The path to reopening, updated may 11
Next Sunday, May 23, we will reopen the sanctuary for in-person worship! It has been 15 months since the congregation gathered in the sanctuary. In the meantime we have worshiped, studied, managed and met online.
On Sunday we will begin worship at 9:30 am both in-person and online. For people attending in person, the doors open at 9am. For those attending from home, the online service will be live streamed at 9:30.
9:30-10:30 Sunday morning worship - note that this is a shift of 30 minutes for both in-person and online beginning May 23. This will give time for pre-worship check-in, volunteer preparations and music rehearsals. Sign up here by May 20, to attend worship on May 23.
We will need some volunteer help to have a successful reopening! Please sign up by calling 608.256.9061, or emailing info
Blessings to us all in this emergence and new promise for our congregation, its worship, education, fellowship and mission!
-Mark Fowler, Lead Pastor

updates on the changes to the general conference - March 24, 2021
Rev. Mark Fowler’s brief update is based on the announcement that can be found at THIS LINK. News from March 22, on the cancelation of the planned May 8 conference can be found HERE.
The complications of the pandemic in gathering delegates from across the globe has caused the postponement of the 2020 General Conference until August 29-September 6, 2022 in Minneapolis.
The denomination heads toward schism that has been mainly focused on the inclusion, marriage and ordination of LGBTQIA+ persons. First Church has been abundantly clear that we are steadfast in our position that the faithful stance is toward inclusion, and we proclaim boldly, “In this house all still means all!”
A Special Session of the General Conference in 2019 was called to vote on the question of inclusion. It failed to change the exclusive language in our Book of Discipline. From that moment, First Church voted to escrow the apportionments that support the general church as our protest. This action will be re-considered at the time when the general church is no longer abusive of the inclusion of all of the children of God.
In the wake of the 2019 General Conference, several options for moving forward have been proposed. The sense of them is captured in the title of a widely supported Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. It seems fairly clear that the 2022 General Conference will end in a mechanism for dividing The United Methodist Church. There are already plans for a church that is exclusive and conservative called The Global Methodist Church. The more moderate and progressive wings of The United Methodist Church would remain, although there are movements for a progressive denomination to emerge as well. The pandemic has postponed a great deal of debate as the world was dealing with Covid, but with the postponement of the General Conference and the clear intentions of the Global Methodist Church it seems that debate will re-energize.
A final issue for this post is in the area of episcopal leadership. Bishops are set to retire. The episcopal fund from which their salaries and other supports are drawn is set to run dry if we maintain the current level of bishops. This financial and personnel issue must be resolved before the 2022 General Conference. There is a suggestion that no new episcopal election be considered. It is a thorny proposal. That would leave a dramatic shortage of leadership in some jurisdictions. Solutions are under consideration.
I simply wanted to send an update to you all. Our Task Force will begin to work anew after Easter on the matters before us. I will write about each of these matters in turn over the next weeks and months.
We have an important mission upon which we are embarked as a congregation. We have made our position clear on the matters before us. We must take the denominational issues seriously, but they should not derail us from what God has called us to do in the fulfillment of our ministry.
-Mark Fowler

update march 3, 2021

From Rev. Dr. Mark Fowler, Lead Pastor:

