Manchester United Methodist Church

Vacation Bible School

Children sit in a circle on the floor hearing a book read to them.

There are a few memories I have of church as a young child.

One was that the pews were very hard. Another was that, being Southern Baptist in my earliest years, the communion elements passed right by me, and I couldn’t figure out why (had I done something wrong?).

But, one of the most fun things I can remember was Vacation Bible School. By way of full disclosure, I don’t remember any of the content of VBS. What I do remember was how good the strawberry Kool Aid was. Mrs. Henson made it.

Even at that young age, I can remember feeling that this was a special, fun time. And, that grownups I didn’t know too well, like Mrs. Henson, were making it all possible.

Fast-forwarding a few decades to our VBS at Manchester, there’s little resemblance to what I enjoyed in Poplar Bluff. Just take a look at our VBS page on our website. Wow! If we’d had such an opportunity back then, the entire kid population of southeast Missouri would have shown up.

Yet, the impact would be the same. VBS is a gift we’re giving kids because Jesus is important to us. And, adults and youth are giving their time to making it possible for the children.

For all you who are volunteering to make VBS 2019 possible—THANK YOU! You’ll be making a difference in ways you can’t imagine. By the way, volunteers are still needed and warmly welcomed!

The last week of June will be filled with lots of happy (and exhausted) faces around here. Please remember the children and volunteers during this important, and truly memorable/life-changing, time.

Pastor Greg

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Throwing Out the First Pitch!
Wed., June 19, 6:15 p.m.

Do you know how difficult it is to preach when you’ve been surprised in the service by the announcement that you’ll be throwing out the first pitch in the Cardinals’ game against the Marlins on June 19th?

That’s what happened to me at the beginning of the 11 a.m. service on May 19. I was overwhelmed and speechless, and so very appreciative of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Plus, having a block of 500 tickets for our folks, under Big Mac Land, for only $10 each makes it such a truly amazing and memorable night!

THANK YOU for such a wonderful gift. I hope you can make it to the festivities! I hear people are speculating as to how many bounces it will take for my pitch to make it to home plate…

Editor’s Note: Tickets are first come, first served and available at Saturday worship, in Fellowship Hall on Sundays, or at the church office thru June 16. Invite family, friends, and neighbors to help us celebrate Pastor Greg’s retirement!

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Sermon Sunday (June 2nd)
Their God Is My God

I’ll be exploring the relationship of Christianity to other religions. The text is John 10:7-16. Also, you might put Richard Rohr’s latest book, The Universal Christ, on your reading list; his thoughts expand on what I’ll be talking about.

Not in Kansas

Seldom can I come up with a title that’s guaranteed to alienate everyone from the state just west of Missouri. However, I’m not meaning to downgrade Kansas at all. Rather, I’m playing off the famous scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy has been transported into a beautiful, magical, mystical world. Being in awe she exclaims, “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
This scene came to mind while I was standing in the back of the sanctuary at the close of the last Easter service. We’d just sung “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” accompanied by choir, brass, and organ. Now, the 100+ voice choir was singing the Hallelujah Chorus. When they finished, the organ would escort everyone out with the Widor Toccata.
Taking it all in, it was as if I was worshipping in another world. When Paul had such experiences he called them “visions and revelations” (2 Corinthian 12:1-2). I’d guess “we’re not in Kansas anymore” conveys the same sense.
It struck me that the amazing, other-worldly worship we experienced here on Easter is but a reflection of the many, many ways our church tries to honor Christ and connect people in an excellent manner. Maybe it would be helpful to step back and see just how amazing the Manchester UMC family is. The following are just some of many examples:

  • Varied, excellent worship offerings
  • Congregation committed to reaching the younger generation
  • Inclusive Welcome Statement
  • New space provided for a growing youth ministry
  • Creative ministries for children, including Prayground and VBS
  • Social justice programs that reach into schools and community
  • Mission ministries that touch people locally and internationally
  • Trained staff that work in partnership with passionate congregational leaders to create relevant, cutting-edge ministries                           
  • Amazing congregational care with 22 active Stephen Ministers

It’s always helpful, when you’re involved in a church, to pause occasionally and take a look around. I think you’ll be amazed, and you’ll ask yourself, “Where would I ever find another church like this???”

So, please don’t take this the wrong way when I say, “As long as I’m at Manchester UMC, I’m glad I’m not in Kansas!”   


Pastor Greg

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Revisiting Childhood Series Concludes (May 19, all services)

Why is it that children naturally know how to play, and that adults have to re-learn it? This concluding sermon will give tips on how to play like a kid and have fun again. This is what God intended for us; why else would God give children such a natural instinct to play? The text is Ecclesiastes 9:4-10.

General Conference Update

Image: Mike DuBose / United Methodist News Service (UMNS)

It’s only been a little over two months since the 2019 General Conference ended. However, it seems so much longer because so many things have happened.

You will recall that the Traditionalist Plan, that kept the restrictive language regarding homosexuality and the church, while adding penalties for those who violate that doctrine, passed. I wrote about it in a pastoral letter I sent to our congregation.

In the months since, there’s been an uproar around the country in protest. Clergy, Boards of Ordained Ministry, Conferences, and even one Jurisdiction have risen up stating their disapproval.

It’s obvious that the UMC cannot continue this way. Two weeks ago, the Judicial Council, which is charged with ruling on the constitutionality of what passed at the GC, decided that the main elements of the plan could stand. Regardless, these months have shown that there must be a resolution. The church must free itself from protesting injustice and lack of mercy so it can promote justice and compassion.

