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Ongoing Response to COVID-19

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-08-14

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Friday 14 August 2020
Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois

Dear Friends, 
In a perfect world, I’d shake your hands after service this week and hug your necks. I’d be taking mental shorthand about your lives, about your last week’s highs and lows, about the trepidations you have for the coming week. There would begin my week’s prayer list. 
I’d linger in the sanctuary after worship to hear the postlude. I’d applaud loudly when it was done. I’d go down stairs to Westminster Hall and eat three donut holes at once, get a cup of steaming hot water from the dispenser in the deacon’s kitchen, and drop in a tea bag. I’d get three more donut holes and place them daintily on a napkin and roam the room interrupting your conversations with each other. 
All the while I’d discreetly write notes in the palm of my hand of things I should follow up on that week; I have a bad memory and a terrible memory on Sunday. Then, I’d say goodbye to our children from Sunday school and slip into worship with The Gathering, followed by a few donut holes and conversation with more of the flock.
I might make a quick visit to the hospital on the way home. If I were lucky, I’d fall asleep on the couch watching football, basketball, or the British Bake Off.
I used to love Sundays.
I love them now in a different way. I worship with Rachel and our dog. We never wear shoes. We sometimes worship while eating breakfast. In bed. I practice singing harmony as Joe leads our hymns. My dog looks up at me and my wrong notes wondering if I’m okay. Harmony is beautiful. Bad harmony sounds like a chest wound. We follow worship often with a warm walk around the park.
Pandemic has spelled changes in routine. But Sunday is still Sunday, the Lord’s day. 
In all the changes, I’m grateful God doesn’t change. God isn’t a moving target. God grace is amazing and steady, reliable and trustworthy. From everlasting to everlasting, says the psalmist. Good News.
I’ll see you Sunday.
* * *
PS:  The Session has called a meeting of the Congregation to hear and act upon the report of the Congregation’s Officer Nominating Committee for this Sunday, 10 a.m. Sunday August 16th.  

Please visit Friday or Saturday to make sure you are ready for Sunday’s meeting.  That page includes information about testing your ability to connect to the meeting on Zoom.  Then, Sunday morning at 10 go to that same page,, where you will find specific information about joining the congregational meeting. 
* * *
See you on Sunday. Invite a friend.
Pay attention to God’s activity in the world around you.
                  Be amazed.
                                    Tell somebody.
Matt Matthews
* * *
PHOTO Challenge! 
From your Nurture Team — Congrats to Patty Farthing for being the first to guess last Friday’s photo was of Ritchie Drennen!  

Here’s this week’s photo. 

Visit to make your guesses, or email them to  
Please join in the fun!  We would like you to select a photo from your younger years (grade school, high school or early adulthood). Photos need not be professional. Candid shots are welcome. Please send your photos to

* * *

Join us on Sunday afternoon from 3:00 to 4:00 for a community service of prayer and discussion. Alan Cook, Ousmane, Sawadago, Michael Crosby, someone from B’hai community, and others will lead us in prayer, followed by discussion. This on-line event takes the place of the Interfaith Forum of Champaign County annual picnic. Find the event here:
* * *
From Marge Olson:
The King of Mello:
The King of Cool:

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-08-13

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Thursday August 13th, 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Dear Friends,
I was at a church conference a few years ago and we church people were challenged to find out about our neighborhood. Who lives in our neighborhood? Who used to live in our neighborhood? What about the land our church building is built upon? Was it farm? Swamp? What about our neighbors 100-years-ago? What about 350-years-ago? Who lived in our neighborhood then?
The point of this exercise it to be mindful of the people who surround us now and who have come before us.
When we are thoughtful about these questions in this country, very often we find ourselves talking about slavery or the expulsion of indigenous people. Some churches in the south were made by slaves. In other old churches, black people were allowed only to sit in the balcony. Churches in Western Carolina were constructed on Cherokee homesteads. My home church was built on Kecoughtan land, part of the once mighty Powhatan tribe.
Being neighborly means thanking God for those who have come before us. Might it mean making amends? 
Florence Caplow is the minister of the Unitarian Church on Green Street. She’s asked this question about neighbor before. Below the signature line in her emails are these words:
“Honoring that the UU Church of Urbana-Champaign is within the Indigenous territories of the Peoria, Kaskaskia, Piankashaw, Wea, Miami, Mascoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Mesquaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Chickasaw Nations. These lands were the traditional territory of these Native Nations prior to their forced removal. These lands continue to carry the stories of these Nations and their struggles for survival and identity.”
Friends, who are our neighbors now? Who were our neighbors when our sanctuary rose above swampy ground in 1867-69 at Church and State streets? Who raised families here before we arrived?
Blest be the tie that binds.
The Session has called a meeting of the Congregation to hear and act upon the report of the Congregation’s Officer Nominating Committee for 10 a.m. Sunday August 16th.  The link for that meeting is 

