yesterday’s sermon, I named some things that we can do to help us stay connected to God in this uncertain and unnerving time.  We’ve provided those as well as other spiritual practices in our daily emails that are posted on our website. (If you have trouble finding them, please call the church at 843.681.3696, and we’ll help you.)
 
Today, I’ll briefly explain another spiritual practice – the so-called “Jesus Prayer” – that you can pray to help you stay connected to God and thereby enable you to experience his presence with you.  Click here to access a short video in which I demonstrate how to pray this ancient prayer.
 
God is with us,
 
Will
 
P.S. Many of you have asked about my family.  They’re in Salem right now, and everyone is safe and well.  Your expressions of care and concern and your prayers for us are appreciated very much.
 
 
 
A Message from Senior Pastor Will Robinson 
 
3-26-2020
 
Dear FPC family of faith,
 
At its stated meeting on Tuesday, March 24, the Session of FPC unanimously approved the following motion with the paragraph before and after it serving as the rationale and the Session’s spiritual disposition amid this pandemic.  (The motion coincides with the governor’s executive order on Tuesday to extend the closure of South Carolina’s public schools through the month of April.  While not based on that executive order, when the public schools have closed in the past – e.g., due to hurricanes – FPC’s practice was to close as well.)
 
At that meeting, the Session also unanimously approved a motion of the Personnel Committee to pay all of our staff members through May 8. Personnel is working with the Finance Committee to ascertain how we might pay all staff members during this crisis, however long it lasts.  We have an exceptional staff team, and as I said in my emailed message on Monday your “fearless generosity” will enable us to do that as well as to minister in this unprecedented time.  To help, you may contact the church or click here to give.
 
Pope Francis invited all Christians to pray the Lord’s Prayer yesterday at noon. Whether you prayed it at that time or not, I encourage us to “pray without ceasing.”  Times like these highlight just how necessary prayer is.  The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther allegedly said:  “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours [of the day] in prayer.”  As Christians, we believe in the power of prayer, so let’s be on our knees, praying in particular for those battling this virus, including health care professionals and researchers and others on the front lines.  I and the staff would also appreciate your prayers as we navigate these uncharted waters.
 
God is with us,
 
Will
+ + +
 
The Session of FPC recognizes that Christian community – worship, study, fellowship and prayer – is crucial, giving strength and joy and deepening our faith in God.  We also recognize the continued need to address proactively the coronavirus pandemic, working with governments, those in the health care community, churches and others to prevent its transmission and “flatten the curve,” saving as many lives as possible.  To help us do that, we propose the following motion:
 
That First Presbyterian Church will remain closed from Sunday, March 29, through Thursday, April 30, as prescribed:
  • The church office and facilities will remain closed.
  • All worship services will remain suspended.   We will offer Joyful Worship on Sunday mornings via live stream or a pre-recorded service posted on our website.
  • All business in the church facility will remain suspended, including Christian education classes, small groups and committee meetings.
    • Church staff may continue to work in their offices or remotely.  Any physical meetings of church staff will remain limited and observe social distancing practices.
    • Church staff will work with members and committees to establish alternative means of offering Gracious Invitation, Prayerful Study, Sacrificial Service and Caring Connections (e.g., a Bible study class via Zoom, Youth Group meeting via Zoom, and phone calls to members).
  • Memorial Services and committals will be permitted at the pastors’ discretion. 
  • All use of the church facilities by non-church organizations will remain suspended.
  • The pastors, Executive Assistant to the Senior Pastor, Church Administrator, and Clerk of Session will review the situation and report any changes or recommendations to the Session, by email if necessary.
Especially at this time of heightened anxiety and fear, we remember the lyrics of “This Is My Father’s World”:  “Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”  We place our trust in God, and we pray for one another, our community and our world.  We pray especially for leaders, governments, the health care community, researchers and others battling this and especially for those who are most affected by this.  With God’s help, we will be light in the darkness during this crisis.
 
