Why Come to Church
“We are going to church for all sorts of reasons. There’s the community. We love intergenerational relationships that do not come anywhere else, we want our congregation to pray for us when we are in crisis.
There’s also spirituality. We want to step away from the to-do list of our lives and enter a literal sanctuary at least once each week. We want access to the things that psychologists say bring healing to our bodies, minds and souls — singing together, caring for one another, receiving forgiveness.
Sometimes church is boring. Sometimes it feels superficial. Sometimes it seems irrelevant. But every Sunday when we walk back in those doors, we remember why we are there because church reminds us of who we are in relation to Jesus. Christianity rests upon God coming to us in the person of Jesus, to let us know that we are loved and cared for and healed, saved, and invited to take part in all the goodness and beauty and grace and joy and love and peace of who God is.
Theoretically, that connection to Jesus could happen in the comfort of our own homes or with access to a sermon podcast or a livestreamed service. Except Jesus said we find him where two or three of us are gathered (Mt. 18:20). He said he is present in and among the people we are least likely to meet in our everyday life (Mt. 25:34-36), and we often meet those people at church.
At church, we are both taught about Jesus and given an opportunity to live as he lived: to slow down and listen to people who are oppressed; to upend social structures; to reject power and position; to move toward the ones in need without judgment; even, sometimes, to love our enemies.
The intergenerational community and spirituality we find at church is intimately connected to an encounter with Jesus himself. We meet Jesus in the woman with an intellectual disability who is reading Ezekiel and teaches us about glory. We glimpse the risen Christ in the couple who have been fighting lately and who take the bread and the wine with shoulders slumped in grief. I remember the one who rules this upside-down kingdom of God when a child interrupts the sermon from the back pew and when an elderly widow has a panic attack and needs us to gather around her to pray. The Apostle Paul wrote that Christians are the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27), in which each individual member plays a crucial and connected part. We meet Jesus more fully when we gather. “
(Taken from September article in Religion News Service)
On January 21, at church, we heard from Rev. Leajato Robinson, a guest pastor, who told us that “The Lord Will Perfect That Which Concerns Me.” We go to church because we want to hear the pastor each Sunday that has prepared a message for us. We are concerned that we do not have a permanent pastor, but we will have a wonderful pastor serve us each Sunday with a message from God. We go to church each Sunday to sing the hymns, listen to the gospel and hear the music supplied. We are busy, we have other concerns, but know that First United Methodist Church would like for you to return and worship with us. The leaders of the church and of the conference are working on this concern of a pastor for our congregation, but God continues to love and watch over us. He continues to bless us and does not give up. Come join us, worship with us and know that you can be blessed. This is why we go to church.
CHRIST-MAS- A MOMENT OF JOY YET, UNCERTAINTIES…
“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9: 6- NKJV).
Dear Family /or Friend of Racine 1st UMC,
Greetings from my family and me in the name of the Christ-child in and through whom God’s unconditional love is made manifest.
As usual, this is the time of year when most of us are very busy with trying to catch up on unfinished businesses including current plans as well as setting new goals for the coming year. Amidst all the frails and odds of this world, yet we still fine time for fun with our families, relatives and friends. At the top of those “Fun times,” are the last two celebrations: “Thanksgiving Day,” though not fun for Turkeys, in November. I prayerfully hope you had great “Thanksgiving Celebration,” and the last is “Christ-mas” in December. This is when we are reminded of our God’s Extravagant and radical Love that shocked the hosts of heaven and changed the world. The Prophet Isaiah’s vision remarkably captured the picture for us...a child is born to, no other, but us! This Child’s birth challenged the status code of a world of human marginalization by providing a mass on an altar to which all are invited, thus revealing God’s radical inclusion and unconditional love of all regardless of... In view of all of the above, I’m reminded of a famous and true saying attributed
to one “Heraclitus,” a Greek Philosopher and I quote: “change is the only constant in life.”
Let me quickly clarify that I don’t claim to know either the religious orientation or the original context of this saying. Having said that, the one thing I do know is that the saying is true as it aligns with scriptural teachings about life and all the scenes of events associated with it in this world. “Change” is indeed constant!
For an example: we read in the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; ….” (Ecclesiastes3:1ff.)
As clearly stated in the text, Change is a part and parcel of our journey in this life.
So, just as Christ-mas brings us exceeding Joy, so does it engender a sense of uncertainty. The uncertainties may be around such issues as: what next year’s Christmas would be like; who will be or not be there; what the weather would look like and all of the necessities that make the event and time more fun, enjoyable and joyful, but clearly beyond our control, and that’s the reality of the inevitability of change!!
