top of page

Home > Who We Are > Pastor's Message

Pastor Cori.jpg

Greetings Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is an honor and privilege to serve as your pastor! For those of you who have not yet met me, my name is Cori Clevenger and I am appointed as the new pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Ypsilanti. I am, originally, from Texas. I was born in Houston and grew up in Liberty where I attended primary, middle, and secondary schools. I lived in Beaumont (near the Louisiana border) to attend Lamar University where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2017. I moved to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology where I earned my Master of Divinity in 2020. I have served as the pastor of three prior placements comprised of eight churches. I served as the lead pastor of two churches and the associate pastor of a third church during my student internship in The Methodist Church of Great Britain from 2019-2020. I served as the lead pastor of Colon and Battle Creek: Newton United Methodist Churches in The Michigan Conference from 2020-2021 as a District Superintendent Assignment. Most recently, I served as the lead pastor of Pine River Parish (LeRoy, Ashton, and Luther United Methodist Churches) in The Michigan Conference from 2021-2023 as a Licensed Local Pastor. I am currently, a Licensed Local Pastor in the elder ordination track of The United Methodist Church’s candidacy process. I enjoy traveling, photography, and sketching in my spare time.

United Methodist pastors are itinerant meaning we agree to be appointed at the discernment of the Conference Cabinet inclusive of the District Superintendents and Bishop. Typically, we begin new placements July 1st, and this is always exactly one month prior to my birthday. I am always excited to begin ministry in a new church placement and I have come to view it as God’s early birthday gift to me through the appointive Cabinet. Why might I view it this way? First, there are more boxes to open after a move than I ever had to open on birthdays past! Secondly, on a more serious note, we celebrate another year of life that is a gift from God on the anniversary of our birth. A gift of another year to do things differently, or perhaps better, in the ministry we do together as active participants in God’s divine will for creation. We have the opportunity, every day, to be born again; one’s birthday serves as a reminder of that opportunity by highlighting that time is the most precious gift we have because it is a one-way currency that can only be spent once with no return.

 

John 3:1-15 which speaks on new birth comes to mind. In this passage, Nicodemus (a Pharisaic Jewish ruler) comes to Jesus. Despite his status as a Jewish ruler, Nicodemus humbles himself by addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” and claiming, “we know that you are a teacher come from God”. Nicodemus visits Jesus “by night”. Why? Perhaps he did not want to be seen visiting Jesus by other Jewish leaders, Sadducees, who did not share his views. The Sadducees held religious authority derived from Roman imperial placement. In John’s second chapter, Jesus had expelled merchants from the temple in Jerusalem. The merchants served as moneychangers, exchanging Roman coins for money the Temple could accept. The Temple was a construct of Herod’s Jerusalem that served as a tourist attraction. Jesus was rightfully enraged. Could Nicodemus’s appearance in the darkness been a consequence of Sadducees sending him, as they often did in the Gospels, to trick Jesus into saying something incriminating? Did Nicodemus appear in the darkness to satisfy his own questioning doubt? We are unsure of Nicodemus’s motives, but the fact that he comes “by night” is interesting. The author of John’s gospel uses light and darkness/night to reveal who Jesus is and contrast him with “earthly things”. Light versus darkness/night also sets up a confrontation in John’s gospel between Jesus and these “earthly things”. This can be interpreted in a variety of ways: Truth vs. Lies, Spirit vs. Flesh, Heaven vs. Earth, Jesus vs. Roman/Religious Authority. Nicodemus comes in the darkness that separates him from the Light that is Christ.

Jesus tells Nicodemus no one can see God’s kingdom unless they are born again from heaven. Nicodemus misunderstands Jesus to be speaking of physical rebirth when, in fact, Jesus is speaking of spiritual renewal by water and the Spirit. Nicodemus is mentally blocked from the Light despite his status as a, learned, religious ruler. His experience and acceptance of “earthly things” detracts from his ability to accept and understand the spiritual. Perhaps, this is why he cannot accept Jesus as God in flesh, Truth’s Light incarnated, yet because Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Nicodemus came in the night, the darkness, which separates him from Christ’s Light.

What earthly darkness separates you from God today? What might be preventing you from being restored to right relationship with God or with a fellow sibling in God’s family? What is it about this world that breeds division, fear, and estrangement between brothers and sisters in Christ? Is it the temptation to constantly compare oneself to others? Is it inner pain and turmoil? Is it fear of the other and the unknown? Is it doubt? Or, perhaps, it is a combination of all the above? Everyone struggles with something no one else knows anything about. We all have that something we wish to keep hidden from the rest of our peers; we all struggle with reconciling this darkness with who we are meant to be. We all have darkness that separates us from the light of God’s redeeming, gracious, love. Remember: God is always present with you and can transform your darkest nights into the morning of a new dawn (Ps. 139:11-12). There is nothing in this world that will separate us from God’s, abundant, unconditional love (Rom. 8:38-39); this gift is freely given through divine grace. However, we must acknowledge there are things in this world, either within ourselves or learned aspects of creation that fuel uncertainty about God’s nature, which would prevent us from accepting this gift. Once we recognize what prevents us from accepting this gift, we can begin the journey towards spiritual renewal…being born again by water and the Spirit…together. It is my hope to walk beside you on this journey as both a trusted guide and fellow journeyer as we help you realize your God-given name of “Beloved” and embrace you as a child in the family of God. Come home, brother. Come home, sister. Come home.

 

Grace & Peace,

 

 

Pastor Cori Clevenger

 

 

Cori Clevenger

Pastor of The First United Methodist Church of Ypsilanti

209 Washtenaw Ave.

Ypsilanti, MI, 48197

Office: (734)482-8374

Email: pastorcori.umc@gmail.com

bottom of page