A Message from Senior Pastor Will Robinson 
 
3-21-2020
 

Dear FPC family of faith,

We’re glad so many of you were able to worship with us remotely yesterday.
We regret the volume of traffic to our website temporarily overloaded it.
We’ll address that before this Sunday’s service, which we’ll pre-record or 
live-stream.  If you missed the service or would like see it again, the 
following link will take you right to it on our YouTube channel: click here.
(I’ve heard it ministered to a number of non-members as well.)
 
Because this pandemic will be measured in months, the staff is already
thinking and working creatively to minister to you and the community.
For example, the Youth Group met via Zoom last week, and you can click 
on the following link to see a video prepared specially for our children:
click here.  Lisa plans to hold her last Lent class on the book Being Mortal,
via Zoom, and I plan to have a Bible study via Zoom that explores texts
which will help us address this crisis, including those that give you
comfort and hope. 
(We may even record or live-stream devotionals from Lisa and me.)
We’re also looking at how we can be God’s helpers to those on the island
most affected by this crisis.
 
To help us be the church in this unprecedented time, your giving is
crucial.  In the words of our Stewardship Committee, our giving to
God’s work through FPC during this crisis expresses “our complete
confidence in and dependence on our Lord.  Jesus urged us over and
over again to act from a place of love, unafraid.  He invites us to face
challenging times with fearless generosity.”  Your fearless generosity
will enable us to continue paying every member of our very gifted,
committed and diligent staff.  To read the rest of the Committee’s 
statement, click here.  To help by giving, you may contact the church
or click on the following link: fpchhi.org/give.
 
In his message emailed to you on Saturday, our organist Charlie Frost
encouraged us to read the lyrics of hymns during this time because
they, too, provide comfort and reassurance.  I would suggest that
reading or singing them (aloud or in your head) can be an act of
prayer.  I would encourage you to do just that with the lyrics of the
final hymn we sang in worship yesterday:  “What a Fellowship, What a Joy
Divine (Leaning on the Everlasting Arms)”:
 
What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,

leaning on the everlasting arms.

Refrain:
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;

leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,

leaning on the everlasting arms. (Refrain)

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,

leaning on the everlasting arms. (Refrain)

In this hour of heightened uncertainty, fear, and anxiety, I pray that
all of us will lean even more on God’s everlasting arms, trusting that
God will provide–his grace is all-sufficient to supply our every need–
and knowing that some of God’s provision will be expressed through
us, God’s helpers (e.g, through calls and prayers for those in health

care on the front lines.)  Let your light shine.

God is with us,

Will
 
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A Message from FPC Organist Charlie Frost 
 
3-21-2020
 
The Faith We Sing
 
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Psalm 100
 
We are reminded throughout the Psalms that we, as Christians, are to be a singing people through the use of Psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs. In this message I would like to focus on hymn singing.
 
I have found the use of hymns to be a very important part of my Christian journey. Yes, singing them is a most uplifting experience, one which I encountered recently at a Choral Conductors’ Convention. And, I have also found it beneficial to read the texts as poetry. It gives me a different perspective sometimes than when I sing them.
 
There are many benefits to hymns. They express a variety of emotions including joy and sorrow. They can serve as prayers of confession, thanksgiving, intercession, and adoration to God. When we sing them in worship, we are building community. They help unite us as a worshiping body. They connect us with Christians throughout the centuries. We are able to share in the faith journeys and experiences of others. They become a history lesson.
 
The stories behind the writing of hymns are fascinating and give strong meaning and understanding to them. I share with you a very popular hymn and its story, “It is Well with my Soul.”
 
Horatio Spafford, a 43 year old businessman, and his wife were grieving the loss of their son when the Great Chicago Fire struck and devastated them financially. Following this tragedy, he sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to England with plans to join them later. While the ship was enroute, it was struck by another ship killing more than two hundred people including all four of their daughters. When it arrived in Cardiff, Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband with the news and these words, “Saved alone.” He then booked a trip on the next ship. While crossing the Atlantic, he wrote this hymn.
 
When Peace Like a River
(It Is Well With My Soul)
 
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
it is well, it is well with my soul.
 
