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Ongoing Response to COVID-19

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-04-17

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Friday 17 April 2020
Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Dear Friends,
Wynton Marsalis’s father, Ellis, died several days ago of Coronavirus. Wynton wrote this about his dad. I pulled it from Facebook (I think), but it originated from his blog and I’m using it without permission. I don’t think he’d mind. I hope. I’d like to meet Wynton. If you’ve ever grieved, you might resonate his words. 
My daddy passed away last night. We now join the worldwide family who are mourning grandfathers and grandmothers, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers— kinfolk, friends, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances and others.
What can one possibly say about loss in a time when there are many people losing folks that mean so much to them? One of my friends lost both her mother AND father just last week. We all grieve and experience things differently, and I’m sure each of my five brothers are feeling and dealing in their own way.
My daddy was a humble man with a lyrical sound that captured the spirit of place–New Orleans, the Crescent City, The Big Easy, the Curve. He was a stone-cold believer without extravagant tastes.

Like many parents, he sacrificed for us and made so much possible. Not only material things, but things of substance and beauty like the ability to hear complicated music and to read books; to see and to contemplate art; to be philosophical and kind, but to also understand that a time and place may require a pugilistic-minded expression of ignorance.
His example for all of us who were his students (a big extended family from everywhere), showed us to be patient and to want to learn and to respect teaching and thinking and to embrace the joy of seriousness. He taught us that you could be conscious and stand your ground with an opinion rooted ‘in something’ even if it was overwhelmingly unfashionable. And that if it mattered to someone, it mattered.
I haven’t cried because the pain is so deep….it doesn’t even hurt. He was absolutely my man. He knew how much I loved him, and I knew he loved me (though he was not given to any type of demonstrative expression of it). As a boy, I followed him on so many underpopulated gigs in unglamorous places, and there, in the passing years, learned what it meant to believe in the substance of a fundamental idea whose only verification was your belief.
I only ever wanted to do better things to impress HIM. He was my North Star and the only opinion that really deep down mattered to me was his because I grew up seeing how much he struggled and sacrificed to represent and teach vital human values that floated far above the stifling segregation and prejudice that defined his youth but, strangely enough, also imbued his art with an even more pungent and biting accuracy.
But for all of that, I guess he was like all of us; he did the best he could, did great things, had blind spots and made mistakes, fought with his spouse, had problems paying bills, worried about his kids and other people’s, rooted for losing teams, loved gumbo and red beans, and my momma’s pecan pie. But unlike a healthy portion of us, he really didn’t complain about stuff. No matter how bad it was.
A most fair-minded, large-spirited, generous, philanthropic (with whatever he had), open-minded person is gone. Ironically, when we spoke just 5 or 6 days ago about this precarious moment in the world and the many warnings he received ‘to be careful, because it wasn’t his time to pass from COVID’, he told me,” Man, I don’t determine the time. A lot of people are losing loved ones. Yours will be no more painful or significant than anybody else’s”.

That was him, “in a nutshell”, (as he would say before talking for another 15 minutes without pause).
In that conversation, we didn’t know that we were prophesying. But he went out soon after as he lived—-without complaint or complication. The nurse asked him, “Are you breathing ok?” as the oxygen was being steadily increased from 3 to 8, to too late, he replied, ”Yeah. I’m fine.”
For me, there is no sorrow only joy. He went on down the Good Kings Highway as was his way, a jazz man, “with grace and gratitude.”

