Pastor Emily’s Blog

September 12, 2019

As I’m sure you know by now, this Sunday, our church family ‘moves back in’ to the Sanctuary after several months away! We celebrate that the repair work has ended, and that we can return to this beloved space which bears decades of witness to God’s work of Love...

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September 5, 2019

Like some of you I’m sure, I have found myself unable to look too far away from news reports of Hurricane Dorian’s landfall. I write today from my back porch, where every gust that rustles the trees, every siren that screams in the distance, every sound and rumble and...

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August 29, 2019

With heart and voice, colorful balloons and homemade bread, logo-dotted sweets and a community filled with the Spirit of hope and abundance, Sunday’s fall kickoff launched us into a bold and boundless year ahead! Bold love and boundless compassion, as many of you...

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August 22, 2019

I think my love for a working place to dream started, oddly enough, in hotel rooms as a kid. Our family traveled occasionally for short stays while at a conference with dad or on a non-beach vacation. I’d enter the room, put my things down, and go straight for the...

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July 25, 2019

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic in these summer weeks amidst this, the 10th anniversary of some major markers in my life. In June of 2009, I graduated from Wake Forest with my Master of Divinity degree. Two weeks later, I moved to Louisville, bought my first house, and...

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July 18, 2019

“It’s like we’re not even reading the same Bible.” That comment, made last night in an Adult Ministry Team meeting in response to a question about what cultural conversations most press upon our people, prompted vigorous nods around the table. Lamenting the divisive...

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July 11, 2019

There is a special kind of magic that seems to hang in the air at youth camp. Unlike many of the cultural rhythms of their everyday life, campers aren’t geared incessantly towards productivity and perfection and management about what comes next. One meaningful change...

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July 3, 2019

Our Homebound Team co-chairs gathering to pore and pray over a list of those beloveds who are home-centered in their daily rhythms, followed immediately by a room full of women who have carefully and creatively crafted notes of encouragement to send out among our...

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June 27, 2019

There is a unique kind of joy found in the gift of colleagues who are willing to bring their full, incarnational selves to this work of Love. And this week has been filled with that joy! Nearly our full staff stepped away from our usual rhythms for awhile this week,...

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June 20, 2019

Walking up those historic steps, I confess that I was more in a hurry and distracted by the sight of familiar faces to fully understand the gravity of that moment. The full weight of the moment just didn’t register until, with hundreds of voices raised singing “Lift...

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June 13, 2019

If ever I’m sure I’ve discovered the movements of God in the world, God finds some way to unmoor me from my expectations in ways that always, always lead to broader trust and abundant transformation. If ever I thought I had the world figured out, I have only to lift...

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June 6, 2019

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” - Acts 2:1-2 For half a day this week, I accompanied Liam’s...

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May 30, 2019

Last spring, our church affirmed four priorities for mission and ministry to guide the shape of our work. These are: Cultivating the well-being of children Becoming a teaching and learning church Mitigating poverty in our community Growing in number and faithfulness...

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May 23, 2019

Sometimes I near the end of the full week and wonder: now what exactly happened this week? It sparks my gratitude for an ever-present phone and camera used to capture moments, stories, glimpses of the movement of God around me. Today’s post stems from those pictures!...

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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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