FPC Monroe Highlights, 2005 to 2023: Disciples for community service




The year began with the Rev. Dr. Donald Mitchell leading FPC Monroe in worship. Rev. Mitchell, a former dean at Montreat College, had stepped to the pulpit “in relief.” Pastor Kevin Wainwright, who was called to lead in Dec. 2002, had been deployed eight months later as a military chaplain with the National Guard in Iraq. Wainwright spent about a year in Iraq, returning on leave to Monroe, then returned to full-time service with FPC Monroe on March 14. He was deployed again to help with the response from Hurricane Katrina.


Wainwright’s deployment brought extra attention to FPC Monroe. While deployed in Iraq, he wrote dispatches to the Monroe Enquirer-Journal. People would drive up from South Carolina to buy the paper to read them, so much that someone told Wainwright that the newspaper should buy him a car for all the papers he helped sell. Wainwright told of a brick factory where displaced Iraqis lived and worked in “less than primitive conditions.” Wainwright’s reporting of that situation sparked a supply and toy drive that resulted in 50 packages a week arriving to help the children at the brick factory. For his efforts in Iraq, the Army awarded Wainwright the Bronze Star.


FPC Monroe’s drama team was following up on a successful production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Herb Urbano would lead many theatrical productions with his energy and directorial talents, bringing joy to participants and theater-goers alike. Most productions were presented on a custom-built, rotating stage used in the Fellowship Hall.


The new Stephen Ministry program began taking root, thanks to a 2004 gift from Karl Cahoon in honor of his wife, Crissy. Stephen Ministers are trained to provide confidential, spiritually based counseling to those in need. The program began with leaders Sarah Hasty, Mary Helen Holloway, Sally Ormand, and Rev. Janet Tyson receiving training at Stephen Ministry headquarters in St. Louis, Mo. The first class of Stephen Ministers, commissioned in Spring 2005, were Gloria Baker, Bob Billinger, Bobbie Brown, Lynn Hamilton, Annie Henry, Pat Rhyne, and Irene Urbano. Through 2020, more than 30 people have been trained as Stephen Ministers at FPC Monroe, and our church has shared training sessions with other local congregations to feed their Stephen Ministry programs. 


A prayer gazebo, built by Erik Donham for his Eagle Scout project, was added to the church’s front yard.


Rev. Janet Tyson, a retired principal at Sun Valley High School and a seminary student at Union Theological Seminary, joined FPC Monroe as an intern in September.




FPC Monroe continued to help the Charlotte Presbytery build an Hispanic Ministry in Union County. In July, Rev. Dr. César Carhuachin and Dennis Grills of the Charlotte Presbytery proposed a Presbyterian Spanish-language group. FPC Monroe and Siler Presbyterian contributed to the start of the Spanish Mission of Indian Trail, and FPC began working with Riverside Outreach to connect with the community in Monroe.


The church would soon face another challenge in the spring, as Pastor Wainwright decided to pursue a full-time career in the military, leading FPC Monroe for the last time on April 30. Janet Tyson, who had ended her internship on March 31, agreed to fill in through June during a search for a replacement. Dr. Mitchell and Rev. Barbara Miller stepped in for July services. Elders Les Everett and David Bessinger led services in August. Session approved a single service for August.


Before Wainwright’s resignation, the church had set up a personnel study of adding an associate pastor. That effort turned immediately to report on FPC’s standing and how to overcome and grow the loss of its pastor. The Session adopted the resulting report’s recommendations to halt non-essential spending; provide clarity on church staffing; ask members to review its financial commitment to FPC Monroe; and review the process to name an interim pastor.


The study’s report spoke to challenges faced by many churches. FPC Monroe’s membership was moving away from Monroe to other parts of Union County. This resulted in not only transfers of membership, but also created issues with fellowship and communication among remaining members and staff. To that point, Session created a standing communications committee to keep membership informed.


The drama team stayed busy, preparing a production of “Annie” that featured Maggie Hamilton in the title role in a cast of 47. The play was presented Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.


As the search for a full-time pastor continued, the Session approved hiring Rev. Dr. Stuart T. Wilson for a one-year term to fill the pulpit starting Jan. 1, 2007.




The annual report documents a busy year in the life of FPC Monroe.


