Monthly Archives: May 2016

Pastor’s Ponderings


Sometimes in the United Methodist Church it seems like when a pastor moves, the former congregation is completely cut off from all contact, almost as if the pastor has died. That really isn’t the case. I really am just moving a few miles east!

If you’ve been a United Methodist for a while, you’ve come to expect a pastor’s farewell to include instructions about the leaving pastor not returning to do weddings and funerals, and needing to limit contacts. What often gets left out of the discussion is the “why” behind this practice. Let me share both the “why” and some details about our future together…

–In the closing liturgy we will share on June 19th, you will “release” me from the obligations of being your pastor. This changes our relationship because when I am no longer your pastor, I am free to fully be your friend. As a friend, I can celebrate with you, and weep with you —without the additional responsibilities of being your pastor. I can do that because I am confident that your pastoral needs are cared for by my colleague, Pastor Gary Peterson.   I don’t want to cheat you out of the opportunity to bond with your new pastor. Many times pastors grow close to people and families when they walk together through seasons of illness and death, when they journey together to the wedding altar, or walk through tough times. That is true of my relationship with many of you. My hope and prayer is that you will form that same kind of intimate bond with Pastor Gary.  I do not want to do anything which might interfere.

-My new congregation will need my time and attention. Heritage UMC is my new flock and Pastor Gary Peterson is your new shepherd. I should not leave my flock to care for Pastor Gary’s sheep. To do so is not helpful to either congregation. Boundary-keeping insures everyone is provided care. I intend to honor those boundaries.

-My leaving does not imply that I forget you, or love you any less nor will I cease to care about you. Our lines of communication need not be completely severed, but the focus and the frequency of our communications will change.

– For instance, we can remain Facebook friends. (I won’t “unfriend” you. You decide if you want to unfriend me.) But I may be less active in replies, comments, and “likes”. I’ll watch the church’s website for pictures and updates. I’ll love reading about things that are happening around Claybanks, especially as you phase.   If you’re in the Howard City/Pierson area, please feel free to stop by and say hello. I’d love to see you.

– If I’m passing through, I might stop by to chat. I will only visit someone with the prior knowledge and consent of your pastor. That is a professional and covenantal courtesy.

– Pastor Gary will be presiding over all weddings and funerals as of July 1st. Occasionally, I may attend a funeral, as my schedule allows, but it will be as friend. I may come to a wedding as guest, if invited.  But I fully expect Pastor Gary Peterson will preside at these rites of passage as he ministers among you.  

– What I won’t do is this: engage in conversation about the details of the running of the church. I am happy to know about you and your family, even the successes and changes at the church, but I won’t even listen to particulars. My interest is in general not specifics. I won’t have pastoral care or counseling conversations.

-Pastor Gary Peterson and I are colleagues. I will be available to him if he has questions about something. He is the only one with whom I will talk about church business, and such conversations will remain confidential. I will not interfere with his ministry in any way. That helps you, it helps him, it helps me and it helps my new congregation. 

-Please know this though, friends, I have not shared with Pastor Gary any confidences you might have shared with me. Your personal story remains your story to tell. Pastors do not pass on things that have been shared in confidence. Clergy confidentiality is honored; it goes with the person, not the office. We only pass to one another details about the church operations and details about persons who are sick or home-bound, not personal, private stories. Someone said to me, “You mean I get a clean slate?” Yes, you do! If you want your new pastor to know something about your past or history, it is up to you to tell him.

Let me encourage you to welcome back some members who you’ve not seen in a while. Everyone doesn’t connect with every pastor. There are those for whom I’ve not been an effective and attentive pastor. I am sorry and seek forgiveness for my shortcomings and faults. My leaving can be a time of grace for them. Here’s a chance for them to return to church. Please welcome people back without judgment or grilling them about their absence. In fact, this is a great opportunity to reach out and invite them to return. Better yet, bring them with you toWorship. You can be God’s advocate of grace!

