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Classic Worship: 8:45 & 10 a.m.

Contemporary Worship: 11:15 a.m.

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Just A Thought or Two: White Tablecloths and Fresh Flowers

THIS SUNDAY, OCT 9th, 2016

(traditional worship with a more intimate atmosphere, includes special music and sermon)

(traditional worship with special music and preaching, including a children’s moment)

(contemporary, informal worship with preaching and children’s moment)


White Tablecloths and Fresh Flowers

Cordelia Burpee of South Hero, Vermont remembers how things were hectic as the volunteers readied to open the church doors to the dinner crowd of homeless, hungry, marginally employed, and lonely people waiting outside.

Leaders had to scramble to get the meals pulled together in time. That particular night was a good night. People entered, filled their plates and found places to sit. It was then she noticed a tall, thin young man sitting on the edge of the stage watching everything with great interest.


Cordelia went over and introduced herself as she sat down next to the stranger. “Are you new here?” she asked. “I don’t remember seeing you.” Phillip introduced himself and said he had tagged along with the ladies from the Catholic Church who had come with the dessert. “I wanted to see how things worked and if there was anything I could do to help,” he explained. Phillip had returned to town after being gone for years. He looked worn but joked around and seemed happy to be in the room.


He came back and got involved in planning the meals. Phillip replaced the paper placemats and napkins with white tablecloths and linen napkins (which he washed and ironed after each dinner). He set the tables carefully with fresh flowers he had convinced florists to donate. At the end of the meal the vases of flowers were offered to guests. Phillip greeted people at the door and escorted them to their table.

Each person was treated as an honored guest, and Phillip saw each meal as a celebration. He encouraged each person to share their stories. Phillip made sure that birthdays and anniversaries were celebrated.

Why did it matter so much to Phillip?


Phillip was HIV positive and had been struggling for ten years to manage his symptoms. Finally, he decided to return home. Sadly, the parents who had kicked him out of their home when he came out as a teenager still wanted nothing to do with him. Although devastated, Phillip looked around for connection and community in his hometown. He decided to help others find the welcome that had been denied him.

Instead of becoming bitter, Phillip was an extraordinarily generous giver. He helped keep the meals going through the holidays and on evenings when the weather was awful.

Instead of going through the motions of hospitality, he treated each person like an honored guest. Paper placemats and napkins would have done just fine, but he wanted the guests to have the experience of sitting down to tables set with white tablecloths, white linen napkins and flowers.

Are you a paper placemat or a white linen napkin kind of person? Deep down, I think that is what our talk this month about stewardship comes down to: will we be people who do the minimum, give the minimum, or will we go to the next level and do the unexpected? Will we be a paper placemat or a white linen kind of church?

Phillip died a few years ago, but Cordelia thinks of him often. Sometimes there is a person who teaches us how to live and love. When she thinks of Phillip, Cordelia thinks of the words written by Guillermo Cuellar for a mass: “Let us now go to the banquet, to the feast of the universe. The table’s set and a place is waiting. Come everyone, with your gifts to share.”

Some churches are filled with generous givers who, God’s call to love shape their lives. You stumble into those places and discover people welcoming you at the door as an honored guest. You are surprised to find fresh flowers on the table, and God’s love becomes real through the grace, generosity, and love of the people waiting to welcome you and wait on you.


This is a story not just about giving, but it is a story about hospitality. God is calling us to be a community that gives so generously that guests will find white linen napkins, white tablecloths and fresh flowers. And God is calling us to be a church where every person will find a Phillip waiting for them at the door, or the Welcome Center, or at the doors of the Sanctuary, ready to greet them with a smile, maybe a joke, and help them find their way to their seat.

“Keep loving each other like family,” Hebrews 13:1 tells us. “Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.”

I can’t get those vases of fresh flowers on the tables out of my mind! The Spirit has convinced me God wants us to be a “fresh flowers on the table” kind of people. Will we be that kind of community…open and generous in unexpected ways?




