At the 144th session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, I was reappointed to this congregation (I think I was anyway. They didn’t read my name out loud). And so starting on July 1, 2017, we will be beginning our 13th year of ministry together. In the past 12 years, we have made some remarkable progress and have blessed a multitude of people together.
When I first arrived at Centralia 1st UMC, the worship was very traditional. Over the years, we have added contemporary elements to our worship service including contemporary music, multimedia, and a user-friendly style of worship. We even tried our hand at two very distinct worship services—one very traditional, and the other contemporary. Unfortunately, those two services didn’t grow as we had hoped, and so we returned to a blended worship style several years ago. Every worship service is planned with a theme in mind. Each element of worship, from the opening songs to the benediction, builds upon that theme. By the end of each worship service, I hope to give you a message that you can take home and apply to your daily living.
We have expanded our outreach while I’ve been here. We doubled our community dinner ministry by offering two meals every month instead of just one. This ministry continues to touch the hearts and lives (and stomachs) of many people. We have made two mission trips to the UMCOR West Depot in Salt Lake City, have started a new covenant relationship with Kathleen Parker, and have established a relationship with Safe Family Ministry. We continue to support two orphans at the Jamaa Letu Orphanage. The first two we supported have graduated from the program. We have expanded our outreach both locally and globally.
We have also done our fair share of remodeling in the last 12 years. We remodeled the Mary Room, making it more inviting and a better meeting space. We remodeled the platform in the sanctuary, adding beautiful hardwood flooring and making our altar rail removable. We added a projector and a screen that gives us much needed creative freedom when planning worship.
But we didn’t stop at the inside. We also gave our grounds a complete makeover. This project was designed and lead by Gordon MacLeod-Koreis. We pulled out old, unattractive shrubs and replaced them with new ones. We rebarked the entire perimeter of the church building. Basically, we greatly improved the curb appeal of the church.
But I think the thing that I am most proud of over the last 12 years is how the church has become more and more welcoming of all people. We have seen an influx of people coming to our church who have traditionally found it difficult to feel welcomed and wanted by a church family. This is still an ongoing process, however. I would like to see us become an official Reconciling Congregation. The main step in this process is to craft a welcoming statement. We will be doing that shortly, and then we will share it with the whole church and ask for feedback. Extending God’s love and grace to all people regardless of their gender, race, economic status, sexual orientation, etc. is what I believe Jesus Christ would do. So let us continue to live out the UMC’s motto, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”
I can’t begin to tell you what a privilege and honor it is for me to be reappointed for a 13th year here at Centralia 1st UMC. Some people think 13 is an unlucky number, but I think it’s going to be our best year yet! I’ll see you in church.
Sermon Texts, Themes, and Titles for July
We strive to make worship meaningful, relevant, and challenging each and every Sunday. You are challenged to make worship a regular part of your life. You are invited to take some time to read the Scripture and reflect on the passages before each worship service.
July 2nd: Dry Bones! The Scripture passage will be Ezekiel 37:1-14 and the theme will be God’s ability to breath new life into dead things.
July 9th: Rest Stop! The Scripture passage will be Matthew 11:28-30 and the theme will be casting our cares upon Jesus.
July 16th: Good Soil! The Scripture passage will be Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 and the theme will be nurturing the seed planted within us.
July 23rd: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made! The Scripture passage will be Psalm 139: 1-16, 23-24, and the theme will be God’s handiwork seen in each person.
July 30th: Priceless! The Scripture passage will be Matthew 13:31-33, 44-46, and the theme will be the Kingdom of Heaven.
Worship is a vital part of a growing and vibrant faith. So make sure you attend on a regular basis. And bring a friend or two with you. It’s a great way to introduce someone to Jesus.
Annual Conference Report
The 144th Pacific Northwest Annual Conference was held from June 14th through the 17th at the Red Lion Inn on the River. For the first time ever, Oregon/Idaho Conference and the PNW Conference met simultaneously in the same facility. We passed the budget for the Annual Conference, voted on 5 proposed constitutional changes to our Book of Discipline, and welcomed our new Bishop Elaine Stanovsky. We commissioned 14 persons as provisional elders, and ordained 3 into full membership in a joint ordination service that culminated this year’s event. On a sadder note, we also voted to close 8 churches at this year’s Annual Conference (and this was just in the Pacific Northwest Conference). Kathy Van Horn was our lay delegate, and she did a great job representing our church. Next year’s Conference has been scheduled for June 21st through the 24th at the Washington State Fair Grounds in Puyallup.
Centralia First UMC's Strategic Plan
Vision: To practice extravagant hospitality and live out the radical inclusivity that Jesus Christ modeled for us so that all persons find a safe harbor in this church.
There are so many people in our community who have felt unwelcomed by the church in general. Particular subgroups (LGBT and those who struggle with mental illness for example) have been judged and condemned, and often feel that the church is an enemy as opposed to a source of comfort and support.Throughout his ministry, Jesus was constantly reaching out and incorporating into his ministry the disenfranchised and marginalized.His unconditional love and acceptance of others was the catalyst of reconciliation and transformation.
Our target audience is all those who have felt unwelcomed by the Church, as well as the millennial generation who do not see homosexuality as a sin. Given the progressive nature of this vision, those of a more liberal mindset would also be targeted.
One of the first action steps would be for us to launch a study on officially becoming a Reconciling Congregation. The Reconciling Ministries Network only has one official step in becoming a reconciling congregation, and that is to craft a welcoming statement.After the church officially adopts this welcoming statement, individuals would be given the opportunity to declare themselves Reconciling United Methodists.
A second action step in this plan is to rework our published information regarding our church to reflect this change. Newsletters, websites, Facebook page, brochure, etc. would all have to be updated.
A third action step is to establish and nurture a deepening relationship with the student body at Centralia College. In order to reach out to the millennial generation, we would take advantage of our close proximity to Centralia College.Some actions steps include strengthening our connection with the College by holding a Pastor Chat type gathering on a weekly basis at the new Student Union building upon it’s completion.
Another action step is to erect a chalkboard of some sort that engages the students in thought-provoking ways. For example, on the chalkboard are printed, “My Biggest Regret…” and people are invited to share their thoughts.At another time, the words, “Love is…” are printed on the chalkboard, and students are again asked to share their thoughts.This could be an ongoing interaction.Results would be posted on our Facebook page as well as our website.
The timeline for these action steps vary. The goal of becoming a Reconciling Congregation can begin immediately so that it is completed by the end of January 2017.
The chalkboard outreach is in process and should be up by the end of 2016.
And as soon as the TransAlta Student Commons is completed (scheduled to be done by September 2016) we will begin to hold our Pastor Chats there. The hope is to offer the students an opportunity to meet and get to know the pastor, and maybe even engage the pastor in some theological conversation.Hopefully, these contacts will eventually lead to more millennials worshipping in our church.
Benchmarks we will be striving to meet include a greater participation from the LGTQ community in the life of the church.
Another benchmark will be increased participation in worship, outreach, missions, etc. from the millennial generation. The millennial generation is defined as people born between 1977 and 1994.
The stakeholders include the pastor and all the leadership team. They will be primarily responsible for carrying out and sharing this vision.
Most of the action steps do not require any additional funds.
We will begin by sharing our vision with the rest of the leadership team. Their buy in will be key.We will also use publications such as our newsletter to communicate the plan to the congregation.Our website and Facebook page will also be key in spreading the word.