Everyone I know has been adversely affected by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. People are overwhelmed by the evil and senseless loss of life. Confusion and pain are evident in the faces and emotions of those around us. Whatever questions this event raises for us, it painfully reminds us that even at its best, this life is riddled with tragedy and sorrow. Our bishop, Deborah Kiesey, has offered her reflections in a pastoral letter online: visit westmichiganconference.org/news/detail/2788
An ancient Christian phrase calls this life a "vale of tears." We have experienced the truth of that and are reminded of our need for a spiritual balm. We see afresh our need for a Savior. Now is the time to be reminded that Jesus is "Emmanuel," God-with-us! We need to reclaim the declaration that Christ is the world´s true light shining in the darkness – and the darkness has not overcome that light. We need to hear again the truth of Christ´s birth.
As the Weekly Pulse is not published next week, here are a few timely reminders:
• This Sunday the Chancel Choir will sing at both 9:15 & 11:00 am, as will our Faith Travelers Choir as they bring their gifts to Christ´s manger. • On Christmas Eve, our 5:00 pm service is perfect for families with young children and those who don´t wish to be out late. Children are the focus of the service as they help us re-enact the Christmas story. It´s joyfully chaotic!
• Christmas Eve Candlelight Communions at 7:00 and 9:00 pm are wonderful, traditional services which have changed little over the years: sacred dance, a soloist sings "O Holy Night," carol singing, kneeling at the rail for communion, candle lighting as we sing Silent Night. All combine for a holy Christmas.
• We will have one service on Sunday, December 30. The service will be at 10:00 am and will be full of Christmas carols and some special elements. Please don´t come at 11:00 am as often happens on these off Sundays!
• Treasurer Sharon Sorensen and financial secretary Emil Jensen are carefully watching our costs and year-end giving. If you have a balance due for the current year, do the best you can to complete your giving. • End-of-year giving must be postmarked by December 31st or can be made directly through our church website. Sharon and Emil will be in the office on Monday, December 31st, for those who wish to bring their gifts in or call by phone. If you still have your "Estimate of Giving" card, don´t delay – now is the time to send it in.
Finally, for Christmas I offer you Robert Louis Stevenson´s Christmas Prayer:
“O God, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of
the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the wisdom of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with a clean heart.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus sake. Amen.
• December 19, 8:00 am — Caring Connection
• December 24, 8:00 am — Casey´s Breakfast
• December 24, 5:00 pm — Christmas Eve Service for Families with Young Children
• December 24, 7:00 and 9:00 pm — Traditional Candlelight Communion Christmas Eve Service
• December 25-26 — Church Building and Offices Closed
• December 27 - 28 — Scrapbooking/Paper Craft Marathon
• December 30, 10:00 am — One Sunday Worship Service
• December 31 - January 1 — Church Building and Offices Closed
• January 9, 7:00 pm — Taizé Sung Prayer Service
• January 13, 12:15 pm — "Which Way Home" Documentary
• January 20, 12:15 pm — Chili Cook-Off
• January 21, 3:00 - 7:00 pm — Blood Drive
• February 1 - 13 — Celebration of the Arts
• February 6, 7:00 pm — Taizé Sung Prayer Service
• February 24, 6:00 pm — "Trade of Innocents" movie
CHILDREN´S PROGRAMMING Please contact Annette Erbes, Director of Children's Ministry, at 451.2879 (Monday-Wednesday) or email@example.com with questions.
SUNDAY MORNING CHILDREN AND YOUTH CLASS SCHEDULE 9:15 AM
• Infant Nursery — 0-23 months — Room 107
• Toddler Nursery — age 2-young 3 — Room 205
• Children & Worship — older 3s (potty trained) – K — Room 204/201
• Faith Travelers — 1-6th grade — 3rd floor Church bldg (Faith Travelers begin in worship with their parents. Following Moments with the Children, they are dismissed to class. Children of all ages are welcome to remain in worship if their families so desire.) 9:30 AM
• Junior High — 7-8th grade — The Vine South (1st floor of First Place bldg.)
• Senior High — 9-12th grade — The Vine North (1st floor of First Place bldg.) 10:25 AM
• Faith Travelers´ Choir — 1-6th grade 3rd floor Church bldg 11:00 AM
• Infant Nursery — 0-23 months — Room 107
• Toddler Nursery — age 2-young 3 — Room 205
• Children & Worship — older 3s (potty trained) – K — Room 204/201
• Junior Church — 1-2nd grade — Room 202 (Children in Junior Church begin in worship with their parents. Following Moments withthe Children, they are dismissed to class. Children of all ages are welcome to remain in worship if their families so desire.)
**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.**
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30 — ONE SERVICE:
• Infant Nursery — 0-23 months Room 107
• Toddler Nursery — 2-4 years Room 205
• Junior Church — 5 years-2nd grade Room 202
BABY SHOWER FOR JESUS—DECEMBER 23 To celebrate the birth of baby Jesus, Faith Travelers are invited to bring a new shower gift for Baby Jesus to place at the manger when they come forward to sing in worship on Sunday, December 23. Baby items will be donated to Westminster Food Pantry and shared with young families in need. Suggested baby shower gift items include: formula, disposable diapers, hats, socks, baby food, wipes, bottles, and baby outfits. Thank you for your generous gifts!
