News

     What a thrill it was on Sunday to see almost every person who was in worship walk across the lawn to meet for the first time with their Community Group!  All the rooms were buzzing with activity as people made connections, sometimes for the first time.  Well done, church, for taking that trek across the lawn!  We've arrived together at the start of a grand summer adventure.  I'm excited to see it happen all over again this Sunday.  As Paul writes in Philippians, "There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you will bring it to a flourishing finish on the day Christ Jesus appears." 

     Summer is the time for potlucks, and potlucks always seem to include some kind of Jell-O.  Have you ever tried to serve Jell-O right after it's made?  It's a watery mess.  Even "instant" pudding isn't instant, no matter what the package says!   Both dishes need some time to gel and firm up so they can hold their shape.  Christian community takes time to gel, too.  Whatever you enjoyed, or maybe were less excited about, in your first day of Community Group, we want to encourage everyone to keep coming each time your group gathers.  With consistency and prayer and time, our groups will "gel".  Being there every week will give us time to keep building relationships, explore each area's resources and possible needs, and collaborate to plan an end-of-summer Community Group event out in each area of our community.  Every group will plan something different, and that's one of the things I'm most looking forward to about this process.  I'm betting you all will be creative, and I can't wait to see what each group comes up with. There are as many possibilities as there are potlucks and recipes for Jell-O!  Together, let's keep investing in, and praying for, this exciting adventure.

Blessings, 

Pastor Lana 

P.S. Be on the lookout for information about the July 6 potluck.  We're assigning dishes according to Community Groups rather than by alphabet, so you might be bringing something different than your usually-designated dish.  Like I said...it's an adventure! 

Lana Roberts
Associate Pastor

     There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  As we enter this summer season, plans are in motion for family reunions, trips to the lake, baseball games, picnics, summer school, and on it goes ... We are entering a new season here at FPC, as we embark on "going public" with our Community Groups this summer - and beyond.

     "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."   Matt 5:14-16

     Not long ago I figured out who I want to be when I grow older (yes, this time span is definitely shortening).  I would like to be the guy who can't stop talking about what God has done and continues to do- just like Peter and John before the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law in the 4th Chapter of Acts:  "As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."  Acts 4:20

     To be witness to testimonies so incredible that "we can't help speaking about what we have seen and heard" requires taking risks; moving out of our comfort zone as we step out in faith not knowing the outcome- and giving that outcome to God.

     The thought of doing "missionary work" in my own neighborhood is similar to considering the same within my own family.  Whether it is hosting a barbecue or tackling an improvement project next door- the project seems less daunting when shared with my brothers and sisters. Our collective goal is to be salt and light in our community. We will start by connecting with church members in our geographic neighborhoods as we then prepare to "go public" together later in the summer. I encourage you to give it a go with these new Community Groups.  It may be just the impetus and group support you need to take the new step of faith that will yield fresh testimonies in your own life bringing glory to our Father in heaven.  

    I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

Blessings,

Jamie Franklin

Anonymous

     Today is the last day of school for my kids. Yes, they are excited.  But, it hasn't ended up exactly as we expected. A week ago today, Andrew fell during school recess and broke his left arm.  We hoped, that since the break was close to his wrist, he would only have a cast that came up to his elbow. Unfortunately, his cast comes all the way up to his armpit.  We hoped they would be able to give him a cast that was water proof, but the doctor said, "No can do."   On top of that, the timing couldn't have been worse.  Andrew was very much looking forward to spending the days of his summer vacation doing the things he loves: playing basketball, learning tennis, hitting golf balls at the range, and swimming in our brand new pool.  Now, diving in (pun intended) to those activities has been put on hold.  The one good thing in all of this has been Andrew's attitude.  Yes, he is extremely disappointed.  Yes, summer is probably the worst time to have a hot cast from your knuckles to your armpit. Yes, this is not at all how he was hoping to start his summer.  But, he's making the best of it.  I'm so proud of him for his flexible attitude and his can-do spirit.

     I'm praying for the same attitude and spirit among our congregation this summer.  This Sunday we're launching Phase 1 of the Community Building Initiative.  Don't forget, we're worshipping in one service at 9:30 a.m.  I know that a change in the worship schedule means a bit of a change in your Sunday morning routine.  Some of you might welcome it, but for others it will be a stretch.  On top of that, you might get in the sanctuary only to realize that someone else is sitting in your spot (of course, it might be their spot in the other service). And, on top of that, there will be some elements of our worship service that aren't part of your normal experience (unless you regularly go to both services). All that to say, there are lots of things that could potentially get you tied up in knots this Sunday (and I haven't even mentioned the launch of Community Groups on June 22). 

     I'm praying that God will help us to be patient with each other as we launch this new initiative.  I'm confident that there will be lessons learned along the way, and that there will be moments of craziness, celebration, frustration, and inspiration.  All of that is what will make our summer exciting! 

