I have been serving in United Methodist pastoral ministry since the fall of 1979. In every appointment, one of the delightful privileges of ministry is inviting, teaching, and welcoming new members into the congregation. Engaging the ´explorer´ and listening to (and attempting to answer) their questions about faith, the church, and the congregation is one of the highlights of ministry for me. In our ´membership exploration class´ this past Sunday, one participant posed two questions; 1) What is the purpose of ´the church?´ and 2) What is the purpose of membership? I decided that I would respond in this written forum so that we ALL can consider both the question and my response. It will be a two-part written response.
Regarding the ´purpose´ of the church … my first inclination is to quote the Book of Discipline that states; The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs. (Par. 120)
The two passages of scripture that I believe support our mission are both from the Gospel according to Matthew. He quotes Jesus, responding to a question about ´which is the greatest commandment; "You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole being, and with your whole mind. AND … you must love your neighbor as you love yourself." (22:37 – 39) The other passage is from 28: 19, in which Jesus gives a directive for ministry; "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
The practical interpretation of both scripture and the Book of Discipline is that the church is a community of faith that focuses on the spiritual development of people by:
• The worship of God and the proclamation of the Good News,
• Inviting persons to commit their lives to God through making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and symbolizing that new life in Christ through baptism,
• Nurturing persons to grow in their understanding of faith by participating in worship, celebrating the sacraments of baptism and communion as a means of grace offered, learning and practicing spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer, giving of time, talents or treasures, and developing relationships with other Christians in community so that we grow in grace through mutual care and spiritual accountability.
• And finally – sending persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate and caring presence, working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel. (Par. 122) So – the church is for me … AND my sisters and brothers in the faith as we grow together in understanding God´s grace and how God´s call in our lives translates into service in our world. Fundamentally – the church exists both for my good – and the greater good. Our collective ministry reaches outward to benefit all people who are not here – yet!
The reality is that as a community of faith – we can do far more together than any of us can do on our own.
But remember … the church is people! There is no perfect church. Just as people have flaws … churches do, too! Churches are an imperfect representation of the love and grace of God in our world. When people unite to become the best church possible … using their gifts and graces for the common good … THEN the church does transform the world.
• January 24 - 25 — Women´s Retreat
• January 26, 12:15 pm — Chili Cookoff
• January 30, 9:00 am — Fixin´ ´n´ Fellowship
• January 31, 6:00 pm — Young Families Movie Night
• February 5, 6:00 pm — Taizé Sung Prayers
• February 9 — Coffee Can Offering
• February 11, 7:00 pm — Infertility Support Group
• February 14, 6:30 pm — Adoption Hoe Down
• February 15, 6:00 pm — Jazz Vespers: Tyler Vander Maas Sax Quartet
• February 19, 9:00 am — Caring Connection
• February 21 - March 5 — Celebration of the Arts
• February 21, 7:00 pm — Artists´ Reception
• February 22, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm — Art Gallery Opening Day
• February 23, 9:30 am — Celebration Gallery Walk
• February 23, 4:00 pm — Early Music Michigan Concert
• February 26, 12:00 pm — Celebration Gallery Walk
• March 2, 11:00 am — Celebration Sunday
• March 5, 6:00 pm — Ash Wednesday Service
• March 9 — Coffee Can Offering
• March 9, 12:15 pm — All-Church Birthday Dinner
• March 15, 6:00 pm — Jazz Vespers: The Jim Cooper Quartet
SUNDAYS 9:15 AM
• Infant Nursery — 0-23 months Room 107
• Toddler Nursery — 2 yr. olds - young 3´s Room 106
• Children & Worship (toilet trained) — Older 3´s – Pre K Room 204/201
9:15 AM: Faith Travelers, Junior High, and Senior High begin in worship with their families and are then dismissed to their classes. (Children of all ages are welcome to remain in worship if their families so desire.)
