Informal Sunday - It's Bring Your Lawn Chair Sunday
Flowers on the Grounds
Adult FMCers in the "Slowest" Race Contest
Church in the Round
Working with the Youth
A welcoming faith community committed to Making peace, Seeking justice, Serving as the hands, heart and voice of Christ
First Mennonite Church seeks to be a welcoming community to all who come our way, and as one expression of our hospitality we are a member of the Supportive Communities Network, a network of Mennonite and Brethren congregations that support full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church.
We are a welcoming faith community committed to making Peace, seeking Justice and Serving as the hands, heart and voice of Christ.
Priorities for this pastor will be to support and equip Church Life Commission (congregational Care Team, small groups, etc.), to collaborate with Faith Formation Commission (Christian Education for children, youth and adults), and to integrate persons of all ages, backgrounds and identities into the life of the congregation.
In consultation with FMC healthcare professionals and commission leadership, Trustees and Pastors have developed the FMC Covid-19 Plan. Decisions for whether, and how, we engage in worship services and other activities at FMC are based on cues from local institutions, while understanding that we will follow all published national, state, and local mandates/ordinances. To reduce risk as much as possible, the FMC Covid-19 Readiness Guidelines have been jointly developed by the Pastors and Trustees, FMC medical professionals, the Worship Commission, the Faith Formation Commission, and the Facilities committee. Please familiarize yourself with this document and be prepared to follow practices described therein.
FMC is currently holding indoor, in-person worship services, and masking is optional in the sanctuary and fellowship hall most Sundays.
Masks continue to be required in all non-sanctuary, non-fellowship hall spaces (e.g., classrooms). To be as inclusive and accommodating as possible, the third Sunday of each month is designated as “masks required” in the sanctuary and fellowship hall. Reminders are sent to newsletter subscribers and signage is posted around the building.
Additionally note that some restrictions on the service and consumption of food and drinks have been loosened, contingent on certain factors (size of group, meeting time, meeting space). Potlucks are still prohibited.
On Sunday, March 12, the MYF hosted a soup lunch fund raiser for the congregation. They offered a wide variety of soups, and included salad, bread and dessert for a wonderful lunch. It was great to be back together and able to share a meal together. The lunch brought in $2,279 for the MYF fund to help cover costs for service trips, and other activities. Pictured below are the youth.
I don’t know what to say, but I am so, so, so sorry! I was putting Oonii to bed when Mum told me, which means I had a lot of space to think. All I could recount in my mind was everything you and John did for us, with my siblings, since the moment I met you all. I have so, so many memories, and I am ever so grateful for them.
I remember the first smells as you guys welcomed us into your home. I have memories of us kids raking the leaves on your large lawn and eventually jumping into the heaping piles. Your dogs, your kitchen, Thanksgiving dinners, your forested playground… and the smell of the motorcycle engine—these are just a few memories. I have so many more.
I am so grateful for you and John being a part of my life. I love you. I am here for you.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I Thessalonians 5: 11
As we continue our MennoExpressions theme of Running the Race this year, we also recognize the importance of those who encourage and cheer for the racers. Weary souls may be energized when inspired by a friendly face or a shout of “You can do it!” In this year of emerging from our collective pandemic isolation, the comfort of gathering, singing, working and eating together seems especially reassuring. We hope the collected articles console and brighten as we move forward in our daily life treks.
We start with reflections from Pastor Monica Miller who has been sidelined by the hurdle of long COVID. We rejoice that she is improving, and celebrated recently with Pie Sunday, giving thanks for healing and her one-year anniversary as pastor at FMC.
The Hood family collaborated to write On Loss and Living. They openly share their continuing pain and grief from the loss of their son and brother Scott, while also moving forward and treasuring ways to celebrate life and the importance of being together with family and friends.
We also grieve the unexpected passing of long-time member John Boyce, and include several reflections that highlight just a bit of the influence he had on family, friends and even strangers. Several poems seem especially appropriate to consider for encouragement in light of these losses and others experienced in our church families.
Be sure to explore the overview of the work trip taken by the MYF, and then no doubt smile when you read the responses of our youngest elementary students sharing their favorite things. Several aspirations for super powers are especially unique!
If you have wondered about the epic task of compiling and introducing a new hymnal for the broader Mennonite and Anabaptist churches, Jana Miller shares the winding path, as well as her personal joy and inspiration in the process of “drawing the circle wider.”
Another saga of training and persistence in the running group is shared by Joe Longenecker as he highlights the transition from indifference to enjoyment, camaraderie and success as he has completed his first mini marathon.
If creating paintings seems beyond your reach, consider the encouraging saga that Laurel Gerbrandt shares. A passionate artist herself, Laurel decided to lead aspiring groups who wanted to pick up paint brushes and try creating their own art. Lovely paintings and caring friendships are the happy result!
Finally, we continue Milestones, our recurring feature to share news and important life events.
As the year draws to a close, sometimes the seasons overlap, leaving the exuberant red leaves of autumn unexpectedly covered with a blanket of snow before we are prepared for cold winter days. Perhaps untimely events may suddenly force us to adjust plans and look at new options.
But whatever the weather—or the situation—let’s give thanks for the warm, encouraging presence of family and friends, and the promise that the Lord will be with us as we run or walk the race set before us.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
When our First Mennonite youth met at the church at 6:30 one morning back in June, there was excitement—and wondering—about the four-hour trek to Hungry World Farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois. This three-day excursion was the first MYF service trip in several years—and for a few of the youth, their first group trip ever. The teens and sponsors were able to stay in several apartments on the farm, so they were close at hand to the chores and experiences planned for this group of “city kids” learning about the hard work involved in growing food. Polled to share trip highlights, the youth came up with the following list—in no particular order. You should ask them about personal favorite memories.