Finally, please let Pastor Gary be Pastor Gary.  We’re totally different people with completely different styles. Be as open to him (or even more so) as you were to me when I arrived 2 years ago.

I believe this move is of God. I believe that Pastor Gary is a gift God is giving Claybanks UMC for this new chapter.  Allow yourself to fully accept and receive what God is offering you through your new pastor.  I’ve discovered over my lifetime, that God’s gifts are always wonderful and worth opening and appreciating, even when they are somewhat surprising or unexpected!

Should you want to be in touch:  the church address is: 19931 W. Kendaville Road, Pierson MI 49339.  The church phone is 231-937-4310.  My email will remain the same:

June will be a busy month and you may not see me around much.  I’ll be at Annual Conference June 9-13.  My last full day in the Shelby church office will be June 16th but I will do some wrapping up at the office on June 23rd.   My last day of leading worship will be on June 19th. My move out date is tentatively set for June 28th but I remain the pastor of record through June 30, in case of an emergency or death.

Pastor Gary takes over officially on July 1st.  His cell phone number is 616-644-5520 and his email is I hope that you will welcome Pastor Gary and his wife Reba in the same loving way that you welcomed me.

I thank you for the opportunity to live and worship among you.  I thank you for the opportunity to serve you.  I thank you for all the times I have made a misstep and you have loved me back to the right path.  The lessons I have learned with you have prepared me to be a much better pastor for Heritage UMC.  I leave a piece of my heart with you, but I know that you are in very good hands with Pastor Gary.  I pray that this congregation will thrive under his leadership.  


Announcements and Stuff

Grad Sunday

We are planning on having Graduation Sunday on June 5th.  We are planning on having a special cake reception after our service on June 5th to celebrate two graduates; Maria and Caleb Semelbauer.  (If there are others that we are not aware of, please let us know.)  Please plan to come and celebrate with them and us!

Reflections on General Conference

Need to have some clarity and/or discussion about what went on at General Conference?  Everyone is invited to attend a time of Holy Conferencing and Reflection on Wednesday, June 1st at 7pm at Trinity UMC (1100 Lake Dr. SE) in Grand Rapids.  Our time together will be framed in worship and Holy Conferencing. We look forward to this time together. Please RSVP to Liz or 616.459.4503.

Annual Conference

This year, Annual Conference will be held in Lansing MI. Both West Michigan and Detroit areas will be meeting together so it should be very exciting.  Pastor Terri, Denise Schuitema and Edie Bogart will be representing the Shelby UMC/Claybanks UMC charge.  We will be gone Thursday June 9th until Monday the 13th.  Please pray for the Conference and for travel mercies for us.  

30 Hour Famine

Penny and Dave Betka are again putting together a 30 Hour Famine event with our youth.  The event is planned for the weekend of June 10-12.  This event is a great time for our youth and their friends to learn about how those who have so much less ….survive.  It is also a time for our youth to realize how blessed they are and to learn about ways that they can help others.  Please watch for more information from Penny and Dave on how you can help, and then help as much as you can.  This is a big undertaking but the experience for our kids is invaluable!

Thank you!!

Dear Claybanks Church,

   It is difficult to find words that convey the depth of my gratitude for the loving cards, notes, calls and prayers you sent my way during Roger’s illness and passing.

    I felt your prayers strengthen me each morning as I was lifted up to embrace the day.  You truly have been the body of Christ for me.  What a blessing to be part of such a wonderful family of God.

Carol Weller


 It’s hard to find the words to adequately thank all the volunteers who were a part of making this week of hosting one of our most challenging  and successful. For starters we were assigned more guests than we are provided cots!  Soooo we borrowed a queen blowup mattress and two very comfortable cots. Our overnight hosts slept (?) in comfort.