• Faith Travelers — K-6th grade Church 3rd Floor
• Junior High — 7-8th grade The Vine South
• Senior High — 9-12th grade The Vine North
• Infant Nursery — 0-23 months Room 107
• Toddler Nursery — 2-3 years Room 106
• One Room Schoolhouse — 4 years-Grade 2 Room 202 (One Room Schoolhouse children begin in worship with their parents. Following the Children´s Moments, they are dismissed to class.)
**Worship bags and Children´s Pages are available in the narthex with activities that allow for children to participate in worship at their own level.**
Please contact Annette Erbes at 451.2879 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
WEATHER POLICY Generally, when Grand Rapids Public Schools close due to weather the First Church offices will be closed and church events will be cancelled. Decisions regarding closing on Sunday morning will be made by 7:00 am and on Sunday afternoon by 3:00 pm. Television stations, the church website, facebook, and church phone will be updated as soon as possible. In all instances when weather is threatening, church members should:
1. Check channels 8 or 13 on air or online.
2. For automatic updates, sign up for text alerts from channel 8 at www.woodtv.com/more/text-alerts or 13 at www.wzzm13.com/news/mobile/text/
3. Call Church
4. Check church website www.grandrapidsfumc.org or facebook page.
5. Check with staff person in charge of your activity We encourage everyone to avoid risk and stay home if weather conditions in your area are unsafe.
FAITH TRAVELERS Sunday, January 26 will begin a new rotation for Faith Travelers as we explore The Beatitudes from the book of Matthew. These verses come to us through Jesus´ Sermon on the Mount as he was teaching his followers about living out "Be-Attitudes" of compassion and humility. The word beatitude means "blessing, happy, and fortunate" and through active lessons (puppets, games, and clay sculpting!), we will explore the ways that God has already blessed us. On January 26 students in Grades K-4 will start with Faith Travelers Fellowship Time to choose a new mission offering focus and celebrate both January and February birthdays. We hope to see you on the third floor!
CHILI COOK-OFF Join us Sunday, January 26 at 12:15 pm for a cook-off to find the best chili at First Church. Cost is $5.00 and will be donated to the ministry groups that prepare the chili. Don´t miss your chance to sample and vote for the Best FUMC Chili!
JFON 10 YEAR CELEBRATION Join Justice for Our Neighbors on Friday, February 7 at 6:30 pm. This celebration will highlight volunteer service and the positive impacts our ministry has had for immigrants in the community and throughout the West Michigan Conference. The evening will include live music, a meal featuring ethnic fare from regions we serve, and presentations by UMC leadership – including Bishop Deborah Kiesey and District Superintendent Bill Haggard. The event includes dinner, live music and a silent auction. Tickets are $30. Register online at jfonwestmichigan.org/events/10th-anniversary-celebration/
HAITI HOT LUNCH - February 9 The Coffee Can offering this month will benefit the Haiti Hot Lunch Program. This program provides hot meals three times per week to over 22,000 students. The program ensures access to nutritional meals, cooked on-site, to provide energy to learn throughout the day
IT´S TIME TO PREPARE FOR LENT! The season of Lent is approaching quickly and we need your help. As in past years, we are planning to provide a booklet of Lenten devotionals, written by members of our First Church family. We need a devotional for every day of Lent (47 in all!). We´ll be exploring the characteristics of a fruitful congregation during Lent. Consider sharing how God has touched your life in the areas of radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission, or extravagant generosity. Submissions are due by February 7. Each entry is limited to 450 words. If you are interested in writing a devotional, or would like more information, please contact Laure Mieskowski at 451-2979 or email@example.com. You may also sign up using the Sunday bulletin insert or online sign-up sheet at www.grandrapidsfumc.org/sign-up-sheet
TAIZÉ SERVICE Wednesday, February 5 at 6:00 pm. Taizé is a meditative service of choruses, accompanied by instruments and vocal solos. Communion, prayers for healing, and the lighting of candles are also offered. It´s a wonderful way to connect with God in the midst of a busy week.
