Pastor's Note

January 17, 2020

Hey Church Family!
Pastor Erika here! I am so excited and looking forward to worship this weekend! I mean, I look forward to every worship service every weekend, but this weekend I am excited about our topic! We are continuing our series on the “foundations” of our faith and looking at things that we do or talk about at church all the time, but we never really take the time to question why or how we do them. This week we will be looking at prayer!
Let me explain why I’m so excited! As a younger person, I remember thinking that praying was a waste of time and not an appropriate answer to most people’s problems. Yeah, your Associate Pastor just said that! Today, I can’t think of a problem or moment that prayer is not the first and best answer for. This change in my attitude did not come about quickly or painlessly. I had to really question what prayer was and why I was supposed to do it. I can’t wait to tackle these questions with you!
My hopes are that we can all take something away from this topic that will impact our individual prayer lives, answer some questions we have been unsure of asking, and help us get just a little closer to our beloved Lord.
I want to share with you what I have been chewing on now for months and let it affect you before we meet for worship! My mentor and I have been working through some spiritual reflections found in Soul Feast by Marjorie J. Thompson. The author writes that prayer is not initiated by us, but that God initiates every act of prayer. Whenever and however we pray, it is a response to the Spirit of God calling us into prayer. Whether that is a silent prayer filled with tears, a joyous prayer surrounded by laughter, an insistent prayer for a loved one going through a procedure, or an angry outburst of emotions that we spew towards God. All prayer is our response to God calling us into a communion, a conversation.
So, Lord, we respond. Thank You for calling us into this time of leaning closer to You. Prepare our hearts for worship this week and let us feel You calling us into moments of prayer throughout the days. Your ears are open to us and Your heart longs for us to draw nearer. Thank You for loving us this much! In Your holy name, Amen.
May peace surround your week!
-Pastor Erika
Posted by Erika Braun

January 10, 2020

Dear Church,
Can you believe it’s 2020? It seems like yesterday that I was celebrating New Years Eve on the precipice of the year 2000! I can even remember where I was that evening. I was outside on a friend’s porch on an unseasonably warm night for December in Massachusetts, and have a distinct memory of standing out there and wondering what the future would hold (and if Y2K would leave us in the Stone Age). What I couldn’t have anticipated 20 years later was that… the Patriots would get kicked out of the playoffs in the wild card round... oh, and the fact that I’d be a pastor someday. I never would have dreamed! 
I wish I could tell that young kid in 2000 that he’d be at a church in the Midwest someday that collected socks for the homeless, and supplied Christmas presents for needy families. I’d have loved to know there was a church that raised over $34,000 on Christmas Eve to provide clean water for people in rural Mozambique, and sent dozens of people to partner with underprivileged kids in the local school systems to help them grow in their reading skills. And not only that, but as a kid who asked a lot of faith, questions (to the chagrin of my pastor), I’d have been thrilled to know we had a sermon series asking foundational questions about our faith. 
Unfortunately, I can’t go back in time and tell young Chris these things. Nor can I stop the years from coming and going (ever faster and faster). But we can decide what kinds of stories we end up telling someday. We can use this new year to continue
to make a difference. We can decide to invite God to saturate our life this year. 
And I’m excited to spend 2020 with you! We’re at an exciting turning point in the story of our church and I hope that at this time next year, we can look back at the amazing way God used us this year. 
Hope to see you this weekend as we continue “Foundations of the Faith” and take a deep dive into the Christian faith! 
Much love,
Pastor Chris
P.S. We had 440 people in worship this last weekend, which is an amazing start to the year!  Only five weekends in 2019 were better attended than that. Thanks for helping kick start us into the new year!
P.P.S. It’s not too late to join our Bible-in-one-year plan! 60 folks have signed up on the app and I’d love to have you join us. Just go to to join our shared plan.
Posted by Chris Abel

December 27th, 2019

Merry 12 days of Christmas! Beth and I left for Wichita after our 9 p.m. service to spend Christmas Day with her family. Even after arriving at 2:30 a.m., I was energized by the amazing services we all shared together! I absolutely loved the laughter of our kids during our Jingle Jam time (and definitely had some laughs of my own when one of our hosts was delivered in an extra-large present!). Our candlelit services were beautiful and powerful—and I heard from a few of you that you watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time! Makes me cry every time.
We’re still tallying how much we’ve raised to provide clean water for our friends in Mozambique, but we’ll announce it on one of our January weekends! Can’t wait to share the impact we’re going to make. 
Reminder that this weekend we’re combining our services for “Comfy Church” at 10:00 a.m. and inviting kids to join in their PJ's and enjoy a cinnamon bun. It’s going to be a low-key way to end the year together.
But in January we’re going to hit the ground running with our new series, “Foundations of the Faith: Reexamining the Beliefs you Thought you Knew.” We’ll be diving into topics like:
  • What is the Bible?
  • What’s the deal with sin?
  • What happens when you become a Christian? 
We’re tackling these topics from a skeptic’s point of view—so no matter where you stand when it comes to faith, there will be something to help you take your next step. I can’t wait! I hope you’ll invite someone who isn’t sure about religion. 
Hope this last week of 2019 is a great one and I’m excited about how God is going to use our church in 2020!
Happy New Year!
Pastor Chris
P.S. Your generosity this time of year helps First UMC start strong into the new year. Every December we receive about 12% of our annual budget in just one month! We’re able to be generous with our Christmas Eve offering because people like you also believe in supporting our church. If you would like to help us close the year on strong footing, we’re taking end-of-the year gifts through December 31 (postmarked December 31 if you’re last-minute like me, or give online at Thank you for your generosity!
Posted by Chris Abel