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Vol 48, #7 July, 2008



Dear FPCO Family and Friends,


with Dr. David D. Swanson

The topic of this fall’s sermon series, beginning

September 7,
is appealing to those seeking to understand more about Christianity. Why not Commit to praying over the summer about who you might invite to church to hear this message.

Not long ago, I had a difficult conversation with someone whose life had become quite painful. With a bewildered look on his face he said, “I just don’t know how I got here.” In his mind, he was clearly off the path – lost – and couldn’t figure out how he had arrived there or what he needed to do to get back. I think many of us reach such a place at some point in our lives. We’re a bit like the prodigal son – making our own choices, defying our Father, and living in a far away place – until we realize that we need to get back home. I came across a story in the Wall Street Journal that reminded me of God’s faithful, enduring love for His children. It was about a 15-year-old girl in China named Huimei who was caught in the terrible earthquake that took place last May. Her parents, Liu and Tang, were migrant workers living in Beijing, earning enough money to send their daughter to school, but still 800 miles from the tiny mountainside village that was home. On the Monday of the earthquake, all they knew was that Huimei’s school had collapsed. Her fate was unknown, and so they began the grueling 800 mile trek back home, a journey that took three days by boat, by foot, and by train. With no money and little food, they traveled with 16 others from their home village. The destruction around them created additional hardship – roads and railways destroyed – crevices to somehow get over – but they kept going. Carrying all their worldly belongings on their backs, they climbed the last stretch to their village and found the school director, only to receive the crushing news that Huimei had not survived. She was one of 270 students lost in that school’s collapse. Such news is difficult for us to hear. Loss like this seems so unfair, so void of God’s presence, and yet it mirrors physically what is happening spiritually. We live in a dangerous time where the moral and ethical foundations of our culture seem near collapse. And sometimes we get caught in it. Sometimes, people perish. Yet the hope of the gospel is the relentless, sacrificial nature of God who comes to us – pursues us – sacrifices Himself for us. No matter the obstacle – even death – He comes. I hope you know that today. I hope you know that God’s love for you is so deep – so rich – so complete – that He will pursue you to the ends of the earth that you may not perish. In light of that, how could you see yourself as anything but precious in the sight of God? My hope as your pastor is that we can create a community of faith in which that love is known, felt and shared. Be in prayer for our church as we move through a busy summer and get ready for an exciting fall in which we will explore the question of “Who is God?” The works of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are pushing the question, so I’m going to spend ten weeks looking at it. These men say God does not exist and they give plenty of reasons to support their thesis. We’ll look at their statements, at the world and at Scripture, and see how it all holds up. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you soon. In the meantime, I remain Yours in the Ministry of Christ,

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On Sunday, June 8, First Presbyterian Church of Orlando commissioned seven new Stephen Ministers for service. They are: Lee Ballard, Debbie Barnhart, Betsy Guerrero, Betty Rice, Maitreya Sims, Robert Smith and Brenda Tompkins. These seven people have been through 50 hours of specialized training in Christian care giving and join a team of 30 Stephen Ministers at First Presbyterian. Stephen Ministers provide confidential oneon-one Christian care to people experiencing a crisis or going through a difficult time. Here is the story of one of the new Stephen Ministers, Robert Smith: It was on November 14, 2007, that I received a letter and application form giving me an overview of the forthcoming training program for Stephen Ministers. This was to commence from January, 2008, and would entail intensive training and study. It would be a commitment for not less than two years. I did not respond for some time as I felt that if I was to take on the responsibility of becoming a care giver, I needed to feel that this was the path to follow and it was the Lord’s will and not mine. Upon my arrival for the first training session, I was greeted warmly by the course principle. With warmth and understanding, she showed this was without a doubt, a caring and loving ministry that was Christ-centered and not man-centered. This first meeting was to get an overview of the program and meet our fellow students. In total twenty-one, fourteen ladies and seven men, were from different denominations, backgrounds, cultures and age groups - from early twenties to the more senior years. Without exception, putting aside our religious doctrine, we all had the same desire to be open to the will of our Lord Jesus, by letting His spirit fill us and work through us and build a caring relationship with those that need support during a crisis time in life. Over the weeks and months that followed, the bond between us became stronger – it felt that as strong as any family (in some cases more). The openness and trust that we displayed to each other were evident: that we ourselves, are not without fears, hurts and disappointments in our lives and need to feel the that we can share our intimate and personal issues within the confines of confidentiality, compassion and Christian care. It is these qualities that I believe every Stephen


minister has. We are armed with this belief, and acknowledging that we will only be effective in our ministry if we are open to the Lord, to let Him work through our short comings, never to impose our will on the care receiver but to be there to support and to show the love of Christ through our commitment to them during their time of need. We see families that are broken by divorce, violence, drugs, alcohol addiction, child abuse, grief of losing a partner, loneliness, homelessness. I believe that we should do the things we can do, and let the Lord do the things that we cannot do. If only more of us took the time to extend the hand of friendship and to show kindness, a smile to that one person that we meet in our daily lives, who knows what doors would open for us all to become care givers to a hurting world? I am confident that anyone reading this will, with the power of the Holy Spirit, take this challenge and become a care giver. Just start in your own family and see where it leads. I would simply ask for your prayer support to keep us humble and to seek our Savior’s guidance in a caring ministry. n | 3

