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Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Welcome To Our Church!

Moscow First United Methodist Church is a wonderful church community. It is known for the sound of choirs and congregants raising their voices in praise to God, with bells ringing and the historic clock chiming the hours. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have worked hard to move our ministries online so that we can connect with folks near and far. Online worship is available through Facebook livestream at www.facebook.com/Moscowfirstumc We also offer Sunday school, virtual coffee hour, and Thursday morning prayer through various formats. We know that living through a pandemic is nothing any of us thought we would need to consider. We also know that it is emotionally and spiritually challenging. We believe our faith and community can help sustain us in these uncertain times. Wherever you are, we hope you know God loves you and cares about your life. We also hope that you will explore and connect with us virtually until we are safely able to meet again in person.
Debbie Sperry, Pastor

Pastor-Debbie---May-14-2017

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - September 16, 2020

 I’ve been hearing a lot lately “I’m just tired.” “It’s just hard.” Both are true. Very true for a lot of us. We’re physically tired, emotionally tired, mentally tired, and spiritually tired. We’re worn out and tired of the changes and new things and adaptations. We’re tired of the isolation and the restrictions and things we can’t do. And, it’s hard….all of it is hard. Even the “easy” things in life seem hard. One friend shared the other day, “my decider is broken.” She meant she was tired of making decisions. It seems ironic since we all make 1000 decisions a day, but there is so much that we have to think about that used to come naturally or be a “no brainer” that we’re tired of making decisions—especially when we’re weighing variables and risks that were not part of our equation 7 months ago.

I’ve said more than a few times this week, “I’m running on fumes.” And I don’t think I’m alone in that. I know I’m not. So many of us pushed through summer to get back to the (late) start of school only to have that upended by the smoke. Some of us laughed. Some cried. Some ate cake. Some shook our fists at 2020 (as if it’s some entity with any kind of intent or power). And others of us shrugged…ruined plans are all too normal these days.

I’ll speak my own truth and you can speak yours. My truth is I’ve just kept swimming. I kept going and going. My coping mechanism is to over function. I kind of take pride in it. I’m good at doing things so I do things. And when things are out of control I find things I can control (like going for a run or baking some bread or making a quilt) and do some more things. And I’ve found that with the pandemic I keep pushing. I work hard to keep things up and running and that’s been do-able. But I’m finding, like so many others, I’m tired and it’s hard. I kept pushing in ways I’ve pushed before. But, the pandemic isn’t like anything before, and it keeps going and going and going.

I’ve thought back on some prophetic insight Dave McCarroll had shared along the way and he said (no direct quote here) that we are likely to be in this for 18 months (or more) and it’s likely to change the shape of things forever. Any notion we have of “going back” is naïve. I gave up that hope of going “back” a long time ago. But I think I thought I could push through. I heard Dave’s words and I had heard other things he saw about the pandemic that others simply didn’t (at the time) and I knew I had to take heed. But how were we going to prepare for 18 months (or more!) of this?! None of us knew and many of us were not at all inclined to think that might be true. Most of us would still rather it’s not.

But we’re not done with this pandemic yet. We’re in this for the long haul. And it feels like we’re entering a new wave…maybe the wave of exhaustion. Maybe the wave of Day 2 that Brene Brown talks about here. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-on-day-2/ Either way, it feels like we need to shift gears. From what many of you have told me, we need to slow down and reevaluate. We need to stop pushing for what was, or even the “new normal” and actually stop to take stock and ask, “If we’re going to be doing this for at least another year, what can we manage? How can we manage? And what do we need to be more than tired?”

I think it’s important that we slow down. I think in a lot of ways we need to lower the bar. These are not the norms we’re used to and we can’t expect ourselves to operate at “normal” levels. We need to reconnect with our community—with more than texts and emails and Facebook messages. (And yes, I say that knowing it’s so hard when we’re trying to keep each other safe!!) We need to refuel—spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. (Which should feel like a gift not a burden of another thing to do). =).

