Events Calendar

Announcements

  • A note from our Bishop

    July 1, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of First Church,

    In the last few days, in several significant places, there have been conversations about the wisdom of wearing face coverings. The opinions vary, of course, but there is a preponderance of opinion and evidence that facial coverings assist in the mitigation of the spread of the Coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease that it causes, and they protect the most vulnerable among us. Additionally, we are finding that there is still much we do not know about the virus; its short and long term effects. What is becoming more evident however, is that the failure to observe social distancing and safety precautions like avoiding unprotected gatherings, is a contributing factor to the rapid increase of the spread of the disease.

    Taking precautions such as wearing a mask speak to our willingness to care for others. Dare we say love others? 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 reminds us, “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut. Doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies.” (The Message)

    We abide by restrictions because God asks us to think and act out of love for others.  So, for this update, I am asking you to live within that mandate to love others. For this update, there are no significant changes in our Desert Southwest Conference effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Churches in our DSC must continue to suspend in-person worship and group gatherings of any size, with these notable exceptions:

    1. For worship planning, preparations, live streaming or recording in the church building, no more than 5 persons may be present at the same time in the same space. Strict adherence to the safety precautions in accordance with your church’s re-opening plan must be observed. These should include but are not limited to observing physical distancing, washing hands frequently, wearing masks, cleaning, and disinfecting touched surfaces such as the pulpit, podium, no sharing of microphones without disinfecting between users.
    2. Food pantries and clothing centers that are ministries of caring and compassion offered by the church in response to the needs of the hungry in the community, may resume following strict no-contact safety guidelines.
    3. Childcare and pre-schools may re-open following your church’s re-opening plan and CDC, state, and local guidelines. This includes both third-party, non-UMC as well as church-sponsored child-care and pre-schools. Legal issues must have been addressed with legal counsel. See details in the UPDATE for June 24, 2020.

    Some churches have inquired whether they are able to fulfill a written contract to serve as a polling place for the up-coming election cycle. This is permitted as a third-party commitment with a written agreement. In this situation, it is assumed that the polling place officials will be responsible for the disinfecting of the property, during the time of polling. However, churches may decide to provide additional disinfecting before and after use for quality control.

    The DSC COVID-19 Response Team is looking at potential exceptions for geographic considerations, outdoor worship, drive-in (in-car) worship, and support group meetings. I ask your patience as we review, study, and evaluate the latest information and church plans.

    Please remember that in the “Resource for Church Opening,” on our DSC website, Phase 1 begins when state and local officials have reported a 14 day downward trend of cases, hospitals are treating patients without crisis care, and there is a robust testing program in place, including antibody testing. Continue working on your plan for reopening to be ready for the time when the suspension of in-person gathering is lifted. A church must request and receive approval from its DS before restarting the activities allowed by the three exceptions, and your team plan for re-opening if not previously submitted.

    As this update is being written, Arizona and Nevada are very much in the news for dramatic increase in cases, as well as the looming shortage of hospital beds that are available to handle the increase of hospitalizations.  It is becoming more and more apparent that we all need to participate in efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

    I close with a reminder that we are enduring this time so we can be part of the solution, not part of the problem. God calls us as Christ-followers to be caring and compassionate of others, just as Jesus cared for us. Let us remember to have love as the foundation of our words and actions in these days.

    An update with any changes to our DSC response will be sent to you on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Until then, keep safe and keep praying.

    In Christ,
    Bishop Bob

  • A note from our Bishop

    June 24, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of First Church,

    I hold you, our laity and clergy in prayer in these days of uncertainty and change. As I do so, I call upon the words from scripture to uphold the spirits of the faithful in such a time as this. In Isaiah we are assured that God gives us strength to endure and carry on even when we are physically or spiritually exhausted.

         ‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. (God) does not faint or grow weary; (God’s) understanding is unsearchable. (God) gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:28-31)

    Fully knowing that we are weary of the weeks of separation and suspension of in-person worship and other gatherings, this update is being sent with hope that we will not be lulled into thinking that God has abandoned us. We may be growing weary of the restraints to our usual life mandated by the restrictions and actions that are being required of us. Each of us has a critical part in the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19. Please follow the guidelines for safety precautions which include wearing a face mask, social distancing, frequent hand washing, staying at home if you are not feeling well, and cleaning and disinfecting. As the Coronavirus continues to spread in the Desert Southwest Conference, we must all be part of the solution.

    Phase 1 begins when state and local officials have reported a 14 day downward trend of cases, hospitals are treating patients without crisis care, and there is a robust testing program in place, including antibody testing. We are not yet there. In fact, in the last two weeks, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of cases of infections which has resulted in urgency about the continuing spread of the Coronavirus and serious concern about the availability of hospital beds to accommodate additional COVID patients. Based on available statistics, we are not yet ready to begin Phase 1 of the Re-Opening Plan.

     As we continue to wait for a pattern of decline in infections and deaths, our United Methodist Churches must continue to suspend in-person worship and group gatherings of any size.

