Gospel Gazette: February 2023

Feed your faith: Preparing for the Lenten season by recentering your attention on what matters most.

In this issue:

  • Pastor David Averill encourages us to devote our energy to the fruits of the spirit.
  • Ash Wednesday Service details and a Pancake Dinner to celebrate
  • The Pathway to Christ Bible reading plan for 2023: three ways to read with us.
  • Confirmation 2023: What students need to know.
  • Part II of the Future of Your First Church discussions.
  • News, updates, and more!

Read as a digital flipbook »

THE WOLF YOU FEED IS THE ONE THAT WILL GROW.” This is an old saying, often used as a reminder to be mindful of our thoughts, emotions and actions, as they have the power to shape our outlook on life. In the context of our faith, this means being mindful of the practices, habits, and beliefs to which we devote ourselves. 

We all have different aspects of our lives that we focus too much on, and other aspects we don’t focus on enough. If we focus on doubt and fear, then that is what will grow, and eventually consume us. But if we focus on our faith and trust in God, it will strengthen through the challenges we face.

Furthermore, we can feed the positive aspects of our lives by meditating on the virtues God grants us such as our faith, hope, and love. The more we feed and cultivate these virtues within ourselves, the stronger they will grow.

As we approach the season of preparation called Lent, I encourage you to be intentional about the spiritual practices you engage in such as prayer, reading scripture, and attending worship services. The daily Lenten devotional you have helped us build is a great source of spiritual mindfulness.

If you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts, try to redirect your focus. Let us strive to feed the aspects of our lives that grow in our faith, hope, and love in Jesus Christ.

With Joy on the Journey,

David Averill

The Future of Your First Church, Part II

Sun, March 5, 4pm, Sanctuary. Join us for another meeting and conversation session to discuss what lies ahead for the United Methodist Church and the role our church will play. Includes presentation by East Central District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Bob Bushong. All are welcome to attend.

Ash Wednesday Service & Pancake Dinner

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 6:30PM, SANCTUARY. Lent is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It is a time to prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Join us for a traditional Ash Wednesday service, taking place before our usual Wonderful Wednesday activities. During the service, we will commit to our Lenten fast/abstinence and Pastor David will place ashes on the foreheads of worshippers.

Join us at 5:30pm in Friendship Hall for a Shrove Tuesday On Wednesday Pancake Dinner. For centuries, in anticipation of giving up all milk, meat, and eggs during Lent believers celebrated the days leading up to Ash Wednesday as a time of feasting. This feasting was called Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. It is also called Shrove Tuesday, and has evolved into a time of celebration and gathering with family and friends. First Church is continuing this tradition with a pancake dinner taking place before our Ash Wednesday service. This dinner is free to all attendees, but donations will be accepted. We look forward to celebrating with you!

More Activities

Starting Point Membership Class: Sunday, February 12, 4-5:30pm, Chapel. Are you interested in knowing more about what it means to be a Christian, a United Methodist, or a member of First UMC? Join our ministry team for a class that will act as the first step on your journey to becoming a member. Childcare is available with advance reservation—contact the church office.

Lake Cares Distribution: Friday, February 17, 7am, Martin Luther King Center. Our Lake Cares mobile distribution site needs more volunteers to bag groceries, stand at a table to distribute groceries, and pull a wagon to help clients to their vehicles. Learn more »

Exercise Class: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9am, Friendship Hall

Christian Book Club: January 11, 3pm, Chapel. This month’s book: Canaries’ Song by Charles Tabb. 

Friendship Dinners [Postponed]: Wonderful Wednesday activities will continue as usual, but our usual Friendship Dinners will be on hold until March.

Widowed Support Group: Thursday, February 23, 9:30am, Chapel. Widows and widowers in our community support one another in the journey of grief.

United Women in Faith Meeting Circles: (Naomi Circle) Tuesday, February 14, 10am, Sanctuary Hall / (Hannah Circle) Thursday, February 16, 1:30pm, Chapel.

Fifth Avenue Thrift Shoppe: Special Hours

Wednesday, February 8, 5-8pm. Have you been wanting to check out the Thrift Shoppe? Now’s your chance! Feel free to stop in and shop around during your Wonderful Wednesday activities!

