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May 27, 2014

In a few weeks, (July 1 to be specific) I will celebrate my 35th year in United Methodist pastoral ministry. The church has changed (and is changing) rather dramatically since 1979 when I was assigned a ‘student pastorate´ while in graduate school. One of the lessons that experience has taught me is that summer time (in mainline Protestantism), is typically a down time. The ebb and flow of our lives means that the summer season is more relaxed. Probably all of us look forward to time off. Some of us travel. Many of us spend time outdoors enjoying the wonder of God´s creation. As a result, typically, worship attendance declines in the summer. Church programming is reduced. And, giving goes down.

I am moving in to my first full summer as pastor of First Church and by the content of this edition, I would conclude that First Church is not ‘typical.´

I think it is important to affirm that taking time to rest ... renew ... spend time with loved ones or family ... and enjoying the benefits of the summer season is vital for us all. But I encourage you to remember to make a priority for your faith development and your church participation throughout the summer season. We need you ... and you need us.

In this edition - the Summer Edition, you will read:

1) An insightful article about Worship. Eric Strand, our Director of Music and the Arts, is teaching and encouraging us to not only be in worship, but to be unified in the worship of God.

2) The Compassionate Care article written by our Parish Nurse, Marj Timmerman, introduces an additional dimension to the ‘Five Practices.´ Pastoral Care is a vital part of a fruitful congregation. There are ways to be involved in the ministry of pastoral care, and Marj highlights various ministries and invites participation. Marj also addresses her need (as well as our blessing) for a five-week renewal leave.

3) Pastor Tish gives an overview of Intentional Faith Development options throughout the ‘growing season.´ Annette Erbes included important information about our ongoing ministry with children ... including an ad on the back for Arts Alive Camp. On Pentecost Sunday, June 8, we will also welcome our Confirmation Class into full church membership as well.

4) As usual, Chris Hawkins writes a challenging ‘Generosity´ article that keeps us focused on our commitment to giving throughout the summer season.

5) Patsy McGillivray´s article is casting a leadership vision for cultivating and improving our ministry of hospitality.

6) And finally, the mission opportunities are numerous in how we can get involved in ‘doing´ ministry. Laure Mieskowski wrote a wonderful overview of summer season projects that need the support of our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

From my perspective, the summer season will be a time of ‘research and development´ as we do the planning for 2014 and 2015. As a staff, we have been working diligently to do the planning for next year so that our congregation can continue to deepen spiritually while widening our ministry influence within the heart of Grand Rapids.

Grace and Peace to you ... and may God bless us all with a marvelous summer season.

Pastor Bob
Senior Pastor

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Over the summer, we will be looking at new ways to be RADICAL in our hospitality. I´ve been doing some reading and have found that many churches across the country are focusing on this very topic. I think that the one thing that struck me the most was an article in the newsletter of Cedarville, NJ UMC.

"Congregations that practice Radical Hospitality demonstrate an active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Christ. Radical describes that which is drastically different from ordinary practices, outside the normal, that which exceeds expectations and goes the second mile.

Radical Hospitality in our personal walk with Christ, begins with an extraordinary receptivity to the grace of God. In distinctive and personal ways, we invite God into our hearts and make space for God in our lives. We say "yes" to God and open ourselves to the spiritual life. We accept God´s love and acceptance of us. We receive God´s love and offer it to others."

Hospitality begins within ourselves. We first have to be extraordinarily hospitable to the grace of God in our own lives. We have to embrace that grace and the love we feel for God in our own lives before we can begin to be outwardly and radically hospitable. So that is what I would like you to think about as we wind down the program year and begin the summer.

I will be contacting Cedarville and other churches to see what kinds of things they are doing to be radical. You will be hearing from me over the summer about what I find. In the meantime, continue to be as welcoming as you have been. Invite "the strangers among us" to sit with you or to join you for our summer picnic or any other events happening following church. Look at the circle of people in your daily life and consider inviting them to join you for worship or other events of the church. Invite your neighborhood friends to Arts Alive Camp. Finally, don´t forget to wear those nametags. It helps people to get to know us that much quicker.

