About Us


Hello, my name is Tonya Arnesen and I’m the Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church here in the heart of Jackson, Michigan.  We are an inclusive, inter-generational community of faith who love God with our hearts, hands and voices.​

We have a heart for God and seek to glorify God in our personal lives and in the life we share together.  And we have a heart for people.  Here, you’ll find a genuine welcome and unconditional love, which includes ALL persons – and all means ALL.

Here at First Church, we are actively seeking ways to help transform, renew and revitalize our city. Our compassionate hands are eager to meet the real needs of our neighbors. Depending on your time and interest, there are MANY ways you can get involved in making Jackson a healthier, more livable city.

Every Sunday morning, our voices are lifted in prayer, praise and dynamic worship. Our exceptional music ministry is known for its fine quality and beauty.  Our preaching will inspire you – and provide relevant and practical teaching to help you become more and more like Jesus.

If you are looking for a church home – we’d love to welcome you here. I hope you’ll take time to explore our website and imagine ways you might get connected in this beloved community. Come dream with us what abundant life could be – for you, for your family, for our city. Join us as we help God change the world!

What We Believe

The United Methodist Church stands firmly in the mainstream of Christian tradition. We share with many other denominations the basic tenets of Christian faith as put forth in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. Here at First UMC Jackson we affirm and believe in:

The Trinity

A Holy God, who is one, is revealed and manifested in three distinct persons:  God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


God, often referred to as the Father or Creator, is the maker of all things seen and unseen.

Jesus Christ

We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God and the Son of Man.  God became human through the birth of Jesus of Nazareth; his life, death, and resurrection demonstrate God’s love.  He will return to redeem all of creation.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit, or Sustainer, is God’s present activity in our midst, leading, challenging, supporting, or comforting us.


Every person is of sacred value and is beloved by God, in whose image we are made.   (Genesis 1:17). Like our Creator, we have the capacity to love, to communicate, and to create. However, God’s image has been marred by human sin.

The Church

The church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.

The Bible

The Bible is God’s Word, the primary authority for our faith and practice.

God’s Reign

The kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.


Grace is the free gift of God’s love and mercy given to us because God wants us to have it, not because we have earned it (Ephesians 2:8-9). This amazing grace is offered to us because of God’s great love, embodied in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Methodists identify three kinds of grace:
        Prevenient Grace is the grace of God inherent in our creation which allows us to discern between good and evil, and causes us to yearn for relationship with God.
       Justifying Grace is the grace-filled gift of Jesus Christ, who forgives our sins and reconciles us to God.
       Sanctifying Grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit, cooperatively working within us as we seek to live holier and more loving lives, and assuring us of God’s love for us.

Other distinctive features of the
United Methodist Church:

Faith and Works

We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone, independent of anything we do. However, United Methodists insist that we respond to God’s grace through a life of loving service to those around us. Works of faith, mercy, love, and justice are a witness to our faith, and help us experience God’s love more fully. We affirm that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). Love of God is always linked to love of neighbor and to a passionate commitment to seeking justice and renewal in the world. United Methodists have one of the strongest mission programs in the world, and our social justice ministry is headquartered across the street from the U.S. Capitol.


We believe that all matters of faith can be determined by examining and balancing Holy Scripture, the Traditions of the Church, intellectual reasoning, and Christian experience. This has come to be known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and allows for the head and heart to work together. United Methodists affirm a few essentials (above) and welcome a latitude of belief on non-essentials. But faith is not just head knowledge. It is also a heartfelt assurance that Jesus Christ knows and loves each of us personally and forgives our sins.

Open Communion

Holy Communion is a sacrament in which we experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ. United Methodists welcome all to participate in this means of grace. In this holy mystery, we remember the loving sacrifice of Christ as we experience his presence in the bread and the cup. As a further expression of openness, Jackson First UMC uses grape juice instead of wine for those who struggle with addiction, and has optional gluten-free bread available for those who need it.


Holy Baptism is a sacrament in which we participate in an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. United Methodists believe baptism incorporates the one being baptized into the community of faith and the family of God and therefore baptize persons of all ages, including infants and those who cannot speak for themselves.  Salvation comes through does not come through baptism but all baptized persons are encouraged to make a profession of faith to affirm their reception of saving grace offered through Christ.

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