We believe in the living God. We believe it is central to our lives to gather weekly to connect with our creator, to be reminded of whose we are, to sense God’s nearness, to challenge our minds, to encourage our souls, and to lift our spirits in dispiriting times.
While we are progressive theologically and socially, our worship is traditional. It draws upon the rich tradition of church music through the centuries, yet is focused on the issues of today. It has a formal quality since we take our calling seriously, yet worship is also friendly and winsome. Normally we do not have electric guitars, PowerPoint sermons or projection screens in our sanctuary. We are traditional in using the Bible as the basis of our worship. We observe the sacraments of baptism and communion.
Sunday Morning Services
Our Sunday morning services are held at 8:30 and 10:45 every Sunday from mid-September through the third week in June.
Communion is celebrated every week at the 8:30 service. This service is intimate and simplified, with one hymn, a soloist, and we come forward and encircle the Communion table to receive The Lord’s Supper by intinction, a method of dipping the bread into the juice. A gluten-free wafer option is available. The service is usually less than an hour in length and has more piano music.
This service features at least three hymns, the Chancel Choir, Bell Choir, more organ, and celebrates Communion on the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month. Communion is received by intinction. A gluten-free wafer option is available. Most special events, like baptisms, mission trip commissioning, ordination of officers, are included in this service.
Sunday morning schedule:
(September 18, 2016 – June 18, 2017)
- 8:15 – 12:00, Nursery is open
- 8:30 – 9:15, Worship service with communion in Sanctuary
- 9:15 – 9:30, Fellowship time in Assembly Hall
- 9:30 – 10:30, Education Classes for all ages in Education Building
- 9:45 – 10:30, Choir Rehearsal in Sanctuary
- 10:45 – 11:55, Worship service in Sanctuary
- 11:55 and following Fellowship time in Assembly Hall
- From the fourth Sunday in June till mid-September there is one service at 9:30 am on Sundays with communion celebrated every Sunday by intinction, with the gluten-free wafer option available.
On the first Sunday in February, July, August and September, we join with other FOCUS Congregations for joint worship services with guest preachers, massed choirs and collective fellowship. These services rotate from church to church. You can check the location for summer FOCUS services in the newsletter.
The service is recorded every Sunday directly onto compact disc (CD) and sent to homebound members and out of town folks. So if you miss a service and would like a recording on CD, contact the church office to receive a copy in the mail.
Music is a bountiful and varied component of the worship experience at First Presbyterian. The renowned choir, under the direction of Dr. Michael Lister, has mastered a repertoire of ancient and modern pieces that enrich the worship experience.
The First Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir provides music throughout the year in our Sunday services. The choir, which has been an institution of the church from its earliest years, continues to enrich the services with music of varying styles and themes.
The choir, soloists, and other musicians also provide music for a variety of special services throughout the year. Christmas Eve is also a very special service in the community of First Presbyterian Church. Preceded by an extended prelude that features vocalists and instrumentalists from the church, the Christmas Eve service unfolds as a series of Lessons and Carols: scripture readings, special music from the choir, and congregational carol singing.
Our Good Friday services have offered more somber musical fare interspersed with special readings and have included an incorporation of a variety of musical elements. Recent Good Friday services have included Bach’s cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Sagen, Charles Gounod’s Seven Last Words of Christ, and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. For Lent in 2016, First Presbyterian Church also offered special Taizé services on Wednesday evenings, led by soloists and piano in the more simplistic, meditative style of the ecumenical monastic community in Burgundy, France.
The Chancel Choir rehearses Thursday evenings at 7:30 pm and is open to anyone who would like to join in making a joyful noise!
Our four soloists are very active in our worship services. In addition to providing leadership with the Chancel Choir, they lead the congregation in worship during portions of our 8:30 and 10:45 services as well as through the summer months. Soprano Deborah Rocco, alto Fiona McKinney, tenor Alexander Turpin, and bass Christopher Trombley are a vital part of the musical life of the church. They are also featured regularly in special services and musical events throughout the year.