    In the past two weeks, there have been concerns raised about specific situations being faced by churches. Consequently, new for this UPDATE are three exceptions to the restrictions as we continue in Pre-Phase 1. Beginning today, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, with the consent of your District Superintendent, these exceptions are allowed:

    1. For worship planning, preparations, live streaming or recording in the church building, no more than 5 persons may be present at the same time in the same space. Strict adherence to the safety precautions in accordance with your church’s re-opening plan must be observed. These should include but are not limited to observing physical distancing, washing hands frequently, wearing masks, cleaning and disinfecting touched surfaces such as the pulpit, podium, no sharing of microphones.
    2. Food pantries and clothing centers that are ministries of caring and compassion offered by the church in response to the needs of the hungry in the community may resume following strict no-contact safety guidelines.
    3. Child care and pre-schools may reopen following your church’s reopening plan and CDC, state and local guidelines. This exception includes both third-party, non-UMC as well as church-sponsored child care and pre-schools.

    Although we are not yet ready to enter Phase 1, these exceptions are being offered as we work together to stop the spread of the Coronavirus and in order to allow churches to respond to humanitarian need in your communities.

    Other than these exceptions, as we continue to wait for a pattern of decline in infections and deaths, our Desert Southwest Conference United Methodist Churches must continue to suspend in-person worship and group gatherings of any size, except for those churches that have received permission for the three exceptions mentioned above.

    As I write this update, I am deeply concerned about the real possibility of a spike due to a large gathering that occurred yesterday. Contrary to the advice of our medical, and scientific experts, many persons are letting our guard down, ignoring physical distancing, and forgoing facial coverings when in public. I ask you to please be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. Think of others around you, especially the most vulnerable, and help protect them from being infected. Pray unceasingly for an end to this pandemic, give thanks for those who are working on the front lines, and for those who are battling COVID-19.

    Perhaps this is the time when we remind ourselves that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. In time, we shall be able to come together and greet one another in person in Christ’s love. But until then, let us wait with patience.

    In Christ,
    Bishop Bob

  • Update news

    June 23, 2020

    Our partner, the Lutheran Social Service, continues to support refugee families and First Church wants to help again. We are now asked to supply a one-time donation for two moms who recently gave birth. Due to Covid-19, First Church is cautiously collecting limited items for a newborn girl and a two-month old boy including diapers, wipes, baby shampoo, lotion, baby blankets, bibs, baby towels, bottles and new or gently used baby bouncer and baby clothes for 3-6 months only. Please deliver your donations to the First Church office prior to noon on Thursday, July 2. Thank you!

  • Update news

    June 12, 2020

    First Church is saddened to announce the death of Esther Collins on June 8 at the age of 102 in Liberia. Esther is the aunt, almost a mother, to Marie Garber.

    First Church is saddened to announce the death of John Lindley on June 10 at the age of 102 in Indiana. John was the father of Christine Lindley.

     

  • A note from our Bishop

    June 11, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of First Church,

    This has surely been a week of emotional and spiritual upheaval! Although this update was intended to focus on the DSC response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the violence and death and the loss of property in the wake of significant and disturbing deaths of our Black sisters and brothers make this update more about our spiritual grounding as Christ followers.

    In our response to these senseless and heartless murders as well as the continuing of the historic sin of racism towards all people of color, our faith demands that we love others as Jesus taught us. The same insistence on loving as Jesus taught us is appropriately also required as we respond to the Coronavirus in our communities and in our world.

    After much prayerful conversation, consultation, and inquiry, I am continuing the suspension of in-person worship and group gatherings of any size, including gatherings for the purpose of worship planning, streaming, or videotaping in the Desert Southwest Conference.

    In the last 2 weeks, infections and deaths continue to increase numerically. With the recent relaxation of restrictions in Nevada and Arizona, the numbers reflect increases in the statistics that demonstrate that when we let our guard down, we invite the spread of the virus. Our congregations remain potential fertile ground for the spread of the virus.

    Conversations with clergy inspire me with stories of ways that laity and pastors are stepping up to the plate, taking the challenge in hand, developing new forms of ministry, worship, evangelism, teaching and connecting us even when we cannot gather to worship in person. I pray that this will continue.

    I am praying diligently for a clear path for us to begin our re-opening. Let us please remember why this is so important to the safety and well-being of our congregations and our communities. Please be patient, and please keep praying. Even in times of chaos we have our faith in Jesus Christ to lean on. I find reassurance in some of the hymns that nurtured me as I grew in The United Methodist Church, such as:

    “When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.
    When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.
    When the world is tossing me, like a ship upon the sea,
    Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.”
    (Charles Albert Tinley, UM Hymnal #512)

    God is with us and will be with us through this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in this time of tumult in our streets and in our souls. God is leading us to be a courageous church, loving like Jesus, acting for justice and united in hope.

    In prayer with you,
    Bishop Bob

  • Update news

    June 5, 2020

    First Church is saddened to announce the death of Reverend Vic Hand on June 2. His wife is JoAn Hand.

     

    The Maricopa County health inspector did a drop in inspection at the Weekday School this week. We are very pleased that the school passed with flying colors and received an “A”. The kitchen was extremely clean and very orderly, appropriate snacks are being provided keeping Coronavirus in mind. The classroom sizes and cleanliness were also mentioned in the report.

     

  • A note from our Bishop

    June 5, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of First Church,

    This has surely been a week of emotional and spiritual upheaval! Although this update was intended to focus on the DSC response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the violence and death and the loss of property in the wake of significant and disturbing deaths of our Black sisters and brothers make this update more about our spiritual grounding as Christ followers.

    In our response to these senseless and heartless murders as well as the continuing of the historic sin of racism towards all people of color, our faith demands that we love others as Jesus taught us. The same insistence on loving as Jesus taught us is appropriately also required as we respond to the Coronavirus in our communities and in our world.

    After much prayerful conversation, consultation, and inquiry, I am continuing the suspension of in-person worship and group gatherings of any size, including gatherings for the purpose of worship planning, streaming, or videotaping in the Desert Southwest Conference.

    In the last 2 weeks, infections and deaths continue to increase numerically. With the recent relaxation of restrictions in Nevada and Arizona, the numbers reflect increases in the statistics that demonstrate that when we let our guard down, we invite the spread of the virus. Our congregations remain potential fertile ground for the spread of the virus.

    Conversations with clergy inspire me with stories of ways that laity and pastors are stepping up to the plate, taking the challenge in hand, developing new forms of ministry, worship, evangelism, teaching and connecting us even when we cannot gather to worship in person. I pray that this will continue.

    I am praying diligently for a clear path for us to begin our re-opening. Let us please remember why this is so important to the safety and well-being of our congregations and our communities. Please be patient, and please keep praying. Even in times of chaos we have our faith in Jesus Christ to lean on. I find reassurance in some of the hymns that nurtured me as I grew in The United Methodist Church, such as:

    “When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.
    When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.
    When the world is tossing me, like a ship upon the sea,
    Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.”
    (Charles Albert Tinley, UM Hymnal #512)

    God is with us and will be with us through this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in this time of tumult in our streets and in our souls. God is leading us to be a courageous church, loving like Jesus, acting for justice and united in hope.

    In prayer with you,
    Bishop Bob

  • A note from our Pastor and our Bishop

    June 2, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of First Church,

    I’m sure that we are all supportive of the protesters who are expressing their anger and frustration over the recent death of George Floyd and several others who have been the victims of over zealous police tactics over the past few months, and years. Of course, we decry the violence and destruction wrought by a small minority of persons who by their actions undermine the righteous call for justice and accountability. Their actions are criminal and give ammunition to those who have little, or no sympathy, for the just calls for change and accountability.

    We have persons of color in our congregation and community who are especially wounded by what we witnessed in the death of George Floyd. May our hearts be softened and our resolve hardened in seeking changes that make all our citizens equal under the law.

    It just so happens that the first Sunday after Pentecost is designated in the United Methodist Church as “Peace with Justice Sunday”. We have much to pray and speak about this coming Sunday. Please plan to attend through our live streamed worship on Sunday.

    Those of you who have specific leadership roles in the local church have probably already read Bishop Hoshibata’s “An Urgent Call to Action for People of Faith” released on May 29. However, I want our entire congregation to read his statement. I have attached that statement below.

    In Christ, for a just and loving world.  Denny

    AN URGENT CALL TO ACTION FOR PEOPLE OF FAITH

    Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

    The violence against George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the resultant loss of life, and the sluggish actions to address these incidents of racism and injustice, especially against members of the Black community are urgent calls to action. Violence is erupting because of the frustration and anger we feel when there is continuing occurrence of brutality and death. We grieve that justice is elusive. Attempts at peaceful protests have been ignored and attempts to implement non-violent, lasting change have been futile. But this is not a call to action for violent protest or retribution.

    Word is circulating that protests are being planned for communities in our Desert Southwest Conference. You may feel the deep anger and frustration welling in your souls as you see the brutality of death on the street. Although you and I are outraged at the racism and callous use of force shown graphically in the videos, we must not let our anger and frustration beget more violence, destruction, or death. Let us turn our energy and attention to actions that I believe will contribute to a lasting change in our communities. Here is what I am encouraging our United Methodists to do:

    • I URGE YOU TO PLEASE STAY HOME and do not participate in protest gatherings that may erupt in violence. Let us not participate in the perpetuation of a cycle of violence that may create more harm, injury or death, and the needless destruction of property.
    • Call on your legislative leaders to share your anger and frustration. Ask our leaders to work even more fervently to create a more just system of affirmation of our United Methodist stance: “We recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons.”
    • With the news that there has been an arrest of the perpetrator of the violence against George Floyd, encourage our leaders to promote justice for the victim and his family.
    • Join me in prayer for peace. Not the “do nothing and hope it goes away” peace; and not just “let those who have died rest in peace.” Instead, let us pray that we will confront our own prejudices and words and actions that may intentionally or unintentionally contribute to racism and pray that we will be a part of the solution for this sin that continues to plague us.
    • Live daily into our Desert Southwest Conference vision that proclaims that we are a courageous church, acting for justice.

    As you receive this letter from me, will you pause to offer this prayer, and will you pray this in some shape or form every day:

    God, our Creator, in these times of incredible anxiety and challenge, we offer a prayer that is not related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a prayer about another pandemic that has been a scourge on our human family for centuries. We pray for the end of violence and racism that persists and now threatens to envelope us in the evil of hatred and the sin of violence against other humans.

    Forgive us when we have allowed ourselves to be teased into believing that this sin is no longer.  Help us to realize that we have not yet achieved what you have proclaimed, that all persons are created by you and loved by you. Give us the courage to speak and act for justice for all. We pray especially for our sisters and brothers of color and in the memory of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others. Amen.

    Praying and acting for justice,
    Bishop Bob

  • A note from our Bishop

    May 27, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

    Much happens quickly in this time of responding and adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. I write in response to an announcement that the state of Nevada is allowing worship for groups of 50 or less. This announcement does not signal our readiness to open our United Methodist Churches.

    I want to affirm that we will continue the suspension of in-person worship and group gatherings of any size, including gatherings for the purpose of worship planning, streaming, or videotaping in the Desert Southwest Conference. If any of our United Methodist Churches/Fellowships share facilities with another congregation or group, that group cannot use the facility until such time our United Methodist congregation has approval to occupy the space.

    The relaxation of restrictions in the community at large has created a very real concern that we may see a spike in infections and deaths. Much of this is because of the lack of the procedures that have proven to be effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

    I pray for the time when these restrictions will be lifted. I yearn for that day when we will be safe to return to be together physically in the familiar worship space we love. But even as we yearn for that day, we also need to be doing some important preparation. There are many things we need to consider about our church buildings as we get ready for ultimately opening our church buildings. Consult our DSC website and read through the document, “Ministry in the Season of COVID-19 and Beyond.” It contains essential information with a helpful checklist to guide you as you lead your congregation in considering the many things we need to think about and plan for. Following these guidelines, please be sure to:

    • Form a Team of leaders for your church. Meet with your Team to discuss the guidelines and checklist.
    • Develop a plan for Re-Opening that is unique to your campus and your ministry.
    • Create a Covenant to be used to prayerfully guide your congregation in the Re-Opening.
    • Share the Plan and the Covenant with your District Superintendent for her/his affirmation and the perfecting of the Plan and Covenant.
    • Be prepared so that when I signal the time when we can begin to move into the re-opening of our church buildings, we will be ready to do so.
    • Pray without ceasing for an end to the pandemic, and safety for your congregation and your community.

    Please remember that in these times, we hold as a high ideal the caution and the care for our loved ones and the community. An update will be given on Wednesday, June 3rd. Until then, remember with thanksgiving that we are called by God to care lovingly for all, and to avoid causing harm to others. I am holding you in prayer as you lead your congregation and your communities.

    Blessings,
    Bishop Bob

  • May 18, 2020

     

  • A note from our Bishop

    May 13, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

    As we watch how the world is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some encouraging signs for us in the Desert Southwest Conference. Some indicators suggest that the “curve” of the spread of the virus may be flattening. Many who have been negatively impacted by the economic distress may see some relief as governments relax restrictions. News is emerging that the research into a vaccine is progressing. These signs hint at hope on the horizon.

    At the same time, one of the key indicators cited by the CDC for a reopening has not yet been met. We have not seen a “downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period.” In fact, the numbers in both Nevada and Arizona demonstrate daily increases in the numbers of confirmed cases. As one would expect, the numbers of persons who are dying also continues to rise. There is concern that reopening too quickly may result in new outbreaks of infections.

    This tells us that although we see hope on the horizon, we must continue to practice safe distancing, and we must continue the precautionary measures to protect ourselves, our families, our loved ones. These measures are making a positive difference in our effort to slow the devastation of COVID-19. We will continue the suspension of in-person worship gatherings of any size, including small groups to produce worship.

    This suspension creates challenge for us, as we are by nature persons who practice our faith in community. We love to greet, hug, gather. So, it is difficult for us. But we are also persons of deep love for one another, and by continuing to observe the suspension, we are helping to get us to the moment when we can resume some gatherings. That day will come, but it is not yet here. Please continue to observe safe practices: stay at home, work from home, care for yourself if you do not feel well, practice physical distancing when you must be out of your homes, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently.

    I celebrate that during this time of suspension a wide range of creative efforts has emerged. I ask you to keep finding ways to connect with each other to be the church in action. Some of these learnings will be critically important to us for the future. Keep checking for resources for help and support. Please continue to be patient and care for each other. Reach out into the community as you are able, especially to those in need. Participate in worship, invite others to share the joy of being the body of Christ, even at a distance.

    Pray for safety for your families and loved ones, for those on the front lines who serve us in many ways, for the vulnerable at risk, for our children and families, for researchers and scientists rushing for a cure and a vaccine. Pray for those who are economically devastated.

    And after prayer, let’s do whatever we can to bring hope, healing, and help in these most challenging times. We are called to be the church in these days. We are called to be a courageous church, loving like Jesus. May it be so!

    Blessings,
    Bishop Bob

  • A note from our Bishop

    April 30, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

    Grace to you and peace in the name and spirit of Jesus!

    Having prayerfully considered the statistics that show that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the states of Nevada and Arizona continue to rise there are no changes to the instructions given last week. The churches of the Desert Southwest Conference will continue the suspension of in-person worship and gatherings. We must continue to engage in ministry in faith to care for our people, especially the most vulnerable among us, doing our best to protect their safety and health.

    I know that this presents some challenges to laity and clergy. But I have also been hearing about ways you are engaging in new forms of ministry, new means of worship and engaging in outreach, and of stewardship. Keep up this creative, adaptive work as you find ways to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from silencing the Good News or binding the hands and feet of Jesus.

    I want to remind you that our Desert Southwest Conference is offering COVID-19 loans/grants to assist churches with some of the financial challenges brought about by the pandemic. Terms for receiving these loans/grants have been revised from what was initially published earlier this month. For more details about these loans/grants click here.

    Today the Governor of Arizona held a press conference where he reaffirmed that his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order remains in place with a few exceptions; none of them lifting the suspension of in-person worship and gatherings in churches. We pray for and anticipate the day when all restrictions will be lifted. This has not happened yet but when it does, it will happen in stages and phases. I continue to monitor the situation and will inform you when the time has come to begin to converse with your DS as you prepare to open your churches. I will update you next Wednesday with any additional information.

    Please prepare yourself when the time is right to move into these stages of re-opening. A resource has been developed to assist you in thinking through many of the steps and nuances that will come when it is time to re-open our churches and ministries.

    Stay safe and keep healthy in body, mind, and spirit. I pray for you at all times as I give thanks for you!

    Blessings,
    Bishop Bob

  • Boy Scouts at First Church

    May 1, 2020

    BSA Troop 41 has been strongly impacted by Covid-19. This has affected our abilities to physically meet. For the remainder of the scout year, we are meeting every week virtually through Zoom. Our average attendance for the meetings has been around 30 participants. This includes both scouts and adults. Meetings start with the pledge of allegiance, then we move to topical conversation to discuss troop happenings and provide updates. We then close out the meeting with a game or activity. Lately, we’ve been playing Kahoot.

    We also encourage our scouts to work virtually with an instructor on their rank advancements and merit badges. Our instructors have even set up their own virtual platforms to offer instruction to boys that would like to take advantage of this option.

    Scouting is all about hiking and camping, however, the current situation has prevented us from enjoying the great outdoors as a group. We have had to cancel the remaining outings that we had scheduled for the spring and our local council has informed us that Camp Geronimo sessions have been cancelled for the month of June which we normally attend during the 3rd week of the month. Camp Geronimo is a long-term residential camp outside of Payson that scouts and leaders from all over Arizona attend throughout the summer to work on badges and enjoy all the great things that camp has to offer (including among others, rifle and archery shooting, swimming, climbing, horseback riding, etc.).

    However, being true Boy Scouts, we have persevered and are making the best of the situation.  Today, Friday, Luke Air Force Base is doing a 50 minute flyover across the valley. I’ve encouraged our scout families to get outdoors and enjoy this site. On Saturday, we have a Cub Scout Pack that is doing a “drive through” crossover ceremony where cub scouts that have completed their requirements will “bridge” over to boy scouts. We will be gaining 4 brand new boy scouts from this ceremony. We’ll be sure to take pictures and send them to you for posting to the church’s social media and news bulletin. Also, happening on Saturday, is a national “Camp-In”. I’ve encouraged our entire troop to participate in this event.

  • A note from our Bishop

    April 23, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

    I greet you in the name and spirit of Jesus, our Rock and Redeemer!

    Like many of us, I have missed the rhythms of the church: in-person worship, coffee and conversation, potlucks, hugs, Bible studies and fellowship. You may likewise be feeling lost, and displaced, living in a wilderness, wandering. Despite our efforts to adapt, we long for things to be back as they used to be.

    At the same time, I have watched grim statistics of COVID-19 in Nevada and Arizona where the numbers are continuing to rise dramatically.

    On March 24, in Nevada, 275 persons tested positive and 6 died. On that same day, Arizona had 329 cases and 6 deaths.

    A month later, on April 23, Nevada’s count was 4,208 cases, 189 deaths; and Arizona reported 5,769 cases, 249 deaths. On the same day, the numbers on the Navajo Nation reported 1,282 cases and 49 deaths.

    We have not yet seen the worst of the ravages of the novel coronavirus (nCoV). Additionally, the medical community is warning us that a second occurrence is possible, especially when communities relax restrictions too soon. Therefore, I am directing that United Methodist churches continue the suspension of in-person worship and other gatherings of any size until further notice. I will be monitoring the situation and I will communicate each Wednesday on our website with an update about the suspension.

    I wish I could more accurately predict when we can resume our activities. I know we won’t be able to resume everything at once. It will be a gradual, careful process. It is also clear that we will not soon, if ever, return to being church exactly as we were before. This is difficult news to receive, but I pray you will not rush to resume church activities.

    Your conference leadership is reading, consulting, praying daily, studying what experts are saying. We are monitoring:

    • The recommendations from sources such as the CDC, state governments, and the medical and scientific communities;
    • Criteria that must be met before relaxing the suspension. These criteria include the availability of more testing, the assurance that the healthcare system will be able to handle any possible influx of patients, and the assurance of protection for the vulnerable populations of our communities;
    • Our preparedness to systematically initiate a phased approach to re-opening; and if necessary, to reinstitute restrictions quickly if the virus resurges;
    • How we would safely re-open our churches and ministries in phases.
    Our conference Connectional Ministries staff is compiling an important resource to assist you in planning for the re-opening of our physical buildings and a resumption of in-person ministry. The day of re-opening is not yet upon us, but it will come. Until then, let me restate my directive to the Desert Southwest Conference. Our United Methodist churches must continue the suspension of in-person worship and other gatherings of any size until further notice. I will be monitoring the situation and will communicate each Wednesday with an update about the suspension.

    As Romans 12:12 admonishes, let’s keep patient even in this perplexing time. Keep learning and experiencing new ways of being in ministry. Remember that your local church continues to have financial obligations it must fulfill, so please, if possible, continue your generous support of your local church through mail in or on-line giving. Care for one another with cards, letters, phone calls, emails, texts to share God’s love and your caring with others. Do your best to keep yourself healthy and thereby protect the vulnerable among us.

    As I hold you in prayer, I ask you to pray fervently for:

    • Those who are battling or who have died of COVID-19 and their families and loved ones;
    • First Responders and healthcare workers; business owners; families, parents and children in the communities around us;
    • Communities in Arizona and Southern Nevada without access to basic provisions like running water or adequate healthcare or community resources;
    • Our congregations and our families and loved ones.

    Let us hold one another in the spirit of Jesus the Christ as we rejoice in hope, remain patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer (from Romans 12:12).

    Blessings,
    Bishop Bob

  • Preschool Sing Along

    Dr. Elizabeth Leyva has been making YouTube videos for our Cherub Choir to sing along from home. If you have a preschooler who likes to sing, they are welcome to join in! Contact her at elizabeth@firstchurch.church for links to the videos.

  • Online Worship

    Our online worship services continue. Visit our Worship Together web page. This Sunday’s service features a sermon from Pastor Denny Silk.

  • Kids Zoom Sunday School

    Jen Heffington continues regular Kids Sunday School via Zoom. All of our Zoom settings are set to high security levels to provide a safe and secure environment for Kids Sunday School. Families also participate with weekday daily challenges on Facebook.

  • Youth Groups Meeting via Zoom

    Our Jr. High and Sr. High Youth Groups are meeting every week via Zoom to stay connected to First Church and each other. Sr. High youth meet Sunday evenings at 6 p.m. and Jr. High youth meet Thursday afternoons at 4 p.m.

  • Administrative Committees Meeting via Zoom

    Your administrative committees are still meeting via Zoom. The Foundation Scholarship Committee, the Trustees, and the Connections Committee met this week. The Finance Committee and Church Council will meet next week. Everyone is still busy keeping our business and ministries going strong.

  • Congregational Care Team

    Your Congregational Care Team meets online and by telephone every Wednesday to stay connected to our friends and family. If you have a prayer request, please click here to send it to us.

  • A note from our Bishop

    April 16, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

    Grace and peace in the name of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ!

    Here is an important announcement regarding our Annual Conference Session in June!

    The COVID-19 virus continues to impact our life and ministry in the Conference. We have recently learned that the City of Mesa has extended the closure of various areas until further notice. This includes the Mesa Convention Center, the facility where Annual Conference 2020 was to be held.

    We were advised that because of this closure, we are not permitted to hold our Annual Conference as planned. For those of you who are members of the Conference, and had made a reservation at the Delta Hotel, you may have already received notice that your hotel room has been cancelled. You need not do anything further related to this cancellation.

    I am also informing you that because of the continuing concern about the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we will not be holding Annual Conference in-person this year. In order to complete the essential matters of the Annual Conference, alternative plans are being developed which we will be sharing with you as soon as possible. For the moment, I ask you to hold the dates of our Annual Conference (June 11-14, 2020) until we have decided on the alternate plans. Please watch for important updates and visit our website for more information.

    In the meantime, I hold you in prayer, asking God to strengthen you and give you a profound faith that reminds us that God is with us even as we move in this uncertain time. Sing the old, familiar children’s song with me: “The church is not a building, the church is a people.” Keep strong in the faith of our Lord, Jesus Christ, you who are the people of God!

    Blessings,
    Bishop Bob

  • News Update

    April 3, 2020

    – Our online worship service on Palm Sunday, April 5 can be viewed at 9 a.m. or after on our Worship Together web page. Pastor Denny Silk will give a message, special music will be shared by Don Richardson and Joshua and Jessica Elder, and a children’s message will be given by Jen Heffington. Many thanks to Jonathan Rovetto for mastering the media production to make our Livestream worship possible.

    – Our children’s Sunday School curriculum, Sparkhouse, is offering digital Lent lessons starting Sunday, April 5. Jen Heffington will be posting those lessons and other activities on our Facebook page for all to share and experience.

    –  The six members of our Congregational Care Team continue to meet on Wednesday mornings via teleconferencing.  Last week we “met” for over an hour.  The prayer list is written weekly and we each print out our personal copy. We hope you will continue to submit your prayer requests by contacting robin@firstchurch.church , by calling Robin Spencer at 602.263.5013, ext. 1107, or on our prayer request web page.  We are honored to pray for you and others.

    –  During these days of physical separation, First Church hopes you will reach out with a phone call to those you regularly see on a Sunday morning.  If you need a number, please contact Robin at 602.263.5013, ext. 1107 or robin@firstchurch.church.  In addition, we hope most of you have already received or will receive a friendly phone call from a First Church volunteer. If you feel isolated, please call Robin at 602.263.5013, ext. 1107 and leave a message with your best return phone number.  She will call you back.

    – A special shout-out of thanks to Marilyn Harter and Stephanie Espinoza for their blood donations made at the Vitalant Center. First Church will not be hosting a spring mobile blood drive but we are in hopes that other donors will continue this service.

    – Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, April 5 (see above).

    – Maundy Thursday Zoom and Livestream Communion Service – April 9, 6 p.m.

    – Good Friday Online Livestream Concert, Requiem by W. A. Mozart – April 10, 7 p.m.

    – Easter Celebration – Online Livestream worship on April 12, 9 a.m.

    – We will continue to exercise our good stewardship toward the church. Just because we have suspended activity doesn’t mean that most of our ministry and mission expenses go away Please give using our secure online resources, with our Give+ mobile app, by using your bank’s bill-pay services, or mailing your gifts to the church office at 5510 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ, 85012.

  • News Update

    March 23, 2020

    – Our online worship on Sunday, March 22 was viewed by 245 viewers, 123 of those were watching at the same time Sunday morning. We are looking at ways to expand the online worship experience and make improvements, so please continue to watch. Thank you all for your comments, text messages and emails telling us about your own personal and family experiences with worship on Sunday! If you haven’t watched yet, click here, scroll to Featured Service and tap the Watch Again button.

    –  Our tradition of Easter flowers will continue this year. Please consider ordering an Easter lily as you normally would. Easter lilies can be delivered to members of our congregation and friends not able to regularly attend worship with us. Please order online https://firstchurch.church/about/flower-order-form/ or call the church office to order an Easter lily at 602.263.5013.

    – Joshua Elder has posted some music to YouTube that will appear on the upcoming album, Hymn Renewal Project – All Things New. Click on these links to watch these acoustic versions of the hymns, “Take My Life and Let It Be” and “After the Flood” .

    – Peggy Ward Googled the pattern for face masks. Now she is busy sewing them for her pediatrician daughter’s office. They ran out of supplies just like many local offices. Peggy suggests you call locations first to verify the need before you mail or drop them off. If you have questions, call Robin at 602-263-5013, ext. 1107.

  • News Update – a letter from our Bishop

    March 19, 2020

    Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

    The Arizona judicatory leaders of the Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Church in America, The United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), and The Episcopal Church teleconferenced together and engaged in lively dialogue about the COVID-19 pandemic. We have jointly released the following statement that I would like to share with you. Here is our pastoral statement:

    Church is not cancelled!!!

    But in-person worship is. As leaders of our respective Christian denominations, we have all had to instruct our congregations to cease in person worship and meetings.

    And yet, church is not cancelled. How is that so?

    Church is not a building, and church is not just worship. Church is the gathering of faithful people through prayer, through love, and through caring for the vulnerable. Church is taking on new forms in light of COVID-19. Many congregations are worshiping via live-stream, or by other electronic means. They are using old fashioned phone calls to talk to members, meetings and Bible study are taking place over Zoom. Food pantries are distributing food as cars drive by, homeless dinner programs are offering meals to go, and the prayers of the faithful ascend to a loving God whose arms bind us together even when we cannot be face to face. Since we cannot be WITH one another, let us nonetheless be FOR each other.

    These are faithful decisions, made out of our understanding of the great commandments to love God and love our neighbor. In this present moment, among other things, loving our neighbor means not being physically present with our neighbors, to protect them and us from potential infection.

    It is more challenging to be church in a time such as this. Our pastors and leaders are having to develop new skills, and our members are having to extend more effort to stay connected. There are financial implications of not gathering in person, and as long as this continues it will grow ever harder to continue our basic outreach ministries caring to the poor, the sick, migrants, and the elderly.

    The word “quarantine” comes from quaresima, the Italian word for Lent. Ships were “quarantined” for 40 days in port before they were able to dock and unload people and supplies. So of all seasons of the year to be experiencing quarantines, this present season of Lent is very appropriate. Just as Lent ends with Easter, so this season of quarantine will end with renewed faith in our Risen Lord—though it will likely not happen by April 12, 2020. Over the next few weeks, as the situation develops, we will discern what the right way to observe calendar Easter is; and what the right way to observe our eventual return to in-person congregational life, proclaiming “Alleluia” with shouts of joy. That day will be an Easter Day indeed, celebrating the restoration of new life, having passed through the valley of the shadow of death.

    We, the leaders of our respective Christian denominations, hold you in prayer just as we ask you to hold us in prayer in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

    Rev. Jay R. Hartley
    Regional Minister and President
    Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arizona

    The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer
    Bishop, Grand Canyon Synod
    Evangelical Church in America

    The Rev. Dr. Robert T. Hoshibata
    Resident Bishop
    The Desert Southwest Conference
    The United Methodist Church

    Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons, Conference Minister
    Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ

    Rev. Dr. Brad Munroe
    Presbytery Pastor for the Presbyteries of Grand Canyon and de Cristo
    Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)

    The Right Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall
    Sixth Bishop of Arizona
    The Episcopal Church

  • News Update

    March 18, 2020

    – Some new content has been added to our Facebook page by our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, Jen Heffington and by our Minister of Music, Joshua Elder. Stay connected with our social media and this Events page and watch for regular Enews udpates.

    – Plans are developing for a video conference meeting of our administrative leadership groups. Details will be sent to those groups as they become available.

    Read a message from our Bishop, Bob Hoshibata, of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference.

  • News Update

    March 17, 2020

    Updates about worship services, activities, events, meetings and other happenings at First Church will be published frequently as we move through the coming weeks. This Enews is the first of those updates.

    Our staff met today and are working on the following items. Additional updates will be sent as more information is available.

    – The church office will remain open M – F, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. This schedule may vary daily depending on staff availability. If you visit the campus for any reason, please check in at the office for assistance or call 602.263.5013.

    – At-home activity suggestions for kids are being posted regularly on our Facebook page . Please share with your friends and family members with children. These activities include ideas for “Sunday School at Home” and other learning opportunities.

    – Please check the Events Page of our web site regularly for current worship, activities and event schedules.

    – The Weekday School will remain closed for classes and childcare through March 27 but the teachers and classroom aids are still hard at work with various deep-cleaning tasks and preparing for the return of children as soon as possible. The school staff continues to practice safe and healthy procedures so everyone will be ready for school to resume.

    – The church custodians are working every day to maintain a safe and healthy campus. Special cleaning protocols are being followed in all rooms and areas of the church campus.

    – The worship teams, led by Denny and Joshua, are developing special worship services for Livestream viewing. Stay tuned for more information about how to remain connected with worship.

    – The Choral Concert with the Phoenix Youth Symphony, Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross, originally scheduled for Friday, March 27, has been delayed and will be rescheduled to a later date.

    – Worship and activity plans for Holy Week (April 5 – 12), which includes Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday are tentative. Details will be available as we near Holy Week.

    – Our tradition of Easter flowers will continue this year. Please consider ordering an Easter lily or begonia as you normally would. Easter flowers can be delivered to members of our congregation and friends not able to regularly attend worship with us. Please order online or call the church office to order an Easter flower at 602.263.5013.

    – Plans are in development for administrative committee meetings. If you serve on one of our leadership groups, please watch your email inbox for meeting details.

    – We will continue to exercise our good stewardship toward the church. Just because we have suspended activity doesn’t mean that most of our ministry and mission expenses go away Please give using our secure online resources, with our Give+ mobile app, by using your bank’s bill-pay services, or mailing your gifts to the church office at 5510 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ, 85012.

    Please know that First Church and the staff is doing everything we can to think of ways to stay connected with each other during the coming weeks. The best way to stay connected is to share these updates with friends and people you know who may not have internet access and to guide those who do to the Events Page of our web site.

  • Worship Services and Activities Temporarily Suspended

    March 16, 2020

    Dear First United Methodist Church Family,

    Obviously, we are all concerned about the Coronavirus threat to our community and our brothers and sisters around the world.  We have reacted with measured restraint but we believe it is time to be proactive on behalf of each other, our congregation, and our neighbors.

    It is a difficult decision but we have decided to temporarily suspend our regularly scheduled worship services and all other normally scheduled church activities.  Also, by order of Gov. Ducey, all schools, including our Weekday School, are closed through March 27.

    Other ministry concerns:

    – Our parish nurse, the congregational care committee, and pastor will limit visitation in homes, hospitals, and other care facilities. We will use other means to communicate our prayerful support of our members.  If you have prayer requests please  click here to submit them online.

    – Our staff will remain on duty and are available by means of email, text, or phone. They will be exploring ways that we can stay connected during this time of change.

    – We will Livestream a worship activity/service each week and hope that you will join us.

    – We will continue to exercise our good stewardship toward the church. Just because we have suspended activity doesn’t mean that most of our ministry and mission expenses go away. Please give using our secure online resources, with our Give+ mobile app, by using your bank’s bill-pay services, or mailing your gifts to the church office at 5510 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ, 85012.

    – Other challenges or opportunities brought on by this decision may not have been identified yet but we will respond in a way that reflects our commitment to each other as the Body of Christ.

    – We will continue to pray for those afflicted by this virus; health care providers; and those working to develop a vaccine.

    We continue in the confidence that our God of love, healing, and comfort is with us always.

    Pastor Denny

  • Online Giving

    Are you looking for an easy way to make contributions to First Church? Do you want a simple and secure way to make your gifts? There are a few ways you can get started.

    Visit our website and click on the “Give Online” link at the bottom of the home page. You can set up a recurring frequency or give when you want to just by making a “one time gift”.

    Use our Give+ mobile app to give from your mobile phone using your checking, savings or debit card bank account. Click here to learn more.

    You may also give electronically using your bank’s “bill pay” service.  Many banks offer this service as a feature with checking accounts.

    *All of these methods of giving electronically are safe and secure.