CYF Youth Gathering today at 4 pm

Email for the link.
* * *
Join us on Sunday afternoon from 3:00 to 4:00 for a community service of prayer and discussion. Alan Cook, Ousmane, Sawadago, Michael Crosby, someone from B’hai community, and others will lead us in prayer, followed by discussion. This on-line event takes the place of the Interfaith Forum of Champaign County annual picnic. Find the event here:
Humor: (Serious times call for re-creation, joy, and humor.)
Why did the chicken walk across the playground?  (To get to the other slide.)

Good Word:
Luke 10:25ff                     
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Let us pray:
Help me to love my neighbor, O God.
The guy who  roots for the wrong team
and  votes for the  wrong party. Him.
Help  me  to love him.
Help   me to love the  woman
who just threw a cigarette  butt
out her car  window.
The boy who disregards the old vet,
the man who kicks his dog,
the family that doesn’t mow their grass,
the homeless man always hitting me 
up for money. Am I made of cash?
Help me to love my neighbor, O God.
And may my words find expression
in action, by your holy grace, in the
name of your son,
who loves me.
PEACE to you all,
Matt Matthews
First Presbyterian Church Champaign
A (cool) congregation of the PC(USA)
Church: 217.356.7238; Cell: 864.386.9138

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-08-12

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Wednesday August 12th, 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Dear Friends,
Many of you are ready for face to face worship. I’m ready in my heart, but not in my head. Community Covid numbers are too high, the disease is too deadly, and gathering just isn’t safe enough. 
I don’t know. Your Covid-19 Response Team meets regularly, prays often, and pays close attention to CDC and daily local numbers, hospitals, and the health department.  They do not take their work lightly. Their singular goal is the safety of this flock.
Which brings me back to Sunday worship. We’ve never stopped worship. We’ve never stopped meeting. Committees and other gatherings still fly. We’ve added a gathering time on Wednesday evenings at 7:00, which is an varied program of prayer, program put on by our Mission Team, study (a Bible study is coming  up; and another short Rachel Held Evans film is forthcoming), music, and fellowship. It’s not the Lincoln Center, but  it’s  your church.
I’m surprised to learn that there are many saints in our church who don’t tune into our recorded services. A ton of energy and prayer go into those services, as I’m sure you know, and while people from all over the country tune in each week, when I look into that camera, I imagine your faces.
Tuning in might be easier than you think. Take a deep breath, and then go to FirstPres.Live and click which viewing option you want (watch on our webpage, on YouTube, or Facebook). 
You won’t see “slick” worship, you’ll see authentic, heartfelt worship.
You’ll see worship that is fuller when you tune in.
Take on Race:


In 1982, Reformed South African theologian Dirk Smit (now a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary) was one of the authors who drafted the Belhar Confession as a rebuke to Apartheid in the 1980s. The Belhar Confession articulates how the Gospel of Jesus Christ stands opposed to segregation, racism, and apartheid, all systemic evils of our time. (Click on the title above to ready the Belhar Confession
Tonight join the mid-week gathering at 7 p.m.
Email for the link.