2023 Bible Reading Plan 

Join us as we journey through the Bible on its Pathway to Christ. This is a 5-day-a-week, 260-day plan that highlights foundational passages of Scripture. Weekends are set aside for catch-up days as needed. There are multiple ways to access the reading plan: 

  • On our website, where you will also find helpful videos about each book. Bookmark it so it’s easy to find later!
  • On the YouVersion Bible app. This version is made especially for our church.
  • Pick up a printed copy in the Sanctuary.
More Bible Studies & Classes

THE BLENDED FAMILY / Wednesdays, 6:30pm, Thrift Shoppe North Room. The most common family unit in America is the blended family, in which partners with children from previous relationships form a new family unit. Blended families experience similar challenges as nuclear families, as well as additional challenges like step-parenting, step-sibling relationships, and coparenting with ex-partners.  Led by Jill and Mike Zolty, veterans of blending a family, this course will address the six most prominent challenges of blending. Contact the church office to reserve a space.

PASTOR’S STUDY: ACTS OF THE APOSTLES / Wednesdays, 6:30pm, Chapel + via Zoom and Facebook Live. During this 20-week study, travel alongside the early Christians on a great adventure that continues even today. Email Pastor David to request the Zoom link.

NEW TESTAMENT ESSENTIALS / Wednesdays, 9:30am, Friendship Hall. Janet Westlake leads this study based on the study book, New Testament Essentials. Book and homework schedule are available in the church office for $15. Daily homework is expected.

TUESDAY NIGHT SUNDAY SCHOOL / Tuesdays, 7pm, Chapel. Why do bad things happen to good people? This group is exploring the book of Job with this question in mind.

Confirmation Classes & Retreat for Barefoot Students

Confirmation is an opportunity to learn what it means to be a Christian, a United Methodist, and a member of this congregation. Seventh through 12th graders interested in participating, please notify Hannah McMahan, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

CLASSES: Tuesdays 7-8pm from February 21-March 28. Each student will be assigned a mentor to guide them through the process.

RETREAT: March 3, 6pm through March 4, 9pm. We will meet at the church and travel together to Warren Willis in the church bus. Pastor David, Hannah, and Janet will chaperone. 

CEREMONY: Sunday, April 2, 9:30am. All participating students will be confirmed before the congregation during the Contemporary service. 

More for Students: Warren W Willis Summer Camp

June 26–July 1. Our third through twelfth grade students attend Warren W. Willis camp each summer and grow closer to Christ and one another. The cost for a week is $550, but students active in Footprints or Barefoot will have 50% of their registration fees covered through our S.A.Y. It With Love fund. Register your student and pay the required $75 deposit at warrenwilliscamp.org.

More News & Updates

Lenten Devotional Writers Needed: We are looking for members of our congregation to write 200-300 words reflecting on a scripture of their choosing. All ages and skill levels are welcome. Due January 31.

Schedule Your Directory Photos. Photographers will be on campus February 13-15. Participating households receive a directory and a free 8×10. Packages of prints will be available for purchase. Schedule online at ucdir.com (Church Code: FL807 Password: Photos)

Lost & Found: There is a new Lost & Found in the church office. If you have lost something on campus, we just might have it!

2023 Envelopes: Members may pick up their contribution envelopes in the church office. Non-members can request envelopes by calling the office.

2023 Flowers: Find the new flower calendar hanging on the wall in the Sanctuary. Reserve a date to donate flowers in Honor or Memory of someone or something special.

A Message from our sister church in Calixto, Cuba

Hola! Bendiciones! (Blessings!) I write you in the love of Christ. We wish many blessings on your congregation. I have sent you some of our photos so we can get to know each other. We really need you to be praying for us. We are working very hard. Our building is very old and we have given ourselves the task of raising an addition to the building

My family arrived here on December 6, 2022. Pray as God has chosen us to guide, love, and help his sheep in such difficult times. They are good people, people of the kingdom. I send you a big hug from Cuba in the love of Christ. 

—Pastor Luis