Based on positive feedback of a having a single service on Sundays the previous August, FPC maintained the practice starting in May, holding a combined, 10 a.m. service


Caroline (Tal) Brewer and G. Dick Pierce were recognized as Elders Emeritus in February. In May, FPC lost Mr. Pierce. Outside his longstanding service to the church, he had chaired the Monroe City School board, and in retirement helped built 78 ramps for the Council of Aging across Union County.


Christian Education kept up its commitment overseeing the weekday preschool, which served children 5 and under throughout the school year. Early in the year, the team oversaw renovation of the White House on campus to be used for a Rotational Sunday School for children in grade K-5. By Jan. 6, the White House was dubbed the Light (Learning In God’s House Together) House.


The Diaconate (board of deacons), led by Mike McGinnis and Margaret Desio, powered countless hours of service to the congregation and beyond, volunteering for committees across the church. Deacons started a card ministry and buddy system for homebound members, collected blankets for the elderly, served meals at the Community Shelter of Union County, assisted with the annual Jubilee, aided the Property Committee on church workdays, and welcomed new members with goodie bags.


A grant from the Richardson Memorial Fund helped the Audiovisual Committee set up a desk at the back of the Sanctuary. This committee recorded all services, then made copies to DVD for viewing by homebound members. Services were also broadcast on WIXE radio in Monroe.


The Witness and Service Committee covered vast ground, helping local efforts such as HealthQuest, Loaves and Fishes, the Community Shelter, the Christmas Bureau, Crisis Assistance Ministry, Operation Christmas Child, Union County Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, and Turning Point.


Communications saw through a project to add wiring to connect the Preschool and Church office buildings onto one phone system. Russ Colbath and Greg McDanel did a large portion of the work that enabled easy upgrades decades later.


The Presbyterian Women were a force, as usual, helped those in morning, celebrating confirmations and graduations, pitching in for the Jubilee, and helping those in need in the community.


FPC Monroe hit the road for its 16th annual family retreat in February in Montreat, NC, and down to New Orleans in June to help repair damage left by Hurricane Katrina.


Efforts to connect with community families grew. In its eighth year, the Riverside Outreach Club became Reaching One Child (ROC). The club met every Thursday and included about 50 children from grades K-12. The committee was lovingly chaired by Kay Brewer, Cynthia Goodwin, and Sis Griffin.


FPC Monroe’s drama team pulled off another large production, putting on “Scrooge” on Dec. 7-8 with 55 cast members.


The terms of call for Pastor Wilson were extended through 2008.




Carolyn Keziah resigned as financial secretary after 21 years of service.


On Feb. 3, FPC Monroe took up an offering to help with the Community Shelter of Union County’s new Souper Bowl of Caring Program, a tradition that remains through 2023.


On March 11, seven students from Eden Children’s Village in Zimbabwe visited Monroe to share their testimonies and music with the congregation. The village is supported in part by contributions and “adoptions” by FPC Monroe members. After a party with senior high youth on Saturday at Sis and Bruce Griffin’s, they participated in the Sunday service.


The Herb Urbano-led drama team presented “Is It I,” a re-enactment of the Last Supper, and “South Pacific.” The music program, led by talented and popular organist Lee Northcutt, presented a well-received “The Passion of Christ” Easter concert and welcomed Elizabeth von Trapp for a concert and reception in November.


The Men of the Church continued its annual Mother-Daughter Banquet, with the June event drawing 135 people. The group met monthly in Christian fellowship, put on regular Wednesday Fellowship meals, and assisted with the annual Jubilee fundraiser.


FPC Monroe mourned in July with the passing of Elder Chuck Norwood. A Session letter to the Norwood family noted that Chuck was noted for his “optimism, contagious enthusiasm, and his ever-present twinkle in his eyes.”


The Session unanimously agreed to extend Pastor Wilson’s original contract through Jan. 1, 2010. Pastor Wilson celebrated his 30th year as an ordained minister in August. But in November, Pastor Wilson let Session know he was leaving to lead First Presbyterian Church in Sanford, N.C. Dr. Wilson last led FPC Monroe in its Christmas Eve service.


FPC Monroe’s scholarship endowments awarded $18,700 in scholarships, using endowments in honor of Walter Henderson, R.A. And Elizabeth Willis, Vivian Norwood and Stuart Yandle, and Charles and Vivian Norwood.


