Notes from Pastor Lou

March 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

A Lenten Mash-Up [ˈmaSHˌəp]

NOUN, informal, Definition a mixture or fusion of disparate elements.

“the movie becomes a weird mash-up of 1950s western and 1970s TV cop show”

a recording created by digitally combining and synchronizing instrumental tracks with vocal tracks from two or more different songs.

computing–a web page or application created by combining data or functionality from different sources.

“a mash-up that mixes CNN news with links to Wikipedia articles”

Dear Friends,

I am excited to announce a creative, spiritual project that we are hoping will provoke and encourage you on your spiritual journey. During the season of Lent we are engaging in our own mash-up. I will be taking the traditional themes of Lent—temptation, self-examination, penitence, renewal and mashing them with the characters and themes of the classic story—The Wizard of Oz. Our theme is “Finding Our Way Home.”

Along the way our creative arts and worship team will be inviting our personal engagement with art installations for our facility and grounds as evidence of progress on our spiritual journey. Of course all of this will culminate with the stories of Holy Week and the challenge and wonder of arriving in Jerusalem—The Emerald City.

Mashing together stories sometimes brings unexpected serendipities. We hope this will happen for all and each of us as we together create a moving and memorable Lenten experience. I hope you’ll join us.

The world (life) is filled with “lions and tigers and bears. Oh my,” but of course, also with the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Lou


February 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

As we enter February of 2019, we enter an historic month for the Global United Methodist Church. In 2016, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church met. This is the only UMC body that can speak on behalf of the entire United Methodist Church. During that conference, the group came to an impasse on issues related to human sexuality and inclusion of LGBTQI persons in the life and leadership of our church. A motion was passed to ask the bishops to please lead us in the next steps—to find a way forward. The resulting plan called for 2 years of study and conversation by a select group of United Methodists. This group was asked to forward recommendations and plans to a Special Session of General Conference to be held on February 23-26 of this year in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bishops are not voting members of the General Conference—the Conference is comprised of lay and clergy from all over the world representing every conference in the United Methodist Church.

Several plans have been submitted for consideration. The goal remains to help folks remain in faithful and grace-filled unity, common mission, and mutual respect as we find a way forward. I covet your prayers for our general church, our local congregation and for all God’s children as we tentatively move forward in faith.

I am always available for conversation if you have questions. Our Michigan Conference is helping us prepare and follow what is happening through a special website created for this purpose. (You do not need to type “www.” in front of this website to get to it.)

You can watch the conference by live feed at that website as well.

Here are some links for more information. These links are also available on the Church of the Dunes website at; click the tab marked Sermons/News&Events.

Following the conference, depending on the outcome, we will certainly be engaged in continuing conversations and/or decision-making regarding the agreed upon direction of our denomination.

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good!

Pastor Lou


January 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

January 1, 2019

Happy New Year, Dunes Family and Friends! Just like that, another year begins that will end in much the way 2018 just did.

Last year, I penned the following words to begin 2018–

“You have to wonder what will happen between now and next Christmas? Who will have a new baby, break an arm, start their first job, receive a diagnosis, learn an instrument, join a sports team, graduate, marry or even die? Who knows? Whatever comes we will deal with it–with the help of family, old and new friends, church community, and a loving, graceful God.

We must remember, however, that some things happen to us, while other things happen because of us. I invite you not just to react to what life throws at you this year, but also to dream big dreams for 2018. Then, design and execute a plan that allows you to embrace uncertainly and serendipity as you live your year–blessing others and deepening yourself spiritually.

I don’t know for sure what life will bring, but I know who holds tomorrow. Live humbly. Love big. Forgive always. Trust God. Never give up.”

So, 2018 was rocked by many deaths, changes planned and unplanned, baptisms, births, new members, loss of staff members, addition of new staff members, budget troubles, hard discussions, creative solutions, emerging visions, exciting missions, interesting challenges. LIFE!

