WHO WE ARE
Thank you very much for taking a few moments
to learn a little about some of the exciting
worship, ministry, and mission opportunities
at First Presbyterian Church of Ocala!
With a rich and fruitful history (since 1857!)
and a hopeful and growing vision for our future,
we like to think of ourselves as a friendly,
caring, and mission-minded family of faith
that's small enough to know you
and large enough to serve you.
Should you have questions about FPC
or if we can be of pastoral help in any way,
please call on us.
As Presbyterians, we believe that God created the world
and is ultimately sovereign over all creation.
We believe that through human choice (Adam's, Eve's and all humans since)
we rebel against God's will and are in need of forgiveness, direction and re-direction;
That God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to set the example of the Christian life,
to give His own life as an atonement for sin, and to be resurrected and thus live again,
that all may accept the promise of a more abundant life on earth and eternal life when we die;
That God sends His Holy Spirit to comfort us when we are perplexed
and to perplex us when we become too comfortable in our faith; and
That the church is God's family on earth where we worship,
fellowship, grow, serve, help, and reach out to others in the Lord.
Our mission is to worship God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are called to serve and to demonstrate God's message of love to all.
First Presbyterian Church is a 900 member congregation;
a member of the National Society of Historic Places, having been established in 1857;
and belongs to the Presbytery of St. Augustine of PC(USA).
We are located in the heart of the historic district in Ocala, Florida.
Worship ranges from casual to traditional.
We follow a structure which calls us to worship; invites our praise; provides a special time for children;
challenges and comforts us with the Word read, preached and demonstrated through the sacraments;
sung through the anthems and hymns; and leads us in prayers of thanks and petition.
In 1857, only 37 years after Florida ceased to fly the flag of Spain,
the Rev. Joseph Brown headed a commission to organize
the First Presbyterian Church of Ocala. There were eleven charter members.
In 1885, 40 members purchased property and built a sanctuary
seating 300 on the corner of Fort King Street and Watula Avenue.
This building no longer stands, but the "manse" or pastor's home
built next door has been renovated into an office building.
In 1926, a visionary congregation of 239 purchased land on Third Street
for an inflated Florida Boom price of $40,000, and built a sanctuary seating 400.
The cornerstone was laid on Sunday, July 10, 1927,
and the building was formally dedicated on June 10, 1928.
STATEMENT OF FAITH
WHO WE ARE
CHOOSE A SUNDAY SERVICE
Find a Worship Service and experience our community at one of our Sunday services.
8:15 a.m. Traditional in the Sanctuary
9:30 a.m. Contemporary Worship in the Fellowship Hall
11:00 a.m. Traditional in the Sanctuary
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia M. Benz
We welcome our interim pastor—Cindy Benz!
The Interim Search Committee has completed its work and our Session has approved hiring the Rev. Dr. Cynthia M. Benz as our Interim Pastor. Dr. Benz is a PC(USA) Teaching Elder with extensive experience as an Interim Pastor. She possesses a natural, graceful approach to life and ministry. Cindy lives in South Jacksonville with her husband Steve Benz, the Transitional Executive Presbyter for the Presbytery of St. Augustine. They have two daughters, Julie, 37, who lives in California and Bethany, 34, who is the Pastor of Peace Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville. Cindy received her Master of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary and her Doctorate from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She has 16 years of ministerial experience—most of which has been spent helping churches move through the searching process as they sought new pastoral leadership.
Dr. Benz began her service among us on Monday, June 20, 2016. Her primary duties include preaching and providing pastoral care, but she also helps guide us during the selection of a PNC (Pastor Nominating Committee), help us gather information as we move forward in the discernment process in calling a new pastor and provide spiritual support and leadership among our church staff.
The Rev. Dr. Darren Bess
Pastor Darren, a native Floridian and life-long Presbyterian, was born and educated in Deland, where he served as an ordained elder, small group leader (adult Bible study), nominating committee chair, church school volunteer, liturgist, choir member, Vacation Bible School volunteer, praise team drummer and congregational care volunteer serving home communion and working in the Interfaith kitchen.
