District News

Southwest Michigan Latinx Community Ministry

Our Sunday worship is an extension of our home, the experience of the warm welcome, along with familiar music and faces we have grown to know over time and faith. But for some, worship does not represent an extension of their home or their lives. “Everyone has an innate need to connect and belong. It’s an idea grounded in theology (think God’s radical connection with humanity in the person of Jesus) and in science (think Brene Brown’s new academic research on how we are wired for – and the importance of cultivating – connection).” -Anne Nelson
The Hispano/Latino community represents 12% of the total population in the Greater Southwest District. And every year more than 200 migrant camps receive temporary Hispanic families for seasonal work. Just within the limits of our district!
That’s why we are creating a new place for new people; reaching more diverse people who become more like Christ in the world: a Hispanic/Latino New Church in Van Buren County. Making New Disciples in New Places is one of the Four Areas of Ministry Focus of The United Methodist Church. We have a vision to create a unique community – a place for engaging, transformative worship, and fellowship to all generations.
We have launched a Tuesday evening worship which is held in two languages, Spanish and English. It starts with bilingual music, scripture, reflection, and prayers. This means that if you don’t speak either of the languages, you can still worship. Join us Tuesdays at 7:00pm livestreaming on Facebook or in person at Lawrence UMC.
We have been working to get to know the Hispano/Latino Community of the area through partnerships and connections with the State Department of Labor, the School District, the Health and Human Services Department, and the Van Buren County fair board.
One of the local schools has asked for the support of 300 reusable water bottles for the children of migrant seasonal workers and its summer program. The cost of 50 plastic water bottles is approximately $100; for that reason, we are looking for sponsorship from the churches of the district on this project. 
If you’d like to support this project, send checks to: 
Greater Southwest District
2350 Ring Rd N, Suite B
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
Memo: Migrant Project

Mission Evening: A Night at the Thrift Shop

Presented by Union City United Women in Faith
Hosted by Greater Southwest District United Women in Faith

Thursday, June 22, 2023
Union City United Methodist Church (200 Ellen St)

6:30 to 7:15 p.m. enjoy refreshments, hear a brief presentation with Q & A time and view an exhibit about our 60th Anniversary celebrated in 2022.
7:15 to 8:00 p.m. tour the Thrift Shop to experience how we receive donations, how they’re sorted and placed on the sales floor.  You may also S-H-O-P-!

It’s a one-block walk from the church.

♥ Registration is $5 and the entire proceeds will go to Community House
♥ Ingathering of non-perishable protein items (peanut butter, canned fish and meats, beans, etc.) for the Union City Food Pantry



Fresh Expressions – what exactly is it?

~Jessica Cobb

A Fresh Expression (FX) is a form of church that is designed to reach those who might not typically attend a traditional church service. It is about taking ministry to people where they are already gathering, rather than attempting to attract people to your church’s gatherings. Fresh Expressions invite Christian disciples to gather with those already in their social circles and to ask “How can I help my friends connect with God?”.

Fresh Expressions can take many forms, from small groups meeting in homes to coffee shop gatherings to outdoor worship services. They are often led by laypeople who are passionate about connecting with others in their community. A Fresh Expression can build around a meal (Dinner Church) or around a common activity (imagine a Fresh Expression built around soccer, ultimate frisbee, video games, or yoga), and as relationships are built, they start to incorporate at least one element of discipleship, such as prayer or scripture reading.

What distinguishes Fresh Expressions from other church groups is that these are not gatherings of church members in outside spaces (a Bible study at Starbucks). These are groups of people from outside the church already gathered, and church members connected to those people and groups. One of the key benefits of Fresh Expression is that they allow churches to engage with people who might never set foot inside a church building. They provide an opportunity to meet people where they are at, and to build relationships and connections that can lead to deeper conversations about faith and spirituality.

Fresh Expressions are not intended to replace traditional forms of church. They are designed to reach people who are not currently being reached by traditional forms of church, and to create new opportunities for people to connect with God and with each other. 

As we continue to seek new ways to connect with our communities and to share the love of Christ, Fresh Expressions offer a different approach to consider. By going to where people are and starting this new form of church, we can build meaningful relationships that can transform lives. If you’d like to learn more about Fresh Expressions, or have ideas to start a Fresh Expression, contact your pastor or the district office.

Keep on Rising from the Dead

by Rev. Dwayne Bagley

Dying and rising have been on my mind a lot throughout this Lenten season. In one of our Cabinet devotion times in March, we were invited to take a deep dive into the story from John 4 about Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well. In that encounter, Jesus challenges assumptions the woman holds about which side of a very clear dividing line she is on, the proper way to worship God, and what to expect from a Savior. During what seems to be a chance encounter, Jesus’ words convince the woman to lay all her preconceived notions about the way things are to rest so that a new understanding of God’s grace can rise in their place. Because she does this, everyone around her similarly lays their own assumptions to rest and begins to embrace the possibility that they too are heirs of God’s promise. A tradition that has been cherished and formative, which includes their interpretation of the scripture, bars the way to this new way of understanding who can be counted among the people of God. An experience of Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit choosing to move wherever, however and among whomever it chooses transforms all these preconceived notions in such a powerful way that the people reconsider the foundation of their belief in light of the new thing God is doing.