I don’t have answers or magical maps of what to do. But I do feel the weight and see that many things need to change. So I’m slowing down to acknowledge that. And I’m turning to God for guidance. And if you need those things too, feel free to pray with me:

God of change and transformation, we love the way you make things new and give rise to radical changes….when they aren’t so darn hard. I don’t think you *gave* us the pandemic. It’s part of our broken world. But I do think you will help us through it. I think you have the creativity, imagination, and hope we need to get through this in fruitful and life-giving ways. Help me to stop relying on my resources and instead to plug into you, daily, hourly, by the minute! Shine your light on our path. Help us to look with hope for what is coming next. Help me be fully present in today, for it is all I can manage and all I can control. Help me to relish the good things—the smiles, the laughter, the friendships, the tasty treats, and the everyday grace. Help me to pause when I need to rest. Fill me with your living water so that I can stop feeling parched and start feeling satisfied. Remind me that I am enough—for you, in you, and because of you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

 

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - September 4, 2020

 When we were in Puerto Rico in 2019 for mission work, we drove around with some of our free time to explore the area. After the hurricane, much of the infrastructure was damaged. We didn’t always know what wasn’t there, to begin with, and what wasn’t there because of the storm, but there were regularly street signs missing. Google maps’ Spanish was pretty poor, which generally meant I had to translate what it said into actual Spanish and then translate that into directions for the driver. It also didn’t help that the satellite connection for said maps was spotty, so we took a few detours. Sonya was one of the women on the trip and she and her husband, Fred, have traveled a good bit. She said that when they went somewhere new, they didn’t say they were lost, Fred just said, “We’re seeing something we haven’t seen before.” It was a lovely phrase that our team adopted easily. We weren’t lost, we were just seeing something we hadn’t seen before. And it was true, and it made it all a bit of adventure—seeing things and doing things we’d never done before.

Mission trips often push you outside of your comfort zone. For many eating new foods, or being in a country where you can’t speak the language can be challenging. It’s hard to lose the confidence of self-sufficiency and instead rely on others in such significant ways. But it also forces you to experience things in new ways and grow in who you are. It requires humility, patience, and courage.

Yesterday, when I visited with Cally and Cathy, we talked about the challenges of the pandemic. I said, “It’s an adventure.” They laughed a little and I shared Sonya’s motto. We’re doing things and seeing things we’ve never done before. It’s challenging and forces us out of our comfort zone. And, if we can keep our focus—it’s an adventure that will allow us to grow. We’re trying new things, doing old things in ways we’ve never tried before. We are exploring. We might feel a little lost, or it might take longer to get to our destination. We could get upset and frustrated about it. Or, we might relocate ourselves within our current circumstances, get the supplies we need, and move ahead into the great unknown—after all, we’ve never been here before.

That’s not me trying to wash over the very real challenges of our current situation. I’m exhausted like most everyone. And, I know that perspective matters. How we look at something that will affect how we’re able to deal with it. If I only choose to grieve what isn’t, I’ll miss the opportunity of this season. It will be challenging. It will be exhausting. It will take longer to get where I want to go. AND…I’m hoping to lean into this adventure and see and do things I’ve never done before.

 

May God bless you,
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - August 28, 2020

 I was talking with a friend the other day about the need for more growth, healing, and repentance for racial relations across the country. We talked about microaggressions, the challenge of being challenged to confront our own prejudice, and a need to be open and humble to continued learning. As I thought about it, it seemed a lot like working out. Stay with me….

When you work out, you are working on strength, endurance, and flexibility. If you haven’t been working out regularly when you start back everything hurts. Often for days. You become aware of muscles you didn’t even know you had. Right? And, the pain can tempt you to go back to the couch instead of the gym. But, as you grow back into the habit, generally you hurt less. A daily routine of exercise gives you a sustainable strength and flexibility that frees you to try more, and do more without as much pain. Though every once in a while, you’ll do a new exercise, or add weight, or go further, and then you have that significant pain all over again.

I call it “good pain”. It’s different than “bad pain”—the pain signals when something is broken, or torn, or bruised. Good pain is a signal that your muscles are growing stronger. It can be hard to differentiate between the types of pain…after all…it hurts either way. But, with good pain you know it’s because you’ve been working hard at growing stronger. It’s a reflection of your efforts. And there’s an odd satisfaction in it because you know you’ll be stronger, have more endurance, and be more flexible.

Confronting racial prejudice and injustice is often painful. If you aren’t accustomed, it can be really painful as you get started, so much so that you don’t want to go back to it. But, when we work to fight injustice, be more compassionate, and truly hear the stories of those around us we become stronger and more flexible. And…it hurts. That truth is there, too. It takes consistent work. Without it, every time we come back to it, the pain will be severe. But if we stick with it, taking action almost daily, then our efforts pay off. We suffer less with each “exercise” of racial reconciliation; and even when it hurts, we can take some heart in knowing it’s “good pain”. It’s pain that’s helping us become a better person, one who is more readily able to reflect the kingdom of God—where all persons are valued and treated with respect, dignity, and compassion.

