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Today we honor our High School graduates. Central Catholic’s was two weeks ago. Northwest was last weekend. Grand Island Senior High’s is today. In this graduation season, we give them God’s blessing for completing this portion of their education. High School graduation has become one of the only ceremonies we do to bestow adulthood on the coming generation.
With a little piece of paper, a shake of a hand, a walk across the stage, a speech, a senior video, a back yard party, loads of paper plates and napkins, a table or wall dedicated to 18 years of pictures and memories, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, pictures, videos and more pictures, we let them know that we think they have definitely done something.
The church’s language would be that we (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, Sunday School teacher, youth group leaders and pastors) have poured God’s blessings into you graduates for 18 years. Now, we expect those blessings to begin to pour out of you and onto those around you. We have blessed you so that you can be a blessing to the world.
Things like love, compassion, respect, and forgiveness have been given to you because God gave them to us and expects us to pass them forward. Now, we believe God expects the same from you. Pass on the blessings. Pour them into your families, your friends, your fellow workers, and the world will be a Godlier place; a more loving, more compassionate, more respectful and more forgiving place.
True, we are not done passing on our blessings. But this graduation thing is a marker in time. From this point on, we give the future to you. You are no longer just receivers, but givers of God’s blessings.
You join us in this adult world where these blessings are foreign. And when we are no longer able to carry on, you will be there to pass on God’s blessings to your children and grandchildren.
“God Bless You”
Happy Mother’s Day! All of us have Moms; biological and adopted. Today is the day to thank God for blessings and goodness of Moms.
This year I picked up a couple adult coloring books with Mom sayings that you can color and give as gift cards. They say some of those phrases that echo in our head’s way beyond childhood. They’re things we automatically say back to our kids then cringe with the memory of where we got those words. I’ve passed them out at the Tuesday Bible study and at Coloring with Pastor Kelly at the Chocolate Bar at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays.
So, here’s some of those Mom sayings: “You’re lucky you’re cute! . . . What did I just say! . . . What part of NO don’t you get? . . . Use your words! . . . Life isn’t friar! . . . Don’t make me count to three! . . . Because I said so! . . . Don’t make me turn this car around. . . . Where is your other shoe? . . . When I was your age . . . Don’t even think about it! . . . Two more bites! . . . Don’t lick that! . . . Your face will get stuck like that! . . . This is my circus. These are my monkeys. . .. Only mothers know that silence means something is very wrong. . .. Best way to get the kids attention is to sit down and get comfortable.”
If you want some of these Mother’s Day coloring cards, let me know.
Here is the prayer for Mother’s Day from our United Methodist Book of Worship:
For our mothers, who have given us life and love, that we may show them reverence and love, we pray to the Lord . . . For mothers who have lost a child through death, may their faith give them hope, and their family and friends support and console them, we pray to the Lord . . . For women though without children of their own, who like mothers have nurtured and cared for us, we pray to the Lord . . .For mothers, who have been unable to be a source of strength, who have not responded to their children and have not sustained their families, we pray to the Lord.
Loving God, as a mother gives life and nourishment to her children, so you watch over your church. Bless these women, that they may be strengthened as Christian mothers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grace & Peace
Today is Confirmation Sunday at Trinity. This year Nine seventh graders and their mentors devoted 13 weeks of Wednesday nights to learning about what it means to become a full member of the church. Each time we would begin with 15 minutes of instruction by me with the whole group. Then the confirmands and their mentors would scatter to the corners of the church to discuss the questions in their workbooks and to read a couple chapters of the Gospel of Luke together. They also worked on their memorization of the 23rd Psalm, the Apostles Creed and the books of the Bible. Then we’d all reconvene after 40 minutes or so for final questions with me and discussion of the topic of the week. Our topics included things like: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Worship, the Ministry of the Church, Prayer, Service, Death . . . etc.
We took road trips to Seward for the Living Last Supper, and, All Faiths mortuary here in town. They also each wrote the article on the back of the bulletin about where they had seen God, or their favorite things about the church. The confirmands also did service projects and talked about what gifts they have to offer both through in the church and in their daily lives.
Today these seventh graders are publicly proclaiming to the world that they are ready to confirm the decisions made for them by their parents when they were baptized. They are telling us that they are ready to make up their own minds about this faith thing. And we, the church, are telling them that they are now adults, (and full members), in the eyes of the church. I will stress to them that this is not a graduation, it is an initiation in full membership in the church.