     So, as you come to worship on Sunday morning, will you please ask the Lord to help us lean into this Community Building Initiative rather than lean away from it?  Will you pray that God gives you the energy and opportunity to connect in a new way with others in our congregation?  Will you pray that God helps us to be flexible and patient?  Finally, will you pray that God fills us with a spirit of joy because of the great work that He is doing in us for His glory?

It's going to be a great Sunday; I can't wait to see you.

Blessings, 

            Jeremy

P.S. Sunday night, bring your lawn chair, and let's kick off our summer with Pie in the Park.

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

  by Pastor Jeremy Vaccaro

    Recently, we held our very first First Pres Forum.  The Forum gave me the chance to talk to those gathered about our Core Values and the Community Building Initiative. The first phase of the Community Building Initiative is launching this summer with a special worship schedule and the start of Community Groups. But as you read the contents of this First Pres(s), you might have a good argument to make that the Community Building Initiative really started on April 26. 

    On April 26, many of our church gathered in various locations around the city to serve our neighbors as part of the Saturday of Service (S.O.S.).  I had the privilege to join Paul and Lori Meadors as they served (with First Pres friends) their neighbors, Floyd and Molly.  It was a family affair, too; each of my kids was able to contribute to the work of blessing the Meadors’ neighbors.  It turned out to be as much a blessing to us as it was to them.  What a joy to serve!

    I was so encouraged to know that just down the street, in the same neighborhood, there was another crew from First Pres serving as Bob and Rosemary Avery led a team to bless their neighbors.   And, during those same hours teams were distributed in neighborhoods around the city. How cool is that?! It is very cool.

    Here’s what I loved about it the most: each of those projects around the city were prompted by you.  People in the congregation walked across the street to find ways to help their neighbors.  They opened their eyes to potential needs in their own neighborhoods, and God used it to bless others.  Others were humble enough to ask for help in their own yard or house, and the church responded.  Way to go church!

    When I think about the launch of Community Groups on June 22, I get excited about the potential for this type of service to happen more spontaneously all around our city for the sake of Christ.  Imagine a group of folks from First Pres coming together to address a need in your neighborhood.  Imagine families building relationship while helping each other with significant projects at the house. Imagine a group that gathers for an early morning prayer walk.  Imagine a group that cares for a widow or widower.  And, imagine all those groups gathering, serving, and loving within the context of their own part of the city.  Imagine First Pres folks engaged together in loving our neighborhoods for Christ’s sake.  This is just one of the great things that could come with the launch of Community Groups. 

    In fact, I can’t imagine that it won’t happen in a church like First Pres.

The Rest of June's Newsletter is Available Right Here: June First Pre(s).pdf
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

I was grateful that so many attended the First Pres Forum.  It was a great joy to share with you the journey of discernment that the Session has taken together these past many months to define our core values and purpose statement.  It was also fun to begin laying out, in more detail, phase 1 of our Community Building Initiative.  In particular, I talked about the idea of Community Groups, and our plan to initiate some special summer community groups on June 22.

For the summer, there will be seven community groups meeting on campus after church (not every week, but many).  Remember, community groups are regionally based, mid-sized groups of the congregation that exist to build relationships, grow disciples, and give witness to the Gospel.  We recognize that having only seven groups might make them a bit large in number and spread out geographically.  However, our highest value for the summer was to create some exciting synergy in the groups that would sustain the fluctuating schedule of summer vacations and travel.  It’s very likely that the next iteration of community groups (phase 2 of the community building initiative) will include at least twice as many groups.

So, if you missed the First Pres Forum, the groups are organized around high school boundaries.  Here are the seven groups: Roosevelt, Sunnyside & Sanger; Central, Fresno & Edison; Bullard; Clovis West; McLane & Hoover; Buchanan & Clovis North; and Clovis & Clovis East. We know that some of our folks live beyond the borders of these boundaries.  We’re asking them to choose a group that makes sense for them.

Starting June 22, we’ll be meeting in our community groups after worship for about one hour.  There will be leaders for each group that help to facilitate the gatherings, but you can expect them to feel a bit like a large gathering in your home – time when everyone is listening, time when everyone is talking together, time when everyone doing something in groups, and time when everyone is praying.  Our hope is that everyone will move from the worship service into their particular group meeting space (after picking up kids from childcare, of course).  So, would you begin planning now to be together for a few hours during our Summer Sundays? 

I’m going to be talking more this Sunday at our second First Pres Forum about the strong way these Community Groups connect so much with our Core Values and Purpose Statement.  Unless you’re serving during that hour (9:40 – 10:40), I encourage you to be there.

Finally, if you were unable to be at last week’s First Pres Forum, there is an edited version of the meeting available on YouTube.  Click here to watch.

Please keep praying this week that God grows us deep and wide.

P.S.  This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday.  Will you join me in wearing some red to worship? 

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

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