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Dear First Pres,
   I'm so thankful that God chose to put our congregation in a building in Downtown Fresno. Whether we walk or drive to our physical church building, we can be thankful for the Lord's placement and for the wisdom of those past elders who decided years ago to remain in our current location.
   There is a consistent refrain of those who have been around the church for a long time: the landscape around our church is always changing! Even as we walk out our front door we have brand new townhouse apartments to our south and west, less than a football field away.
   We also have two wonderful campus church partners: Hope Now Bible Church with Pastor Roger Feenstra and Bethany Inner City Church with Pastor Jonathan Villalobos. Both of these have such a pastor's heart for this city, just as years ago our elders had a heart for this city.
   This coming Sunday we have the amazing privilege of demonstrating the body of Christ by uniting with Bethany and Hope Now for a joint worship service (9:30am) in our Sanctuary followed by an opportunity to love the Lowell neighborhood to our north.
   Together, we'll form teams to spread out across this downtown area. As each group walks our streets with friends from Hope Now and Bethany Church, we demonstrate that God's Church is all those who believe in Him as Lord and Savior. Our churches will be united in love for Christ and our neighbors. As one, we believe wholeheartedly in the transformational power of the Gospel and incredible movement of the Spirit, inviting Jesus to minister to people we pray for along the way.
   I'm reminded that our churches together believe in one Faith, one Hope and one Baptism. And because of the transformational partnership we have with Bethany and Hope Now Church, we get to demonstrate that we worship one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
   I invite you this Sunday: bring your walking shoes and dress in cooler clothes so you're ready to join with our brothers and sisters, walking the neighborhoods to the north and praying for God to bring His kingdom upon the streets!
    As God strategically took Lisa and me from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to FPC in Fresno, California, He also strategically placed FPC, Bethany & Hope Now on this M Street block between Calaveras and Stanislaus Streets. Our God is a God of location and purpose. As it says in His Word in Acts 17, "God determines the time set for every person and the exact places where they should live." I believe that also applies to the exact place where He put First Presbyterian Church.
   We are here as a strategic act of God as He moved in the hearts of those who came before us. I believe part of what we're doing this Sunday is an affirmation of our call to remain downtown and minister to the surrounding community.
   Let's continue with gladness and thankfulness for the Lord's placement of us in and amongst our community with Bethany Inner City Church, Hope Now Church, the Lowell neighborhood and all the developments that are happening around us. To God be the glory.    

Amen!

Chris Popadich

Chris Popadich

Dear First Pres,

   I'm only recently back from the Reformation Tour and personal time in Norway. It was a phenomenal time! The experience of walking in Luther's footsteps in Wittenberg, Eisenach, Leipzig and Erfurt was incredible! When I think of the Reformation, I realize that many, many people contributed to it. However, it took just one man, Martin Luther, at the appointed time, under the right conditions, to speak up and stand his ground (upon threat of death) when he saw things that were contrary to scripture. It took one man, Luther the Wise, who was sovereign of Ernestine Saxony to protect him in Wartberg Castle. The timing was right and Luther sparked an uprising that impacts each of us today! I'm humbled when I realize that men and women died for their faith so that we might worship God in our own language, be free of the tyranny of indulgences (pay money to be forgiven of sins), and know that by faith we are saved! I'm grateful for his steadfast belief in these and many other principles that have had such a positive impact and allow me to worship freely.
 
  To combine those experiences with singing beautiful music in awe-inspiring churches enhances it ten-fold! Our group was a wonderful group of people, some with musical experience, others with little to none, who worked hard, rehearsed, learned their music, then were rewarded with an unparalleled experience at the Berliner Dom and other Lutheran Churches. Throughout our time in Germany they bonded and became a choir! I can truly say they sang their hearts out for the Lord in many churches and proclaimed the good news of the gospel in song.
 
  As October 31, 2017 approaches, I encourage all of us to remember the events of 500 years ago with grateful hearts.
 
  At a time when often it's the "news of the day" that captures our attention, let's pause to reflect on these vital events of the past. More importantly, let's remember Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to be with us, died for all our sins, rose from the grave defeating death, sits at the right hand of God interceding for us, and will come again! Amen and Soli Deo Gloria!
 

Blessings,

Julie Carter

Audrey Arce

Dear First Pres,

  It was truly a privilege to watch the FPC Reformation Church Choir perform across Germany! Over the course of 8 days we bonded as we sang, napped through jetlag, ate currywurst, walked cobblestone streets, and experienced reformation history!
 