This year’s confirmands at Trinity are: Grace Hill, Jaylen Hansen, Trey Engberg, Conner George, Madilynn John, Alec Sundberg, Makenna Garrels, Kyla Sybrandts, and Madyson Schley. Their mentors who went through the whole process with them are: Sebrina Bergmeier, Jeanne Graves, Vicki McDermott, Ron George, Danny John, and Jeremy Sundberg. Please take the opportunity today to congratulate them on this important step in their faith journeys.
Grace & Peace,
—Rev. Kelly Karges
It has been an adventure serving as the Director of Family, Youth, and Children’s Ministries. Our family has grown up with all of your families. I’ve learned so much from the little ones as they share their smiles and insight to the heart of God. I began serving with the Middle School students as a volunteer before I took the position here at Trinity. I was trying to think of how old everyone was when I started and I teared up realizing I began leading Middle School Youth Group when our current Freshman crew was in 6th grade!
Like many of us, I’ve asked myself, where did the time go? Our Middle and High School students inspire me every time I talk to them. Every time they serve communion, I cry. Every time our students serve alongside our adults, I feel a deep gratitude for our church family. It’s been a joy and privilege to watch these young men and women grow into the remarkable people they are today. I know it isn’t quite time to say goodbye yet. But the process has been put into motion with the Sunday announcement that Pastor David is being appointed to a church in Girard, Kansas. That means our family will be moving from Grand Island this summer. We are sad and broken hearted to leave our church family and Grand Island community. We are holding hope that this new journey will shine light on new possibilities and new growth. For the time being, we are finding it’s OK to be angry, sad, and anxious for a while. Thank you for all of your love, care, and support these years. Keep loving and serving each other well. Continue to hold space for those who are searching for a place of belonging.
—Molly Clark, Director of Youth and Children’s Ministry
So how do you prove Easter? Sure, the story of Easter wasn’t written down as it happened. What happened was talked about for decades before the Gospels as we know them were put together. The story was passed on because it meant something to those who heard it. It meant so much that they were willing to risk a lot to share it. To share the story was to become a part of it, to own it. As the Easter story was whispered from friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor, the truth was in the teller. As it resonated with each recipient, transformed each hearer, made each receiver of this “good news” a more loving individual, a more forgiving soul, it became more contagious.
So, the proof of Easter was in how it changed the followers of Jesus. They had scattered to the winds, gone back to their jobs. But something happened to turn them around, to bring them back to Jerusalem. Once they had experienced and lived with the unconditional love of God, they could not go back to the way things were before. They were drawn by this spiritual magnet to come together and do something about what Jesus had taught them in his short time with them. Their lives were resurrected. As my friend Rev. Jim Keyser puts it, “It was not magical. It was mystical.”
So, the proof of Easter today is found in us. Has something changed us? Does God’s love ring true in us? Does it draw others to it? Are we a magnet for God where we work and live and play?
If we are, then Easter is real.
Grace & Peace,
–Rev. Kelly Karges
Once a year relationships. I am in a once a year relationship with ten or so folks that I’ve been traveling to New Orleans to meet with for 20 years now. I was there this past week. Once a year, we gather together for three days or so to check in and grow; spiritually, emotionally, and religiously. We call ourselves the 3-M group. We are folks from Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Vermont, who work at maintaining Ministers in their ministries. We are mostly, but not all Clergy, and mostly, but not all, United Methodist.
The local Louisiana folks take us to their favorite New Orleans restaurants. The conferencing continues through the meals and beyond. The primary focus of our lifelong learning/teaching is Bowen’s Family Systems training. It is a way to help pastors process the emotional content of our professional and personal lives. We pastors live through/with four times the emotional content as our average parishioners. Rev. John Winn is the guy who started it all with the Center for Pastoral excellence of Louisiana. Now John is almost 90.
One of the things about this cognitive therapy way of seeing the world is that you’re never done learning new insights about yourself and your family systems. And every new “aha” changes you and your family system at the soul level. I always come home from 3-M with several “aha’s.” My soul is expanded. I experience God in new ways. Healing happens.
This is Holy Week. Christians gather for several once a year services of worship; Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. Once a year, we remember and celebrate Jesus the disciples’ last once a year Passover meal together. Once a year, we gather to remember and celebrate the crucifixion of our Lord. Once a year, we come together on Easter Sunday to remember and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
I like to think this Holy Week is an opportunity for our souls to be expanded; to come to know God in new ways; to experience healing.
