|Hello! I am Pastor Jennifer Ward and I want to thank you for the warm welcome, the lovely home and the supportive staff I have encountered these first few weeks. It was mentioned in our last Administrative Council meeting that some still had questions about who I was. I realize that it is hard to get to know someone when you are not able to get up close and personal and so I was grateful for our Ash Wednesday Zoom services so that I could see you without face masks and so you could see me as well. I am hopeful we will have a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service on Zoom in a few weeks.|
In a quick nutshell, I was born in Detroit. My mom moved me with her to Minnesota when I was about 5. I lived there for 10 years before choosing to return home to my Dad who at that time lived in Utica, MI. After I achieved my Associate degree, I married a Chef and had a beautiful baby girl, Cecelia. My husband also had a son from a previous relationship and although he has an amazing mom, I claim Steve as my own. My husband was killed in a car accident when our daughter was 5. I remarried shortly after, but for all the wrong reasons. I thought my daughter got cheated out of having a Dad, I didn’t believe I was enough for my daughter or that I could support her the way I wanted to on my own, and guess what, that was a really unhealthy short marriage and I learned I was enough.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, a Master’s in Counseling and am Nationally Board-Certified Counselor. I spent a year at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission offering support to homeless women and children, and group counseling for those with Substance abuse addictions. During that time, I was also working at the Coldwater United Methodist church where I was employed for some 7-8 years. I left to become the Director of the Family Promise shelter program that served Branch County. I believed my calling was just for a time and not for my entire life and needed to leave the church to know otherwise. After just two years as Director at Family Promise, I called my District Superintendent and told her I needed to get back into the church. She asked for letters of recommendation, a resume and called me for an interview.
I was offered the Jonesville United Methodist church to discern my call. It was an amazing opportunity and while it was difficult following a man who had served Jonesville for some 15 years, we grew to love each other, my congregation and I. About two years into my assignment, my DS said, I needed to go to school. I choose Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC because of its focus on Scripture and justice. My daughter also had just finished up her bachelor’s degree, so she went with me to DC get her Graduate Degree from American University. While planning the move to what I thought would be DC a DS from the Susquehanna Conference as well as from Salisbury, Maryland called with job offers. I picked Pennsylvania because it was closer to home and my Dad was/is currently battling Thyroid Cancer.
While attending seminary I served a two-point charge in Bedford, Pennsylvania. I lived in Bedford four days a week and DC three days per week for three years, commuting 2.5 hours each way. To say the schedule was crazy and unhealthy would be an understatement but I survived! My classes finished up in December and I hope to be able to walk for graduation at the National Cathedral in DC this May. The school is still uncertain what will be recommended and safe, so I will keep you posted.
Know that I will be in the church office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 – 3:30pm. Come in or call, then we can get to know each other a little better. I trust in God’s hand being on the Bishop’s appointment process and am grateful to be able to walk this portion of my faith journey with you and look forward to learning and growing together.
Faithfully, Pastor Jen
The Temptation to be Relevant.
I recently read a book by Henry Nouwen entitled The Selfless Way of Christ. One of the sections speaks about the temptation to be relevant, and as we enter Lent and a time of self-examination, I wanted to highlight this temptation for us. We all fall into its trap! Jesus withstood this temptation when the Devil tempted him to turn stones into loaves of bread, to create something relevant, needed and appreciated. This temptation is a temptation to make productivity the basis of our ministry. This temptation reaches into us at the center of our identity. We have all been taught that we must produce, have visible results and tangible goods to demonstrate our progress or success. But are we trusting in God then or our own understandings?
Nouwen says, “The temptation to be relevant is difficult to shake since it is usually not considered a temptation, but a calling. We make ourselves believe that we are called to be productive, successful, and efficient people whose words and actions show that working for God’s Reign is at least as dignified an occupation as working for General Electric, Mobil Oil or the government. But this is giving into the temptation to be relevant and respectable in the eyes of the world.” I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s quote that “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” Love is relational and that is what truly matters, our relationships with God and neighbor.
We are reminded in the scriptures that when Jesus was tempted, his response was, “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus does not deny the importance of sustenance in the bread but rather relativizes it in comparison with the nurturing power of the Word of God. Jesus repeats what he has learned from the book of Deuteronomy 8:3. Bread is given to us by God so that we will entrust ourselves completely to God’s word. Accomplishments, efficiency and productivity are gifts that can be given to those whose hearts are fixed on the Lord FIRST. What this says is not that relevant behavior needs to be despised, but that it should not be the basis for our identity as Christians. To many Christians want for their church to seem productive, want to see growth, want to be relevant in their community but their basis for that desire is wrong, truly a temptation. Rich programing is undervalued and ended when people see the programs are not growing, but we may never know the gifts and that value that program had for the few people that were involved or received from it.