To this point, groups have been meeting to discuss options for moving ahead positively. One of the groups I feel most optimistic about is that led by Rev. Adam Hamilton, from the Church of the Resurrection. Here’s a link to his blog from April 27. I think you’ll find it interesting and informative.

I believe we’ll gain clarity in the months ahead, particularly in the actions that will ultimately result from the 2020 General Conference that will be held in May. That will be when we should gain a sense of direction where we, and Manchester UMC, will be headed.

Thank you for your continued discipleship. I share Rev. Hamilton’s feeling that there is a strong sense of hope emerging in our denomination. Personally, I think a new expression of Methodism will be characterized by the priorities of truth, compassion, equality, and responsibility. Keep praying!


Pastor Greg

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Mother’s Day Weekend Sermon (all services)

I’m continuing the theme that we can learn a lot about God, others, and ourselves by remembering childhood lessons that we’ve long since forgotten. The theme for Mother’s Day is the easiness with which children can share their emotions; if only we could be more like them! Jesus, once again, shows us the way. My sermon is based on the story you’ll find in Mark 10:13-16.

Literacy Initiative

Children sit in a circle on the floor hearing a book read to them.

The Literacy Initiative is a new ministry of Manchester UMC that supports Peabody Elementary School in the City of St. Louis. We are looking for volunteers to help fourth grade students read and enhance their literacy skills.

While this is a great opportunity for those with a background in education, you need no experience other than patience and a willing heart to serve in order to make a big difference in the lives of children.

This literacy initiative is one of many “Pathways Out of Poverty” efforts by United Methodists in the state of Missouri.

To sign-up to volunteer, please complete the Volunteer Registration Form below.

To learn more about the Literacy Initiative, contact Literacy Initiative Coordinator, Nicki Reinhardt-Swierk.

Discipleship WIN Team

Photo of a group discussion with young adults in a semi-circle.

Last year, in conjunction with setting goals/priorities through 2021, we developed teams of members and staff. Called WIN (What’s Important Now) teams, they’ve been working diligently in helping our church move forward; click here to get an overview of their work.

I’ve asked the Discipleship WIN team to give us an update. We’re indebted to them and all the members for their commitment.

Pastor Greg

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We are the Discipleship WIN Team, comprised of Jeff Haupt, Tiffany Conway, Jim Clark, Mike Clement and Linda Lange. Our goal is to help grow the number of people connecting in Christian community and living more missionally with the desire to help 500+ people take a next step on their faith journeys here at Manchester UMC.

So, what does it mean to take a next step on one’s faith journey and how can we possibly measure such a spiritual thing, especially in such a big church? This was a challenging question and we ultimately decided that what we have the ability to “measure” are the number of people engaging in ministry opportunities for the first time. With this in mind, we developed a tracking program consisting of 16 ministries and small groups. Our criteria was simple – once someone attended one of these ministries for the first time they were counted towards our goal of taking a next step. We also decided to only count a person once – meaning that if the same person participated in two ministry opportunities for the first time they were only counted once for our tracking purposes.

640 People Take Next Steps! 

We began our tracking on September 1, 2018 and today we are excited to share with you an update on where are we eight months later. Drumroll please! We are delighted to report that more than 640 people have taken a next step at Manchester UMC! Of this group, 108 were new attendees for Meals & Ministries, 75 became new members, and 137 were new participants in the recent Lent small groups! The rest engaged in one of the 16 ministries we tracked as part of this initial pilot program.

We were curious to understand the age breakdown of those who took next steps over the past eight months. Here’s what we found:

Note that we do not have birthdates for 17% of those who took a first step. This is one of the reasons our church has recently introduced the Connect Cards to help us ensure we have accurate birthdates for those who consider Manchester UMC their church home. Having this data is critical to our efforts.

We were also curious to understand how long the people taking next steps have been at Manchester UMC.  Here’s what we found:

Faith Coaching Team Launches

So, what else has our team been up to? Well, in collaboration with the New Member Ministry, we have created a new team called Faith Coaches. Their role is to work with the new members on a one-to-one basis to help them get better connected with the various ministries Manchester UMC has to offer. This is an important aspect we felt our church was missing and we are proud to bring this experience to our new members! On a side note, if you have the gift of encouragement and would like to learn more about becoming a Faith Coach please email Tiffany Conway .

What’s Next for 2019? 

And finally, what are we working on for 2019? We hope to further enhance our tracking program to better understand and measure participation over time. We also hope to gain some of the important qualitative information to go along with the great quantitative data we already have. Additionally, we also see some version of our Faith Coach experience expanding beyond the new members classes and to the entire congregation. And speaking of the entire congregation, if you enjoyed the Lent small groups then stay tuned for an exciting new church-wide study coming this fall! These are just a few of the ideas we’re working on but rest assured, our Discipleship WIN team will continue to improve and find better ways for all of us to take next steps at Manchester UMC!

Thank you,
The Discipleship WIN Team

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Never Leave a Veteran Behind
Panel on Veterans’ Mental Health
Sunday, May 5, 3-4:30 p.m., Fellowship Hall
A panel of veterans, mental health service providers, and organizations will educate us about the toll military service can take, and what support can be offered. This important event is open to all, veterans as well as friends/families/neighbors of veterans. This is sponsored by our Social Justice Ministry.

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Sermon for Sunday (5th)
In this series we’re seeing how children can teach us a lot about life and faith. This Sunday, in traditional worship, we’ll see how children’s resilience and hope can be contagious, especially in challenging times. The text is Mark 7:24-30.