Creative conversations ARE happening. People are meeting to discuss the book by Bishop Schnase entitled The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. We have pondered our way through topics of hospitality ... worship ... and faith development. The reports I am reading and hearing from the various discussion groups indicate that important conversations are occurring where respectful evaluation is being done while being open and inquisitive about new possibilities for our congregation. That is not an easy balance to achieve.
At the same time that we are moving methodically through Lent ... testing our congregational faithfulness and fruitfulness, the Vision Team is doing incredibly important work that is more data-based. They are seeking and studying demographic trends for the next five years for the city of Grand Rapids so that we can make strategic decisions about our ministry focus for the future.
From a pastoral perspective, I am encouraged by the synergistic creativity that is emerging from within the congregation. Staff, lay leaders, and congregation seem to be entering this time of reflection and seeding possibilities through the question of "WHAT IF?" Perhaps the filters are tight so that I am not hearing the inevitable resistance or objection to potential change ... but I don´t think so. There seems to be genuine enthusiasm for First Church and the potential ministries that are yet to be developed or expanded. It is a rare congregation that can place itself under the microscope - and then do something about what they see. So keep praying, learning, conversing and thinking about possibilities.
Former churches that I have served have been highly resistant to new possibilities. I have served three churches in a row that are named ‘First United Methodist Church.´ All three were birthed around 1835. All three have had marvelous histories where vitality was part of their historic DNA. But in the first appointment to such a congregation, they simply were not about to consider making even the slightest adjustments for anything or anyone. At crucial junctures of their congregational life, resistance and opposition trumped creative conversation or implementation of a developing vision to reach new people. In the second appointment, there was a constant battle of wills that unfortunately ended up being generational. There was a collision between "We´ve never done it that way before ... we can´t ... or over my dead body" attitudes ... and ... the "what if" people. For about three years, congregation #2 was a difficult congregation to lead.
So given my history - it´s nice to hear positive and energetic conversations. I believe God´s Spirit is at work among us. Keep up the good work and maintain an optimism about the possibilities that are emerging for ministry adjustments and expansion.
• March 28-29 — Women´s Retreat
• March 30, 12:30 pm — Imagine No Malaria Movie: "Mary Martha"
• April 2, 6:00 pm — Taizé Sung Prayer Service
• April 3, 9:00 am — Prayer Quilts
• April 4, 7:00 am — Men´s Lenten Breakfast
• April 11, 7:00 am — Men´s Lenten Breakfast
• April 13, 9:15 am ONLY — Palm Sunday Processional
• April 13,10:15 am and 12:00 pm — Palm Sunday Brunch
• April 16, 9:00 am — Caring Connection
• April 17, 6:15 pm — Maundy Thursday Communion Service
• April 18, 7:00 am — Men´s Lenten Breakfast
• April 18, 7:00 pm — Good Friday Service
• April 19, 9:00 am — Feeding America Distribution at Cesar Chavez
• April 20, 9:15 and 11:00 am — Easter Sunday
• April 21, 12:00 pm — 60+ Luncheon
• April 27 — 2nd Best Sale Drop-Off Begins
• April 28, 7:00 pm — Leadership Council Meeting
• May 1, 9:00 am — Prayer Quilts
• May 3, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm — 2nd Best Sale - Saturday
• May 17, 9:00 am — Feeding America Distribution at Cesar Chavez
• May 19, 12:00 pm — 60+ Luncheon
• May 21, 9:00 am — Caring Connection
• June 1 — Teacher Appreciation Sunday
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.
KENYA WIDOWS GARDEN The Coffee Can Offering on Sunday, April 3 will benefit the Kenya Widows´ Garden. This ministry provides resources necessary for women to grow their own food, as well as providing a source of income and produce for the consumption of the surrounding community. This ministry is supported by First United Methodist Church through missionaries Dr. Marty and Hollee Graber who make multiple trips to Kenya each year.
SPRING BREAK SPLASH @ GOLDFISH Families of babies through elementary-aged children are invited to connect with us on Wednesday, April 9 at 12:00 pm for open swim at Goldfish Swim School (2548 Thornhills Ave SE). Note: please arrive a little early to ensure your spot. Cost: $5/person or $15/family. After swimming join us at Culver´s. Contact Marj at email@example.com.
SOCIAL CONCERNS DONATIONS For the month of March, the pantry is in need of soap, body wash, shampoo, and peanut butter and jelly. Please drop off your items in the north lobby donation room.
PALM SUNDAY PANCAKE BRUNCH: SUNDAY, APRIL 13 You are invited to join us after both worship services for pancakes, eggs, sausage, and fruit in Wesley Hall for our annual Palm Sunday Pancake Brunch, hosted by our youth. Suggested Donations: $5/person or $20/family All proceeds raised go towards our 2014 Workcamp trip to NC to repair homes for low-income families.