According to the most recent Order (14) Dane County is allowing a big step to re-opening as we emerge from the pandemic that has plagued us for a year.
The permissive order is a dramatic change from some of the most conservative (and in my opinion necessary) guidelines for gathering in Wisconsin. What does this mean for us as a congregation?
We were already beginning to lay plans for a stepped approach to re-opening that would target September as a time to be “fully open.” We are assessing what a fully open church would look like in terms of worship, programming, mission outreach and being a center for community gathering. There are many details and systems that would need to be put into place.
There are four major considerations that will guide us:
1.    Safety first! Use of masks, physical distancing, hand washing and other measures will continue to be utilized and communicated as we re-open. Adequate air exchange in the building, room use and volunteer guided “traffic patterns” of movement in the building are important aspects of our re-opening. This may take some time to get used to but will be essential for our work together. The @First newsletter and our website will be our chief forms of communication.
2.    A hybrid model of worship, meeting and education. We have built a new way of being over the last year. We have committed ourselves to high quality on-line worship, devotions and daily readings along with ZOOM classes and gatherings as well as committee and Council meetings. As we re-open we will need to assess a healthy blend of these with in-person gatherings.
3.    A stepped approach. This will not be like turning on a light switch and everything will look like February 2020. We will begin with smaller gatherings indoors and larger gatherings outdoors. Further descriptions of these will follow in future @First newsletters. They will be focused on particular groups at first and then opened more broadly as the weeks and months unfold. We are hoping to have a brief outdoor gathering as soon as Palm Sunday (hope for good weather) and Easter sunrise. A wider, but limited indoor attendance is being developed for Pentecost for our confirmation service. The summer will see more groups and experiences both inside and outside. We are also looking at various approaches to in person worship and fellowship. The hope is that if everything comes together, we will be “fully” open with a hybrid (on-line and in-person) approach to the way in which we “do church” by September’s Homecoming Sunday.
4.    Sensitivity to the disparity in vaccine distribution and tolerance for venturing into spaces that are not in isolation. We have been through a great deal in the last year. We are currently experiencing a disparity between those fully vaccinated and others who will need to wait two or three months or longer. We also need to take into consideration that there is still no firm projection for the vaccine distribution among children and youth. This is an anxious time for the families among us and their care/inclusion must be “top of mind.” Some are ready to gather in larger groups, while others do not have that tolerance and are more cautious. Even if you have had both doses of vaccine, it is okay if you don't want to return now and we want you to know that, "we will still be here for you," whenever you feel comfortable returning. We are a community that seeks to be inclusive and caring for each other. These considerations will also guide our path as we move toward re-opening.
We yearn to be with each other in community. We are blessed by those who join us from a distance. We will emerge from this pandemic together with grace and hope.
UPDATE April 3, 2020

Emergency Food Assistance Program Announced

Effective Monday, April 5, 2020; First United Methodist Church Food Pantry will adjust criteria for Emergency Food delivery.

Individuals and families in need of Emergency Food must meet
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) income guidelines.

Criteria for delivery of an emergency food package:

Must meet low income guidelines set forth by The Emergency Food Assistance Program, AND be at high risk of contracting COVID-19:

  • Individual is ill; OR
  • Member of household is ill; OR
  • Individual has an underlying health condition; auto immune disorder, diabetes, heart condition, etc.; OR
  • Older adults 60+ and unable to access food pantry and meal programs.

Requests may be made by calling 608-251-4407. Call backs may take up to 2-3 days, and deliveries are anticipated to be scheduled within one week.

Please contact Dane County United Way 2-1-1 to learn about how you may access community food pantries and community meal programs.

Thank you to all who are serving in community carrying out essential services while practicing safe guidelines set forth by our local Public Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

UPDATE March 30, 2020
Food Pantry Announcement

On Monday, March 30, 2020 First United Methodist Church Food Pantry begins NEW operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individuals and families in need of an Emergency Food Package who meet The Emergency Food Assistance Program income guidelines AND live in Madison may call our Food Pantry at 608-251-4407 to request home delivery. Deliveries outside the City of Madison within Dane County will be considered for those suffering illness/medical conditions.

Deliveries will be scheduled based on our supply of Emergency Food Packages and volunteer availability to deliver. Food Pantry clients who receive an Emergency Food Package may request subsequent deliveries, and will be placed on a waiting list until all are served. Delivery dates and times are subject to change based on availability. We are engaging high level safety protocols. Anyone interested in contributing packaged toilet paper, paper towels, laundry soap, or pet food please email Karen Andro or call 608-338-0320.

Thank you to all who are serving in community carrying out essential services while practicing safe guidelines set forth by our local Public Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Karen Andro, Director of Hope's Home Ministries • 608-338-0320

UPDATE March 27, 2020

Easter Community Breakfast - Cancelled

>>Go to our Calendar for other program cancellations.

UPDATE March 18, 2020

A Faithful Response to the Community in a time of Pandemic

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the advice of the Centers for Disease Control all face-to-face worship services, programs and gatherings at First United Methodist Church are suspended for the next eight weeks.

We are also closing the building and limiting access to essential personnel and services.

These are unprecedented times. We are seeking to respond in a faithful and responsible manner. The typical structures and ways of being that normally guide us to gather in worship, prayer and fellowship as a faith community are not available to us in the face of this unfolding emergency. We must suppress the urge to volunteer in great numbers to help those in need. We are seeking to limit exposure and fulfill our ministry and mission with the healthiest response.