MISSION UPDATE Thank you! You are a generous congregation! Our Christmas mission offering´s goal of $15,500 was met and exceeded! You gave over $17,000 to benefit ministries supported by First Church. Your gifts will touch the lives of members of the Vietnamese, La Nueva Esperanza, and Mosaic United Methodist Churches all located here in Grand Rapids. Your money will support ministries in Appalachia through Kentucky Red Bird Misson. Your generosity will provide fourteen Personal Energy Transportation (PET) vehicles to those in developing countries who are unable to walk. Your gifts travel with our mission teams to Cuba, Kenya, and Nicaragua. You provide solar-powered light to people throughout the developing world through the Koinonia Foundation. Finally, all gifts exceeding our offering goal, to date over $2,500, will benefit Imagine No Malaria. Each $10 given to this initiative saves one life. Imagine the lives that will be impacted by your generosity! Thank you!
SCRAPBOOKING Our next scrapbooking event will be Saturday, January 25 from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm. It´s a great way to get some projects done and be in fellowship at the same time. If you are a scrapbooker, please email Patsy McGillivray at firstname.lastname@example.org to be included on the scrapbook emailings.
YOUNG FAMILIES MOVIE NIGHT Join us on Friday, January 31 at 6:00 pm. Meet us for a family-friendly movie in The Vine (first floor of First Place; enter by the basketball hoop door from the lower parking lot). We´ll have the popcorn and cocoa. Please eat dinner before you arrive. Friends (and dads) invited! Please RSVP to Marj Timmerman at email@example.com or 901.9224.
SHOWING IN OUR FIRST CHURCH ART GALLERY through February 11 is an exhibit by collaborating artists, K.W. Bell and Cindy Evans. Both artists, who live in the Lansing area, became acquainted with First Church through the Celebration of the Arts. Both endeavor to express their Christian faith through their art and poetry.
CELEBRATION OF THE ARTS
FEBRUARY 21 - MARCH 5, 2014
41ST ANNUAL JURIED SPRITUAL ART COMPETION, Art Exhibit Hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily through March 4 and 10:00 am to 1:00 pm; March 5, Ash Wednesday. For more information visit www.theCelebrationoftheArts.com
Special Guest Exhibit: The Spectrum Health Expressive Arts Program Under the direction of professional staff, the residents and patients in this therapeutic program express themselves as individuals, gaining independence and the motivation to be artistically creative. Visit our main floor gallery to view this inspiring exhibit.
Special Events: • Artists´ Reception, Friday, February 21 from 7:00 - 9:00 pm in Wesley Hall. Presentation of awards, jazz, and special desserts! Open to the public. • Gallery Walk-Through Celebration of the Arts, Sunday, February 23 at 9:30 am and Wednesday, February 26 at 12:00 pm in Wesley Hall. Experience this year´s show through the special insight of Nancy Clouse, artist and faculty member from Grand Rapids Community College. • Early Music Michigan, Sunday, February 23 at 4:00 pm in the sanctuary. Early Music Michigan is devoted to the lively interpretation of music from earlier eras. • Celebration Sunday, Sunday, March 2 at 11:00 am in the sanctuary. A festive morning service on the last Sunday before Lent, featuring a Dixieland band, led by Bob Nixon. • Ash Wednesday Service, Wednesday, March 5, 6:00 pm in the sanctuary. The service features music of Taizé in a reflective and solemn setting.
Concerns & Prayers for:
• Lynne Beals
• Don Chisnall
• Sherry Gates
• Ken McCaw (Blodgett)
• Robert Newell
• Alan Norton
• Mike Olman (rehab at Heartland)
• Sue Rowe
• Carol Ryan (rehab at Fulton Manor)
• Devin Tryon
• Myron Wernette
• Chris Bolhouse
• Scott Grifhorst
• Stephan Mathos
• Jesse Mounts
• Trevor Norton
• Shawn Seher
• Peter Taylor, Jr
The love and prayers of the congregation are extended to Lynne and Jim Brandsma and family on the death of Lynne´s mother, Eleanor Brower, on January 13th. Her memorial service will be held Tuesday, January 28th, at 11am at Beverly Reformed Church in Wyoming with visitation one hour prior to the service.
