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“beloved community + Emily Hull McGee + Hope + Lent and Easter”

Reborn Again

Dear Beloved Community, Each year that I have had the honor to serve as your pastor, we have experienced full and mighty Pentecost weekends. I recounted that i...

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The Gifts of a Teaching and Learning Church

Dear Beloved Community, One August Sunday some three years ago, I met a winsome pair of brand-new students on the precipice of beginning a three-year journey t...

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Embracing the Gift of Rest

Dear Beloved Community, Facebook told me yesterday that it was nine years ago that Amy McClure and I had become (Facebook) friends. I remember the in-person ve...

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The Telling

Dear Beloved Community, I had the good fortune to attend my first Passover Seder meal this week, at Temple Emanuel as a welcomed guest of our friends, Seth Mos...

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The Growing Season

If the pollen count tells us anything, it’s that spring is springing! These April weeks are dazzling, aren’t they? The cherry blossoms and tulips lead the w...

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Calling Her a Midwife

Dear Beloved Community, Together with BWIM and our friends at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina and Baptist Women in Ministry of North Caroli...

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All Things New

Dear Beloved Community, Several days have since passed, but the deep and abiding love I experienced alongside you this Holy Week and Easter will not soon abate....

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Collecting Our Tears

In author Sarah Bessey’s new book, Field Notes for the Wilderness: Practices for an Evolving Faith, she speaks of the wilderness of lament. Far too often, she...

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The Thin, Tactile Spaces of Holy Week

Each year during Holy Week, we get quite tactile around the church. ...

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Bold Witness and Stories of Resurrection

Yesterday morning, I gathered with over 150 folks for an optional workshop at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina’s Annual Gathering. Called ...

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Being Baptist

March is a month full for us of opportunities to share fellowship, resources, vision, and encouragement with our wider Baptist communities. I want to be sure yo...

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The Place Our Beloved Community is Housed

As I was preparing my sermon on Mark 8 this past Sunday, considering Jesus’ call of discipleship – the call to take up our cross, to count the costs of fait...

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Bearing the Beams of Love

I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing a rough-hewn wooden cross every day during Lent.  The cross necklace was a gift from my former church, Highland Baptis...

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Facing Our Finitude

I admit, I had to laugh.  It’s precisely not the moment to laugh, this somber ritual in worship where the ministers smudge ashes on the brows of their congr...

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Connections and Calling

Dear Beloved Community, I write to you from a cool morning in the mountains of western North Carolina, where I have joined nearly 130 other ministers (including...

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The Realm of Possibility

In these weekly letters, I often enjoy the opportunity to write reflectively for you about a happening in the life of the church, or the chance to tell a meanin...

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The Ministry of a Deacon

Tomorrow in worship, we install 24 active Deacons who have committed to serve God and our church in 2024. Five of these eight Deacons newly-called to serve are ...

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A Pastor Installed

Perhaps there are few more meaningful services of worship for a pastor than that of an installation service that makes official the binding of a pastor to their...

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The Word that Rings Deep and True

“What was your star word?,” Cyrus whispered to Pat as they walked back to their seats. “Quiet!,” she responded with a chuckle. “Well that’s approp...

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Tender Care

December's whirlwind of presents and parties and performances and places to go are always peppered with complexity. You know them well, I'm sure. "Oh what fun t...

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Y'all are Beloved

2023 Year in Review

On this final day of 2023, I find myself awash in reflections and gratitude from the year we've shared together. For what a season it’s been, our joy made ful...

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Gift and Giver

If I had a dollar for every one of you who've shared with such gratitude what Sunday's service of Lessons & Carols meant to you... well, I'd have a host of doll...

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How to Unlock the Heart

I’m certain that music unlocks a chamber of the human heart in each of us where words cannot. Time and time again in my life, this has been true for me, and p...

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Now and Not Yet

All of us who enjoyed time together this week in Mary Foskett’s “More than a Season: Advent and the Christian Life” class were given ample gifts. Not the ...

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To Dwell Among Us

I’ve had a recent conversation with one of my children about Santa, the mystery that stirs the imagination about a man who circles the earth in a night, nary ...

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Love Multiplies

Happy belated Thanksgiving to you, dear ones! No matter what filled your table or who filled your home, I hope your time of fellowship and gratitude this week w...