Total discipleship from all FPC Monroe programs, including the scholarships above, totaled $125,158 for the year.


Session granted Elder Emeritus status to four who all joined FPC Monroe in the early 1940s: Les Everett, John Milliken, Charles Norwood, and Lane Ormand.




The year began with the loss of an Elder Emeritus. William Harvey Morrison Jr., died on Jan. 12 at age 94. He had spent a lifetime at FPC Monroe, serving as a deacon, elder, clerk of Session and chaired many committees.


Just as the nation faced uncertainty with an ongoing economic crisis, FPC Monroe faced the new year with major challenges.


All at once in late 2008, the church lacked even an Interim Pastor as well as a Christian education director. In 2008, FPC Monroe commissioned a Mission Study, which was complete and ready to act on in January 2009.


The study offered seven mission recommendations:


To practice hospitality by opening doors to all people

To reach out to one another, to the community, and to the world.

To promote our unity in Christ by honoring and respecting our diversity of gifts.

To effect positive change under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

To encourage the practice of spiritual disciplines.

To provide Christian nurture to all ages.

To be creative in our approach to worship.


Part of the discussion was to set up a second, more relaxed worship service. To that end, the Session set an alternative worship service for the Fellowship Hall on March 29.


In spite of the gaps in installed, full-time leadership, life at FPC stayed vibrant.


The Drama team presented “Twelve Angry Men” in the second and third weekends of January, and “Annie Warbucks” on Aug. 15. On Nov. 8, Brenda Palmer produced and directed “A Hillbilly Wedding,” which culminated in a chicken-and-dumplings dinner as part of the church’s annual Jubileee fundraiser.


The church recognized its popular music director on Feb. 8 with “Lee Northcutt Appreciation Day.” Also that month, the winter family retreat was kept in Monroe for the weekend of Feb. 20-22, and received favorably. Planning was under way for a third annual summer youth mission trip, this one to Kopperston, W.Va.


Wednesday Fellowship Meals continued. The Men of the Church and other FPC groups pitched in for a new “Chuck’s Birthday Party” at the Community Shelter of Union County, which honored former Elder Chuck Norwood’s longtime contributions to that agency.


In April, FPC Monroe was again a participating church in the annual Procession of the Cross through Downtown Monroe. Later that month, FPC Monroe members helped the Community Shelter put on its annual golf event, which had been renamed the Chuck Norwood Memorial Golf Tournament in honor of the beloved congregant and elder.


To fill the vacancy in the pulpit, the Interim Pastor Committee unanimously nominated Dr. John Wilkerson, who had led FPC in the 2009 Mission Study. Session approved a six-month renewable contract that started Feb. 15. Wilkerson called the appointment “an honor and a privilege.” Session agreed to extend his contract another six months at the end of the year, effective through Aug. 16, 2010.


Les Everett, recognized months earlier as an Elder Emeritus, continued to provide needed pastoral care as a lay minister. Dr. Wilkerson recognized Mr. Everett’s commitment to visitation of church members.


As the search for a Christian education director continued into the summer, member Alyssa Isaacs filled in half-time to administer a youth program in the interim. She continued in that role into 2010.


The church added programs to fight hunger in the community and globally. In the fall, it worked with Second Harvest to provide food-stuffed backpacks for schoolchildren in need at East Elementary. It also accepted a 28-foot trailer to be filled with food donations throughout September to benefit Crisis Assistance and Loaves and Fishes.


Another successful rice-packing project day for Stop Hunger Now led Session to set up a separate donation account to raise funds throughout the year.




The year opened with ordination and installation of officers. The Session Class of 2012 marked the first year of transition for the Session in its move to lower the number of seats from 21 to 12. Installed on Jan. 3 were Donald Hargette, Harriet Metrosky, Jesse Milliken, and Donna Norwood. Those installed to the Board of Deacons for the 2012 Class were Mark Bell, Charlie Livingston, Jimmy Norwood, Libby Ruth, and Swaim Strong. Charles Rawls took on an unexpired term for the Class of 2010.


In February, FPC Monroe took on a collection trailer for the Charlotte Presbytery to help with relief efforts from an earthquake in Haiti. The Youth Club also put on a pancake supper to raise financial support.


