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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 in the hours. During the pandemic, we moved our ministries online so we could stay connected with folks near and far. Now we are able to worship once again in our sanctuary and continue online through live streaming for those who are still uncertain. Wherever you are, we hope you know God loves you and cares about your life. 
from the Pastor

 

 

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - June 10, 2021

 I am in several Clergy Facebook groups. We use them to resource for lots of things, including when we know someone is moving and hoping to find a church. It’s common to see a post like:

“I have a couple/person/family moving to _____________ looking for a church. They want progressive theology where they can ask lots of questions. They also have an LGBTQIA child/cousin/family member and are wanting an affirming church. Any recommendations?”

You might also find more specific requests like looking for a strong youth ministry, looking for a church where their kids are welcome in the worship space, looking for a healthy small group where they can connect, looking for some support with mental health or trauma recovery, must be inclusive and affirming of their multi-racial family.

You get the picture.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that should always be what the church is….welcoming, open, affirming, diverse, good at conversation around different perspectives. And if you are like me, you might be discouraged to read how many times that can’t be found. You can have a small progressive church that doesn’t offer program ministries (like children and youth) or you can have a big church with lots of programs but isn’t open and affirming.

I was recently the one asking for a friend who lives in Arizona with a non-binary child, working her way through a divorce. She’s a tattoo artist and has a lot of ink and some piercings. She said she’d go to my church if she lived close. I said I’d ask around and see what I could find for her in Kingman. I made my post around her particulars and got the norm of “you can have one but not the other..”

I started to feel like I was asking for a purple unicorn. It breaks my heart that more churches aren’t known for their welcome and diversity.

Friends, I don’t know who you will become as a church in the next few years, I look forward to hearing about the great things you do. But as you dream and imagine who you will be coming out of this pandemic and where you want to focus your time and attention, I hope you’ll aspire to purple unicorn status! I hope you’ll look even more intently at being what so many are looking for in a church and what stands out among the others—one that is welcoming, with intentional programs for lots of ages, and one who reflects the diversity of their community.

Now…a word of affirmation. I was recently catching up with my colleague and friend at the Unitarian Universalist congregation. We were talking about life and ministry and she shared “I send people to your church all the time!” She shared that she knows Moscow FUMC to be welcoming and progressive among the Christian churches and that we have a strong ministry for children and youth.

As a church, FUMC is doing so many things right. And we have more we can do, more ways to live into purple unicorn status. I am so proud to have served among you. I am so grateful to have shared in so many tender and wonderful moments. And I trust you will keep doing great things to grow the kin-dom of God here in Moscow and around the world.

 

In Christ
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie E-Spire - May 19, 2021

 It seems that the last few weeks have brought incredible learning (shared scientific studies and findings) and monumental changes in the expectations around the pandemic going forward. Our annual conference issued updated guidelines and options for churches. The CDC shared updated recommendations. And the City of Moscow updated its mandates.

I know many who have rejoiced and celebrated each of those changes. And I know some who are wary and concerned. As these changes affect the life of the church, I want to make sure we engage in the conversation.

In many ways, deciding what we do could seem simple—just follow the CDC recommendations. And that could be simple, if we were all on the same page, in the same stage, and part of the same tier. But the reality is we’re not. We have some folks (many even) who are fully vaccinated. We have some folks who are choosing not to vaccinate. We have some folks who aren’t eligible yet (namely children, but many who are just recently eligible and still in the vaccination process). And we have some folks who despite vaccination are still at risk due to underlying conditions or they are close to someone with underlying conditions. Additionally, singing collectively is still something that has not yet been proven as fully safe (even with a fully vaccinated crowd). That’s the long way of saying, “things aren’t perfectly clear yet”.

I have to take a deep breath there. This pandemic has been so trying and I know we are all ready to be past it. We don’t want to keep overthinking everything we do. I don’t want to deal with complications or added layers any more than the next person. And yet, if I really love my neighbor, if I really believe that every person is worth intentional care and decision-making, I have to.