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Celebrating What We Can Do, Not What We Can’t

On the first Sunday of every month after sharing in communion together, you often hear one of our pastors inviting you to give a second offering to our John 3:1...

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The Warmth of Zack’s Blessing

I can hardly consider ordinations without feeling the invitation to consider blessing. My own ordination nearly 15 years ago was one of such affirmation, that t...

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November’s Quiet Bounty

Just a couple of nights ago, my family and I drove into Ardmore (our usual Halloween haunt) for some trick-or-treating. All five of us were dressed and ready fo...

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To Gather Together Again

Perhaps you know I have a certain fondness for reunions.  I call it a function of being a preacher’s kid whose family put down deep roots wherever we lived,...

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An Ordinary Church Business Meeting

I never thought I'd hold such a fondness in my heart for an ordinary church business meeting until the pandemic pressed these onto a screen for years....

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Sighs Too Deep for Words

On weeks like this one, even for those like me who work with words and Word, I come up wordless in the face of such horrors like those we've watched unfold in I...

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40th Anniversary Celebration of Baptist Women in Ministry

I've returned from a week away, shared with our larger Baptist family and First on Fifth denominational partners, and what a gift it was! I, along with our Amy ...

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Welcoming Our New Members

Perhaps you have noticed that we have some new members around here. And not just some – to date, we have welcomed 59 new members into the beloved community of...

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151st Anniversary

September 22 is an auspicious day in the life of our church, for it was 151 years ago that our foremothers and fathers gathered to make official what long had b...

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The Beauty of Music-Making

I came of age as a singer under the direction of musicians who were themselves students and supporters of the famed conductor, Robert Shaw. ...

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The Way Back Home

While I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the collection of years (20?!) since I was a college student, making reunion weekend plans with my old pals has me...

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Tending the Roots

As I have attempted to become a half-decent plant parent over these adulting years, I figured that in order to shed my “accidentally kill all the plants that ...

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The Connective Tissue of Blessing

Last summer while Josh and I were in Spain en route to our Camino de Santiago starting point, we were stuck in the middle of a long day of travel in our longest...

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Every Accomplishment is Rooted in a Practice

Thanks in part to the generosity of Amy Mac and Roper who shared with me a bounty of tomatoes from this week’s older adult tomato pick up, I decided that a sa...

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“Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”

Several years ago, when I began contemplating what would “make my heart sing,” in the words of the National Clergy Renewal Program’s sabbatical applicatio...

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Gratitude Tethers

When the dear old dad of my oldest friend Anna gave me a hard time last week for turning the ripe old age of 42 -- "that sure sounds like an age when you'd know...

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Sabbath Sojourn

Caught in the full and boisterous stretch of weeks that included our church's first time at the Pride Festival, Abigail Cook's final Sunday on our staff, the an...

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The Special Magic of Camp

As a young person, a week away at church camp has the power to transform. And when that week is spent at Passport, anything is possible!...

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Healing from Theological Trauma

There are but a handful of countless stories I've heard in my years of ministry about the trauma that has afflicted far too many Christians -- some even within ...

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Holy Ambition: CBF’s General Assembly

This week, twenty First on Fifth folks traveled to Atlanta for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's General Assembly, the annual gathering of more than 1000 Coo...

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A Walk in Honor of Generations of Queer Folk

Nineteen years ago this month, I attended my first ever Pride Festival. I was living in Chicago at the time, and many of my new friends in our Master of Music p...

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“PREACH!”

Baptists have been in the news this week; perhaps you’ve heard. The Southern Baptist Convention met for their annual gathering, and beyond any other headline ...

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Welcome to Summer!

My family toasted the end of the school year and beginning of the summer with several days away camping this week. (Which is why this email is a bit delayed too...

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Giving Thanks for Abigail Cook

About this time two years ago, Kim Towles pulled me aside after worship to make sure I saw the family that was visiting and happened to sit alongside her and Ch...

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A Look Back on Pentecost Sunday

On Sunday, we’ll slip into the pews, sing the hymns of faith and tell the stories of Jesus, hear Word proclaimed and good news shared. Expected, you might say...

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Indeed, How Can We Keep From Singing? 

“Ok everyone, call out your favorites!”...

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The Complicated Feelings of May

“I just want you to remind yourself,” she says rather cheekily, “you could run marathons; you could climb Mount Everest; because you have figured out how ...

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Staff Updates this May

I write with several staff bits of news for you today!...

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