District News

To the Northern Waters District Churches

Letter to the Churches of Northern Waters Distrct ~

I am sure you are aware of Northern Waters Executive Assistant Jill Haney’s retirement, effective February 1st, and know that this is also the date we will switch to virtual offices.  Beginning February 1, Diana Byar, [email protected] , will be handling all of your communication with the District Office.  Diana is the Executive Assistant for the Northern Skies District, and we are grateful that she is also stepping into this role for Northern Waters February through June.  You can continue to call the District Office at 231-947-5281, Diana will greet you on the other end. 

You have probably already seen the announcement of the new Michigan Conference District boundaries and the assignment of District Superintendents. These changes will take effect July 1st. https://michiganumc.org/michigan-conference-redraws-district-lines/  

Here are some important steps as we head into spring:

  • Pray: Everything we do is centered in prayer. We remind ourselves of our dependency and reliance on God, especially at times of transition (see A Prayer for Liminal Spaces below).  And we know that God is calling us into a hopeful future: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”- Joshua 1:9b and as Jesus reminded the Disciples: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20b
  • District Ministry Shares: The amount you received in December is your total amount for 2023.  Please continue to send those to H & R Block through June of 2023 to PO Box 456, Kingsley 49649 Attn: Whitney made payable to Northern Waters District.   We will offer updated information as it becomes available.
  • Keep an eye out for more communication.

Please feel free to contact Diana or me with questions.


Jodie R. Flessner
Northern Waters District Superintendent
Cell: 231-499-3262


A Prayer for Liminal Spaces

These February days always give me pause – A slender sliver of ordinary time suspended between Christmas and Lent. As sacred time folds over on itself, forming ever more layers of purple and green, we find ourselves yet again in the already, but still quite firmly in the not yet. Perhaps these days are a loving reminder that so much of our space is liminal, so much of our time spent watching, waiting. Lord of mercy, your gaze ever upon us, Send us a blessing for the in-between. Amen.  – Cameron Bellum

12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.  – Romans 12:12 (NLT)



New Mission and Ministry

New Mission & Ministry Grants ~

Does your church have a vision to do something new and creative, but are short on funds? Has God placed a dream on your heart, and now you are waiting for God’s provision? There is no time like the present to follow where God is leading you and your church in order to make a difference for the “transformation of the world”. The Northern Waters District is excited to be able to continue to offer one time grant funding for district churches that are launching new ministry projects or scholarships for first time mission trip attendees.  Past grant awards have ranged from a few hundred dollars to $5000, thanks to the payment of Ministry Shares. Where is Christ calling you to serve and witness to God’s love? Join us in taking risks for the sake of the Kin-dom of God.

Grant Criteria:

     A.  Your church must be making a good faith financial investment in paying your ministry shares.

     B.  The application must be submitted prior to expenditure of funds for the project.

     C.  Your grant must address at least one of these criterion in order to be considered. We are looking for results beyond what your
           congregation is currently experiencing – such as the criteria listed below:

  1. Professions of faith and Baptisms
  2. Religious Education and small group participation
  3. Outreach ministries to your community
  4. All of God’s people and/or people on the margins coming into contact with the Gospel
  5. Innovative and creative ministries
  6. Peace with Justice ministries
  7. Support the Vision of your church


Interested churches should print out and complete the application and email/mail it to: Wava Hofmann, Chair, [email protected] , 269-953-0114.

Meeting Due date for application
3/14/23 3/1/23
6/13/23 6/1/23
9/12/23 9/1/23
12/12/23 12/1/23

The  District Missions and new Ministry Team meets quarterly  to consider applications .  All applicants will be notified as to the District Missions and New Ministry Team’s decision as soon as possible.  Grant recipients will submit pictures and a newsworthy article to the District Office in order to share the story of what you have seen unfold following the launch of your project. Additional reporting may be required, as requested.

Please click  HERE  for the link to the Northern Waters District New Ministry Grant Application.


For two examples of new church ministries, please click  HERE  for what Kingsley UMC and
Harrietta UMC have been able to put in place with their New Mission and Ministry Grant funds.



New Ministries of Two UMC Churches

Here is what two United Methodist Churches are doing
to help those in need  ~


New Ministry at Kingsley UMC
              ~ a mission success and its impact

Our new ministry is called Monday Nite Out and is held every Monday at a park in Kingsley. We give away a free hot dog meal, offer free kids crafts, and have games.  A great time for all from 5:00pm – 7:00pm.

This ministry brings young families and older seniors together. Those who serve see God working through volunteers and strangers getting to know each other. They talk about life, their kiddos and their struggles.


Kids enjoy playing games with the volunteers and EVERYONE enjoys the extra food that church volunteers bring as a surprise — such as watermelon, cupcakes, even s’mores!

It’s like a mini block every Monday.





New Ministry at Harrietta UMC
              ~ a mission success and its impact

Harrietta United Methodist Church has a Firewood Ministry for the community. This ministry helps our community with emergency heating needs in the winter.

This year we had a generous donation of $1000 to purchase wood for this ministry. We decided to purchase the logs instead of pre-cut wood so we could get more to serve more people this winter.