   One of the most memorable moments for me was joining a small German church outside of the city for Sunday worship. The FPC choir blessed the little congregation with beautiful melodies sung from the loft! Although the language might be unfamiliar, I felt kindred in spirit as I held a German hymnal and sat side by side in the pews. When it came time to celebrate communion, I stood to join in the familiar procession to the front of the church. I shuffled through the line and looked into the Pastor's faithful blue eyes as he spoke to me about the body and blood of Christ shed for me - these rituals needed no translation to invoke the meaningful power of the 
Eucharist. I sat and reflected on the beauty of Christians across the globe gathering to remember Christ's sacrifice, and dispersing to be salt and light in our dark world!

     This week, Pastor Lana will be preaching on the Eucharist. I look forward to participating with you in our congregation, and remembering with joy our connection to the global Body of Christ!

The Choir worshipping at one of five concerts; this one at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Breitscheidplatz, Berlin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessings,

Beth Paz

Audrey Arce

Dear First Pres,

I’m writing today from our denomination’s General Assembly. It is our annual business meeting, and we are gathered, this year, in Fair Oaks, California (yes, it is hot here too). There certainly is important business that we are attending to, but the feel of the gathering is much more like a family reunion than a business meeting. It’s one of the things I love about this family of churches to which we belong. Even though we are dealing with tough and important issues about the future of our denomination, we do so with a great spirit of unity and love.

That’s one of our goals for the Session (our church’s leadership board) as well. This month, at Session, we were able to say thank you to our outgoing elders: Stuart Conrad, Jim Cousins, Ron Dull, Laura Magnee, Tarry Rolf, Joel Wilson, and Ralph York. But before we let them go, we spent time together with these outgoing elders, the incoming elders, and the returning elders reflecting on 1 Corinthians 13. As you know, this is the chapter in which the Apostle Paul reflects on love. He says that even if someone has the most powerful and magnificent spiritual gifts, but doesn’t have love, their lives are like fingernails on a chalkboard to the church.  Then he describes love. You know it; “Love is patient; love is kind …” I encourage you, even if you already know it, to spend a few minutes reflecting on this chapter today (1 Corinthians 13). At our Session meeting, we charged one another to love well. We want our Session to be marked by love. No matter what comes our way, no matter how tough the issues, and no matter how strongly we might disagree on a particular topic, we want love to be our defining characteristic.

But love is hard to do. When we really love one another we become peacemakers with one another. That means we always pursue right relationship with each other. That means we carefully call out divisive behavior. That means we don’t turn a blind eye to a brother or sister’s sinful behavior.  And that means we have to let go of pride and our ego.  Loving each other well is not easy work, but it is so worth it. And the only way for us to really love well, is to receive God’s lavish love for us. It’s when we really learn to receive God’s love – love that is unconditional, fierce, and lavish – that we are freed up to love others like He loves us.

I’m so grateful for the love I’ve experienced here at the EPC General Assembly. I’m so grateful for the love on display in our Session gatherings. And I’m so grateful for the love of First Presbyterian Church Fresno. May we love more as we grow in God’s love for us. And not just for ourselves, but that the world may know what the Kingdom of God is like.

Blessing, 

Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

   Have you noticed all the sending we've been doing in worship lately? We sent the Men's Mexico Build Team (if you didn't see the story of their trip, click here ), the Reformation Tour Choir, and the Albania mission team. This Sunday we're going to be sending folks again. It feels like we're sending people every Sunday... and I LOVE it! In John 20:21, Jesus says, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Thus, every follower of Christ is a sent one of God. And, when we send particular mission teams during our worship services, it should remind us of that incredibly important truth.

   We are sent ones. We are sent by Jesus in the same way that His Father sent Him. That means that we're sent to be in the world; we're sent to be the salt of the earth and the light in the darkness. We're sent to be in relationship with the people God puts in our lives. We're sent to make manifest the Kingdom of God in our community. And we're sent to make disciples for the redeeming transformation of our city and world. First Presbyterian Church, if you are in Christ, you are a sent one of Jesus.

   So, what does that mean for you today? How does that impact your life this weekend? How does it intersect with your expectations for the coming year? For Jesus it meant living each day in perfect submission to the Father. He went where the Father told Him to go, said what the Father told Him to say, healed who the Father told Him to heal, etc. Jesus did what the Father wanted Him to do because it was the Father who sent Him. In the same way, in Christ, the Spirit has been given to empower us to do what Jesus wants us to do. 

   As we pray for another set of missionaries being sent from our church this Sunday, may it indeed inspire us to live as His sent ones every day, wherever we are, for His glory.
 

Blessings,

Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

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