1. A note from Rev. Denny Silk

    Dear Friends,

    I’m so excited to spend my first Holy Week and Easter with everyone here at First Church. Our schedule is as follows:

    April 14, Palm Sunday 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
    April 19, Good Friday at 7 p.m.
    April 21, Easter Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

    There are two important changes to note.
    1) The Friday service of Holy Week will incorporate the traditional elements of the Maundy Thursday service and Good Friday into one service. The flow of the service will be from TABLE (celebrating the Last Supper); COURTYARD (reviewing the desertion and the betrayal of Jesus); and HILL (remembering the crucifixion on Golgotha).

    2) The Easter service at 9 a.m. will be preceded by an Easter morning vigil at 8:30 a.m. in the chapel. We are assuming that most 9 a.m. worshipers will arrive as they usually do, just before 9, and take their place in the sanctuary. Those who are attending the vigil will then enter from the chapel to dress the sanctuary for Easter services.

    Excited as I am for Holy Week and Easter, I am equally enthused about the Sunday after Easter, April 28, because it will be Confirmation Sunday. The confirmands will be confirmed at the 9 a.m. service. Between services, they and their families will attend an informal reception. The confirmands will then return to the beginning of the 11 a.m.service, so they can be introduced and greeted. I want both services to experience the joy of receiving these wonderful young people as we join them in our continued spiritual journey.

    May the grace of God lead us through this penitential season of Lent, the passions of Holy Week, and the joys of Easter. Hope to see you in church!

    In Christ, Denny

  2. A note from Rev. Denny Silk

    Dear Friends,

    I have several items to share with you and encourage you to add them to your calendar.

    February Communion Offering – Sunday, February 3
    The Justa Center here in Phoenix will be the beneficiary of this offering. The Justa Center began in 2006 by Pastor Scott Ritchey and members of the United Methodist Church. It started with a need for homeless seniors to have a safe, out-of-the-weather place each day. The Center now provides various services to homeless seniors including efforts to find appropriate housing for its clients. The population of homeless seniors has risen 149% in the five year period of 2014 to 2018. This offering needs to be generous in support of this ministry.

    Scouting Sunday – Sunday, February 10
    We are excited to host Scout Sunday on February 10 at both services. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, their leaders, and families will be recognized and their their work celebrated. As “servant leaders,” the scouts will participate in the services and collect food donations for our pantry. A food needs list will be distributed on February 3 so that you can donate what’s needed.
    Prayer Service in Support of General Conference – Wednesday, February 20

    February 23 – 26, United Methodist from around the world will meet in St. Louis to consider “A Way Forward” as to the unity of the denomination around issues of human sexuality. This Conference needs to be in our prayers and we have scheduled a brief prayer service for Wednesday evening, February 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the chapel.

    Ash Wednesday – Wednesday, March 6
    We begin the Lenten season with our Ash Wednesday service on March 6 at 6:15 p.m. The service will be preceded by a soup meal served from 5 to 6 p.m., and tickets will be available. Join us as we contemplate our personal shortcomings and prepare our hearts to walk with Jesus through the season of Lent. We hope to see many of you at this important service to begin our Lenten season.

    In Christ, Denny

  3. A note from Rev. Denny Silk

    Dear Friends,

    WHAT A SEASON. Hopefully all of us are still basking in the warm glow of a great Advent/Christmas season. The services were so meaningful as we retold the story and sang again the songs of the season. I’m especially grateful for Joshua Elder and all the musicians, young and older, who brought such talent and witness through their music; and for Jen Heffington for all the work she did with children for our services. Actually every member of the staff and so many volunteers made the “coming of Christ” season so wonderful. Thanks to all!

    MISSIONS. We have so many great opportunities for our people to be involved in mission work. And we have someone who is primarily responsible for each project or mission activity. However, we are looking for someone who would chair the Missions Committee. This would include occasional meetings where we can coordinate the work of the various mission endeavors and consider additional mission requests. If you have a heart for missions, and are not already overwhelmed with other church activities, please visit with me about this possibility. We need you and I will support you in every way that I am able.

