The metaphor I used with the Administrative Board in a recent meeting was a canoe trip. If you have ever navigated a canoe stream, the most exciting times are the white water, the rapids, the challenging part of the river. In between there are relaxing pools to let you catch your breath and relax a bit before the next rapids appear. But if you love canoeing, you don’t go for the relaxing pools. You go for the whitewater. That’s the fun part.

The first four months of 2018 were a whitewater period at the church. Coming directly through Advent and Christmas, we dove into the Encounter 2.0 and the Faith Forward Campaign. Then there was Lent and Easter--always a busy time! It was a hectic but exciting and productive time. In the midst of it all we have added 3 new staff members and welcomed over 40 new members into the church. Good times.

We have been cruising through a pool now for the month of May, catching our breath, and paying more attention to end-of-school functions and spring activities. On a canoe trip, you can sometimes hear (if not feel) the rapids just around the bend even before you can see them. We’re about to enter a new whitewater period.

Sometimes summer is laid back, and not much is going on at the church. Not this summer! We have Vacation Bible School and the Pastor’s Bible study in June. Pastor Sara will move, and we will get another new staff member. Then we will begin the renovation project on the Family Life Center June 18. Starting June 24, we will have the Connexion worship service in the youth Loft on the third floor. It will be cozy. But after 3 months or so, we will really enjoy the newly-refurbished and updated FLC.

During these times of change and transition, let me suggest you do four things:
1.  Be thrilled!  These are exciting changes and good directions for our church. We are moving “from strength to strength,” as Scripture says. God is blessing our journey; enjoy the ride!

2.  Be patient. There will be “discombobulations” while the FLC is torn up. Activities will meet in different places; it won’t be the same for a while. New staff have to learn and get up to speed. We all fumble the ball sometimes. Be gracious and forgiving in the chaos; the whitewater won’t last forever.

3.  Be present.  You don’t want to miss all the great stuff happening at the church in the next few months. Be present as much as you can all summer. Your support is invaluable. The summer sermon series on Psalms will bless your heart and strengthen your soul. We want to see you!

4.  Be testifying.  The best church advertising is word of mouth. Most new people in a church come because someone invites them. Be talking around town about the awesome church you attend. Let people know we are growing and doing and serving and having a great time. Oddly enough many new people like to enter a church when things are a little chaotic. It shows we’re active, and that we’re a work in progress--just like they are.
Exciting times are ahead for our wonderful church. Grab a paddle and hold on!
Rev. Bud Reeves
Senior Pastor
8:30 am - Roebuck Chapel - Rev. Bud Reeves
Offertory “Look at the World”
Caroline Beneux, Soloist
Nancy W. Vernon, Organist
11:00 am - Sanctuary - Rev. Bud Reeves
Offertory Anthem “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name”
Communion Anthem “Look at the World”
Caroline Beneux, Soloist
Chancel Choir
Gaye McClure, Chancel Choir Director
Nancy W. Vernon, Organist
11:00 am - Connexion FLC - Rev. Dane Womack
Do you know the name James Cone? Cone is a revered theologian and, of some interest to me, an Arkansan. He died on April 28. Cone was born in 1936 and raised in south Arkansas near Fordyce. His ancestors were slaves, and he knew well the reality and pain of the segregated South. He graduated from Arkansas’ own Philander Smith College in Little Rock and went on to earn advanced degrees from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Northwestern University. He was an ordained African Methodist Episcopal Reverend who spent most of his career as a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Cone is an landmark figure in American Christianity because he is the unofficial founder in what became known as “Black Liberation theology.” The question that Cone sought to answer was, what does Christianity have to offer African Americans who had experienced slavery and continue to be abused? The primary message from the White, western, church was that African Americans were welcome and even expected, but the church offered practically no resources for conceptualizing and redeeming the black experience in America. In this sense, Cone describes himself as a bridge “between Malcolm and Martin”, tying together Christian theology with the black revolution. As Cone put it, he was “black before he was Christian.” In this sense, he meant that black people had a unique experience in America that could not be understood by a white majority church.

