Summer is almost here, and it is already heating up.
As we enter the month of June, I have many things I have been thinking about for the summer.
Our mission statement is "To meet new neighbors, nurture their relationship with Christ, and transform the
world together." So, how do we live this out over the next few months? Thankfully, the weather should help us
get out in the neighborhood and do some fun stuff.
One of the questions I have been hearing is, "When will Traditional Service be in person?" This is a good
question with what I consider a simple answer. When we have more volunteers to help us with this service, I
will make it in person. I know some of our people would prefer to come to this service, but are you willing to
serve to make this happen, or are you just wanting to be served? If it is the latter, then now may not be the time, and we continue to offer it online only. I am not opposed to doing this service in person, but we have to have volunteers to make it happen weekly.
Next, I have been thinking about doing service outdoors again this summer. When I arrived last year, having
service outdoors was a great way to start considering everything going on with the pandemic. Doing service
outdoors requires the help of volunteers for things to run smoothly. There are some logistical things that we
have to figure out as well. Something I will share about outdoor services: On August 8th, we will be holding
“Church in the Park” along with a couple of other churches in Milan. The Outreach Team is working with the
other churches on something to go with the service, too. I am looking forward to this day of worship outside!
Another thing I would like to get back to would be some small group time. I have been thinking about seeking
out a couple of different people to lead some groups this summer. We could meet on the lawn and enjoy the
weather while we can for now. It would be nice to offer a book study, a Bible study, and a couple of other
options for everyone to choose from. Do we have people willing to serve in this capacity? If we do, then we will
make some groups happen.
Does anyone notice a trend with these things I am discussing? That's right! We are looking for willing
volunteers to help us carry and live out our mission. Again, it is one thing to say we want to do this or that, but it will take the church to do whatever we decide to offer. We are asked to give of our time, gifts, and talents as
members of the church. This ideal seems to be a bigger task than it should be because we allow other things
outside of the church to consume us. We rely on God being there for us, especially in our time of need, but are
we holding up our end of the relationship? Yet, this is the reality we live in currently. A lot of us have forgotten
what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. Or we feel like we have done our time, and it is time for
someone else to take over. What if there isn't anyone else? Do we depend on the few willing to help and don't
want to see things not get done? Those people will burn out, and then there won’t be anybody to help. We are
not a large church with a huge staff, and even if we were, we would still need volunteers to help live out our
mission and vision.
Last month, I wrote a piece based on Bo Schembechler's "The Team, The Team, The Team." I still want everyone
to be a part of the team or body of Christ. But if everyone does not do their part, then we will not be as strong as we could be for our neighbors. Don't forget that our work goes beyond the walls of the building we worship in as well. Community involvement is vital for meeting new neighbors and inviting them to be a part of what we can offer them. Let us set aside what we want personally and consider how we can help the team and offer our neighbors to transform Milan and the world together.
Peace be with you, neighbors
Being a Michigan State fan in Go Blue country can be difficult at times. The irony is that there was a time in
my life that I did root for U of M. I had no real connection to the school and cheered for them because that is
what a lot of my friends did, too. At some point, I started making some connections with MSU and found
myself more invested in GO GREEN than Go Blue. Regardless of what color or school we may cheer for we
should all be pulling for the State of Michigan. We are the ones that tend to make it difficult to be fans
whether we are in MSU or U of M territory.
Many of you might be wondering, “Why is he talking about a college rivalry?” Well, despite being a Spartan
fan, I do have respect for many of the programs at Michigan. Also, having spent time being a coach for a
number of years, I appreciate motivational speeches by coaches. One that popped into my mind the other
day was Bo Schembechler’s famous “The Team” speech. I believe any fan or team can set aside their
differences and appreciate his words. “The Team, The Team, The Team” is why I am talking about a college
The word TEAM has been used as an acronym as well. T – Together E – Everyone A – Achieves M – More.
Schembechler discusses taking everything else, that some coaches and players focus on, and setting them
aside to become “The Team.” One cannot focus on themselves in order for the team to be successful.
Players/people cannot criticize other players/people and expect to be successful. Each person has to pour
themselves into the common good of becoming a team. Then success can happen because Together
Everyone Achieves More.
How is this any different than what Jesus is trying to teach us with The Greatest Commandment?
