First Congregational United Church of Christ in Charlevoix is unlike any other church in Northern Michigan. Our purple doors are emblematic of our unique approach to following Jesus. The Covenant Statement our leaders recently wrote says a lot about who we are and how we understand what it means to follow Jesus:
“Our church community seeks to embody God’s Spirit
and live the teachings of Jesus. We offer a sense of
belonging to each other and to all our neighbors, as we
build a just and sustainable world for all.”
We hope you will pay special attention to the words “embody” and “live.” We are not a church that emphasizes beliefs, creeds, or doctrines. Our interest is in living as much like Jesus as we can, both individually and collectively. We want his life to be evident in our lives, and that starts with love. A concrete example of that love is that we are currently in the process of becoming an Open and Affirming congregation – a special designation that our very progressive denomination – the United Church of Christ – awards to congregations who are intentional about welcoming and fully including LGBTQ+ folks. Most churches say that “all are welcome;” we insist on embodying and living the radical hospitality of Jesus.
Another unique feature of our church family is that we do not have members or a concept of membership. Instead, as a part of our commitment to welcoming all people, we emphasize participation. Anyone who participates in any aspect of our ministry is a part of our congregation…period. In other words, you don’t “join” our church; you simply start participating with us.
Our congregation has been around since 1882, which means that we recently celebrated our 140th birthday. And while we celebrate and honor our rich and diverse history, it is not the past that is our focus. We are seeking to live the teachings of Jesus today in 2022, and that takes study, creativity, and commitment. Our church family lives out the teachings of Jesus in two equal and balanced ways: Reaching In and Reaching Out. For us, Reaching In means developing our vertical relationship with God. Since God lives within each of us, prayer, meditation, study of the scriptures, and worship are all ways we can stoke that divine fire within, staying truly connected to the vine of Christ.
But in order to live like Jesus and to fully embody his teachings, we must be equally committed to Reaching Out in love and service to those outside our purple doors to the Charlevoix community and beyond. Our congregation has board members and volunteers plugged into virtually every local non-profit organization in our town, from The Rainbow Shoppe and B.A.S.E.S. Teen Center to Northern Community Mediation and The Charlevoix Area Hospital Foundation. We even have an entire team of people dedicated to directing our time, talent, and treasure to those places where we can have the most positive and lasting impact on our world. When things really started to heat up in Ukraine and Ukrainians were fleeing their country in droves, our Reaching Out team immediately organized a fundraiser/ worship service at which we raised nearly $10,000 and sent it to an organization assisting Ukrainian refugees at the borders.
Perhaps the most unique attribute of our congregation is our worship services. Toby Jones, our pastor, draws from a massive range of religious traditions, musical genres, and personal experiences to weave a beautiful and unified tapestry every single Sunday morning. Every song, prayer, and hymn is carefully selected to work in perfect harmony with the morning message, with the result that our congregation remembers and draws from each and every message for years after the fact. Most weeks you are just as apt to hear a song by Bob Dylan as you are a hymn from Charles Wesley, and that’s because our pastor is a long-time rock-n-roll musician, whose first book, The Gospel According to Rock, put the Judeo-Christian scriptures in conversation with the best Classic Rock songs of the last 50 years. Once every 8 weeks or so, he sets aside his sermon and does a live Q&A with the congregation about topics we choose. Dress for all our services is casual, and we can promise that you’ll find worshipping with us to be not only inspiring but life changing.
Music is particularly strong at our church, in part because we have such a close relationship with both the Bay View Music Festival and The Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra. Our worship services and special concert events regularly feature musicians from these and other outstanding area organizations. Seasonally, we have our own choir, a bell ensemble, and a variety of vocal and instrumental performers. Our contention is that God can speak through all musical genres and through a great range of abilities, in order to enhance worship.
During the summer months, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, we offer two distinct worship experiences. Our First Light Service is at 8:30 a.m. and takes place outdoors at Michigan Beach, overlooking the lighthouse and channel. Worshipers gather on picnic tables and lawn chairs to discuss and reflect upon the day’s scripture. The Sanctuary Service takes place inside the purple doors at 101 State St. at 10:30 a.m. throughout the year. Our 10:30 service is live-streamed on our website and can be viewed at any time of the day or night!
Come participate with us as we seek to embody God’s Spirit and live the teachings of Jesus together.
Meet our Dedicated Staff
Rev. Toby Jones
Custodian, Larry Minch
Music Minister, Shelley Fisher
Stacey Luoma, Office Manager
Childcare Supervisor, Lynette Webb