NATIVITY FIGURINES Children who attend the 5:00, 7:00, or 9:00 pm Christmas Eve service will receive one nativity figure. Children may take the figure home following the service. Through the years, children have enjoyed collecting different pieces until their nativity set is complete. Made in Sri Lanka, our purchase of these colorful wooden figures benefits third-world crafters. The nativity figures were purchased from A Greater Gift, a fair-trade program of SERRV International.
5:00 PM CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE Our 5:00 pm Christmas Eve Service is designed for young children and their families. The children may choose a simple costume depicting a character from the Christmas story. As the story is told by Pastor Tish, each character is called up front to participate in the story and receive a prop to place at the manger. This service has become a cherished tradition here at First Church. We hope to see you there!
FAITH TRAVELERS EXPERIENCE CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD! Faith Travelers students will be sharing some carols in worship this coming Sunday, December 23 from their unit Christmas Around the World. Students should meet at 9:00 am in the sanctuary on December 23 to practice their songs and receive instructions. Students will sing for both the 9:15 and 11:00 am worship services and may be excused from the second service following their presentation. Come experience Immanuel, "Christ With Us" with the Faith Travelers!
Please note that Faith Travelers classes will not be held on December 23 or 30. One worship service will be held at 10:00 am on December 30 with childcare provided for children aged infants through grade 2.
JOURNEY ALONG THE ROAD TO BETHLEHEM in Junior Church (grades 1-2) on Sunday, December 23 at 11:00 am following Moments with the Children. During the Advent season, first and second graders have an opportunity to journey to Bethlehem! The 11:00 am Junior Church class will:
• Travel to Mary´s house
• Visit Joseph´s carpentry shop
• Meet Elizabeth in her home
• Participate in a shepherd´s training course
Children will engage in hands-on activities as they experience the Christmas story first hand. First and second graders are invited to journey to Bethlehem following the Moments with Children during the 11:00 am worship service.
FAMILY PROMISE FUMC will be hosting Family Promise the week of January 6 - 13. During this time, members of our congregation provide homeless families with basic human needs: shelter, safety, and sustenance. 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. Please give a few hours of your time. You may volunteer by using the Sunday bulletin insert or online.
HOLIDAY HOURS The church building and First Place office building will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, December 25 and 26 for Christmas and Monday, December 31 and Tuesday, January 1 for the New Year.
SCRAPBOOKING/PAPER CRAFT MARATHON Our next scrapbooking/crafting event will be Thursday, December 27 and Friday, December 28. We´d love to have you join us! Please contact Patsy McGillivray at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
CHRISTMAS EVE DANCERS Hello, young women (sixth grade through college age)! It´s time to meet and prepare for this year´s Christmas Eve Candlelight dance! The one rehearsal is Saturday, December 22 from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm in the sanctuary. Please mark your calendar, bring your friends, and come help make this tradition happen! You and your family choose which service(s) you participate in - the 7:00 pm, 9:00 pm, or both on Monday, December 24. Sign up in the bulletin or contact Britt O´Malley at 560.1472 or email@example.com to let us know your plans. Thank you for giving of your time and talent for worship on Christmas Eve!
TWO EVENTS TO SUPPORT JUSTICE FOR OUR NEIGHBORS Join us Tuesday, January 22 at 12:00 pm (St. Francis de Sales - Holland) or 6:30 pm (Keystone Community Church - Ada) for a screening of Jasmine´s Story, a documentary short film produced by United Methodist´s Communication for ReThink Church campaign. The story based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, explores the path of a congregation´s rally to support 17-year old Jasmine after witnessing ICE enter her family home and deport her Guatemalan parents and leaving her alone in the US to support herself and younger sister. This story personalizes an often-dehumanized issue and the need for people of faith to respond. Click here to download the event flyer. RSVP or find more information online at www.jfonwestmichigan.org.
CASEY´S CHRISTMAS EVE BREAKFAST First Church will be serving a hot and hearty holiday breakfast for our Heartside neighbors in Wesley Hall on Monday morning, December 24, 8 – 10:30 am. This annual event invites community members into our church for food and holiday fellowship. We need two kinds of helpers to make this event a success. (1) Table Host: Be a friendly host to our guests; share a cup of coffee, sit, chat, and create a welcoming environment. (2) Food Server/Worker: Serve food, bus tables, and help clean up.
WHICH WAY HOME You´re invited to join us on Sunday, January 13 at 12:15 pm for lunch and "Which Way Home." "Which Way Home" is a documentary film that follows the hazardous journey of four immigrant children on the train from Central America, through Mexico to the US border, hoping to find a way across into the USA. It portrays the difficult financial and family circumstances that prompts the journey as well as the trials and dangers encountered along the way. Event sponsored by JFON and the Immigrant Welcoming Committee. Please bring a $5 donation for lunch and RSVP by January 9 to Norm Kohns at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Sunday sign-up sheet. Free childcare will be available; please RSVP for childcare, too.