Jesus is telling us to set aside our egos, differences, personal agendas, etc. Instead, we are loved by God
every day and we must share that love with our neighbors. We are to love God and neighbor with
everything we have and as much as we would love ourselves. Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples
trying to convey this message of “The Team.” I am trying to coach this team and stress the importance of
loving God and neighbor. Yet, there are days I feel like some of those first years of coaching. Every decision
you make is questioned, there are more complaints versus solutions offered, nobody wants to trust you
because you are the new person entering their life, and so on and so on. I do not just want to coach or lead
you, but I want to love on you at the same time. I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is, “Can we
set aside our personal feelings, leave the past behind us, trust the coach/pastor, and move forward while
we love on each other to become ‘The Team’ for God?”
Imagine a future for Marble Memorial where we not only speak about love, but people actually feel that
love when they walk in our doors or join us online. I understand that this last year has been hard on a lot of
people. Let’s be honest the last several years have been tough for Marble. In order for us to see this future,
we may have to let go of some things and have faith in some of the new things. Will this happen overnight?
Nope. But let’s put whatever is holding us up in the past or behind us so we can move forward. It’s not
about us but it is about God.
Again, Together Everyone Achieves More. So, Marble Memorial, let’s be “The Team, The Team, The Team!”
Peace be with you, neighbors.
(And I guess, Go Blue. LOL)
Holy Week is upon us, and I pray you are just as excited as I am to celebrate it this year! Last year at this
time, our buildings were closed down, and we hoped it would only be for a couple of weeks. It has been a
year, and we are still working toward getting things back up and running to 100%. Not being able to
celebrate Easter last year was heartbreaking. But we have the opportunity this year to gather safely and
celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I encourage everyone in the neighborhood to extend this
invitation for Holy Week with all of your neighbors.
The week begins with Palm Sunday (3/28) as we cheer on Jesus and his arrival into Jerusalem. Then on
Thursday, we share in the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples. On Good Friday, we journey to the
cross and the death of the Son of God. Easter Sunday provides us the time to celebrate the resurrection of
Jesus Christ. Please don't approach this week like any other week or go through the motions. "Yep, it's
Easter again. Get the candy out, paint the eggs, and we should probably go to church." Look at Holy Week
as a chance to not only retake this journey but to praise God for getting us through this last year.
Out of curiosity, I did a Google search on “Why is Holy Week special?” Here is what I found: “Holy Week is
important as it reminds Christians of God's sacrifice of his son and also God's love for his people.
Christians can learn much about Jesus through the last week of his life. Easter is the most important
festival in the Christian calendar. It celebrates God raising his son Jesus from the dead and the destruction
of the power of sin and death forever. It symbolizes the opening of Heaven with the gift of eternal life to
Despite the lives we have lost and things we have missed out on, we have a lot to be thankful for, too. We
continue to find new ways to do and share ministry with those we love and want to share our love with
moving forward. Let us lift our vision of being good neighbors who strive to be a welcoming neighborhood
so that all may experience God's love and grace. Allowing us to meet new neighbors, nurture their
relationship with Christ, and transform the world together. Be thankful that we will be gathering in the
neighborhood here at Marble to celebrate Easter this year! Can I get an “Amen”?
Peace be with you, neighbors.
During a recent Bible Study, I read Ephesians 4:1-16, and the passage brought up some thoughts about Marble
Memorial and our new vision. Let me share some verses with everyone to show what I am talking about here:
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep
the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
As the apostle Paul tends to do in most of his letters, he smacks us right in the face with some truth and calling us out. "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." So that everyone knows, he's not only talking to pastors but all Christians. Then comes the more difficult part; Paul tells us to be humble, gentle, patient, bearing, and do so with love. Ugh! Yes, we are called to do these things as well. Trust me, and I understand how some may feel about this part. Patience is a tricky thing for me, especially when I want to do something and be done with it! Then he writes that we need to keep unity through peace. We may not always agree on how things are done or what we are doing. I said this before, and I will repeat it, "That's ok!" As long as we do things with love and peacefully.
Paul continues by speaking of there being one body and one Spirit. John Wesley says this same thing by telling United Methodist that we don't have to agree on everything but should be of one mind, heart, and body.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Now, the apostle tells us that he gave us the evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip his people for service works. Thus, leading to the body being built up. In other words, it is not only the pastor's responsibility to guide people to build up the church. If we work together, then we will grow and reach a special kind of unity.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is
the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament,
grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
I read this section to mean that if we can stop taking things personally and see that what we are doing is out of love, then the body will continue to grow. We must move forward and be united as we do so. We don’t want to forget the past or disrespect history, but our problems will not be resolved by sitting on our hands and doing nothing.
WE have to work together!