    AT OUR MOST GENEROUS. ‘Tis the season to be so. Thanking God for the birth of Christ into our lives gives us every reason to support Christ’s work through this church. I know you received the Christmas letter solicitation and many have responded generously. To help your church finish the year strong and start 2019 with confidence, there are three things you can do:
    • Complete your 2018 pledge if you’ve fallen behind on that.
    • Complete your estimate of giving/pledge card for 2019. If you no longer have a card, you can go to our website and click on “About Us” and make you pledge there. You may also call the church and ask for Russ, who takes and records all our pledges.
    • If you haven’t yet made a special Christmas gift, please do so.

    TRUSTING GOD. It’s difficult for any of us to know where our lives are going this next year, but we know that God goes with us. In that knowledge we will find strength for the challenges and gratitude for the blessings. Happy and blessed new year to all our families.

    In Christ, Denny

  4. A note from Rev. Denny Silk


    All Saints Sunday is a wonderful time to remember all who’ve gone before us in faith. Their lives are a witness to God’s grace and its power to change the world. Many of us learned the faith at the feet of these saints. They were our parents, grandparents, Sunday School teachers, and others in the church who were an example of Christian living and had an effect on us that may not have been recognized by us until years later. Saints then!

    Sunday, October 28, was Laity Commitment Sunday. We were privileged to have more than twenty people share their experiences in the ministry and mission at First Church. We were impressed with the effort these servants put forward to serve the church and the world and are inspired by the joy they find in serving Christ. Saints now!

    “Saints” has the New Testament meaning of all Christian people of every time and place. Let us remember that each of us is a saint, and let us have the resolve to be one- for the sake of Christ’s Church in the world. Saints forever!!

    In Christ, Denny

  5. A note from Rev. Mike Pearson

    Dear Friends,

    Let me begin by offering a sincere word of thanks for the shared ministry we have had during the past six years. You have been a wonderful church home for my sister, Kathy; my wife, Bethyl; and me. We will miss you dearly. As a United Methodist minister, I am part of a group of clergy (in the Desert Southwest Annual Conference) who are bound to support each other. Part of that support includes not returning to a church that one has previously served in order to officiate at funerals or weddings. Those of you who have a history with our denomination already know this. To others, this may sound harsh, but in my six years as a Superintendent, I came to see the wisdom in this policy. Your new pastor needs to be the one you look to for pastoral care. We have enjoyed wonderful relationships. It is now time to allow those relationships to grow with the new pastor. Let me offer a couple of important suggestions regarding your new pastor. First, please include your pastor in your prayers, and second, to help your pastor get to know you, please wear your name badges every Sunday!

    Mike Pearson

  6. A note from Rev. Mike Pearson

    Dear Friends,

    April was a month full of activities at First Church. Easter fell on the first day of April and it was a wonderful day. I often comment on how beautiful the day is–the weather is always a delight, the music is awe-inspiring, and many people are wearing something new for Easter. We also had some new flowers. Barbara Zippel arranged for us to get begonias for the sanctuary as the lilies bloomed late this year; they were a wonderful addition.

    As I mentioned, the music was fantastic. Joshua Elder, our music minister, put together two wonderful services. The 11 a.m. service featured nine musicians accompanying our chancel choir. In addition, Cathy Rice helped us celebrate with a ‘Taste of Easter’ between services. We had deviled eggs, cupcakes – compliments of Stevi Shearer – and other snacks. Thanks to Stephanie Wallace for her help on this. At the same time, our children were enjoying an Easter egg hunt and a chance to take family photos. A special thanks to Jen Heffington for her great work on this.
    The next Sunday the Grand Canyon University Chorale brought special music to both services. They were an uplifting treat. Later that same day our church hosted a concert by the Phoenix Orpheus Choir. It was indeed a feast day for our music lovers.

    Jen Heffington and Tanya Pinkerton also put together a movie night for the church. Our Junior High youth sold popcorn, drinks, and pizza. Our Staff Parish Relations Committee has been looking for ways to offer fellowship activities that all ages might be attracted to and this was our kick-off event. Look for more in the future.