Refrain: It is well with my soul; it is well; it is well with my soul.
 
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul. [Refrain]
 
He lives: O the bliss of this glorious thought.
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! [Refrain]
 
Lord, hasten the day when our faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
the trumpet shall sound and the Lord shall descend;
even so it is well with my soul. [Refrain]
 
I know that we are facing a lot of uncertainty these days. It is easy to be discouraged, feel hopeless, have much anxiety, and fill the days with worry. I remind us all that as God’s people, we are to rely on him. He is faithful. He is with us, even when we think we are alone. I speak from personal experience.
 
May I suggest that in addition to reading scripture, praying, staying in touch with others, that you read the texts of hymns. You will find much comfort and reassurance in them. I suggest this become a way of life for you, not only during hard times. In your home, be sure to always have a Bible. Add to that another important resource for growing as a Christian, a hymnal. For it is “The Faith we sing” that will help sustain us.
 
Colossians 3:16-“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God.”

 

Charlie Frost
Organist
 
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A Message from Senior Pastor Will Robinson
 
3-19-2020
 
Dear member of the FPC family of faith,
 
How are you doing?  How are you weathering the social distancing, the empty shelves of paper products, and the economic uncertainty?  I’ve had contact with some of you, and I pray the rest of you are doing well or hanging in there in the middle of this unnerving crisis.  I also hope you’re seeing signs of God’s presence and redemptive work during this pandemic because God is with us, for God will never leave us and never forsake us.
You are part of that redemptive work when you ask your own loved ones questions like those above.  Or when you check on a neighbor.  Or when you let us know you want to help however possible, as many of you have.  You’ll hear how you might help us minister to our congregation in a worship service we’ll post on our YouTube channel at 10 AM this Sunday.  (We’ll also send you an email with a bulletin of that service and post it on our website.)  Already this week deacons are calling members, especially the most isolated, and are arranging to bring meals to those who need or would like them.
 
Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist, and Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, write:  “Those who believe in a sovereign God should be the least angry, the least anxious, and the least fearful.  One of the most frequently repeated commands in the Bible is, ‘Fear not.’  God is the author and finisher of our stories, both individually and collectively.  He invites us to a calm trust.”
 
As Christians, we accept that invitation, particularly now.  We calmly trust that – in the words of a Presbyterian confession – “in life and in death we belong to God.”  We calmly trust that – in the words of Saint Paul – nothing in all of creation, including this invisible coronavirus, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  We calmly trust that – in the words of Saint John – “perfect love casts out fear.”
 
Let’s pray for the Spirit to fill us with that love, God’s love, so that we think of others, try to help people where we can, and pray for those most affected by this, for those who’ve lost loved ones to this, and for governments and researchers as they battle this.  Let’s pray for the Spirit to fill us with God’s love so much that it casts out any fear that would disturb our calm trust in the God who is the author and finisher of our stories, both individually and collectively.
 
The hymn “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” expresses well this calm trust and our prayer to be living expressions of God’s love at this time and always.  You can listen to it by clicking on the following link or by cutting and pasting the following link into your web browser window: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2svZhZT6ProI’ve included the hymn’s lyrics below.
 
In Christ,
Will Robinson
Senior Pastor
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord,
and where there’s doubt, true faith in you.

 

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, only light,
and where there’s sadness, ever joy.

 

O, Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand, 
to be loved as to love with all my soul.

 

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
in giving of ourselves that we receive,
and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.
 
________________________________________________________________
 
A Message from Associate Pastor Lisa Schrott
 
3-17-2020
 
Last Wednesday night at our Lenten service we sang music from the Taizé Community in France. It seems so long ago that our concern was for those in other places who had been affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Our anxieties were tempered by distance. What a difference four days make, as our day to day reality has been altered in ways it is sometimes hard to wrap our minds around. 
 
Taizé worship music is simple, with a few sentences that are repeated over and over, becoming a meditation that dwells in your heart and soul and mind. 
 
One of the songs we sang last Wednesday was In God Alone. I find myself repeating these words throughout the day, as I hear the news, check in on emails and messages, and have conversations with family and friends. 
 
