Clergy Corner

Sid Batts

 Dear Members and Friends of First Presbyterian,

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3)

For almost 18 years, it has been my great privilege to serve as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church. Believing the right time is upon us, on Monday evening I announced my retirement to the Session, effective November 1 of this year. I will work with staff and Session to determine my last October Sunday.

Of course, a decision like this comes with mixed feelings. The ministry has been my life calling. My family and I have been blessed by being a part of the noble purposes of Christ and the nurture of Christian communities. For almost two decades, First Presbyterian has been that place of purpose and community. For that and you, Cathy and I are enormously grateful. And as you would expect, this has not been an easy decision. It comes with a certain amount of real and anticipated grief because ending and leaving are never easy. Cathy and I covet your prayers as we seek to bring closure and start a new journey. 

There is work to be done between now and November. I have already begun this work with the Session and staff, mapping out transitional issues, seeking the Session’s wisdom in celebrating this era of our common ministry, and getting the process and pieces in place for an interim pastor and ultimately a new senior pastor. We will be aided in this process by Salem Presbytery. As the writer of Ecclesiastes points to, time and timing are part of God’s rhythm. I believe six months is the right time period for a healthy transition to take place. FPC is blessed with excellent congregational leadership and a smart, stable, and committed staff. You will hear more from the Session as we move forward.

You will also hear a lot more from me in the next six months. I am not yet a lame duck! But I want to assure you of First Presbyterian’s future. This is a strong, vibrant church that has made a significant difference in this part of God’s kingdom for almost 200 years. I am constantly reminded of this church’s reputation and how people in the Presbyterian world hold this congregation in such high esteem. Sometimes I stand in Fisher Park Circle looking upward at our Sanctuary and I can almost hear Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” playing in the background. Those words not only describe our architecture, they describe the strong faith of this congregation.  This vibrant faith will forge the future.

In gratitude,


Senior Pastor Sid Batts

Dear Friends,

It was a terrific sabbatical! It gave me time to read, think, grill, cook, eat, work on my golf game, travel, worship in other churches, ponder, pray, visit with some old friends, exercise, attend several conferences, and spend time with my family.

I am grateful to this congregation and our Session for seeing the worth of clergy sabbaticals. In essence, sabbaticals are about renewal. Thank you for this privilege.

 And, I am grateful to my colleagues. Our staff did not miss a beat.

I have returned to a renovation that is moving ahead full throttle. Big John was lifted out of the ground with thanks and celebration. And, as I write this, the sanctuary is full of scaffolding from floor to ceiling.

Some highlights from my sabbatical:

5 days of worship and prayer with the monks and students of St Tikon’s Orthodox Monastery and Seminary, part of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

2 church/clergy conferences: one on church staff management & development; the other a self and church assessment,  with an eye toward the future

My travels took me to San Francisco, the Monterey Peninsula, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Topsail Beach and Siler City.

I took a couple of golf lessons, played nearly 20 rounds played, including Pebble Beach and Spyglass on the Monterey Peninsula.

I visited with a former secretary from years ago, an early mentor, an old coach, and two good friends from previous days

I spend time and had fun with our immediate family (Meredith, Roland, Rory, Emily and Hector, Mama Lucy) and with extended family.

I enjoyed going to the grocery store in the middle of the day and grilling out for dinner.

I enjoyed a long reading list! (see?)


It is good to be back. Though I enjoyed the experience of worshipping in other churches, I missed “my community” on Sunday mornings.

We have a lot to do (and be) in the name of Christ. Let’s get busy.






P.S. Send me an email, note or voicemail to: “If I could ask God one question…”  What’s yours? I’m starting a sermon series in September with your questions.




Sabbatical Reading List


The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhig


Falling Upward: A Spiritually for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr


Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey Into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander


The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor


Spiritual Disciple Handbook: Practices that Transform Us by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun


A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly


Pop Goes the Culture: Should the Church Engage Pop Culture by Tim Stevens


Power Questions: Build Relationship, Win New Business and Influence Others by Andrew Sobel & Jerold Panas


The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community by Jesse Rice


Follow You Follow Me: Why Social Networking is Essential to Ministry by John Voelz

About Clergy Corner

Clergy Corner also appears in our printed newsletter, FPC News.

Just a Thought

Senior Pastor Sid Batts' morning radio messages, Just a Thought, are available via e-mail subscription, and at our archives. Subscribe here.