The wood was delivered and before we could officially set up a work bee, volunteers just showed up and got to work. They are making great progress and we will be ready for the cold winter months.

Anyone in the Harrietta community and vicinity who needs help this winter staying warm are encouraged to reach out to us at the church. We feel very blessed to be able to bless other families this winter.

          Pastor Julie Lawhead                   
          (231) 389-0267
[email protected]



Readers to Leaders

Creating Leaders Through Education ~

At the 2022 Michigan Annual Conference, the body voted overwhelmingly to support the   “Readers to Leaders” fundraising campaign.  The campaign runs from September  10, 2022, to May 1, 2023 and has the goal of raising $500,000. These funds will support two ministries focused on education and we are asking local churches to create their own ministry relationship with a school in their community.


Each congregation is challenged to raise at least $600.  These funds will support three ministry efforts:

  1. Half of the funds will benefit the Liberia Scholarship Program of the Michigan Conference’s Liberia Ministry Partners.
  2. Half of the funds will benefit the Michigan Conference’s Children Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program. 
  3. Finally, we are asking local churches to develop a missional commitment to a school in their own community.  That might be an in-gathering of school supplies, offering tutoring, after school programs, or weekend food programs for at-risk students.



Your congregation can submit a check to the Conference Treasurer with the phrase “Readers to Leaders Campaign” in the memo.  You can also make individual donations online by clicking here. 

Click   HERE   for more information.

Questions can be directed to campaign co-leaders Lisa Batten and Jon Reynolds at:

Lisa Batten [email protected]
Rev. Jon Reynolds [email protected]


United Methodist Student Scholarships

For United Methodist Students ~


Applications are now open for scholarships from the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation. Every year, UMHEF awards $2+ million to students planning to attend one of the 100+ UM-related colleges, universities, and seminaries across the country. Don’t let finances get in the way of achieving your dreams of a quality education!

Apply by March 1, 2023!  Click  HERE  for application information and other details.




Bishop’s Message

Meet the Michigan Conference 7 Districts ~~


January 17, 2023 Message ~~

Dear Friends in Christ in the Michigan Conference,

Greetings in this new year and grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the peace and power of the Holy Spirit.

At our last annual conference session, we approved the reduction in the number of districts in the Michigan Conference from nine to seven. This change is being made in light of shifting financial realities, particularly related to the reduction in the number of congregations in the Michigan Conference due to both closures and disaffiliation.

The Book of Discipline authorizes the bishop “to form the districts after consultation with the district superintendents” (¶415.4) while giving the annual conference the authority to determine the number of districts. The task force I established in 2021, which brought the proposal for seven districts to the 2022 annual conference, looked at several models for seven districts. Working with the district superintendents, we used one of those models and have been modifying it. While some minor changes in the boundaries and churches in each district may yet be made, I wanted to provide you with information about the new districts along with the names of the district superintendents who will be appointed to serve them. Attached to this letter you will find both a map and a list of churches in each of the seven districts. Here are the persons who will be serving as district superintendents:

  • The Northern Skies District will extend further into the northern lower peninsula.  The Rev. Scott Harmon will be the district superintendent.
  • The Central Bay District will extend west to include more of the center of the lower peninsula.  The Rev. John Kasper will be the district superintendent.
  • The Western Waters District (new name) will extend along the shores of Lake Michigan and include both the Traverse City and Grand Rapids areas.  The Rev. Jodie Flessner will be the district superintendent.
  • The East Winds District will now include the entire thumb area of the state and some more of the northern Detroit metropolitan suburban areas. The Rev. Dr. Margie Crawford will be the district superintendent.
  • The Greater Southwest District will extend more into the south-central part of the lower peninsula.  The Rev. Dwayne Bagley will be the district superintendent.
  • The Heritage District will extend into the Lansing metropolitan area.  The Rev. LuAnn Rourke will be the district superintendent.
  • The Greater Detroit District will extend south to the Michigan-Ohio state line.  The Rev. Dr. Darryl Totty will be the district superintendent.

As has already been announced in their respective districts, the Rev. John Hice and the Rev. Dr. Jerome DeVine will be retiring at annual conference. I want to express my deep and profound appreciation to both for their faithful service to Jesus Christ as district superintendents in the Michigan Conference. It has been my privilege and pleasure to work with them in these roles. Both brought a wealth of experience and a depth of knowledge to the work of the superintendency. Both have keen minds, large hearts, and profound souls, and yet each expresses these qualities in unique ways. John’s attention to detail and thoughtful historical perspective have benefitted the cabinet. Jerry’s rich history with anti-racism work and connections with the larger United Methodist Church are significant and have been deeply valued by the cabinet. I will miss them but know that we remain connected in this connectional church of ours.

There will be additional opportunities to celebrate their ministries, and I know you will join me in taking advantage of those opportunities.

It is important to note that as we move to seven districts, we are thinking anew about the work of superintendency. We do not want to simply expand territory without revising the essential work of the district superintendent. This will be ongoing work for the cabinet and me.

As we begin this new year in ministry together as a conference, may God’s wisdom guide us and deepen our thinking, may God’s Spirit empower and enliven us, and may the heart of Jesus expand our hearts for compassionate and caring ministry.

Grace and Peace,





Northern Waters District