We attempted to organize some opportunities a couple of months ago to help our neighbors while we continued to navigate our way through the pandemic. Besides a few people who were already involved, I had two individuals talk to me after sharing that message. Yes, I know that there is still some concern regarding the virus. We are also getting closer to opening things up more. As we add tasks each time we open more up, we need more help. If we want to welcome new neighbors to the neighborhood, then we have to invite those not here already.
This conversation might be a boring conversation to some but answer this for me. Besides cosmetic changes from the Vital Church Initiative, tell me what has changed about Marble Memorial? What has been done to bring new members into the church? How many of those baptized or brought into membership are still at Marble? I share these thoughts and ask these questions not to be discouraging. Instead, I am trying to open our eyes to the situation around us.
“1 To equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Jesus calls us to step and work together. Know that I write this piece out of love and wanting nothing but the best for Marble and God’s kingdom. Spend some time in prayer and see what God is putting on your heart after reading this article. And all of God’s people said, “Amen!”
Peace be with you, neighbors.
Hello, neighbors! Yes, 2021 is here and it is already February. Last month, I spent some time talking about the transition from 2020 to 2021. Now, I want to talk more about the vision I rolled out to the neighborhood on January 17th during Sunday morning worship. I believe this is the direction God is leading us in and lead us into a fruitful future at Marble.
The vision begins with the characteristics of what a neighbor is at Marble -
A Neighbor is…
Loving – Showing love or great care towards everyone.
Kind – To each other and anyone new to the neighborhood.
Faithful – Being loyal to God, the church, and the community.
Compassionate – Showing sympathy and concern for all.
Peaceful – Making the neighborhood harmonious, calm, and at peace.
Patient – Being able to accept change or deal with problems without being anxious or stressed.
Joyful – Feeling or expressing happiness for all God gives us.
Generous – With our time, gifts, and talents, but willing to give more when it is not expected.
Respectful – Making sure everyone feels loved and valued in the neighborhood.
From there we move into the Core Values -
1. As neighbors, we are seeking to love God in worship through prayer, preaching, and praise.
2. As neighbors, we are looking to include everyone in what we do with love and respect for all.
3. As neighbors, we are willing to serve others through outreach in our community and the world.
4. As neighbors, we are continuing to grow in our faith with small groups, Bible studies, and mission work.
Then we add our Vision and Mission Statements -
These statements look different than what has been in place but fit better with the rest of the vision.
To be a welcoming neighborhood, so that all may experience God’s love and grace.
To meet new neighbors, nurture their relationship with Christ, and transform the world together.
As your pastor, I am excited to see what the future holds for us at Marble. In our last newsletter, I made mention about changes still to come. Together we will work through struggles. Remember that change is an opportunity for growth, too. We must get in the habit of evaluating our practices and systems to make sure we move forward in a way that pleases God. In my message about this vision, I shared a statement that is hard for some to hear, but is the truth. The church’s purpose is not to make us happy. The purpose of the church is to make us more like Jesus. Knowing we have the chance to grow, share the Good News, and expand our neighborhood, doesn’t that excite everyone?
Please continue to be in prayer for this vision, leadership, Marble, and the neighborhood. My hope is for Marble to become a thriving church. No, I don’t mean the biggest church in town, but one that reminds everyone that they are loved, valued, and welcome to be our neighbor.
Until next time, peace be with you! ~ Pastor Matt
Hello, neighbors! This last year has been something else, to say the least. I do not know about all of you, but I
am ready to be done with 2020. Although this year has been difficult, dealing with all the changes caused by the pandemic, I believe that a lot of good has happened, too. Let me take some time to reflect back on these last few months. Then we can talk about what is to come in 2021.
Since my arrival in July, we were able to worship together outside all summer long. Marble has added some
new technology to enhance our worship experience. Vicki Charter and Tim Kartje have blessed us with sharing
the Word on Sundays while I was gone. The Outreach Team sent cards of encouragement to the teachers at
Paddock Elementary School. The people of Marble assisted the team by donating $775 in gift cards to Aid in
Milan. We weren’t able to hold our annual Goodie Sale, but instead, had a Bake-less Bake Sale that raised just
over $3,100. I feel blessed being appointed here and having the opportunity to serve our neighbors despite the
obstacles of 2020.
Looking forward to 2021, I see an open road in front of us to take and see where God leads us. Yes, what lies
ahead may include some more changes to Marble. We need to prepare for what is next when we can open the
doors of our building again. The beginning of this next year is the gateway to allow us to turn things around in
the neighborhood. I realize these might be difficult things to hear after all that has taken place here in the last few years. Also, I know some are hesitant to follow a new pastor knowing there are no guarantees on how long they will be around. Regardless, we need to unite and reignite our fire for God in order to move forward. Will you join me in making 2021 a great year?