The Session has called a meeting of the Congregation to hear and act upon the report of the Congregation’s Officer Nominating Committee for 10 a.m. this Sunday, August 16.  The address for that meeting is
Humor/: (Serious times call for re-creation, joy, and humor.)
If seagulls fly over the sea, what flies over the bay? (Bagels, of course.)
Good Word:
Psalm 124 (again)
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side
    —let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side,
    when our enemies attacked us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
    when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away,
    the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone
    the raging waters.
Blessed be the Lord,
who has not given us
    as prey to their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
Let us pray:
Everlasting God, 
in whom we live and move and have our being: 
You have made us for yourself, 
so that our hearts are restless 
until they rest in you. 
Give us purity of heart and strength of purpose, 
that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing your will, 
no weakness keep us from doing it; 
that in your light we may see light clearly, 
and in your service find perfect freedom; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
One God, now and forever.  AMEN
 PEACE to you all,
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-08-11

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God involves us in the work of the gospel in ways we do not always realize. Maybe it’s through one or more of our gifts that gets developed, or maybe it’s through a relationship or network that has developed over the years. This week one of those ways became clearer. One of our mission partners is the PC(USA) Theological Fund to which First Presbyterian has donated for many, many years. You may wonder why we give to the Theological Fund. The Theological Fund is administered by the Presbyterian Foundation and goes to support many of the PC(USA) seminaries in the United States to educate our pastors and other church leaders. It also is used to support our mission partners in the world like the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, Lebanon. NEST offers sabbatical programs for pastors in the US who want to deepen their knowledge of churches in the Middle East, Islam and Christian-Muslim relations as well as educate pastors. There is a video about NEST and our work there at
The school website is  Not much has been posted since COVID19 as might be expected.
However, if you’ve have been listening to the news this week, you know where this is going, don’t you? The Theological Fund has kept us connected with our theological schools. We share news. I received an email letter from the President at NEST and Professor of Systematic Theology, George Sabra this past week following the explosion on the wharf in Beirut.
You see, the part of Beirut that exploded affected quite a few Christians, including the seminary. He writes,
Dear Friends all over the world,
This is just a brief preliminary message about NEST. More will follow.
We thank God that no one was injured at NEST as a result of the huge explosion that devastated most of Beirut last night at around 6 pm. There were not many people in the building, but those who were escaped unharmed. The damage to the building is extensive. All 8 eight floors above ground and two basements were hit. Glass windows, glass doors, glass panels inside the building, as well as many internal wooden doors were shattered.  Never has NEST been hit so badly as yesterday, not even during the worst days of the 15-year war in Lebanon. Of course, we are not the only ones. The devastation in the rest of Beirut is vast.
Our wonderful team of employees and workers are cleaning the glass today, but we have no illusions about being able to replace the glass and the doors soon. There is great demand on glass panels and repairmen in the city. We will be trying to cover the shattered windows and doors with nylon for the time being.
The cost of repairing the damage will be enormous. We do not have an estimate yet, but it will be in the thousands of dollars.
We appeal for your help.
Thank you for all your inquiries and messages of support. I may not be able to answer people individually right now, but I will do my best.
God bless you and keep you safe.
George Sabra
Professor of Systematic Theology
Near East School of Theology
P.O. Box 13-5780 Chouran
Beirut 1102 2070, Lebanon
In response to the tragedy Jim Berger shared an article from Christianity Today with our World Mission Committee by way of a Facebook post about the situation in Lebanon. You might be interested in this link:
The World Mission Committee at First Presbyterian Church Champaign is the committee in our congregation that monitors and supports global mission and oddly this includes the Theological Fund. So, please pray with the World Mission Committee as they seek to respond to this tragedy and pray for the healing of all of our brothers and sisters in Beirut, Christians and Muslims.  
Rachel Matthews, Temporary Mission Coordinator
More Mission Announcements:
Faith in Action – Faith in Action is a volunteer caregiving ministry. It is a home and community-based outreach program targeting senior adults in the Piatt County area. ATTENTION: Piatt County Residents. Faith in Action has joined forces with Community Action Piatt County to provide an emergency food pantry on Mondays from 1pm – 3pm. If you are in need please call Faith in Action at 217-762-7575 ext 2 or Community Action at 217-762-2421 for a pickup time. Located at 1115 N. State St. Suite 220 Monticello, IL.

Frontera de Cristo –

Courage Connection: If you or someone you love need help, please call Courage Connection’s Domestic HOTLINE (217)384-4390 OR (877)384-4390

Jesus Is the Way Prison Ministry – The Annual Celebration-Fundraising Banquet will be online this year on Friday, August 28, 2020 at 6-8pm. There are some things you can do to join in and take part. Join us in watching our FIRST EVER Facebook Live event at
on Friday Aug. 28th at 6pm.