Pastor Darren received a nursing degree from Daytona Beach Community College, after which he served four years as a critical care registered nurse in Asheville, NC. He worked three years in staff development and nursing in Sanford, FL, before owning and operating a lawn care and irrigation business in Deland for four years. Pastor Darren received his Master of Divinity at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa and is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Pastoral Counseling.
Pastor Darren is married to his childhood sweetheart, Carol, and they have four children, Briley, Hayley and twins Chloe and Caleb.
One ministry, among many, which I’m currently involved and excited about, is supporting our Deacons as we continue to foster an environment of caring and service to others at First Presbyterian Church of Ocala. Elders and Deacons are assigned families within our church to contact a few times each year with a card or a phone call. We have found this supports people making connections, funneling pastoral concerns to the appropriate person(s) and provides an opportunity to offer care and or encouragement. As a pastor, it has always warmed my heart when I witness God’s people caring for one another. We are imperfects concerned for other imperfects - made perfect - by God’s grace in His only Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
I’m also excited to see our members' desire and appetite for the study and learning of God’s Word. We provide numerous opportunities for Christian Education throughout each week for children, youth, adults and those like me who are still struggling to grow up. Our classes range from introductory material concerning the Bible through advanced studies.
When I think about such things, it excites me to be part of a church, where as disciples of Jesus we seriously seek the understanding of God’s Word, and then perhaps more importantly, desire to apply God’s Word in our lives and in the lives of those around us. These are the beautiful moments, when as a pastor I see and experience even for myself lost people finding the Way and dead people coming alive.
LISTEN TO DARREN'S SERMONS!
David Bedenbaugh . director of music
My philosophy of music in worship is that music draws the soul to God, sharpens our spiritual senses, and prepares us to receive God’s Word. My personal goal is simply to be the best musician I can be, help others to do the same, and to genuinely worship God from my heart. I am happy doing this through whatever musical style or song choice best meets the needs and goals of the church and worship service. My approach in leading worship is to listen to the needs and goals of the congregation and to follow the direction of the pastor and worship committee.
My training in classical music began at Stetson University where I studied piano with Michael Rickman, voice with Craig Maddox, and conducting with Duncan Couch. I have served as a church musician for over a decade in Florida and Nashville, TN. In addition to classical studies I've completed a full length album of CCM songs for indie label Slingshot Records, and recently an album of worship songs written for our FPC congregation, recorded by Cross & Crowns, our contemporary service worship band.
David joined us at FPC in August of 2011.
Thomas Ingui . organist & pianist
A scholar with many interests, Thomas Ingui is in his fourth year of study at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, earning both a Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. For most of his life, Thomas has been involved with church music; since age eleven, he has held organist and choir director positions at various churches in Florida.
While his main focus is organ performance as a scholarship student of Dr. Boyd Jones, John E. and Aleise Price Professor of Organ at Stetson University, Thomas strives to pursue excellence in piano performance as well. His eleven years of piano study have led him to Dr. Michael Rickman, Steinway artist and piano professor at Stetson University. In recognition of his artistic and academic achievements, Thomas is the recipient of Stetson’s Duckwitz Talent Scholarship and Finsley Scholarship, and has been named a William & Nina Hollis Scholar.
Some hobbies he enjoys are competitive card/video games, mixology, cooking, and baking. He attributes his success in computer science and other liberal arts partly to his early study of music.
Scott Bourne . children's ministries director
Scott is very excited to have this opportunity to minister with the children of FPC and looks forward to seeing them grow and learn more about the mighty God that we serve. It's his desire for them to see Jesus come alive through Bible stories, activities and music, as well as learning to share His love with friends here and all around the world.
Scott is married to Dawn and have two grown children. He currently teaches guitar, chorus and band at Osceola Middle School. Scott and Dawn both grew up in the great state of Mississippi (Hattiesburg). He is also an ordained minister in the Baptist tradition.
Scott has a BA of Music in church music and is in the process of completing a MA of Music in music education.
Andrea . business & financial administrator
Heather Roberts . administrative assistant
Heather is responsible for the monthly newsletter The Spire; the weekly internet page Inspire.net; daily email "Thought for Today", administrative support for pastoral staff, program staff, Session members; church publications; forms; church mailings and various tasks as needed. Heather is accountable to the Business/Financial Administrator.
