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Lay Leader's Year End Notes

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-22 (excerpts): "Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time;

thank God no matter what happens… On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check

out everything, and keep only what’s good."

By now, you have received a letter from Pastor Jeremy. It was sent by email, snail mail and

other methods. In it, he describes “intentional conversation… about what it might look like for the four United Methodist Churches in the Big Rapids area to be in purposeful ministry together.” He is leading a Transition Team that will work together to develop and propose (not adopt) a new ministry model.

This team is made up of Pastor Jeremy, two lay persons from each of the churches (Barbara

Ross and Ray Setlock from BRFUMC), and Timothy Locker, a member of Reed City UMC who has been leading worship at Third Avenue, Paris, and Rodney UMCs through December 2023.

The team has met once. If you are concerned that we are not being transparent, I will report that we have made ONE decision so far. We have renamed ourselves, not to be the Transition Team, but the Exploration Team, in case we never agree to any transition at all. We have also set two meeting dates in January 2024, and agreed to communicate with all the churches at BRFUMC’s quarterly Family Meeting on January 7, 2024, and a Big Rapids Parish meeting on January 21.

After that, three “town hall” meetings for anyone who wants to attend will occur between late January and the end of February. The intention is to have a plan that can be voted on at a formal meeting of each church shortly after Easter 2024, in April. That way, any changes can be implemented July 1, 2024.

You may remember that this is at least the third time such cooperation has been proposed.

Nothing happened after the first proposal, and covid interfered with the second.

We are Christ centered communities, but can we be more effective working together? If so,

how, and where? Despite any rumors we have heard, there are no plans at the moment to close any churches, or to stop worshiping at four locations. BR First is NOT going to become a four-point parish.

The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the

transformation of the world. BR First openly declares that we want to reach out to and bless every child of God. In the Great Commission, Jesus directs us to go forth and take the message to all the world. Nowhere does he indicate that we are to focus on doing what we have always been doing.

For several years, I have sensed that God is moving among us in this area, and that He wants changes to occur. He hasn’t sent me any details about exactly WHAT he wants to happen. The Exploration Team will be discerning what we should do about working together while respecting each church group’s theology, identity, autonomy, and finances. Please pray for us as this process goes forward and pray for God’s will to be done in this enterprise.

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