By Daryl Carter
In the Spring of 2005 a newly formed Men’s Ministry Committee took shape. The purpose of this group was to serve the men of FPCO in their journey of faith. The question that we sought to answer was, “What do men need to grow in their walks with the Lord?” Two issues quickly surfaced. First, a regular time to gather with friends both new and old for fellowship and spiritual input. Thus, Thirsty Thursday emerged under the tireless leadership of Keith Holcomb and his crew. Second, there was a strong sense of conviction, mostly from our own personal experiences, that men needed a place to connect, to be known, to love and be loved in order to grow. By the Fall of 2006, with leaders in place, it was time to challenge every man at FPCO to “Rise Up” and join a small group Bible study. Our goal was that no man be left behind. The response was incredible, although we still have a ways to go before we see every man in our church experiencing this sort of community. For many of the men who signed up this was a first. “My faith is a private matter,” had been their mantra for years. Although our spiritual journeys begin because of a personal choice to accept Jesus Christ as our savior, the Christian life is not a private one. The Bible refers to the church as “the body of Christ” – and no part of the body operates in isolation. Even the epistles were written to a community of believers in Ephesus, Corinth, etc. Below is the story of one man of FPCO, Greg Ickes, and his journey to the reality that faith is not a private matter. “I can remember being in church a couple years back and I believe it was Paul Ellis & Daryl Carter who spoke about a Men’s Ministry initiative to form “small groups” within the church. At the time, I can remember being intrigued by the thought of the small group concept but probably not intrigued enough to go sign up on my own. Personally, I had been going to church for most of my life but I had not consistently attended any type of extracurricular church activity since I was involved with a youth group in middle school. Also, I was the type of person that would tell you that my religion was a private matter and I was not real comfortable discussing Christian ideas/concepts with other people. Well, my wife and I walked out of church one Sunday and went over to say hello to Paul Ellis and he handed me a sign-up form and said you NEED to sign up. That was about all the pushing I needed and within a few weeks our small group had formed, consisting of approximately 12 men that were in a similar “season” of life. Our group was led by Paul Ellis & Coy Tipping. At our first meeting we all decided the best time to meet was Tuesday mornings at 6:30am. I have to say that I initially wasn’t thrilled with the early morning time slot but it didn’t take long for me to look forward to getting together with everybody on Tuesday mornings. We have been meeting now for over 20 months and the group has grown pretty close to each other during that period. We have shared many life experiences together, which have included new babies, career changes, baptisms, family deaths, parenting struggles and the list goes on & on. Around a year or so after the formation of our group, we had completed a few different studies and started to talk about what we should do next. Dr. Bill Cain came to speak to our group and he challenged us to consider putting together our own 10-week Alpha course. I can speak for the group that this fell outside of everybody’s comfort zone and personally, I quickly went back to my roots of “religion is a personal matter for me.” After several weeks of discussion, deep thought & prayer…the group decided that Alpha was the way to go for us. Over the next couple of months, many of us stepped far outside our comfort zone and extended invites to family, friends, co-workers, etc. We are almost finished with our Alpha series and it has far exceeded my expectations. We have consistently had 40 men in attendance and the mix of people includes non-believers, people from other religions, general skeptics, people raised in the church but who are apathetic with their faith, and believers looking to build on their faith. The series has provided a safe environment for these men to talk openly about the tough questions of faith and attempt to seek answers to those questions. The general consensus from the Alpha group is they want something to go on. Therefore, we are putting together another series that will provide a weekly opportunity for this same group of men to come together and continue to explore Christianity.


The Man in the Mirror

October 18, 2008 8am – 1 pm Lee Fellowship Hall
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In hindsight, the last 18 months of my life have been pretty hectic. My wife and I struggled to get pregnant, our dog passed away, the company I worked for was acquired, I changed jobs & helped start a new business, we got a new puppy, we bought a new house, we had our first child, my wife went back to work part-time, my brother had a child with Down Syndrome, my sister got married, we gave away our new puppy, we had our baby baptized and I am involved in leading an Alpha course. As I reflect on that period, I am pretty lucky to have been able to share all of these life experiences with the other men in our small group, and they were gracious enough to provide me with support, advice, prayer and friendship. Lastly, my wife and I have been going to FPCO for more than 6 years and we have always thought it was a wonderful church with a great Sunday sermon. But I can honestly say that I was missing out for many of those years by not participating in some kind of small group, Bible study or Sunday school class. Being involved in a small group has allowed me to dive much deeper into my own faith and has allowed me to feel much more connected to the life of the Church.” n | 5