I look forward to walking this Holy Week journey together with you.
Grace & Peace,
—Rev. Kelly Karges
Our congregation has responded to the Spring 2019 Flooding Crisis in Nebraska in several ways. Over $3,700 was sent to our Great Plains Conference Office for direct flood relief. The money that had been donated to the Conference for the flood relief effort so far has totaled a little over $180,000, but there still is a great need.
Trinity has also put together multiple flood buckets that have already been delivered to places like Wood River, Columbus, St. Edward, Fremont and Lynch, Nebraska. We had our annual special offering to the United Methodist Committee on Relief last Sunday. An initial gift of $10,000 from UMCOR had already come to Nebraska to help in the initial relief efforts. Emergency Response Teams from all over the country (including 200 volunteers from Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City) have already come to places like North Loup, Columbus and Fremont, and more are on the way.
Hollie Tapley is our Great Plains Conference Disaster Coordinator. Rev. Russ Anderson coordinates the efforts here in our area of Nebraska.
The Great Plains Conference’s disaster relief fund received more than $7,000 from a Texas United Methodist Church. Christ Church in Sugar Land, a suburb of Houston, sent a $7,177.01 check to the Tapley after a special offering March 24.
“Having some experience of our own with flooding during Hurricane Harvey and other storms over the years, we are well acquainted with the enormity of the clean-up task and we’re so thankful you are there to help people rebuild their lives,” the church’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Chappell Temple, wrote to Tapley.
“During the Harvey clean-up we found that monetary contributions that had no strings on them were extremely helpful when we simply wanted to help an individual or family without having to register all the details,” the letter continued.
“I was blown away” after seeing the letter and donation, Tapley said. “We’ve gotten donations from all over the United States, last time I looked. I’m very grateful for that.”
Thanks again to Trinity and our friends and neighbors for helping with this year’s Food Relief.
Grace & Peace,
—Rev. Kelly Karges
My name is Madyson (Mady) Schley. I go to Westridge Middle School and I am in choir, volleyball, and track. I also play softball outside of school. My mentor is Sebrina. She is a good mentor, because she helps me understand my learning about God. We have two other girls in our class named Kyla Sybrandts and Grace Hill. I like having more than just me in our group, because then we can get a deeper understanding of God.
If we have questions, we always ask and sometimes we have the same questions so we can connect more. One way I communicate with God is by praying. Whenever I am having a bad day, I pray and hope that things will get better. And with God there, I know that they always will. I think the best thing about church is on Wednesdays. I like getting to see all of my friends.
My name is Alec Sundberg. I like sports and I play football and basketball. I am in 7th grade at Westridge Middle School. I am 12 years old. I am in orchestra at school. I play the string bass.
In confirmation, I have learned that God is not just a man. In my reading of Luke, I have learned that Jesus was tempted in ways that were bad. He was tempted with things like if you are God’s son then you can throw yourself off the roof and you will not die. My mentor is my dad, Jeremy Sundberg. He is a good mentor, because he makes me think hard about the answers to find a deep and meaningful answer.
Hi! My name is Kyla Sybrandts and I am 13 years old and in the seventh grade at Westridge Middle School. My family includes my mom, dad, and three younger sisters: Kamry, Keely, and Katelyn. I am involved in volleyball, basketball, track, and show choir. I also enjoy playing golf and softball in the summer.
One thing that I have learned in Confirmation that has helped me to know God better, is learning that God can be anywhere and can be anything. I used to think that God was only a person, but after reading Luke I understood that God can be a flash of lightning or a gush of wind. One thing I hope to accomplish during my Confirmation journey is memorizing the books of the Bible. My mentor is Sebrina Bergemier and I have really enjoyed having her mentor me along my journey of getting confirmed. I feel safe when learning about God with Sebrina and my group, and that I can be open about what I am thinking.
My name is Madilynn John. I have four brothers and four sisters. I am 13 years old and am in 7th grade at Westridge Middle School. My favorite sports are volleyball, softball, basketball, track, and I am going to begin hunting. Other things I like to do are reading, painting, and math. I am in my school’s choir and orchestra along with playing sports.
My favorite lesson we have done so far was probably the lesson on God. I feel that when we did this lesson, I took more consideration to how my thoughts of God have changed over the years. I always had thought of God as an old guy with a beard, but when I walked out of class that day my perspective changed a bit. I realized that God could be anything. God could be a candle light, the wind, or any type of person. My mentor is my grandpa, Danny. I really enjoy getting to have him as my mentor, because he always has a positive attitude and is always open to learn and to help me. Having him as my mentor, I feel has really helped us learn and grow together.
