Pastor Emily’s Blog

May 16, 2019

Just outside my office hangs a lovely print, centered upon which is the classic Wendell Berry poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” The wisdom of this 84 year-old prophet abounds, and like the stories and teachings of Jesus -- stark, real, timeless --...

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May 9, 2019

This past week has afforded me two distinct and meaningful opportunities to gather with fellow pastors to talk, pray, plan, and listen to the movement of the Spirit of God all around us. The first was on Monday, where some thirty or more pastors were welcomed by the...

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May 2, 2019

Every bit of the service bore her mark. The prayers thoughtfully culled and created. The poetry precisely chosen. The hymns whittled down from a dozen to three which shared her vision (God’s vision!) for ministry in a hurting world. The “charge to the church” that she...

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April 25, 2019

The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! What joy we shared together on Sunday, as we met at the tomb to discover that God in Christ has made all things new! Our Holy Week and Easter observances this year were among the most meaningful of any I remember, and I give...

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April 18, 2019

We didn’t spot her until our descent. Eyes focused on the prize, we ascended the sturdy metal beams -- stairs and ladders, one after the other, hard hats protecting us from the low ceilings, some of us (yours truly!) clenching tighter with every set of stairs we...

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April 11, 2019

“Spring is coming…” has been the promise and the invitation we’ve heard this Lenten season. In worship, in self-reflection, in study, and in service, our congregation has yielded to the reminder that in Christ, all things will be made new, life will come from even the...

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April 4, 2019

One of the great gifts of being a Baptist like we are at First on Fifth is our healthy cooperation with other Baptist churches within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. It affords us meaningful relationships that stretch across borders of all kinds to weave a new...

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March 31, 2019

This week, thanks to the quick responsiveness of our Mitch Phipps (who I’m convinced has a connection with nearly everyone in this town!), I and a few others of you had a meaningful meeting with John Railey and Chanel Nestor. John is the new Executive Director and...

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March 21, 2019

Some weeks in the life of the church are ones that, if ever I’m feeling down, restore my faith in the church, in the Spirit of God moving through an imperfect-yet-hopeful people who practice bold love of God and neighbor and boundless compassion for all people. This...

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March 17, 2019

A note from Emily: In place of my usual post this week, I share with you the family reflections I offered at my Grandmother Mary’s funeral yesterday. Mary died peacefully at the ripe age of 97 and a half this week, and her service was filled with the love she shared...

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February 28, 2019

Spring is coming… I see it in the daffodils down the street, sprouting thick green stalks and peeks of yellow buds. I see it in the sunlight that finally, finally is cutting through the gray winter’s sky and softening, drying, warming, loosening all the remaining...

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February 21, 2019

I’m only a chapter in, but am immediately resonating with the content and challenge presented in a new book I just started reading called The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies for the Long Haul. Author Laura van Dernoot Lipsky is a leading researcher in the field of trauma...

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February 14, 2019

Most mornings as I drive Liam to school and myself to work, we listen to the radio. Sometimes he’s requesting a favorite song or movie soundtrack; other times he acquiesces to my desire to catch several minutes of news as the day begins. He did so this morning, and we...

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February 7, 2019

I found myself looking around at last night’s First Fellowship gathering and feeling the powerful Spirit of God in our midst: refreshing, renewing, and real. Volunteers working tirelessly and faithfully to have hot barbeque and all the fixings ready for hungry folks...

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January 31, 2019

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a heartening gathering of pastors from across Winston-Salem. We were called together amidst all our churches’ diversity of theology, ideology, race, gender, economics, and age by Chuck Spong (Executive Director of Love Out Loud...

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January 24, 2019

Over the past two months, your Personnel Committee has been hard at work, prayerfully discerning the path forward following the departure of John Thornton on our pastoral staff. Anytime there is a staff transition, space opens up to ask again those key questions for...

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January 17, 2019

I was one of many in our Cooperative Baptist Fellowship family who rejoiced yesterday upon the announcement that Dr. Paul Baxley had been named the new Executive Coordinator for our Fellowship, following Rev. Suzii Paynter as the fourth leader of CBF. If you’re...

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January 10, 2019

When I was a young preacher’s kid growing up in church, I generally found our church business meetings to be the pinnacle of boredom. What fell drolly upon my adolescent ears were people droning on about motions and rules, folks getting nitpicky about details, and oh...

