December 11, 2017

                                                           

                                                                Pastor Geri Hamlen

Greetings and welcome to Trinity!  It is my pleasure to meet you here in the cyber-world of our website, and if I have not met you in person, I surely would like to.  Please except my invitation to you to join us for one of our upcoming worship services and get to know the Trinity family.  If you have any questions or would like to know more, please drop us an email through our contact field, or call the church office.  We look forward to meeting you!
 

Pastor’s Ponderings

The road to Christmas is filled with lights and colors and music that warm our hearts. People gather for special occasions and parties and fun activities that often include children and elders and friends from far away and neighbors who we often pass by too quickly the other times of the year. Christmas is a time of hospitality...of greeting and inviting and hanging out. It’s a time for us to ponder reverently the great honor that God showed us by daring bravely to come and ‘hang out’ on this earth with us human beings, where there is so much that can go wrong.

Yes, God came to us as the vulnerable, precious, and gentle baby Jesus...trusting, as babies do, without any concept of betrayal or abandonment. Loving, as babies do, without even knowing how much they are loved. Being with us in peace and joy, without even a hint of the darkness of death and destruction that come with life as we know it. How can we not greet this baby and give gracious and holy hospitality to such a child as this?

Let’s also take time to ponder the many opportunities here at Trinity UMC to extend that same hospitality and warmth to our friends and family and neighbors. For some people, Christmas just isn’t all that much fun. It’s a time of sorrow or loneliness or even fear. We can be a light in that darkness for those who struggle with seeing the lights of Christmas. This Tower newsletter is full of information about a variety of events here at Trinity…any one of which and all of which would be made even more wonderful if you came and brought someone with you to experience the richness of God’s love as we share it here at church. That just might be the best Christmas gift you could give to someone who doesn’t yet know that following Jesus means you never have to be alone...

Come...let us be gift-givers of hope and peace and love. My Christmas prayer is for you to find that in the giving of gifts of hospitality to others, you in turn receive the warmth and blessed assurance that God’s presence is sufficient for all of our needs. God really is with us…Glory to God in the Highest! Merry Christmas and blessings to all...Pastor Geri

 

‘A sight for sore eyes!’   As many of you know, I had emergency eye surgery for a detached retina in late September. The surgery was successful, but I was ‘sentenced’ to two weeks of inactivity…no driving, no walking, no housework. Wow…that was a lifestyle shift for me! During that time, I had a chance to see first-hand the loving kindness and heartfelt caring of so many people in this congregation. Your cards were a sight for sore eyes! Your phone calls were a break in the monotony. Your gifts of food and flowers brightened my days. Your visits cheered me up and assured me that there is life after surgery. Your prayers were a gift that just keeps on holding me up. Thank you for all that you do every day…not just for me, but for each other and for those around us. I really felt like I was seeing Jesus in action, alive and well on earth as in heaven. Thank you and thank you some more! Through the love of Jesus, Pastor Geri

 
 

Pastor’s Ponderings  November, 2017 

September was filled with the ‘new school year’ energy.

October has been so lovely with warmer temperatures and a kaleidoscope of colors, as the trees put on their fall wardrobe for us.

And now November approaches. Shorter days. (Don’t forget Daylight Saving Time on Saturday night, November 4.) Cold and rainy days getting colder and closer, ever closer to the inevitable snow. We are all moving together to the end of the year, as we walk deeper and deeper into the winter season.

Rather than looking ahead, it’s easier for me at this time of year to look backward at what has already happened. Easier to remember the joy of spring and the warmth of summer. The sounds of children playing outside and the great singing and worship we have enjoyed this year. How fun to think about the new members who have joined our congregation. The flames of the Holy Spirit that we shared with each other through the summer. The babies who have been born into our church family. The baptisms and the friendly gatherings of the Adult Sunday School and Choir and Youth Group.

So many good memories, but we can’t live in our memories, can we? The ending days of the year are upon us, and they need our attention, too. More so perhaps than in previous years, the future feels uncertain—for our country, for the earth, for Trinity. Political struggles, financial challenges, unpredictable natural disasters, and unthinkable human cruelty can dominate our thoughts and overcome our native hopefulness. No wonder looking ahead can feel like walking into a long, dark tunnel.

But let’s not stop ourselves from going forward out of fear or dislike of cold and snow and uncertainty. Jesus offers the light of his love and courage to guide us when we feel overwhelmed. Even one person with the strength and conviction of their relationship with Jesus can be a source of comfort and inspiration to those who are filled with doubts and worries. Together, we can do what no one of us could ever do alone.