And I am grateful to have known him.
– Wynton
I’ll be talking about grief in my sermon on Sunday. Bring your pain, your hope, your joy, your doubt. Come as you are.
 “See” you then. 
Pay attention to God’s activity in the world around you.
               Be amazed.
                               Tell somebody.
Matt Matthews
Ellis and Wynton together:
* * *
I’m pretty sure folk aren’t taking me up on my movie suggestions. I’ve been looking forward to a long time to the Ebert Film Festival. Alas, it was cancelled. Here are my last three film suggestions. Enjoy:
Friday night at the movies: “The Mission”
Mr. Ebert gave it only 2.5 stars out of 4, but I liked it a lot. On Sunday, you’ll hear a theme song of this film in worship. You’ll certainly love that.
Friday night at the movies:
Ebert’s take on the movie “Schindler’s List”
Friday night at the movies:
Ebert’s take on the movie “Smoke Signals”

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-04-16

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Thursday April 16th 2020
A Weekday Emailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois 

Dear Friends,
A lyric for you. The tune is “Be Thou My Vision.” Forgive me if I’ve shared this already. 
All Present, All Future, All Past
tune: Slane, Irish folk tune
A gift in progress to our
Music Director Joe Grant
First Presbyterian Church, Champaign, Illinois
Gracious Creator, the world’s in your hands
mountains and forests, all waters, all land
stars in their courses, all galaxies vast
all life, all present, all future, all past 
Tempest, pandemic—a world in dismay
humble and anxious, we turn toward your face
prayers in the nighttime, prayers in the day
seeking your mercy, your peace, and your grace 
We rest in the myst’ry—the world’s in your care 
great whale and microbe, our children so fair
trusting your promise to love to the last
all life, all present, all future, all past 
Your Session meets tonight (Thursday). Please pray for us.
Covid Grant from PDA: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance program of the PCUSA awarded First Pres a $5,000 grant (via the Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois) to be split between our mission partners at The Refugee Center an CU at Home. 
CU-BetterTogether . . . Is a new community group (United Way, Community Foundation, YMCA, and local churches) coming together to fight hunger and give hope to area public school families in need. Ask Rachel Matthews for more info.Want to help? If you are between 18- and 60-years-old, you can, here:
Good Word:
John 20:19-31      
19-20 Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.
20-21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”
22-23 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
24-25 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”
But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”
27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”
28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”
29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”
30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it. 
Let us pray:
God of ages,
in your sight nations rise and fall,
and pass through times of peril.
Now when our land is troubled,
be near to judge and save.
May leaders be led by your wisdom;
may they search your will and see it clearly.
If we have turned from your way,
help us to reverse our ways and repent.
Give us your light and your truth to guide us; through Jesus Christ,
who is Lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen.  
Much love to you all. 
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-04-15

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Wednesday April 15th 2020
A Weekday Emailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois 

Dear Friends,
Some of our hymns are undergirded by rich stories. Such is the case with Horatio G. Spafford’s “It Is Well with My Soul.”  It’s the stuff of legend. Here are the highpoints, borrowed from Ace Collins, Stories Behind the Hymns that Inspire America (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003). 

In 1871 attorney and businessman Spafford wrote to some of his friends that he felt that he was “sitting on top of the world.” He had a loving wife, four beautiful daughters, a profitable business empire, and a successful law practice.

The Great Chicago fire reduced his real estate holdings to ashes. 

Spafford arranged for an extended family trip to Europe, sending his wife a daughters ahead. In the middle of the ocean the Ville De Havre strayed into the path of a British ship. In twelve minutes, 226 people drowned. Spafford’s wife survived. His daughters did not.

Spafford booked the first ship bound for England. As he was sitting out on the deck, the ship’s captain approached him and said, “Mr. Spafford, we are approaching the spot where your daughters now rest.” Instead of being grief-stricken as he had thought he would be, Spafford said that a peace came over him and that he felt the girls’ spirit around him. 

His poem poured out:
When peace, like a river, 
attendeth my way, 
When sorrows like sea-billows roll;
Whatever my lot, 

Thou hast taught me to say, 
It is well, it is well with my soul.