FAITH TRAVELERS MISSION OFFERING The K-4 Faith Travelers church school classes have selected Family Promise of Grand Rapids as their mission offering focus for February through May! The goal is to raise $100 for new toys for our Family Promise guests. Monetary offerings can be brought to any Faith Travelers class; all donations are optional. Any questions? Please contact Annette Erbes, Director of Children´s Ministry, at 616.451.2879. Did you know that…1,800 children have been supported by Family Promise and that 90% of families have found a new home?!
SAVE THE DATE! Sunday, June 1 is Teacher Appreciation Sunday.
IMAGINE NO MALARIA Mark your calendar now to attend a screening of the inspirational movie Mary and Martha starring Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn on Sunday, March 30 at First Church in Wesley Hall. This story focuses on two women who forge a deep friendship and embark on an epic journey of self-discovery to Africa, dedicating themselves to the cause of malaria prevention. The movie Frozen will be shown to children at the same time in room 304. A simple lunch will be served immediately following the 11 am worship service followed by the movie screenings at 1 pm. A free-will offering will be taken to benefit Imagine No Malaria.
PALM SUNDAY PROCESSION, APRIL 13We will celebrate this special Sunday with a palm procession at the 9:15 am worship service! Parents are asked to bring their children aged older 3-year olds – 6th grade to the corridor on the west side of Wesley Hall at 9:05 am to prepare for the procession. Children will then be dismissed to their classes from worship. We hope you can join us!
BIBLICAL OBEDIENCE: RECONCILING MINISTRIES AND MARRIAGE EQUALITY First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo invites you to join them Saturday, April 26 from 9:00 am - 3:00 pm and Sunday, April 27 from 8:30 am - 12:00 pm for a weekend with Bishop Melvin G. Talbert as he shares his prophetic witness for full inclusion of LGBT persons in all aspects of the church. Since the 2012 General Conference, Bishop Talbert has led the growing movement across United Methodism calling clergy and laity to "An Act of Biblical Obedience" in opposing what he calls the derogatory language and restrictive laws in the Book of Discipline regarding LGBT people. FUMC of Kalamazoo, one of six Reconciling Congregations and Communities in the West Michigan Conference, is pleased to offer this opportunity for better understanding and serious conversation about this significant issue. Registration is necessary for the Saturday session ONLY. Cost: $10 (includes lunch and materials). Registration deadline: April 23. Register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the church at 269.381.6340.
WHAT DO A FEATHER, TEARDROP, AND COIN HAVE IN COMMON? They are all a part of the children´s holy week devotional booklets, "A Journey Through Holy Week." These devotionals complete with "props" will be available to families on Palm Sunday in the narthex or at the receptionist´s desk. Please plan to take one for use with your elementary aged child to experience the journey to Easter together! Traveling over spring break? See Annette Erbes, Director of Children´s Ministry, to get your devotional booklet ahead of time.
ROAD TRIPS The Road Trips for 2014 are now set! Save the following dates: May 7th - Jackson, Michigan - historical tour, lunch and Armory Arts Village. June 18th - Detroit Tigers vs KC Royals! July 24th - Marshall, Michigan - historical tour, lunch at Schuler´s and a musical at Tibbits. Sept 18-20 - Pennsylvania - includes a dinner cruise in Pittsburgh, Flight 93 National Memorial, Quecreek Mine, Duncan House, Duquesne Incline, and Heinz Memorial Chapel. Details and reservation forms are available in the north lobby and online at www.grandrapidsfumc.org/road-trips!
MISSION UPDATE: CUBA Cuba team t-shirts (designed by Barb Moser) will be for sale after both services. Cost will be $15 each. We are still in need of children and adult over-the-counter medicines to treat headaches, fevers, arthritis, diarrhea, upset stomach, acid reflux, etc. In addition, women of the church love to crochet, but crochet hooks are very hard to come by in Cuba, so donations of crochet hooks would be appreciated. Please drop items off in the north lobby office.
THE ANNUAL SWEETHEARTS LUNCHEON will be held at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, April 2 in Wesley Hall. All women of the church age 65 and over are welcome to attend this event sponsored by the Legacy Ministry. This year´s entertainment is provided by Dale & Gail Ziegler and their keyboard capers. The lunch will include a mixed greens salad, chicken breast, wild rice, vegetable, fresh baked breads, and dessert. For reservations, please use the Sunday sign-up sheet or contact Sharon Sorensen at 451-2879 or email@example.com.
FATHER/CHILD CAMP Attention dads (grandpas and uncles, too)! Spend Father´s Day weekend (June 13-15) at Lake Michigan United Methodist Camp in Pentwater! Picture you and your kids sitting around a campfire, enjoying the beach, hiking the many trails - all while spending time with God and some of your church family! Platform tents, as well as spots for your own tents and campers, are available. Site rental is $28 per night. Food is $20 for Dad and $15 per child with a max amount of $50 per family. Please contact Jason Smith at 262.7151 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to ask about the "buy one, get one night free" offer for first timers!