I have been pondering Paul’s words: ‘See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:15-17

There is so much of good going on here at Trinity UMC. Have you heard the choir this year? They are like angels…and we were worried that the loss of Greg and Diana Hunt would somehow diminish the beauty of our musical offerings to God! Not so. Read on about plans for ‘Reading the Bible in a Year.’ The Holy Spirit is pointing us to God’s Word as a source of inspiration and joy. Thanks be to God! We continue to minister to and with each other through the Veterans Day memorial of the veterans in your families. The UM Conference is even coming this month to give us information about moving ahead with the Vital Church Initiative…. We are truly not alone as long as we are connected with each other and other United Methodists around the state, the country, and the world.

There is much to remind us of joy and thanksgiving. If you’re not sure, if the approach of winter drags you down too much, I invite you to ‘pray without ceasing’ asking always that God will ‘preserve you with His mighty power, that you may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity.’ That is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Thanks be to God, always and forever. In the name of Jesus….

Pastor Geri

 Pastor’s Ponderings--October, 2017      There are so many years within one year, have you ever noticed?        January 1, of course, marks the beginning of the calendar year…thank you, Pope Gregory XIII, for mandating that change from Julius Caesar’s way of counting time.

Then there’s the school year calendar. Don’t you feel it, the change when school is back in session? The traffic patterns change. The foot traffic intensifies at certain times of day. More kids outside. A different kind of energy as summer brightness starts slipping into autumn early twilights.

In the Methodist tradition, there’s also the Charge Conference year within the year. This annual event can be as early as September and as late as November. Punctuated by an intense spat of report-writing, nomination seeking, number crunching…the Charge Conference year is always an oddly-measured time period. But that’s OK. We figure it out.

Ø The membership numbers are updated from last year’s Charge Conference date.

Ø The Finance Committee reviews their procedures.

Ø The Trustees have a special report to fill out.

Ø The salaries are reviewed for increases or…not!

Ø Reports are solicited, proof-read, and inserted.

And voila…the Charge Conference Packet is born. A testimony to the life and activities of our church. An historical document—a scrapbook of words to help us remember and rejoice and reflect on where we have been in the recent past.

I, as your Pastor, am so much aware over the last few months of the Committees and their growth and development since the last Charge Conference. Did you know:

   *The Trustees have figured out how to have a 45-minute meeting!?!?! The envy of other committee members. Just as valuable is their system for keeping track of their ‘to-do’ list—printing it on the back of each month’s agenda to be sure nothing gets lost in the woods as time goes by.

   *The Worship Team continues to uphold their reputation for having the ‘most fun’ committee meetings. Improvised music compositions, joyful noise competitions, deflated helium balloons…need I say more? What else would you expect from a group of musicians and artists?

   *The Finance Committee is absolutely intent on figuring out how to increase generous giving, decrease expenses, balance the budget, pay off the loan. None of which is easy or simple, but there is a sense of camaraderie growing as ideas are discussed and implemented. They are asking the hard questions and are brave enough to talk about a whole range of ideas and possibilities.

   *The Stewardship Team has self-identified their role as the ‘cultivators of generosity.’ They know that people who like each other, who enjoy activities together, are so much more likely to generously share their time, their prayers, their money, their love with each other, with others in the congregation and in the community and the world. So this brave and good committee has changed their name to the ‘Stewardship/Generosity Team.’ They are committed to a 12-month Generosity Campaign to share their insights with all of the congregation.

   *The Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee is working really hard at putting the ‘Relations’ back into the SPPRC mission for Christ at Trinity. Member’s names and phone numbers have been printed, so church members can talk to them about their questions, concerns, hurts, and problems.

They asked for input with the Charge Conference paperwork, and the Big Red Box is going to stay in the Gathering Room for a while longer as people continue to share their thoughts in writing. New insights, attention to nuance, dedication to reconciliation, and caring for the membership are all hallmarks of this group. Talk to them sometime…you’ll be impressed.

As the one person who attends all the committee meetings, I am uniquely situated to reflect on and to rejoice at the growth and development in all the committees as they deepen in their understanding, their insight, their faithfulness to God’s purposes. I am really impressed and happy that so many people are having a chance to take on responsibilities, to learn more about becoming the unified body of Christ for the world, and yes, to mature as disciples of Jesus…that’s a good thing for all of us to celebrate!

