Autumn 2021: The Morehouse Connection

Morehouse College, a tradition-rich, historically black institution in Atlanta founded two years after the Civil War, has a history of providing liberal arts education for students who go on to divinity schools in the North and become some of this country’s most respected and influential ministers.
Martin Luther King Jr. was one.
Members of First Presbyterian Church in Lexington will have opportunities this fall to get to know two others – one through a study of his most famous book and the other in-person in a sermon delivered from our pulpit.
The book study, offered by our church’s one-year-old Race Unification Committee (RUC) and open to all church members, will focus on Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited.
Thurman, a grandchild of slaves in Florida, earned a bachelor’s degree as Morehouse’s valedictorian in 1923 and three years later was valedictorian again in earning a divinity degree from Rochester Theological Seminary in New York. Afterward he served as dean of Howard University’s Rankin Chapel in Washington, D.C.; founded with a white co-pastor an interracial, interdenominational church in San Francisco; and then became the first African American to serve as dean of a chapel at a majority-white university – Marsh Chapel at Boston University. He also provided guidance for civil rights organizations and other social justice movements in the 20th century.
Martin Luther King Jr. visited Thurman, a friend of his father, who also studied at Morehouse, while King Jr. was completing a PhD at Boston University. In a trip pioneered by Thurman in the mid-1930s, King Jr. traveled to India to learn about Mahatma Gandhi’s political use of nonviolent protest, which also became the principal strategy of the American Civil Rights Movement. King was said to carry Thurman’s book with him during the movement.
Our church’s study of the book will meet twice monthly beginning Sept. 21. The RUC has permission to offer the book discussions in-person in the Fellowship Hall at 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays. However, the RUC would like to know if different days and/or times would better fit your schedules. And the committee wants to know if individual church members would prefer to meet in-person, via Zoom, or have the ability to do both.
Register for the book study by emailing Bill Keesler, RUC chair. Copies of the book are available in the church office. Church members are encouraged to consider donating to help cover the church’s cost of $13 per book.
Howard Thurman died in 1981, 13 years after King. But on Sunday, October 10, 2021, a third Morehouse graduate will deliver the sermon at our church.
Since 2019, the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Lee Walton has been dean of the School of Divinity, the holder of the Presidential Chair in Religion and Society, and the Dean of Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University.
Walton, who grew up in Atlanta, spent his college freshman year at Wofford in Spartanburg, SC, on a football scholarship, but returned home and earned a bachelor’s degree at Morehouse in 1996. He then obtained a master’s degree and a Ph.D from Princeton Theological Seminary. While at Princeton, he served as pastor of a Presbyterian church in nearby Newark, New Jersey.
In 2006, he became an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of California. In 2010, he was hired as an assistant professor of African American religions in the Divinity School at Harvard University, where in 2012 he became Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in Harvard’s Memorial Church.
Walton is a social ethicist whose scholarship and first book have focused on black televangelism. His second book, “A Lens of Love: Reading the Bible in Its World for Our World” (2018), explores the Bible from the perspective of the most vulnerable and violated characters toward developing a Christian social ethic of radical inclusion and human affirmation. Harvard philosopher Cornel West described “A Lens of Love” as “rooted in the legacies” of King Jr; Benjamin Elijah Mays, a Howard University religious-studies dean who became president of Morehouse College for 27 years and a King adviser; theologian Reinhold Niebuhr; and Mississippi civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
Walton has been an outspoken advocate for civil rights and social justice and is often quoted by national and international media. In the past year, RUC members have heard him speak to Salem Presbytery’s Peace and Justice Committee, deliver the King Jr. Holiday address at High Point University, provide expertise during Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s documentary, “The Black Church,” on public television, and interview Isabel Wilkerson, author of the book “Caste” on American racism, on Wake Forest’s Face to Face Speaker Forum.
RUC members have been impressed and hope our congregation will be, too.
Bill Keesler, Race Unification Committee Chair

Volunteers Needed!

Worship and Music Ministry Team
The Worship and Music Ministry Team needs volunteers to serve as Lay Leaders for all worship services between now and the end of the year.
Lay Leaders serve a very important role since they represent the congregation of First Presbyterian Church as we minister to each other and to our visitors during each weekly worship service. And thanks to the wonderful organizational skills and support of our church staff, the job is not complicated at all! Each Lay Leader receives information well in advance of his or her chosen Sunday so that the job becomes very simple. All that’s required is your willingness to represent your friends and fellow members as we worship together.
Please consider helping in this vital worship activity! To volunteer, please contact Phyllis McGee with your name and the date in August, September, October, November or December that you are willing to serve so that we can establish a Lay Leader Calendar. Thanks in advance for your help!
Christian Education Ministry Team
Our Christian Education Ministry Team is looking for volunteers to fill a number of roles. If you would be willing to serve as a Sunday School Superintendent, Elementary Sunday School teacher, or Kingdom Kids volunteer, or if you would like more information about serving in any of these roles, please contact interim DCE Karen Carrickhoff.

