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August 26, 2014

The last few days there has been a bit of ‘fall’ in the air; cooler nights … and even cooler days, too.  By the ads in the media, folks are getting in the ‘back-to-school’ mode.  There are clothing sales, back-packs, school supplies, along with all the other things that are needed to prepare for the week after Labor Day.
The time-line has importance for our congregation, too!  Even though our attendance in worship has been good for this summer season … lots of folks have been on vacation … away at the cottage … or leaving town for long weekend excursions.  But after Labor  Day, most of us settle in to the fall routine … which often includes a return to church.  That is why ‘Homecoming Sunday’ is an important day in the life of the  church.  It is the ‘plug-back-in’ Sunday and we reconnect with friends, fellowship, learning opportunities, service engagement and participation in choir.  ‘Homecoming Sunday’ is also an invitation for us to make a re-commitment to worship and to God.

There are lots of exciting program ‘tweaks’ that are happening in our programming this fall.
  • Homecoming Sunday (September 7) is a ‘celebration Sunday’ with ONE worship service at 10 am.  It will be ‘sign-up’ day for children and youth as well as adults.  A meal will be served after worship as a way to facilitate re-connecting with each other.
  • September 14 – we return to the 9:15 and 11 am worship services.  The early service will have some stylistic adjustments in our worship.  We are moving toward making the early service less formal and even more participatory.  The 11 o’clock service will include our choir, organ, liturgy and preaching – but with even more enthusiasm and relevance.
  • The preaching theme for this fall is Meeting Jesus!  Most of us know a lot about Jesus … but do we really know Jesus?  I believe this will be a spiritually formative time for us all.
  • On September 21 … we will be welcoming a guest preacher, Dr. John Killinger.  John is a dear friend who will be preaching in the morning on the subject Learning to Leave Our Tombs Behind .  His text is John 11.  From 5 – 7 pm, John will be leading a seminar session on his  book, “Hidden Mark.”  He has titled the seminar, A New Way to Look at the Gospel of Mark.  You won’t want to miss this important day.  John is a well-respected author (50 books), pastor, preacher, and teacher of preaching.  For many years, he was the Professor of Preaching at Vanderbilt University.  His most recent interim pastorate was at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City where Norman Vincent Peale spent 52 years as Senior Pastor.
What a great fall season is ahead!  Read this edition and feel the enthusiasm that is building at First Church.  Come and be a part … and invite someone you care about to come and be a part, too!
Pastor Bob
Senior Pastor

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Radical Hospitality….just what does that look like?  We have studied about it, I have researched what other churches were doing and wondered just what we could do to make First Church radically hospitable.  I then remembered Jane Zwiers’s story, and asked her to tell me one more time.  She was delighted to share her experience with all of you.

Jane moved from Grandville to the Dean Lake area in 2006.  She continued to attend the church she had gone to for the next year-and-a-half.  It wasn’t until she thought about inviting a friend that she realized there really wasn’t a compelling reason to do so.  That insight led her “church shopping.”  
She tried a couple of churches in her area but nothing was quite right.

One day she was doing water aerobics and the conversation turned to churches.  She said she was looking for a new church and her instructor (just happened to be Barb Foster!) said she should try First.  So she went home and checked out the website.

Shortly after that she was visited by Janet Wood who also lives on Dean Lake.  Their conversation turned to churches and Janet suggested she try First!  That was enough to send Jane to us the next Sunday.

She was warmly greeted before the service began.  The sermon was on “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”  Jane felt like First Church just might be for her.   Then when she was sitting home after church someone knocked on her door.  There was John McKibben (a faithful bread deliverer) with Jane’s bread.   Of course, Jane invited him in and he kindly said no, but thanked her for visiting that morning.  Jane felt very good about the day and very special that we would send someone out to her home to deliver bread. One of the first things Jane joined after arriving at First was the Retirees’ Bible Study on Mondays at 11:00.  And there was John McKibben.  Jane knew then she was “home.”
Jane’s story is a wonderful example of Radical Hospitality!  If you have stories about how you found us, an experience delivering bread, or felt that you have experienced Radical Hospitality, I’d love to hear it.
Patsy McGillivray
Director of Invitational Ministry

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Passionate Worship:  The Value of Being Present

What does it mean to be fully 

Do you remember roll-call in school?  The teacher recited names alphabetically and students repled “present.”  (We said “present;” others might have used the less formal “here” or “yeah.”)  I recently ran across a beautiful little children’s book titled What Does It Mean to be Present?” by Rana DiOrio.  This little book speaks to the value of being still and being thankful for the intangible gifts of life.  It reminds us the importance of listening attentively, noticing when others are in need, focusing on what is happening now, not what’s next, appreciating what you have, even if others seem to have more, being grateful for fami ly and friends, being aware of your breath and its rhythm and how that makes your
 feel peaceful, and listening to your inner voice.  In our current technologically-driven culture, how often is it that we find ourselves distrac ted.  It is a sad sight indeed when a group of people in the same room are more connected to their devices than the others in the room.   There are many positive aspects to technological conveniences, but, it seems these conveniences are often at the expense of an undivided attention, of stillness, and being in the present.  Ask yourself throughout the day:  Where is my attention?  If our devices are a distraction, then perhaps we need to re-think how we use them.  We need to take time to refocus, breathe, and be still. 