My name is Grace Hill and I am a 7th grader at Walnut Middle School. I’m 12 years old and I enjoy sports and art. The sports I’m in are basketball, softball, volleyball, and track. The things in art I like are painting and drawing. The reason why I like art so much is because you can make your own story in your picture. Reading the Bible each week has helped me get to know God better. The retreat to Seward is something I’m looking forward to in my confirmation group this year.
In my Confirmation group, I have a lot of people I know and that makes it really exciting. When we do confirmation group, we play the drums. I really enjoy that because I play drums at school for band. My mentor is Sebrina Bergmeier and the thing I like about meeting with her is that I have two other girls in my group so more voices are heard. Sebrina is a good mentor, because it is easy to learn from her and she listens to you when it’s your time to speak.
My name is Jaylen Hansen. I am 13 years old and in 7th grade at Walnut Middle School. Outside of church and school, I play volleyball, basketball, and softball. I also plan to run track this Spring. Through my confirmation experience, I have been able to understand God better and what my relationship with Jesus means to me. In our classes, we have read verses from the Bible and discussed them with our mentors. One thing I hope to discover through confirmation is how the things I’m learning about God and the Bible can be applied in my own life. My mentor, Jeannie Graves, has been a great leader for me, because I can gain from her perspective on things we talk about. One thing I felt was interesting is understanding what the Holy Spirit means. One thing that I really like in confirmation is the friends that I have in class with me, and getting to talk about these things together. From confirmation, I hope that I will gain a better understanding of God and strengthen my relationship with God.
Hi, I’m Conner George. I like playing sports: basketball and football are my favorites. Two of my favorite things about our church is helping out with Loaves and Fishes and Vacation Bible School. During VBS, I enjoy helping out with the little kids in all the activities. I enjoy Loaves and Fishes, because I like meeting the people who come and helping them. If confirmation has taught me anything, it is that God is everywhere and He is always there for us.
Hi, my name is Trey Engberg and I’m thirteen years old. I love to play football and basketball.
In Confirmation, I have learned many things like how God is actually more of a spirit. He is just pictured in human form so that we can relate to him. Confirmation has also shown me that learning about the Holy Spirit can be fun. We always play drums at the beginning before we separate into groups with our mentors, mine being my grandma, Vicki McDermott. We also play them along with other music from the Greatest Showman.
Confirmation has also got me into reading the Bible. When we go with our mentors, sometimes we read chapters from Luke or other scriptures from the Bible. From the Bible I have learned that Jesus was tempted by the devil but still stayed loyal to God. This is what I have learned from confirmation.
My name is Makenna Garrels. I was born in Hastings, Nebraska and I am an only child.
I just turned 13 on January 10th and I am a 7th grader at Westridge Middle School. I am in dance, softball, and volleyball. I love to go hunting and fishing with my parents at our cabin, and I also enjoy spending time with our dog. I am going on my second year as being a volunteer at Stuhr Museum during special events, summer classes, and working in buildings. I am in choir and orchestra at school, and I am also on the dance team at school.
When we had a lesson on who God was a lot of us learned that God could be anyone or anything, but we don’t know. My mentor is my Grandpa. When we meet for classes, I feel that this is something that has brought us closer together.
This is what I posted on Facebook immediately following the close of our United Methodist General Conference 2019 in St. Louis.
“I copy the statement from St. Paul UMC, Lincoln. As Senior Pastor of Trinity UMC, Grand Island:
“While the actions of General Conference have been disappointing today, Trinity will continue to be a place where all people know All are beloved and sacred. We will continue to hope and pray that God’s love will prevail. And we will continue to work for acceptance and equality for all people.”
Here is a link to the interview that our local TV station News 4 did on Thursday:
I believe that we are all beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God; gay, straight, queer, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender etc. I also believe that there is a group that has been working to de-stabilize the influence of mainline Protestant churches in America ever since the end of the Vietnam War. In their eyes, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Baptists were too influential in ending that war. So, this group has been funding efforts to split the power of those churches ever since. So, the words that “Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” were added to our Book of Discipline in 1972. That same group was still at work at manipulating the political process of our United Methodist Special Session of General Conference 2019 in St. Louis. Back in the early 70’s they chose homosexuality as a strategic wedge to drive churches apart. I believe that if it wasn’t sexuality, it would have been abortion, or the ordination of women.
