I sat in the lawn of the parsonage today and watch the Sturgis Falls parade for the second time. Last year my family and I moved to Cedar Falls the day of the beginning the Sturgis Falls Festival and watched the parade the next day. We have now been in Cedar Falls a year. And what a year it has been!
Some ten months previously I had my first conversation with the District Superintendent in the Central District about the possibility of seeking ministry in the United Methodist Church. I shared with him my long journey to a Weslyan understanding of the faith and my desire to serve in the United Methodist Church because it best fit my understanding of the faith, the grace of God, the sacraments, the polity of the church and ministry.
Several months later I was given the privilege of being eligible for an appointment in the Iowa Conference. But at that time there was no promise that I would receive an appointment. It would depend on available openings in a local church that would be a match for their needs and my gifts and graces. And so I waited. My family and I waited through the appointive process as the Bishop and Cabinet work together to determine appointments for the coming year. And, on the last day of April I received a phone call from my future DS with the possibility of an appointment to First UMC in Cedar Falls.
When we got here it was energizing and exciting. I couldn’t wait to get started! I was starting in a new opportunity for ministry in a new family of faith. I was given opportunity to work with a fantastic staff and Senior Pastor in a church that has decided to move forward and go places. The past year I’ve had a great time working with the staff and members of the church. It has been a blast to help redesign the Sunday contemporary worship now known as Transformation Worship and work with the great people in the praise bands and design team. I’ve enjoyed helping the Senior Pastor, Steve Williams, with pastoral care, worship leadership and preaching, hospital visitation, and the boards and committees of the church.
At the same time it has been exciting to get to know United Methodists and become a part of the United Methodist connection! Even though I had been studying United Methodists as an outsider, there has been plenty to learn about my new family of faith as I have become an active part of a local UMC church and involved with the ministries of the Iowa Conference now as a Provisional Member.
This past year has been a year of transition, change, learning, stretching, and growing. It has felt good! It is good to be where I believe God wants me to be at this time in my life and at this place in my ministry. In a week I begin my second year under the appointment of the Bishop as Associate Pastor of First UMC Cedar Falls. I look forward to the exciting things God will do in the coming year!
Last week First United Methodist Church in Church Conference decided to move forward with its building and rennovation program. This program has been in the works for a number of years but in the last two the church has made major steps forward in honing the vision and raising funds for this very important project.
In the building plan a new addition will be added to the building which will include a new entrance, a new welcome area, a new coffee fellowship area, a new nursury, chapel, and meeting room. The sanctuary of the church will be renovated and brought up to date, the chilren’s area will be remodeled and the offices will be moved and redesigned. It is an exciting and historic project!
Through the process the building committee and the church have captured a vision for how God might use our church in Cedar Falls, how we might expand our ministries, and how we can work to be a light for Jesus Christ in our community.
The history of First UMC is that this is a building church. It is a church that has build new facilities but also a church that has built ministries in this community. It is a place where generations have been baptized, confirmed, and raised up in the faith of Jesus Christ. It is a church that teaches people how to act on what they believe.
Now First UMC has taken another step of commitment and stepped out in faith to say to Cedar Falls that we are here, we want to grow and help you grow. We want to contribute even more to this community. We want to share in your faith want and growth in faith. And we want to let you know that all are welcome to come and share in Christ’s love and grace and at Christ’s table.
We walk by faith and not by sight because we believe that if we do what Christ calls us to do he will help us to meet the needs of others in the name of Jesus!
We will be breaking ground on July 3rd following a 9:00 a.m. Transformation Worship Experience with the entire church. Meet us on the church lawn as we commit not only to transform our building but also to let the transforming power of Jesus work in our lives!
When I first started the process of transferring my orders to the United Methodist Church so that I could become a United Methodist pastor and serve churches in the UMC I was told by a good friend that at some point when I began to think of myself as a United Methodist that I would find that my language about the UMC would change from “them” and “theirs” to “us” and “we.”
I realized a few days ago that some time in the process that has happened. As I have had the opportunity to study the Discipline, read about United Methodist theology and ministry, dig into the work of John and Charles Wesley, and become an active part of ministering in a UMC congregation the “them” became “we.” This month when the Iowa Conference recognized my orders and made me a Provisional Member I took my first step into officially being a United Methodist. But in the past two years my mind and my heart have already become United Methodist. I am a Methodist, theologically an arminian, a follower of Jesus Christ who believes in the power of God’s grace as expressed so well in the Methodist movement.
As I look back on my growing theological understanding I realize that I have for years been moving towards a Wesleyan understanding of the faith of Jesus Christ. Ever since I made an Emmaus Walk and heard about Prevenient Grace I have been journeying towards John Wesley’s understanding of grace and salvation. Ever since I first heard the full liturgy of the Great Thanksgiving I have been moving towards a sacramental understanding of Holy Communion.
So it was a good feeling a few days ago when someone ask me “what do United Methodists believe about…” and I was able to say “we believe….” It is a good feeling to be a part of this “we.” This connectional system of Annual Conferences, itinerant pastors committed to God where we are sent, and local churches of committed lay people who are part of this United Methodist Church is exciting and I’m glad I am a part of it.
It is a blessing from God to be a United Methodist. Or as our Bishop Julius Trimble says it, “Unapologetically Christian – Unashamedly United Methodist.”
Thanks be to God!
First UMC Cedar Falls has an exciting contemporary Sunday worship experience called Transformation Worship which is at 8:30 am on Sundays. Check out this commercial spot which will be airing on Cedar Falls Cable TV. Our Media Coordinator, Chris Congdon, did an amazing job creating this thirty-second spot!
In Transformation Worship we share weekly in a relaxed atmosphere in our church’s multipurpose facility “Scott Hall.” Each week you will hear from the Transformation Band, sing upbeat and lively praise music, spend time in prayer and sharing and learn more about the Christian faith through relevant presentations about how we apply the scriptures to our life today.
At First United Methodist Church (and at any United Methodist Church) as we worship each week and when we share in the sacrament of Holy Communion the table is open to all and the fellowship of the church is open to all.
Here is a photo from the Service of Ordering Ministry in which my ordination is recognized and I receive Provisional Membership in the Iowa Annual Conference. I am shaking hands with Bishop Julius Trimble the resident Bishop of the Iowa Annual Conference. Standing next to him is Rev. Robert Burkhart, Assistant to the Bishop for Administration. Standing next to me is a pastor who was having her orders recognized and being commissioned as an Elder in Full Connection having served in the UMC for some years.
During the Service of Ordering Ministry Elders and Deacons were ordained, Provisional Elders were commissioned as well as persons serving in all different facets of United Methodist ministry. It was a very moving and enjoyable worship experience.