As First Pres member Freda Gardner has said on more than one occasion, “Everything the church does, teaches.” Worship shows the world what we value. Helping the poor teaches our children what we value. From how we talk over coffee to the Sunday sermon, everything we do has an education component. On Sunday mornings during the school year (September to June), from 9:30 to 10:30 am, Christian Education is offered for all ages at First Presbyterian. There are also groups that meet during the week.
Education Classes for kindergarten through 5th graders are held in The Upper Rooms on the third floor of the education building. The children are taught using the “rotation model” which mean they will explore a particular Bible story for a few weeks rotating to different workshops.
After meeting in the Oasis (the center of the third floor, The Upper Rooms) for a gathering time each Sunday at 9:30, their “shepherd” takes the children to the workshop assigned for that particular Sunday to explore a Biblical story in various ways. Workshops include:
- Capernaum Café—Cooking Workshop
- Galilee Gallery—Art Workshop
- Jericho Theater—Audio/Visual Workshop
- Levi’s Lab—Science Workshop
- Memory on the Mount—Computer Workshop
- Sinai Stage—Drama/Storytelling Workshop
- Tower of Scrabble—Games/Puzzles Workshop
The Rotation Model provides opportunities to explore each topic through drama, science, computers, music, dance, cooking and art projects. An added bonus—adults teach for two or three Sundays drawing upon their individual skills and interests.
FPC’S YOUTH PROGRAM IS MULTI-FACETED AND DIVERSE
Join us for:
- Christian Education
- Community Service
- Spiritual Retreats
- Global Activism
Classes for Middle School and High School are held Sunday mornings 9:30-10:30.
In the 6th – 8th Grade Class, we combine faith, fun, fellowship and food, creating a safe space for tweens and early teens to ask questions and share thoughts and feelings. Using our denomination’s “Faith Questions” curriculum and other resources, we encourage young people to discover more about themselves, including their values, beliefs and talents. We also explore our faith tradition and the ways in which it informs our interactions with the larger world. Past topics have included Who Am I?, Decision Making, Bullying, Prejudice, Prayer, Justice, and Hunger. Bible study and discussion are supplemented with film and video clips, games and other activities, including a Hunger Awareness Breakfast. We also make time each week for a little socializing and snacking!
The High School CE Class explores some unusual topics. The last several curriculum years were entitled, Race & Discrimination, Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll, Coexistence, School Violence and Bullying. Weekly lesson plans include documentaries (Let’s Talk about Sex, The Truth About Drugs, Bowling for Columbine), speakers from community groups (Planned Parenthood, Action Based Change, Children at the Well), and text-based materials from a wide variety of print and on-line sources (Our Whole Lives, The Thoughtful Christian, National Institutes of Health).
The Youth have attended work camps in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Recently, the youth hosted a Group Work Camp program in Albany and acted as administrators for the camp. During that week 400 volunteers from congregations all over the country were housed at Myers Middle School and spent the week painting and doing repair and construction work throughout the City of Albany. The success of that project and the overwhelming need in our community dictated the launch of the Home Repair Project, which continues to address the needs of low income, disabled, and elderly residents in our community. Additionally, the youth collect gifts for the Northern Rivers and Parsons Community every Christmas, and have done work in Schoharie to address flood relief, walked in the annual CROP walk, and volunteer for a wide variety of other services projects.
The Youth regularly take part in worship services. The two major opportunities include the youth usher team and the Youth Service, which often takes place on Mother’s Day Sunday. The youth choose a topic, create and execute the entire service, prelude to postlude.
The youth have traveled around the country and the world to participate in a variety of retreats:
- Youth Triennium, Purdue University, Indiana 2010, 2013 and 2016
- Guatemala 2012 and 2014
- Taize, France 2014
- Montreat, North Carolina 2015
These events give the youth an opportunity to meet other young people for fellowship, worship and recreation, as well as encounter God and deepen their faith.
In addition to the trips to Guatemala and Taize, France, the youth attend the annual NYS Council of Churches UN Leadership Seminar. This trip includes a tour of the UN and seminars on topics as diverse as: Child Soldiers, Human Trafficking, Climate Change and Environmental Responsibility, Children Enslaved in Agriculture & Manufacturing Practices, War Abroad & Violence at Home, Gender Justice and Race & Discrimination in the 21st Century. Heady discussions for adolescents, but First Pres believes that raising awareness of these issues offers a greater understanding of the human condition and appreciation for our blessings at home.
The Youth present an annual musical production. Past productions have included Godspell and Godspell Junior, The Prince of Egypt, an adaptation of The Lion King, and original musical productions created just for, and sometimes by, the youth themselves: Roar of the Devils; the Small Voice of God, The Giving Tree, The Gospel According to the Beatles, and most recently a rap/hip hop musical entitled Speak Loud, Speak Proud.
Generally the cast includes Junior and Senior highs, but can also include elementary school age children, and range in size from 10 to 24. The pit band or orchestra has grown over the years and currently includes about a dozen or more youth, college age, and adults from the congregation and community.
In addition to everything else, sometimes we just have some fun and fellowship. The youth enjoy an annual ski trip to Vermont, lock-ins, dinners out, movie events, swim parties, rock climbing, holiday parties and Broadway shows!
The Adult Education Class gathers at 9:30 on Sundays between September and June in the Rose Room. The topics for the class vary widely, and are often led by Pastor Glenn who has oversight of the class. Sometimes other church members or special guests lead the class. There are seasonal class topics, like an Advent or Christmas theme in December or a Lenten them during the weeks prior to Easter.
Some of the topics have included:
- Gospel of Luke—reading and reflecting on the lesser known portions
- Global Climate Change
- Prayer in many forms
- The Occupy Movement
- Prosperity Gospel
- Gun Violence
- Racism and White Privilege
- Presbyterian history
- What was life like in first century Palestine?
- Islam: Shiites and Sunnis
- The writings of Frederick Buechner
- Restorative Justice
- How white was Jesus? and more.
There are separate classes for those who wish to learn more before deciding to join First Pres. Pastor Miriam leads these classes. Called Inquirer Classes, you could call these classes “First Pres 101” where a broad introduction to our faith and practice is given and all questions are answered. The next set of classes will be held in February or March.
Small Groups at First Pres are intentional face-to-face gatherings of 10 or fewer people on a regular time schedule with the common purpose of building relationships with each other and God. These groups covenant/agree to meet usually twice a month for sharing, study and prayer. Deep relationships develop, and faith is deepened. The number of groups and their meeting times can vary—currently we have seven groups. We always encourage the formation of new Small Groups for Spiritual Growth.
- Bible Guys—Two men’s groups which meet once a week; one group at 9:00 am on Tuesday and the other group at 7:00 am on Thursdays
- Dads’ Small Group—a group of dads of younger children who gather twice a month in the evening
- Small Group B—a group of women who meet two times a month in the evening
- Small Group B 3—a group of moms who meet two times a month in the evening
- Covenant Group—a group of “senior” women who meet two times a month during the day
- Over the River Group—a group of women who live on the east side of the Hudson and gather 2 times a month during the day