We do life together, not out on the end of a branch alone, but as a part of a vine deeply rooted in the love of Jesus Christ. We are one. I still don’t know what tomorrow will bring, probably something different than last year or the year before, but I know who holds all our tomorrows. Let’s live humbly. Love big. Forgive always. Trust God. Never give up.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Lou


December 2018

Word from the Pastor…

“Calm and Bright—200 Years of Silent Night” is our theme for December. It celebrates the 200-year anniversary of the song “Silent Night”—a song that brings with it a host of stories and lore.

Most well-known is that this song was written and performed first at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria, a village near Salzburg. The song was written after the pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf had watched a presentation of the Christmas story by a travelling group of actors. With the story of Jesus in his head and heart, he headed home.   We are told that Pastor Josef Mohr made a stop on a snowy, starlit hill overlooking the little village. He remembered a poem he had written a few years earlier and decided it might make a good Christmas song for his church. With the help of Franz Gruber, the church organist, the poem became a simple song that was accompanied by guitar on Christmas Eve. The church organ was in disrepair. The song caught on and spread around Europe and eventually made its way to the United States and was translated into English. Today the song is sung in more than 300 languages.

The themes intoned in the song have become our refrain as we prepare for Christmas here at Church of the Dunes.

Advent I Sleep in Peace PEACE

Advent II Glories Stream JOY

Advent III Redeeming Love LOVE

Advent IV Let Us Sing HOPE

Christmas Eve Calm and Bright JESUS BIRTH

The theme “Calm and Bright” with the subtext of Peace, Joy, Love, and Hope will help us to reclaim our unsettled and darkened world. We are not victims of what seems to be, but citizens of a kingdom not yet fully seen. All of us will be invited to embrace God’s peace and to cast Christ’s light in our families, our church and our world. Please join us for our Advent and Christmas worship experiences. You will be blessed.

November 2018

Thoughts from Pastor Lou


Awhile back, I read the book Comeback Churches by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dobson. In their book, Ed and Mike identify three hundred churches that have moved from death to life, from stagnation to flowing streams of God’s grace. Ed and Mike researched churches that had each rediscovered what it means to be a church that is missional. In reflecting on this the writers said, “The wrong question is whether your church is traditional or contemporary, and which is better. The real issue is whether your church is biblically faithful, acting as the presence of Christ in the community at large, able to relate to people in culture, and is on mission.”

These are issues on which the staff and lay leadership here at Dunes must constantly reflect. Are we connecting the people of our community and region with the love of Jesus? Are we speaking the language of our culture(s) while demonstrating the love of God in Jesus?

We are called to be in the world, but not of it.  In Mike and Ed’s words, we are called to “look similar to those in our community but act differently.” Too often we as church people subvert our witness, because we act weirdly-churched (disconnected from culture), while having little or no personal, loving, witness. William Willemon and Stanley Hauerwas once labeled Christians as “Resident Aliens,” because Christians have a foot in two kingdoms. We must learn how to connect with the people around us, translate the gospel into the foreign language of today’s culture, and wrap it in the warmth of God’s love.

While we at Dunes have been wrestling with the style of our church, the vision for our ministry, and the heritage we would like to leave, the spiritually hungry have continued to come to our doors, or wandered by, hoping someone would say, “Come in. Slow down. Put your feet up Make yourself at home.”

We are called to love like Jesus, live in the real world and invite people to join us on this wonderful journey of faith. I believe that through mutual encouragement, intentional congregational care, and more attention to those who have yet to come in, we are on the way to being a healthy, vibrant congregation. Won’t you join me in praying for our church and ministries that we might become all God has invited us to be?

In Christ’s Love and Service,



October  2018

Pastor’s Thoughts: 

For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.  I Thessalonians 5:9-11

I referred to verse 11 of this passage in my August Dunes Digest greeting. We had just finished a series of “Coffee and Conversation” times during which I had a chance to get better acquainted with you and hear about your hopes and concerns for Church of the Dunes. This passage is still instructive as we continue to work on challenges we are facing as a church community.

