Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Ongoing Response to COVID-19

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-07-07

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Education is the Pathway to Peace Wednesdays 1:30 pm
Email for the link.

On July 8, Wednesday 7pm zoom prayer service, Rachel will interview Claudia Kirby about what she and her husband, Bob, witnessed several years ago when they spent three weeks at Frontera de Cristo and the surrounding area.
Email for the link.


                                                                   The Heart of Mission
                                                                           July 7, 2020 



It is raindrop time again. Some of you may ask: Raindrop? What does that have to do with us? Symbolically, one raindrop may make an insignificant impact in our daily lives, but enough of them added together provides us with all of the water we drink and foods we eat. In alternate years our local and world mission groups collect rain drops from you all so that we can provide extra help to one of our many agencies we support. Think of the many drops ranging from a dollar or so up to many dollars. For example, a dollar may provide a drink for someone, while other raindrops provide for a piece of clothing, a place to stay, or something to eat. All drops come together in a large pool which can make a significant impact in the needs of one agency. During the month of July, we will be collecting funds from each of you represented by each raindrop, your gift.
This year, World Mission agreed to select a mission that is suffering from the Coronavirus epidemic such as we are facing in this country. We did not have to look far. Mark Adams and Miriam Escobar, married coworkers (one of four PC(USA) mission co-worker couples we support), who were with us a few years ago explained the ministry at Frontera de Cristo, our neighbor.
Frontera de Cristo is a Presbyterian border ministry located in the sister cities of Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico and Douglas, Arizona. They have their hands full right now. The Mexican/US border is now closed, they are ministering and providing for Mexican citizens that have escaped from life threatening communities in the south, the border conflict to the north, and now, most recently, the COVID-19 virus which has hit their town with casualties and job layoffs such as we are experiencing.
As one of five binational ministry sites of Presbyterian Border Region Outreach (, Frontera de Cristo works with churches, presbyteries, and secular organizations on both sides of the border to do justice, love, mercy, and walk humbly with God. 
Their different ministries include the New Hope Community Center, Mission Education, Migrant Resource Center, Family Ministry, Church Development, CAME (Migrant Exodus Ministry), and a Health Ministry. (
The cost of living at the border is about the same as it is in the United States. The difference is that people working in Mexico do not get government subsidies when they lose their job. Covid-19 has increased the loss of jobs and the border conflict has restricted commerce for our neighbors on the border.
How to Give in 2020
Each raindrop may not be much. All the raindrops together can make a big difference.
Each dollar may not be much. All our money together can make a big difference.
Choose an amount to give. Together our giving will help reduce the impact of COVID-19 and the increased financial need at Frontera de Cristo because of it. 
You can give either through check or online giving.
Please write the check to First Presbyterian Church, indicate “Raindrop” on your check or online giving information line.
First Presbyterian Church will be sending one check to Frontera de Cristo at the end of our collection. The Raindrop Offering will be collected in the month of July.
During the month of July
This month you will be hearing bits and pieces from our World Mission Committee about the Douglas/Agua Prieta story which led to Frontera de Cristo. You will see a short video that shows many of the issues facing Frontera de Cristo as they provide for all of the needs of these displaced families. On July 8, Wednesday 7pm zoom prayer service, Rachel will interview Claudia Kirby about what she and her husband, Bob, witnessed several years ago when they spent three weeks at Frontera de Cristo and the surrounding area. We have also set up a fun webpage explaining how to give to the Raindrop project and allowing you to give online.
First Presbyterian Church will be sending one check to Frontera de Cristo at the end of our collection. The Raindrop Offering will be collected in the month of July.
Some things have changed since Claudia and Bob’s visit. The United States/Mexico immigration policies have complicated border relationships. Now the pandemic has exacerbated practically all of the difficulties that the border ministry already experiences. Our goal is for the Raindrop Offering to help reduce the impact of this virus. Of course, we are hopeful that each of you will give an amount that you can afford. If you have any desire to go deeper in learning about our ministry on the border, Frontera de Cristo has lots of information on their webpage, Facebook page, and various webinars. 
Learn more about Frontera de Cristo on Thursdays, 7pm CT
We are fortunate that Frontera de Cristo has extended their Coffee, Conversations and Campassion Thursday zoom evenings. Note the time change to 7pm CT. They have been running these Thursday evenings since May with great success. So far through these conversations, they have impacted 120 families (600 people) affected by Covid-19 with 2 weeks of emergency food relief, 6 Covid-19 tests were provided, 338 pounds of coffee were bought, $2283 in donations were made to Covid-19 relief. 30% of Cafe Justo’s coffee sales went to this Covid-19 relief. 
Cafe Justo will continue to offer their coffee special through August 31. The next conversation will be The Impact of Mission Delegation Ministry: We talk with Young Adult Volunteer Hannah Singerline about Cultivating Relationships and Understanding Across Borders. Email “conversation” to to get the Zoom link. Here is the link to order coffee online from Cafe Justo here
First Presbyterian Church Champaign’s Raindrop Offering will build on this success. 
Thank you for your generous support.
Rachel Matthews, Temporary Mission Coordinator

