Fort Scott's First UMC was a founded in 1868 and has gathered at the corner of 3rd and National since 1906. We are a community of imperfect people seeking holiness together. For the last decade or so, we have expressed that with the following statement:
The mission of First UMC Fort Scott is:
“to share the good news of the life, death and resurrection
of Jesus Christ and to exemplify the love of God by
knowing Christ, growing in Christ, serving Christ and sharing Christ”
Let's unpack that a bit: In Ephesians 3, the apostle Paul writes: "I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
Knowing Christ is more than an intellectual assent, it's a transformed heart, a soul filled with the power and fullness of Christ. John Wesley, an Anglican priest and the founder of Methodism, struggled with his faith, until one day his "heart was strangely warmed" at a Moravian prayer meeting. Wesley suddenly understood God's love and grace, revealed through Christ, in a new, more complete way.
Serving and Sharing
Our journey of faith is not for ourselves alone - as we experience God's grace, we are equipped to, and begin actively seeking to, serve and share. We seek to follow Christ by comforting the afflicted and challenging injustice. We seek to honor Christ by sharing our time, talent and treasure and to obey the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) by sharing the good news with all people.
As United Methodists, we believe that:"the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason.” (The United Methodist Book of Discipline, 2016 ¶105,)
SCRIPTURE - For United Methodists, the Bible is the primary source and standard for theological inquiry. Inspired (God breathed, 2 Timothy 3:16), but written by humans across centuries, trying to explain and convey their experience of God... the great I AM... a mystery revealed. (Exodus 3:14-15) Through reading and searching both the Old and New Testaments, we encounter a God who is transcendent, beyond time and space, yet who is immanent, present, seeking relationship with his creation. Taken seriously, but not always necessarily literally… we recognize the Bible is neither a science nor history book, but is our primary source for learning about the life and teachings of Jesus, the eternal Christ, the Word made flesh; and about why we humans needed Christ's sacrificial love to be redeemed and made whole.
TRADITION - We take seriously the commentaries, creeds, hymns, worship, prayers, art, and actions of those who have gone before us in various times, places, and cultures. That long tradition informs us of who we are as the people of God and how God calls us to live in our time, place and culture. We do not read the Bible and perform our theological task in a vacuum, but as part of the Church through the ages and around the world. Traditions bear witness to the growth of the faith and faith practices. It's what we do and how we do it, recognizing none of our practices are final or complete.
EXPERIENCE - Each of us has our own unique experience with the triune God. We recognize that we bring our whole selves to our faith, including corporate and personal experiences that have shaped us. We experience in community and form patterns. It’s not that individual, subjective experience overrides Scripture or Tradition, but it informs and energizes - functioning to confirm and bear witness to the working of God in our lives to save us from the power of sin and make us holy.
Through God’s gift of REASON the individual Christian brings discerning and cogent thought to bear on the Christian faith. Acknowledging divine mystery is beyond our full understanding, matters of faith and how we live it out should generally make sense. United Methodists are not expected to “check their brains at the door” but to use this gift as we read the Bible, engage in community, share the Gospel, ask questions and seek God.
4 Tools Working Together
These four tools work in conjunction, with Scripture always being of primary importance. The Book of Discipline summarizes it, “In theological reflection, the resources of tradition, experience, and reason are integral to our study of Scripture without displacing Scripture’s primacy for faith and practice. These four sources—each making distinctive contributions, yet all finally working together—guide our quest as United Methodists for a vital and appropriate Christian witness.” (¶105.4).
The United Methodist Church is somewhat unique in that it was not founded around a particular creed or statement of belief, but on an ethic of participation; of making the faith our own and living it out. Nonetheless, the historic creeds are of importance to United Methodists, not as a litmus test but as a guide.
The NICENE CREED:
An ancient statement of basic Christian belief.
WE BELIEVE in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
WE BELIEVE in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
WE BELIEVE in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. AMEN.
In accordance with the creeds of the early church, United Methodists affirm the doctrine of the Trinity: Not a formula or hierarchy but a single eternal, mutual, reciprocal Love, (1 John 4:7) whom we experience in distinct ways: as God; as Jesus, the Christ; and as Holy Spirit - yet One. God as essentially relational.
Encountering God as Trinity embraces mystery and relationship. It reminds us our understanding is not complete, for we are finite and God is infinite. Ignatius of Loyola provides a helpful image, seeing the Holy Trinity in the form of three musical keys, producing a single harmony.
But that wasn't the end of his journey, it was really just the beginning - he spent the rest of his life seeking to grow, serve and share because of his experience of God's grace. Wesley's journey sparked a movement. We at First UMC seek to help each other along a similar journey of growing faith.
So, a Wesleyan approach to Christian faith is not about having all the answers, but engaging in living out what we believe and sharing what we've been given, together, with other United Methodists, with other Christians, and with those who walk different paths. Wherever you find ecumenical and interfaith work, you'll find United Methodists, seeking common ground and common service. One of Wesley's most famous quotes is “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.” Like us, Wesley held many strong opinions and often did not hesitate to debate - but his, and our, overriding ethic is to serve together. To "Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay in Love with God" as one summary of Wesleys general rules for his movement summarizes. Our emphasis is on intentionally drawing nearer God's grace through study and practice, and inviting others to recognize God's presence in their lives through our words and deeds: Knowing, Growing in, Serving and Sharing Christ.
Sacraments: in common with Anglicans, Episcopalians and most Protestant denominations, United Methodists hold two sacraments to have been instituted by Christ:
Baptism—of infants and previously unbaptized adults. Because baptism is primarily about God's promises, and because God keeps his promises, we do not re-baptize, but we do hold remembrances, celebrating the ongoing work of grace in our lives that the living water of baptism makes visible.
Communion—open table, a means of grace. The body and blood of Christ, given for us. At First UMC, we generally share Holy Communion on the first Sunday of each month as well as other times throughout the year. All are invited to Christ's table.
At First UMC Fort Scott, we welcome your questions, your doubts, and your differences.
We invite you to consider: where are you at on your faith journey?
What questions do you have? When do you feel closest to God?
What names and metaphors do you use for God?
And we invite you to share these answers with us, as we journey in faith together!
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"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14)