Saint Marc Picard of Calvary Haitian Church in Lansing, Mich., participates in worship at CUE East. (Photo by Gary Goodsell)
When a few Free Methodists gathered in Winona Lake, Indiana, 40 years ago for the first Continental Urban Exchange (CUE), their focus on urban ministry differed from the prevailing wisdom of the era.
“At that time, the whole emphasis of the church was to get out of the city, move to the suburbs,” said longtime CUE participant Orin Scandrett, who attended the inaugural 1974 gathering and most recently attended this year’s CUE East held March 26–28 at Central Free Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan. “[CUE] totally changed my value system, what church was, what ministry was.”
Scandrett said the first CUE primarily was a prayer retreat for young pastors serving in urban ministry. Interest grew, and subsequent CUE gatherings have taken the form of a conference drawing both pastors and lay leaders from urban areas in the United States and Canada.
CUE East’s theme, “Not My Problem,” focused on helping Christians realize they should be involved in urban ministry. Speakers included Bishop Matthew Thomas; former Southern Michigan Conference Superintendent Thomas Ramundo; Joan Jackson Johnson, director of the Lansing Human Relations and Community Services Department; Brad Button, missions mobilizer for Free Methodist World Missions; David Yardy, South Asia cross-cultural consultant for FMWM; William Mulwee, senior pastor of Detroit (Michigan) FMC; Amy Casteel, pastor of Cedarway FMC in Lansing; Patrick McNeal, lead pastor of Living Grace Community Fellowship in Flint, Michigan, and executive director of My Brother’s Keeper of Genesee County; Bruce Cromwell, lead pastor of Central FMC; B. Elliott Renfroe, Peoria (Illinois) First FMC senior pastor and Free Methodist Urban Fellowship president; and Maiya Lueptow, associate pastor of Hillside FMC in Evanston, Illinois.
Bishop Matthew Thomas speaks March 26 at the opening worship service of CUE East. (Photo by Gary Goodsell)
Bishop Thomas reminded CUE participants of biblical examples, such as Paul and Gideon, whom God called to serve in unexpected places or capacities that did not seem like good matches for their gifts.
“The biggest things He does for people is in their area of least gifting,” Thomas said.
Ramundo encouraged pastors not to quit in the midst of difficult circumstances.
“Whatever you’re doing or being or pursuing because God led you into it, don’t get discouraged and give in, give up or give out,” he said.
Jackson-Johnson noted the Lord hears the cry of the poor, and she called for active assistance to the poor.
“We have to commit to treating our brothers and sisters as just that: This is my brother. This is my sister,” she said.
Button and Yardy spoke about “Missions Global and Local,” and explained why Free Methodist World Missions participated in CUE.
“We are seeking to orient ourselves to be a more effective resource to the local church,” Button said, “not only in terms of engaging in missions around the world but also in terms of empowering churches to reach the different people groups within their local ministry context.”
Yardy shared stories of cooperation across the global church. Free Methodists from other nations are now traveling to the United States to reach immigrants from their ethnic groups who have moved here.
“We need to see the doors that God only opens, and we need to have the courage to walk to the other side,” he said.
Mulwee reflected on the conference theme in relation to God’s calling on our lives.
“For the ones who would say ‘urban ministry — not my problem,’ I would ask the question, ‘Yeah, but is it your calling?” Mulwee said.
Casteel noted that refugees are moving to other parts of the world, and most of the world’s people reside in cities.
“What does intercultural ministry have to do with cities? Everything,” she said.
McNeal cited Matthew 5:15–16 and encouraged CUE participants to be authentic and let their lights shine.
“Unless we begin to devote a portion of our lives to the betterment of others, we will miss the opportunity of showing, sharing and succeeding in being demonstrative concerning the love of God,” he said.
Cromwell spoke on a topic that has prompted much discussion among some parts of the church — ministry to people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT).
“It’s painful, and it’s a hard process, but I thank God that these good men and women are honestly wrestling with how do we best show the love of Christ to the LGBT community,” he said.
Renfroe delivered his “State of the Network” address and discussed how conflicting values can hinder ministry.
“The problem in the church today is this — that we’ve lost the fact that we are a team,” Renfroe said.
Lueptow shared that Hillside members asked themselves, “If Hillside Church ceased to exist, would anyone in the neighborhood or the community notice or care?”
After asking that question, the church formed the Hillside Food Pantry, which serves an average of 250 families on each day the pantry is open.
Central FMC teens lead worship at CUE. (Photo by Gary Goodsell)
Worship and Opportunities
CUE East also highlighted the diversity of Lansing’s Free Methodists as CUE participants joined with local worship leaders singing in Nepali, French, Haitian Creole and English.
Along with learning about FM ministry in Lansing, CUE participants had the opportunity to tour FM ministries in Michigan. During the afternoon of March 28, many CUE participants toured My Brother’s Keeper of Genesee County and Living Grace Community Fellowship in Flint while others visited Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor.
This year, the Free Methodist Urban Fellowship will offer a second exchange. CUE West is scheduled to be held Oct. 8–10 at First Free Methodist Church in Seattle, Washington. Additional details are pending.
Butterfield Memorial Foundation President Evan Collins and the foundation’s board of directors recently announced the appointment of Eric Baird to the position of president, effective May 9. Baird currently manages the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airman Testing Standards Branch. Go to fmchr.ch/bairdbmf for more information about Baird and the foundation.
Whitehouse FMC and Fairchance FMC held a joint baptism service March 16. Nearly 150 people came to support and celebrate the 17 people baptized by Pastors Ken Rockwell and Clayton VanVerth. The newly baptized people included children, couples, families and new converts.
Brothers McClurg — a music group featuring worship leaders from several Free Methodist congregations — recently shot a video for the song “Join in the Sound.” Go to fmchr.ch/joinsound to watch the video. Go to fmchr.ch/brosmcclurg for LLM’s past coverage of the group. Email Booking@brothersmcclurg.com to book the group for a summer night of worship, a conference or a weekend service.
Several couples at Edgewood FMC participated Feb. 23 in a marriage vow renewal that concluded a sermon series on “Loving God’s Way.” The couples include (pictured left to right) Pastor Jim and Cheryl Williams, Jason and Shannon Brown, Brett and Julie Bolin, Neil and Robyn Jaffe, Barry and Lois Paul, Chris and Christie Smith, and Alan and Carrie Tinsley.0