First Presbyterian seeks to know itself & its community

Editor: Act Locally Waco is sharing a series of blog posts — Faith Doing Good — about local religious groups working in the community. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.

By Ashley Kim

The Rev. Dr. Leslie King, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, explains how the church and the congregation is “doing good” in the city of Waco, which involves building relationships between the church and everything surrounding it.

“I think one of the things that we do is we really try to know ourselves,” King said. “First Presbyterian Church tries to honor all the churches that we’re in relationship with, but we try to be uniquely who we are. And one of the things that we’re pretty good at is inclusion and just sort of a radical hospitality.”

Rev. Dr. Leslie King

According to the First Presbyterian Church website, their mission is to believe deeply that people of faith are called to serve the wider community and neighbors, and they engage in this in several ways. Each Sunday, they begin worship by saying, “Welcome home, children of God.” They hope to live more fully into all that this simple but profound sentence means and calls them to do.

King believes part of “doing good” consists of being a person or a church that gives and receives. The church is also partnered with different entities, agencies, and projects that are around; entities like Caritas, The Cove, Compassion Ministries, and World Hunger Relief.

“I think the verb ‘doing’ would really have us emphasize sort of an old paradigm of mission, which is where we go out and do something for someone else that makes their lives better,” King said. “But of course, the emerging understanding is really, how is the church in relationship with the world around us. Do we know names and do people know our names and are we just being together? And I think that has a lot to do with the common good.”

First Presbyterian members decided to do worship this year in person and were intentional about an online platform that allowed for people to interact. While videoing services would have provided a more professional or polished look, they believed that one of the big components of worship is that people get to see and interact with each other. 

“The first thing you have to do is really know yourself and to say this is who we are, and this is what we’re offering,” King said. “The Presbyterian faith also really values questions, and so we’re less concerned about telling people what to think and more interested in learning what people are wondering about. And helping people to do what people do really well, which is to, in the presence of God, make meaning in their life. And I think we do a decent job of that.”

First Presbyterian is involved in actively creating opportunities for the community and the congregation. Whether it be raising money for rent assistance for those impacted by COVID-19, providing outlets for mental health, distributing meals, partnering with organizations, or making their worship style more inclusive, First Presbyterian has done a lot for their community.

“When we do something for ourselves, we’re kind of thinking how we can also be doing something for the community at the same time,” King said.

Ashley Kim, a sophomore Baylor student from Houston, is majoring in marketing with a minor in advertising.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].