See you in worship this Sunday as we continue our series DEFYING GRAVITY. Our worship celebrations will include great music (Chancel Choir at 8:45 and 10am in the Sanctuary, the Open Door Band at 11:15am at Buskirk-Chumley), a good word as one of our own shares briefly about their life of faith and giving, a baptism at 11:15, and sermon with a new take on the story of the man who had two sons (Luke 15).

Join us Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m. in 218/219 for FINANCIAL WELLNESS. This week we’ll be exploring creative and wise ways to fund college education for those we love, and important steps to take in getting ready for retirement. Learn more at www.fumcb.org/financial-wellness.

Celebration of the Life of Elizabeth Sluder – Friends of Skip and Liz Sluder are invited to join the family for a celebration of the life of their late daughter, Elizabeth, this Saturday morning at 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary.

Thank you for prayers for Pastor Stacee, Jeff, and the girls. Thank you, also, for being patient with us as your church staff during these challenging days.

College students are reminded about Jubilee College & Young Adult Community. We meet on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 in the Bloomington Sandwich Company on East Kirkwood, and then walk to First Methodist for fellowship, worship, and more! Join us and make this your faith home during your college years.

See you Sunday!

Grace and peace,
Mark Fenstermacher




Updates on the First Methodist building:

  • This Fall, we have spent tens of thousands to remove mold from classrooms.
  • Work is going on to repair some of the “valleys” on our roof.
  • While repairing the Washington Street stairs won’t “fix” the building, we are getting estimates on what it will cost to rebuild them.


Financial Wellness Continues This Sunday Evening!


If we are a church that loves people and wants people to be well (just as Jesus wanted the rich man to be well…to be free…to be happy!), then we need to offer resources. So, a team of great volunteers, led by Jonathan Purvis, are working with me to offer a very simple 4-week series of classes about money we are calling Financial Wellness.

Financial Wellness will be continue this Sunday evening from 5:30-6:30 here at First Methodist. Sessions will be straight-forward, easily understandable for non-money types (like me!), and last only one hour. Presenters will be people from inside our church, people you probably know, people you can trust. They will be sharing what they know… helpful insights from their experiences. Each evening will also include a time for questions!

There is no cost for the course. Childcare will be provided (we would like to know if you will be using our childcare) and refreshments will be served.

The topics for Financial Wellness will be:

  • 9/25 – Financial Health & Getting Out of Debt.
  • 10/2 – Beginning & Building a Budget.
  • This Sunday: 10/9 – Handling College & Getting Ready for Retirement.
  • 10/16 – Having a Lasting Impact.

Register online and learn more at: www.fumcb.org/financial-wellness
Or email first.financial.wellness@gmail.com



Getting Into First Methodist on Sunday Morning

The alley doors have been locked these past few Sundays in answer to safety issues, but this has made some members of our congregation unhappy. So, we will have the Northwest alley door unlocked on Sunday mornings with someone there to greet and assist you.

The wooden doors on 4th street should be used an emergency exit only. Remember, you can always use the Sanctuary entrance by Thurston Parlor to help eliminate traffic congestion at the Southeast door.

The Ushers will be leaving the Sanctuary doors open until after the children’s moment, giving parents enough time to re-enter the Sanctuary without the doors clanking after each person enters. We realize that having the doors open may make it difficult for some to hear, but perhaps changing your seat to the center may help. Leaving the doors open will also make late comers less of a distraction.





View details online, contact the church office and/or pick up a brochure for the Holy Land Trip in February of 2017. Led by Pastor Mark Fenstermacher, the trip is with experienced tour operator EO (Educational Opportunities Inc.). At this point it appears we may have approximately 20 persons making this life-changing journey. The cost is just over $3,000 per person (including airfare, hotel accommodations, tour guide, motor coach transportation in Israel, morning and evening meals, etc.) for those who did not register by July 11th. Contact Ms. Cath Foreman if you have questions. Click here to view the trip website




This Sunday we continue our sermon series titled “Defying Gravity!”

Defying Gravity




First Methodist