Now, I have said of the above to help prepare us for the waves of “CHANGES” that are about to hit us barely a week after the 2023 Christmas celebration, both as individuals as well as a congregation. You might want to recall that our congregation will transition for full time pastor/Elder to a half-time Licensed Local Pastoral Leadership. This decision was taken due to the drastic changes, (decline),that have taken place in the church’s membership. Your current pastor for the last nine years will be retiring and subsequently returning to his home of origin, the Republic of Liberia, West Africa, just to name a few. Again, all of those changes clearly affirm the truths of Joy of Christ-mas, yet with some uncertainties! It is in this vein that we need to take seriously and cling to our God’s promised “Emmanuel: God with us!” Our God is faithful for has always been and will continue to be present to guide and protect us on this journey, no matter how tough, and where it may lead.
Finally, let me acknowledge with deep thanks so much for all you’ve been, you are and will continue to be to my family and me throughout those nine years! It’s been an unspeakable blessing serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus, “The Christ,” amongst and alongside all of you. We shall forever remember and remain grateful for being there through the thick and thin of our ministry and mission together!
October Message :
One day Jesus and his disciples got in a boat. “Let’s cross the lake,” he said. And off they went. It was smooth sailing, and he fell asleep. A terrific storm came up suddenly on the lake. Water poured in, and they were about to capsize. They woke Jesus: “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Getting to his feet, he told the wind, “Silence!” and the waves, “Quiet down!” They did it. The lake became smooth as glass. 25 Then he said to his disciples, “Why can’t you trust me?” They were in absolute awe, staggered and stammering, “Who is this, anyway? He calls out to the winds and sea, and they do what he tells them!”(Luke 8:22-25-The Message)
Greetings, Family and Friends of 1st UMC, Racine.
I prayerfully hope you and your family are finding ways and means by which to navigate and cope with the changing climate, seasons and times with all of their accompanying unpredictable! For instance, 2023 weather and seasonal conditions can’t guarantee what it would be in subsequent seasons and year(s). The fact is, we are living in a changing world over which we have no control!
As you might be aware, Charles A. Tindley is the author of the hymn: “STAND BY ME,” UMH#512. This hymn relates the story of Jesus’ intervention when the boat carrying him, and his disciple got hit and was almost ravaged by severe storm on the sea. The story is recorded in the three synoptic Gospels: Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4: 35-41and Lue 8:22-25. The authors of the three Gospels wrote this story as personal testimonies to their Lord Jesus calming the dangerous storm that almost ended their lives in the middle of an angry and raging sea. In similar vein, Bro.
Charles A. Tindley used his God’s endowed musical gift to retell the life-saving story of Jesus Christ through a song that would be sang by believers of generations after another. This story, written by holy men and retold in a spirit-filled song, is not meant for mere entertainment purposes. It is meant to help recall and reassure all believers that as long as we live in this world, there will be, if some of you haven’t gone through, or aren’t experiencing it now, times of stormy seas that only Jesus Christ can calm them and delivers us! The “Stormy seas of life” can manifest themselves in various and diverse forms in our lives through trials, tribulations, sense of unfulfilled dreams and failures, chronic health issues, and many more that tend to leave us with irreparable emotional/ physical and spiritual brokenness in this world! My friend, no one is an exempt of “Life’s Stormy seas!” Unbelievers, believers and “The Church,” are equally exposed and vulnerable to the vicious attacks of the forces of evil in this totally depraved and perverted world!
For example, as a member of Racine First, I need not tell you how our congregation has been grossly challenged! Over the last several years we’ve lost more members to death than received, while most of the committed ones are under attack by chronic health issues that have landed them to either being homebound, in assisted living homes or in the hospitals. To make matter worst, the majority of those who appear physically fit have become spiritually Luke-warmed as exemplified by their unwillingness to even attend, let alone participate in any ministry/missional events, including attendance in regular Sunday Worship Services. Thus, our congregation seems to be in a survival mode! However, with the resilience of the few faithful members, we are yet alive and doing ministry and mission as the Lord enables. So, to the faithful few I pray that you would absorb and personalize the following Divine Words of encouragement: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you”(Deut. 31:6). Yes, stormy life may be real, but it doesn’t have the final word on our lives, God does!
Fortunately for us, and for all believers, we have a God whose promises are trustworthy! Here’s another of our God’s faithful promises: “I will hold you always in the palm of my hand!” (Isaiah 41:12).
