Dear Friends,

As fall approaches and we begin a new programming year here at First UMC, I want to express how excited I am to return after my renewal leave. There are several serious questions I want to ask all of us. The first being, “What does the church mean to you and I?” One wise observer of church life in the twentieth century said this, "Church membership has become a sort of religious credit card that costs nothing in life,and will be worth nothing in death." He went on to say, "This much is certain. If we do not soon make church membership mean something, it will mean nothing." What’s gone wrong with our thinking about church? The first thing we need to see is that the Church is all about relationships and not about brick or mortar. In the New Testament, the Greek term for Church means "the called-out ones." The Church is not a physical facility, but rather the Church is you, each one of you. Without you, the Church would not exist. That is precisely why the Church is about relationships. In the Church, we are related to one another in a vital union of the Spirit. As we begin a new season here at First UMC, we will be focusing on strengthening and growing our relaional ministry with one another and with the world. Throughout the year, as a faith community, we will be gathering to develop a new vision of where we believe Christ is going to lead us. In a nutshell, it is about all of us sharing in the ministry of the Kingdom of God. With this thought in mind, I want to ask you a second important question, “What do you want to see in place at First UMC in the next three years as the result of our ministry within Rhinelander and beyond?” When you became a part of this faith community, you were placed in a vital, living with the brothers and sisters who are here. You have a giſt. You have a ministry. You have a role. You have a function to perform in the body of Christ. And that function is not just for your own good, but for the good of all. As we enter the fall season, I want to encourage you to share your giſts and graces with integrity and passion. I know in doing so we will experience God’s richest blessings!

Peace for your day, Pastor Mark