Dr. Wilkerson led the congregation in its Lenten Service. For the Passion/Palm Sunday, Lee Northcutt led a “Forsaken” cantata that includes handbells, the choir, a drama piece and an orchestra.


In a February report to the Charlotte Presbytery, Dr. Wilkerson reported FPC Monroe as “very much alive, well, and actively involved in rebuilding after a lengthy period of instability.” He reported that he was assured that the congregation was ready to receive a new Pastor.


In March, Session approved use of the Fellowship Hall for Safer Communities Ministry to hold an Addiction Recovery Ministry starting in April.


The Christian Education program produced a church-wide local retreat on April 25, and brought back Vacation Bible School from June 27-July 1.


By fall, the church met yet another interim pastor. Dr. Wilkerson required a medical leave starting on Aug. 16, and Dr. John Todd was brought in lead the congregation until Dr. Wilkerson could return on Oct. 1. Once back, Session extended Dr. Wilkerson’s call through the end of the year, or until a permanent pastor was found.


Just more than two weeks later, the churches long search ended. After 4.5 years without a permanent pastor, Session met on Oct. 17 to approve the nominating committee’s choice of Jason Haas to lead FPC Monroe. The announcement came in a congregational meeting on Oct. 31.


Within a week, the congregation celebrated the life of John Clark Munn Jr. An elder at FPC Monroe, Mr. Munn had served as chairman of the board for the Hospice of Union County and was Union County manager until 1974 to 1994, and Indian Trail’s town manager for 10 years.




With Haas’ arrival came efforts to streamline church structure. Membership stood at about 400, about half of the roll in the late 1990s.


The church’s mission statement was updated to: Making disciples who together know, love, and serve Jesus Christ. Pastor Haas then proposed a framework to promote more inter-generational activities.


Goals included:


starting a Discipleship University

increase Sunday School attendance by 20%

find new educational opportunities through Christian education.

form a Fellowship Committee

create a central calendar for church events

implement Home Groups by 2012

develop new events and retreats for the church calendar

add variety to Sunday worship

add a monthly service during the week

add monthly Communion.

assess spirituality of membership and assess how we make disciples for Christ.


By June, Session approved winding down the SOC committee that was set up to study restructuring, and it folded the Drama committee budget into the general fund. It also approved a less complex organizational chart and agreed to phase out the Board of Deacons.


In September, Haas offered a plan to Session to introduce in 2012 an early morning contemporary service while keeping the traditional service at late morning. Session proposed that with Deacons being eliminated, that the number of Elders gradually be increased to 15.


That same month, FPC Monroe celebrated the life of William Joel Brewer Sr. He had served as a deacon, elder and chaired several committees at the church, as well as serving on the board for Loaves and Fishes. He was one of the founding members of the Union County Art League. The church also felt the loss of Dr. Donald Mitchell, who had led the congregation in critical times as an interim earlier in the decade.


At the end of the year, Alissa Isaacs stepped down as an interim youth director.




The church’s commitment to Eden Children’s Village remained strong. In May, Donna Norwood, Cynthia Goodwin, and Sally and Lane Ormand visited the orphanage from May 9-21 to help. It was the first delegation from FPC Monroe to visit.


The church felt a tremendous loss in May, as 24-year director of music Lee Northcutt left for Myers Park Presbyterian in Charlotte. His last service at FPC Monroe was May 20, though Lee would return to play FPC Monroe’s organ for funerals of longtime members for years to come.


The next week, FPC Monroe completed months of study on how to move forward with its youth program by hiring Jonathan Williams as a Youth Director/Young Life Church partner, effective June 3.

May also marked the start of an annual family church picnic.


On June 25, Girl Scout JoAnne McDanel presented to Session her plan to start a Community Garden on church property across Talleyrand Ave. Ms. McDanel raised the money for her Girls Scout Gold Badge project, and the garden remains viable a decade later, providing food for community needs.


The Session approved Ron Griffin was named Elder Emeritus for his outstanding contributions to FPC Monroe, joining his wife, Nancy, who was named in 1999. Dr. Lane Ormand honored Mr. Griffin with a presentation during the Nov. 4 service.


FPC Monroe found its next music director in September, hiring Ken Brown on an interim basis. Session approved his hiring on Sept. 24.