Though Cone was frustrated with the America church, he did not give up on God. Cone saw in Jesus a first century minority who had been put to death on a cross, not so unlike the lynching of blacks across the South. Cone connected the life, ministry and most importantly the personhood of Jesus with the black experience in America. His work is revolutionary, including titles God of the Oppressed and The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

Cone helped to give voice to a Christianity that was important to black America. In no small way, Cone helped save the church from a black exodus. While the white church was floundering in racism and segregation, Cone reminded black people (and all of us) that Jesus was one of them, that God had lived and died like them. And while the church may fail, many times over in fact, God’s character is duly aligned with the oppressed, abused, enslaved, and downtrodden.

I have not said anything here you cannot read in countless obituaries and essays online honoring this man and his work. I believe Cone is a great son of Arkansas and should be remembered and celebrated as much. I invite you read more about him and get to know his work.

I am thinking of Cone this week as I write in preparation for Pentecost. In fact, if you heard my sermon on Pentecost Sunday I shared about Cone then. Pentecost is a reminder of the unpredictable work of God’s Spirit. Perhaps unpredictable is not the right word. Perhaps the ministry of God’s Spirit is entirely predictable. In Pentecost we learn again that God seeks *and* empowers those at the boundaries. Young and old, male and female, black or white - the Church and God’s ministry is for everyone. And in fact, the Spirit will continue to call and enfold everyone, sometimes in spite of the church! If you sometimes feel discouraged about the church, remember that African American Christianity not only survived but thrived. This fact alone is astounding. Whatever trials and tribulations the church may find or even create, the Spirit of God will continue in its work to including and empower all people. Thank God for James Cone and God’s unlikely prophets.
Rev. Dane Womack
Executive Associate Pastor
Sunday, June 10, 3:00 - 5:00 - Saint Paul UMC in Fort Smith  Register online at
The Center for Vitality  invites   you to participate in a gathering of disciples from local churches for a two-hour coffee, dessert, and discussion designed specifically for laity . Saint Paul UMC in Fort Smith will be hosting us from 3:00 to 5:00 on Sunday, June 10th and we hope you will join in the conversation!
Farewell Fort Smith and First UMC-- Thank You, Love You, See You Again
As my time here comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on these last three years. It has been a great joy to serve as your pastor. To paraphrase Paul, I am so thankful everytime I think of you (Philippians 1:3). My heart bursts with gratitude for the people of First United Methodist Church and the Fort Smith community. This church and community will always have a special place in my life. This was my first post-seminary appointment; this was the church that supported and celebrated me during the ordination process; you are the people who shaped the rest of my vocational life.

In these three years with you all, I have had a deep dive into your ministry and mission and the community. So many memories: Guatemala trips, WNL Classes, PackShack Parties, Antioch Garden Planting, Last Sunday Breakfasts, four fruitful school partnerships, starting a Young Adult Sunday School Class, visits in the hospitals and nursing homes, sacred moments at funerals and weddings, 175th Anniversary Celebration, ( and so MANY more which if I list will take up the *entire* month’s newsletter! ) come to my mind as I reflect. You all have taught me so much about the gift of ministry and the work of the church. I have nothing but deep appreciation and love for you all. You’ve made me a better pastor, a better person, and a better disciple of Christ. In the Lord, I’ll be ever thankful. I am grateful for you, First United Methodist Church of Fort Smith. You are all beautiful and blessed disciples making an impact in the name of Christ.

One of the gifts that this church has taught me is how to serve not only the church’s congregation, but the community as well. In teaching me this skill, I acquired a vital skill for the fruitful future of the church. Thank you for teaching me how to serve into the 21st Century. I would be remiss not to thank the Fort Smith Community as well. So many memories ( and so little space! ) flood my mind: praying at naturalization ceremonies, serving on the boards of the Crisis Intervention Center and Sack Lunch Program, doing ministry with Antioch, NOBs, our local schools, Community Rescue Mission, Next Step Day Room, Hope Campus, foster care network, and beyond. I also give thanks to the great organizations I’ve been shaped by through my membership while I’ve lived in Fort Smith: Zonta, Network of Executive Women, PEO, 16B, and Sexual Assault Response Advocates at CIC.

A great saint of First United Methodist once said, “life is worth living in Fort Smith.” You all have made my life and my ministry worthwhile and fulfilling in these last 3 years. I leave with nothing but love and thankfulness for First UMC and the Fort Smith community.