Such a good thing, that I am ready to start excusing myself from going to so many meetings. Of course, I want to always be available to the groups of the church as a resource and supporter…you are all in my prayers, always! Whether I’m at a meeting or not…I’m here for each and all of you. I am always giving thanks to our most gracious and generous God for the blessing of the Trinity United Methodist people who do so much, who care so much, who love so much. You can count on that...

But wouldn’t you know…there’s another year starting up pretty soon! The Christian Church universal, much of it anyway, organizes itself around the Lectionary Cycle which starts each year with the Season of Advent…four Sundays before Christmas. Usually the first Sunday of Advent is the weekend after Thanksgiving. So if I’m not at a Committee meeting, then you can be assured, I’m getting ready for the next celebration of Jesus Christ…born to bring us peace on earth, good-will towards each other. Hope for the future. Healing from the past and Joy eternal, even now. God’s peace to us all.

Pastor Geri

 

 
Pastor’s Ponderings       September 2017           

The news is so much in the news right now.
Fake news.
Faulty journalism.
Biased reporting. Accusations and recriminations are flying over the air waves and the twitter-verse and through the virtual highways and by-ways.

Aren’t you glad that you are a disciple of Jesus in the midst of all this confusion? We already know that we can’t know the whole story on anything. We already know that God’s invisible grace and power is working in everything, all the time, whether we see it or not.

Paul said it so well…’for now we see in a mirror, dimly...’Cor. 13:12. We already know that more will be revealed, in God’s good time. Not on our ‘need to know’ basis. Think about it:

The disciples of Jesus didn’t know that Jesus was going to die on the cross, but they dedicated their lives and time to following him, learning from him, witnessing to his miracles, and being in community with other people who knew and loved him.

The disciples of Jesus didn’t know, when they saw Jesus dying on the cross, that there would be a joyful resurrection time, three days hence. No, they were frightened. They were grieving. They felt abandoned and alone. They even went into hiding so no one would know that they were still around.

But Easter dawn broke. The stone was rolled away. Christ is Alive!

The disciples of Jesus didn’t even know for sure how to react to the resurrection of Jesus but when the Holy Spirit came upon them, with tongues like flames and the sound of a rushing wind…they were invigorated. Challenged! Joyful… They didn’t know the hardships and the persecution and even martyrdom that would follow. But they knew that Jesus said: Be not afraid.

And they knew that God was in charge.

And they knew that all the destructive powers of this world—past, present, and future—would not succeed, because the victory of God in Jesus Christ is already complete. We just have all of these skirmishes and battles still to deal with as we wait for history to play out, in God’s good time. While we wait, we can pray for the rest of the world to catch up with God’s desire for peace on Earth, good will towards all people everywhere.

When the news from imperfect sources starts to bother me with confusion and even fear about what may or may not happen next…I remember God’s goodness, love, and mercy. Paul goes on in 1 Cor. 13:12 to say… ‘Now I know only in part; then I will know fully even as I have been fully known.’ God knows us fully. God knows the depth of the world’s need and heartache…fully and completely. Jesus died and rose again so that we can be filled full with hope, hope eternal…and live in faith and love, knowing that ‘…the greatest of these is love.’ There is nothing false about that!

May the love of God, the communion of the Holy Spirit, and the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always. In His name….   Pastor Geri

 

Pastor’s Ponderings…July/August, 2017

CLAIM THE FLAME! It’s all about allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to claim your life so that you have the strength and the courage to share God’s grace and your love for others…

Jesus loved us so much that he answered one last question from his disciples before ascending into Heaven, saying: “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” Acts 1:8. In this Trinity United Methodist community, we receive that Holy Spirit power through our baptisms and our participation in the life of the church.

For Pentecost Sunday (June 4) a crew of people created a Pentecost flame for ALL the people who participate in the life of the church through their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their joy, and their witness…you know who you are! Each flame has a name on it…the name of a living person who has a history with and a connection to Trinity UMC. All 548 of those flames were taped to the walls of the Sanctuary so that the gift of the Holy Spirit showed up…visibly and tangibly…in our place of worship.

The colors, the sense of flames moving on the walls has given us a great way to see just how many, many people are led by the Holy Spirit to worship, pray, and live as disciples of Jesus together here, with each and all of us. (Pictures are posted on the church website: www.imtrinity.org. It’s beautiful!)

