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Every Tuesday and Thursday, we send out weekly announcements about what's happening in and around First United Methodist Church of Madison. Find out about Sunday worship, opportunities for Spiritual Formation, and upcoming events related to FUMC.

For Thursday 12/19, here is the weekly enews supplement.

The Story of Las Posadas

Las Posadas (Spanish for “the inns”) is a parade-style Advent celebration revolving around the concept of hospitality. It’s a tradition that originated in Spain but has become a regular celebration in Mexico and some parts of Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, and takes place during the nine days before Christmas. Beginning on December 16 and ending on December 24, Las Posadas commemorates the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy and symbolizes Mary and Joseph’s long, frustrating search for a place to stay. The tradition re-enacts Mary and Joseph’s trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem and teaches us that by welcoming the poor and the needy, we are welcoming Jesus in our midst.

Typically, different families in a neighborhood will take turns scheduling a night for the Posada to be held at their home and the host family acts as the innkeepers. Neighborhood children and adults are the pilgrims (Peregrinos) enacting the parts of Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds. The journey from house to house is a dialogue in song between the Pilgrims who are outside and the Innkeepers (Posaderos) who are inside.  At one house after another, the pilgrims sing a song about Mary and Joseph searching for lodging. At one house after another, they are turned away until December 24 when they reach the house where Mary and Joseph are finally welcomed and allowed to enter. At this place of welcome, music and prayers continue, festive foods are shared, and the evening often ends with a pinata in the shape of a star.

For our celebration of Las Posadas the Pilgrims (Peregrinos) sang:

Hello Friends, please hear our song,
“We have traveled far and long.
We have trusted and we’ve prayed.
We aren’t scared, we’re not afraid,
but a baby’s on the way
and we need a place to stay.” 

The Innkeepers (Posaderos) at the first 8 stops sang:

You have come too late at night.
Find a home that still has light.
Knock, and see if someone’s there;
they might have some room to spare.
We are sleeping. Go away!
Soon this night will turn to day.

At the final stop the Posaderos sang:

Oh, Dear Ones, you’re welcome here,
but our home’s too small, we fear.
Help yourselves to warmth and bread;
we’ll prepare a safe, soft bed
in our stable filled with hay
where you and the child may stay.


See below for the full collection of essays from First Church members and friends on stewardship, and what it means to be a part of First Church.

Strengthening Our Present, Creating a Future


From Caroline Altfeather, November 21:

I can’t say I always enjoyed attending church. My brother and I would often argue with our parents about going to church. However, it was a given that we were to attend.  It wouldn’t be until high school that my feelings towards church would change and I attribute that much to the youth group. The church youth leaders pushed my peers and I to work with each other and help our church community. We were often asked to lead holiday programs by speaking, singing, and even dancing. Our youth group also pulled together social events for the church including large chili dinners and 50’s style ice cream socials. The youth leaders were always looking to expand our thinking and provided us opportunities to travel and volunteer. While these events often pushed me out of my comfort zone, they also taught me that there was a larger community I was a part of. There was no ridiculing or peer pressure at youth group. Most importantly – there was constant support from the congregation and they encouraged my peers and I to keep trying new things and be the best we could be. 

I joined First United Methodist because I was looking for a similar opportunity for my family. The pressure of work, school, sports, peers, and current events is real and at times overwhelming. I look to our church to help us point the moral compass and provide us opportunities to practice what we are often preaching at home. Serving at the holiday meals and homeless shelter are just two areas our family has found great value. These activities have allowed us to stop, reflect and give back to the community.

I challenge the congregation to continue showing their support of the First Children so that they also have a safe environment to try new things and become the best they can be.


From Marilyn and Randall Smith, November 14:

We were there with you on Sunday morning, November 3, even though you didn’t see us. We didn’t want to share our colds with anyone, so we attended church via LiveStream. Through this different perspective, we still experienced many of the elements that keep us attached to First Church. . . . Beautiful music, actively engaged pastors and leaders, celebrations of outreach like the CROP walk, a meaningful and inspiring sermon to keep us thinking, and so much more. We enjoyed watching the passing of the peace when people were suddenly moving everywhere and shaking every hand they could reach. It was this slightly chaotic but joyful time we missed most today, but it increased our appreciation of the spirited and spiritual church community we call home. Then the choir sang “For Everyone Born”and we felt the center of the inclusive spirit we value so highly. “All means all.”
That was the Sunday morning service, a very important piece of First Church, of course. Many more activities important to many people go on every day as we are “Downtown for Good” to “Do all the good we can . . . As long as ever we can.”