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 – 2020-07-06

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Monday July 6 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Dear Friends,
            There are things in life we never want to face. We know we may. We know that no one is immune. But we don’t want to face them. 
            In WWII—not that long ago—my grandmother hung four stars in the front window of her house signifying that she had four men in the war: her husband (a stateside major inspecting training camps, my grandfather), both sons (my father and Uncle Jim), and a son-in-law (Aunt Mary Louise’s husband, Joe). The thought of losing a son must be unimaginable.
            In the Broadway smash “Hamilton,” Alexander and his wife Eliza face the death of a son. It’s “unimaginable” the chorus sings.
Chorus: If you see him in the street/ 
walking by her side/
talking by her side/
have pity. 

He is trying to do the unimaginable/
See them walking through the park/
long after dark/
Taking in the sights of the city.

They are trying to do the unimaginable. 
            That’s what dealing with loss sometimes seems: unimaginable. We can’t get our minds around it. We have nothing in our play book to help us. Our emotional tool box is empty.
            I love this song because it reminds us that the strangers we pass by on our walk around the park may be dealing with the unimaginable. Show pity. Be kind. You never know what they may be thinking about, suffering through, grieving. It just might be unimaginable.
            One of our DREAAM families is working through the death last week of a young daughter in a car accident. Laketia Thomas’s daughter Leondra Hopkins died. Melo, the brother, is a DREAAMer. Tracy Dace and his staff have responded with care and grace.
            And on Wednesday near midnight, Todd Ledbetter, a homeless man who sat and slept (and sometimes preached) on the park bench in front of the Episcopal Church across State Street from West Side Park was brutally beaten to death. On Friday, Damon Rowell and I sat on that bench awhile and visited his friends who grieved. We brought cold Gatorade, but they were drinking stronger stuff. We prayed. A parking lot service lead by Rev. Beth Maynard will happen soon.
            Your church is attempting to walk alongside those who grieve. It would be unimaginable if we didn’t. We are a part of something bigger that transcends our small lives. Your contributions matter. Thank you for your prayers. 

Men’s Breakfast Bible Study Tuesdays 8 am

Email for the link.

Take on Race:
            When the wound stops bleeding,
            Will it heal?
            Will the rent flesh clot, scab, peel?
            Will the skin be as smooth to the touch,
                        as wondrous a sight,
            As Black or as Yellow,
            As Red or as White?   (C. Moore Grace)
* * *
Let America Be America Again
By Langston Hughes
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
The free?
Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
Good Word: 
Romans  7:14-25        
14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
Let us pray 
From Desmond Tutu:
The right hand of God is writing in our land,
Writing with power and with love.
Our conflicts and our fears, our triumphs and our tears
Are recorded by the right hand of God.

The right hand of God is pointing in our land,
Pointing the way we must go.
So clouded is the way, so easily we stray,
But we’re guided by the right hand of God.

The right hand of God is striking in our land,
Striking out at envy, hate and greed.
Our selfishness and lust, our pride and unjust
Are destroyed by the right hand of God.

The right hand of God is lifting in our land,
Lifting the fallen one by one.
Each one is known by name, and rescued now from shame,
By the lifting of the right hand of God.