Heather attended FPC in Gainesville, Florida where she grew up, then FPC Ocala when her family moved to Ocala in the early 1970's. She returned to Ocala in 2002 and happily shares a cottage on one of the many lakes in The Forest.
M. Theodora Christopher . administrative secretary
Theo is responsible for website design, the weekly Sunday church bulletin and specialty bulletins (e.g. funerals and weddings). She also maintains the church member database, coordinates materials for the bi-monthly Inquirers' luncheon and assists the Business/Financial Administrator. She also assists the program and pastoral staff as needed.
Theodora Christopher hails from the Caribbean island of Montserrat, but lived in Laurelton, Queens, New York for over 25 years. She relocated to Ocala with her husband in 2004. Theo and her husband Alfred are members of Presbyterian Church at Marion Oaks.
Dana Rodgers & Evelyn Yorlano
. nursery attendants .
Dana has been with us for 15 years.
Evelyn has been with us for 13 years.
Dana Rodgers & Evelyn Yorlano
. nursery attendants .
Dana has been with us for 15 years.
Evelyn has been with us for 13 years.
Alan Wilson . kitchen manager
Alan joined the staff in 2013.
Danny Arango . sexton
Danny started as Sexton in June 2011.
Daniel Adkins . custodian
Daniel Adkins has been our custodian for many years.
Sam Petterson . youth & young adult
My name is Sam Pettersen. I've been married to my beautiful wife, Apryl, for three and half years.
We both love youth ministry so much that we got engaged at a youth lock-in, where she later got pied in the face. The video of it is on YouTube and it’s great.
I've been in youth ministry for almost 10 years and I can't think of a better job. I love teaching the Word, hanging out with students, and creating these ridiculous moments in students’ lives that they'll never forget. I'm also born and raised from Oklahoma and if you're wondering, no, I did not live in a teepee and ride a horse to school! When I'm not at youth, you can catch me binge-watching T.V. shows with my wife, playing board games, running, reading, or listening to podcasts.
My wife is the most amazing singer in the world (Sorry David). She's been singing all her life and was trained classically. She loves musicals and has performed in a bunch of them. My wife loves worship and it’s probably her favorite part of church. My wife is a Texan through and through, which means don't mess with her. Ha!
We have two shelties, Pippin and Penelope, and we are addicted to coffee. I'm talking coffee snobbery to the next level. We both love the outdoors and the ocean, and we love the people of this church. We're excited to be a part of this community and we can't wait to see what God is going to do next! —Sam
YOUTH // Church In the Wild
Sundays June 26, July 17, 24 & 31st 5-7 p.m.
Jervey Gantt Park
High School Montreat July 10-16
PRAYER SHAWL // Liz Diener-Dickmann
July 28 1:30pm
WeCARE // Sewing w/ Fran Gilchrist
July 25 9:30am
STRESS FREE BOOK CLUB // "The Girl You Left Behind" jojo moyes
August 23 1:30pm
Sunday Morning Bulletins
Follow our worship program each Sunday morning with us. Find meaningful liturgy, prayers for your personal devotions, and follow those listed in need of prayer.
Follow our weekly words to the congregation at FPC.
Included are thoughts from the Pastor's desk
as well as week to week notes from our program staff.
Words to lift your heart.
Encouraging instruction from God's Word.
Rev. Dr. Darren Bess
Sun 8am - 11am | Mon-Thurs 8:30am-4pm
COME CHECK OUT A BOOK
Keep up-to-date on our catalogue!
~ List of Books by ~
We've added some wonderful books to our shelves this past year:
We have works of fiction by
Beverly Lewis, Lauren Snelling, and Liz Higgs
and the DVD, "Courageous", just to name a few.
Suggestions for new books and DVDs are always welcome.
FPC has a well stocked library for your reading enjoyment.
Our library is a treasure of information and quiet coziness.
Come visit and read a bit. We have 3266 Books, DVDs, CDs in our library!
Our library is located behind the conference room and staff offices.