For years, I was one of those who insisted, “Handicaps happen to other people, other families. Wheelchairs will never be seen in our home.” I wasn’t being a snob; I was simply being realistic. My family was the athletic type, always up for a game of tennis or packing a knapsack for a hike. Why, my three older sisters and I never so much as sprained an ankle. All that changed on a hot July afternoon in 1967 when my sister Kathy and I went to a beach on the Chesapeake Bay for a swim. The water was dark and murky in the later afternoon sun and I didn’t bother to check the depth when I hoisted myself onto a raft anchored offshore. I positioned my feet on the edge, took a deep breath and plunged into the water. Sprong! My head hit something hard and snapped back. I felt a strange electric shock in the back of my neck. Underwater and dazed, I felt myself floating, drifting, unable to surface to the top. My lungs were screaming for air, but just as I opened my mouth to “breathe” water, I felt my sister’s arms around me, lifting me to fresh air. “Kathy,” I spluttered when I saw my lifeless arm slung over her shoulder, “I can’t feel!” A sunbather rushed into the water to bring his raft. Someone called an ambulance. Within an hour, nurses in the hospital emergency room were cutting off my wet bathing suit, rings and necklace. My head was spinning and I began to lose consciousness when I heard a buzzing drill near my head. My diving accident catapulted me into the strange, frightening world of antiseptic smells, tubes and machines. For months I lay on a Stryker frame, a long canvas “sandwich,” on which I was face up for several hours and then flipped face down to prevent pressure sores. It didn’t help. I lost so much weight those first months that my bones literally began to stick to my flesh. That meant more operations and more months on the Stryker frame. Deep, dark depression set in. “How could you have allowed this to happen to me, God?” I asked. “I was a Christian before my accident and if this is your idea of an answer to prayer for a closer walk with you, then I’ll never trust you with another prayer again!” Little did I realize that friends were praying for me around the clock. As weeks wore on, I began to sense a difference. My anger was subsiding. My depression was slowly lifting. God, unbeknownst to me, was wearing down my resistance through the power and pressure of prayer.
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By Joni Eareckson Tada


Joni and her dad at the beach.

I really noticed the change in occupational therapy. Weeks earlier, I had stubbornly refused to learn how to write with a pencil clenched between my teeth. But that was before I met Tom, a young ventilator-dependent quadriplegic who was much more paralyzed then me. His attitude was buoyant and enthusiastic as he willingly permitted the therapist to put the pen in his mouth. I was ashamed of my grumbling and complaining. God used the prayers of my friends and the example of Tom to show me the truth of Romans 8:28, “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” Maybe God’s idea of good for me might not include being back up on my feet, but His good would include a more flexible attitude, an appreciation for small things, a deeper gratitude for friendships, and a character which would reflect patience, endurance and joy that did not depend on circumstances. And now, more than 30 years later, I would say the same. It hasn’t been easy, but God’s power and strength still come shining through. Besides, He knows exactly how I feel. He once suffered, too. And because Jesus could turn His cross into a symbol of hope and freedom, can I do any less? My wheelchair is the prison God has used to set my spirit free! Learn more about Joni’s Ministry: n | 7

Learning that is Christ-centered and

Academically Rigorous
By Dr. Jason Powell

In chapter 6 of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes that Christian parents are to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. At The Christ School (TCS), we find ourselves counter-culture with the mainstream educational environment in Americaour school not only allows God’s truth to be proclaimed, The Christ School boldly states its Christ-centered position. Today’s postmodern world confronts our children with many ideas of truth. We believe that all truth comes from God and the best way for students to have a meaningful understanding of His truth is through the integration of faith into the daily schooling environment. Students must not only know God’s truth, but must also be able to weigh other ideas against God’s truth in order to make determinations about their authenticity. At TCS, we provide families with a distinct learning environment that combines an academically rigorous experience with the opportunity to see the pattern of God’s truth in all that is discovered. Our passion is that students will leave TCS equipped for leadership with a Biblical world and life view. Each weekday, nearly 400 students in grades kindergar8 |

ten through eight fill classrooms on the FPCO campus to make our mission statement come to life. The mission of The Christ School is to provide a loving, Christ-centered environment in which children will grow intellectually, spiritually, physically and socially. Christian educators will provide nurturing guidance so that the children will learn to love themselves and others as Christ loved the Church, and will demonstrate that love in service to others. Our vision is to partner with the church and families to actively participate in Kingdom building in the Central Florida community and beyond. The intellectual development of our students is our first priority. Rather than a spiritualized youth ministry, our primary focus is a strong educational program. It is through this rich academic experience that our students can begin to gain the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that will prepare them for a life

of Christian leadership. We ensure that our curriculum is aligned with national standards and that our teachers are equipped with the best tools including integrated classroom technology and research-based professional development opportunities. 98% of our 2008 graduates have been accepted into a private high school or public high school specialized program of their first choice. Some of the colleges TCS alumni are currently attending include: Clemson University, Florida State University, Harvard University, Rollins College, the U.S. Naval Academy, University of Alabama, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, Stetson University, Swarthmore College, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, and Yale University. The spiritual development of our students makes our school distinct from other downtown school options. We believe as Paul wrote in chapter 2 of Colossians, that our students should be “…encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” We believe that it is our responsibility to foster the Biblical epistemology of our students; that is, to help them understand the answer to the following questions: 1) How do we know what we know and 2) How do we know that what we know is true? Our students begin each day with chapel and study God’s word in Bible class. All of our teachers are Christians and are expected to integrate faith development in their teaching of reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, and the arts. It is through our faith integrated curriculum that we seek to establish a Bible-based platform from which our students will

view themselves and the world. The physical development of our students is fostered through many opportunities for activity. Physical education classes are offered daily and TCS students have access to First Presbyterian’s NBA-regulation gym, as well as outdoor green spaces and playgrounds. Students also have the opportunity to participate in fine and performing arts programs with classes in art, band, dance, and drama as well as inter-scholastic sports programs that include basketball, cheerleading, cross country, golf, softball, tennis, track and field and volleyball. Additionally, TCS students who excel in sports outside of school such as competitive gymnastics and tennis are provided with flexible scheduling that allows them to further develop their talents while remaining enrolled in school. The social development of our students provides them with experiences to grow their faith from their head to their heart and hands. Our downtown location provides hands-on exposure to local government, urban arts, and the business district. Students regularly participate in walking lunches to downtown venues. Additionally, our students demonstrate their faith by serving others through school-wide, community, and international service projects. In middle school, our students further develop their leadership skills through participation in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Government, and the National Junior Honor Society. The Christ School is proud to be a ministry partner with the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. We ask that you pray for the work of our school as we develop Christian leaders who will reflect God’s glory. Additionally, we would be more than happy to provide you with a tour or more information about our school. We are currently enrolling students for the 2008-09 school year. n