Trevor Kahlbaugh has served as organist of First Presbyterian Church since 2015 and continues to offer exceptional organ preludes and postludes, rousing hymn renditions for congregational singing, and stirring accompaniments for our Chancel Choir, soloists, and guest performers.
The First Presbyterian Bell Choir provides music regularly in services throughout the year. Under the creative and energetic direction of Jack Holmes, who also composes and arranges many of the selections played by the ensemble, the Bell Choir received an upgrade in 2013 with a new set of hand bells.
FIRST FRIDAYS AT FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Music at First Presbyterian church has always held a central importance in worship services and in the life of the congregation. The musicians of First Presbyterian offer a variety of music in concerts and other events throughout the year, the majority of these events taking place as part of the First Friday concert series and art exhibitions.
The First Friday Concert Series began in 2012 with a series of concerts and art shows that take place on the first Friday of every month, October through June, in correspondence with the First Friday events on Lark Street and throughout Albany. This series has featured performance by the Chancel Choir, Bell Choir, soloists, and instrumentalists of First Presbyterian Church and has offered a platform for guest artists from the Capital Region and beyond. Recent highlights from this series include an Inaugural Organ Recital by organist Trevor Kahlbaugh during his first months at the church. The First Friday concerts also have annual featured performances of classical works for the Chancel Choir, accompanied by chamber orchestra: Vivaldi’s Gloria, December 2014 and Mozart’s Dominican Vespers, December 2015.
Our Art Gallery, directed by David Hinchen, has featured numerous artists from the Capital Region and surrounding areas.
Throughout the year, FPC’s Choir and organ are augmented by instrumental accompanists, including area performers as well as instrumentalists that are part of the church. Guest artists are featured in several services a year, providing music for the service as well as accompanying the choir.
Regular guests include our Ensemble-in- Residence Zephyr Winds, a woodwind quintet. This ensemble performs regularly throughout the year in services and also is featured annually in our First Friday series.
The First Presbyterian children and youth participate regularly in music and worship throughout the season. They have led entire worship services, providing all of the special music, led congregational singing, and provided instrumental music for the services. The Youth Choir participates in worship services throughout the year as well.
The Youth Choir works every year on a major musical project, directed by Christy D’Ambrosio, with music direction by Michael Lister, choreography by Amy Scarlett, assistant direction from Barbara Speck, and a large number of other helpers. These productions focus on specific themes that allow the youth to explore issues of faith, community, and service.
Past musical presentations from the youth include The Giving Tree (2011), Godspell (2012), The Prince of Egypt (2013), The Lion King (2014), and, most recently, The Gospel According to the Beatles (2015). All of these musicals were adapted or scripted by Youth Director Christy D’Ambrosio.
Communion and Baptism
What is the meaning of Communion for Presbyterians?
Communion, also known as “The Lord’s Supper” and “The Eucharist,” is one of two sacraments observed by First Pres (the other is baptism). In this sacrament, the bread and juice, the words and actions make the promises of God visible and concrete. Christ is especially present in the gathered church.
At the Lord’s Table, the Church is
- renewed and empowered by the memory of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and promise to return;
- sustained by Christ’s pledge of undying love and continuing presence with God’s people;
- sealed in God’s covenant of grace through partaking of Christ’s self-offering.
As the people of God bless and thank God, remembering Jesus Christ the Son, they call upon the Holy Spirit through communion to:
- lift them into Christ’s presence;
- bind them with Christ and with one another;
- unite them in communion with all the faithful in heaven and on earth;
- nourish them with Christ’s body and blood that they may mature into the fullness of Christ;
- keep them faithful as Christ’s body, loving and serving God, one another, and their neighbors in the world
Who may participate in the Sacrament of The Lord’s Supper?