Patsy McGillivray
Director of Invitational Ministry

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Going from "Me" to "We"

"Why do Christians sing when they are together? The reason is, quite simply, because in singing together it is possible for them to speak and pray the same Word at the same time; in other words, because they can unite in the Word."
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
Life Together, p. 59

"Whoever has ears, let them hear."
~ Matthew 13:9

In passionate worship, there is Unity. The theme of "oneness" pervades our song:
"We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord…"
"One bread, one body, one Lord of all…" "Many gifts, one spirit…"
Unity relates to the fact that, in passionate worship, we have a shared experience.

It is fascinating to consider the forming of a choir as a larger metaphor for the forming of a body. In the formation of a choir, the various members begin as individuals, and gradually, through intense listening, become a single expressive instrument. "Listen to everyone except yourself" is an important concept for the choir to became "one." This understanding acknowledges that there are higher levels of awareness that can be cultivated within a group. It is quite possible for us to "unite in the Word" as Bonhoeffer suggests, but it requires a keen awareness and openness to the "unified" experience. One of the reasons that we enjoy watching the graceful movement of sport, or dance such as ballet, is that we can actually share in that graceful experience. In watching graceful movement, it is possible to actually share the experience. Another´s experience can be our experience. Why? Because, in actuality, we are all sharing the same experience; it´s just that we haven´t taken the time to discover this for ourselves. This awareness of the shared experience is also the foundation of empathy and compassion.

Just as "light" is a singularity that splits into seven colors, we are a singularity split into various forms. ("Many gifts, one spirit") The quicker we can get from "me" to "we" in worship, the quicker we can build the "body of Christ" in this community of faith.

Thankfulness for Musicians
I would like to take this opportunity to give thanks for those who have given so much of their time and talent to the leading of worship in this congregation. We are so fortunate to have extraordinarily gifted musicians who give their talents out of a sense of calling and mission to serve this congregation: The Faith Travelers Choir, First Singers, Youth Choir, Chancel Choir, Jubilation Ringers, Taizé Ensemble, Barclay Street Brass and various other instrumentalists and singers regularly "sing a new song" to the Lord. Alleluia! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God.

Seeking Summer Musicians
During the summer months, would you like to offer a "Ministry of Music" during worship? We are seeking those who´d like to offer an instrumental piece or vocal solo. Contact Eric Strand if you are interested at

Calling all First Church fine artists age sixteen (16) and older….
We are looking to have an All-Church Art Exhibit beginning July 1 with intake on Friday, June 27 and Sunday, June 29. Do you have an original painting, photograph, textile art, jewelry, or sculpture that you might share in our hallway gallery? Sign up on the bulletin sign-up sheet. Questions? Call Carol McNally at 451-2879, ext. 133 or email her at

Eric Strand
Director of Music and the Arts

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The Growing Season

The hot sunny days and warm, balmy nights of summer make for the perfect growing season in your summer vegetable garden, and they can also be great for personal growth. Take a minute today to sign up for one of our excellent summer offerings!

Child care now available! This summer, the Women of First group is once again doing a lunchtime Bible study led by Pastor Tish and all women are invited. Using "The Christ-Centered Woman" by Kimberly Dunnam Reisman, we will find balance for every age and stage of life with Christ at the center. Women at First will explore what the Bible teaches about Christ-centered living using Ephesians 3 as a guide. Starting June 12, we will meet every other week from 12:00 to 1:30 pm through August 21. Lunch may be purchased (a soup/salad) or you may bring your own. Workbooks will be available for $10 in the north lobby beginning June 1.

Summer is a great time to work on growing relationships. Studying Adam Hamilton´s book, "Love to Stay," class members will explore how, with God´s help, we can make love last. He uses surveys from singles and couples, interviews with marriage and relationship therapists, the latest research, and wisdom from the Bible to look at what it takes to create and sustain a healthy, meaningful romantic relationship across the course of a lifetime. This class will meet from June 24 - July 29 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm in the parlor and be led by Amy and Adam Hinman and Laure and Dick Mieskowski. Child care is available. Books will be available for $10 in the north lobby starting June 15, or you may purchase your copy of an eBook online.

Summer School

What?! School in the Summer? YES! Find your way to the One Room Schoolhouse! Children age 4 years through Grade 2 attend the start of the 10:00 worship with their families and are then dismissed to Room 202 following the Moments with Children. Here children will experience and learn Bible stories through adaptable lessons which might include dramas, puzzles, games, storytelling, music, crafts, and other activities to engage readers and non-readers alike! This summer´s class will be led by Stacey Siegel and Katie Wezeman. Plan to join us and bring a friend or two with you.