  • Host a watch party at your home or church on Friday Aug. 28th at 6pm
  • Watch and share the LIVE feed on your Facebook page for your friends and family to view on Friday Aug. 28th at 6pm — (This is a GREAT way to help not only spread the message of JITWPM BUT also share some amazing testimonies of how GOD is transforming lives for HIS glory and help encourage others to know they also can be set FREE)
  • Donate silent auction service and/or products
  • Host a “Drive-By” to support the evening and drop off monetary donations, items for our blessing room, non-perishable food for our food pantry, etc.
  • Give a love offering to “JESUS IS THE WAY PRISON MINISTRY” to help meet any expenses of this special event and the continued daily costs to keep the ministry going forward

Friends of P.E.B.  The High temperature in Pakistan this week was 108 degrees, the Low was 75 degrees. Did you know that heat affects learning? The schools in Pakistan do not have the air conditioning systems that we do in Champaign or even in the hotter parts of the U.S. Heat affects learning by bringing about lower test scores, decrease in memory and ability, lack of energy and loss of focus. Research shows, says a recent newsletter from PEB, that students’ ability to learn starts dropping at 80.6 degree Fahrenheit. Staying hydrated with cool water is critical yet many of the children there drink tap water that is too hot to even touch. Water helps your brain think faster, be more focused, experience greater creativity, better able to balance your mood and emotions, have a better memory, reduces stress, removes toxins and delivers nutrients. Yet when your brain is depleted with 1 percent of water, you are likely to have a 5 percent decrease in cognitive/brain function. This is very informative information from the principals at PEB! Keep the children in your prayers during this hot season and think about ways you can support PEB.

Opportunity International: Check out their Survive to Thrive Rapid Response Fund campaign: 
On Facebook they write, “In a matter of months, COVID-19 has reversed global gains towards ending extreme poverty that took two decades to achieve, leaving an estimated 2 billion people at risk of abject poverty.
“With economic activity slowed down, and even shut down in some areas, families living on day-to-day income from their small business are unable to provide for their daily needs. We are committed to keeping our clients and partners afloat so they can survive this crisis, and every $10 donated to our Rapid Response Fund will help one more person receive the crucial services they need.”
Salt and Light: From their Facebook page comes these opportunities –
Being in quarantine gave everyone time to clean out their homes and bring incredible items to our stores.  Due to the inability to have volunteers for several months, we now need your help in processing these donations and stocking our shelves and racks!

We are looking for teams of 4-10 people to volunteer, processing household and clothing items.  This is a great opportunity to get together your youth/small groups, book clubs, families, etc., to serve your community safely.  

Contact Lisa Sheltra at to schedule your group. Thank you in advance!
Another way to support our mission is to shop for groceries and thrift in our stores!  100% of the proceeds support our programs and services to local families.

In addition to thrift, our Urbana store also houses a full grocery store, where EVERYONE can shop.  Follow us on our new grocery Facebook page, where you will find recipes, mission highlights, and weekly grocery specials.

Feeding your family with food from Salt & Light helps another local family feed theirs.
CU Folk and Roots Festival: Part of what it means to be a neighbor is to learn about and learn to appreciate the diversity of the rich cultures that people come from. The CU Folk and Roots Festival celebrates the music and arts of the people in our community. It helps promote community. So I wanted to let you know that the CU Folk and Roots Festival will happen this Fall but will happen online October 23-24. For more about this see

“We are not canceling the Festival—the show will go on,” explained Festival Director Cody Jensen. “We wish we could see festival friends and supporters back at our favorite Urbana venues, but everyone’s health and safety are most important.
“Stay tuned for a list of the bands, workshops, storytellers, and other activities that the C-U Folk and Roots Festival will stream straight into your home on October 23-24.”

Now in its twelfth year, the C-U Folk and Roots Festival is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting accessible art forms and building community in East Central Illinois. 