You are Invited to The Christ School’s

Friday, July 11 at 11am-1pm Lunch is provided RSVP: 407.849.1665 or | 9



Dr. Swanson is honored to hear from members about how God is transforming their lives. May this reflection on a spiritual journey inspire all and encourage your own relationship check with God. …your small group programs, and this church in general, have been of particular importance to me recently. Although I know it is my fault, this past year has easily been the worst year of my life, but yet it has also been the most spiritually productive year of my life. For that reason, I also consider it to be the best year of my life. Quite a paradox. I have had no job, no income, no selfesteem, and most importantly, no pride in anything whatsoever that I have ever done. I have lost everything financially that I had earned over my entire career. I told my wife that I started out of college with three pieces of furniture and a broken TV. I went on to be successful by most people’s earthly standards, but other than stuff accumulated during that period, I have returned to exactly where I was when I got out of school (with the exception of not even having a job to go to each day). That is why I can call it the worst year of my life. On the other hand, the good things that have happened this year are eternal, and FAR outnumber those temporary things. I don’t even know how to cover it because it is so huge and I have to get my thoughts organized, but the highlights of the good that has happened over the last year are these:


I have learned what a personal relationship with our Lord is. I always thought I had one, but I didn’t. I prayed almost every day. We went to church. We said a blessing before each meal. We have Christian symbols on our cars. We had our child in Pre-K at the church and made sure to teach her all of the Bible stories and that Jesus is the only person who loves her more than we do. I told anyone who asked that I was a believer. Beyond that, we went about our lives like I suppose many other families do. Long story short, I have come to learn more of what constitutes a relationship and dependence on God for everything. Those things we were doing were part of being a Christian, but have little or nothing to do with having a personal relationship with the Lord. This jobless period (or what I call my “time in the wilderness”) has been used by God to “force” me into a personal relationship with Him. One I could have read about and studied in Sunday School for years and not “gotten” until this kind of adversity hit me. I am quite sure that the adversary intended to use this experience to break up my marriage and family and my faith in God, but I must praise God for turning the tables on Satan.


I have learned that even though I thought I was not a prideful person, I was. I would have never, ever bragged to anyone on how much money I earned (not that I was by any means “rich”) or how “good” something I had was, but I would have been quick to tell you that I was proud of how I was able to provide for my family in terms of the basics – food, shelter, etc. Well, through an unbelievably generous gift to my family from my father-in-law (which was really a blessing from God the whole time and I was too prideful to see it), I have learned that I NEVER did provide any of those things – GOD provided everything and always had. My pride had me thinking my hard work paid off with my ability to take care of my family. Yes, I went to work each day, but God not only provided the job originally years ago, but also gave me the physical and mental strength to accomplish each and every daily task. I knew this as a concept before I lost my job and I did thank God for my job, but that did not teach me a thing. It was just something I repeated each night. Despite having almost no financial resources right now, God provides for my family in abundance. Keith Wright once told me that I would be amazed at God’s provision, and he was and still is correct – I am amazed each day. I have no job and have not earned a single penny since last June, but yet I have wanted for nothing. My family starts each day with a group prayer and we thank God for all of His blessings – none of which we deserve and all of which are from Him.

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I have learned what spiritual warfare is from a personal perspective. This is something else I could go on and on about, but I have learned that fighting the adversary is real and requires constant attention. This war has consisted of many battles – some of which I have lost to be sure, but my hope and prayer is to win the war. I realize that God uses spiritual warfare to accomplish His will and I am confident His purposes will be fulfilled, but getting there is not easy AT ALL. This spiritual WAR has caused me to realize that I will not be content with being a Sunday Christian like I have been my whole life. I want to work to advance God’s Kingdom. I have always been a Christian, but now I want to be a true FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ and I want to ensure others make the same commitment. I just need some direction while I get the rest of my life/career figured out. I pray daily for this direction and guidance. It is really my prayer that the two can go handin-hand somehow and am eagerly awaiting God’s answer.


I have had countless family experiences that would not have happened if I were working each day or if my life had remained as it was. God blessed us through our families to make it possible for my daughter to go to The Christ School, so I have been able to drive her to school and go on almost all field trips. I have also been able to watch my son grow through his whole second year of life. My relationship with my wife has also been strengthened through this period of my life. At no time have I ever been more sure that she was the answer to prayer as I have been from the moment I lost my job. I have not heard a single disparaging comment from her. All of her words have been of encouragement. Every time I got down on myself, she was there to pick me up.


