Dear First Pres,

    Every once in a while something comes up in the church that needs some special communication. This Sunday is one of those moments. That's why we're interrupting our regularly scheduled programming during the Education Hour to have a First Pres Forum. The Forum will be held in the Fellowship Hall from 9:40 - 10:40 a.m.  So, if you're not leading or participating in Kingdom Kids, Ignite, Rooted, Chancel Choir, Worship Band, or Link Crew, I encourage you to join us for this important time.
   Why all the fuss? We have an important new strategic initiative in our church that we want everyone to know about. Not only do we want you to know about it, we want you to hear some of the stories that are coming out of our first efforts. I believe you will be encouraged by what you hear, and I hope you'll be inspired as well.
   So, FPCers, will you please join us? Even if you don't normally come during the Education Hour, would you please consider being here on Sunday?
   We also have some very special guests joining us in worship. So ... between worship and the education hour, I believe this is going to be a very encouraging Sunday. I hope you can be here.
   In the meantime, remember that Jesus came to give you rest for your souls. Whatever your life is like right now, I pray that you will experience His rest for you.

Blessings,
   
Jeremy
P.S. For all you incredible folks who are volunteering during the Education Hour and won't be able to attend the First Pres Forum, please know that I am grateful for you. Pastor Chris and I are working to provide a way for you to get the most important information from the Forum. So, be looking for that in the coming days.

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

   For the past five years, we've had the wonderful opportunity to hire Worship Interns. The program is geared towards college-age music students who seek hands-on experience to explore the nuts and bolts of a modern church music program. They lead up front in the traditional service, participate as musical leaders for the Chancel Choir, grow in their faith, explore what "Worship" means and participate in the contemporary service on occasion. Former interns have spoken of the strong experience and education they have received here.
   This year, we have one from Fresno Pacific University and one from Fresno State University. Let me introduce them to you.

Heidi Hulsey

  Heidi is a native of Fresno and attended Bullard High School. She is currently a Music Education major at Fresno Pacific University where she participates in several vocal ensembles and plays in the University Handbell Choir and Handbell Quartet. When she graduates she plans to be a high school choir director, go to graduate school for Vocal performance and perform in the community as much as possible.

   She loves Chinese food, opera, musical theatre, and the colors maroon, plum purple and navy blue. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, painting, reading, and watching Youtube. Growing up Heidi attended several churches with contemporary worship. After entering college she experienced traditional/liturgical services and fell in love with the style. Through this internship, she hopes to increase her skills as a Music Education major and go deeper with God. She is very excited to make relationships with the members of FPC and worship here.

Kenneshae Murray

   Kenneshae is from Clovis and attended Buchanan High School. She is majoring in Choral/Vocal Music Education at Fresno State University. After graduation this year she intends to continue her education at CSUF seeking a graduate degree in conducting and she hopes to teach high school or junior college choral music. Someday she also hopes to have a children's choir because of her love for children and her desire to give them quality musical experiences.
   Kenneshae applied for the intern program because she was most interested in the opportunity to perfect the craft she hopes to do for a living: conducting. As she grew up, her mom was the director of music at a temple and an Armenian Church so she has experienced a variety of religious music and environments. She feels blessed by the Lord in so many ways and is grateful for this opportunity. She loves the color pink, cheeseburgers (could eat them daily), Disney, going for walks at night or hikes in the mountains and enjoys singing folk music and Celtic music in her free time.
 

Julie Carter's picture
Julie Carter

Dear First Pres,

At our annual Congregational Meeting for 2018 (way back at the beginning of February), we announced two facility projects. The first was to install solar panels in our parking lot, and the second was to expand and update our Fellowship Hall restrooms.
   As you may already know, the solar project is slowly moving through the approval process with the various agencies needing to sign off on the plans. Of course, we hoped it would be done by now, but we can only eagerly wait for these agencies to do their work. Please join me in praying that God will bring these necessary approvals to fruition.
   However, the big news this week is that the Fellowship Hall restroom project has begun! This, of course, means that in a handful of weeks we'll have a much-improved restroom situation for all the groups that use our campus. Yahoo! But it also means that until then, we'll be in the midst of a construction zone. So, please take a few moments to look at the information posted below about that.
   Finally, please hear me when I say this, thank you for your financial giving. We wouldn't be able to increase our hospitality capacity with improved restrooms if it weren't for the money that you have given. Yes, we're excited about having updated restrooms for ourselves, but one of the primary objectives was to increase our ability to welcome others to our campus. Your financial giving is not only an important part of your own growth as a disciple of Jesus, but it also serves to advance the Kingdom of God (even with something as mundane as improved restrooms). On behalf of the entire Session, thank you.

Blessings,

   Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

   You'll enjoy reading these reflections from some of our youth on their recent retreat regarding Hosea and God's reckless love.

