Two Centuries of Ministry

FPC200 Logo BlackJordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer

Growing up in Raleigh, one did not need to be a member of First Presbyterian Church to know that they are a cornerstone of the city. Not only is the building one of four church buildings flanking the perimeter of our State Capital building, but it seems that their ministry infiltrates every corner of the city at some point in the year.

For many years, this congregation was known to me through the stories that my mother told me of her college years when there was always a chance she could find herself worshipping in the fellowship hall of First Presbyterian while she listened and watched the service on a television if she didn’t arrive in time to find a seat in the sanctuary. I personally came to know and love this congregation when I was in high school and looking for a youth group to call home. I later returned as a college student and co-director of a mission based camp for middle-school youth. I was never a member of the congregation (my church home was only a few miles away) but their nurturing ministry changed my outlook on church.

This past May I returned to First Presbyterian Church on behalf of Union Presbyterian Seminary. Almost ten years after playing “Sardines” (a favorite youth group game) in the dark halls below the sanctuary the night before singing in the youth choir during worship, I looked out at familiar faces and a new sanctuary layout. The stories were the same, but their resting place was different. I began to think about if it changed this much in ten years, how did my Mom feel coming to church with me 20-30 years after she first visited for the first time.

This coming January, First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, NC will celebrate their 200th anniversary (only four years following Union’s own 200th anniversary.) In these 200 years, their ministry has not just changed my own life, but the lives of thousands of other individuals who attended worship there and those who have encountered their ministry throughout the community whether that be Sunday morning worship, assistance through the outreach program, or a bagged lunch from the hands of a youth group member.

Since some of their earliest years, First Presbyterian Church and Union Presbyterian Seminary have been partnered in ministry. Dr. Drury Lacy became the second permanent pastor in 1837 following his education at Union Theological Seminary (then housed at Hampden Sydney College.) Seminary students were regularly brought to Raleigh to work with both First Presbyterian Church and the surrounding counties as part of Dr. William McClanahan White’s focus on mission. For a majority of the most recent century, the congregation and the town have benefitted from Union educated leaders- Dr. James Sprunt, Dr. Albert Edwards, Dr. Edwin Stock, and currently Dr. Ed McLeod.

This centuries old congregation has helped to shape the face of Christianity and Presbyterians in Raleigh, NC and in turn shaped the culture of the community. From their start, they have opened their doors and their hearts to “the least of these” and shared The Gospel in such a way that not only were individuals able to learn it, but they were also able to live it. Their doors have been opened to people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Their meeting space has been used by congregations of other denominations as they waited for their own buildings to be built. The state Supreme Court and NC Constitutional Convention even used the space for meetings when the Capitol building across the street burned in 1831.

Today, First Presbyterian Church and Union Presbyterian Seminary are entering a new chapter of ministry side by side. As the landscape of ministry shifts, leaders are working with one another to discern the next steps needed both to carry the congregation forward into the changing landscape of ministry and to prepare new leaders who might one day fill the pulpit at the corner of Morgan and Salisbury Streets.

Join members of First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh for a 200th anniversary commemoration service on January 21, 2016 at the North Carolina State Capitol (across the street from the church building, and where the congregation first gathered.)

To learn more about the history of First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, please visit



These Are A Few of My Favorite (Advent) Things…


Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer

If you have been listening to the radio recently, it is likely that you have heard the classic song “My Favorite Things” from (the even more classic) movie Sound of Music. If you are like me, you can’t help but sing along as you picture a young Julie Andrews dancing around the room with the Von Trapp children, trying to drown out the thunderstorm that has awoken the household.

The song, with a list of wonderful objects and gifts, can serve as a reminder to many of us of those “simpler” days when whiskers on kittens sufficed. Listening to it this past week, I found myself thinking about my favorite things of Christmases past- the yearly picture with my sisters and Santa, lighting the luminary candles in the cul-de-sac on Christmas Eve and later carrying the small nativity character to front of the sanctuary to place it in the candle-lit nativity scene during the 11 o’clock worship service. I shared these memories and others with my husband as we admired the elegant Christmas tree standing in the middle of our local mall. As we shared our favorite memories, I quickly realized that these memories were slowly pushing the worry of the world out of my mind (if only for a few minutes).

This afternoon it is very likely that many of you reading this have just finished a long staff meeting or some pastoral care visits. Some of you might have checked the news to find something else going on that just doesn’t fit with what the mood should be this time of year. Church calendars are swamped and pastors are exhausted already; and so today, I encourage you to take a moment and remember your favorite things whether that is from your childhood or last year.

A favorite Advent workshop craft…

A favorite Advent story…

A favorite family tradition…

A favorite visit with a parishioner…

Please share your favorite things here so that we might encourage one another and possibly find the spark to reignite our flame this season, when it might seem that so much is lost in Christmas chaos and heartbreaking news reports.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

2842725757_who20do20you20say20I20am204_xlarge15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16: 15-16

Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer

“A mission statement, in the very first sentence, should tell who the congregation believes God to be.” These words of wisdom came from a church leadership class at Union, taught by Ken McFayden. I began to think about the few churches that I was familiar with at the time and what their mission statements said– sadly, I couldn’t recall a mission statement that fit this description. This comment sat in the back of mind until I found myself sitting in the pew of First Presbyterian Church in Durham, NC almost a year later.

At the time of this particular visit, I was unemployed and looking for a temporary home until I was called by a church. I was frustrated with the way my job search was panning out and lonely in a new city where the only people I knew were my husband’s friends. This search for a temporary church home was harder than I expected because I couldn’t help but look at the little details of every congregation and worship service I visited. In the moments before worship, I opened up the bulletin (honestly, with little hope) and began to peruse what they had planned for the coming Fall and the welcome statement quickly caught my eye–

“First Presbyterian Church welcomes all who worship here. We honor and celebrate human diversity and unity that God gives us in Christ. We welcome individuals of every age, race, nationality, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and economic circumstance to participate fully in the life of the church.”

Right away, I knew that this was a statement that I could get behind and I settled in for worship. Several months later, I returned as a guest preacher and try to be involved as possible now that I have a call.

What might seem like a space-filler in the bulletin for some, serves as a window into the ministry of a congregation for others. In those moments before worship as a visitor sits and takes in their surroundings, they might find that “space-filler” and make up their mind right then and there whether this is a congregation and ministry they want to be involved with. In a world where so many are trying to find God, or a group that has similar beliefs about God, it is important that as a faith community we name and claim our own beliefs in a way that all who want to know, are able to know.

What does First Presbyterian believe about God? From that one statement, I gathered that they believe God is a welcoming God who created all of us to be different, yet One in God. God loves each one of us, and First Presbyterian is striving to do the same. This is backed up by the multiple activities offered throughout the week- worship, service and study alike. This is acted out in the warm welcome I received when I participated in a weekly book study earlier this year.

What does your welcome statement and/or mission statement say about who your congregation believes God is?
Is it easily found by visitors and members alike both on Sunday morning and during the week?
How does your congregation act out that statement?