I have been United Methodist all my life. My Dad, two brothers and wife are also United Methodist clergy. Watching our world-wide meeting on St. Louis by live-streaming was like having the whole world witness a nasty family fight. The ugly underbelly of our church politics was exposed. No matter what side you were on, it was painful to watch. The damage we as a church have been inflicting on the LBGTQ community since 1972 was just exasperated. The Traditionalist Plan that was approved (55% for, 45% against), was deemed 40% unconstitutional coming into that meeting. The plan that was approved has been referred to the Judicial Council (our United Methodist Supreme Court) for further review as to its constitutionality. That will happen April 23rd. There is a strong possibility that what was approved in St. Louis will be deemed unconstitutional and we’ll be back where we started before the general conference. A lot of folks are hurting right now. Folks on both sides of the issue have threatened to quit. I’m hoping you will join me in choosing to still be the Trinity church we have been in sharing the love of God every chance we get; feeding the poor; training our young one’s up to be compassionate, humble servants who walk in the footsteps of Jesus. This is not over. I believe God is still perfecting us and our church. God’s not done with us. I invite conversation on this over a cup of coffee sometime in the near future. Let’s hang in there together.
Grace & Peace,
–Rev. Kelly Karges
In the fall of 2017, I went before the District Committee on Ministry, submitted paperwork, reports from a psychological evaluation and from my participation in a clergy mentor group, and was asked questions about my call to ministry in the United Methodist Church. The committee certified me as a Candidate for Ordination and approved me for licensing as a local pastor. As a Certified Candidate for Ordination, I am required to complete a Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) degree.
In 2016, I began my studies toward an M.Div. at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Iliff is a pioneer in developing a seminary program for students at a distance. Because of accreditation standards, an M.Div. degree cannot be earned from just online studies. So, every quarter (October, February, and April), I head out to Denver for Gathering Days in which we have in-person interaction with fellow students and professors. While most of my course work is completed online, these gathering days are an incredible time of feeling like I am “coming home” with friends and colleagues as well as a time of refreshing and renewal.
Completing an M.Div. requires both academic rigor as well as personal introspective work—learning about yourself, learning about how you relate to God, and how you might relate to faith communities who are also learning about themselves and their relation to God and the world. Seminary not only changes your understanding of who you are, but it changes you.
When I close this chapter of my education, I will have completed over 35 courses that have included biblical studies, historical studies, theology, philosophy, sociology, pastoral studies, and ethics that will have cost around $70,000 in finances and over 3,000 hours in time. I will be graduating in 2020 just after I turn 40 years old. My family has been a part of this journey with me and I am incredibly grateful that they have shown me endless patience as I read yet another book, write more papers, and listen to more lectures. This may not have been the life that they have chosen, but it is a life that we are necessarily caught up in as God calls and leads.
—Rev. Dave Clark
Confirmation 2019 has begun. We meet 13 Wednesday nights from 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m.
We gather in Gollaher Chapel and I introduce the topic for 15 minutes (along with a little drumming circle action). Then the 10 seventh-grade confirmands and their mentors scatter to the corners of the church to discuss the questions in their books, read a chapter from the Gospel of Luke and/or work on memorizing the books of the Bible, the Apostles’ Creed, or the 23rd Psalm.
We gather back together again for the last 15 minutes of questions with me before circling up to share joys and concerns and praying together before going home.
We’ll do road trips to a mortuary, Confirmation Day at Nebraska Wesleyan with Bishop Saenz in March, and the “Living Last Supper” in Seward in April. The confirmands are encouraged to participate in as many aspects of the church as possible in these 13 weeks (worship/service projects etc.).
In the coming weeks the confirmands will be given the opportunity to write a Journeys piece (the article on the back of the bulletin) about what this church means to them or their favorite thing about the church. If the confirmands choose to become full members of the church, they will be confirmed on Sunday, May 5th.
Please keep these Confirmands and their Mentors in your prayers during this important discernment time in their lives:
Confirmands: Trey Engberg, Gabe Gonzalez, McKenna Garrels, Conner George, Jaylen Hansen, Grace Hill, Madilynn John, Alec Sundberg, Kyla Sybrandts, and Madyson Schuler.
Mentors: Vicki McDermott, Sebrina Bergmeier, Jeremy Sundberg, Danny John, and Ron George.
Grace & Peace,
Rev. Kelly Karges