Bonfire, hot dog roast, homemade ice cream with baked apples
Scott, our son and brother, died at age 31, on March 23, 2020. The pandemic had just begun and we were all facing an unknown future. But our future has forever been altered—unrelated to Covid 19.
What has changed over the past two and a half years? Despite seeing our tears at church, we do not cry as frequently. We are able to appreciate time with family and friends. We treasure our small immediate family more than ever.
What hasn’t changed? I can say for all three of us that we think of Scott multiple times in a day (and night) and miss him more deeply than we can express. There should be four of us, but there are only three. Scott was a man of compassion—his many “best” friends can attest to this. Scott always looked out for those in need and had high respect for their dignity. Scott was intelligent and intuitive. His sensitivity toward and respect for humanity and ecology was deep. Scott made everyone laugh. Scott had lots of fun in life, and we had fun with Scott. Scott knew lots about a lot. He graduated from Kelley School of Business but was better known for his knowledge of music and all things wise. So many things remind us of Scotty. Memories bring longing to be with him, and sometimes laughter.
Sometimes people want to know what they can talk about with someone who has a loss. We can only speak for our situation. Each of us fears saying something unintentionally not helpful for persons in grief. It’s okay to get past that and just let people know you care. We feel cared for at FMC. We also don’t expect people to understand or make it better. We prefer that people just understand it won’t be better— or maybe it will—but not yet. We have not found a “purpose” or “meaning” for Scott’s death. Our faith has been both strengthened and challenged. We struggle with the idea of the faithful being “blessed.” However, many are faithful and suffer worse than we have suffered. It’s hard to pray for the protection and well-being of our loved ones. We believe in prayer, but aren’t sure about outcomes. We are learning to embrace mystery and God’s wideness. We do not want people to feel sorry for us. We know that everyone fears losing a loved one too soon, and many have experienced the same.
Scott was confident, independent and would not have wanted to be judged. He embraced the values of peace, justice and love. We wonder what he would want us to say about his struggle. Since we don’t know, we simply try to learn from our life with Scott and honor his life with love.
Thanks for caring and wondering. It’s okay to ask—and if we don’t know how to answer, we will say that. We will all leave this life at some point. Together, we can get better at bridging this world and the next. Let’s say the important things now. Tomorrow is not promised.
I have run on and off for many years, though never liking it. First, it was a college PE credit. Later in life, a friend wanted to run the Indy Mini race and wanted a training partner (I dropped out after three sessions). More recently, I have been running as a form of exercise. Even though I had already been running a little, when the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I was forced to run for exercise since most, if not all, other options were closed at that time. Interestingly, after running for an entire summer and well into the fall, I began to enjoy running for the experience, not just the health benefits.
At one point, I mentioned my new-found form of exercise to Kevin Rosner. He has encouraged me to keep running and to take on events like the Great North Run (a local fundraiser for Washington Township Schools). Once that was under my belt, Kevin turned his motivation to running the Mini—something he has done for years. I have also had encouragement along the way from fellow FMC runners Erin Rodman and Heidi Boschmann.
In the last couple of years, running has become a time to find inner silence, to think and reflect, to create intentional separation from the invasive information age that surrounds us. It is often a spiritual experience, especially when running for extended periods along the river or canal and witnessing God’s world at work. Running has also become a self-discipline, allowing me to work toward self-improvement where the results are literally measurable in both time and distance. The simple goal is doing better, if only slightly, than the time before… knowing that I will never be one of the best—at the same time being OK with that. Chasing the gains in pace and mileage is a mental goal that drives me as I run. However, remembering to accept the days when I fall short is just as important.
Over the last year or so, I have started encouraging others to run. My advice to those who ask is to remember there are no winners or losers, just doers. While running definitely helps with physical health, it is also great for many other reasons. Last spring, on a beautiful fresh morning, I completed my first official Mini Marathon…The event asked for social media posts with the hashtag #whyImini. On that spring day, I was joined by Heidi and Kevin. Hopefully, some day, I will be the reason why somebody else “Mini’d.”
Though I had made a small amount of progress since getting a seemingly mild case of COVID-19 in January 2021, this June my long-covid recovery suddenly went a million miles backwards with no explanation. Here are some reflections from a pastor sidelined by significant, chronic health issues.
It takes a village to pastor a church.
The church and the Church are bigger than the pastor.
It’s easier to connect the dots of big picture patterns from the sidelines. It’s a space to regroup and study.
Being on the sidelines means letting go of control. A LOT of control.
The life of the community doesn’t pause while the pastor is on the sidelines– for better or for worse. Not being able to simply be present as a pastor is something I grieve.
Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.
The pastor getting sidelined is an opportunity for the rest of the congregation to step up and contribute according to their many spiritual gifts.
That said, a long season of absent pastors gets old after a while and can feel like just treading water. The church should not revolve around the pastor, yet they’re still an important center of gravity—helping to hold the community in a coherent orbit.
Sometimes being on the sidelines just plain sucks. It’s ok to feel that sometimes.
In the already murky personal/professional boundaries of pastoring, getting sidelined in this way can muddy the water even more. That’s probably easier for the congregation to navigate than the pastor.
As a COVID long-hauler who used to be able to pass as able-bodied in many situations, in some respects it’s a relief to be so publicly sidelined, even if it’s difficult.
On my list of “things I didn’t learn in seminary” and “what my mentors and internships couldn’t prepare me for,” this takes the cake, hands down.
It’s incredibly humbling to feel so loved and accepted as post-covid Monica, by people who didn’t have the chance to meet pre-COVID Monica. Thank you!