We have all likely he ard that quote attributed to Woody Allen that ‘80% of life is just showing up.’  I really like this quote.  I think about it often when I’m pondering about whether to attend something important and not quite feeling 100% about it.  Perhaps, we could feel that just by showing up, we have accomplished 80% of what we are seeking, and once we have arrived, we can work on just that little 20% to get us fully present and aware. 

Recent trends in church attendance in the United States indicate that membership is not declining as much as frequency of attendance.  In general, people don’t attend worship on a weekly basis as much as they once practiced, and this has changed the dynamic in worship from week to week in many of our churches.  
Worship is an opportunity to practice an undivided attention and being present.  First, most of the work is done by just “showing up.”  In order to be the Body of Christ in this world, we need to practice being together, and worship is a primary means of doing just that.  Then, as we connect with others who are present, engage our attention, we can become truly become aware of the presence of God.

Being fully present in worship deepens, enlivens, and enriches the experience.  First Church offers a variety of opportunities for being together in worship:  Sunday mornings, summer evenings, as well as the monthly Taizé offerings are opportunities to practice being fully present.  
Eric Strand
Director of Music and the Arts

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As Homecoming Sunday approaches (September 7th), we eagerly look forward to the coming education school year at FUMC. Nineteen classes and educational opportunities are available to you and your family this fall, not including the tons of fellowship groups. New classes and groups are forming every week, so be sure to get in on the action this fall! 

Here is what others are saying about the impact educational programs at First Church have had on their faith:

“[My favorite thing about Faith Travelers is] spending time with my friends.” 
- Skylar Hiemstra, 1st grader

“[My favorite thing about Faith Travelers is that] it’s fun and we learn about Jesus.” 
- Rhea Marasigan, 5th grader

“I feel there is no better way to experience God’s love than to share it with our children.” 
- Katrina Terkeurst, Children and Worship Helper

“Sunday School has taught me a lot of things I didn’t realize about faith and has helped my faith grow.” 
- Zoe Niswonger, Age 16
"I see God mostly through people, music, and nature. Youth Group and church has greatly helped me grow closer to God by interacting with my church family.” 
- Alicia Geene, Age 18
“As a college student, I get caught up in a lot of activities that distract me. But every Wednesday, the Young Adults at First assemble to give a much needed evening to escape the routines of college and focus on what is most important in life: G od. Not to mention it’s a great way to meet new friends as well as develop a deeper bond with those we’ve known for years.” 
- Sean Walker, College Student

I joined First’s Young Adult Group shortly after moving to GR. The group has been great in allowing me to continue to build my faith and allowing me to further opportunities to share my faith while positively impacting my community with the variety of volunteer projects.” 
- Ashley Gose, Young Professional

“Working with youth has strengthened my faith through their questions, wrestling with their faith, and trying to set a good example. Also prepping for lessons and teaching them always gives me new insights as well.” 
- Steve Walker, Senior High Youth Leader & Sunday School Teacher

“The Adult Education classes I have taken at FUMC have helped move me to new levels of spiritual maturity. They have given me spiritual tools, which continually help me navigate everyday life.” 
- Randy Kimball

“I consider the diverse adult education classes continually offered at FUMC essential to a growing faith. Through participatory Bible study, social issues classes, and book studies and DVDs, I have been challenged, stimulated. and have met many new friends who have brought me to a greater awareness of needs and issues in the marketplace outside of our church walls.” 
- Nel Kastner

To find out what exciting things are happening in christian education at FUMC this year, go to or contact Tish, Sami, or Audrey at (616) 451-2879.

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Risk-Taking Mission:  Kid Style

Imagine being 10 years old.

Imagine hearing that in Africa malaria kills a person every 60 seconds.

Imagine understanding that most of malaria’s victims are under the age of 5 and pregnant women.

Imagine being asked to help.

The children who attended Arts Alive Camp experienced the joy of African culture through art, music, drumming, and dance. They also learned Jesus healed the sick and that Jesus challenges us to help others in the same way.  They learned $10 buys a net, which will protect a child from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.  They learned $10 saves a life.
On Monday, the children were challenged to bring an offering each day.  They were encouraged to do something to earn the money for an offering, perhaps by doing chores at home. They were challenged to save the lives of children threatened by malaria. 

On Tuesday, the money began to trickle in. A spattering of dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies was enough to save 6 lives.  On Wednesday, the money poured in; it was enough to save an additional 34 lives!  Each child contributed.  Each child made a difference.

Caden, one of our 10-year-old campers, raised his hand on Tuesday and asked if it was okay for him to wait until Thursday (our field trip day) to bring his offering in.   Bright and early on Thursday morning, Caden handed me a zip lock sandwich bag full of money.  I was busy checking in children for our field trip at Meijer Gardens and vaguely heard him say something about cookies.  Late in the day, I called Caden at home and asked him to tell me how he collected the money for his offering.  