2ND SUNDAY LUNCH BUNCH will not meet in January.
CHRISTMAS EVE RECEPTION Help the Fellowship Committee serve refreshments and clean up during the Christmas Eve Services. If you´re able to help, please sign up using the Sunday bulletin sheet.
NEW FREE FUMC APP First Church is excited to announce the release of our new app. The FUMC app has been designed with a simple and fresh look. It contains all of the information necessary to connect you with all the ministries, events, and programs going on at First Church and more. It is our hope that the new app will assist in creating online opportunities for people to connect and access information necessary to live out our mission. The app also offers the opportunity to donate, submit photos, sign up to volunteer, or sign up to receive the online Weekly Pulse newsletter. Download this new app from iTunes or Android at www.grandrapidsfumc.org/app.
HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF So many facets of Hurricane Sandy response are still unfolding that a snapshot portrayal is difficult to capture. In countless, priceless ways, UMCOR is sending hurricane survivors the message that the church will continue to offer relief, even while planning for long-term recovery that will take not months but years.
Keep the care going. Please give to Hurricanes 2012, UMCOR Advance #3021787. You can donate online at www.umcor.org or you may write a check to First United Methodist Church with Hurricane Sandy on the memo line. Bishop Deb Kiesey reminds us, "Please know that every penny goes directly to those in need, so give generously and in the spirit of oneness in the Body of Christ."
More than 16,000 UMCOR cleaning buckets have so far been distributed to sites in five states from Maryland to New York in response to super-storm Sandy. UMCOR´s supply of cleaning buckets is depleted. First Church will assemble cleaning buckets for UMCOR in January. Watch upcoming newsletters for details on how you can become involved. Contact Laure Mieskowski if you work for a business that may be able to donate any of the following items: 5 gallon buckets with re-sealable lids, scouring pads, sponges, scrub brushes, disposable dust masks, disposable waterproof gloves, leather palmed work gloves.
MOMS´ GROUP: FAMILY NIGHT Join us at the GR Children´s Museum on Thursday, January 10 at 5:30 pm for a family night out! Please eat before you arrive and look for us on the lower level. Friends and dads are invited! Admission is only $1.50. Please RSVP Marj Timmerman at 451.2879 or email@example.com.
CARING CONNECTION Thenext meeting is on Wednesday, December 19 at 8:00 am at New BeginningsRestaurant (1455 Michigan St NE). We welcome anyone who would like to participate in caring for our homebound with phone calls, note-writing, and visits.
BLOOD DRIVE Our next Blood Drive will be Monday, January 21 from 3:00 - 7:00 pm in Wesley Hall. Please use the Sunday sign-up sheet or call the office to reserve a time to donate blood. If you can´t donate blood, cookies and caffeinated beverages are also needed! Be a part of this important mission to save lives.
CAROLING Thank you to everyone who joined us for caroling last Sunday. We caroled from Rockford to Ada to Caledonia to Jenison and many places in-between! A special thank you to the Fellowship Committee who fed us very well before we headed out, and to the team leaders - Dave & Peggy Thompson (NE), Gary Haller (SE), Marj Timmerman (NW), Eric Strand (SW), Mary Molhoek (Porter Hills +) and Sami Marasigan (Clark). You helped bring Christmas joy to many of our homebound, hospitalized, health-challenged, and senior members!
90+ JANUARY BIRTHDAYS
• Betty Little will be 91 on January 2!
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!
TAIZÉ SERVICE Wednesday, January 9 at 7:00 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.
JAZZ VESPERS, featuring The Jim Cooper Quartet, on Saturday, January 19 at 6:00 pm, weaves scripture, a pastoral message and prayer into a celebration of faith, hope, and the love of God.
CELEBRATION OF THE ARTS Plans are in progress for the 40th Annual Celebration of the Arts juried spiritual art show which will take place from February 2 -13, 2013. If you are interested in the arts and would like to volunteer to be part of the Celebration Planning Team, please indicate your interest on the sign-up sheet or contact Deb May at 451-2879 x 133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FIRST CHURCH FAMILY CONCERNS Concerns & Prayers for:
• Lynne Beals
• Pat Boyle (outpatient surgery 12/17)
• Mary Kay Gooder (outpatient surgery 12/21)
• Abby Greer
• Rick Kase
• Coral (Corky) Kastner
• Janet Muir
• Ruth Strohmer
• Karen Weessies
• 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 Mary Kay and Dave Berles and family on the death of Mary Kay´s mother and long time First Church member Dorothy Page on December 13th. Memorial service plans are pending.
A very, very special thanks for all the prayers and cards I received during my knee operation. All is going well and I will soon be dancing. Thank you for being such a caring group.
Love, Jan Muir