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January 3, 2019

When I mentioned a few days ago to my dear friend and fellow pastor that “we did something different on Christmas Eve,” he gave an audible gasp. Something DIFFERENT on Christmas EVE?! But those of you who’ve been around for awhile remember the last few times we...

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December 20, 2018

If you happened upon any one of the many multi-figurine nativity sets in my house right now (from Peanuts to handcrafted around the world to Fontanini!), you’d be met with an unusual sight. Liam helped me set each of these up, you see. Now a curious kindergartener, he...

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December 13, 2018

What exactly makes worship, worship? I pondered that question this week, as is my custom. This time, though, there was a snowstorm-spurred urgency about the query! As our staff wondered together about shifts to our schedule, I shared again the mantra I’d adopted...

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December 6, 2018

Back in the summer of 2008, my immediate family took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe for two months, time granted for dad’s sabbatical and funded by the Lilly Foundation’s Clergy Renewal Program. Before iPhones, or my spouse and children, or my granddad’s ALS...

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November 29, 2018

Between the mall and the mail, and everything in between, the season of Christmas has descended upon us -- and it’s not yet December! For our commercialized landscape, yearning to sell and to draw on the urges the season invites, the holiday is in full swing. And yet,...

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November 21, 2018

This Thanksgiving week, my heart is filled with gratitude for you, dear church, and for the abundant ways you have been the church for each other, for me, and for our community this year. To those of you who have joined our church this year, uniting your lives with...

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November 15, 2018

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Seasons, as they say, come and go. The time changes, the leaves fall, the flowers bud, each marking what has been and foreshadowing what will be. We have been in an extended season of...

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November 8, 2018

“Gail.” “Jack.” “Anne.” “Deacon.” Recently departed friends, family, loved ones, even a young child’s canine companion whose names pierced the silence in remembrance. “Dick.” “Kitty.” “Lucille.” “Roy.” Our church’s saints that were voiced in community by the faithful...

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November 1, 2018

“The love and light within me honors the love and light within you. You are never alone. Namaste.” Every Thursday morning, these are the words that Nikki says to close our hot yoga class. They’re just the tone we need to conclude a hot and holy hour intended to...

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October 25, 2018

If you’re like me, you have loved the testimonies shared in worship by many of our fellow congregants, sharing their stories of how First Baptist has become their boundless home. Deb Watkins “loved First Baptist because they first loved me.” Carlos Mir shared of how...

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October 18, 2018

I continue to be so thankful for the ways you are teaching me how to live into our church’s vision from God. You remember it by now, I’m sure: We are a community in the heart of the city called by Jesus to practice bold love of God and neighbor and boundless...

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October 11, 2018

Early last week, I traveled to Washington, D. C. for the annual board meeting of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty (BJC), where I am grateful to serve as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina’s representative on that body. Gathering 13...

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October 4, 2018

Over the past two weeks, Leslie Lowdermilk and I have hit the road. We have traveled around to spend mornings, afternoons, and evenings with many of you, receiving the gift of hospitality from many of our generous hosts who made these capital campaign gatherings...

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September 27, 2018

For the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of leading a small group Bible study on Wednesdays at noon on the letter of Paul to the Galatians. Together, our group has walked verse by verse through this extraordinary treatise, unpacking its meaning in light of...

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September 20, 2018

Often recently, I’ve found it hard to believe that after all this time, the season of a capital campaign in our church’s life together is finally upon us. But then I remember you, dear church You’ve listened carefully over the years and prayed intentionally for our...

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September 13, 2018

Perhaps the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence on our eastern seaboard is to blame, speeding toward us like a bullet in slow motion. Or maybe it’s just me. But regardless, I have found this week to be one in which the images seem sharper, the volume louder, and...

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September 6, 2018

This past weekend, my family traveled to Louisville, Kentucky for the wedding of a dear friend of ours. Early on Sunday, I took advantage of the opportunity and had an experience so foreign to my current Sunday morning rhythms: going for a run in Louisville’s Cherokee...

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August 30, 2018

Two days, four pictures, several celebrations, one community of faith! Last Saturday and Sunday were full ones in the life of the church, stretching from age to age and catching lots of life in between. First you see a number of our kids and youth, delighting in a...

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