News

Dear First Pres,

      Last Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing three sisters: Maile, Addison, and Carly Allen.  It’s always a touching time when we, as a Christian community, welcome children into God’s covenant people in this way.  What joy!  One of the vows the congregation takes says we will assume responsibility with the parents for the spiritual nurture of the children, “acting in behalf of ourselves and the whole Body of Christ.” 

     I added the italics for emphasis because I’ve been thinking about many ways that First Pres is connected to other parts of the Body, specifically how your pastors are taking a very active role right now with the EPC and the Presbytery of the Pacific.  Last week, Jeremy participated in the installation of Rev. Greg Haroutunian, the new senior pastor at First Armenian Presbyterian Church.  Greg is from Fresno, so this is a homecoming for him.  Second, for several months we have nurtured a strong and growing connection with the San Francisco church plant, and this week Troy Wilson will be preaching here again.  Sadly, I’ll miss connecting with Troy because on Saturday and Sunday, I won’t be here.  The great news is I’ll be in Woodlake (the church where Jeremy grew up), helping install that congregation, and its elders and pastor, into the EPC and our presbytery.  And finally, from the 27th to the 29th of this month, I’ll be leading a team (Rachel Hamlin, Beth Paz, and Rachel York) as we travel to Greenwood, CO, for the EPC’s first national Women in Ministry Networking Forum.  I’m feeling excited about connecting Rachel, Beth, and Rachel – each one a leader in her own right – to other women leaders in the EPC.  And I’m looking forward to what we’ll bring back that can enrich our congregation and city.  That’s a lot of connections to the whole Body of Christ outside our four walls.  It’s a good thing to celebrate God’s Church and mission reaching far beyond our corner on M Street and Calaveras!

     It’s a little like breathing – that regular “in and out” process that keeps our bodies alive and kickin’.  At any given moment we should be somewhere in the process:  reaching outside ourselves for the very purpose of drawing others in, and enfolding those who come to Christ so they can be sent out on God’s mission wherever they go.  May our physical breathing remind us of that “breathing” of the Body of Christ.  Today, please pray with me that the Holy Spirit will be our “fresh air”, and that we will use His energy to do God’s work.  May the Lord guard you when you leave and when you return, now and always. (Ps. 121:8)

Lana Roberts
Associate Pastor

We are delighted to report that Rhonda Pope has accepted the position as editor of our FPC Newsletter.  She has already begun work on her first publication, which will be produced the first week or April. 
 
We will then resume our publication schedule of every other month.  It will be distributed in a variety of ways: 
  • Some hard copies will be mailed to those who have requested this
  • We'll e-mail you a pdf version
  • Printed copies will be in the church lobby for anyone to pick up
  • Articles will also appear here individually in the near future

We look forward to resuming this communication tool.  Please contact Audrey in the office (485-6460) if you would like to be added or removed from either the e-mail or mailing list for the Newsletter.  

Terry Jaurena
Mission/Outreach Director

Dear First Pres,

     What needs reconciling in your life? What part of your life needs to be made whole? These were the questions that Craig Blodgett presented to us at last night's Ash Wednesday service.  Craig did a great job of leading us through a meditation on Colossians 1:19-23 in which Paul speaks of the reconciling work of Jesus Christ.  It was a wonderful text to reflect on at the beginning of this year's Lenten season.

     Lent is a season of the Christian calendar that starts 46 days before Easter (40 days plus 6 Sundays).  It's a time set aside for the Church to do some self-reflection about the status of our hearts before God.  It's a time to engage those areas of our lives that need reconciling with God.  It's a time to experience new life - the deep, lasting life we find in Christ.

     Today is day 2 of Lent. If you haven't taken time to consider Craig's questions, I invite you to take some time to reflect on them.  Grab your journal or a piece of paper and spend some time writing your thoughts and reflections. Talk to a trusted friend about your answers. And use this season to seek the Lord on these matters.

     One of the ways the Bible describes people who are intentionally seeking the Lord is with the discipline of a fast.  Fasting has long been a tradition of the Church, especially during Lent.  The practice of fasting helps us to make room in our lives for intentional listening, reflection, and prayer.  You can fast from all kinds of things: food, Facebook, television, soda, criticism, bad habits, caffeine, etc.  Have you considered a fast for this year's Lent?