Our church leadership has been working diligently to help us begin addressing the issues that have been identified as obstacles to Church of the Dunes’ ministry. These issues have caused stress in our relationships and hampered our ability to carry out our missions effectively. I believe progress has been made through constructive and heartfelt discussions and hard work. There is still more to do.

In recent months, the church experienced a marked decrease in offerings. The shortfall has been significant, and has added to the labors of church members who manage the church’s finances. To address the fiscal challenge, and to help us stay mindful of how much Church of the Dunes ministry means to so many of us, an Encouragement Team emerged from difficult conversations at Church Council and Finance Committee. In early September, this team began praying and working to address the operating budget shortfall and help our church move forward. On Sundays in September, one member of the team spoke during the worship services. They spoke of the important place this church holds in their lives, and the importance of the church’s ministry in the tri-cities’ community. This team will remain hard at work to rally our church, address the short-term challenges, and then lead us into stewardship planning for 2019.

In a more recent translation of the Bible, The Message, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 is written this way:

“God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.”

May we all use our words and actions to encourage one another. May we continue to challenge each other to support the ministry of Church of the Dunes as we serve those who are already here and those who seek a church home.

Pastor Lou


August 2018

Pastor’s Thoughts: Encouraging Conversations

Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

In July, I hosted a series of coffee and conversation times at the church. They took place on Sunday evenings and Monday mornings. My hope was that these would give us an opportunity to get better acquainted, to discuss questions that are on your mind, and simply have a moment to say hello to one another.

I came away from these conversations with mountains of insight. You gave me the gift of your time and helped me to get to know you better. I heard perspectives that are as unique as the persons sharing those perspectives. I thank you for your honesty and your willingness to discuss concerns in a caring and constructive way. As I reflect on these conversations, I think of expressions on faces that told me how  much this church means to each of us. As some of you shared your challenges and joys, I realized again how fortunate I am to be among people who see their pastor as an important part of their lives.

During these conversations, I heard honest feedback about worship services here at Church of the Dunes. After more than 30 years of serving as a pastor of several churches, I would be worried if a church didn’t have strong thoughts about worship services. It shows me how central worship is to the life of this congregation. That’s good.

The attendance at these coffee and conversation times was a tremendous encouragement to me and a hopeful sign for our church. Thank you to those who have participated so far, and I look forward to future conversations. Let’s work together to encourage one another and continue the conversation. As Paul asks us to do in his first letter to the Thessalonians,  I hope that we will be encouragers, by taking opportunities to talk with each other and to others outside this church about what we most like and appreciate about being a part of this congregation. Encouraging words are uplifting. Encouraging words strengthen us to work together to do the Christ’s work in the church and in the community.

The work life of a pastor is busy and different each day. Because of that, I may not always be in my office when you drop by—I may be at a meeting or visiting someone in the hospital. Yet, I do hope you will call or email. I’d like to get together for more coffee and conversations.

With encouragement,

Pastor Lou


June 2018

Pastor’s Thoughts : Open Swimming

As I was swimming in the pool this morning, after an admittedly lengthy hiatus, I found my rhythm. I was reminded that I am still strong. I have been swimming fairly “religiously” since the end of January–back and forth, back and forth. Okay, so I haven’t become Hercules, but I feel better than I have felt in quite a while. My core strength is better. My stamina has improved.  My regimen is more disciplined. All this from back and forth, back and forth in a 25-meter pool. You can swim a long way in 25-meter pool without going anywhere.

I am reminded again and again of the strength of the United Methodist Church of the Dunes. We do lots of faith-building exercises—we worship together, we work side-by-side, we study together, we share our griefs and joys, we have our ups and downs. These activities help us build our core strength. The routines hold us in good stead. We have outreach ministries as well; many of which we have supported for generations. All of these activities define who we are as church together.

Yet those things that define, can also confine. We begin to think within the boundaries of our ecclesiology, theology, and praxis–the way we talk about church, God, and Christian practice. Like the 25-meter pool, we limit the space within which learn and grow. Is there more?