The memorial service for Janet Carter´s mother, Eugenia Carter, who died on January 11th will be held on Wednesday, January 22nd, at 2pm at John Knox Presbyterian Church with visitation one hour prior to the service.
We are thankful for and blessed by your support of Chuck these past 5 years as he journeyed home. We know he is at peace with his Lord.
Anne Zimmerman and family
First Church is off and running with an inspiring year of ministry and discipleship. God has blessed us with great leaders, passionate membership, and abundant resources - and we are already "hard at it"!
We have a small budgetary concern as we enter the year. Our budget for ministry this year is about $1,493,000 - a slight increase over 2013. Our current projected revenues are about $1,373,000. This means our current budget is under-funded by about $120,000 or about 8%.
As a congregation, there are two ways we can approach this concern. One way would be to slash the budget to wipe out the imbalance. Indeed, we will be challenging the staff to find ways to reduce projected spending WITHOUT impacting vital ministry.
The other way of addressing the imbalance is to recognize that we are a committed congregation of Christian stewards, called to return a generous portion of God´s abundance back to God. Rather than take the path of least resistance and cut 8% out of our budget, why don´t we find a way to make up the difference with increased giving?
The year of construction is behind us. The year of pastoral change is over. We have refreshed facilities and refreshed leadership. Why don´t we take a fresh look at our personal commitment to God as indicated by our giving? If we cut our budget, some of our ministries will be impacted. Let´s not go there!
Please pray about your personal support of the ministries of First Church and see if there is a way you can help bridge this small gap. An 8% challenge for a congregation as generous as ours should be achievable! Please let our church treasurer, Sharon Sorensen, know right away if you are led to increase your support in 2014. A simple email or a note in the offering plate is all that is needed!
A DISCIPLE´S PATH Everyone is invited to take A Disciple´s Path! This 7-week class combines a Wesleyan understanding of our growth in God´s love and grace with the time-tested practices of spiritual discipline as expressed in the membership vows to uphold the church with our presence, prayers, gifts, service, and witness. You will discover the difference it makes to live out your commitment to Christ through membership in the United Methodist Church. You will learn that being a disciple means loving God and loving others, and you will be equipped to do that by discovering your unique gifts and becoming engaged in ministry that also brings transformation in your own heart and life through the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Books are available from the north lobby receptionist: workbook, $6.50; companion reader, $7 (optional). The classes run from Sunday, February 9 to March 16 and will be held in the parlor from 12:15 to 2:00 pm. Please sign up online or use the Sunday bulletin.
ATTENTION, PARENTS AND YOUTH: Winter/spring sign-ups for serving in the children´s church school area are ready on Doodle! Please go to www.grandrapidsfumc.org/volunteers to sign up to serve in the Infant Nursery, Toddler Nursery, or Children & Worship classrooms! Parent volunteers are especially needed. Thank you for supporting our church school teachers and children.
VALENTINE´S DAY HOE DOWN to benefit the FUMC Adoption Ministry! Wondering what to do that is fun and new for Valentine´s Day? Come to the Hoe Down in The Vine on Friday February 14th from 6:30 - 9:30 pm! Music will be provided by "Gooder n´ Grits" whose members are FUMC´s own Julie and Glenn Warners and Bob and Shelley Hudson. You can´t dance? Our band and caller will teach you. And light refreshments will be provided! Suggested donation of $14 per person or family max of $28 (or whatever your heart feels good donating) will go into our Adoption Fund, which helps orphaned children find their forever families. Come and bring your spouse, date, whole family, and friends!
FIRST AID STATION
RED FLAGS You´ve got a lot on your plate – work, bills, the kids, aging parents…. If you are feeling overwhelmed, your Church Assistance Program (CAP) can help! Just give CAP a call at 455-6210. They will answer the phone 24 hrs a day 7 days a week and will set you up to meet with a trained counselor. The first two one-hour sessions will be at no charge to you by telling them you are a member or friend of First Church! So don´t wait any longer – call today!