A Message from Pastor Craig

Shade is what I look for in a walk. So walking the beach for any distance is fun, but it requires a lot of work and exposure to the sun.  So I like parks with lots of trees or neighborhoods with lots of tree cover. Finding 5 miles of that though, can be elusive.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

The other day the sun was setting and I decided to walk to the ocean. Now, Palmetto Park Road qualifies neither as a park (although there is one you walk by) nor a neighborhood street lined with trees. It’s busy and noisy, and not the most scenic although pretty churches line the section I walk.

But it’s the way to get to the ocean. I like the beach, but it’s the ocean that I love. There’s something about the ocean that makes you walk several miles to just stand on the South Beach Pavilion and stare at… well, not much really. There might be a boat or two out there, the clouds might have interesting forms, but pretty much, for as far as the eye can see, all you see is water. Just water. Only water. And yet, you can stare at it for hours. Why? Maybe it’s because 70% or something of our composition is water. Maybe we know that without water these is no life, so we find security in it. Maybe we dream of travel, of mastering the water with whatever navigable vessel we have.

Personally, I watch waves. I look for the surfable wave. I don’t have to be surfing (I love body surfing – more on that in a second) to watch for the good waves; there’s some little delight in predicting which one will break in the right way to make for a long ride. Watching actual surfers figure that out too is fun.

As a teenager I participated in a youth group that went on campouts to the most surfable beaches in Costa Rica. As a teenager I decided that what I liked about body surfing the most was feeling the power of the ocean propelling me faster and farther than I could do on my own. The power of rushing water, at times powerful enough to rip my shorts off and sometimes powerful enough to pound me into the sand, reminded me that there was a power in very close proximity to me that was immense. That power could kill me. That power could ruin my day. And it could make me smile like there was no tomorrow.

You know where I’m headed here. As humans we tend to fill our heads with the notion that we are the greatest power out there. Or that there is no power that we cannot tame. No. As anybody who has gone through a powerful hurricane will tell you, no, you can’t tame all the powers to be. Anyone who has seen a volcano explode or mud slide will attest to the notion that there are many powers that are greater than our own.

God is the greatest of those. God is a force that cannot be contained. God’s power is not something that we can predict or control. For a reason, Proverbs says “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” God’s power is not like a little pond which is pretty to look at. The Lord’s power is like the ocean, slow like the tide sometimes, swift as a hurricane at others, delightful like a wave breaking the whole length of the beach, beautiful like a coral reef.

Like the ocean, you can ride the tidal changes, you can surf the waves of God’s power. You can be buoyed by it, and be overcome by it. Fearing the ocean is the beginning of a good day at the beach, right? You don’t go in if it’s angry. Fear is recognizing your limits, not being paralyzed by them.

You can stare at the ocean for hours. Why? Because it speaks to a power that is not our own. A power that is beautiful and life giving, but not taken for granted because it is so much bigger than we are. I hope today in church will be that kind of
experience for you.

Ready to get out on the water,


“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

A Message from Pastor Craig

Did you know that bears eat oranges? I didn’t until Janice looked it up on her phone on our last venture across State Rd. 70. Have you driven that way across the state? It’s an odyssey in Floricana (the spell checker didn’t like that word – you know what I mean: the Florida version of Americana).

You go through Indiantown (I know, it’s not on 70, but from here you have to go by it), and Okeechobee and Arcadia, which are all throwback towns of a more rural and simple life. They also express the modern realities of our country with the realities of farmworkers in our state, immigration issues and the like. They speak to the Florida of yesterday and today.

And then there’s just the vastness of the, I don’t know, prairie? The miles of open area are reminiscent of the Everglades, but it’s dry (for the most part, after all it is north of the lake). Driving amongst those pastures, and acres upon acres of sod farms and orange groves, Janice noticed this last time (we’ve been back and forth a lot over the last two months) a warning sign for bears. Bears?

I’ve seen bears in western New York. Walking on Janice’s family hunting grounds, I’ve come too close to them.  Driving around that area I’ve seen them on the road too. You stop for bears in the woods and on the highway. But in Florida?! Hence Janice’s google search. And yup, they eat oranges. And they’ve got just a couple of oranges out there on Rt. 70!

If the bears made me cringe a little, the cows made me laugh. Brahma bulls, brown cows (not the drink), and black cows dot many of the fields out there. I found many of them lying on the ground. I suppose if I had to be out in that heat, I would lie down too. The most settled ones lay in the ponds.  That’s what made me laugh.

If I had to drink from that water, I would not be happy that Bessy sat herself down in the “water bowl.” Think yellow water at the water park. The farmers have these huge blue pool-like containers to water their herds. I would drink from those things
exclusively once I saw one of my own in the pond!

