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Deacons come to the lakeshore

Deacons on staff at Lake Huron

Fourth in a series of articles about the ministry of the Deacons in Michigan. Meet Ann Emerson and Cora Glass, who are in ministry together at Lake Huron Retreat Center.

Senior Content Editor

The United Methodist Church has been ordaining “Permanent Deacons” since 1997. Ann Emerson, Director of Lake Huron Retreat Center, was ordained a Deacon in Full Connection at the 1998 West Ohio Annual Conference, making her one of the early members of the diaconate.

Twenty-one years later, in 2019, Cora Glass was ordained a Deacon at the Michigan Annual Conference while serving as Director of Lifelong Faith Formation at Waterford Central United Methodist Church.

On April 1 of this year, Michigan Area United Methodist Camping announced that Cora would join Ann on the staff of Lake Huron Retreat. She arrived there on May 1 to begin ministry as their Program and Hospitality Manager.  

Ann said, “Cora brings a passion for retreat ministry and a vision for developing new programs to our already strong ministry.” Ann added, “The Lord has opened a door for us to move our ministry forward in exciting ways. We are thrilled to welcome her to the Lake Huron team.”

How has God been working in the lives of these two women? Ann reflects on her call to ministry. “Camping has always been a part of my spiritual journey, and it was while at youth camp as a junior in high school I felt a call to full-time ministry. I first was commissioned as a diaconal minister, but when the opportunity came to be ordained as a Deacon in Full Connection, it was a perfect fit for my emphasis and passion for servanthood ministry.”

Deacons Cora Glass and Ann Emerson with retreat staff
Lake Huron Retreat Director Ann Emerson, center, with the team that hosted 110 people for a Community Breakfast on Memorial Day. They raised $1,965.00 for the upcoming National Camp Leaders Conference. Deacon Cora Glass pictured lower right. ~ Facebook photo

God nudged Cora while she was a student. She relates, “My call to the order of Deacon came after a Deacon Dialogue Gathering at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. I was able to see myself among this group of individuals who had a similar passion for justice, compassion, word, and service.” She continues, “The ability to work in more specialized ministries and non-profit organizations also appealed to me.” 

Lake Huron Retreat Center, located near Burtchville in Michigan’s thumb, is an excellent place to practice servant ministry. Cora has discerned a path to “lead Christian communities where people are fed physically and spiritually. She notes, “At Lake Huron Retreat Center, our team provided the food and spaces for a wide array of people to find rest and spiritual renewal.” She looks forward to developing programming that will aid in spiritual growth for individuals and groups.

For Ann, the work of the Deacon involves serving their guests “in providing a peaceful place for reflection, worship, and fellowship.” She acknowledges the importance of teamwork. “I serve alongside the entire staff by providing comfortable lodging, good food, and a beautiful setting. Then, I step aside and let God work!”

The director adds that her greatest joy is “the richness of being in ministry with colleagues – deacons, elders, and local pastors.” Cora also values the partnerships she has formed with both clergy and laity. She rejoices in the relationships that gave birth to her new appointment. She explains, “One challenge of being a deacon is that the ministry you are called to doesn’t always translate to a full-time ministry position. However, as I’ve articulated my call to my colleagues, I’ve been amazed at how the conference and Michigan Area Camping have worked to help craft and fund the positions that allow my call to flourish.”

Most deacons serving in Michigan find themselves the only Deacon on a staff. So, Ann and Cora have a unique opportunity to serve side by side. Ann is excited to be working together with Cora to create new programs and expand retreat opportunities. “We are just getting started,” she says, “so watch for news and information on our Facebook Page and website!”

Cora’s ministry got started as an incubation project of the Michigan Conference. “The Spirit is moving in ways beyond my comprehension,” Cora remarks. “I’m grateful to the Seed to Harvest Program of the Michigan Conference for helping me dream about “Recreate Art and Retreats,” where I sell art and host spiritual painting retreats. I am thankful, too, for Ann’s openness to hear my vision for how my call could be brought to life in partnership with Lake Huron Retreat Center.” 


Cora Glass joins camping staff at Lake Huron
Participants enjoy a “Pause and Paint Day” at Berkley First. Deacon Cora Glass (top, center) joined the staff of Lake Huron Retreat Center on May 1, 2022. She will help guests “connect with God in fun and meaningful ways.” ~ photo courtesy Cora Glass

Both of these deacons on the lakeshore have words of encouragement for others who may be sensing a call to the work of the Deacon. Ann says, “The ministry opportunities for Deacons are vast. I would encourage anyone exploring a call to the Order of Deacon to simply seek out a Deacon and be in dialogue.” She celebrates deacons who have designed “wonderfully creative ministries that effectively serve the Church and Community.” 

Cora tells others, “Pray about the call you are hearing and connect with our Michigan Conference Deacons on Facebook or at the Annual Conference. Start sharing what you feel called to with others. Finally, be prepared to have a spirit of entrepreneurship to help you craft the appointment that allows you to live into the ministry God wants for you.” 

After 23 years as a Deacon, Ann Emerson finds that the work of a Deacon is not always understood. “Even after all this time, there are clergy and laity who still do not know who we are and what we do in bringing the church out into the world,” she observes.

A visit to Lake Huron Retreat Center would be an excellent opportunity to gain an understanding of who Deacons are by getting acquainted with two vital ministers, Ann Emerson and Cora Glass.

Other stories in this series:

Alex Plum: Deacon pioneers’ global learning’

Rodney Gasaway: Deacon on a motorcycle

Sue Pethoud: Deacon engages volunteers in mission

Last Updated on December 20, 2023

The Michigan Conference