     This weekend, starting Friday morning at 7 and ending with lunch on Saturday, our youth group students are fasting from food as part of the 30 hour Famine.  One of the ways that they will be serving in the midst of their fast is by building Promise Packs for World Vision kids in Swaziland.

     I invite you to participate with them in two ways.  First, join them in the fast.  If you can, abstain from food Friday morning through Saturday lunch.  Take the time, especially when you feel hungry, to pray.  Pray for Swaziland.  Pray for our students.  Pray for FPC Fresno. Pray for God to shine His light in and through your life. Second, whether you are fasting or not, come to the Promise Pack build on Saturday.  Everyone is welcome to participate.  Our goal is to build 400 packs so that we can send them directly to Mahlalini community in Swaziland (see details below).

     Church, I hope you will be intentional this Lenten season to pursue God in a fresh way.  Find some way to make room in your life to consider these important questions about your actions, attitudes, and words. What needs reconciling in your life?  What part of your life needs to be made whole?  I'm confident that God will use this to grow something new in you this spring. 

P.S. Don't forget to change your clocks on Saturday night.

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

     This Sunday we’ll finish up our short sermon series, The Savior’s Heart, on Jesus’ prayer in John 17.  As I’ve been examining Jesus’ prayer these past weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own prayer life.  When we listen in on Jesus’ prayer we hear his heart for giving glory to God; we hear His heart for truth, and we hear His heart for mission.  So, I’ve asked myself, “What does my prayer (or lack thereof) reveal about my heart?” It’s been a fruitful question for me to ponder. 

     What about you?  What does your prayer (or lack thereof) reveal about your heart?  I encourage you to take some time before Sunday to consider this question.  Here are some additional questions to think about if you get bored with the first one. What does your prayer reveal about what you believe?  How do you listen for God during your prayers? What are you praying about most of the time?  Is there some way that God is calling you to deepen your prayer life?

     One of the things we see so clearly in Jesus’ prayer is the communion He shares with the Father, and His invitation for us to join in that communion. As you reflect on your own prayer life, may you be reminded of this incredibly gracious invitation, and may it fill you with the full measure of joy.

Blessings,

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

     On Tuesday night, the Session (our church’s leadership board), was excited to take its first look at the information and feedback given by the congregation at our annual meeting. We are so grateful for Linda Ellenberger; she compiled all the data you provided, and synthesized it into primary categories and themes.  Thanks Linda!  And, thank you, First Pres, for your work at the annual meeting; it was very helpful for the Session to take time to reflect on the FPC core values you've experienced, and consider your longings for our church.

     The Session has been working on identifying our core values since last spring.  There was a group of FPC folks who worked a few years ago to create a list of core values.  We (the Session) started with their work – grappling with the definitions of important words, considering them against our own experiences, and forming some ownership around their main ideas.  The congregation’s work in January was an important step in the process, because it is helping us hear from more voices than just our own. 

     So, where are we now?  We’ll be finalizing the core values in the next few months.  Then we’ll begin work to finalize our church’s purpose statement. My goal is to keep you, the congregation, informed and involved in this process since it happens mostly behind the scenes.  I'll be sharing more about this in the weeks to come.

     Some of you might be thinking, “Why do we care about core values and purpose? And, how could it possibly take this long to create?”  Identifying and articulating our core values is critical to leveraging our church identity and strengths for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.  God has made FPC Fresno a distinctive expression of His Church.  We have distinctive history, distinctive passions, distinctive watersheds, and distinctive stories that make us who we are as a congregation.  We share a common mission with every Christ-honoring church in Fresno, but we have our own patterns, styles, and emphases in conveying that mission to our community.  Understanding and owning those core values positions us to launch into our future with solidarity and focus.  There’s just one problem, it takes a while to build understanding and ownership.  But I can hardly think of a better investment for our future than making sure we understand who we are and who Christ is calling us to be.

     If you feel like we’re moving too slow, remember that God is still actively at work among us, even in the midst of this process.  If you feel like we’re moving too fast, remember that the Session cares deeply about getting this right.  Finally, beloved, no matter how we’re feeling, may we all remember the promise of God to His people who wondered about their future:  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).  Praise Him; we’re in His hands.

Blessings,

Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

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