    Robin Spencer, our parish nurse, had a great idea to collect unused and outdated medications and render them harmless. We invited members to bring these meds to church on Sunday Morning, April 8. To say we were pleasantly surprised with the outcome would be an understatement. We collected over 14,000 pills, patches, and similar meds. This way of disposing of the medicine assures they don’t enter the water system nor find their way into the hands of others. Robin also arranged for a bake sale to offset some of the expense of the fall women’s retreat.

    Our Junior High Youth once again hosted a Flapjack Fundraiser at our neighboring Applebee’s, to raise money for their summer mission trip to San Diego. I am always impressed by the way our youth handle themselves in these various settings. Rachel Amorin, our Junior High youth Leader, has been giving good leadership to these activities.

    A special thanks to all of these leaders and participants!

    Mike Pearson

  7. A note from Rev. Mike Pearson

    Dear Friends,

    We have had a busy February at First United Methodist Church. There have been mission trips, special services, and exciting events. But the biggest news was a change for Reverend Scott. An opportunity opened for her to take a sabbatical leave until the end of June and pursue advanced training in Clinical Pastoral Education. The program is at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa. She is in a small cohort of eight pastors who are expanding their counseling skills and pastoral care experiences. Pastor Scott has already dealt with a grieving mother whose two-year-old died.

    We are fortunate that Kimberly had raised a couple of adult counselors/leaders in the Junior High Youth Group, one of whom, Rachel Amorin, has agreed to serve as an interim youth leader. She will be able to offer continuity at least through the summer. This means that the junior youth mission trip to San Diego in June will continue as planned as well as other programming. We are also blessed that Jen Heffngton has been able to pick up the Children’s Education Ministry work from Kimberly. Jen has been the director of our very successful Summer Arts Camp for the past two years and has been regularly involved with our Sunday School. She will give oversight to Sunday mornings, among other things.

    Four of our young adults joined with several other United Methodists to travel to Rocky Point, Mexico to build a home for a family of five. Our four workers – Stephanie Shearer, Rachel Amorin, Brady Mayo, and Jared Wagoner – were able to represent both First Church and the United Methodist Church in this project.

    Ash Wednesday offered a great fellowship meal; the fare included soup, cornbread, jello salads and a great dessert smorgasboard. The money raised goes to help support our congregation’s mission team to the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s (UMCOR) depot in Salt Lake City. Robin Spencer, our parish nurse, provides excellent leadership to this annual event. After supper most of us moved to the sanctuary for an Ash Wednesday worship service. I was especially pleased that our District Superintendent, Neil Leftwich, was able to join me in leading worship and the imposition of ashes.

    Our big fun activity for the month was the Annual Spring Fling hosted by our Weekday School and Weekday School Board, and held in our church parking lot. There were food trucks, games and activities and bidding on gift baskets. The gift baskets were absolutely amazing, appealing to every taste and interest. Beckie Humphrey, the Weekday School Director, the assistants, the teachers, aides and all the Board members are to be commended for their great efforts.

    On a final note, February saw the kick-off of a financial campaign to replace the above-mentioned parking lot. We will work towards raising $60,000 between now and the beginning of April. That will allow us to begin paving the lot in early June. We ask for your support of this important project.

    Mike Pearson

  8. A note from Rev. Mike Pearson

    Dear Friends,

    As it says in the book of Ecclesiastes, “For everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” There is new season coming for me. I want to share with you a personal decision that I have made. I will be retiring at the end of this Conference Year, June 30, 2018. I will turn 70 this year and will have spent 42 years in ministry, the last six of which I have been here with you. You have truly been a great church for us and for this community.

    I am very excited about this church’s future. You have a wonderful staff, wise and dedicated leadership, great resources, and a growing sense of Christ’s future for this church. Your Staff Parish Relations Committee will be working with our District Superintendent, Rev. Neil Leftwich, to identify the skills and talents First UMC needs in its new senior pastor.

    Bethyl and I intend to travel more, enjoy time together and with our grandsons, and as many of you know I’ll be devoting more time to pottery.

    I thank you for the wonderful years I have spent with you.