I think about kids and the fact that so many are still ineligible. What does it mean for me to go sans mask but tell them they have to? What does it mean for any of us to set an example for kids in the church? What would it mean for someone who is choosing not to get the vaccine to be challenged or questioned on that when they come to worship? What does it mean for someone who has a comorbidity that they haven’t shared publicly to be told: “but you don’t need a mask” because they have been vaccinated but still feel incredibly vulnerable because of their other health concerns? Which are all questions that get at the larger question of “What does it mean to create a safe and welcoming space (in the midst of a pandemic)?”

For now, that means still asking people to mask if they are in our building with others. At outside worship, it means masking when we sing and when we are talking in close proximity to each other. Yes, arguably, for some the science says it’s not necessary. And, for the reasons above, we plan, at least for now, to keep masking when we gather as the church.

I know, for some, that’s not what you want to hear. And I’m sorry, not for saying it but for the ways we continue in the liminal space of the pandemic. I am sure there will be LOTS of conversations in the coming months about how we re-open safely and wisely and how we do our best to create safe space (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), how we hold our diversity with grace, and how we offer the best of ourselves to one another.

And in the meantime, I pray God fills us with grace upon grace. May we look with compassion and feel deep empathy for the questions, doubts, frustrations, and fears of others. And may we do our best to honor God by respecting one another in this crazy season of life and ministry.

 

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

 

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - May 12, 2021

A few years ago for one of my e-spires, I shared a lesson from one of my seminary friends. She would say “EGR” for situations that required extra patience, compassion, or understanding. It stood for Extra Grace Required.

This phase of the pandemic seems to be an EGR time. While none of the pandemic was easy, there were times where the standards and norms for most people and situations were similar. Now, with some folks vaccinated, and some folks waiting, and some folks not getting vaccinated, and children still ineligible we’re in a whole new land. And frankly, it’s challenging.

Extra grace is required. One thing that has been abundantly clear is that we need to be careful not to assume. We need to not assume what people have done or will do in terms of vaccination (including talking about those choices). Some people share details of their vaccination readily and others keep details of their healthcare close to the vest.

And we need to not assume we understand the why of those decisions. I know some folks who were at the front of the line ready to get vaccinated. Whether it was a trust in science and FDA standards or complete exhaustion with shelter in place orders—they were ready. I know other folks who have chosen to wait because of the continued evolution of knowledge about the virus and the vaccine. Others are waiting because of current medical conditions and treatments.

I know some whose vaccine meant they were ready to dine in restaurants again right away and others who continue to do take-out only. I know folks who are ready themselves to shift gears and restore some “normal” but are still very reluctant because they have young children who have no access to the same protections the vaccine offers.

It’s complicated and messy and despite our continued frustration with the pandemic and restrictions, we need to continue to practice patience. As some of us have months being fully vaccinated and others are still waiting, it’s important to keep checking in with each other. Assume the highest levels of precaution and ask others what feels safe. I know it requires extra intentionality and extra communication, and I believe those things serve to benefit our relationships on the whole. How wonderful if we regularly checked to make sure the people we spend time with feel safe and comfortable. How wonderful if we don’t assume that people are operating with the same standards and norms as we are. How wonderful if we communicated regularly to share our own needs and expectations.

May we each be blessed with an extra dose of the Spirit so that we might share the best of God’s fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

 

In Christ
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - May 5, 2021

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 When I moved into my first parsonage my mom recommended I “not touch anything for the first year, just see what grows.” She was half right and half wrong. You see preceding pastors had had a variety of yard philosophies, one had a partner who loved to garden and she planted all kinds of flowers—a lot of which were bulb flowers that weren’t visible by the time I moved in late June but made for a glorious spring, and another had a philosophy of “natural yard”, which basically meant it wasn’t maintained so there was a lot of overgrowth and weeds to deal with. So I took a middle-of-the-road approach. There were some things that were obvious and needed to go and other things that would be a well-kept secret until the season where they bloomed.