Thank You, I Love You, and I am going to miss you all. I’ll forever be indebted to the congregation at First United Methodist Church and the Fort Smith community. While this may feel like a goodbye, it is only goodbye for now. One of the joys of the connectional church is that I will get to hear, see, and experience your ministry as all United Methodist Churches are connected in the state. Yes, I’ll get to hear great stories of the impact you’ll continue to make, and I look forward with so much eager anticipation being invited back to celebrate FSFUMC’s 200th Birthday Party (ps-- please remember I left the master document from the 175th with ways to improve from my mistakes) -- it’s already on my calendar for 2042!

Not only will I get to continue to be in relationship with you all as a connectional church, but our ties in the kingdom of God mean that goodbye is never final, we will be the church in this life and in the life to come, that nothing, not even appointment changes, can separate us from the great love of God in Christ our Lord. I look forward to seeing from afar how the Spirit is at work with you all and in Fort Smith and joining in that work of the kingdom, which has no end.
Rev. Sara Bayles
Associate Pastor
We were pleased to announce on May 13 that we had completed the active phase of the Faith Forward Campaign. Our top goal was $2,250,000, and we exceeded that goal by almost $150,000. The total in commitments was $2,397,134 from 270 of our families. This is a tremendous response! Thanks to all who made commitments (and if you didn’t, you still can) and to all who gave time and energy to the campaign. It really produced some spiritual fruit in the church as well--more unity, more enthusiasm, and more connection with our members.

The First Fruits offering, which kicked off the payout phase of the campaign (until May of 2021), was equally impressive. So far, we have actually raised $617,034 or 26% of the total for the campaign. This is a great start.

The Faith Forward Campaign will pay for the update of the Family Life Center, and all money raised above the FLC project will fund the unrestricted endowment in the FUMC Foundation, providing funds for ministry in perpetuity. Renovation work will begin June 18.

Thanks be to God, and thanks be to our generous givers in the congregation! 
Trevor Hardcastle, who has been our part-time worship leader in the Connexion for the last three years, was recommended by the Staff-Parish Relations Committee to  begin full-time duties as Worship Leader/Media Specialist June 3. Trevor’s additional responsibilities will include a greater concentration on Connexion worship, managing media equipment and production for all worship services and activities at the church, expanding our video and internet ministry, and assisting with children and youth musical activities. Say welcome to an already familiar face!
Diane Wing has been on staff for 2 years and 4 months as the Marketing & Communications Director. She does most of the print media such as; bulletins and newsletters. She also updates the church web site and posts on social media and provides administrative support to the senior pastor.
Diane was born in Detroit, Michigan but did not live there long. As a child, her family moved often. She lived in Copperas Cove, Texas the longest. After graduating high school, she moved to Fort Smith and that’s when she met her husband, Dennis. This month they are celebrating 33 years of marriage. They have one daughter and 2 grandsons.
Diane has worked in church administration for over 20 years and loves the church and its ministries. She describes FSFUMC as welcoming, compassionate and a loving church family.

Diane Wing
Sweet Summertime!

Summertime is here, folks! Isn’t it sweet? Sure, it’s a bit warm and maybe a tad humid, but for most of our youth students, summer just feels like freedom. Whom the sun sets free is free indeed! (Just bear with me while I work on my Bible jokes)

Speaking of jokes, there’s a joke amongst youth pastors that there’s never a blank spot on the calendar during summer. Though that’s a bit of an exaggeration, (I’ve got a vacation to Austin, TX planned) we really do have a lot going on at FIRST YOUTH! The great thing is that everything we’ve got planned isn’t just busyness. It’s so much more than that. Throughout the summer, our students will be doing what we were created for-good works in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10).

I’ll be reporting more about our happenings as the summer goes on, but for now, here’s a look at what we’ll be up to at FIRST YOUTH this summer!
  • Service Over Self in Memphis, TN // June 3-9
  • Vacation Bible School // June 11-15
  • Jam Circle // Tuesday afternoons in the Loft
  • Ozark Mission Project in Fayetteville, AR // July 10-14
  • Assembly in Conway, AR // July 23-27