The Christmas season saw a continuation of longstanding FPC Monroe initiatives from the Witness & Service committee. Joanne Kitchin led the Christmas Shoe program for schoolchildren in need. In the community, FPC helped provide hands to support Operation Christmas Child, the Christmas Bureau, and Loaves and Fishes.




FPC Monroe participated for the fifth straight year in the Community Shelter of Union County’s annual Souper Bowl Sunday.


In February, Session heard that the Sunday youth program run by new Youth Director Jonathan Williams was off to a great start. The choir was happy with new music director Ken Brown.


Plans began to add a contemporary service in October. Christian Education began planning for a youth summer trip to Jekyll Island in Georgia. Session approved a Women’s Prayer Retreat for Montreat in August.


The second annual Family Church Picnic was held May 19, at the home of Les and Dianne Everett.


Work ramped up to build a contemporary worship service. Longtime FPC Member Marion Holloway devoted time and expertise for how to add sound and presentation screens to the Sanctuary, and Pastor Jason sought a contemporary worship leader. The dress rehearsal was Sept. 29, and the first service took place on Oct. 6. David Lipp led music for that first service.


On Nov. 4, Janet Tyson appeared in the bulletin as a Worship Leader. Pastor Haas said that through the years, Mrs. Tyson was instrumental in mentoring him as a young pastor, and Mrs. Tyson took up visitation among church members and continued to provide training for elders annually.


Later that month, Pastor Jason reported that gaps in youth programs needed attention. A search for a children’s ministry director remained unfilled, and interaction with parents from the church needed improvement. Fellowship opportunities abounded, with annual picnics and cook-offs still staples in the church calendar, but FPC Monroe sought more ways to connect with youth and families for the coming year.


In December, the Session agreed to name Boyd and Evelyn Eubanks as Elders Emeritus for their longstanding contributions to FPC Monroe.




Session’s first meeting, on Jan. 27, featured a conversation on FPC Monroe’s status. Pastor Haas posited that we needed to move from a program-driven body to a vision-driven one. Session unanimously approved the setup of a “vision team” that would report ideas to Session.


After difficulty finding a permanent youth director, Session approved re-hiring Alissa Issacs on a part-time basis for a six-month, renewable term. Session approved a renewal in July.


The service on April 20 marked a major milestone: Caroline “Tal” Brewer participated in the FPC choir for the last time, ending 72 years of service. The church held a reception in her honor on May 18.


Session voted to approve Jimmy Morgan in July as a new Young Life director for FPC Monroe. Discussions began to re-establish a family retreat in 2015 at Montreat, N.C., the first since 2007.


In September, Session approved naming Olin Hall as an Elder Emeritus for his contributions to the life of FPC Monroe. He received the honor at the Dec. 21 service.


Contemporary worship leader David Lipp resigned in November. His last day with FPC Monroe was the 23rd.




Tim Trew is welcomed on Jan. 25 as its new contemporary worship leader.


The church began a community groups initiative, with its first meeting in February involving 57 members. Meetings involved small gatherings in members’ homes to share life, pray and study Scripture over six lessons.


Sunday, March 15, marked a milestone for the church, as it met at 6 p.m. to “Burn the Note,” celebrating the retirement of all of FPC Monroe’s building debt.


Weeks later, on Easter Sunday on April 5, the congregation was able to share in a more special celebration, as Pastor Haas baptized his newborn son, Jake Peter Haas.


Session renewed Alissa Isaacs’ tenure with the youth of FPC Monroe, naming her Family, Youth, Children Ministry Director to begin May 3, and adding Allan Solorio and Bryanna Robinson as Youth Leaders. They work to present “Camp Discovery” Vacation Bible School, and “Wonderful Wednesday Activities” for children throughout the summer.




Session approved adding Janet Tyson to a staff position of Parish Associate, starting in February. Rev. Tyson was added to provide visitation, assist with worship and help with other duties in support for FPC Monroe.


FPC Monroe met in Montreat again for the annual Family Retreat the last week in January. Regular service times in Monroe were moved to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., with Sunday school at 10 a.m.


The church held a Mardi Gras dinner on Jan. 16 to raise funds support the church’s missions in Haiti and the Eden Children’s Village in Zimbabwe. FPC members brought along members of Union County’s Habitat for Humanity to help build a school at the orphanage. In July, FPC members returned to Haiti to fulfill projects and hold a Bible school.