In more practical terms, when faced with the “Life’s Stormy Sea,” Just remember that Jesus is right there to help calm that storm no matter how fierce and powerful it may seem to be! Simply Call on Jesus and entrust him with that storm! No! Jesus didn’t call and send us to places and in situations where he won’t be there to see us through. Let’s keep the faith and always trust him in our at “Braving life’s seas!”
Finally, may you and your family have a very blessed Fall Season in Jesus’ Name!
“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy”. (Exodus 20: 11)
Family and Friends of Racine 1st UMC,
Pre-Labor Day greetings to you and your respective family in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
According to history, the first observance of “Labor Day” took place on the first Monday of September 1882, in New York City. Interestingly, the day was observed with a parade organized by a carpenter and a machinist! Their purpose was to, and did draw, attentions to the need of Rest and Relaxation for those who struggled and worked so hard for daily necessities of life.
As a Christian, I have no doubts that the thoughts and actions of the “Carpenter and Machinist,” lifting up the need for the “Laborers” to rest and Relax from their labors were Divinely Inspired and Guided by our loving and caring God! Remember, when it comes to our God’s need for an instrument through which He would communicate His message, He uses even the humanly unlikely mediums, be it a believer or unbeliever! So, it shouldn’t matter whether the Carpenter and Machinist were believers or not!
Indeed their actions were a clear manifestation of the character and nature of the God who created heaven, earth and all that is in them, and “Rested on the seventh day.” God modelled the importance of rest from daily tolls by including it among His Ten Commandments to be observed by all generations of the human creature.
As we celebrate this long “Labor Day Weekend,” let’s not forget its Divine Nature as a Day to keep it Sacred and Holy! (Exod. 20: 11b). We must remember to hold in our hearts and prayers fellow essentials workers in public, corporations, and private sectors that they may experience Godly compassion, love and care.
Let us also remember and heed the Apostle Paul’s words of encouragement to the first Century believers at the Colossae Church, even us:
“Whatever task you must do, work as if your soul depends on it, as for the Lord and not for humans,” (Colossians 3: 23)
Finally, may our working and our resting all give praise to our Creator and Keeper until the day we share together in eternal rest with all our faithful departed in the Kingdom where perfect love and joy reign forever and ever!
Again, Happy and a very Blessed Labor Day Weekend in Jesus’ Name!
Blessings, Rev. Jakes
August 2023 Message from PastorANXIOUS TIMES- A BETTER PATH FOR THE “CHURCH!”
My Dearest Church’s Family,
Heartfelt greetings from me to you and your respective family in the Holy Name of our Redeemer and, indeed, our Friend Jesus Christ! I prayerfully hope your summer is going well, even if not hundred percent as you may have planned and expected! Yes, that possibly attests to the truth that life in an imperfect world is full of surprises, some of which often trigger our Anxiety nature, even as a “CHURCH!”
Did I just say ANXIETY NATURE, EVEN AS A CHURCH? Yes, you heard me right! In fact, “ANXIOUS TIMES” is the best description I can think of for our current reality of life in this world, even as a Church. As you might be aware, Anxiety is as old as our very existence and is rooted in our nature. It is an “automatic human reaction to a threat, be it real or perceived!” It is a reflex reaction designed for self-preservation, thus being “Anxious” is a natural phenomenon in every human being. Lest we forget “Anxiety” like an alert system is not harmful in itself, but one’s “REACTION” to the situation being signaled certainly determines the outcome. Studies have shown that intense and prolonged anxiety may result to negative effects such as stress and physical pain, emotional paralysis, strangling of one’s thoughts pattern, distorts and depletes one’s energies, disinterests and creates doubts that lead to wavering faith in God and eventually ends up with a sense of hopelessness.
Friends in the Lord, let’s face it, we are living in a very troubled world that continue to negatively impact our lives daily both as individuals as well as “The Church!!” Enumerating the adversities, we’ve seen and continue to experience would be like singing to the choir. However, there’s one thing I can say for sure, and that is: Our generation has definitely turned its back on God, “The Creator” of the world and everything therein! Therefore, the “Goodness” of the world that God once validated, (Gen.1: 30-31), upon the completion of his creation is either blurred or totally lost, thus leading to the “ANXIOUS TIMES” in which we find ourselves living! Perhaps, the “Anxious Times” is not too distant, but right at our door steps, if not among us as a congregation! The fundamental question one may ask: IS THERE A WAY FORWARD? DEFINITELY! THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY, AND THAT IS WHAT THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT! THE WAY IS TO HEAR (OBEY) GOD’S GRACIOUS CALL AND HUMBLY RETURN BACK TO HIM! ALL HOPE IS NOT LOST!!
