Grounded in heritage: Reaching out with the love of Jesus
December 16th, 2013
December 16th, 2013
Making it plain
by Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton
It feels a bit odd designating Midland: First United Methodist Church (Saginaw Bay District) and White Pine UMC (Marquette District) as parallel churches. One is big, the other is small. One, I have seen. The other is unseen. But they are parallel churches. Even as the writer cites facts which seem to document irreconcilable differences, similarities do exist.
Midland senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Brent McCumons, is a full elder in the Detroit Conference with over 30 years of experience. He is one of four full-time clergy and 22 part-time paid staff. Membership numbers are around 2300, down from 3600 in 1966. Only three appointed pastors have served Midland: First since 1968, the Rev. Drs. Wayne North, Carl Price and Brent McCumons. About 33,214 persons live in Midland.
Since 1968, White Pine UMC has experienced membership loss from 103 to 54 members in 2007. Unable to afford a full-time elder, the church is served by a local pastor in her first appointment. Rosemary DeHut was appointed quarter time Aug. 1, 2002. DeHut is the 17th pastor sent to White Pine since 1968. Six hundred to 800 people live in White Pine near the Porcupine Mountains in the UP.
At White Pine and Midland: First excitement and enthusiasm about ministry have continually blossomed. When I preached at the 150th Anniversary Celebration of Midland: First, we celebrated a gorgeous multi-unit edifice, historic involvement in mission domestic and foreign, strong support of apportionments, over 20 folks called into ministry, dynamic worship and music plus vibrant voluntarism from committed and skilled laity. I left thanking God with the heartfelt sentiment “great is thy faithfulness.”
Marquette District Superintendent Grant Lobb’s recent e-mail elicited the same response for a church 53 years old. ” In 1999,” he wrote, ” White Pine had 30 members, 11 in worship attendance, no Sunday school, and a 34 percent payment of apportionments. In 2007, the church has 54 members, 36 in worship attendance, 12 in Sunday school, and have already paid their apportionments in full…. for the sixth year in a row. Also, they are a Spotlight Church for the fourth year in a row… For the second year in a row they have so much extra money… they have to look for extra ministries/missions to support so they won’t have too much money in the General Fund at the end of the year.” ” WOW,” Lobb said.
I said “WOW” about something more. In White Pine, the mines closed in 1995. Recently, the high school closed as did the hospital. Layoffs by the automakers and other business downturns have hurt Midland. Yet, both congregations are facing the economic woes of the present with faith. Unwilling to get bogged down by ” Gee, ain’t it awful” and “the culture of can’t,” they have carried on a vibrant ministry. Best of all, they keep on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by loving God and neighbor. With such parallels, why should I feel discouraged?
This is from the Michigan Christian Advocate — December 2007
Bishop Keaton’s Christmas letter is on the MCA website: www.mcadvocate.org
2007 in Review
December 16th, 2013
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~~ For the renewal of the church Spirit of promise, Spirit of unity, We thank you that you are also a Spirit of renewal. Renew in the whole Church That passionate desire for the coming of your kingdom Which will unite all Christians in one mission to the world. May we all grow up together into him who is our head, The Savior of the world. Amen. ~~