FPC Members Jesse Milliken and Donna Norwood were named the Union County Man and Woman of the Year, recognized for leadership across several civic organizations that included board membership at the Community Shelter of Union County. Ms. Norwood followed in the footsteps of her parents, who had both earned the honor.


Video monitors were added after Easter to the Sanctuary, on the brick walls behind the pulpit and lectern, to enhance the traditional service and support the earlier, contemporary worship service.


The congregation celebrated a special event with the wedding of Hilda Horsman and Roy Smith on April 30. Both were widowed after losing best friends and longtime companions. One day, Roy saw Hilda weeping in a Sanctuary pew. Knowing the heartbreak she had, he sat down and took her hand. “When I did that, I had this calming, peaceful feeling, and I knew right then that I didn't want to let her hand go,” Roy said. Congregants applauded the couple as they entered and left FPC Monroe on their wedding day.


Session approved recognizing Sally Ormand and Norman Stryker as Elder Emeritus for 2016.


The congregation felt tremendous grief in the fall with the loss of two Elder Emeritus. Charles Norwood passed away in August, then John Milliken in October. Both were lifetime members of FPC Monroe.

Allison Isaacs resigned as Family, Youth, Children Ministry Director.




Renda Brinson started as part-time Elementary Christian Education Director on April 24. Her status as full-time director was confirmed by Session on Aug. 28.


A new, fun, fundraiser tied to the NCAA basketball tournament began. Pastor Haas encouraged participants to guess the tournament bracket results for $7 per entry, with all proceeds benefiting the Wine to Water non-profit in Boone, N.C. The effort raised $3,646, and the winner received a special trophy, a basketball spray-painted gold.


The summer’s youth activities included Vacation Bible School from June 19-22, a mission trip to Jacksonville, Fla., from June 25-July 1, and FITS (Fun In the Sun) from July 9-14.


Elder Emeritus Les Everett requested to renew his position as Minister of Visitation after illness had required to step down. In his request, he stated he required “No salary, no benefits, only God’s word.”


The music department underwent changes later in the year. Music assistant Dy-Ann Sturgis replaced Ken Brown as choir director, and Wingate University freshman Jordan Locke was hired as part-time organist/pianist. Locke would stay with First Presbyterian for the next five years, directing the choir toward the end of his tenure. Andrew Cole was added to direct the handbell choir.


In October, FPC Monroe welcomed two visiting vocal groups to perform with the contemporary band for a hurricane relief fundraiser in the Fellowship Hall. Donations totaled $6,400.




In February, FPC Monroe celebrated the life of Elder Emeritus Les Everett, who had been a member since childhood and served as visitation minister. One of his last acts for the church was to provide a sermon on Jan. 28 in Monroe while Pastor Haas attended the annual Family Retreat in Montreat.


April 29 marked another fun, successful mission involving the church. The annual Rise Against Hunger rice-packing event took place in the Fellowship Hall, and participants packed 12,000 meals of rice and nutrition supplements.


On May 19, the praise band won the Sweet Union Praise Jam for a consecutive year. The event, a fundraiser for Community Shelter of Union County, was driven by member Bill Thaxton. Thaxton was an enthusiastic supporter of the church’s praise band, often leaving his seat to dance alone or with grandchildren during songs.


FPC Monroe welcomed Dawn Broom as its new music director on July 29 and paid thanks to Dy-Ann Sturgis’ service as interim director. On Aug. 19, the congregation affirmed the Elder class of 2021: Mark Bell, Susie Colbath, Janice Morrison, Stephanie Ruggiero, and Bill Sullivan.


October started an especially busy month. FPC Monroe was host of a Presbytery of Charlotte meeting on Oct. 23. Three days later, the church held a fish fry and pecan sale to benefit local charities, all the while the church was gearing up for the annual Jubilee on Nov. 10.





After more than eight years of stability in the pulpit, FPC Monroe was blessed to have Rev. Jason Haas lead its congregation. It had faced five years of interim pastors a decade before. Haas brought change with a contemporary service, and streamlined the committees that were producing various missions of the congregation. So the congregation was shocked when Rev. Haas announced a desire to change careers and leave the ministry. His last day at FPC Monroe was May 19, 2019.