Let’s listen to our God’s generous and faithful promises recorded in both the old and new Testaments:
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2Chronicles 7: 14 ESV).
“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7-ESV)
My friends, as the “Church,” not the well architecturally designed building adorned with very beautiful interior decorations and elegant edifice, but you and me! Let’s not forget that in the Bible, “church” never refers to a building. It always refers to the people who are saved from the dominion of sin, accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and follow him as witnesses to his love and saving grace in the world. You would agree with me that “ANXIOUS TIMES” is a reality in our congregation, Racine 1st U.M. Church. Some of the contributing factors for such elevated levels of “Anxiety” includes the dwindling membership, few in- person attendance at Sunday Worship Services, our financial giving not enough to cover the expenditures, most of the members are either less or lack of interest in participating in the congregation’s Ministry and Mission life and activities, and for other unknown reasons.
In view of all of the above-mentioned causes of “Anxious Times” in our congregation, the pastor and Lay-leadership have set aside Sunday 6th August 2023 for a congregational meeting to which you and other members of the congregation are invited. As a member, your opinion regarding the future of the congregation counts!
The worship service will be very brief so as to convene the meeting as early as possible. Meanwhile, your prayer for the process is highly appreciated!
Finally, remember God has not given us the spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, unwavering Faith, courage and self- discipline! (2Timothy 1: 7 NLT)!
You have a very blessed summer and keep on keeping on in Jesus’ name!
July 2023 Message from Pastor
“BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED!”
“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought, it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 -NRSVUE)
“ For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, Though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls,18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God. 19 God, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19-NABRE)
Dear family and Friends of Racine 1st U.M Congregation,
Greetings in the name of the One who called each of us and assembled us into a Sacred Body known as His Church at this location. I pray that we all would find ways and means to make our summer a joyful experience and be thankful to God, even if everything is not going well as expected, in Jesus’ Name! Lest we forget our mentor, Apostle Paul’s admonishment: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6)
My Friends, you might agree with me that we are living in one of the most challenging times, not only as Racine First U.M. Congregation, but the United Methodist Denomination, specifically Churches in the United States. We are aware that the processes of our denomination splitting into three have since begun and are ongoing! They began within the Jurisdictional, Central and Annual conferences around the world. Right on our door stairs is the completion of the processes of “Disaffiliation of Forty-three ,” partly due to differences in Theological / Doctrinal stance, plus the closure of five local Churches, all at the seat of the Wisconsin Annual Conference / United Methodist Church held June 9th-12th, 2023 at the KI Convention Center, Green Bay Wisconsin. Just as these major shakeups are happening at the highest levels of our denomination, the ripple effects continue to adversely impact the ministry / missional aspirations and programs of most, if not all, the local congregations, including ours.
On another note, we thought with the success of containing the spread of COVID-19 that eventually led the U.S Government to lifting the restrictions on public gatherings, people, especially church members, would have happily flooded back to their local churches. Unfortunately, some are using those expired COVID-19 restrictions and others as excuses for staying away from “In-person” worship services as well as participation in other events of the congregation. Consequently, the church, including our congregation, is struggling to stay active, let alone thrive. While we are deeply saddened by the stay away attitude of most of the members, we are equally thankful to those that continue to remain committed to their congregation’s mission and vision of making disciples for the transformation of lives in the name of Jesus Christ. We are deeply grateful for your trust in God and all the assertive efforts toward keeping up our congregation’s Ministry / Mission alive and vibrant, however minimum.
In view all of the above, I would like to call your attention to the concept of “BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED!” This concept simply means a person, or an institution should be the best they can be regardless of their present life situation and should not let it stop them from flourishing. Rest assured that your God won’t ever plant you where you aren’t able to grow and flourish! Therefore, I can say with confidence that God has a purpose for planting and keeping First United Methodist Church of which you and me are members in this part of His world, country, state, county and Racine City, 745 Main Street! Certainly, such a time as this could possibly be a part of God’s purposes! Keep the Faith and Be Content! Do not give up! Rather, trust God as a faithful Creator, and know that despite where we are planted, and whatever the circumstance, God expects you and me to be a Beautiful Bloom to the glory and honor of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord!
Finally, claim this scriptural prayer: “we are best of friends, and I pray for good fortune in everything you do, and for your good health – that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul!” Amen! (3John 1: 2-Msg. )
Have a blessed rest of the summer in Jesus’ name,