Pastor Marty DeBow
Pastor Marty DeBow (email) began as Senior Pastor of First UMC in July 2014. He finds it a privilege to serve FUMER as well as this community he is fortunate to call home. Marty was born and raised in the town of Dewitt, MI. Living in small communities has always been attractive to him because rich, lasting relationships are formed and memories are made.
Following high school graduation, he spent two years at Alma College and then completed his undergraduate studies at Michigan State University. From an early age, Marty felt a call to serve God in some way. He followed this call to Kentucky, receiving a degree in Divinity. Marty and his wife Cindy have been blessed with two married kids who have made Mason and Spring Arbor their homes. They are enjoying the delight of being grandparents!
Marty has always enjoyed the benefits that a small community provides: Friday football in the stadium and basketball in the gym, the enjoyment of school plays and choirs, and the simple pleasure of meeting new people on the street.
A verse of scripture that he's come to call his own is Psalm 27:1. "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" What a powerful description of the God we believe in!
Now that he has shared some of his life with you, he looks forward to having you share your life with him in the future.
Brenda Austin, Director of Music and Worship
Brenda Austin, a native of Southwest Michigan, has been serving First United Methodist Church in Eaton Rapids, MI, as Director of Worship and Music since 2003. At the church, Brenda directs several handbell choirs of all ages and levels, as well as directing the Chancel Choir and Praise Band. She is the newly appointed Artistic Director for the Detroit Handbell Ensemble.
Brenda is active in the community directing Children’s musical theater and a handbell choir at the elementary school. Each year, in partnership with Chelsea United Methodist Church, the church hosts an annual handbell festival where Brenda has served as conductor and clinician. Additionally, Brenda is a freelance handbell composer, arranger and clinician.
Brenda graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from Western Michigan University. She completed her Master’s of Music degree in Choral Conducting at the University of Missouri – Kansas City under the tutorship of Master Conductor Eph Ehly. Brenda received many awards for her conducting including being a semi-finalist in the ACDA National Student Conducting Competition in Washington D.C., and a finalist in the Graduate ACDA Student Conducting Competition in San Diego, CA.
Since her first publication in 2014, she has had compositions and arrangements published at Beckenhorst Press, the Lorenz Corporation, SoundForth, Jeffers Publishing, Alfred Publishing, GIA Music, From the Top Music and Chorister’s Guild.
Brenda lives in Eaton Rapids, MI with her three children; Hannah, Blaine & Mia.
Eric Mergener (email) has been a lifelong resident of Eaton Rapids. Growing up, he attended FUMER along with his parents, Dan and Janet Mergener. He graduated from Eaton Rapids High School in 1989 and attended Lansing Community College with an Emphasis in Auto Mechanics. He was a member of the US Army from 1993 to 1996. His time was spent as a 63S Heavy Wheel Vehicle Mechanic in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Russelsheim, Germany, and Fort Hood, Texas. Eric has been married for 18 years to Heather Carris Mergener and they have two children, Daniel and Rachael. He enjoys fitness and he's somewhat of a nutrition guru. Eric also enjoy the outdoors and camping with my family.
Jeannie Werkema (email) has been part of the office staff for over 24 years. As a child, she attended FUMER and became a member of the church as a 7th grader. She is a graduate of Eaton Rapids High School and Western Michigan University. After teaching in Livonia, Michigan and Hudson, Ohio, life brought her back to Eaton Rapids. Jeannie has two married daughters and 5 grandchildren. Besides finding great joy spending time with her grandchildren and all of their activities, she enjoys working out, walking, golfing & listening to Christian music. An important scripture to her is from Matthew 6:34, "Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself."
Donna Sederlund (email) is part of the office staff and also works with congregational care and hospitality in the church. She retired in June 2013 from Eaton Rapids Public Schools after teaching elementary education for 35 years. Her undergraduate degree is from Spring Arbor College where she studied education and she also received a Master's degree in Reading from Michigan State University. She and her husband, Rick, live on the family dairy farm west of town. They have two married sons and three grandchildren. Donna enjoys being involved in the church, exercising, traveling and spending time with family and friends.
Jan Denton is a retired elementary/preschool teacher. She began piano lessons at the age of 8 years with the organist of the Methodist Church in Maumee, Ohio. In the summer before eighth grade, Jan began also taking organ lessons from her and playing for the church services. She studied organ one year at Bowling Green State University. In each community where she and her husband, Jack, have lived she has served as organist for the church they attended. For two years Jan was the organist for the annual conference of the UMC’s West Michigan District. Jan also accompanies for the Eaton Rapids High School Choral Program and the local Rotary Club.
Jan and Jack enjoy golfing, camping, traveling, spending time with their two sons and their wives and working together in their yard. Jan also enjoys reading, mentoring at Lockwood and gardening.
Wen-Lin Cheng is our new part-time pianist. As a prize-winning musician of many competitions, Wen-Lin Cheng has performed in numerous recitals and concerts as a soloist and collaborative pianist throughout Taiwan and the United States. At the age of 6, she made her debut in Taiwan. From 2001 to 2010, she was top prize winner of Taipei Music Competition, International Piano Competition of Vienna and Asian Youth Music Competition. In 2014, she made her brilliant US debut at Michigan State University. She is a passionate piano teacher. Her students successfully completed Yamaha Grade examination.
Currently, she is a graduate assistant and DMA candidate in piano performance at Michigan State University. She is studying with eminent virtuoso pianist, Minsoo Sohn.