It is a foundational belief of mine that the Spirit of the Living God continues to do new things. But because I am only human, I am motivated to hold on to what has been, believing all the while that I am doing so to keep a grasp on something essential. In moments of dire need, God grants me enough grace to wonder if what I consider essential is the same thing God counts among essentials. And I wonder if I am holding on too tightly to things I should lay to rest so that God can raise up something new in me.

I wonder the same thing about our United Methodist Church and its congregations. In this Age of Disaffiliation, we all are trying to keep a grasp on what has been at the expense of what might yet be. Whether we hold on to the hope of preserving The United Methodist Church or seek to keep a grip on our traditional understanding of scripture, we may be holding on too tightly. Our focus on what we are trying so hard to hold on to may keep us from seeing where the Spirit is moving. While may we say, “let go and let God,” our actions are less motivated by the Hand of Sweet Release than shaped by the Spirit of the Age. This continuing practice is all the more questionable when we consider our call to live as Easter People. Amidst the hope and promise of the Resurrection, there is this core assertion at work: Jesus did not die and Christ was not raised just so that everything could remain the same.

Trusting that conviction is among the essentials, I raise this question for us, for our churches and for all the people called United Methodist: “What do we need to lay to rest so that God might raise up something new?” As we consider that question throughout Eastertide, let this verse from our hymnal serve as inspiration and invitation: “The Church of Christ in every age, beset by change but Spirit led, must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead.” Happy Easter. Christ is Risen. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

A Jubilee that Keeps on Giving

Stevensville UMC Partners with Riverside School

by Kellie Meyer

In the fall of 2020, Stevensville United Methodist Church started working on a weekend food program with Riverside Hagar #6 School in Riverside, MI. Riverside is a public school with an enrollment each year of 70-75 students. One teacher works with two grades in one classroom, making Riverside a unique school setting.

The weekend food program provides three meals a day for both Saturday and Sunday. SUMC provides food for lunch and dinner and Riverside School provides food for breakfast. Some food items include, SpaghettiOs, macaroni and cheese, soups, fruit, yogurt, Nutra-grain bars, and fruit snacks. We started the program with 24 students receiving weekend packs and we had about 10 volunteers helping to pack, deliver and purchase food.

When the District announced that 2020 would be a year of jubilee and that money from ministry shares could be used to start a new mission, SUMC Administrative Council thought this weekend food program would be a great way to use the jubilee money.

For the current 22/23 school year (which is our 3rd year with the program), we are packing 36 weekend bags every week. We created 4 teams of packers, a team of delivery drivers, and a team of food purchasers involving around 25 members of our congregation every month. We have been told that the children enjoy receiving the bags and the food they get to eat.

In the last year, Stevensville United Methodist Church has changed its Mission Statement to say: Growing Connections to God, to Each Other and to the Community. We believe our weekend food program is an example of this new vision and we know that 36 children are able to eat comfortably every weekend because of this new ministry.

Spring Fling

The Hopkins United Women in Faith are hosting Spring Fling on March 25 from 10am-2pm.

The theme is “Make New Friends” and units are encouraged to bring friends who might be interested in learning about our organization and mission – the Mission Challenge project, Justice for Our Neighbors, Community House, and the Reading Program. The event will include music, singing, skits, devotions, and lunch. Childcare will be provided if needed.

Spring Fling Registration Form

Lay Servant Courses

Saturdays, March 4 & 11, 2023
Stevensville UMC (5506 Ridge Rd)

Courses are free – order your own book and bring a sack lunch.
You must attend all sessions to earn credit for the course.
Registration deadline is February 27.
Courses with fewer than 5 people will be canceled.


basic book coverBasic Course
Led by Rev. Elise Low Edwardson
Required book: Lay Servant Ministries Basic Course Participant’s Book by Sandy Jackson
This course is foundational for all courses in Lay Servant Ministries. Participants are encouraged to discover and employ personal spiritual gifts and to consider the importance of exercising servant leadership, developing future leaders, remaining rooted in consistent spiritual practices, and being part of a group that holds members accountable in their discipleship.


spiritual gifts book

Discover Your Spiritual Gifts
Led by Pastor Cindi Veilleux
Required book: Each One a Minister by William J. Carter
This course helps participants understand spiritual gifts and how the church can use them
to fulfill its mission and ministry. Participants will also learn what it means to be a spiritual
leader and will be equipped to lead others in exploring and using their spiritual gifts. This course fulfills the “Discovering Spiritual Gifts” requirement for Certified Lay Speaker status.




Youth Member to Annual Conference

We are currently looking for a United Methodist Youth in the Greater Southwest District between the ages of 12 and 17 that might be interested in attending the Michigan Annual Conference in Traverse City from June 2-4, 2023 as part of the Lay Equalization members.

The youth must be a professing member of The UMC and an active member of their church. Part of their food and housing will be covered by the conference.