Once again, Rev. Janet Tyson, the parish associate, stepped up to deliver sermons until an interim pastor was found.

On June 16, the church celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Sanctuary building. The following week, Julie Neumann, who had served in the church nursery for 9 years, left FPC Monroe, as well.


The congregation welcomed Lynn Thompson Bryant on Oct. 20 as its new Interim Pastor. Bryant faced getting up to speed quickly for the Advent season in a new church, but neither Bryant nor the congregation could guess what was in store in 2020.




The new year began normally enough.


A pancake breakfast was set for Jan. 12 to discuss the church’s vision and the search for a new pastor. FPC Monroe members continued the tradition of the family retreat at Montreat, N.C., under the theme of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”


A new class of elders was set, and Revs. Tyson and Bryant were preparing training for the 2022 class of John Hartness, Angela Levan, Greg McDanel, Donna Norwood, and Jeff Rogers.


FPC’s praise band put on a coffee house event on March 6 to raise money for the Community Shelter’s Souper Bowl of Caring campaign. But stories were escalating out of the Pacific Northwest about a fast-moving respiratory illness.


By March 11, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 virus to be a global pandemic. In Washington, news emerged of a church choir that had rehearsed March 3 and 10.  COVID-19 spread to 33 members, and two died.


FPC Monroe held a service on March 15, and a cell phone was used to livestream the service to the church’s Facebook page. The next day, the Centers for Disease Control advised against meetings with more than 50 people, and virtual services became the new normal across the U.S.


Jeff Rogers led exploration on how to livestream a church service, then secured a $2,500 grant from Presbytery to help upgrade the church’s network. Over the next eight months, FPC Monroe learned on the fly and maintained worship weekly in a combined service, either in an empty Sanctuary or through pre-recorded music and sermons broadcast on Sundays.   


Eventually, congregants were invited back into the Sanctuary, with protocols set up to ensure social distancing, mask-wearing, and limits to the number allowed to gather. The first bulletin printed for the return of limited in-person worship came on Nov. 29, the first Sunday of Advent.




As the pandemic dragged on, FPC Monroe opened the year with heavy hearts for its Jan. 10 service.


Bill Thaxton was recognized as a church Deacon. Thaxton, who had been a member of the church most of his adult life, dearly wanted to become a Deacon. He had provided so much help to the church during the pandemic, particularly in handling all lawn maintenance to help the church save on the expense, and he had been so supportive of the contemporary band while he raised his daughters in the church. On Jan. 4, Session approved his request, not only for his past service, but also for his faithful, courageous example as he fought ALS.


At the same service, the Rev. Janet Tyson was recognized for her long service to FPC Monroe as a Parish Associate, Stephen Minister, advisor and friend. What was not public knowledge yet was Mrs. Tyson was suffering from the onset of a health issue that would force her retirement from the Presbytery.


Also in January, the new class of 2022 elders were seated on Session: Jennifer Benton, Chris Helms, Chad Nelms, Teresa Sand, and Emily Westover. The Pastor Nominating Committee began its work to find a permanent pastor.


For the next few months, the biggest decisions were how to safely conduct worship and balance the ability to present services. Services were combined initially in 2020, but then services alternated between contemporary and traditional for most of 2021.


In June, the Pastor Nominating Committee recommended Jason Hickman become FPC’s next pastor, with his first Sunday on July 11. The church held a reception thanking Pastor Bryant for her 21-month service under such strange and trying times.


Pastor Hickman and the Session conferred on how to bring back in-person worship service. The Fellowship Hall had been outfit with a stage that allowed services with better social distancing. At a congregational meeting, the desire was strong for one service after being locked out of live worship for so many months. So a schedule was set for one blended service, alternating between the Fellowship Hall and the Sanctuary, from Sept. 2021 to May 2022.


On Aug. 29, Dawn Broom worked her last Sunday as FPC-Monroe music director. Jordan Locke, who started as an organist/pianist while a student at Wingate, was named the new music director for a two-year term. Christian Education Director Renda Brinson, who had wished to retire at year’s end, agreed to serve out the school year and leave FPC-Monroe in June 2022.




The contemporary music program had to adjust quickly in March as seven-year leader Tim Trew resigned. Musicians Andrew Cole, Michael Hall, and Jeff Rogers worked to keep that mission intact while a replacement was found.