In the next couple of weeks, I want to share more details of my vision for this next year and the future of
Marble. As for how I will share this information, I would like to discuss things on Sundays, via Zoom meetings,
or individual visits if needed. Please understand that parts of this plan will feel like sprints and other will be
more like a marathon. On average, it takes four to seven years to make real change happen. May we be of one
heart and mind as God leads us to serve our neighbors. May we represent Christ in all that we do. May everyone around us know that they are loved and valued. Does this sound like a something you could be a part of? I pray that it is and ask you to pray on it, too.
Realistically, the start of 2021 is not going to be that different from 2020. My hope is that this next year ends
even better, and that Marble grows from this experience. The key is that we maintain hope and let our faith be
bigger than our fear. Happy New Year!
Peace be with you, neighbors.
“Coming Soon...” What is coming soon? Well, in case you missed last Sunday’s (11/29) service, we have started
the season of Advent. This year we are taking a different look at the Christmas story. What if we approached the story from the viewpoint of a movie? We began with the trailer and will work our way to the climax. Be ready for a cliffhanger, too! Do I have your attention now? Stay tuned then!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, "The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come." I am willing to bet that most of us, if not all, would fall under one of those areas mentioned by Bonhoeffer. The beautiful thing is that it does not matter and can only make this season even better. Imagine a movie trailer with a group of misfits that begin a journey not knowing what is next, but who they discover is the real surprise! This sounds like a movie I could get into and provides the something greater to come.
I also found these thoughts from Christianity.com interesting as we discuss what is, “Coming Soon”, in this
season. “While Advent is certainly a time of celebration and anticipation of Christ’s birth, it is more than that. It is only in the shadow of Advent that the miracle of Christmas can be fully understood and appreciated, and it is only in the light of Christmas that the Christian life makes any sense. It is between the fulfilled promise of Christ’s first coming and the yet-to-be-fulfilled promise of his second coming that Karl Barth penned these
words: ‘Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise are related to each other, as are dawn and sunrise. Both promise and in fact the same promise. If anywhere at all, then it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith, the expectation of future revelation. But faith knows for whom and for what it is waiting. It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise.’ The promise for Israel and the promise for the church is Jesus Christ; he has come, and he will come again. This is the essence of Advent.”
Do I still have your attention? Stay tuned!
As I wrap things up for this newsletter, I leave you with an Advent prayer to use throughout the month from
author Renee Swope.
I have asked you to stay tuned and most are probably looking for more. If that is the case, then please join me as we journey through this season of Advent with our series “Coming Soon...” Invite others to worship with us
every Sunday at 10:00am online via our Facebook page (Marble Memorial UMC). I don’t know about you, but I
am excited to see what God has instore for us as we near the end of 2020!
Peace be with you, neighbors... Pastor Matt
To say that October was a strange month would be an understatement, considering the year as a whole. We
were starting to get into some things and then life throws us a curveball. At least it threw one at me! The
last couple of weeks have been an experience for me and my family. Thankfully with God in our lives,
dealing with what has happened was a lot easier to handle.
Let me take a moment to make sure everyone is in the loop. A couple of weeks ago, I started to experience
some pain in my lower abdomen. After a visit to a local walk-in clinic, I left thinking I had a kidney stone.
Then a couple of days later, the pain was not getting any better. So, after service, the pain returned and was
not going away. My wife, Melissa, took me to the ER at St. Joe Mercy Hospital to see what was up with me.
They ran a CT scan and found that it was not a kidney stone. Instead, I was told I have a tear in my aorta or
what is medically referred to as an aortic dissection. Thankfully, this tear is not by my heart, but lower in
my abdomen. Are you with me so far?
This led to me being admitted to the hospital for the next 10 days. They spent a couple of days deciding
whether or not I should have surgery. Then they were working on treating my issue medicinally. The idea
was to get my blood pressure down and then see if we could keep it low. Once they figured this out, we had
to move from the medication being given to me via IV to taking them orally. From there, I had to see how
things went to figure out when I could go home. For some, 10 days may not seem like a lot of time, but this
was the first time I had ever been admitted to a hospital.
Now, I move forward and give thanks for each day I am blessed with to serve our God and God’s people.