As humans we know (save that one obnoxious kid in grade school) that it’s inconsiderate to just plop yourself down (so to speak) in the water like that. We know that water needs to be untroubled to be potable, and we know not to impose our
comfort on the needs of others. But it’s tempting sometimes, right? Sometimes our opinions, our will, our wants can crowd into the life of other people, and we have to choose what to do. As humans, we know not only what we can do, but what we ought to do. Sometimes those are two very different things. OK, maybe it’s not just sometimes. The apostle Paul flat out said in Romans 7:15 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” We know we ought not to do something, but we do it anyway.  We know we should do some things, and we don’t. Paul is kind to himself (and us) when he says he “doesn’t understand” his attitude. I’m afraid I do understand my own. My preference, my wants, too often trump what I know is right. Think of that big chocolate cookie sitting in the fridge – you know you shouldn’t add all that sugar to your body, but…

In that Romans text Paul talks about sin. When he wrote to his friend Titus, he encouraged everyone “to malign no one, and to be peaceable and gentle, showing full consideration to everyone” (Titus 3:2).  I think we can be completely counter-cultural if we were to show “full consideration to everyone.”  This is not what we see in American culture today.  And God has shown us a better way. Let’s try it. Let’s sit BY the pool, not IN the pool.

Flying along in my U-Haul,


 Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend. Proverbs 22:11 (NLT)

A Message from Pastor Craig

Boxes.  Boxes.  Boxes.  Boxes still in my office, boxes still at home—we decided we needed to get a change of scenery so Janice and I went for a drive. I decided to take Janice to a world famous and historically established cultural icon in South Florida. I am speaking, of course, of the Swap Shop.  Have you been to the Swap Shop?  Half County Fair, half Flea Market, half car museum (that’s why I go) and half Drive-in movie theater, the Swap Shop is a microcosm of South Florida’s cultural realities. For those of you working on my math, I will simply tell you that I majored in letters, not numbers. And I don’t do that well with letters!

I’ve been to the Swap Shop before, back when it was half circus too. That circus was free—my price—and we went when our boys were younger.  They marveled at the elephants and the Ferraris, and our younger son spent all his money on the only driving simulator that I’ve seen with a clutch pedal. He LOVED that thing. And was good at it.

This time that arcade game sat torn apart in a graveyard of video games off to one corner. This time the go-fast cars were still there (the circus was long gone), but many of the shops inside were shuttered and outside not a third of the vendors have returned. I still managed to buy an HDMI cable for $3 (I am, after all, the last of the big spenders!).  And we ignored the carnival rides this time just as we have in the past.

As we went from one place to another in Broward, we found that masks were required in some places, and in others not. It was different than Palm Beach County. Different areas deal with COVID in different ways, I suppose. 

And, different aspects of our own lives emerge from the pandemic in different ways too. We may be freer to go to the grocery store, not so much to the movie theater. We might go to school before we went back to church.
Eating out may have to do with how many employees they have, I don’t know. What I do know is that our spiritual lives cannot be neglected like some other areas of our lives have been. Our Bibles cannot look like the abandoned video arcade at the Swap Shop that my son loved so much. For many people, the most sold book in history lies carefully placed on a shelf, covered with the dust that belies its importance.

How we live out our faith is something that demanded a decision from us every day before the pandemic and continued during it. As we emerge from whatever the craziness has been for each one of us for the last 16 months or so, how we are going to nurture our souls is something that we all have to figure out.

Personally, I have had the privilege of never stopping being in the Sanctuary. For many, staying out of the building remains an issue. But our faith is not based on the building. It’s based on who Jesus is in our lives. And that part of us, that deepest part of us, that is our spiritual beings, has to be nourished, has to be dusted off. And I believe that gathering with brothers and sisters matters in that.

God wants to speak into every aspect of our lives. Let’s make sure we are making ourselves available to that Voice.  The Word of God is alive, active, and personal.  Let’s listen for it.

Back in church,


 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   Matthew 4:4

A Message from Pastor Craig

Earlier this summer Janice and I were in Western New York, and I took some time to visit our alma mater, Houghton College.  Nestled amidst the corn fields of dairy farm after dairy farm, the steep hills of the campus made for unusable farmland, but a delightful setting for a college campus (as long as “seclusion” and “delightful” fit into the same sentence for a young co-ed).

Parking the car on the outside of the traditional quad, I was surprised that nobody was there.  I mean not a soul.  The ghosts of my college past sauntered in my mind unmolested by any living soul.  Memories of the
students I learned with elicited smile after smile as I walked past the Student Center and the Science Building, the big central Chapel, then up to the dorm that I both served as an RA and then Assistant Dorm Director in.  Not a soul there either, just the memories of a room on the backside of the basement filling the hazy window I peered through.

Then I walked towards the ski hill.  Yes, a ski hill.  There, a kid from a tropical country learned to snow ski – took it for credit as a matter of fact!  What a school!  Have you heard of a bunny hill?  Well, this was a little bunny hill.  A place to learn downhill skiing in the safety of a hill that cross country skiers didn’t fear.

From there I walked into the woods to find the Ropes Course.  I took that for credit, too!  I’m telling you, it was a great school!  The ropes course elements have changed over the years (I was there when the world was in black and white) or at least the locations have.  But the challenges remained:  walking between one tree and another two stories up along one sole cable;  a solid wall that the whole group has to climb unaided by tools; a zip line to test vocal chords; and a platform where I first did the trust fall.  They design these elements to look impossible, but conquerable if you try.  And safe when accompanied by proper gear and good friends. 