The right hand of God is healing in our land,
Healing broken bodies, minds and souls,
So wondrous is its touch, with love that means so much,
When we’re healed by the right hand of God.

The right hand of God is planting in our land,
Planting seeds of freedom, hope and love,
In these Caribbean lands, let his people all join hands,
And be one with the right hand of God.

PEACE to you all,
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-07-03

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Friday 3 July 2020
Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Dear Friends,  
            “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) 
* * *
            When my grandfather (Deda) died, my grandmother (Baba) slowly adjusted to life without him. She eventually emptied his closets and his drawers. 
            Deda’s workshop was in the garage. He threw his scraps in a chest-high wooden box, and fed these scraps into the potbellied stove, which took the chill off Tidewater Virginia’s winters. While she gave a lot away, Baba kept that box filled with scraps. Piece by piece she’d rescue and sand down Deda’s scraps. She’d glue them together into sculpture, staining or painting as necessary. One of my favorites, signed from 1973, is called “Extravaganza.” 
            I loved what she did with Deda’s leftovers. She handled each scrap gently, in a holy way, looking at each piece with imagination. Baba thought, “What can I do with this piece?” And, “What piece would go nicely with this piece?” With sandpaper, glue, patience, and love my grandmother made something extraordinary from simple scraps of wood. 
            When you look at these ‘sculptures,’ some just see scraps of wood. I see Baba and Deda and their love for each other, and their love for their eight-year-old grandson named Matt.
            On the night of his betrayal, Jesus took bread and wine and did something extraordinary with it. This bread and wine were already sacred, symbolizing the mighty acts of God in the Passover. But on that night, he said, amazingly, “This is my body, given for you.” And, “This cup is the new covenant, sealed in my blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sin.”
            It’s just ordinary bread and juice. There’s nothing gourmet about it. But the bread and juice remind us powerfully of Jesus. Do this in remembrance of me, he said. And we do.
            Some see just bread and juice. 
            We see the love of God. 
Matt Matthews
* * *
Rachel reminds me that my birthday is today. It’s poor form for a pastor to ask his flock for a present, but I’m asking. Consider making a donation to DREAAM House in my honor (or in anybody’s honor). I’d be SUPER glad if you did that. I love DREAAM, what they stand for, how they work, and the love the DREAAM Team has for its “dreamers.” Write a check to DREAAM and send it to the church address. Help a young person dream!
* * *
I’m preaching this Sunday about sin. This topic is sure to cause a large turnout(!) It’s also communion Sunday, so bring some bread and juice.
I love worshiping with you on Sundays. 
Invite a friend.
* * *
Pay attention to God’s activity in the world around you.
            Be amazed.
                        Tell somebody.
Matt Matthews
* * *
From your Nurture Team — We didn’t have anyone successfully guess Kathy Schoeffmann in last week’s Photo Challenge! 

Here’s a new photo challenge. 

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
* * *
A birthday song…

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-07-02

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Thursday July 2 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
 Dear Friends,
            Thank you for those who joined the Wednesday service for wholeness. Eric Corbin crafted a beautiful service, and he and Judi Geistlinger led it beautifully. God is good.  
Take on Race:
Racism is anti-Christian. In 2016, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a comprehensive churchwide anti-racism policy called “Facing Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community.” The policy states:
Racism is a lie about our fellow human beings, for it says that some are less than others. It is also a lie about God, for it falsely claims that God favors parts of creation over the entirety of creation. Because of our biblical understanding of who God is and what God intends for humanity, the PC(USA) must stand against, speak against and work against racism. Anti-racist effort is not optional for Christians. It is an essential aspect of Christian discipleship, without which we fail to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Structural racism is not only the “opposite of what God intends for humanity,” but is also an example of how sin is systemic rather than simply personal. As the PC(USA)’s anti-racism policy states, “Reformed theology offers a nuanced understanding of sin. Calvin did not understand sin to be simply an individual belief, action, or moral failing (Calvin, 1960). Rather, he viewed sin as the corporate state of all humanity. It is an infection that taints each of us and all of us. No part of us — not our perception, intelligence, nor conscience — is unclouded by sin.”
Psalm 14:3 and Romans 3:10 remind us, “There is no one just, not even one.” The PC(USA)’s policy also reminds us that this realization “does not mean that human beings are awful. Rather, it means that we must have humility about our own righteousness, and that we must cling to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.”
Make a donation to DREAAM for anyone’s birthday. Send  them to the church, or directly to DREAAM at


Men’s Prayer 8:30 am
Email for the link.