The invitation to the Lord’s Supper is extended to all, remembering that access to the Table is not a right conferred upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in faith, repentance, and love. Even one who doubts or whose trust is wavering may come to the Table in order to be assured of God’s love and grace in Christ Jesus. Not baptized, yet feel the Spirit moving you to partake of communion? Please do, and prayerfully consider that the Spirit may be calling you to also be baptized and join the church. No one shall be excluded because of race, sex, age, economic status, social class, handicapping condition, difference of culture or language, or any barrier created by human injustice. Coming to the Lord’s Table, the faithful are actively to seek reconciliation in every instance of conflict or division between them and their neighbors.
When is The Lord’s Supper celebrated at First Pres?
- At the 8:30 am worship service, every Sunday.
- At the 10:45 am worship service, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays of the month.
- At the 9:30 am summer worship service, every Sunday.
Communion is served by intinction meaning people are invited to tear off a piece of bread from the loaf (or take a piece of pita bread) and dip it into the cup of grape juice and then eat it. A gluten-free wafer option is available. At the 8:30 service, people are invited to join in a circle around the communion table for that part of the worship service, and the bread and juice are brought to them in the circle. At the 10:45 (and 9:30) service, people are invited to come forward via the center aisle to the communion servers at the front of the sanctuary, receive the bread and juice, and move back to their seats by the side aisles.
For more information on communion.
What is the Meaning of Baptism for Presbyterians?
Baptism is one of two sacraments observed by First Pres. (the other is communion). For both children and adults, baptism is the sign and seal that God loves us long before we can love God. Baptism is a proclamation and experience of the fact that we are who we are because God has first chosen us and loved us and called us into God’s kingdom.
To the question, “Who am I?” baptism responds, “I am the one who is called, washed, named, promised, and commissioned” by God through Christ. Each time an infant is baptized, we are reminded that God’s love claims people before they are able to respond in faith. Regardless of the age, every baptism marks the beginning of new life through Jesus Christ.
Baptism does not change our relationship with God. Rather it recognizes and proclaims what is already a fact – we are God’s children. It is to be motivated neither by superstition nor social custom but by faith. It is not a private act of pastor and family, but a public act of the congregation who make promises to the person baptized. Therefore, it is administered in the presence of the worshipping congregation, except in very special cases.
Baptism unites the people of God with each other and with the church of every time and place. Barriers of race, gender, status, and age are to be transcended. Barriers of nationality, history, and practice are to be overcome. There is no need to be re-baptized in the Presbyterian Church.
How do I get started planning a baptism at First Pres?
If you seek to baptize a child, first become a member of First Pres: In order for baptism to have integrity, only parents committed to nurturing their children within the household of faith should have their children baptized. Ordinarily, one or both parents shall be active members of First Pres. Likewise, the baptism of an adult signifies a commitment to the faith and a resolve to live by faith in Christ, in the First Pres community. In adult baptism the truth again is displayed that our salvation is by grace through faith not by any acts or good deeds done by the baptized. Adults are enrolled as active members. Children baptized will have the chance to confirm the answers given on their behalf by their parents/guardians. This “confirmation” happens around 9th grade at First Pres.
To schedule a baptism or learn more about baptism, speak with one of the Co-Pastors.
For more information about baptism.
Weddings and Funerals
Since the wedding service is an act of Christian worship, all aspects including music and decoration, are part of this act of worship. Thus primary focus is to be on God’s blessing of the covenant being made. All elements—music, reading, etc.—must be appropriate to the occasion and approved by the presiding pastor and/or organist.
Who can be married at First Presbyterian?
In order to schedule a wedding at First Presbyterian, one of the participants must be a “member.” For wedding purposes “members” are defined as:
- those currently on the church’s active membership roll
- children, grandchildren or parents of active members
- staff of the church and their children
An exception to non-member weddings is when one of the participants is an active member of another Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation whose pastor should contact that Co-Pastors of First Presbyterian with the details of the request.