Children in Grades 3 and up are welcome in worship this summer! To help them be engaged in worship, they will find…
• worship bulletins created just for them with the theme and scripture of the day
• worship bags filled with books, activity sheets, worship bulletins, and colored pencils available in the back of the sanctuary on a wooden cart.

We would also welcome children as worship participants this summer. Would you like to play your instrument or share a song or reading? Please talk to Eric Strand, or Pastor Tish as we would welcome your participation.

Welcome Confirmands!

Our Jr. High students are going to take the next step in their faith with confirmation on Sunday, June 8th. This has been an amazing year watching them learn and grow in faith. Thirteen students ages 12-14 have learned the basics about The United Methodist Church. They have also learned about Wesley´s teachings through the Quadrilateral, the three different kinds of grace we believe God offers, and the five vows of membership along with various other facts about our church and faith. They have asked intelligent questions and have given great thought to their individual faith.

These students have been a blessing to the fearless leaders who have helped out this year. We couldn´t have done it without the support of those leaders, including parents, mentors, prayer partners, pastors, teachers, staff and volunteers – more than ninety people! I want to thank each and every one of you for your part in supporting this program as we bring these young, new members into our church.

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What Makes a Summer Memorable? Risk-Taking Mission!

Summer in Michigan is wonderful! We can finally dig out our shorts and sunscreen! "Pure Michigan" ads call us to rivers, beaches, campgrounds, and cottages. We relish the long days and beautiful sunsets. We relax a little more and often create special summer memories with our family and friends. I love Michigan summers!

The needs of our community and our world continue in the midst of our vacations and more relaxed summer schedules. Consider adding some days of mission and service to your summer plans. First Church is sponsoring the following opportunities:

Habitat for Humanity Build First Church is joining other United Methodist Churches in the Grand Rapids District to build a house at 934 Caulfield Ave SW. Join others from First Church on one or more of the following build days: Saturday, June 14, Thursday, June 19, Wednesday, July 16, and Saturday, August 2. Volunteers must be 16 years or older. Jobs are available for both skilled and less skilled workers. Sign-ups are required. Contact Laure Mieskowski or use the Sunday bulletin sign-up sheet or website:

Feeding America On the third Saturday of each month, First Church partners with other area churches to host a mobile food pantry at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, 1205 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids. Dates for this summer are June 21, July 19, and August 16 at 8:30 am. Volunteers help pass out food from the well-stocked truck. Last year, Feeding America of West Michigan distributed more than 9.3 million pounds of food directly to hungry clients! Volunteers of all ages are welcome – no experience necessary! No sign up is needed, just come and we´ll show you what to do!

Family Promise Week We welcome homeless families to our church during the week of July 20 – 27. This opportunity to practice Radical Hospitality includes the following volunteer opportunities: room set-up, dinner preparation, evening host, overnight host, Saturday host, washing laundry. Volunteers of all ages are welcome – no experience necessary! Our Family Promise coordinators, Betty DeVinney, Angela Norton, and Jess Rozga will happily give you guidance. If you have a welcoming heart and like to meet new people, talk, eat, and sleep you have the skills necessary to volunteer! Sign-ups will begin in June and are greatly appreciated.

Well House First Church´s Young Adult Group is building relationships with our neighbor, Well House. Well House is an amazing organization that is moving people who are homeless into housing. Young Adults (ages 18-30) are invited to join us for this new ministry opportunity on June 4, June 29, and July 30. Email for more info.

Summer Picnics
Join our community friends for summer food and welcoming fellowship at the following events:

The Methodist Connection Churches will gather on Saturday, July 12 at 11:00 am at Johnson Park´s open pavilion. Meat and drinks are provided. Please bring a summer salad or dessert to share. The Methodist Connection is a cooperative ministry of First Community AME, First United Methodist Church, Hilliard Chapel AME, and St. Luke AME Zion. Members of these churches meet together for yearly events as a way to further racial reconciliation and to widen the circle of friends and those for whom we care and pray.

The First Church Community Picnic will be on Sunday, July 27, in the church parking lot following the 10:00 am worship service. Main dish and drinks are provided. Please bring a side dish or dessert to share.

Contact me about any of the above opportunities! Let me know about other acts of service that you are involved in. I´d be happy to share them with our church family. Let´s build summer memories together!