Share your testimony with other members through our Web site. MYFPCO is a social community where church members can share their experiences, engage in discussion and build relationships. Whether in person or online, First Presbyterian seeks to be a vibrant community of believers who experience life together. | 11

By Melissa Ramb

On Saturday, April 24, 2008, walkers crowded Lake Eola in downtown Orlando. The event was the annual AIDS walk and Marnie Waldrop and I were among the walkers. I was struck by the diversity of those attending; there were families with children in strollers, groups, couples, singles, and many four legged walkers. While diversity surrounded us, the common goal was to raise money and awareness for a disease that has claimed the lives of more than 25 million people since it was first recognized in 1981. In 2007, it is estimated that the AIDS pandemic killed 2.1 million people, including 330,000 children. In the face of such overwhelming statistics, could our donations and a few laps around Lake Eola really make a difference? That morning I met a childhood friend of Marnie’s, John Barber, who suffers from the disease, as well as a group of doctors whose life work is with HIV/AIDS patients. As we circled the lake, I listened to these individuals talk and watched the close camaraderie of friendship and support. With each lap, HIV/AIDS became less of a statistic and more personal. I was surrounded by bright, talented, and articulate people, some of whom suffered from the disease and others who loved people who suffered. I confess that, at times, I was challenged by my own discomfort. What if I said the wrong thing or offended someone? Many knew that Marnie and I were walking on behalf of the AIDS Task Force at First Presbyterian and I wondered what they thought of our church. Would they come to worship if we invited them? And if they came, would they find First Presbyterian to be a place that ministered to their needs, that encouraged them to grow spiritually, and supported them relationally?
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Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36). I believe that with these words, Jesus calls us into service to those in need. I was honored to be a very small part of a morning that raised over $130,000 for outreach and education programs, case management, testing, counseling, food pantry, and insurance services to those with HIV and AIDS. It is my prayer that this is just the beginning for me and for our church in our ministry to those with HIV and AIDS. We may be taking baby steps but let us continue together on the “…race that is marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2). n

HIV/AIDS Ministry Next Step: Our HIV/AIDS team will launch a downtown support group on September 18. Andy Blanchard, an FPCO Coalition Counselor, and Allison Reed, Stephen Ministry, are working with Dr. Swanson to develop this program. The Ministry team will reach out to downtown church pastors and doctors’ offices to help get the word out. If you would like to join this team, please contact Paula Lindrum in Dr. Swanson’s office.


The Christian Service Center provides the hurting of our community with programs designed to meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. In 1977 First Presbyterian helped to establish The Center, which is now supported by area churches, businesses, civic organizations, foundations, and individuals. On May 2, the Christian Service Center’s Daily Bread Program celebrated the serving of its three millionth free meal! The Daily Bread program serves free noontime meals from soup kitchens and dining facilities in downtown Orlando and Ocoee. Dr. Swanson and Rev. Thorp participated in marking this milestone of service. First Presbyterian member Londra Mead shares her family’s Daily Bread experience: My oldest daughter and her family, who live in Texas, visit me every Christmas. This past year I thought that my two teenage grandchildren might wish to share their Christmas joy with those less fortunate by serving lunch to the homeless. As a liaison to the Christian Service Center, I naturally thought of our volunteering there. We included other family members as well as younger grandchildren, ages 9 and 10, in the group. To see a homeless family with nothing but the clothes on their back during the holiday period when there’s so much overabundance of food and gifts in our own lives, is an experience that you, and your children, will never forget. We were truly doing God’s work, and it was a privilege to serve them. My sixteen-year-old grandson Alec shared: “I had no idea that there were so many children and families on the street. When you think of the homeless, an older man’s face always comes to mind. This experience gave me a glimpse into their lives and it was sobering. I really enjoyed knowing that I was helping them to survive. Actually, it filled me with great joy and I hope it did for them. I am very grateful for all that I have and am grateful for the opportunity to serve. It is just one way of giving back.” I would encourage the families of our church to take advantage of this opportunity both to serve and educate your families

about the realities of our community and the opportunity to be Jesus to others. Each year First Presbyterian serves free lunches during the first week of July to those in need at the Daily Bread program. If you would like to help, please call Susie Kemper at 407-273-0687. July is Food Share Month. Help restock the Christian Service Center food pantry with canned goods. Bring your donations to church every Sunday in July. Look for collection bins in the Welcome Center and under the Angel Wing. n | 13