Youth Sunday/Graduation Sunday 2021

Youth Sunday will be held Sunday, May 16 at 11:00 AM in the sanctuary. We will also honor our graduating high school seniors during the service. Please make your reservation with the church office (336-248-2140 or through Noon, Thursday. After that time, you may make your reservation with Richard Goff.

Confirmation and Youth Sundays to Be Held Outdoors

At its stated meeting on April 18, the Session voted to hold the worship services for both Confirmation and Youth Sundays (May 9 and 16, respectively) outdoors in order to accommodate more attendees.  In the event that we experience inclement weather, the services will be moved indoors with a limit of 50 attendees and priority seating given to the teens’ families. If you would like to attend the indoor service in the event of inclement weather, you will still need to make a reservation with the church office the week before. No reservation is needed if you only plan to attend the outdoor service.

Now Accepting Applications for 2021 Winnie Green Higher Education Scholarship

The Session and the Endowment Ministry Team of the Session would like to invite eligible persons to apply for a grant from the Winnifred Zimmerman Green Higher Education Scholarship Fund. The Scholarship was made possible by a generous gift from the estate of long time member Winnie Green to aid “worthy students of high academic achievement” with their college expenses.
The Session has established guidelines for the awarding of grants. Grants will be awarded each spring; students receiving scholarships shall not be guaranteed renewal of scholarships. Students must re-apply for a new grant each year.
The application deadline for this year is May 1. Application forms and the full list of applicant guidelines are available from the church office, on the lobby side of Jeanna’s service window, or may be downloaded by clicking here.

Letter to Congregation Re: Returning to In-Person, Indoor Worship

Dear Friends,
On Sunday, March 7, 2021, the Session voted to begin in-person, limited-capacity worship in the sanctuary beginning the Sunday after Easter. The Session wants to provide a safe and healthy environment for all worshipers, necessary volunteers, and staff. Worshiping in-person and indoors carries risks for all who gather; however, the Reopening Committee has worked very hard to create procedures and protocols to help provide a safer environment. Recommendations from the CDC, state officials, and our presbytery were used to create these protocols. We feel they encompass every aspect of our worship experience and will help us all feel more comfortable as we begin to worship in person again. Services will continue to be live-streamed for those who choose to worship at home.
If you wish to worship in person, you MUST make a reservation. Here’s how it works:
  1.  Calls may be received for the upcoming Sunday between Monday 9:00 and Thursday Noon of that particular week.
      1. Call the office at 336/248-2140 to speak with Jeanna. –If leaving a voice mail message, you MUST have a return voice confirmation from Jeanna for your reservation to be valid.
      2. Email the office at —You MUST have a return email confirmation from Jeanna for your reservation to be valid.
  2. Jeanna will use a reservation chart to assign seating. Households will be seated together by an usher in their assigned spot. Please do not move to another pew as that will interfere with the seating chart.
  3. Availability will be first-come, first-served. Please be mindful of others who may want to worship in-person but who may have missed the cut-off. If you were in-person one week, please wait until later in the next week before making another reservation to give others a chance to attend worship.
Beginning April 11, we will have a capacity of 50 worshipers, plus the worship leadership staff and volunteers. All worshipers, ages 5 and older, must wear their face covering over both mouth and nose throughout the service and while inside the building. The Reopening Committee will continue to monitor our guidelines recommended by the CDC and state officials in order to evaluate, modify procedures, and/or cancel if/when circumstances are deemed necessary. The guidelines and protocols may be viewed by clicking here. Please read through them before making a reservation so you understand your part to keep others and yourself healthy.
The pandemic has disrupted all aspects of our lives for over a year. With love and respect for each other and with our guidelines in place, we hope to slowly begin to gather together in the name of the Lord.
Deep peace to you this Holy Week,
Margaret King                                      
Clerk of Session   
Richard Goff 
Reopening Committee, Chair   
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer
Transitional Pastor

Mission Study Survey

The MST would like to remind the congregation that the Mission study survey was mailed out on 3/18/21. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!
You may complete the survey either online or on paper.  It is in depth and may take 30-45 minutes.

If completing a Paper survey:  Return completed paper survey to the church office.  Should you need additional paper copies for your family please contact Jeanna, our office manager, at 336-248-2140.