Such a gift! On Father’s Day Sunday, the people in worship were invited to walk by all of the walls and choose particular flames to take home with them. We were encouraged to let the Holy Spirit move us as we each ‘Claim the Flame’ for particular names that draw our attention. That may be family members. Or people you’ve known for a long time. Or even people you’ve never met. That’s how the Holy Spirit works!

Those in worship that day were encouraged to take as many flames off the wall as they wanted and then to ‘Claim the Flame’ on behalf of the people named on their flames. Put them on your refrigerator in the kitchen. The dashboard of your car. The mirror in your bathroom. The wall of your cubicle at work. In your Bible…wherever you can see that person’s name and pray for them. It can be a simple prayer…Holy Spirit…Thank you for your power in the life of _______. May he/she feel your love and use your power… Amen.

This has been such a rich and rewarding experience that we decided to share with all of those who receive The Tower. You will see on page three a flame that has not yet been claimed. This is your chance to ‘Claim the Flame.’ This is your person to lift up in prayer…to wonder about, maybe even to contact if you are so moved. Know that you are being prayed for as well. We are all caring and sharing, claiming and naming each other through the Holy Spirit!

If your prayers inspire you to find out more about the people on your flames, please feel free to contact the following people who can give you information, including whatever we have in the church phone directory: Joyce Erickson at 774-9279, or Pastor Geri and Sally Verley at 774-2545.

You may be moved to send someone a card. Or call and invite them for coffee. That’s the Holy Spirit working in and through you and the others at Trinity as we support and encourage each other in our faithfulness to God.

Praise be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

Pastor Geri

 
Pastor’s Ponderings--May/June, 2017

What is effectiveness, and how do churches measure it for themselves? Great question. At a recent meeting of the ministerial association here in Dickinson County, I discovered that United Methodists share something in common with our Evangelical Covenant neighbors and friends. We both use ‘vitality’ as a measure of effectiveness. The dictionary defines vitality as ‘capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence.’[i]

Last fall, the Michigan Conference for United Methodist Churches invited Trinity to participate in a nine-month process called the Vital Church Initiative here in the Upper Peninsula. The process includes a reading list and nine different sessions with a consultant/facilitator who is helping us to understand the life-cycle of congregations and identify our current situation.
 
We are part of a cohort of Upper Peninsula United Methodist Churches[ii] who have been identified as churches with strong histories of faithfulness, blessed with gifts of ministry and enough energy to undertake a study of vitality and effectiveness. The intention is to use this initiative to support and encourage each other as we are seeking to identify God’s intention for our various congregations, and to name the forces that hold us back from achieving more vital and effective ministries.
 
Wow…big order, but what a great opportunity to take a look at the bigger picture of God’s movement in our church and community. What is our current reality and where do we see God moving us in the next seven to 10 years?
 
The first session in Marquette, at the end of March, challenged the Away Team to think long and hard about the Mission of The United Methodist Church. The Mission has been the same since 1968. It’s printed in our Book of Discipline and is the guiding principle for all UMC churches, Annual Conferences, and agencies of the Church: The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
 
The good news is…Trinity UMC does not have to create a mission—we already have this one, right in front of us.
 
The challenging news is…how are we doing with making disciples? What are we doing to share Jesus with others? Is there eagerness and vitality in our approach to inviting, witnessing, blessing people in the larger community with the Good News that God loves us all? That’s what we, as members of the VCI team, are called to ponder. What do you think?

One author says there are three things that we need to know in order to carry out our church’s unique mission in our location:  

1. Why do people need Christ? 
2. Why do people need the church?
3. Why do people need this particular church?[iii]

Great questions. Questions that deserve our prayers, our study, our conversation. You will be hearing more about VCI as time goes by. The seeds are being planted, one person at a time. Please pray for your church and the people on the teams. God’s peace to us all.

In the name of Jesus, Pastor Geri

VCI Away Team: Moira Cowling, Pastor Geri, Jack Noyce, Kristy Ryan, Bill Verrette

Home Team: Brian and Celeste Bancroft, Dawn Riutta, Nathan Ruble, Sally Verley, Bob Waldbillig

 i.Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd.Copyright 2005, 1997,1991 by Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved.
ii Ishpeming Wesley UMC, Escanaba Central UMC, Hancock First UMC. 
iii Hamilton, Adam, Leading Beyond the Walls.