   Susannah Ellis (Senior)  "This year's Santa Cruz retreat was bittersweet because it was my final time experiencing it as a student. It has always been a weekend filled with memories and meaningful community. Something I learned about myself this weekend is that although I'm not listening enough for God's response, he's giving me another chance. God keeps telling me what I need to hear, and this weekend it was through the story of Hosea. Hosea blindly followed God's instructions-as daunting, crazy, and undesirable as they seemed-and after years and years, it led to an abundance of good. This weekend I experienced that the church is a good place to be honest, both with myself and others, and I can be heard and fulfilled through that. We discussed how God's reckless love is pursuing others to a breaking point. He is patiently waiting for them to see who and what is able to guide them humbly and lovingly. Our speaker reminded us that we can't earn his reckless love, but even when we wander far from him he still gives us gifts out of goodness. While the world is bidding on our souls, Jesus is hoping we primarily will look up at him. The way that I experienced community and affirmation at Santa Cruz has already altered the way I live and represent Jesus in my day to day life because it gave me a soul-filling sensation that I want others to experience as well."

   Rebekah Smith (Junior) "I had a blast at Camp Santa Cruz with the Rooted youth group. Some of my favorite memories were going to the beach at night, making smores, and singing worship songs in the gym. During the span of 48 hours, we studied the life of Hosea and Brad, our speaker, used it to demonstrate God's reckless love for us. I had never heard this story before which made his lesson more intriguing. Basically, God tells the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute (Gomer) which radically defies the social norms, even more in Biblical times than it does today. After they are married, Gomer retreats to her old ways. She believes that it will satisfy her. In a tragic twist, Hosea is told by God to go find her and bring her back. I learned this is just like Jesus. It hurts his heart when we push away his gift of grace and fill it with money or popularity. God's love is so immense that he allows his heart to be broken for us. He doesn't just love the people who he knows are going to love him back. We are all like Gomer, standing in the slavery of sin. The world bids on us, but Jesus shows up just in time gives himself up for us. He loves us THAT much. Finally, this trip reiterated a truth that has been marinating in my mind for a while: I am worth Jesus to God, and that's just awesome!!"

   Matthew Smith (7th Grade) "I have looked forward to going to Santa Cruz for a long time because so many people have raved about it. But it surpassed all my expectations! Santa Cruz was a special getaway and has had a big impact on me. I knew God but Santa Cruz really helped me fill in a lot of the gaps in my relationship with Him. For example, the speaker talked about the parable of the lost sheep and I had heard it many times but he gave me a whole new perspective on it. He explained that we don't just decide to get lost, we keep our heads down and see a good piece of grass over there and then you see another piece of grass a little farther and you keep doing this until you look up and your in a strange and bad place with the shepherd to be nowhere near. It is the same with us and Santa Cruz made me look up to see where I am and where the shepherd is. Santa Cruz also filled in some of the blanks about how to keep your head up and see where the shepherd is when you come home and that is reading and digging into God's word. The answer was staring me right in the face and I just chose not to see it. Santa Cruz is an amazing place and I can't wait to go next year."

   Eli Rooney (8th Grade) "During the weekend at Santa Cruz Retreat I learned how I need God and it's up to me to connect and build my faith. When I'm put in a place to receive God will be there and will help me get through my struggles. I really got to understand how God is going to be there but also it's not free in the sense that you can't just get God at the grocery store. Making time and space to connect and notice God matters in building a relationship with him. I also learned how powerful it is to spend time with other people that are going through the same experiences I am and who love God too. When it comes to God's reckless love for us I learned that God loves us even when we don't feel close to him. As a follower of Jesus, I can't hide anything from him and it's a relationship I can't live partially."

Meagan Bergem's picture
Meagan Bergem
Director of Junior High Ministries

Dear First Pres,

   We live in a fallen world. I know you are aware of this, but I had another personal reminder this week. On Monday I went to pick up my computer from a local store after a much-needed repair. Unfortunately, about an hour before I arrived, someone else with an ID stating he was Jeremy Vaccaro beat me to the punch. When I showed up, the clerks were quite confused. "We just sent that computer out with someone else. His ID said that he was Jeremy Vaccaro." "Well," I said, "he wasn't." Since then, most of my spare moments have been spent changing passwords, filing reports, canceling services, and praying that God would deliver us from the evil one.

   I share this with you for two reasons ... one for your protection and the other for your growth in Christ.

   First, it seems that the person was able to pull this off by hacking my personal email account. So, I just want you to be aware of this and suspicious of any messages you might get from "me." There have been a handful of emails lately sent under my name to folks in the congregation. But they've never been from my email address. Before you respond to any messages from me, please double-check the sender's email address. If I send you something, it will always be from my work email which ends with "@fpcfresno.org." If there's ever any question, please call me or the church office.

   Second, I'm reminded this week afresh that we do have an enemy who desires to steal, kill, and destroy. Certainly, Jesus has won the ultimate victory over him in Christ's resurrection power. But, Jesus still calls to pray according to this prayer: "deliver us from evil." If you remember from our series on the Lord's prayer, it can also be translated more personally: "deliver us from the evil one." A few weeks ago I talked about fighting for faith; this evil one wants to kill our faith. No, he isn't behind every mistake or stone in our path, but he is actively trying to defeat the redeeming work of Jesus in the world. And he is actively trying to destroy the work of God in and through FPC. Jesus taught the disciples to pray against his efforts. So, would you join me this week in praying according to the prayer Jesus taught?

   Our Father in heaven, forgive us our sins, as we forgive others who have sinned against us. Lead us away from temptation, and deliver us from the evil one. So that your name is glorified, so that your kingdom comes, and so that your will is done in our lives and in our city, as it is in heaven.   

Blessings,
Jeremy

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor