you question the members and ministers of First United Methodist
Church in Lincoln about their congregation there is great
consistency in their answers. It is evident that they share the same
vision of their church and its mission because they all note the
same strengths and commitments. When members were asked about the
strengths of First United Methodist there were three jubilant
answers: caring for each other, a strong dedication to missions and
the importance of ministering to youth.
Sherwood, a lifelong member, described her church using one word,
"Love!" She went on to explain, "The members love
each other and care for one another." She also noted that her
church is an excellent teaching church and offers many different
types of learning and many expressions of caring. After visiting her
church, it is clear that this love and care are not merely local and
self-centered; this is a church anxious to support and participate
Methodist Church is Lincoln's oldest, continuously meeting church
body. The church was formally organized in Lincoln in 1840, but
Methodist meetings had been held for some time before that, as
circuit riders passed through the area preaching to gathered
settlers and their families. Even though the Methodist church
meeting in Lincoln in the year 2000 exists in a world and culture
very different from that of its founding by John and Charles Wesley
in England in the 1720s, it has not forgotten its historical or
Rev. Larry Maffett, directing pastor of the church, notes that just
as "the Wesleys used 'study groups' to minister to the common
people," this congregation uses small groups and personal
ministries to reach people. The church offers study and fellowship
throughout the week for people of all ages.
to Tami Letterle, a young adult member of the church and a Lincoln
College student, her church offers many opportunities and classes.
She noted that the worship for teens allows them an active,
contemporary service, "rather than just sitting around."
Tami works with the church's Kid’s Club program that provides
after school activities and study for children whose parents are
working. Kids can work on their homework and share fun activities,
all in a Christian environment.
church also offers a before-school program for children whose
parents must be at work at an early hour. Kid's Club becomes Kid's
Camp during the summer months and provides full-day activities for
approximately 55 children at a reasonable cost to their parents.
is clear that the Biblical and historical heritage of this church is
given practical application for the future. During our interview,
the Rev. Maffett shared the vision of the congregation for the
coming months. Among the goals of the church are developing new
structures for ministry, ministry teams for discipleship, ministry
to young families, spiritual growth through small groups and
integrating non-participating members into the ministries of the
and missions quickly come to the fore in any discussion about First
United Methodist. The Rev. Maffett pointed out that their building
at 302 Broadway is a meeting place for worship, but "our work
is beyond the walls." Church members pointed out the
congregation's long involvement in the Food Pantry here in Lincoln.
He and others pointed out the ministry of V.I.M.-Volunteers in
Mission, who provides practical help to people in need. Twice this
year a cross section of members will travel to Appalachia and build
a house for a poor family. Church members have been undertaking such
trips for 20 years.
as they maintain a vision and commitment to world missions, First
United Methodist is also concerned with ministering to its community
and its members. Worship services are held Sunday mornings at 8:30
and 10 a.m. with Sunday school at 10 a.m.
Sunday, March 5, I attended worship and visited both adult and youth
classes. My visit coincided with Transfiguration Sunday in the
liturgical calendar and preparation for Shrove Tuesday and Ash
Wednesday, which would be observed during the week. The atmosphere
of worship was enhanced by the sanctuary of the church—a beautiful
facility with soaring ceilings, which draw the spirit and the
attention of the congregation upward. A highlight of the service was
the stirring music of the pipe organ played by Jeff Hendricker, who
also accompanied the Chancel Choir under the direction of Chuck
Laughery. The Rev. Maffett's sermon on the Transfiguration was a
thoughtful and touching reminder of the "mountaintop"
experiences in Christian faith with a focus on missions to
the second worship service of the morning, one of the three handbell
choirs in the congregation shared its unique music. During the adult
worship services, special worship services for children and
for teenagers are held in the chapel. These services include music
and lessons geared toward young worshippers. I observed Rob Siebert,
minister for youth, as he led the high school and junior high
worship service, which focused on friendship. I also dropped by a
class for senior adults taught by William and Janet Overton and
joined an adult class taught by Randy Schrader as the group
discussed the Lord's Prayer and integrating prayer into every hour
and every day.
Rev. Larry Maffett, the Rev. Ray Hudson, and lay minister Rob
Siebert guide the ministry of First United Methodist and shepherd
dozens of volunteers. Maffett and Hudson came to the Lincoln church
in 1997. Maffett was a music educator and school administrator for
several years before he acted on the "vision of ministry"
he had received as a teenager. After attending seminary in Evanston
he served six Illinois congregations before coming to Lincoln.
Hudson, a seminary graduate of the University of Dubuque, oversees
small group and youth ministries, missions, and pastors the church's
affiliated congregation in Beason. Siebert works with the youth of
the church and is a graduate of Lincoln Christian College.
United Methodist Church is a body of active Christians who,
according to their mission statement, "want to follow the way
of Jesus to find joy, happiness and the practical usable power of
the Christian faith."