I have to admit, there have been times in my life when I was fully immersed in the work of racial reconciliation. I was doing “exercises” daily that opened my heart and my eyes to systemic injustice, unstated prejudice, and micro-aggressions. And, there have been other times in my life where I knew that I did it then and didn’t work as hard at staying in shape. And when I got back at it…examining my own prejudice, listening to perspectives that were divergent from my own, and practicing humility in it, it hurt. It hurt to think I might be contributing to racial injustice. It hurt to think that my friends from other races and ethnicities may think I’m participating or complicit in their suffering. But as I get back into the rhythm, it hurts less. I build my strength and my flexibility, and hopefully my endurance, too.

One thing that seems abundantly clear in this wave of racial awareness (for lack of another way of saying it) is that we can’t think that changing systems of oppression, injustice, and outright hatred will be overcome in just a couple of weeks, months, or even years. We have to commit to a life-long journey of being better as individuals to be better as a community to be better as a society.

Just like exercising for a couple of months won’t sustain my health for the next couple of decades, my work of racial reconciliation for a manner of weeks won’t make the change needed to be different in 20 years. I have to be consistent.

At the very least, I hope you know I’m in it for the long haul. Just like I’ve spent significant time and energy over the last few years modifying my daily exercise habits, I’ve also worked to modify my daily racial justice habits. I’m not fully fit in either regard. There is always room to grow. But I’m in it. And I hope that means you’ll see me as a resource. If I can be a sounding board, if I can recommend podcasts, or books, or movies that have helped me think and see differently, I’m happy to do that.

In Christ
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - August 21, 2020

 Hello Moscow Family!
I wanted to check in and let you know how things have gone this summer in terms of our ministries and re-opening.

First, thank you to all who filled out the survey we sent about re-opening. Knowing your inclinations has been helpful in thinking about ministries this summer and into the Fall.

We are currently in the orange zone of re-opening (aka Phase 2 of the GNW reopening plan). It allows us up to 10 for worship recording, up to 10 for small groups (though online is still preferred), pastoral visits, outdoor worship with safety precautions (which we will do Saturday 8/22 at 7 pm--please contact me asap if you haven't yet received that information), and continued work with essential ministries like AA and Family Promise.

We have created and submitted a plan for the yellow zone/Phase 3 of re-opening. We will not be allowed to move into that until local COVID cases decrease dramatically. A standard marker for consideration, though not an automatic green light is 25 cases/100,000. That number can be found here. Today's number for Latah county is 120/100,000. As you can see we are well above the indicator. Without general population testing and more consistent contact tracing for our area, it is likely we will continue to see a rise in cases over the next few weeks. The DS and bishop also look at Whitman county numbers when considering re-opening since there is so much cross over in our communities.

That is the long way of saying we are likely to stay in the orange zone for the foreseeable future, though we do have plans for how to safely move into the next phase when we are allowed. That plan includes limiting the capacity of each room, disinfecting practices, and contact tracing information for when people enter and use the building.

That's all hard to share. I wish I had different news. I wish we had been able to keep our numbers low so we could do more together.

But we do still have an incredible team for our virtual services and would love to continue including more people. We can work to include you at a full-service recording, or record you separately during the week and plug in your recording where it fits. You could pray, share a testimony, read a scripture, dance, read a poem, share with the children, or share a musical piece. If you would like to participate in one of those ways, please let me know.

We also are planning small groups for the Fall (Starting after Labor Day). We are looking for leaders who would be willing to do a class on zoom, and potentially those who could do something in person (following our restrictions on numbers and public safety). If you are interested in a small group (leading or participating), please contact Crystal at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We will also see how the outdoor service goes and see if we might offer more of those. Please stay tuned as we keep planning and working on what is possible.

Thank you for your faithfulness in all of this. I miss seeing you on Sundays and relish when I happen upon you at the store or on the street.

If I can be praying specifically for you, please feel free to reach out at any time. I'm always happy to pray privately and treat requests as private unless you give me permission to share them with others.