From Frances (Housley) Ramsey, November 7:

My Journey Back to First United Methodist Church

My relationship with First Church began as a small child when my parents first brought me and my twin sister here as toddlers. My mother had grown up in the United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and was looking for a similar church here in Madison. After trying out a few churches in the area, my parents settled in this church and became members. I was involved in Sunday school, children’s choir and Christmas pageants. I went through confirmation and participated in the Appalachian Service Project. I grew up with phenomenal church leaders, fellow members, and role models like David Lyons, Joan Deming, Marcia Grothaus, and the Van Dykes. The church built in me a strong foundation of service, community, and faith.

Youth group brought together kids from schools all over the area. We had so much fun together. I have fond memories of fundraising dinners, community service projects, lock-ins, retreats, and lots of laughs.

The Appalachian Service Project brought me out of my comfort zone and taught me the importance of hard work. It also opened my eyes to the extreme poverty that exists in our country. Though ASP was physically exhausting, it was extremely rewarding. We built strong relationships with the families there and strengthened our relationships with each other.

When I went off to college, I took a break from church. Both of my parents had moved away, and my sister went to college out-of-state while I stayed in town for school. Consumed with school, church wasn’t on my mind. I still went with friends to church services here and there and returned to First Church occasionally for holidays. I also returned to First Church for my wedding and for my children’s baptisms.

After my children were born, I realized that I wanted them to have the same foundation of service, community and faith that I did. My only reservation about returning was the fear that I wouldn’t know anyone here anymore. The leaders I had were mostly gone or retired. My friends from youth group had all moved away or, like myself, were taking time away from church. My fear was walking through the doors and feeling like a stranger in a place that had felt like home for so long.

When I decided that we wanted to come back, I first contacted Laurie Peterson to inquire about Sunday school. She was so warm and welcoming that I knew my children would be in great hands. Now, I practically have to pry my daughter from Laurie’s side when it is time to go home. She absolutely adores her. My daughter also has developed close friendships with those in her class. I see her faith blossoming and it is so beautiful. I know that this church will continue to nurture her faith as she grows and she’ll learn, like I did, what it truly means to be a Christian. My children will learn that God is a loving, inclusive, accepting God and that you can be your true self and be welcomed into this faith community.

I thought it would be impossible to replace the leaders of our past, but after coming back I realized they haven’t been replaced; rather, we are building upon their legacy as well as creating one of our own. The first time I heard Mark preach I was blown away. I felt relief. I thought, this is why I’ve come back. He reaffirmed everything that I thought a faith community should be. I knew I had made the right decision for myself and my family. Listening to him preach is not just food for the mind but food for the soul as well.

When I give to First Church, I am helping to build a strong foundation for my children and the other children of First Church. I am helping my community. Most importantly, giving to First Church ensures that our children, the literal future of our church, have the resources and support to continue on their journey of faith and service, much like the one I began more than three decades ago.


From Ellen Carlson, October 31:

I grew up a member of a very conservative church. My church family showed me the strength of faith and provided me a clear picture that God was always with me. As I grew older and began questioning the world around me and some of the things I had been taught, a God of such great Love and Grace became so clear that when our first son was born, we baptized him at home, having not yet found a faith community that leaned directly into this Love.

Having grown up in different faith traditions and types of churches, it took my husband Michael and I awhile to find a place that we wanted to bring up our children. When we found FUMC, we knew that the people here understood the Christian faith as we did and were on a faith journey similar to ours. We knew that the many people who would enter our children's lives would be teachers and guides just by their own personal living and how they treated each other and the world in which we all lived.

This has become abundantly clear in our church's reaction and our subsequent actions to what happened this past year at the General Conference. The people in this church are passionate. And while passion can be messy, it's in this milieu that love, respect, and thankfulness for all that God made is found. As we look to see what the next life of this church will be, I look forward to seeing new leaders emerge and new passions stirred. I look forward to continuing to be
a part of a church that responds without fear to the call of Christ.

As a member of the church council, I've been able to see directly how funds given to the church are spent, and it has opened to me a greater understanding of all that this church is doing. Giving to me is an expression of thankfulness for who we are collectively as a church and my own commitment to fostering who we will need to be for each other and our community and world into the future.


From Michelle Ogilvie, October 24:

My involvement in FUMC and in particular with Hope’s Home ministries can be credited to Karen Andro, Director of Hope’s Home ministries. Karen truly embodies the mission of First Church and works tireless to advocate for those in need. All of Karen’s dealings with others are rooted in the spirit of treating people with dignity and respect. With Karen’s leadership and the strong financial support of the FUMC congregation, Hope’s Home ministries is able to offer a number of vital programs to our community.