Friday Night Lights Bible Study 7:30 pm
Email for the link.

Good Word: 
Ephesians 2:19-22
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
Let us pray 
As the wind is your symbol, so forward our goings. As the dove, so launch us heavenwards.
As water, so purify our spirits.
As a cloud, so abate our temptations. 
As dew, so revive our languor.
As fire, so purge out our dross. Amen. 
Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) 
PEACE to you all,
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138

Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-07-01

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Wednesday July 1 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Dear Friends,
            That’s what we need and want for our world, for ourselves and neighbors, and our beloved church. The Hebrew tradition calls it “shalom,” which means an all-encompassing peace. Wholeness. Well-being. Welfare.
            This kind of wholeness transcends physical health. It’s a spiritual thing. It’s what Herbert Richardson felt in the movie “Just Mercy” right before he was executed. Since Vietnam, his mind was unsettled, and his life was addled by night sweats and terror. His time on death-row equalled constant emotional anguish. In the death chamber he said, “I have no ill feeling and hold nothing against anyone.” And for the first time in the film we see a placid man.
            “Shalom” is what Auther Moses “Truluv” felt even though he was sad upon the death of his wife Nola. It’s the feeling he shared with a frightened, pregnant teenager, and a grieving nextdoor neighbor in Elizabeth Berg’s novel The Story of Arthur Truluv. (A member of our church wrote me and said she wishes she could be more like Arthur, and to me, she is.)
            Shalom is what my family felt for a few moments last night when we watched the brief movie from their childhood, “The Snowman” based on Raymond Briggs’ classic picture book. (All three of my boys are home for my birthday.)
            Join us tonight for our WEDNESDAY evening gathering for a “Service of Wholeness.” We start at 7:00 and we end no later than 8:00. Together, let’s pray for shalom.
            See you there.  Email for the link.
Take on Race:
Structural racism can show up in multiple ways, including:
  • Housing discrimination that limits where people of color can live and steers them to rental markets rather than home ownership.
  • Laws and policies that deny people of color access to quality education, employment and adequate health care.
  • Food apartheid — areas deliberately devoid of quality, affordable fresh food.
  • Mass incarceration and criminal justice systems that disproportionately target people of color with lengthier sentences, “stop-and-frisk” laws, the over-policing of communities of color, the school-to-prison pipeline, etc.
  • Environmental racism — the dumping of hazardous waste, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of access to clean water that results in a range of serious health problems in communities of color.

Where have you seen racism at work?
Make a donation to DREAAM for your friend’s upcoming birthday!


Compassion, Peace & Justice 11 am
Email for the link.

Youth Meeting 4 pm
Email for the link.
Good Word: (read this several times…)
Song of Solomon 2:8-13
8   The voice of my beloved! 
          Look, he comes, 
     leaping upon the mountains, 
          bounding over the hills. 
9   My beloved is like a gazelle 
          or a young stag. 
     Look, there he stands 
          behind our wall, 
     gazing in at the windows, 
          looking through the lattice. 
10  My beloved speaks and says to me: 
          “Arise, my love, my fair one, 
          and come away; 
11  for now the winter is past, 
          the rain is over and gone. 
12  The flowers appear on the earth; 
          the time of singing has come, 
          and the voice of the turtledove 
          is heard in our land. 
13  The fig tree puts forth its figs, 
          and the vines are in blossom; 
          they give forth fragrance. 
     Arise, my love, my fair one, 
          and come away.”

Let us pray 
Thank you, Lord, for 
sweaty-high humidity 
that reminds me
of what I’m made of.
Thank you for hot 
temperatures that 
remind me of what I 
hoped for last January.
Thank you for long days 
to enjoy you and the 
sweet, sweet memory of
neighbors and friends.
PEACE to you all,
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138