District News

The Living Legacy of an Idle Tale

The Living Legacy of an Idle Tale
by Rev. Dwayne Bagley, Greater Southwest District Superintendent

When I was young and full of grace and spirited as a rattlesnake, I was given the opportunity to become a filmmaker. As some of you already know, “opportunity” is probably the wrong word to use in this case. Since I really didn’t have the option to refuse, it was more like being given the assignment to become a filmmaker. It was part of the coursework in my New Testament interpretation class on the Gospel according to Mark. The movie-making assignment was given to every student in the class by our wacky professor who had a wacky name to match. I kid you not, his name was Dr. Boomershine. That name, and his odd way of approaching the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, opened itself up to being subjected to all sorts of abuses. The most frequent of which was that certain wits at the seminary, even among his professorial colleagues, would refer to him as “Dr. Monkeyshines”. Behind his back, of course.

Dr. Boomershine was one of the founders of something called the “Network of Biblical Storytellers”. These learned lay and clergy folks devoted themselves to the notion that the Bible was full of stories that God’s people told one another to help them keep and increase their faith. They thought that it was a crying shame that the stories of the Bible had ever been written down, believing that capturing them on a printed page was the equivalent of putting these life-giving and life-affirming stories in an empty tomb. The Network of Biblical Storytellers sought to rectify this by telling the stories of scripture, right out loud, from memory to anyone who would listen. They elected a president each year to facilitate their annual meetings, but Dr. Boomershine was their king. He had memorized the gospels of Mark, Matthew, John and Luke along with Acts, and certain parts of Paul’s letters. He could begin at chapter one, verse one of the Gospel of Mark and tell the rest of the story, right straight through, from memory. It was rumored that, instead of bedtime stories, he told his children stories from the Gospels – a rumor his long-suffering offspring confirmed when asked with a sighing and shaking of their heads. As a lark, he staged a production of the Book of Revelation in the form of an epic tragedy of the Greek Theatre.

These things alone would have branded Dr. Boomershine with a reputation for a certain kind of wackiness, but he took his storytelling approach to the gospel one giant leap further when he insisted that there would come a day when people wouldn’t sit still long enough to read books or even listen to well-crafted and executed sermonizing. Instead, according to his reckoning at least, the good news of Jesus Christ should be translated into a visual form that would appeal to people’s senses, capture their imagination, and connect with them in a way that communicated to a generation raised on television. He was working with the American Bible Society to do a translation of the New Testament in a video format suitable for playing on VCR. He actually thought there would come a time when some people’s primary connection with Christian faith would be through a screen. How wacky is that? You can see why people called him Dr. Monkeyshines. 

I approached his assignment to translate a passage from the Gospel of Mark into a video presentation with all the gusto of someone who needs the course credits to graduate. Because I possessed hubris beyond my years, I chose Mark’s story of the resurrection from chapter 16 – the resurrection story – as the subject for my no-budget visual retelling. Because I was short of two resources most necessary to produce a visual epic, money and time, I had to make some compromises. As a stand in for the empty tomb, I chose a large, neo-gothic style, downtown church located in the city of the Wolverines that shall not be named. Its impressively thick oak doors seemed representative of barriers barring entrance that would need to be rolled away. And let’s face it, if you’re looking for something empty and tomblike, there’s nothing emptier and more devoid of life than a church sanctuary on a weekday.

In the role of the women who went very early on the first day of the week after the sun had risen to pay their respects to Jesus, I cast three college co-eds. Instead of bringing spices to the neo-gothic tomb, I had them tote daffodils. I encountered a continuity problem when my rigorous filming schedule conflicted with one of my three women’s final exams, and she had to leave. I had another difficulty when I was trying to find the right person to play the angelic messenger in Mark’s story. Because I couldn’t convince or coerce anyone else, I had to play the part of the bright angel myself. Needless to say, it was not typecasting.

There wasn’t anything particularly innovative or insightful about any of this. It was all just sort of a heavy-handed attempt at updating the old, old story. But my no-budget epic did step out of the tomb we try to keep the good news of the resurrection in when it imagined where Jesus might call his disciples to join him if the Easter story happened today. I couldn’t recreate the Galilee where Jesus called his followers to join him. Instead, I imagined places where Jesus might be found living and working in our world. I chose scenes of midnight basketball leagues and homes for the elderly and soup kitchens and clothing banks and shelters for people on the street. I thought then that if Jesus were going to rise up, go on ahead of us and ask us to join him, those were the kinds of places where we would find him. I still believe that.

One Easter Sunday when I was just a baby pastor, a woman came up to me after I had given an impassioned Easter sermon that had left me breathless, tearful and sweaty. I had left my body, soul, mind and spirit up on the altar of God after letting that one fly. She surprised me by asking, in a voice that sounded like she should have her hands on her hips, “You don’t really believe all that, do you?” I have spent the last twenty years wondering how I could have responded to her better. I’ve concluded that I should have just told her that faith in resurrection of Jesus Christ is less about believing and more about doing.