When the Spaffords returned to Chicago, songwriter Phillip Bliss wrote a tune for Spafford’s lyric.  
Click here for a Nashville version of this song: 
In case yofu missed them yesterday, here are MISSION notes: 
The Illinois Conference of Churches meet today via Zoom. Pray for us. 
Your Session meets tomorrow (Thursday). Pray for them. 
Good Word:
Romans 8, selected verses:                
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Let us pray
For me, be it Christ/
be it Christ hence to live/
If Jordan above me shall roll/
No pang shall be mine/
for in death as in life/
Thou wilt whisper/
Thy peace to my soul.  
Much love to you all.
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-04-14

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Tuesday April 14th 2020
A Weekday Emailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois

Dear Friends,
Mark Schoeffmann, chair of our church Finance Committee, asks a very good question in this note to us. Thank you, Mark:
What will you do with your stimulus funds? You may have heard that the Federal Coronavirus Economic Stimulus package includes economic impact payments to families earning all the way up to $198,000. Were you surprised to hear that you would be receiving a payment?  Many of us who are not losing jobs or income due to the severe economic conditions being experienced across our country and the world, will be receiving some of these funds. The payments we receive provide us with an opportunity to help other families who could use these funds much more than we can.  
One way to help these families is to donate whatever received from the stimulus package to the church and designate it for Missions.  This will allow our mission team to provide more support to our local and world mission partners to help those suffering from this sudden economic downturn.  The Finance Committee encourages you to consider how these “windfall” funds, that will show up in your bank account or mailbox soon, could be put to their best use.  I think this is what being a “Matthew 25 Church” is all about.
Read the heart of Mission (attached, below) to see the feeding initiative to help feed Urbana-Champaign school children. Of all the money the church receives designated for “mission”, some will be directed here. 
Prayers: Sabrina Hwu is in Taiwan with father who has suffered a stroke. Roy Van Buskirk is ill with Leukemia. 
Mission notes: Stay on top of what’s happening with our mission partners. 
On-line resources: I’m sure you’ve taken museum tours and discovered all sorts of interesting things on-line. I’ve caught some museum lectures. What have you found on-line? This came to me weeks ago from Kim File (who got them from daughter Anna, a NEW mother! Congrats!). Check it out: 
Class Central: TONS of free online courses from Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale.
Brit + Co: All online arts/craft/self-help classes free through 3/31(use code SELFCARE at checkout)
The Arts
Museum + Art Gallery Tours: “Visit” famous museums and art galleries from around the world, powered by Google 
The Metropolitan Opera: The Met is streaming online encore performances originally broadcast at movie theaters around the country.
Things to look for in master paintings of the Last Supper:
Many thanks for Easter: 
From Diane Mortensen: The word “Thanks “ seems inadequate to covey the gratitude I feel for all of you who brought yesterday’s wonderful Easter service to me.  From beginning to ending it was amazing and filled me with joy. I’m blessed beyond words.
From Charlene Bremer: Christ is risen indeed! Thank you for a wonderful meaningful service today. You have an extremely talented team to work with. God bless you all. Harry and I have been joining you and all the Champaign church for the services now for awhile.  We may be far but you are in our hearts. Happy Easter!  Be safe, be healthy, and keep the faith. Thanks be to God. 
Andrea Bocelli is worth catching. From Nancy MacGregor: Don’t know if you heard this yesterday, but Andrea Bocelli sang in the Duomo in Milan on Sunday morning. If you have half an hour, and have not seen/heard the concert, you can find it at
Good Word:
Matthew 25:31-45                              
31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all of his angels, he will sit on his royal throne. 32 The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats.
33 He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, “My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. 35 When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, 36 and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.”
37 Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, “When did we give you something to eat or drink? 38 When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear 39 or visit you while you were sick or in jail?”
40 The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.”
41 Then the king will say to those on his left, “Get away from me! You are under God’s curse. Go into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. 43 I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me.”
44 Then the people will ask, “Lord, when did we fail to help you when you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in jail?”
45 The king will say to them, “Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me.”
Let us pray
Just for today,
what does it matter, 
O Lord, 
if the future is dark? 
To pray now for tomorrow 
I am not able.
Keep my heart 
only for today,
grant me your light—
just for today. 
                                                          [Teresa of Lisieux (1873–1897)]
Much love to you all.
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138