Church work is a lot like that. Sometimes that are ministries that have been planted that will only reveal themselves in certain seasons, which is a gift—IF you know where they were planted and don’t rush into change too quickly. And, sometimes some things have simply been neglected or left alone in ways that allowed them to grow over other things or just become full of weeds. As a pastor, distinguishing what to do and when to do it in a new church can be an interesting challenge. Some things need immediate attention otherwise they will overrun and choke out other ministries, and some things need to be left alone so the beauty of what they offer can be revealed in due time. It’s a test of diligence, discernment, and patience. As church members, your role in helping your new pastor/ministry gardener is invaluable. Many of you have planted ministries here. Many of you have tended ministries. Some of you have done the incredibly hard work of weeding and pruning so that new life can happen. Pastor Kim will need you to help her know what is what, help her be patient for the things that are secretly buried underground but will reveal themselves in times, and help her see which things need immediate attention.

And with that encouragement….a word of caution…when I came to Moscow there was this weird plant along the stairs in the backyard. It had these spiny bean things growing and I couldn’t identify what they were. I asked a few people and they couldn’t help, so we weed-whacked them down when we did the lawn. It was late in the season and they were in a very shady spot, which meant there weren’t many others like them around town for me to compare to. But come the next spring I realized what they were—they were lupin, which happens to be one of my favorite flowers! I felt so silly about what we’d done the year before, but I simply hadn’t known. Ministry can be like that too—something that we’ve seen and admired from afar, but not really seen up close or in all its seasons can easily be mistaken for something else and destroyed—ruining its potential in the process.

Whether you’re a long term church-gardener, or you’re just getting started (meaning you’ve been in church leadership forever or you’re barely getting your feet wet) remember, there’s a lot to learn and many things in the life of the church take patience and discernment.

 

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - March 15, 2021

This week marks one year. March 8th was our last normal worship service. The one where common reporting said SARS-COVID-19 was much like the flu and we were advised to cover our cough, stay home if we felt ill, and wash our hands.

We acknowledged that we care about each other and we didn’t want to make anyone sick—we agreed to use common sense.

We smiled, we hugged, we shook hands (though some had started refraining), and we had coffee fellowship.

Then everything changed.

More science became available. More people were hospitalized. And it felt like the whole world shifted. Schools closed. Lockdowns started. Playgrounds were cordoned off. And on March 13th our annual conference told all of our UMCs in our area that we had to close, effective immediately.

Our amazing team pivoted immediately. The choir had already rehearsed and spring break hadn’t yet started, so we felt safe having the choir sing that first Sunday. I watched a 20-minute video on videography for worship. Terry and Tony came in to set up and run sound—sharing their time, talents, and personal equipment. Andy prepared the choir. The choir faithfully came on Sunday morning to rehearse. Before the service, we talked through tripod and camera movements and who would do what parts. We prayed for this very new and pretty weird thing and we offered our first Facebook live service.

And then things changed all over Moscow. We were on Spring break and soon notices came that the schools would close for 2 weeks after. Then the shelter in place order came from the governor. Restaurants and coffee shops closed. Stores closed. Grocery stores went to modified schedules. Nursing homes refused visitors. Most people stocked up—on any number of things. Travel plans were canceled. And we all hunkered down for what we imagined would be a short period of time.

I won’t chronicle it all—but I do want to acknowledge these anniversaries. They’re important. And often, they hold emotions we might not even realize. Much like after the death of a loved one we find ourselves extra emotional or inexplicably tired on birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and other significant days, our grief over this pandemic year may be triggered by the significant anniversary days.

Which is the long way of saying—be gentle with yourself and with others in the coming weeks. If you find yourself more reactive, or extra tired, take time to reflect on what this month meant to you last year and the grief of the pandemic. Take time to pray for God’s healing.

And, like me, maybe take time to write it down. Remember what happened, how you felt, and what shifted.

And, know this, we’re on our way through this. We’ve already survived 100+ obstacles we never saw coming and we’ll make it through even more.

For now, may you feel the fullness of your emotions, and may it bring healing and peace.

 

 

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie

 

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Pastor Debbie's E-Spire - March 9, 2021

 As a pastor, I’ve worked hard to reach out to people who visit the church. If someone leaves their email or phone number on the pew pads, I try to welcome them and offer to meet and answer any questions they have. Most folks appreciate the offer and I’ve shared more than a few cups of coffee over the years. Generally, when folks visit who aren’t familiar with the UMC, one of the half-questions half statements they have is, “They say you move a lot…?”