Thank you for your prayers! Let’s all do our part to bring God’s Kingdom here this summer!
Faldon Family
Scott, Jennifer, and Paige Faldon transferred to FSFUMC March 25, 2018 from another UMC in the Connexion.
O'Neal Family
Jerry & Pat O’Neal transferred to FSFUMC from another UMC on May 6, 2018 in the Sanctuary.
Falck Family
Baptism on May 20 of Jack Thomas Falck, the son of Cameron and Amy (Ashwood) Falck, grandson of Nancy and the late Tom Ashwood and Randy and Penny Falck. (Also pictured is Rev. Dr. Bud Reeves.)
Bell Family
Baptism on May 20 of Maren Jean Bell, daughter of Joshua and Logan (Hocott) Bell, granddaughter of Blake and Debbie Hocott and Mike and Toni Bell and great grandparent Cara Allred.
Recent Gifts in Memory of:
Harry Shipley by Robert & Judy Dawson, Connie Smith, Douglas & Patricia Rogers, III, David Olive, Susie Arnold & Bruce Strom, Manolita Pasquil, George & Glenda Deese, Neal & Gina Pendergraft, Colby & Courtney Beland, Garnet & John Watts, Sid & Kay Davis, Lynette & Walter Woodie, Byran & Marilyn Feather, Blake & Melissa Little, Cole Goodman, Kimberly & Phil White, Ms. Helen Hawkins, William S. Walker & Jane Klein, Phyllis Dorn & Bill Dale, Loretta Parker, Bob & Janice Powell, Michael & Susan McFerran, Patti & James Kimbrough, Dana & David Craig, Jan & Rick Beauchamp, Beall Barclay & Company, PLC, Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, P.C., Jane C. Williams, Tom & Susan Webb, John & Harriet Beasley, Mr. & Mrs. Donald Downing, Richard R. Aclin, M.D., Steve & Anne Avera, Jay F. Jones, Inc., Curtis Sawyer, J. Sam Wood, Jr., James & Jane Walcott, Helen Couvillion, John & Juliette MacKenzie, Helen Lanier, Nancy Wenderoth, Madaline & Allen Baker, Norma Wilkinson & Sherri Karber, Warren & Cynthia Giss, Randy & Jill Cutting, Marlin Fretheim, Ted & Virginia Taylor, Elizabeth Haupert, Hugh & Kate Maurras, Brad & Ann Brookshire, David & Deborah Butler, Harry & Nancy Robinson, Ann & Mont Echols, Brooks & Marilyn Rice, Susanna Sullivan, Lavonne & Jim Hayes, Richard & Karin Hahn, Morgan & Margaret Bryant, David & Sheila Humphrey, Mark & Lori Anderson, L.L. Harden/M.D. Willis, Carl Corley, Janie Goins, Phil & Linda Richmond, Jane Atwood & Susan McFerran, Nancy & Ewell Lee, Dr. Richard & Jane Hinkle, Kyle & Renee Parker, C. Carl & Brenda Davis
Jennifer Jesson Karber by Nancy & Ewell Lee
Ernest Bartlett by Michael Willis
Jay R. Hightower by David & Pat Hightower
Recent Gifts in Honor of:
Clay & Lynn Gilland by Rebecca D. Phillips, Anthony & Lynette Leraris
Gail Oakes, Debbie Hicks, Dr. & Mrs. Vernon by D.E. & Jo Ann Beistline, Jr.
Sunday, June 3
Youth attending SOS all week
8:30 am Classic Worship, Roebuck Chapel
8:45 am Holy Grounds, Narthex
8:45 am VBS T-shirt sales, Narthex
9:45 am Sunday School
11:00 am Classic Worship, Sanctuary
11:00 am Contemporary Worship, Family Life Center
Monday, June 4
12:00-1:30 pm Office closed
2:00 pm Staff Meeting, Conference Room
6:00 pm Cub Scouts, 3rd Floor
6:30 pm Boy Scouts, 3rd Floor
Tuesday, June 5
10:00 am VBS Workers, Children’s Area
Wednesday, June 6
10:00 am Prayer Group, Prayer Room, 2nd Floor
3:30 pm Children’s Choir
5:30 pm Holy Communion, Roebuck Chapel
7:00 pm Chancel Choir Rehearsal
Thursday, June 7
10:00 am Knitters & Knotters, Narthex
12:00 pm UMM Bible Study/Lunch, Fireside Room
Friday, June 8
6:30 am UMM Bible Study Breakfast, Fireside Room
FIRST UNITED METHODIST NEWS published weekly except the last week of the year by First United Methodist Church 200 North 15th Street, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72901.