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FROM THE PASTOR - "My $0.02"

Grace and peace, friends! As we navigate this important moment in our collective journey, I want to take a moment to share my wholehearted support for the proposed merger of First, Third Ave, and Paris United Methodist Churches. This decision, while carrying inherent risks, offers unprecedented opportunities to strengthen our collective mission and build the Kingdom of God across multiple locations.


First and foremost, I want to assure you that my endorsement of the merger is not a result of external pressures. The District Superintendent and the Bishop have been 100% supportive of the work we are doing together, and the way in which I’ve led this conversation to date, recognizing the potential for growth and impact that merging can bring to our ministry. This is driven by a shared vision of vibrant churches serving diverse communities and a calling to expand our reach and influence for the sake of the Kingdom.


I’m sure you are familiar with the expression, “For such a time as this…” This phrase originates from the book of Esther in the Old Testament, specifically Esther 4:14. In this biblical narrative, Queen Esther faces a critical moment in history when the Jewish people are threatened with annihilation. Mordecai, her cousin, urges her to use her position to intercede on behalf of her people. He emphasizes that perhaps she has come to her royal position "for such a time as this."


While I don’t subscribe to the “everything happens for a reason” theory of how God works, which is often tied into this particular passage of scripture, I do believe that God honors the skills we’ve developed throughout our lives and the experiences we’ve walked through – both good and bad – by using them to affect positive change and transformation for the sake of the Kingdom.


I also believe that because of the experiences that I’ve had in church planting and congregational development, I’m positioned, resourced, supported, and equipped to be of help to the Church in this critical time.  Each step, each decision, is significant in the unfolding story of God's work in the world – and I feel privileged to be part of this incredible process. I have seen communities revitalized, strengthened, and spiritually deepened through intentional and prayerful strategic changes. These experiences have guided my approach in leading our congregation through this crucial conversation.


Why do I feel so strongly about this?  What makes me qualified to lead these conversations, or to even have an opinion?  I’ve done this work.  My home church merged with another United Methodist congregation and created a vibrant new faith community.  As the chair of the Lansing District Leadership Team, I walked with churches through mergers, acquisitions, and closures as they refocused their vision toward effective and fruitful ministry.  As a pastor I worked faithfully with several congregations through the formation of a cooperative parish that operated a community outreach center seven days a week.  I’ve done the work – from the pew to pulpit, from the congregation to the denomination, and every place in between. I have personally witnessed the transformative power of unity and shared purpose.


Merging our churches allows us to pool our resources, talents, and energies, creating a more robust and dynamic community. By being present in multiple locations, we can extend our outreach, serve diverse populations, and truly embody the inclusive love of Christ.


It's essential to acknowledge that risk is inherent in any venture, be it in the church or in our personal lives. The question before us is not whether we will encounter challenges, but rather, are we willing to embrace these risks for the sake of building the Kingdom of God? Our faith calls us to step into the unknown with courage and trust that God's guidance will lead us through.


As we contemplate this decision, let’s remember that the call to build the Kingdom of God transcends the challenges we may face. The merger is an opportunity to amplify our impact, reach more people with the Good News, and create a legacy that extends beyond the confines of individual congregations. Together, we can make a meaningful and lasting difference in the lives of those we serve.


I stand before you with a firm belief that the benefits of the merger far outweigh the risks. This decision is not about losing our identity but about evolving into a stronger, more vibrant expression of our shared faith. I invite each one of you to prayerfully consider the possibilities before us and join me in embracing the Kingdom-building journey that lies ahead.


With gratitude and anticipation for the future,

Pastor Jeremy


PS. This will probably be the last post from me about the merger - unless I feel like I NEED to address specific questions or concerns. If you have questions for me, please contact the First Church office @ 231-796-7771 - I'm happy to chat!

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