In God alone my soul can find rest and peace
In God my peace and joy
Only in God my soul can find its rest.
Find its rest and peace.
 
These words remind me of the words Jesus spoke in John 14, scripture where Jesus assures his disciples that when they feel lost and alone, they are not. Words that remind them and us that Jesus is leaving us a path home – a path of peace that is different from the peace of the world. A peace that surpasses all understanding, because only in God can our soul find its rest and peace. 
 
Finding rest and peace for our souls may seem a bit more challenging this week than last week, although the reality is that the peace Jesus left his disciples so many years ago, when the world around him was closing in, is the same peace he leaves with each one of us. Let us strive to dwell in the peace. Music, prayer, and scripture are great places to start!
 
Grace and Peace,

 

Lisa Schrott
Associate Pastor
 
Here are links to some Taizé music on YouTube to get you started. 
 
________________________________________________________________
 
A Message from Pastor Will Robinson
 
3-16-2020
 
In 1 Corinthians 1:18 the apostle Paul writes:  “For the message about the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
 
God knows how to take a cross and make it redemptive.  That sounds foolish to some:  How is it possible to take an instrument of torture and death andmake it redemptive?!  But we know that “with God all things are possible” and believe God did in fact redeem us through the death of His Son on the cross.  It has saving power for us personally and for the whole world.  We believe, then, that God knows how to take the cross of COVID-19 and make it redemptive, too.  So we need to pay particular attention to the signs of God’s redemptive work during this time:  when people are kind and thoughtful, prayerful and helpful, hopeful and comforting, patient and encouraging.  And of course God will work especially through us to help Him do that.  We’ll do that by extending God’s love and grace through calls, emails, and other connecting that doesn’t put others at risk of infection.  We’ll do that at FPC through our PIN (People In Need) ministry, which will still minister to those who may need PIN even more now.  Let us pray for the Spirit to guide and enable us to make this crisis redemptive for others.
 
To help you be more attuned to God’s redemptive work in the world and in yourself, I encourage you to practice a spiritual discipline called the “breath prayer.”  We prayed it at our Wednesday Night Lent service last week.  You can pray it now and at any time throughout the day.  I hope it reminds you that-in the words of the beloved hymn “This Is My Father’s World”-“Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”  So God has the power to take the cross of the coronavirus and make it redemptive, particularly in and through us and our actions.
Breath prayer:

 

Breathe in slowly: When I am afraid, God,
Breathe out slowly: I will trust in You.

 

In Christ,
Will Robinson
Senior Pastor
 
________________________________________________________________
 
 
Mailed to FPC Members on 3-15-2020

                                                                                    Christian Community and the COVID-19 Pandemic                                                                                                            Session of First Presbyterian Church
Third Sunday of Lent
 
The Session of FPC recognizes that Christian community—worship, study, fellowship and prayer—is crucial, giving strength and joy and deepening our faith in God.  We also recognize the need to address proactively the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, working with governments, those in the health care community, churches and others to prevent its transmission.  To help us do the latter, First Presbyterian Church is closed through Sunday, March 29, and:

  • The church office and facilities are closed.
  • All worship services are suspended.   Alternative means of worship will be implemented if possible.
  • All business of the church is suspended, including Christian education classes, committee meetings and small groups. 
  • Memorial services and committals will be permitted at the discretion of the pastoral staff.
  • All use of the church facilities by non-church organizations are suspended.
  • Pastors will work with appropriate FPC groups to minister to the congregation virtually (e.g., emails, phone calls, e-cards)
  • We will continue to monitor the latest developments and implement additional precautions and measures as needed.  
 
Especially at time of anxiety and fear, we remember the lyrics of “This Is My Father’s World”: “Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”  We place our trust in God, and we pray:  for one another, our community, and our world.  Pray for leaders, governments, the health care community, researchers and others battling this and especially for those who are most affected by this.
 
Will Robinson                           Lisa Schrott
Senior Past                               Associate Pastor
 
 
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