Here is what we are doing. We urge you to stay connected to each other and to experience the spiritual gathering of the church. Here is how:

  1. We will reach out constantly through e-mail, the website, Facebook and live-stream presentations. We encourage you to experience ZOOM meetings and gatherings. If these are new technologies, please attempt to learn them. We will try to provide links through e-mail and the website so that you can access these other media.
  2. We urge you to connect with each other so that the practice of social distancing does not become isolating. Call. E-mail. Check on one another. Pray for one another. Focus on the day and its blessings.
  3. We will provide programming through the website on a frequent basis. There will be video programs for the children often. The Quadrilateral Quartet will join Ross with musical offerings during the week. The pastors will guide us through a variety of presentations and spiritual encouragement. On Sundays we will have one live-stream worship service at 9 am. Please join in these. The schedule will be posted on the website and e-mailed.

Please connect with us. E-mail is best. The e-mail addresses are listed on the staff page of the website. Responses may not be immediate due to seriously altered working patterns and on-going challenges to build a totally new church structure, but we will respond. We miss you. We are earnestly seeking to be the church in this new and challenging time. 

In a newsletter earlier this week, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, said, “There are no clear or easy answers. We do not know how long we must take exceptional precautions. We do not know when the dangers will pass. What we do know is that we have God, we have each other, and we have a faith that will keep us strong through even the greatest challenges.”

Amen, and amen,


Watch a message from Mark

UPDATE March 17, 2020

We Remain Connected

Until further notice, all physical face-to-face gatherings at First Church have been cancelled in response to COVID-19 concerns, but we WILL stay connected! 

We will rely on the available technology to stay connected.

Please check regularly for updates, for live streamed worship on Sundays at 9:00 a.m., to make financial contributions, and for daily contributions to our continued spiritual formation.

Daily Posts To Connect Us

First Church will post daily entries on our website during this time of separation. Posts will be designed to appeal to the varied ages, interests, and spiritual needs of our diverse community.

They will include:

  • Blogs by the Pastor
  • Musical contributions to send our spirits soaring
  • Prayers and suggested spiritual practices
  • Bible Stories With Buddies for the youngest among us
  • Updates from our ongoing Hope's Home Ministries, and more.
  • Zoom groups, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, and other tools will also be used to help us stay connected. 

See today's "Staying connected" posts

Need to speak to someone?

Appointments with one of the pastors or other staff may be scheduled as needed by calling the church office at 608-256-9061 or contacting staff individually via email. Staff will be in the church building throughout the week on a rotating schedule and working remotely when not in the building. Don't hesitate to email or call as all staff are still available during regular working hours.

This is a time to remember that the building is not the church. We, Christ's people, are the church and we will continue to be the church in some creative, new ways during this time of physical separation. Our love for God and neighbor will keep us close in the Spirit and 21st century technologies will help us stay close to the daily practices of our faith journeys.

UPDATE March 15, 2020

Food Pantry Closed Temporarily

Due to Coronavirus concerns, we have closed the onsite food pantry and are  planning to re-open a mobile Food Pantry soon. 

Call Food Pantry 608-251-4407 for updates.

If you can help with our new Mobile Pantry, please email Karen Andro or call 608-338-0320.

Please contact the United Way of Dane County at 2-1-1 to receive information about needed resources.

Hopes Home Ministries Cancelled

The following Hope's Home Ministries have been cancelled until further notice.

Wednesday @Hope's Home
  • Community Breakfast
  • Connections to Care (Community Partner On-site Outreach)
  • Come As You Are Worship

Questions? Please email Karen Andro or call 608-338-0320.

Please contact Dane County United Way for help with needed resources at 2-1-1 

UPDATE March 13, 2020

Activities Cancelled Sunday, March 15 Due to Coronavirus Concerns 

In light of the state of emergency declared by the governor, the suspension of face-to-face classes at UW, and out of an abundance of care and caution, our worship services and all other activities at First Church have been cancelled for Sunday, March 15. 

In the absence of face-to-face gatherings, please tune in to our online live streaming at 9:00 am on Sunday morning or any time after.

This Sunday we'll live stream a gathering of First Church clergy joined by Fr. Jonathan Grieser of Grace Episcopal Church which has also cancelled face-to-face gatherings.

Together, keeping recommended healthy social distance, the clergy group will share prayers, the Gospel text for the morning, reflections on the text, and reminders that the Good News is ours even in the midst of unusual and uncertain times. Watch the website for updates about future plans.  

UPDATE March 12, 2020
Click to read First Church announcement about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and church events.

Watch here for additional special announcement information such as:

  • Weather related cancellations
  • Program schedule changes
  • Special parking changes/situations