I first contacted Karen when I learned of the FUMC Wednesday Community Breakfast. I joined the kitchen meal preparation and serving team and my interest and involvement in Hope’s Home Ministries grew from there to helping other programs such as the food pantry and holiday meal events. Additionally, my husband and I became so inspired by the mission and work of FUMC, that we also joined the Church. Volunteering with FUMC and the Hope’s Home programs has helped me come to truly appreciate the need for these services in our area and the number of people that FUMC serves in offering them.

The Wednesday breakfast provides a hot, nutritious meal for an average of 100 people on a weekly basis. Before and after the meal, guests are able to visit with many of the Community Partners who set up on site. This is an extremely important aspect of the breakfast as it provides our guests with a way to connect with many agencies they may not otherwise be able to readily visit such as Second Harvest, the Tenant Resource Center, and multiple health care providers just to name a few. The Come As Your Are worship service which follows also provides guests with an informal worship opportunity.

The FUMC Food Pantry is open 3 days per week and typically serves anywhere from 20-40 households per session. While the FUMC pantry may not be the largest in the area, guests are able to shop once per week and are offered the opportunity to select from a variety of shelf stable foods as well as meat, dairy, and fresh produce.

Seeing the direct impact these offerings has is what truly inspires me. Hearing comments from people that the Wednesday breakfast may be the only hot meal they have all week or that they have been looking forward to the meal is what makes the effort and preparation worthwhile. Likewise, in the Food Pantry, our guests frequently begin lining up well before pantry registration begins. For many of the guests, our pantry is one of their primary food sources. We strive to provide a variety of nutritious foods from which guests can select themselves. We have absolutely wonderful volunteers who help at our pantry sessions. I especially value the dignity with which our volunteers strive to treat everyone who comes to shop. We take the time to really talk with our guests and get to know them. It is not just about shopping but about treating people in a compassionate and caring way while doing so.

If FUMC was not located in the heart of downtown, many of our guests would not be able to receive these services as many have no reliable forms of transportation. As a result of the hard work and reputation that FUMC has for helping those in need, our Welcome Center is frequently the first stop for many in the downtown area who are looking for services. Even if FUMC does not offer a service for which people are looking, we are often able to readily refer people to a place they can receive services of which they are in need.

Equally as meaningful is the compassion with which guests to all of these programs are treated. FUMC and all of its volunteers and partners strive to provide a welcoming environment to all. As I have had the opportunity to meet many of our guests and get to know them and their situations, I realize on any given day if I was to find myself in similar circumstances, the one thing I would most hope for is that people would treat me with the same level of compassion and dignity with which FUMC treats all of its guests.


From Milton Ford, October 17:

Growing up in a farm family of seven, I know that a pie can be cut in at least that many pieces. By using a regular sized pie pan my Mother could manage to feed all of us with one pie. The challenge came, however, when neighbors or relatives dropped in at meal time. The pieces got much smaller. However, my Mother had a larger pie pan which she used when she thought company was likely to arrive. Of course, if no one came, there were lots of smiles around the old square kitchen table because we each got a bigger slice of pie - often pumpkin.
As we approach the Annual Stewardship Appeal at First Church, Emily and I are thinking of what our financial commitment will be for 2020. We are honored to give of our time, talents and money to the church which we love. There are so many exciting and crucial ministries which will be possible as more resources are available. Our vibrant church can do even more to reach out in the year ahead to share the love of Jesus with the world around us. We are hoping that you will join us in giving your very best so that the church has a bigger pie to work with for next year. Let’s all join together to make a bigger pie!
From Joan Deming, October 10:
"I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love." This beloved old hymn acknowledges how important stories are in connecting us to experiences of faith -- not just what we believe in our heads, but what touches our hearts and changes our lives. In this fall's Stewardship Appeal, members of our church will share their stories of how First Church makes a difference for them. Their stories, spoken or written, will invite us to know the writers and speakers better, but also jog our memories of what matters to us. 
So what's my story? I've become an old-timer at First Church. I first came here in 1984 as a substitute organist, filling in for Jean Harvey. Then Ruth and Bruce Marion invited me into leadership for a Lenten study. Finally Ken Engelman offered me a part-time ministry position as visitation pastor. I ended up serving this congregation as a pastor for 11 years through 2 pastoral appointments, then stayed away a few years when that ended. The choir and great friendships were the reason I came back. I love this congregation, and I'm so relieved to be able to worship in a church where "All still means All." So that's my story and why I support First Church with my gifts as well as my time. (I currently chair the Stewardship Committee.) Please join me in remembering and celebrating our many First Church stories, and in supporting First Church generously in response.


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First Look

In print since 2016, First Look is 'a way to invite participation in what we do in ministry together.' Published quarterly, you can expect to find photos, articles, and compelling narratives that help us appreciate the scope of our common life. 

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