And so I’d do my best to explain. Itinerancy is foreign to most folks. They recognize that pastors change over the years. But most churches operate with a “call system” which resembles the secular world where a church who is hiring posts their position and candidates who are looking to apply. That isn’t the case in the UMC. We have an “itinerant system” where clergy who are fully ordained have a “guaranteed appointment”, which includes full-time work, with housing, health care, and a pension. (In secular terms, we have tenure). And part of that guaranteed appointment is the pastor’s promise to the bishop and the annual conference to go where we are sent.

Technically, we are eligible to move every single year (July-June). Though moving every single year is much less common. However, there are still retired clergy at Annual Conference who remember the days they came to the annual conference with their belongings packed in a trailer, awaiting the bishop’s appointment (not knowing until the end of June where they would start July 1!). The stories told to me make it sound like many pastors moved every 2-3 years through the 70s and into the 80s. It wasn’t until the 90s that staying 5-7 years became somewhat normative, and the late 90s into the 2000s when pastors were known to stay 12-15 years (20+ is still extra rare). Despite the longer tenure at a given appointment, all United Methodist clergy know we can be moved any year.

Every year in the Fall clergy and churches are given the chance to share their wishes. They can each say “stay, go, or open” and list their reasons why. The pastor speaks for herself and the Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) speaks on behalf of the church. SPRC is the HR committee of the church (so to speak), they work directly with the pastor month in and month out and also work with all staff, which is why they are given the authority to speak on behalf of the church.

The superintendent takes that information back to the bishop and the cabinet (the group of superintendents) for discernment for the coming year’s appointments. From there, there are multiple layers for what is needed. Bishop Woodie White told our polity class in seminary that appointments are made based on three things. First, what is best for the pastor, second, what is best for the church, and third, what is best for the conference—and not always in that order and all three won’t necessarily line up. That doesn’t mean the cabinet doesn’t care about pastors or churches, but it does mean that in the big picture, priorities may align in ways we don’t see from a single perspective.

This year, the cabinet knew there was a clear opening at Wenatchee First UMC where John Coleman Campbell would be retiring, and Sheila Marie would go on to serve as Assistant to Connectional Ministries for both the Inland and Seven Rivers districts. And they were tasked with identifying the pastor to step into that ministry. After more than a month of conversation, prayer, and discernment, the cabinet asked me to discern if that is a church where I could see myself serving well.

That’s the abbreviated version. I really knew very little about the church in Wenatchee, but I did know that I trust our Superintendent, Gregg Sealey, to attend to what is best for Moscow First, for me, and for my family. I also knew that Moscow FUMC is a healthy and vibrant church. I know that the pandemic year has been exceedingly hard, and yet despite that, we have continued to have active and relevant ministries. We have continued to serve others in a variety of ways. And I knew that looking ahead we needed to be asking “What do we want to do as a church, why do we want to do it, and how does it help us grow in faithfulness?” Those are good questions to be asked under any circumstances, but maybe even better when beginning a new season of ministry with a new pastor. I told Gregg I trusted him, and that I would be very happy to stay at Moscow for another 10 years.

Honestly, I love doing life and ministry here and with all of you. I have seen God do so much among us and through us. You inspire me and encourage me. You have loved my family well and we have loved going on adventures, exploring, and being part of such an intentional community. This news is hard for us too. We’re still processing it all and figuring out what needs to happen next. And, I know the cabinet cares about this church—about you—and will work just as hard to find the best pastor for the next chapter of ministry in Moscow.

Please know, I see the Holy Spirit at work in this process. And, I don’t think there’s ever a perfect year for a move (even retirement brings grief). Itinerancy isn’t a perfect system, but it does allow for collegiality, and development of more well-rounded ministries (since each pastor brings different gifts, they also help the church grow in unique ways, shaping the community to develop more holistically). And please know that I am still your pastor for the coming months. I’m here to pray with you, share God’s word with you, and do life together. If you need a listening ear, some biblical counsel, a shoulder to lean on, someone to pray for you, or just a friendly face, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Here's to new things!
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.

  • Pastoral Change

    Our church will be going through a pastoral change this summer (2022), as pastor Kim Poole will be transitioning to Alaska and pastor Rev. McGuckin transitions to Moscow FUMC.

  • 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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