If you have questions about the survey, need assistance completing the survey, or need paper survey pick-up, please contact Beverly Black at 336-240-8496 (if no answer please leave a message) or by email

The Mission Study Team

A Return to In-Person Worship Is on the Horizon

By now you have likely heard that we will be offering indoor, in-person worship beginning April 11th, at 11:00 a.m. While virtual worship is still the safest choice on Sunday morning (—and be assured— we will continue to offer live streamed worship online), we also know there are some who feel able and are eager to return to the church building. The Reopening Committee has been hard at work trying to provide the safest possible environment for gathering together, and we await your smiling (but masked) faces!
For those who would like to worship in the sanctuary on Sundays, we have strict protocols to follow. Masks to cover both mouth and nose are required at all times for worshipers ages 5 and older. Reservations must be made by contacting Jeanna the week prior to the Sunday you wish to attend. You may call or email the office beginning Monday at 9:00 through Thursday Noon, or until the capacity is reached, whichever comes first. Your reservation must be confirmed by Jeanna, and seats will be assigned, with members of the same household being seated together.
For those who have CONFIRMED reservations, they should ask themselves the regular COVID-19 screening questions on Sunday morning:

  1.  Am I experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms:
       a. Cough, shortness of breath, trouble breathing
       b. Temperature equal to or over 100.4?
       c. Feeling feverish, chills, fatigue, weakness?
       d. Muscle/Body aches?
       e. Loss of taste, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting?
       f. General feeling of unwell?
  2. Has anyone in my household experienced any of these symptoms in the past 14 days?
  3. In the past 14 days, have I come into close contact with anyone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
  4. Have I travelled outside the United States in the past 14 days or been in close contact with anyone who has travelled outside the US in the past 14 days?
If you answer “yes” to any of these, you should stay home and worship online. Temperatures will be checked at the 3rd Avenue entrance. If the thermometer indicates you are higher than the safe range, you will need to leave the building.
Worshipers will enter at the 3rd Avenue/Lobby door (office entrance). Following a temperature check, they should sanitize their hands before entering the sanctuary. An usher will guide worshipers to their assigned pew. Following the service, an usher will dismiss the worshipers by pew, beginning at the back. Worshipers will depart out through the Narthex/Main Street doors.
A letter with more details will go out in the mail soon. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Richard Goff, chair of the Reopening Committee; Margaret King, Clerk of Session, or Pastor Nancy.
We look forward to seeing one another again, and we also anticipate the day when it is truly safe for all of us to gather in worship, learning, and fellowship again.

One Great Hour of Sharing 2021

Started in 1949, One Great Hour of Sharing is a long-standing ecumenical effort aimed at raising the funds necessary to provide relief and reconstruction for communities in the aftermath of disaster.
Around the world, people lack access to food, clean water, sanitation, education, and opportunity. Each gift to One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) serves to help change the lives of people in these challenging situations. This offering provides a way to share God’s love with our neighbors in need.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Self-Development of People, and the Presbyterian Hunger Program share this offering. You may give to OGHS by sending your gift to the church (checks payable to First Presbyterian Church, “OGHS” in the memo line) at PO Box 586, Lexington NC 27293, by texting OGHS to 91999, or by visiting

Session Digest for March 7, 2021

The Session met in a special called meeting on March 7, 2021 via Zoom to discuss the reopening of our church sanctuary for worship.
The Reopening Committee met on Monday evening, March 1, 2021 to revisit the possibility of worshiping in our sanctuary. The safety and well being of the congregation has always been the priority of this group. The protocols and procedures put in place last fall were reviewed and found to be in order and still very important in order to open our doors safely. These include limited capacity with social distancing on the pews, making a reservation with the office, the wearing of masks at all times, taking temperatures, registering everyone who enters, entering from the 3rd Ave. entrance and exiting out the front doors of the church. Moving indoors will also mean no congregational singing or responses. Special music will be provided by instrumentalists, soloists, etc.
The Session was presented with several options to consider. After much discussion, a motion was made to gather outdoors to celebrate Palm Sunday, March 28 and Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. On April 11, 2021 we would begin opening our doors for worship in the sanctuary following the procedures/protocols listed above. All services whether outdoors or in the sanctuary will be live streamed. In the event of inclement weather the outdoor services would be canceled and a live stream service will be available. The Reopening Committee will be given the responsibility of revising or canceling in-sanctuary worship if they feel the safety of our congregation will be compromised, or we feel the protocols need to be reviewed. The motion carried.
As we move forward with this plan, it is with the hope that it will give our church family an opportunity to, as members of the body of Christ, worship and praise Him together once again.
Margaret King, Clerk of Session