With his mother’s help, Caden and his sister baked cookies and sold them in their neighborhood. He told his neighbors that he was raising money to purchase malaria-preventing mosquito nets.  After selling the first batch of cookies, Caden was dismayed that he only had $9.  He told me, “I panicked because that wasn’t enough to buy a net!”  When he arrived home he discovered a “giant tray” of additional co okies.  He said he didn’t stop until he sold enough cookies to raise $40, saving 4 lives.  Well done, Caden!  

Well-done to every child who attended Arts Alive Camp!  In total, $482.92 was given.  That represents a lot of chores and cookies!

Imagine being 10 years old.

Imagine saving lives.

Imagine No Malaria!
Laure Mieskowski, 
Director of Outreach and Missions

Visit or contact me in the church office if you would like to learn more about the life-saving work of the United Methodist Church in Sub Saharan Africa.

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Am I Extravagantly Generous ? We talk about the phrase “Extravagant Generosity,” but I admit, I haven’t thought enough about its implications for ME personally.

If I was Extravagantly Generous , I would set aside God’s portion of my earnings first - before I allocated the rest of my resources. Is this hard to do? Maybe, but if the poor widow that Jesus observed can faithfully give her only two coins back to God, then SURELY we can manage giving just one-tenth of our income to the church!

If I was Extravagantly Generous , I would welcome discussion about giving and stewardship as part of my overall spiritual growth. I would embrace the annual Stewardship Campaign as a celebration of God’s amazing love for us, and I would happily commit to God a tenth of my resources in the coming year.

If I was Extravagantly Generous , I would seek ways to minister to others out of my abundance instead of needing to be preached to, cajoled, or otherwise guilted into giving to First Church. I would seek out need and respond confidently - knowing that by most of the world’s measures, God has blessed me with great wealth to be shared in God’s name.

If I was Extravagantly Generous , I would find ways to immerse myself into the ministries of First Church, knowing that by putting my faith in action, it becomes even more natural to give generously. 

So how am I doing? How are we as a church doing? Thankfully, we are impacting lives every day in the name of Jesus Christ. Many in our church family give amazing amounts of time and money to make ministry happen. For others, taking the plunge into more active ministry has not yet happened. We are all on a journey together and can find mutual support and inspiration in each other. 

Fall is upon us. The full slate of activities and ministry will re-launch in a few weeks. Look at all the good we are doing.  Observe all in our midst that are making things happen! Find your place. Get involved. Get out of the pews. If you do, you will be transformed, and EXTRAVAGANT GENEROSITY in God’s name will become a joyful response.
Chris Hawkins, Finance Committee

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My name is Shelly Binder and I was commissioned as a Stephen Minister on Sunday, February 19, 2013. I had contemplated and prayed about becoming a Stephen Minister for a couple of years before signing up. I had two main concerns: one was the time commitment involved, which is 50 hours of training; once commissioned, the two supervisory group meetings a month; and an hour-a-week meeting with your assigned care receiver (the person who is hurting from a life event). The meetings are very helpful for peer group support and encouragement. A Stephen Minister does not feel alone in their journey with a care receiver. I have found that the time investment is worth it! I feel like I am in ministry and making a difference.
The other concern was the fear of being assigned a care receiver that I had nothing in common with. During the informational interview, I learned Stephen Ministers are walking with a care receiver not to “fix” the situation, but to be a nonjudgmental person to listen and show the person they are never alone, which helps to open up pathways for God to be able to provide a way through the challenge. I have been able to journey with a care receiver who experienced the death of a loved one. My care receiver has a deep faith in God and it was strong enough to endure through a time of grief. It was a blessing for me to witness in someone else such strong faith and God’s healing ways of peace, strength, and hope.

Another wonderful benefit of being a Stephen Minister is the training. I was able to apply almost everything we studied immediately to my own personal relationships. The topics which I found most helpful were the art of listening, boundaries, and dealing with grief.

Because of my strong belief in Stephen Ministry’s mission, I want to help others learn how to become Stephen Ministers. I was honored to have been asked to become a Stephen Leader, and this past July I completed the week-long intensive leader training in Dallas, Texas. It was empowering sharing the training experience in a room with more than 300 Stephen Ministers from all over the USA and Asia. The experience deepened my understanding of God’s love for us and the importance of taking the time to help others.

My experience of becoming a Stephen Minister (and now a Stephen Leader) has enriched my life dramatically. I live each day with more purpose, self-confidence, a deeper spiritual understanding of God’s plan for me, and growing in my understanding of what it means to be a servant of Christ.

If you would like more information about Stephen Ministry, please contact our Parish Nurse, Marj Timmerman, or any of the Stephen Leaders. There is still time to sign up for training this fall!
Shelly Binder, 481.8584
Kim Hamilton, 890.2495
Marj Timmerman, 901.9224
Lois Walker, 581.0381

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