The challenge offered by Lent is to let the Word of God shape and reshape us as human beings, to feast each day on this divine Word and thus grow into free and fearless people not so worried with worldly results. I pray we can get to the place where we can witness to God’s presences in this world, even when there are few or NO visible results. If we are willing to travel with Jesus on his journey to the cross, we must choose to detach ourselves from the constant need to be relevant, and to trust even more deeply the Word of God.
Where do you see yourself getting caught up in the world and not so focused on the kingdom of God? Where do you trust in results rather than how God works, which can be quiet, gentle and just under the surface? Food for thought and the journey.
This has been a remarkably different year for all of us! With the church building being shut down, it has been challenging to reach out, stay in touch, & keep the “fires burning”, as they say. We have a remarkable group of children who are not only blessings, but have extended blessings to me and to so many others! These are children who know Jesus because of all of you & your commitment to children’s ministry. I am announcing that I am stepping away from the Children’s Ministry Coordinator position. I will always remain a strong advocate, but it is important for me to focus my energy on current family health concerns. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve. I am excited for what God has in store for each of our children! May God bless you and your continuing faithful support of kids!
In His Spirit, Sue Ellen Nelson
Food Pantry Donations for March:
You are able to drop off any donations in the back (West) side of the building and please place all food donations within our food box as it will be checked regularly.
CHURCHWIDE SPECIAL SUNDAY
Unite the work of the Church
Do all the Good we can
in all the Places we can
UMCOR Sunday – March 14
Thank youThank you so much, dear church family, for your support during my transition to retirement. I greatly appreciate the cards, the online messages and chats, the video messages, the meals, and the other generous gifts that you have shared with me. As with other challenges during the past year, you have again showed that you can rise to the occasion and figure out new ways to do things – like a virtual retirement celebration! Now I will be praying for you as you figure out how to welcome a new pastor – virtually. You are welcome to stop by and visit with Charlie and me if you’re up in “God’s Country”. My address is 10332 Diamond Park Rd., Interlochen, MI 49643. My telephone number (269-312-1378) and email address (email@example.com) remain the same.May God continue to lead you through this liminal time –Shalom,
Thank you for the outpouring of loving support from my church family with the loss of my husband Jeff. The cards, notes, gifts, flowers and memorials given in his name has helped keep a tiny spark alive in my broken heart. You show me that Jeff will be remembered.
In Christian love,
Job Posting –
Children’s Ministry Coordinator
Please send all inquiries to SPRC Chair, Darcia Artz via firstname.lastname@example.org
SAVE THE DATE
Ensure hope for women, children and youth on Day of Giving, March 23.
2021 Our Year of Hope
On Day of Giving – March 23, 2021 – Let us honor our foremothers by giving to the Legacy Endowment Fund to ensure United Methodist Women can continue serving women, children, and youth around the world for the next 150 years.
Ways to give
* Online at unitedmethodistwomen.org/150
* By phone: 800.278.7771
* Text: 41444/enter Legacy 150
*By check to:
United Methodist Women
Attn: Development, Legacy Endowment Fund
475 Riverside Dr. 15th Floor, New York, NY 10115
Write “Day of Giving” in the memo section.
Steve & Irene
Rex & Denise
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds. James 1:2 (NIV)
…think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. (CEB)
During times of trial, times when you feel that God is testing you beyond feelings of comfort, he says, ‘consider it pure joy’ or ‘as occasions for joy’.
It is hard to feel joy in the midst of pain and heartache, but if for a moment you turn your attention towards God, you can experience joy. Ask to see it, ask to feel it.
It may be something very tiny that someone else might not notice, but it will have meaning for you.
Maybe it’s a sun beam highlighting a tree or flower. A call from someone you haven’t talked with for a while. A note or card in the mail. A greeting with a genuine smile attached. A hug. A kindness shown you, such as someone bringing your herby up from the street, shoveling a path from your parking space to the building, delivering flowers and heartfelt words of comfort or encouragement. Maybe it’s having someone who sits with you and lets you cry. Someone who will listen and not try to fix it.
Maybe it’s knowing that God will and does show up.
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Plainwell First United Methodist Church 200 Park St. PO Box 85
Plainwell, MI 49080 USA