There were 4 families with 5 adults and 9 kiddos ranging from 3 to 16.  Family Promise is unique in it’s ministry. We began hosting in 2008 as one of the original host churches. There is a gap in services provided when it comes to housing homeless families. If a family includes a male parent  or male teenager there are no facilities in Muskegon County  that will house them as a family unit. Adult and teenage males must be separated putting even more stress on the family. Family Promise keeps families intact.   We welcome single mothers, single fathers and two parent families as well as teenagers who come into shelter with their parents. 

 Montague United Methodist Church has provided an ecumenical opportunity for serving the homeless in the county.  A wonderful variety of meals are provided by six churches each time of hosting.  This week we had chicken, meatloaf, spaghetti, hot dogs, pizza, subs and BBQs. 

What kiddo wouldn’t love this fare!   Must NEVER leave out the transporting in the van provided by drivers from Ferry Memorial Reformed Church.  We couldn’t do this ministry without them.!

Other opportunities to serve include picking up the trailer of cots, grocery shopping, setting up, cleaning up, do laundry and one even sends pillow cases from FL for the wee ones….

Now what you all have been asking…..  Next dates for hosting are as follows….

June 26 to July 2
Aug. 14 to 20
Oct. 9 to 15

These may seem close together.  We do not host in the winter due to snowy roads.  And we were asked if we could add a 5th time of hosting which we did.

So THANK YOU, THANK YOU for giving of yourselves to Family Promise.        

Pat Backman

Last Chance!

Sunday, May 29 will be the last day we will be having a photographer here after church taking pictures for our new directory.  If you haven’t already done so, please try to stay after that day to have your picture taken for the new directory.  We’d like every name in the directory to have a face with it.  If you still can’t make it that day, please get a picture to Konnie as soon as possible so she can scan it and include it with the others.  Thank you!!

UMW Report

Our UMW met Thursday, May 19th and conducted business and enjoyed fellowship.

After we dispersed funds we still have over $900 left in the treasury.  We have started planning for our August Strawberry Social and it will be here before we know it, so strawberries must be picked soon and frozen.

Seven ladies were present.  Those not present will be volunteered to do dishes at the social!!

All ladies at the church are welcome to cour meeting to avoid any such penalties!


Edie and Mitzi

Nursery Schedule

June 5 – Carol Adams
June 12 – Kathy Ohman
June 19 – Joyce Twiss
June 26 – Doris Graham


Upcoming Scripture and Sermon Topics

June 5 – Grad Sunday – 1 Kings 17:8-17 (17-24) –  Communion
“Who Cares for the Widow, the Orphan and the Stranger?”

June 12 – Hymn Sing – Pastor and Lay leaders at Annual Conference in Lansing

June 19 – Fathers Day – Deuteronomy 32:11 & 1 Samuel 16:1 – “PUSH”
Pastor Terri’s last day in the Pulpit

June 26 – Jim Tanis Speaking



This is amazing info, especially as we get older.  It is no wonder there are scriptural references to the eagle!  It has significant symbolism to our country. What hope….!!!!

  • The eagle has the longest life-span among birds.
  • It can live up to 70 years but to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision.
  • In its’ 40’s its’ long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food.
  • Its’ long and sharp beak becomes bent.
  • Its’ old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to its’ chest and make it difficult to fly.
  • Then, the eagle is left with only two options:  die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days.
  • The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain top and sit on its’ nest.
  • There the eagle knocks it’s beak against a rock until it plucks it out.
  • After plucking it out, the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its’ talons.
  • When its’ new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking it’s old-aged feathers.
  • After five months, the eagle takes its’ famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 more years!

Why is change needed?  Many times, in order to survive we have to start a change process.

We sometimes need to get rid of the old memories, habits, and other past traditions.  Only freed from past burdens, can we take advantage of the present.

Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we handle what happens…

Not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life.  A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes.  It is a catalyst, a spark that can create extraordinary results.

Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings as eagles;
They shall run, and not be weary;
They shall walk, and not faint.

When it rains, most birds head for shelter, the eagle is the only bird that, in order to avoid the rain, starts flying above the clouds.

No wonder God wants us to spread our wings and soar with eagles!