MOUNT HOLLY – Having the occasional light-hearted service is one of the creative aspects of worship the Rev. Janet DeWater brings to her congregation.
The pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Mount Holly came to eastern Gaston County in June 2017 after spending time in the Seattle suburbs of Everett and Bellevue, Wash. She appreciates the friendliness of the church and has started a series on controversial church-related topics.
Mountain Island Monitor: Your online bio mentions your affinity for chocolate. Do you keep any in your office, and what kind?
Janet DeWater: Haha absolutely! Dark chocolate covered almonds which I consider, technically, to be a health food! When my grown son visits, he always checks my second drawer knowing that he will find it there.
MIM: In what ways to do make your services creative?
JD: A tradition that I brought with me to Mount Holly is Holy Humor Sunday, which we celebrate on the Sunday following Easter. It is based on "a tradition rooted in the musings of early church theologians that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead." The congregation is invited to wear bright clothing, we sing hymns of joy and laughter, and are generally light-hearted in our liturgy for the day.
Our congregation also enjoys what has affectionately been dubbed, "Donut Sunday," when occasionally throughout the year we worship in the Fellowship Hall around tables with donuts and coffee.
Our services always follow an order of worship that includes a Call to Worship, Prayer of Confession, Declaration of Pardon, scripture, hymns/songs, sermon, doxology, charge and benediction.
MIM: What do you believe is the best part of your job?
JD: It is a great joy to work with the members of my congregation toward vitality in worship, mission and faithfulness. To preside at the sacrament of baptism is a part of my calling that is like no other. And to walk with people through the achingly difficult times in their lives is a sacred and deeply meaningful part of what I am privileged to do.
MIM: What is the most difficult part of your job?
JD: The part that can be the most difficult is that part that makes my job most meaningful. Crises come up at any time of the day or night and often when I am the most busy with the ongoing tasks of ministry. But going off to the hospital or taking a phone call in the middle of whatever else is going on, reminds me time and time again of what is truly important, and all else can wait.
MIM: What are some memories involving your church that stick out to you?
JD: The first thing that comes to my mind is the incredible friendliness of the members of First Presbyterian. They wrapped my family in love and welcome when we first arrived in Mount Holly, and they do the same among those who visit our worship service on a Sunday morning.
Another wonderful memory is the way our children participate in worship. They lead the "Passing of the Peace" each Sunday, and are regularly called upon to lead the Call to worship, read scripture, light the Christ Candle and assist with the offering. They do a great job passing out bulletins as well!
MIM: What are some new things going on in the church?
JD: First Presbyterian Church was founded in 1891, and the first worship service held in our current sanctuary was in 1928. It is absolutely beautiful, but not easily navigable for folks with mobility challenges. We are very excited to be finishing up a project of installing an interior lift and an accessible restroom.
We hold an occasional class series called Conversations in which we take on topics of faith and the world that can be controversial, but in which we seek understanding through a process of "mutual invitation" and respectful sharing.