By Rev. Case Thorp
The Compassion Corner Ministry Team remains active in service since the physical space for ministry was closed in late April. IDignity is a joint effort among the downtown churches to bring together the elements necessary for a homeless individual to get the identification necessary to obtain a job, rent an apartment, and take advantage of the many social services offered in the city. Alex Hartley, a faithful volunteer in FPCO’s homeless ministry, reflects on his experience: Our goal was to assist the homeless and others in need of state issued I.D.’s like Driver Licenses. These I.D.’s help make it possible for our brothers and sisters in need to receive services, apply for work, and establish or re-establish themselves in the community. Prior to being involved with this ministry, I had no idea the extraordinary need that exists regarding something I take for granted daily. Just having the ability and resources necessary for obtaining personal identification is such a blessing! However, it can be very challenging to obtain if you are homeless and having difficulty with daily living. Upon entering the mission, there were dozens of people awaiting this important offering. I was impressed with the incredible effort put forth by so many volunteers to gather names and information then direct people to the different services being provided. It was encouraging and spiritually uplifting to work along side fellow believers and getting to know members of other congregations. We had volunteers from several local churches and representatives from the state to assist in providing the I.D.’s. We were clearly putting feet and hands to our faith, creating an opportunity to share Christ by simply being available and teachable. Having spent many hours over the past three years leading Biblically-based studies at Compassion Corner with the homeless, I learned that small gestures of love, encouragement, hope, and charity can make a great deal of difference in the lives of those we touch. Knowing people by name and listening to their stories, then praying with them and for them honors Christ and our commitment to Him. It is my hope to serve with IDignity again in the future and I would encourage others to volunteer as well. Through God’s grace and the spirit of giving time and talent to those in need, lives were positively impacted, including each of us that were able to serve. IDignity founding churches are The Cathedral Church of St. Luke, FPCO, First United Methodist Church of Orlando, St. James Catholic Cathedral and Trinity Lutheran Church. Two events have occurred already and a third is scheduled for Thursday, July 17 at the Orlando Union Rescue Mission. If you would like to serve on that day, please contact Dawn Neff at or by calling 407- 647-3940. n
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A special taskforce appointed by the Mission Committee and Session continues to work with the leaders of Compassion Corner to find a temporary site to do ministry. One option came very close to working, but did not go through. Two other potential options are being pursued. Meanwhile, our church leaders are praying through an opportunity for a permanent home and greater scope of ministry to bless the homeless in the name of Christ. Compassion Corner Transition Taskforce members include: Buz Ausley, Sara Holcomb, Chris King, Dawn Neff, Jack Walston, and Rev. Case Thorp. | 15

By Jonathan Christian, Student Ministry High School Coordinator

bit·ter·sweet (adj) both pleasant and painful or regretful
This is a word that I have always been familiar with, but had not really experienced until the parting of this graduating class of 2008. If I am honest with myself, my heart sinks a little bit when I realize that this group will not be darkening the doors of the high school Haze room anymore. You see, this has been an exceptional class. From the moment I met them as sophomores they have impressed me. This is a group that genuinely cares about growing in their faith, a group that asks challenging questions, and a group that gets excited when they make spiritual discoveries. Whether it has been through youth group attendance, leading underclassmen in small groups or making new people feel welcome, this group has exhibited an uncanny gift to lead others. It is for all of these reasons that it has been slightly bitter to bid them farewell. But, living up to its definition, I am thankful that the
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word bittersweet has two sides. You see, the reasons that make their departure bitter are the very same reasons that make their transition so sweet. In my estimation, close to 20 schools across the country will get to experience what the Student Ministry at FPCO has experienced: remarkable individuals who love people and really love the Lord. That means that small colleges, military academies and large universities alike are in for quite a treat this fall! I believe that the spiritual footprints this class will leave on their respective campuses will not only advance God’s kingdom but grow it as well. It is when I come to this realization that the “sweet” overtakes the “bitter” in my mixed emotions and I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to play a small part in such a phenomenal class. God bless you all! n


By Michael D. Ashington-Pickett


Diversity in how we worship is one of the qualities that First Presbyterian Church values and strives to achieve. This is seen not just in our worship services at 8:30 and 11:00, but in our Sunday School classes as well. The Yowell class is a great example. By far, this class has been in existence the longest (since 1906) and demonstrates on a weekly basis a tradition of fellowship, hymn sing and great Bible teaching. Long time church members Buz Ausley, Bill O’Dell and Leon Handley do a superb job teaching from both the Old and New Testaments and provide in-depth insight as they communicate the message in a practical way that encourages spiritual growth. If you are looking for that special class that will stimulate your morning of worship and study, join them at 9:45am in the Reformation Chapel. If you have questions about Sunday School offerings, please contact Rev. Donna McClellan at 407-423-3441 x1488 or email dmcclellan@ All classes extend an open invitation to join! n

“I have loved the class taught by Cleat”, says a member of the Pass the Word Sunday School class. “He is always well prepared and it is always a challenge to my spiritual growth. We are currently studying the book of Revelation and Cleat takes care to always present different points of view for the book and closes with a personal application to ponder for the following week. I believe that anyone who seriously wants a good study would benefit from taking this class. The people who attend are friendly and caring and it serves as a small group for my husband and I since it is difficult for us to get into downtown midweek to participate in other groups.” Cleat Simmons (pictured above) welcomes new members to this diverse small group that enjoys studying from the Bible while extracting the ancient wisdom and discussing the practical applications of that wisdom to our modern times and culture. Pass the Word meets at 9:45am in Room 241-Allen Hall. Bring your Bible! n | 17

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By Amy Bishop, Heart of the City Foundation
C.J. Bellamy was a junior at Edgewater High School and a member of the varsity basketball team when a random drive-by shooting at a gas station on Colonial Drive left him paralyzed from the waist down. He is a bright student and well respected in the community, but his parents are financially stretched in caring for C.J. and his two siblings. Two members of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Mike McClanahan and Doug Woodman, were moved to make a difference in C.J.’s life and in the lives of other disadvantaged youths in the future. Their vision brought The Second Mile Fund to life through The Heart of the City Foundation. The Second Mile Fund has donated $23,000 in conjunction with a $15,000 donation from Wayne Densch Charities to retrofit the Bellamys’ home to allow C.J. to have some independence and live more comfortably. The Bellamys’ home can now accommodate CJ with ramps and a handicap accessible bedroom and bathroom. The goal is to continue to build the endowment in the Second Mile Fund so that it can continue to help families with special circumstances like C.J.’s. The Heart of the City Foundation exists to fulfill the ministry and mission of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and its members and welcomes the opportunity to explore ways to help members give to God’s work in creative ways. Please consider a taxdeductible donation to the Heart of the City Foundation – Second Mile Fund. n | 19