We live in a world that is asking the same question that my nemesis posed to me all those ago, “You really don’t believe all that, do you?” For them the resurrection madness we proclaim seems to be just another idle tale. What they require is for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be translated into a form that they can understand, not in some no budget video presentation or even a television epic with a multi-million dollar budget. Instead, we should be about the work of meeting Jesus in the places where he has gone on ahead of us and translate the Good News into actions that help by offering hope and into deeds that declare the truth of the Easter story through the good we do.

As people of faith we believe, along with the Apostle Paul, that God’s grace, revealed to us in powerful signs in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, hasn’t been for nothing. As people who believe that truth, we’re left with a challenge. After we’re done with the singing of our alleluias, when the Easter lilies have left the building, and the choir has hung up their robes, we’re left with the challenge of crafting a living legacy out of what, to many, seems to be an idle tale.

We witness to this living legacy not only when we raise our alleluia, not just when we arrive at the end of life holding on to the assurance that we are heaven bound, but when we join Jesus in whatever Galilee presents itself in the world today. We give testimony to the fact that God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ are not for nothing, not only when we say that we believe, but when we live like we believe. The testimony Easter people have to proclaim is simply and powerfully this: “I serve a risen savior. He’s in the world today. I know that he is living whatever foes may. We are his hands of mercy. We speak with his voice of care. And just the time I need him he is always there. He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me when I walk with him. He talks to me when I speak for him. Wherever life’s narrow way takes us, we discover that he lives! He lives- Salvation to impart. You ask me how I know he lives, and I will tell you that the world will know he lives when they see He lives within our hearts.”

Happy Easter. May God grant you grace to live like you believe in the power of the Resurrection.

Hopkins UMW Provides Re-Entry Kits

Hopkins UMC United Methodist Women initiated a project to provide “re-entry” kits to inmates being released from the Allegan County Jail. Each kit contains personal care items, a pocket calendar, a pair of socks and/or gloves, a small treat and a card from our church. Funding for the project came from private donations, loose change offerings and a Fresh Expressions Grant from the District. The first 20 kits (10 men and 10 women) were delivered to the jail in early January 2022. 

personal care items for inmate re-entry kits

2022 District Business

Thank you to the 42 people that voted for our District business. The results are as follows:

2022 District Leadership – 41 yes, 1 no
2022 District Narrative Budget – 41 yes, 1 abstain

There are many opportunities to serve in District leadership. If you are interested in filling a vacancy, please email District Superintendent Dwayne Bagley.

 

4 Churches 4 Jesus

By Diane Grimm (Paw Paw UMC) & Leanne Fader (St. Paul’s UMC)

September 2019… It all started over a cup of coffee, a prayer and four willing UMC lay people to think a bit out of the box. The first meeting was pre-pandemic and it was lead by Bob Graham, Administrative Council Chairperson at Paw Paw UMC with representatives from Almena, St. Paul’s Lawton, and Lawrence attending. The group openly shared and agreed that each church has a more senior population, attendance is not growing, financial budget and income are stretched, and the same people do the majority of tasks within the church and are burning out, sustainability for the churches was in question.

The group again, through prayer and guidance, asked what we collectively might be able to share together. Then, COVID and the pandemic hit. The group did not reconvene until February 2021.

In February, it was determined we needed to focus on our community. It was hurting, it was broken, and it was reflecting a poor attitude towards all people. So, the team quickly named themselves, The Community Kindness team. We started meeting monthly, and also asked our pastors to attend the meetings. It was determined we would provide a quarterly community event. One of the four churches would “host” the event and the other three churches would “support.”

We conducted a survey of attendees from all four churches in September. The results of the survey have given direction for our future actions. We renamed our team to “4 Churches 4 Jesus.” We have a joint Facebook group (4 Churches 4 Jesus); we post a monthly message/update in each church’s newsletter; we are hosting community events, but expanding deeper in planning, giving and serving. We are looking at partnering within the community for a Homeless Shelter. Currently, we are in the gathering information stage. It may or may not happen. We feel strongly that when a person serves one another, both people grow. So our mission is to be humble like Jesus, to serve others like Jesus, and love others like Jesus. We seek God’s direction for the future of 4 Churches 4 Jesus and our ministry in our communities. 

Our 2021 community events included: a summer outdoor worship service and afternoon event with live music, a food truck, and community information booths. We raised over $2000 for United Christian Services, a local organization that helps with emergency needs. We hosted a Halloween Trunk ’r’ Treat event with refreshments and pumpkin painting. In December, we held a live nativity event with local singers, actors, and live animals from Chamberlain Farms. 

Plans for 2022 events are underway. So far we have planned a drive-through Ash Wednesday blessing with free coffee, a Red Cross Blood Drive, a joint Good Friday service, a music concert featuring Jean Watson, and we are planning another live nativity.