Please contact Wynne Hurlbut at [email protected] or Lori Roof at [email protected] by Dec 10 if you have questions.

Changing Church for a Changing World


In the midst of a rapidly changing ministry landscape, Fresh Expressions invites you to join us for a day of envisioning the unique ways the Holy Spirit might be inviting you to step deeper into mission. In this interactive day of training on November 12 you will:
• Catalyze a vision for a church that sends out the everyday people of God to be on mission in their networks and neighborhoods
• Brainstorm ways to connect with people your church may not be currently engaging
• Discover how fresh expressions of church can emerge alongside your traditional church
• Explore creative ways of being the church in the world today
Fresh Expressions is working together with ministry leaders to bring you the best of innovative practices that are transforming churches and mission across North America. Join us to discover actionable steps that any congregation can take to be a more effective witness in the world in which we find ourselves. 

REGISTERfree childcare available ages 0-12

Only $10 per person – includes lunch!

9:00 Gathering Time – Coffee & Refreshments
9:30 Welcome & Worship
10:00 Session # 1 – Movement: How Fresh Expressions Is Changing the Landscape
10:45 Break
11:00 Session # 2 – Need: Why Fresh Expressions Matter for the Church
12:00 Lunch Break
12:45 Session # 3 – Form: Creating Fresh Expressions in Context
2:00 Break
2:15 Local Story Interview & Q&A
2:50 Session # 4 – Action: How It’s Happening and How You Can Get Involved
3:30 Closing


Meet the Trainers

Rev. Heather Jallad serves an innovative dual role as the Fresh Expressions Specialist for the United Methodist Church in North Georgia and as the Community Engagement Pastor at Cannon UMC in Snellville, GA. She leads The Greenhouse (a network of FX pioneers) for the North Georgia Annual Conference. She pioneered the Common Ground Network, a network of fresh expressions, at Mount Pisgah UMC in Johns Creek and The Douglasville Dinner Church in Douglasville, GA. She holds a BA in Mass Communications from University of South Florida, an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary, and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Church Renewal and Fresh Expressions at United Theological Seminary. She and her husband Marten have been married for 28 years and have two daughters.


The Rev. Jon Davis, Ph.D. is a known and recognized leader in the Episcopal Church. He served as Canon for Youth Ministry in the Diocese of Central Florida; training  youth workers; initiating local, national and international missions and conferences. Jon is a successful church planter starting Church of the Incarnation / Oviedo, Florida in 2006 which grew from 6 people to an average Sunday attendance of 130+ in 2 years. He most recently served as the Executive Director of Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center during which he lead Canterbury back from the brink of collapse to a strong, sustainable and growing ministry. He is now on staff with Fresh Expressions. He is a sought after, dynamic and engaging speaker, writer, worship leader and ministry trainer.  

Lay Equalization Members

How can I attend and vote at Annual Conference as Laity? 

In order to serve this role, you must be a member of The United Methodist Church for two years, and an active participant in The UMC for at least four years prior to your election (this is waived for those under 30). More information about this can be found in The Book of Discipline ¶32.
There are two main ways laity can attend and vote at Annual Conference. The first is by being elected by their church to serve as a Lay Member to Annual Conference. Each church is given a set number of voting spots each year. If this is a role you are interested in serving, please reach out to your pastor to see if this may be a way to serve now or in the future.
The second way laity attend is as equalization members. Per The Book of Discipline and our Conference Rules, some of these spots are automatically given to certain offices within the conference such as certain conference committee chairs, district lay leaders and other conference positions. Our Conference Rules then indicate any remaining spots be given to the Board of Laity to distribute and find eligible members to serve. To do this, you must meet the membership requirements, apply with your District Lay Leader, and all of your church Lay Member spots must be used. Your District Lay Leader will then let you know if you were selected to serve in this role and you will be given information on how then to register for Annual Conference.

2023 Lay Equalization Application Form


Why are there different numbers allotted for each church?

The number of laity invited must equal the total number of clergy (active and retired) that are invited. Each year part of the job of the Annual Conference Registrar is to calculate the number of Lay Members to Annual Conference each church or charge is given. This calculation is done using our Conference Rules which includes using items such as membership and number of clergy appointed to the church/charge (for detailed information, please see our Conference Rules). Once this is done, they are then sent to each church as these numbers can change from year to year.


New Conference Rules:

The 2021 Annual Conference approved a change to the Conference Rules as to how Lay Members to Annual Conference are distributed, moving more of the representation from our Equalization Members invited by the Board of Laity to the local church. This mainly impacted multiple point charges as each church in a charge, is now given at least one Lay Member to Annual Conference further empowering the voice of the local church.


Helpful Hints:

1)   Remember all Lay Members to Annual Conference must be entered by their church into our conference database, Brickriver, as soon as possible. This allows us to communicate Annual Conference 2023 information with them and help alleviate any delay in them being able to finalize their registration.

2)   Subscribe to MiConnect. This will help make sure that you will receive information about Annual Conference and other events going on in the conference.

Greater Southwest District