As I walked away from the Ropes Course, down a path steeper than the bunny hill, I realized what that college meant to me.  It was a safe place for me to try new things, sometimes scary and unimaginable, but when conquered, life lessons that serve me even to this day.

I think that’s what the church is for.  I want First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton to be a place where you can learn to be like Jesus.  Where you can attempt a life of holiness, and when you or I fall, well, the incline wasn’t that great, and there were a bunch of friends there to catch us.

The church, like that school, is a training ground for life.  The training isn’t just for kids.  It’s for anybody who doesn’t want to just try to be like Jesus, but wants to train to be like Jesus.

Choose the element on the spiritual ropes course.  I look forward to stretching and growing with you.

On belay!


For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.   Colossians 1:9,10

A Huge “Thank You”

This week we are sending out a huge thank you to Debbie Woolsey, Jan Hennigar, Janie McMillan and other UMW members for cleaning and organizing the children/youth ministry storage areas in the LEC and the youth room. They put in weeks of hard work and even created an inventory so we know what supplies we have available as we re-launch and re-invent our family ministry programs! You are all truly a blessing to this church! (I wish I had “before” pictures so you could see the huge difference!)

Updated Campus COVID-19 Policy

The CDC’s updated COVID-19 guidelines for fully vaccinated people have changed, and following guidance from the Florida Conference, we are adapting our campus policies accordingly. Those who are fully vaccinated will now have the option of not wearing masks or maintaining physical distancing in most outdoor and indoor settings, including Bible studies, small groups, and attending worship. There will be no temperature checks and registrations for worship will no longer be required.

The church will not ask for proof of vaccination, but will expect that individuals will be responsible for understanding what fully vaccinated means and take precautions if they are not fully vaccinated.

People who are unvaccinated should continue to wear face masks. There are many in our congregation who will also wear masks – immunocompromised people, children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and other people who choose to wear a face mask regardless of vaccination status.   One of our core values at FUMC is welcoming all. We will maintain our long-standing tradition of doing no harm and honoring those who choose or need to wear masks.

Remember that we all have different levels of comfort after a year of pandemic living. Even the most enthusiastic fans of hugging pre-pandemic may have discovered they aren’t ready yet! Please wait to be invited into each other’s personal space, even as we are able to gather with fewer restrictions.  

Things to Remember:

  • If you believe you or a household member may have been exposed to the virus, we ask you not to attend worship services and instead worship with us via the live stream.
  • Masks should be worn by all unvaccinated adults and children age 5 and over.
  • Seating will be self-selected, but please respect distance from other parties already seated.
  • We will not be using offering plates.
  • We will not serve coffee and other food until further notice.

A Note from Our Staff Parish Relations Committee: April 28, 2021

by Cathy Herschelman, Chairperson

Last Sunday was announcement Sunday when all of the Methodist Churches find out about Pastoral transitions. I have some good news, some sad news, and some more good news so please hang in there with me.
The first is that Pastor Madeline will be remaining with us. I know that many of you are just getting to know her in real life but I have had the honor to work beside her with dinner church, and other projects. Considering that she joined us during a difficult time in our society when we couldn’t gather in our traditional ways, Pastor Madeline has shown creativity, strength and a real faith that I hope each of you can get to know.
Next is the sad news. If you have been in a Methodist church before you may know that Pastors don’t usually remain at a church for much more than 5 years. We had Pastor Ken here for a very long time so you may not be aware of that. In the Methodist Church when you are called to serve another community, Pastors have to trust in God’s plan and respond to the call. Pastor Marcus has been called to serve on the west coast of Florida beginning July 1. He will be taking over at a church where the pastor is retiring. Pastor Marcus has walked this church through some very challenging times. He did this by listening and caring about individuals. He may have helped your family through some difficult times as well by coming alongside you and your family. He may have even been part of a celebration moment such as a baptism or wedding. I know he’ll carry these memories with him as he serves a new church. I firmly believe that we are the church, we the congregation. Last year you might have thought that the church was a building and now we know that’s not true. You may have had moments when you thought the pastor was your church but it’s our job to build up the pastor as much as it’s his job to support us. We will find a way to celebrate and honor Pastor Marcus before he leaves and we’ll keep you posted on that.
craig nelson and janiceI want to let you know that this church will continue. We are the church and I am excited to tell you a little bit about our new pastor. First, I want to let you know that our District Superintendent, Dr. Cynthia Weems set up a meeting with SPRC and asked us what our church needed in our new pastor. We got to make a wish list if you will of the qualities that would best serve our church at this time. We were very pleased when sometime later Dr. Weems told us about Pastor Craig Nelson (shown in the picture with his wife, Janice). He is coming to us from his recent post in St Pete. He has a very diverse background. Pastor Craig crew up in Costa Rica as his parent were missionaries. He has lived in many different areas but has lived and worked in South Florida before and is happy to return to this area. He even has some family in Boca Raton. Pastor Craig worked as a District Superintendent in the south east district previously. Pastor Craig will transition to our area this summer and I hope you will all give him a warm welcome. Please click here to read Pastor Craig’s brief biography!