4 Churches 4 Jesus meets at 6:30pm the third Wednesday of each month at Paw Paw UMC.

pastor wayne mckenney on stagepeople at picnic under pavilion

two women dressed for Halloween near truck decorated with spider webs and pumpkins

animals in pens for live nativitymary and joseph in nativity scene

2021 District Ministry Shares

Thank you to all the churches that paid their 2021 District Ministry Shares! Through your support, we fulfilled our commitment to the Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center and the Wesley Foundation of Kalamazoo. Mission & Ministry grants and Fresh Expressions grants were awarded to ten churches for a variety of purposes, such as: hygiene facilities for the homeless, prisoner re-entry kits, a/v upgrades, a fresh food initiative, young adult ministry, and a children and youth mental health program. Sixteen churches were also granted funds to assist in clergy support and a new seminary intern program. District Ministry Shares help to keep lay servant ministry classes free, provide resources for pastoral transitions, and offer support for new clergy candidates.

Dreaming of starting a new ministry? Want to reach new people through a new outreach effort? Find out more about the available grants on our District Missions page.

Lay Equalization Members to AC

As District Lay Leader, I have the opportunity to invite 14 laity to be Equalization Members to Annual Conference. These people shall have been professing members of The UMC for at least two years and shall have been active participants in The UMC for at least four years (not required for those under 30 years of age). Their basic expenses would be paid for by the Conference. 

If interested, please submit a 2022 Lay Equalization Application. Contact me if you have any questions!

~Wynne Hurlbut
[email protected], (269)720-0741

2021 Charge Conferences

All Fall conferences will be Charge Conferences, unless specific arrangements have been made.

Who are the members of a charge conference?
2016 Book of Discipline ¶246.2 The membership of the charge conference shall be all members of the church council or other appropriate body, together with retired ordained ministers and retired diaconal ministers who elect to hold their membership in said charge conference and any others as may be designated in the Discipline. If more than one church is on the pastoral charge, all members of each church council shall be members of the charge conference.

How will the conference be convened?
Conferences will be on ZOOM, an online video conferencing software. If connecting from a smartphone or tablet, it’s helpful to have the free ZOOM app installed on your device in advance. A phone number will also be sent if someone needs to call in to the conference. For security reasons, please do not share ZOOM info on social media. 

Who will send the Zoom meeting info?
Once the forms are received in the District Office, Mandana will send the ZOOM meeting info to the pastor who should then share it with members of the SPRC and charge conference.

Will the SPRC meet with the District Superintendent?
Yes. The SPRC will use the charge conference Zoom link to meet with the DS 45 minutes prior to the charge conference.

How should our paperwork be submitted?
At least one week in advance, send your COMPLETED and SIGNED paperwork:
EMAIL: as scanned PDFs to Mandana at [email protected]
MAIL: Greater Southwest District Office, 2350 Ring Rd N, Suite B, Kalamazoo, MI 49006 

2021 Charge Conference Forms Checklist

Forms are found on the Conference website: https://michiganumc.org/resources/forms/
2021 Good Beginnings-Pastor
2021 Good Beginnings-SPRC

2021 Charge Conference Letter
2021 Charge Conference Schedule UPDATED 9/7/2021

2021 Charge Conference Agenda

UMW Mission Challenge

Our District United Methodist Women collectedsweaters sweaters and quilts from all over West Michigan on September 12, 2020. God richly blessed us with an amazing number of sweaters and quilts. One woman made more than 100 sweaters!! Pokagon was the winner this year with 184 sweaters and 4 quilts. Bless everyone that made things for the mission challenge. Wow!! A total of 457 items were sent to the Midwest Mission Distribution Center! God has blessed us with an amazing group of women!! Thanks to everyone who contributed this year: Pokagon, Westwood, Climax, Gobles, Athens, Debbie Bachman, Scotts, Schoolcraft, and Hartford. See more photos and individual totals in the latest issue of The Compass.
 
As the winner of the challenge, Pokagon chose the mission project for 2021 – all or portions of the Feminine Hygiene Kit and/or fabric face masks for adults or children. The projects made for the Mission Challenge need to use the patterns from Midwest Mission Distribution Center.

District Youth serve in Detroit

youth painting wallLast week, a Mission Team made up of four youth and two adults served at Cass Community Social Services in Detroit. Justice and Zion from Three Rivers: Center Park UMC and Julia and Lincoln from Edwardsburg: Hope UMC were led by Pastor Matt West (Girard) and Corey Sheets (Hope). The team spent time in the kitchen, painted walls, made floor mats out of recycled tires, worked in the shredding room, and did landscaping at one of the tiny homes. They also visited some sights around Detroit including the “Wailing Wall” and had dinner with Cass staff in Little Mexico. The team stayed at Cass Community UMC.
 
This was the first of what is hoped to be an annual Youth Mission Trip. This District-wide effort allows teens the opportunity to experience mission service, especially for those whose churches may only have a few youth and leaders and resources are limited. Costs for the participants were covered through District Ministry Shares. 
 
leaders Corey and Matt making matsSpecial thanks to Matt West for organizing this trip and for sharing photos throughout the week. More are available on our District Facebook Page.

To learn more about serving at Cass or to express interest in next year’s trip, please email Matt at [email protected].

Greater Southwest District