Laure Mieskowski
Direct of Missions and Outreach

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You´ve probably heard the comment that you can tell a lot about one´s faith by looking at their checkbook.

Most of us never have to worry about an IRS audit of our taxes, but you have to admit that the mere thought of an audit puts a little fear in our hearts. This "fear" prompts most of us to make doubly sure that our tax return could withstand the rigors of an audit.

Imagine if God did an audit of our finances. Imagine, you get a call and have to go to a meeting with God to review your spending habits…and you can´t even take that friendly person from H&R Block with you to answer the questions! Would you be nervous and maybe feel a little guilty? Or would you faithfully and joyfully present the sum of your good works to God?

What would God see upon reviewing your checkbook? Would God be pleased with your Extravagant Generosity??

Our checkbooks tell us a lot about our financial priorities. Wouldn´t it be interesting if each of us took the time to truly analyze these spending records - with the purpose of categorizing each expense as either true necessities, or as opportunities for us to practice even greater generosity!

If we can find a way to put God first…to truly rejoice in all God has provided us…then truly Extravagant Generosity becomes part of who we are. When we determine our true necessities, most of us discover that there is plenty available to glorify God. Someday, I guess we will all be in a situation where we really do stand before God with not only our checkbooks, but our whole lifetime of experiences. In the meantime, I hope we all can take time to reflect on our "checkbook"…an audit of ourselves, if you will. Would you be pleased with what you find? Would God be pleased?

In closing, as a reminder, it would be a tremendous help to the church for all of us to keep our giving current through the summer months. If you have not yet taken advantage of the various electronic giving options, why not consider this convenience today?

Chris Hawkins, Finance Committee

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A Sixth Practice of Fruitful Congregations?

When we were studying the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, the staff noticed there was something important missing: nurture and care! We have decided to add a 6th practice and call it COMPASSIONATE CARE. So as you pray for discernment in which way God may be calling you into action, you might be led to this 6th practice. Remember, people need care all year long and this summer might be a great time for you to begin a new Compassionate Care journey at First Church! Some ideas might be:

Caring Connection is a group of individuals who enjoy writing cards and notes. They meet monthly at New Beginnings on Michigan Street for breakfast with Pastor Tish or me, at which time we provide a list of people who could use a card or cheery note. We even have a person in the group who makes beautiful cards for us to send!

Caring Circles are people who are paired with one of our homebound members. They help keep them linked to the church by visiting them at least once a month. Most people visit and chat, some have tea and cookies, others share devotions or bring communion. Stephen Ministry provides one-to-one confidential Christian care to people going through a difficult time. After 50 hours of training in areas such as confidentiality, boundaries, and Christian caregiving, a Stephen Minister is paired with one person at a time with whom they meet for an hour each week. We will be starting another training class this fall. If you have the gifts of mercy and care, please consider joining our Stephen Ministry Team!

Meals Ministry We are now using the Take Them A Meal online program to schedule meals for those undergoing chemo or radiation, recovering from surgery or an accident, or new parents. This program helps us help others by not overwhelming them with too much food at once. It allows us to schedule meals when they are most needed – and it lists any food allergies, provides a map and all contact information. Watch for announcements in the bulletin or Pulse for meal needs.

Prayer Quilt Ministry These special quilts remind those undergoing major health challenges how much we love and care for them! If you can cut, iron, sew or pin, you are qualified to be part of this team.

There are many other ways we care for one other. Please contact me at or 451-2879 if you have new ideas or wish to join any one of these heartfelt caring ministries!

Renewal Leave
After almost 11 years of serving as your Parish Nurse, I´m excited to let you know I will be taking a 5-week renewal leave this summer! From July 13th until August 16th, I will be spending time refreshing and renewing my mind, body and spirit. The first week I will be attending SoulFeast in North Carolina where the theme will be "Living the Psalms." I will also be following Rueben Job´s book Retreat for All God´s Shepherds, working on better balance in my life, reflecting back on my time as your Parish Nurse, and listening for God´s direction. So this means for these 5 weeks I will not be answering emails or phone calls, not making hospital or homebound visits, and not worshipping with you. Pastors Tish and Bob as well as other staff members will be available to help with your pastoral care needs. I ask for your prayers as I take this much-needed time away and look forward to coming back energized and ready for an exciting fall at First Church!

Peace and joy,
Marj Timmerman RN
Parish Nurse

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