What is the first step?
All arrangements for weddings are made through Administrative Assistant Sue Bartle. The first step (before commitments for receptions, etc.) is to reserve a date and time for the wedding on the church calendar. When you contact Sue, she’ll also send you Marriage Service Guidelines, a booklet which will guide you through the process of holding your wedding service at First Pres.
In the Presbyterian Church (USA), we refer to a Funeral or Memorial Service as a Service of Witness to the Resurrection. Except for compelling reasons, the Service of Witness to the Resurrection for a First Pres member should be held in the Sanctuary since it is an act of Christian worship.
Despite the name given to the service, it has a two-fold purpose. First we lift up the good news of the Christian faith. We praise and thank God for the knowledge that in life, as in death, we are in God’s hands. Second, we remember the person who has died, and we then offer our thanks to God for him or her as we commend our loved one into God’s eternal care. Members of the family are invited to participate in the service if that is their desire. Contact Pastor Glenn to discuss funeral needs.
The four weeks that lead up to Christmas Day are known in the church as the season of Advent. It is a time of hope and expectation as we await the Christ-child to once again be born in our midst. This expectation reaches its zenith on Christmas Eve, and so we gather for worship this day at 7:30 pm, though there is usually an extended prelude of outstanding music that begins around 7:00 pm. In this service we recall the predictions about his birth that were made by the prophets of old, and we re-tell the story of what happened just before his birth in Bethlehem, we rejoice at his birth, and we tell the story of what happened shortly after his birth. The service is patterned after the Service of Lessons and Carols made famous by the service in King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England. Each part of the story from scripture is followed by a carol sung by the congregation or an anthem sung by the choir. The sanctuary is full of poinsettias and the Chrismon tree is alight.
There is no moment in the year quite like singing “Silent Night” while everyone holds a candle. Childcare is available during this service.
“To you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) We celebrate the birth of our savior with worship at 11 am. This is a come-as-you-are service, even if you are still in your footie- pajamas! This service is loaded with Christmas carols, and the sermon is usually a story. Come and rejoice at the side of the newborn king.
Lenten mid-week Taizé Worship
The six weeks that lead up to Easter are known in the church as Lent. It is a time to make an extra effort to attend to one’s spiritual life, to examine one’s life and how it is being lived. This is to prepare for the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. As part of our season of repentance and preparation, you are encouraged to attend the special Taizé services held on Wednesdays in Lent. The services begin at 6 pm and end at 6:45 and are followed by a light supper in the Rose Room. What is Taizé styled worship? This service is patterned after worship in the ecumenical community of Taizé. Their sung and silent participatory prayer services are designed for contemplation through music, song and silence. The brothers of Taizé explain, “Short chants, repeated again and again, give it a meditative character. Using just a few words, they express a basic reality of faith, quickly grasped by the mind. As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates the whole being.” Scripture is read slowly, candles are to enhance contemplative worship. The different tempo of the Taizé service encourages us to break away from the hurried sense of our lives and breathe in the presence of Christ and community.
Maundy Thursday Worship
As part of our observance of the events of Holy Week, we gather for worship on Thursday at 7:30 pm, the day on which Jesus told his followers to remember him in the bread and cup. It is on this night that he is betrayed by one of his followers, deserted by the rest, and arrested by Roman soldiers. Recalling these events makes this service one of the most moving experiences of the church year. We first experience the wonderful intimacy of The Lord’s Supper; we then feel the opposite as our Lord is arrested and taken away from us. As the story of the desertion is told, the lights are dimmed and candles snuffed. We all depart in contemplative silence.
This is the day our Lenten observance has feared would come true. Our Lord, the one we’ve been following, has been killed on a cross. This solemn day is marked with worship at 7:30 pm. We hear the story of Jesus’ murder as told in scripture and in music. The format for this service varies from year to year, but it is always meaningful, humbling and moving for those who attend.