The music program took another hit as Jordan Locke resigned May 11 to play at Providence Baptist.


Meanwhile, worship was also migrating back to the Sanctuary. Members of the Property committee worked quickly to build a space in the choir loft to accommodate the praise band as well as the choir.


Rev. Hickman adjusted quickly to the call of FPC Monroe, performing six funerals in his first few months in the pulpit.


Pastor Hickman welcomed the help of Katie Hall, a lifelong FPC Monroe member who signed on as a worship assistant at the start of the year. Katie immediately connected with the church preschool to help set up a weekly chapel service for the children, and began coordinating communication and programming for youngsters at the church.


Hall’s presence came in handy when Pastor Hickman suffered a run of health issues that caused him to take short sabbaticals from the pulpit during the year. She delivered sermons and led worship with youthful energy until Pastor Hickman could recover.


God’s timing was particularly wonderful when Pastor Hickman greeted a new couple after a spring service. Al and Amy Cousins had visited FPC Monroe solely out of curiosity for a couple weeks, and Pastor Hickman mentioned our music program was in transition. Amy prodded Al to mention that he had led music at another church for more than a decade. Al was hired as music director, and his presence filled roles taken up previously by three people. His first Sunday was Sept. 25.


The congregation celebrated the life of Rev. Janet Tyson at her funeral on Dec. 19. Rev. Tyson ministered more than two decades, 18 years at FPC Monroe, and she was retired from an education career that included a stint as principal at Sun Valley High School.




FPC Monroe missions that stand out since 2004




In 2003, Sue Preslar and Lynda Keziah led the creation of a Community Jubilee to help reduce church building debt. In 2007, the annual pre-Thanksgiving Jubilee included an auction, a golf tournament, a quilt raffle, and a cookbook sale to accompany the vendor day and sale of homemade frozen entrees. In its first four years, the event had raised $81,000.


Jubilee remained as the main church fundraising event, drawing support from a variety of church committees. It remained a staple on the church calendar through 2022.


Eden Village


Across 2000-2001, FPC member and Realtor Cathy Price Helms, had gone to Harare, Zimbabwe, and returned wanting to start an orphanage. After a fundraising effort involving her home church back in Monroe, Cathy realized the need would require more help. She had learned that Susan and Kevin Fry had already been working to establish an orphanage in the Doma region of Zimbabwe, so a coalition was formed.


FPC Monroe members sponsored dozens of children from the village annually. In 2019, Tino arrived to Union County from the village to pursue an education at Wingate College. Members supported Tino and took joy in his growth over the next years, culminating with his graduation in 2023.


Habitat for Humanity


When FPC Monroe expanded its Fellowship Hall in the late 1990s, 15% of the project funding went to create a Benevolence Fund. A committee was formed to determine how to spend it. Committee member Sally Ormand said that Union County had no chapter for Habitat for Humanity, and the need was great. So the committee contacted neighboring churches and Habitat representatives from Charlotte to huddle on the issue.


She said 100 people showed up wanting to help, and the Habitat reps explained how to proceed on a chapter. Since then, FPC Monroe has been involved in nearly a home build annually.


Community Shelter of Union County


FPC Monroe has been a major supporter of Union County’s only full-time shelter and soup kitchen for single men, women and families.


Our church donated a wealth of time, treasure and expertise. At one point, the Community Shelter’s board included four FPC Monroe members: David Whitley, Donna Norwood, Lynda Keziah, and Jesse Milliken.


From the Norwood family, siblings Chuck and Donna have served meals, supported staff and helped raise funds at events with the Shelter and the church. Their father, Charles, served as a board chair and was a key speaker at fundraisers for the agency.


Lynda Keziah served several terms on the board and was a stalwart volunteer for the golf tournament and annual gala. Her father, Harry Gossett, was a key player in the Shelter’s start as a winter warming shelter. Lynda was key in introducing FPC member Jeff Rogers to Shelter management; he worked as its development director from 2019-2023.


Jesse Milliken has served as a board member and treasurer for years, and his wife, Denise, has led committees for fundraising events, putting a special touch annually on the Boots & Bow Ties gala. Jesse was key in helping Shelter CEO Kathy Bragg lead a $4 million capital campaign that launched a new campus in 2019.