Apparently, for my swimming, there is. A friend I met at the pool has invited me to go open-water swimming with him this summer. He wants me to get out of the pool and into the big waters of Lake Michigan. Really? I find it at once scary and exciting. The pool is so predictable—no current, no waves, no sun or rain, no wildlife or refuse. In the pool, my swim takes exactly 45 minutes to complete; however, “the more” keeps beckoning me like a siren on the shore. I’m tired of simply swimming.

I invite you to discover “the more” of ministry and church in the open water of Grand Haven. Let’s get out of the pool and stretch the ways we think, live, and practice our faith. Minds, hearts, and doors are opened in the danger and excitement of open water.

Your pastor,



May 2018

We have had glimpses of Spring over the last month. Certainly, today is not one of them. I stare over the white-covered dune in mid-April. It’s been a month since I put out my deck chairs on a warm Saturday afternoon in expectation of Spring’s inception. What happened?

New life requires many conditions to successfully launch. Seeds need to lay dormant beneath the soil. Adequate sunlight needs to be provided regularly. Spring rains need to soften the seed and warm the soil providing food for growth. The farmer, gardener, or keen observer patiently tends the emerging seedling; and waits.

Over the past few months, Dunes church leaders have been planting seeds of renewal in worship, children’s ministry, youth ministry, and adult education. Clear evidence of renewal and growth doesn’t happen in a moment, but develops over time as seeds are nurtured, take root, and begin to grow. We will have successes and struggles. By God’s grace we will begin to grow and experience the new life that is promised to us in resurrection and in the rhythm of the season.

In worship you will see the 10:30 service begin to change as we become less predictable with unexpected serendipities including new elements and participants in that service. Our 8:30 service will draw on the best of our church traditions as we seek to provide a great worship experience for people with an appreciation for the liturgy and a desire for a more conventional approach to worship. I invite you to attend the service that best fits you instead of just the best time. We want Church of the Dunes to be a place where all God’s children experience worship that is meaningful and transformational.

We are committed to being an intergenerational ministry. However, we must remember that inviting more of God’s children into our family of faith requires meeting a more diverse set of needs regarding worship and ministry. We want children, youth, parents and grandparents to worship under one roof. This requires each group to sacrifice a little of what is most comfortable for them in order for others to also be comfortable.

The sun just came out. The snow is melting off the deck chairs. I know Spring is near. I patiently wait to see what comes next.


Pastor Lou


April 2018

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  John 15:2 

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  John 12:24

Dear Dunes Friends,

Times of change are unsettling. Over the past few years, UMC Dunes has undergone what I would call many unintentional changes. Sometimes stuff just happens. Pastors come and go. People pass away. Job changes move key leadership to other communities. Social and political conversations cause upheaval.

Change is inevitable. Our church will continue to undergo change. This means we will always experience some level of discomfort. That’s probably not what most of us want to hear. We will continue to be periodically impacted by unintentional change; but our church leaders will also initiate intentional change. Intentional change is still difficult, but it is powered by the Holy Spirit and moves us toward a preferred future into which I believe God is leading us.

The Gospel of John makes it clear that fruit cannot be born without significant grief work. The metaphor of pruning infers that a clear-eyed evaluation of our ministry’s effectiveness is a necessary step in the process of becoming a faithful, fruit-bearing church. This is a dynamic process, which will always be a work in progress.

As we move through these intentional changes, I hope you will be patient with your leadership and your fellow Dunes participants as we try things. Our goal is always to provide an environment to bless those who are here and those who have not yet chosen to be part of us.

Most of you have already noticed new elements in our worship structure. Some have asked what the endgame might be. One of our goals is to create ministry and worship experiences that meet the needs of multiple age groups, so that families can worship together. Secondly, we want to provide worship and ministry opportunities that provoke our spirits to respond to the Holy Spirit and assist us on our spiritual journey.  I always hope that people can leave on Sunday morning and remember what the intended message was, and how it might impact their lives in the week to come.

