Welcome to Joint Worship Services!
*******************NEW WORSHIP SCHEDULE*******************
October 1 – December 31 9:30 Joint Worship at Christ UMC
*Permission to podcast/stream the music in these services obtained from One License with license number: A-733006.
Words from the Pastor
Church Family and friends,
We have been worshiping together now for two months… how does it feel? I know that is a loaded question, but one of the fun things about being a preacher is you get to ask difficult questions.
It seems that people are starting to talk to each other more before and after worship, and everyone seems comfortable participating in worship together. This is positive progress, and I am thankful. But the area in which I’m not seeing any movement is in the visioning process – who is God calling us to be together, how can we connect with our community together, and how can we reach more people for Christ together? Again, I’m the preacher, I’m supposed to ask questions that make us uncomfortable. This business of becoming one church has definitely drawn our gaze inward… and maybe that is to be expected. But when we look at ourselves what do we see? Two groups of people – US and THEM, Christ church people and First church people? Or do we see ourselves as one body in Christ?
How we answer these questions… regardless of the legal steps and the organizational restructuring that will be taking place in the months to come… will be the most important factor in determining the future course of our church. I plead with you all, please do not squander the opportunity that is before you now. Do not cut corners or take any shortcuts. Some people equate prayer with inaction, but bathing this merger process in prayer and seeking God’s will and purposes will be the most important action step in determining the future survival and success of our church.
I’ve only been here for a year, so maybe my words don’t carry much weight. The apostle Paul, on the other hand, has a great deal of credibility and clout, so I will share his pleading with you.
In 49 CE, the emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome, which left the leadership responsibilities of the church to fall on the Gentile Christians. A few years later, the Jews returned to Rome and then the trouble started. The Jews looked down on the Gentiles because Jesus was a Jew, and the Christian faith came out of Judaism. The Gentiles viewed themselves as being chosen by God because most of the Jewish people rejected Jesus as the Messiah. We are not the first Christians to go down the road of US versus THEM.
This is what Paul had to say to the early Roman church and to us… Do not conform to the pattern of this world, (division, competition, and animosity are ways of the world NOT the way of Christ) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2 NIV).
Somehow (through lots of prayer!) we must change our thinking and start focusing on what God wants for us as Christ’s church rather than focusing on what we want for our church… and then (and only then) will we see true transformation take place in OUR new church.
One of the walkers in our Tuesday morning walking group called my attention to the steeples of Christ and First UMC. As you walk along the path there is a place where the steeples line up, so we stopped and discussed how it is a good picture of our churches coming together. The three pictures on the bulletin cover reflect this – at one time we were far apart, but we have been moving closer, and now we are becoming one.
As you reflect, hopefully daily, on Paul’s words to the Ephesian church – pray for our churches as we become one with each other and one with Christ.
Update on Church Merger
On Monday, April 24, 2023, at 5 PM, the Church Council of First UMC held a special meeting that was attended by all the key leaders of the church. At that meeting, it was unanimously decided to pursue a formal merger of First UMC and Christ UMC.
After its worship service, on Sunday, May 21, 2023, Christ UMC held a congregational meeting to determine if the church was in favor of First UMC and Christ UMC officially merging into one church. The consensus was unanimous in support of proceeding with merging the two churches.
On Monday, June 5, 2023, at 7 PM, the Vision & Planning Team – consisting of 5 key leaders from First UMC and 5 key leaders from Christ UMC – met to discuss how to begin the merger process. The legal process of transferring the ownership of all church property and assets must be initiated and accomplished under the direction of the District Superintendent and the Upper Shore District attorney.
The District Superintendent has been contacted and we are awaiting instructions on how to begin the process. Several Vision & Planning Team members proposed that we should begin worshiping together so the churches could begin becoming one church family spiritually as we are working through the potentially slow administrative process of merging.
Realizing that choosing which church building would be our new place of worship would a difficult and traumatic task; the team decided that we should worship together for the next six months (three months at FUMC and three months at CUMC) before making that decision. After deciding on the particulars – worshiping July, August, and September at FUMC and worshiping
October, November, and December at CUMC, with a new starting time of 9:30 AM – the ten Vision & Planning Team members approved the proposition with 9 members in favor and 1 member opposed.
Why three months in each church building? Choosing one building over the other will be hard…it will be painful… it is also the one thing with the greatest potential of keeping us apart. If asked, most people can name several things they love about their church building, while at the same time, finding a few things they don’t like about the other church building.
However, the reality is that the choice must take into consideration all the practical, economical, and logistical issues associated with each building. Which building is easier to maintain, which is the most cost effective to operate, which building best suits the church’s future missional needs, and so on and so forth. There is a distinct possibility that no one’s personal preference will be the deciding factor that determines which building will be our place of worship when we merge into one church.
So… when we worship at FUMC for three months and at CUMC for three months, please do not make formulating lists of what you like and dislike about each church your primary focus. Instead, I ask you to spend three months in each sanctuary experiencing God in worship… in that place and at that moment.
I ask the members of CUMC to spend three months at FUMC, listening and learning from the members at FUMC why they love their church building so much. If you are ever going to be one church family, you must be able to appreciate the history and the ministry that has taken place in the lives of your brothers and sisters in Christ at FUMC.
I ask the members of FUMC to spend three months at CUMC, listening and learning from the members of CUMC why they love their church building so much. If you are ever going to be one church family, you also must be able to appreciate the history and ministry that has taken place in the lives of your brothers and sisters in Christ at CUMC.
I believe that you are closer to merging into one church than you have ever been… but whether you are truly ready to do this remains to be seen. This is what the next six months will reveal.
May the peace, grace, and blessings of God be with us all.