    Mike Pearson

  9. A note from Rev. Mike Pearson

    Dear Friends,

    I hope that you indeed had a Merry Christmas and for at least part of this season felt a special closeness to God and His wonderful gift to us: Jesus Christ. The month of December is probably the busiest time of year at First United Methodist Church. Let me share some of it with you.

    We got December off to a great start with a big group from First Church packing meals for Feed My Starving Children. Rev. Kimberly Scott and our parish nurse, Robin Spencer, made the arrangements for our congregation. We had a nice mix of youth and adults to be part of a three-day event that packed over 2,000,000 meals. Our group, being on the last shift, got to actually pack the meals that exceeded the 2,000,000 mark!

    The first Sunday in Advent our Chancel Choir presented its annual Christmas Cantata. They sang Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” and it was heavenly. The choir comprised almost 50 voices and was accompanied by a small but excellent orchestra. Ron Rhode, our organist, and Joshua Elder, our music minister, were superb in leading and directing the piece. It isn’t just beautiful music this time of year, either; the sanctuary takes on an added beauty with the addition of poinsettias, Christmas greens, decorations, our Chrismon tree, and a Christmas tree with ornaments made by our children.

    One of the nice holiday events during December is our Taste of Christmas, which serves up lots of treats between services. Our Office Manager Stephanie Wallace, Cathy Rice and Susan Crull put together a great morning with beautiful decorations, the above-mentioned donated treats, and a time of fellowship. Our District Superintendent, Rev. Neil Leftwich, preached that Sunday. I felt bad when I had to tell him the treats weren’t available every Sunday.

    Rev. Todd Rodgers and Rev. Kimberly Scott took our youth around to sing Christmas carols to many of our shut-ins. This is something that blesses everyone involved. We received several “thank-you’s” from those who were visited.

    Of course, all of this activity builds up to Christmas Eve, which was once again a wonderful time to worship. With Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year, we held just one service in the morning at 10 a.m. That evening we had four Christmas Eve services. The first of the evening was at 5 p.m. It is our family service, and it was a full sanctuary to be sure. After the service, the children attended a birthday party for Jesus. Rev. Scott put together a team to provide games, crafts, and great refreshments. The next two services at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. were more traditional services filling us with hope and joy. The last service of the evening was a first for us. We offered a jazz service featuring Blaise Lantana, who is a valley jazz mainstay. Someone commented that Christmas Eve in Phoenix got a whole lot cooler. Those last two services offered communion and all presented a variation of candle-lighting.

    Looking ahead, let me wish all of you a Happy New Year!

    Mike Pearson

  10. A note from Rev. Mike Pearson

    Dear Friends,

    I trust this will find you well and overflowing with not only leftovers but gratitude as well. The month of November has given us many times to reflect on our countless blessings and to experience new ones as well. One of the new blessings for First Church, at least new within the last six years, was a meaningful Ecumenical Thanksgiving Prayer service. Five local congregations; Crossroads United Methodist Church, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Orangewood Presbyterian, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, and First Church joined together for a wonderful service at St. Thomas church. Joshua Elder, our Music Minister, directed a combined choir. Pastor Kimberly Scott and I participated by leading readings. It was a spiritual feast for many who attended.

    Another place of thanksgiving was the pledge campaign, which is running slightly ahead of last year. This is good news, both from a planning point of view and as an
    indication of a growing awareness of the spiritual benefits of being generous. The ministry of the church in God’s kingdom is financed by our gifts. Thank you!

    We began the month with All Saints’ Sunday. In the past 12 months, 17 of our members have died, and of course, many others who were relatives of our members. On All Saints’ Sunday we had an opportune moment to reflect on the contributions all these people have provided for us and our congregation.

    If you like pancakes, you had a good chance to indulge your appetite when our Junior Youth took over the Applebee’s just south of us on Camelback for a “Flapjack Fund Raiser.” Pastor Scott, her counselors, and most of the youth participated in this enjoyable event. The food was good, but the service was better. Thank you to all the helpers.

    The Saturday after Thanksgiving saw a good number of our congregation take to the trails at North Mountain Park. It was a good way to burn off a few extra calories, but moreover, a great way to meet some others from the church. Be on the lookout for details of the next hike, which will come after Christmas.

    Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving,
    Mike Pearson