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First Presbyterian is excited about this fall’s opportunities for youngsters, youth and adults to be on campus engaged in study opportunities that will promote our spiritual growth while deepening our connection to this faith community. This year, our study time on campus will be late Sunday afternoon, from 4:30–6:30pm, beginning September 14. Offerings will include: Adult Bible Studies: Watch for further details on in-depth Bible class offerings hosted by pastors and leaders that will whet your appetite to be in The Word! Drug Proofing Your Kids: A class for parents with children between the ages of 8 and 13. Developed by Focus on the Family the class provides parents insight and education about drugs and the consequences of children getting involved in this addiction. It will equip you to recognize signs of children taking drugs, it will help you educate your children in making good choices and will offer prevention tools. This is an eight week course with a fee of $30 per participant which covers materials.


By Lori Needham, Discipleship and Spiritual Formation
Fit for Life: Great emphasis is placed on our physical health today, but there is much more to health than just our bodies. Join two-time Mr. Olympia Simon Morgan and his wife, Kris, as they help us become “Fit for Life.” Each class will include training on one element of nutrition (i.e. proteins), one part of the body (hamstrings), and one truth of Scripture (forgiveness). You’ll get in a good workout all the way around! Put on your workout clothes and join us in the gym! Life Group Support: For existing Life Communities, Discipleship & Spiritual Formation will provide appropriate meeting space for your group to gather on Sunday afternoons. There are many great studies available for check-out. If you’d like to review the study offerings in the Resource Center or reserve meeting space, contact Lori Needham at 407-423-3441 or Also available on Sunday afternoons will be child care for children through Pre-kindergarten, Children’s and Student Ministry offerings and family style meals. If you have questions, contact Rev. Donna McClellan at or 407-423-3441 x1488. n


By Carol Welker, Director of Children’s Ministry
Coming this fall, September 14 to be exact, is a whole new program on Sundays. We are officially moving Wednesday to Sunday. And in that move, we are expanding. We will gather for two hours of music, music activity, recreation and Bible study. Sonday Times is a time for children Kindergarten thru 5th grade to come together for incredible sound and music experiences, fun and crazy recreation and relational and engaging Bible study. A joint effort by the Worship Arts and Children’s Ministries, your kid couldn’t get a better way to spend Sunday afternoons! Programming will take place between 4:30-6:30pm, from September 14 through November 16. Between 4:30-5:30pm kids will be with our Worship Arts staff experiencing music

in ways in which they have never dreamed. Song, drums, bells, and who knows what else will come resounding from the rooms as kids learn and participate in music in creative, fun and interactive ways. At 5:30pm they will transit to be with our Children’s Ministry staff for some energy-filled games that will not be forgotten. To be followed by Bible study that will bring practical help from God into the kids’ daily lives. So to answer the question, how do you spend your time with the Son? I spend my time engaged in music, relationships, and having fun. And best of all there’s no traffic. So make plans now to get your kids involved on Sunday afternoons in Sonday Times! n | 21

By Dr. Keith Wright, Executive Pastor
During the summer months, we will be conducting a number of facility projects on the FPCO campus—to spruce things up, to address maintenance issues, and to assure that our buildings are in the best possible condition for the fall ministry schedule. You will notice our staff and outside contractors hard at work on several large scale projects: Great Lawn Conditioning—By the end of the school year, combined with the impact of the drought, the Great Lawn looks more like the “Great Weed Patch.” We will be laying down topsoil, over-seeding, and treating the lawn for weed and insect control to restore it to its intended condition. Reformation Chapel Roof Replacement—Following the hurricanes of 2005, we made major repairs to the Sanctuary Roof and the Clayton Life Center. Then our premiums for our wind policy increased dramatically, forcing us to find a new insurance carrier. The good news is that we found coverage at an acceptable price. The bad news is that they would not cover the Chapel roof for wind due to the age and structural integrity of the existing roof. A new “Welsh Grey” slate roof will be installed… much to the joy of Rev. Sam Knight. Yowell and Allen Hall Projects—Due to normal wear and tear, carpeting in selected rooms in Allen and Yowell Halls will be replaced. We will also replace all 218 window blinds in the building. Edington Ministry Center Lobby and Great Hall Floors—The EMC lobby is not only our main campus entry point, but also our receiving area. After several years of foot traffic and receiving shipments, some marble tiles are cracked and the grout needs replacing in some areas. We will recondition the EMC marble flooring to prevent further damage, and to restore the tile’s beauty. Lee Fellowship Hall Floor Reconditioning—During the first two weeks of August we will strip, sand, clean, seal, and coat the LFH floor. The Lee Fellowship Hall is one of our most used rooms, and is also the venue for our two Genesis worship services. Please note that the LFH will be closed on Sunday, August 10, in order to accommodate this project. We will combine worship services in the Sanctuary on that date, and the BASIC, class will not meet. Our staff will also be doing our normal summer routine of painting, planting, mulching, deep cleaning, pressure washing, and general maintenance. n
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Congratulations to:
Jan Piatt and Scott Freeman who were married May 10, 2008 in the Reformation Chapel. Ashley and Ross Johnston on the birth of their son, Bennett Lawrence Johnston, on May 9, 2008. Proud grandparents are Lacey and Tony Gray. Melissa and Terrence Hart on the birth of their son, Brennen Joseph Hart, on May 9, 2008. Proud grandparents are Barbara and Craig Clayton and great-grandparents are Mary Damon and Malcolm Clayton.

