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District dialogue: ministry in season

Woman looking over frozen Lake Superior

With snow still in the forecast this week, Scott Harmon, Superintendent of the Northern Skies District, anticipates the coming of Spring in the Upper Peninsula.


Superintendent, Northern Skies District

Northern Skies DSWarm greetings Michigan, from the snows of the Northern Skies District!

Spring in the northern-most parts of our Conference always comes with great anticipation. The promise of receding snow and light-filled days offers a vantage from which I draw meaning looking into the coming season.

Winter’s cold winds and the annual blanketing of snow over frozen lakes and trees tends to draw us, regardless of where we are in Michigan, indoors. Our neighbors become those we wave a friendly greeting to while pulling into the garage or shuffling bundled against the wind to the mailbox. But beyond the chance encounter of synchronized snow-blowing, the winter months lend themselves to the habit of seclusion within the four walls of our insulated boxes.

For the adventurous, though, these months represent a chance to explore God’s creation in ways that only the context of the winter season provides. The Copper Dog and UP200 sled dog races through the Keweenaw and Marquette, ice climbing in the Pictured Rocks, pond hockey tournaments in St. Ignace, and ski jumping in Ishpeming, Iron Mountain, and Ironwood. Not to mention the snowshoeing, Alpine and Nordic skiing, outdoor hockey and curling that goes on across the region. Personally, the winter months and I are friends. I enjoy the winds coming off the lakes and the blankets of white that cover the woods. Long ago I learned to keep my “winter kit” in the car (blanket, boots, water, and energy bars), letting nature’s rhythm, and a little good sense, set my pace.

In the midst of this conflicted love/hate relationship we have with the season, it comes as little surprise that the promise of Spring is something all seem to celebrate! Neighbors, with smiles, pause to greet one another from the sidewalk, walkers and runners feel the beckoning impulse to explore their worlds…. and every dog barks its springtime greeting with pent-up enthusiasm.

And as much as the change in seasons may be anticipated, there’s another reality… change is messy. Winter, in its resplendent sterility, is a known quantity. The warmth of Summer, so desired, is but an aspiration not yet real. Spring, through warm days and cold, freezes and thaws, is a birth; and births, as we know, are not as much “planned” as they are “responded to” with kits packed and ready. Spring is God’s invitation, and something of a biblical metaphor for northern people.

As creation awakens around us, melting snows will doubtlessly swell the rivers. Pathways will be muddy, shorelines redrawn, rocks from longstanding faces will tumble to the ground…. I wonder if this is not simply a reflection of the way God works. Inviting us into a new life-giving day despite the fact that change, like life, is messy.

I don’t know what God has planned, what flowers will sprout among the receding snow piles, or soils wash away down the hillsides, but I want to be ready to offer a good word of grace in Jesus Christ to a messy world whatever the melting snows reveal.

Peace and towels!

The Michigan Conference