We will continue to try things. Be assured that we will strive to maintain at least one traditional worship experience each Sunday, but that all services will be planned with renewed creativity and thoughtfulness with an emphasis on excellence. We want you to be proud to invite people to our church and our God!

In Ministry with All of You,



March 2018: Singing Under Water

Dear Dunes Friends,

A few years ago, I read a book by Richard Rohr called Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. In the book, Rohr works through the 12-step process often used to assist those struggling with addiction and relates it to principles of Christian spirituality. As Rohr says, “We do not think ourselves into new ways of being; we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” The idea is that addiction isn’t something that goes away, but something with which one learns to live.

Similarly, most of us live lives filled with busyness, obligations, and responsibilities. Sometimes the load can feel very heavy. As time passes we realize that these things don’t go away, but with a focus on God, they are something with which we can learn to live.

While reading Rohr’s book, I was struck by the metaphor of “breathing under water.” I was reminded of it again a few weeks ago, when I started swimming after nearly a year hiatus. There is nothing like exercising after you haven’t for a while. It’s frustrating to see how much ground one loses physically when exercise is not part of one’s routine. I found I couldn’t swim the distances I used to be able to swim. I could only swim freestyle for part of the time or I would be overwhelmingly winded. I had to settle for sidestroke, backstroke, and breaststroke as my body acclimated to exercise and swim-breathing.

About a week into this regimen, I increased the portion of my swim that was done using the freestyle stroke. My body began to panic that I was not going to be provided adequate recovery time. The more my body told me to stop, the more winded—and panicked—I became.

The day before that swim, I had done worship planning with Megan, our church’s new Director of Music. From that meeting, my head was full of songs we had discussed, hymns we had chosen for the following Sunday, and prayer responses for Lent. One by one I began to sing them from memory in my head: “How Great Thou Art,” “Standing on the Promises,” “Jesus Remember Me,” “Breathe.” With each song, my heart began to regulate and my breathing became more even and regular. I began to swim lap after lap without needing to stop to catch my breath. I discovered that my breath was with me, even under water.

A number of years ago, Scott Krippayne wrote a song called, “Sometimes He Calms the Storm.” There is a lyric in that song that says “Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child.” In the frenetic rhythms of our lives, we are invited during Lent to allow God to calm us. Let’s sing songs of faith until we remember that God’s grace is sufficient and that God’s comfort is found even in the midst of the storm.

Pastor Lou



February 2018

Dear Dunes Friends,

Lately my heart has been aching, as I realize what a difficult world we live in.  I spent the last few days working through the technical challenges resulting from my children having access to the worldwide web.  It is there that they simultaneously learn to deal with the risky, constant stream of data, pictures, music, videos, addictive gaming, and instant reports that include real-life scary news that includes violence against women and school children.  Honestly, our children have very limited access to the ‘net compared to most.  At the end of the day, in desperation and frustration, I conclude that the best I can do is narrow the amount of temptation foisted on them, begin to teach them my deepest values, and offer them spiritual tools to deal with what they see, hear, and experience. I need to constantly trumpet that there is hope for a better tomorrow.

I am not feeling that the world is devoid of hope and goodness.  I am not saying that children have not always had to deal with temptation.  Instead, I find myself loving my children and the people of God’s world more than ever, in the midst of our despair.  All of us desperately need to find a way to navigate a society full of challenges that are infinitely greater than the world in which I grew up.  My heart is breaking for all of God’s children.  It’s time to leave the sidelines.  That’s what God did in Christ Jesus.

This year, Ash Wednesday begins Lent on Valentine’s Day.  We can get all sugared up and think that’s what love is about, or as we begin Lent, we can remember that God in Christ was the founder of the Lonely (Broken Heart’s) Club.  God loves us with an everlasting love, and God’s heart breaks for us each day as we struggle to deal with life.  In desperation and love, God sent us Jesus — not to judge us — but to teach us about God’s love as we grapple with the tangled web of the world.

Welcome to the Season of Lent,

Pastor Lou