Thank you for all the cards, prayers, and support you have shown my family and me these last couple of
weeks. We are so appreciative of the love the neighborhood has offered us during this time. Thank you to
everyone that helped make service possible these last couple of Sundays and a couple more to come. God is
good all the time.
Moving forward, I will slowly be working my way back into a routine at the church. Pastor Matt’s
Neighborhood will return, but it might be next week before I go back to recording shows. My prayer is that
this life event does not change who I am, but only alters what I do or how I do things in the future. Please
know that God loves you, and nothing can change my love for my neighbors. Again, thank you for
everything and we still have work to do to build God’s kingdom here on earth!
The Re-Entry Team and I are happy to share with everyone that we are going inside for worship starting on Sunday, October 4th. To begin with, we will continue to offer one service at 10:00am. Worship will continue to be streamed on Facebook as well. Please understand that we are doing everything to respect and protect everyone that comes to worship with us.
With that being said, we ask for everybody to be flexible and show grace as we continue to work our way through this situation. Also, please understand that how we approach and attend worship inside is going to look different than before the shutdown. We realize that a lot of churches have been meeting and there are some that are still worshipping online only. Avoid trying to compare apples to apples. Let’s make sure we continue to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Keep in mind there is no single way to go about what we are doing and no instruction manual to help figure out what to do. Marble Memorial is only as strong and loving as its people are. Again, be flexible and show grace.
Below, are the key guidelines Marble is following each week we gather for now. Thank you.
Masks are still required along with social distancing protocols.
Entering will be through the Parking Lot door on the southside of the building.
Temperatures will be taken at the door before entry. If a temperature of 100 or higher is registered, then you will be asked to return home.
Colored bracelets will continue to be utilized to show a person’s comfort level.
No congregating in the hallways before or after service. Please head directly to the sanctuary.
No reservations/reserved seats. Ushers will direct you to your seat. No switching seats.
The upstairs restrooms by the elevator will be available for use.
Coffee areas will be closed, but you are welcome to bring something to drink.
Masks will remain on while in the building and for singing.
No programs, hymnals, or Bibles will be available for use.
An Offering Station will be available to leave your gifts before or after service.
Ushers will dismiss everyone by row at the end of service.
Exiting will be through the Bell Tower Doors.
There will be no receiving line with the pastor, and everyone will be asked to go outside to visit.
Communion will continue to be served by the pastor in pre-packaged kits.
Besides what is listed above, here are a couple of other things to keep in mind for now:
No programs, hymnals, or Bibles. (You may bring your own Bible from home.)
The Nursery is not open until we can get volunteers to staff the room.
Pastor Matt and The Re-Entry Team are available to answer questions: Brenda Kempher, Barb Bachant, Lisa Jarema, Mike Sweet, Dave Ludwig, Paul Salow, Tim Kartje, and Justin Murray are on the team.
After each service, Pastor Matt will re-evaluate the steps we are taking and discuss changes with the Re-Entry Team. We realize there will be questions after reading this, and we have also taken households into account for seating. Things are going to look and be different for a little while. Remember, be flexible and show grace. We look forward to worshipping with everyone each Sunday!
Let your faith be bigger than your fear.
Hello, neighbors! I cannot believe it has been two months since Melissa and I arrived in Milan. We are so blessed and happy to be here with all of you at Marble. A lot has happened, is happening, and will happen this year. I thought I would take a moment to share a few highlights of these last two months.
We have been worshiping in-person on the front lawn and have only had to cancel twice due to weather.
That is incredible for Michigan!
People have been engaging with Pastor Matt’s Neighborhood daily on our Facebook page.
Through generous gifts from the Memorial Fund and an anonymous giver, we were able to purchase the
TV’s we use for worship. Thank you!
We are working to complete what is left of your ministry plan.
People have continued to give so we can continue to do ministry. Thank you!
A Visioning Team has been created as part of the pastoral transition to plan for what is ahead of us.
Melissa and I have been welcomed, supported, and loved on since we moved to town.
These are only a few things I could think of while trying to get ready for vacation. I also want to share a few ideas that Marble and the neighborhood will need in the days to come.
Technology to manage worship in-person and online to properly connect with others.
Volunteers to make preparations for and implement our new children’s ministry.
A Stewardship Campaign will be in our future.
More community involvement to get to know our neighbors better.
Small Group options will be coming soon.
Opportunities to serve our neighbors are on the horizon.
I am so excited to think about God has in store for us at Marble Memorial UMC! Please continue to be in prayer for the Church, the community, and the neighbors we have yet to meet. Well, I need to go finish some work and getting ready for our vacation!
Until next time, peace be with you...