Columns is Available Paperless
The option is now available if you would like to receive the FPCO Columns newsletter electronically. Register to receive an email with the Columns in PDF format which you can view, save or print from home. To register for the Paperless Columns, please visit

Upcoming Events:
July 14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Children’s Vacation Bible School July 20 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . High School Fun in the Son Trip Middle School Great Escape Trip July 28 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Student Katrina Mission Trip Aug 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Called to Serve sermon series begins Aug 10
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Combined

Sympathy to:
Marian “Sunny” Driver on the death of her daughter, Lynn Stokely, on January 27, 2008. Laura and Day Dantzler on the death of her father, William Carl Laughlin, on May 9, 2008. Mr. Laughlin was the grandfather of Lauren Ashe and Day Dantzler, Jr. Dianne and Mac Gifford on the death of his father, Arnold Gifford, on May 9, 2008. Leslie and Mark Sand on the death of her father, William Henry Ebling, on May 10, 2008. Mr. Ebling was the grandfather of Justin, Matthew, Ryan and Chris Sand. Catherine and Rich Gaines on the death of her father, Bob Scott, on May 12, 2008. The family and friends of Jo Adams, who died May 12, 2008. Pam and Kris Bonhagen on the death of his father, Jerry Carl Bonhagen, on May 15, 2008. Mr. Bonhagen was the grandfather of Wesley and Will Bonhagen. Millie and Ray VanOrman on the death of their son, Randy VanOrman, on May 18, 2008. Betty and Jim Smeenge on the death of his mother, Joan Smeenge, on May 28, 2008. Mrs. Smeenge was the grandmother of Jim Smeenge III, John Smeenge and Elizabeth Smeenge Heiden. Ann Hughes on the death of her husband, Wallace Hughes, on May 29, 2008. Lynne and Charles Gill on the death of her mother, Janet Day, on May 28, 2008.

worship services in sanctuary at 8:30 & 11am

Sept 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Prayer Service Sept 14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Discipleship Sundays begin Sept 18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DivorceCare (adults & kids) begins 13 week session Sept 24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Celtic Healing Service Nov 7-9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marriage Retreat with Dr. David and Leigh Swanson

May ‘08 Giving Snapshot General Operating Contributions May Gifts Year-to-date Gifts Cash In Bank $495,315 $2,488,979 $626,966 Budgeted $486,041 Surplus (Deficit) $9,274

$2,747,215 ($258,236) Line of Credit $0

Immeasurably More Outstanding Balance $6,389,649 IM May Gifts $53,893 Year-to-date Gifts $593,368
Contact Dr. Keith Wright for a full revenue & expense summary

Healing and Wholeness Service Taking Summer Hiatus
Please take note that our Healing & Wholeness Service regularly held on the third Sunday of the month will not occur during the summer. No services will be held July or August. | 23


By Dr. Rebecca Bedell
The Children’s Music Ministry at FPCO is indeed changing and growing. We are excited about teaching your children in the fall and wanted to give you a sneak peak at our new staff, Children’s Choirs and Pre-school Music Ministry! The Worship Arts Ministry would like to welcome Stephanie Mixner as our new Coordinator for Children’s Music Ministry! Stephanie has just completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from Rollins College. Stephanie has been an active teacher for both the pre-school music program and with our children’s choirs at FPCO for several years. Welcome aboard Stephanie! Children’s Choirs (Kindergarten – grade 5) will be held on Sunday afternoons. The children’s programming in coordination with Children’s Ministry will be from 4:30pm to 6:30pm. We look forward to having you join us! Pre-School Music: For five years our pre-school music program has been growing. We have used a couple of different curricula, but didn’t quite feel we had found the right fit for our children and families at FPCO. After some extensive research, we have found our glass slipper! Beginning this Fall, our preschool children will be able to participate with their parents in Musikgarten. We chose Musikgarten due to its comprehensive pedagogy, its teacher training and teacher standards, and because it contains

a Christian component called God’s Children Sing. The Musikgarten program is the most pedagogically sound available, covering children birth to age nine – a complete bridge from early childhood to piano lessons. The curriculum is uniquely effective because it has been designed with learning sequences that repeat and build patterns to continually reinforce and stimulate our students. Students will enjoy their classes more and want to continue with their musical training! For more information log on to Please watch the August Columns for registration information for Musikgarten and Children’s Choirs, or check the Worship Arts Web site! n

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando
106 E. Church St., Orlando, FL 32801
The First Presbyterian Columns (USPS 604-040) is published once per month, except for twice in March, by the First Presbyterian Church. Circulation: 4750. (3750 by US Mail, 1000 by on campus distribution). Periodicals postage paid at Orlando, Florida. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to COLUMNS, 106 E. Church St. Orlando, FL 32801-3390. ©2008 First Presbyterian Church of Orlando COLUMNS.


106 East Church Street Orlando, FL 32801 FPCO Main Office: ( 407-423-3441 Traditional Services: 8:30am & 11am Genesis Services: 8:30am & 11am Sunday School: 9:45am

POSTMASTER: Time Sensitive Material Please Deliver by June 28, 2008