Meals on Wheels – Meals on Wheels from Family Services Senior Resource Center is a mission partner for Presbyterian Women. Anyone might be interested their service someday. Here is some information I found on it:

Let us keep all our mission partners in our prayers, those who are waiting to go back to their place of ministry and those who are able to work where they are. Listen for God’s call to you in their ministry.
Our PC(USA) Mission CoWorkers:
Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar (Mexico)
Farsijanna Adeney-Risakotta (Indonesia)
Jeff and Christi Boyd (Central Africa)
Jo Ella Holman (Caribbean and Cuba)
Bob and Kristi Rice (South Sudan)
Our regional and global mission partners:
Kemmerer Village (and Camp Carew)
Lifeline Pilots
Marion Medical Mission
Mission Aviation Fellowship
Opportunity International
Friends of Presbyterian Education Board in Pakistan Presbyterian Cuba Partnership
Special Offerings of the PC(USA)
Theological Education Fund
Young Adult Volunteers
Here in Champaign – Urbana:
CU Better Together
CU at Home
Here at First Presbyterian Church
FPCC Amateur Preachers
FPCC Environmental Committee working with Faith in Place
FPCC Presbyterian Women
FPCC Children, Youth and Families
FPCC Mission Possible/Go and Serve

             302 W. Church Street
             Champaign, IL 61820


Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-08-10

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Monday August 10th, 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Dear Friends,
“It’s easy to have gratitude when you already have what you want.” (Anne Lamotte)
“The Jesus I grew up with in my Presbyterian church was quiet and nice, liked children, and didn’t cause waves. Then I read the Bible.” (Rev. Liz  Theoharis)
* * *
Let Comfort Come
We read while form stays
still and waits. The words sing
or speak, clamber on or say
or tell or even sometimes step
aside and hope we wander in.
Everywhere within the form
of letter, word, space, structure
rests the hush around the hurry,
the opening wherein any form —
table, door, the lover’s arm
and tongue, the cat asleep
on the sill—lies the quiet,
the shawl around us all
who have to clatter through.
Let be be the nothing of not.
–Jack Ridl
First published in The Colorado Review
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)
Take on Race:
The Presbyterian Church USA hopes to be a transformative church in this intercultural era by taking eight steps to end racism. Those steps are:
1.)    RECOGNITION—As it happened in John 20:11–18, like Mary Magdalene, we hear our names called and recognize that we are captive to the power of race. We cease denying that race has power in our individual and communal lives. 
2.)    REPENTANCE—We acknowledge to ourselves and to others that race has power in our lives and contributes to our white privilege. 
3.)    RESISTANCE—We commit ourselves to combating the power of racism in ourselves, in others, in churches, and in institutional life. Because of its long reach in American history, at times we will feel like those who are battling principalities and powers in Ephesians 6:10–20. 
4.)    RESILIENCE—We are called to affirm the traditional ways of combating racism while seeking new ways to engage a powerful force that continues to be present in American life and that continues to evolve.
5.)    REPARATIONS—We commit ourselves to doing our part to repair the breaches that have been made through racism, including psychological, spiritual, and economic damage. 
6.)    RECONCILIATION—We recognize that we have long benefitted from racism and that in order for reconciliation to take place, we will need to work the first five steps listed above. 
7.)    RECOVERY—We receive and commit ourselves to live by a new vision of a humanity created by God to live in love, equity, and justice rather than in the hierarchy and domination of the system of race.
8.)    RESONANCE—We understand and resonate with our own cultural background.
Your Covid-19 Response Team met last week: (1) We agreed to meet in early September to revisit when to reopen for face to face worship; the group still feels opening is unwise given the Covid numbers upward drift. We wonder if influx of UI students will radically change community Covid cases. (2) We talked about upcoming funerals, use of van for the confirmation class, DREAAM work on campus, the health of our church staff, and the possibility of outdoor small group meetings hosted by Nurture Committee.

Tuesdays Men’s Bible Study 8 am
Email for the link.

Humor/the body edition: (Serious times call for re-creation, joy, and humor.)
From Tom Gilmore: Why did the teddy bear turn down a second helping? Because he was stuffed.
Good Word:
1 John 4:7-8                            
(New Revised Standard Version) Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Let us pray:
Guide our steps, Holy God,
and our tonguelisteningthinkingwon-
our hello and goodbye,
our comings and goings,
our then and now,
our hither and yon.
Guide our steps, Holy God.
PEACE to you all,
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138