90+ APRIL BIRTHDAYS
• Thelma Hunter will be 95 on April 2nd
• Bob Haile will be 91 on April 12th
• Ida Jean VanderPoppen will be 91 on April 24th
If we have missed listing your 90+ birthday, please call the church office at 451.2879 with your name and birthdate and we´ll list it!
I´d like to bring the congregation up to speed on the church finances through February.
Revenues are at about 89% of plan ($-24,000). One contributor to this negative is that two significant rent payments were not received until early March, but this will reflect favorably on March. Congregation giving is at 93% of plan, which is normal for the winter months.
Expenses are at 96% of plan (-$10,000). As you might expect, utilities are running higher than planned due to the cold winter. The staff is doing a nice job in managing other expenses. In total, through February, expenses have exceeded revenues by $44,000. It is not unusual for us to be in a negative position at this time of year. Winter utilities are always high, and several givers are away for the winter.
We do, however, face challenges for the year. Without action, we will see a deficit of $120,000 by the end of the year. We are responding to this issue in two ways…
1) We will be working with the staff to find additional ways to reduce spending WITHOUT affecting vital ministry. This is always difficult because of the wonderful impact our ministries have, and the lives we affect as Christian disciples.
2) We believe that God is calling our church to pray about our giving. If we were a tithing congregation, our projected deficit would be erased and we would be expanding ministry in many new and exciting ways! We will end the year balanced - as we always do, but it will take some work and commitment. Does your giving reflect the joy you feel from a personal walk with God? Are you giving weekly or monthly to match the regular expenses we experience at First Church?
It will be a great feeling if we balance our budget through increased revenue, inspired by God´s wonderful presence in our lives - rather than impacting critical Christian ministry by having to find ways to cut. First Church has a wonderful history of responding to God´s call. How will we respond now?
FEEDING AMERICA Join us Saturday, April 19 for the monthly food distribution at Cesar El Chavez Elementary (1205 Grandville St. SW 49503). The truck arrives at 8:30 am for set-up, and the distribution begins at 9:00 am. First Church does not have primary responsiblity for this distribution, however, volunteers are invited to help. No sign-ups are needed.
MEALS NEEDED Meals are needed for Mike and Julie Obrecht as they recover from an auto accident and for Lynne Beals who is undergoing chemo. If you are able to help, please sign up at www.grandrapidsfumc.org/meals or contact Marj at 901.9224 or email@example.com.
MEN´S LENTEN BREAKFASTS 2014Why First Church Is My Church" Join us Friday mornings at 7:00 am in Wesley Hall. Breakfast each week will be prepared by our resident culinary artist, Jeff Gooder. We will sing together with Norm Bradley leading us and Pastor Bob will share a scripture and spend some time in prayer each week. Sign up using the Sunday bulletin insert or online at www.grandrapidsfumc.org/sign-up-sheet. The speakers are the following: • March 28 Richard Johnson – Richard is a retired photography businessman who specialized in portraits. He developed a passion for outreach ministry and is on staff of First Church, leading our Work Program ministry. • April 4 Dr. Dale Williams – Dale is a retired physician who has developed an incredible foundation, Koinonia, which provides bright, safe, versatile solar-powered lanterns and panels to the developing world. • April 11 Ed Edwardson – spent his career in law enforcement administration and teaches at Grand Valley. Ed has been significantly involved in raising funds and developing the vision for the Ubuntu Center at Africa University. He will celebrate with us the role First Church played in this important ministry. • April 18 Dan Miller – will share with us on Good Friday morning. Dan is the Chair of the Leadership Council and was a leader in the ‘tower project.´ Dan is a financial planner and serves in management in his firm.
NEEDED FIRST RESPONDERS If you are current in your CPR/AED and First Aid training, we need YOU for our First Response Team! At each worship service, we have three people who are scheduled and ready to respond should an emergency occur. If you would like to be part of this important ministry, please contact Marj Timmerman at 901.9224, firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the Sunday sign-up sheet.
FAMILY PROMISE WEEK FAST APPROACHING When we hear the term "homeless," most of us don´t think of children and families, and yet they are the fastest growing segment of this population. FUMC will be hosting Family Promise the week of April 6 - 13. During this time, our church becomes a temporary "home" in which families are treated as guests of our church family. By volunteering you can help alleviate the hurt and alienation of homelessness, and both volunteers and guests can grow and learn from each other. You may sign up through the Sunday bulletin insert, online at www.grandrapidsfumc.org/sign-up-sheet.
FIRST AID STATION
INFERTILITY SUPPORT GROUP All who have experienced infertility issues, including miscarriage and secondary infertility, are invited to attend our next meeting on Tuesday, April 8 at 7:00 pm in The Vine. Please RSVP by using the bulletin sign-up sheet or by calling Marj Timmerman at 901.9224.
CHURCH ASSISTANCE PROGRAM Call the CAP Hotline at 455.6210. They will answer the phone 24 hours 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!