 

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

 

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - July 31, 2020

Land11

 When I first tried meditation in college, the facilitator told us to close our eyes and imagine a peaceful place. I readily called Lake Mary to mind. It was the place my father had spent his summers growing up. And because his parents later bought a cabin near the lake, it was also a place we spent time as a family each year. There wasn’t a TV, and it was before the internet or laptop computers, so when you went to the cabin you really got away from things. We read books, we played cards and board games, we’d sit on the porch and listen to the birds and the wind rustling through the pine trees, and we went on lots of hikes. As a child, I wasn’t a real fan of the hikes. I was the youngest and the slowest, and always brought up the rear. It felt as though every time I caught up the others would start again, so I was perpetually behind. My whole family reports that I complained easily and regularly. Despite everyone’s recollections of my whining, Lake Mary was a favorite place. As an adult, I looked forward to our time back at the cabin.

fam11

In 2015, Rick, Ruth, and I made the trek up the hill (it’s about 6 hours from Los Angeles—in the highest mountains in the contiguous US) and had a family trip anticipating Steven’s arrival in our family. We had a fun family photoshoot at the lake, which was very low that year and allowed us to walk in what would normally be covered by water. This year is the first year we’ve been able to come back to visit. We waffled on whether we should make the trip—was it safe with COVID and could we properly keep our family safe? Those were not easy decisions, but we’ve tried to be very cautious in the Pandemic and believed the family time together would be important. And, it was amazing. The familiarity of the sights and sounds was so good for me in mind, body, and Spirit. We did many of the hikes I did as a child, but this time I didn’t whine. Instead, I looked around and appreciated the changing vistas, the amazing diversity of God’s creation, even in such a small (relative) area, and I relished making memories with my kids. The porch still offers the same sweet solace—the smell of pine warmed by the sun, the chipmunks racing around outside (which our kids LOVED and named and chased all day every day!), the sterling jays dropping by for a visit, and the forced disconnect—there’s a TV now…but only with a DVD player, still no internet or cable.
This truly was Sabbath time—a chance for rest and restoration, renewal, and nurturing of my whole self.
As you know, living in the pandemic has been hard. It’s been hard to adapt, and then adapt again, and then adapt some more. While I think we are out of “crisis mode”, it’s been hard to settle in and imagine life and ministry for the long view. Stopping for extended Sabbath has helped me reset and hopefully will help me settle into more of our new norms in terms of planning and imagining life as a church in the foreseeable future.
I’m very grateful we get to go home to Moscow. July is the anniversary month, so to speak, for United Methodists, it marks the beginning of the appointment year and while it goes fairly unnoticed when we are reappointed (meaning sent back to the same church instead of sent to a new one), it’s still pretty cool to think we are starting year 5 together at Moscow First. I love doing church with all of you. And despite the pandemic, I’m excited for another year together.
We are traveling home this weekend and I covet your prayers for safe travels. I’ll be sheltering at home this next week to help ensure we haven’t picked up the virus while we were away, and I’m excited to be reading for and studying for our next worship series on grace. I’ll be available by phone and email if there’s anything you’d like to discuss.

 

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - July 13, 2020

As part of our work in the church, we want to hear from YOU. We have created a survey to help us know how you have been and want to be engaging in our ministries going forward. It should take less than 5 minutes and can be done by one person in your household answering for all, or multiple, but may require the second user to work from a different IP address. Please take a few minutes to answer and help us plan more appropriately. Your answers will not be shared in any person-specific way.

 

Last week, someone asked: What responsibility does the church have in societal behavior modification during a pandemic?

I wrote out my answer to him and thought it might be helpful to share with all of you too. Please know I'm always happy to have a conversation and answer any questions you have about what we are doing or why we are doing it. Here's what I said:

I don't have a great/perfect/right answer. I believe we (UMC in general, plus most mainline folks) have tried to live faithfully in closing and then re-opening slowly and intentionally. There are many ministries that we have learned to do online and it is both burdensome and a blessing. AND, many ministries simply cannot happen online...often crisis care and deeply emotional care (related to illness, death, abuse, mental health, and more).

Trying to find a balance in caring for the whole person and reaching the varied needs of people while also slowing the spread and protecting public health is incredibly challenging.

The people I know and do ministry with genuinely care about the health of *their* people and the welfare of the community. It is hard to feed the hungry when you can't be in the kitchen to cook or serve a meal. It is hard to minister to the lost and the lonely when they only find our doors closed. Ministry is primarily the work of and with and for the people. It's hard to do that work virtually. I'm not saying there shouldn't be extreme care and caution, but there is such a large messy picture to work on.

Locally, you know we have stayed virtual for most everything. We are working on a plan to take the next step in re-opening, which would allow for in-person worship with fewer than 50 persons (including masking, distancing, disinfecting, and more) and trying to make those plans wisely. You may also have noted, we are seeing a significant community spread in our county and we don't take those cases lightly.

On the macro level, I think the church takes responsibility by modeling *good* behavior...taking seriously the risks and local numbers, creating plans for the what-ifs....what if we have to shelter in place again? What if someone with COVID comes to our worship space and we have to do contact tracing? What if someone from our congregation gets the virus and falls seriously ill? How do we come alongside (while protecting individuals) to offer support and care for them or their families?

As a general practice, we mask. We ask others to mask. We use fresh air where it's available. We open windows and doors if we need to be inside for our gathering (while recognizing that won't be feasible in the winter months...) We wash religiously. We distance. We stay extra mindful of the most vulnerable within our reach. And we pray for those who are sick, those who are working the frontlines, those who are researching to find a cure, and those in office who should be offering leadership in all of this.

We also continue to work at being the church in significant ways. We have a fund to help those with financial needs. Throughout the pandemic, we have been able to pay for gas, buy groceries, stock the little pantry, provide emergency shelter at a hotel, and help pay bills for individuals. We are looking into ways we might potentially help our local schools for the Fall. We are getting creative about how to support our local ministry partners in their work as we know all have been impacted financially.

Though our doors have been closed, we are still very much a church and are committed to sharing the Good News of Jesus in as many ways as possible.

And I want to add, I am so grateful for all of you! You are amazing and have been so gracious about our adaptations and changes, including the sacrifices you have made in how we do worship, small groups, and meetings. Your generosity has helped brighten spirits, nurture to those who are struggling, and strengthen the work we are doing in this strange and unpredictable times.

Again, I encourage you to take the survey. And I ask you to pray for our community that we can slow the current spread and help our area stay safe and healthy.

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

 

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  • Denominational History


    The United Methodist Church traces its roots back to the life and ministry of John and Charles Wesley, Anglican priests in 18th century England. Though neither left the Anglican Church, they began a movement to reform that church which eventually became its own denomination and spread to the United States where it split from the Anglican Church in their lifetime. Read more...

    For more information on the history of the denomination go to www.umc.org.

  • Pastor Debbie Sperry 

    Pastor Debbie was born and raised in Bishop California (a rural town at the foot of the Eastern Sierra mountains).

    She attended UCLA and earned a BA in Sociology with a minor in Spanish after she spent a year studying abroad in both Costa Rica and Spain. She attended Candler School of Theology at Emory University and earned her Master of Divinity. 

     

    Debbie has served for 10 years in Southern California at a variety of churches.  She and her husband, Rick, and their two children, Ruth and Steven, were delighted to be assigned to serve here in Moscow as they love being outdoors and exploring the local area. The size and culture of Moscow is reminiscent of their time in rural California and they enjoy the community connections.  Debbie is passionate about helping the stories of the Bible to come alive, relating it to every day life, and helping people to reach out to help and connect with others. 

     

  • Guidelines For Faith There are many things which guide our faith.  As United Methodists we look in particular at four things to help us understand God and grow in our relationship with God. 
    Scripture:  is the primary source of our faith.  The 66 books of the Old and New Testament contain all that is necessary for salvation.  We believe that Scripture is best interpreted in the believing community.
    Tradition:  the wisdom of those who have gone before us, though not 100% true for our day, is another useful guide in our faith.
    Experience:  our individual experiences of God ‘s grace and the cumulative experiences of our lives which give each person a unique and valued insight into faith.
    Reason:  God gave us minds and expects us to use them and to think through not only what the Bible tells us in light of the world in which we live but also how to live out that faith.  Read more...

  • Worship Gathering together with other Christians to pray, sing, and praise God is an important expression of our faith and avenue for growth.  At Moscow First United Methodist Church worship is both casual and informal, traditional and contemporary, reflective and passionate.  You will find people here in suits and dresses, and in t-shirts and jeans.  You will hear classical, gospel, jazz, and light rock music.  You will hear our pipe organ, the piano, and banjo and guitar.

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Sunday morning parking at the church is available in the high school parking lot on Third Street across from the church and in the city lots west of the church. These lots are available only on Sunday mornings. A small lot for handicapped parking is available just off of Adams Street on the north side of the church, with an accessible entrance directly into the sanctuary. A lift operates between the Fellowship Hall (3rd Street level) and the Sanctuary. William Sound System Receivers and Headsets are available to assist with hearing problems.

322 East Third Street
Moscow, ID 83843

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Church Mission

The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...

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