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Learn and grow at Mission u

Women studying the Bible

Come to Mission u, July 13-15, to study God’s word with other United Methodists and learn how faith moves us into action.

Content Editor

Do you take God’s word seriously and enjoy studying it with other Christian believers? Do you have a heart for mission and justice and seek practical ways to put what you believe into action? Do you desire inclusive events where you can bring your whole family?

If so, come to Mission u, July 13-15, 2023, at First United Methodist Church in Mt. Pleasant, for a time of study and action with other people of faith. The event is sponsored by United Women in Faith. A hybrid option is available for those who cannot attend in person.

Women, men, youth, and children of all ages are invited, and age-appropriate study groups will be provided. Register before June 15 and pay $75. Hybrid participation via Zoom is only $40. Scholarships are available, and contact Judy Huynh ([email protected]) for details.



Lodging in Mt. Pleasant is on your own, but Mission u has reserved a block of rooms until July 1 at the Hampton Inn, located at 5205 E. Pickard St. Call 989-772-5500 to reserve a room and receive a special rate of $119 (plus tax) per night. Rooms accommodate up to 4 people.

The heart of Mission u is bringing people together in a welcoming space for study, worship, and mission. Each year, the global United Women in Faith sets the theme for Mission u and develops a curriculum that United Methodist annual conferences can use to plan their own localized events.

Living the Kin-dom is this year’s Mission u theme, which focuses on the heart of Jesus’ good news in the Gospels and what fresh vision it offers us. Study scriptures include the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, and some parables, and show us how Jesus proclaims the good news of the kin-dom or reign of God and invites us to experience it in our lives and communities today.

Study leaders for Mission u include Rev. Audra Hudson Stone, director and pastor of the Wesley Foundation at Central Michigan University, who will facilitate the adult group. Rev. Tiffany Newsom, pastor of Laingsburg UMC, and Rev. Paul Reissman, pastor of Lake Odessa: Central UMC, will co-lead the youth study group. And Rev. Ronda Libbett, associate minister at St. Luke A.M.E. Zion Church, Grand Rapids, will teach the children.

Study books for all age levels can be purchased in advance through the United Women in Faith website, or they can be ordered when you register for Mission u and picked up in Mt. Pleasant (they cannot be shipped to you). Register using this downloadable PDF or via this online form.

Having fun at a conference
There is much room for fun and relaxation at Mission u when participants are not in meeting in group studies. ~ photos courtesy Michigan Conference Mission u

Rev. Audra Hudson Stone is excited about leading adults through a study of the Lord’s Prayer, a core practice of our Christian faith tradition. She notes that the Lord’s Prayer is more holistic than one might think, bringing together contemplation and action, individuality and community, mind, body, and spirit. “Mission u is highly interactive and designed to be engaging at every turn. Over eight teaching sessions, we’ll engage in art, prayer, reflection, discussion, theater, and even bread-baking. We learn by doing at Mission u, and there’s something for everyone.”

One of the hallmarks of Mission u is small group discussions that deepen the daily study. Connie Swinger, dean of Mission u, believes the intensive learning at Mission u is made possible through honest conversations in small groups, taking the study that each person has done on their own and the larger group teachings further. “You really get to talk to people,” she says, “and know them better and find out what they think and believe.” And these small groups will even be available in online breakout rooms for those attending virtually.

Rev. Tiffany Newsom, who is co-leading the youth, has been attending Mission u since she was a teenager and believes it is a worthwhile experience especially for young people as they are maturing in faith and learning about the world around them. She explains, “In the church, we often get stuck in internal struggles, and we sometimes find that other people don’t believe along the same lines as we do. But in Mission u, there is a lot of encouragement to ask questions, to explore your curiosity, and to learn.”

There are hands-on activities planned for the youth, and the small group atmosphere will provide an excellent opportunity for youth to make friends. Connie Swinger tells the story of a group of about seven or eight youth from around the state that have been coming to Mission u for several years and plan on having a reunion during this year’s event. These now-young adults have continued their friendships and stayed in contact through social media.

Women talking at a conference
Studying the Bible does not have to be boring or tedious. Attendees find joy in growing in faith with other Christian believers. ~ photo courtesy Michigan Conference Mission u

Mission u has been formative for Rev. Tiffany Newson. Initially attending with her aunt and several other women from St. Johns UMC, Newsom found it to be rewarding as she grew older and started bringing her nieces and nephew, who have enjoyed the experience.

Newsom credits Mission u for giving her the space to explore her call to ministry. “Going to Mission u throughout my life was really transformative, a large part of my call to ministry.” Mission u has shaped the ministry of two other leaders attending this year’s event: Rev. Paul Reissmann, who attended as a youth, and Rev. Ronda Libbett, who served as an assistant children’s teacher at Mission u (formerly School of Christian Mission) for 10 years.

Connie Swinger says it’s been great to see Mission u raising up young Christian leaders like Tiffany, Paul, and Ronda. She explains, “It’s like how people talk about going to camp, how that’s where a lot of people feel the Holy Spirit and decide they want to go into the ministry. And so, it happens here at Mission u sometimes.”

Formation at Mission u happens for all ages, including the children that come. Rev. Ronda Libbett enjoys teaching and seeing children study God’s word and have fun. She is glad for dedicated space at Mission u for children to learn and grow in faith.

Libbett finds that adults can learn a lot from children in their approach to growing in faith. Just like iron sharpening iron, we need each other, and we must become students to be all God has called us to be. Therefore, she says, “I encourage each and every one of us to look at this from a child’s perspective and learn all you can.”

Activities at a church conference
United Women in Faith provides a book table (left) at Mission u for those who wish to participate in their reading program. There will also be a book-sharing table. Bring books you want to get rid of, and for a small donation, take the ones you want to read. For those unable to attend in person, Mission u will be offered via Zoom (right). ~ photos courtesy Michigan Conference Mission u

Coming to Mission u and studying God’s word and learning how it applies to life is contagious for those who have been a part of it. Mission u empowers others to learn together, allowing head knowledge to change hearts and then move people to action on matters of justice and mission.

According to Connie Swinger, this is what’s so powerful about Mission u and, ultimately, what United Women in Faith has accomplished through its many years of service working alongside women, children, and youth, many of whom are vulnerable and live on the margins of society.

People who come to Mission u study God’s word and learn about justice issues, whether that’s dealing with climate change, anti-racism, gun safety matters, or other injustices the scriptures they are studying address, and then go back home and get to work. Swinger says, “The hope is that we learn, and then that makes us able to take that back to our local United Women in Faith units, our local churches, people we know, and influence them to change our world for the better. That’s the mission part of United Women in Faith.”

Mission u’s Ingathering addresses this heart for mission by asking those attending to bring items to help Mt. Pleasant’s Community Compassion Network replenish their baby pantry. CCN is always looking for formula (any kind except toddler); baby food; baby care items like wash, lotion, shampoo, sippy cups, bottle brushes, and bottles; and diapers sizes 4 and 5.

Mission u is planned for July 13-15, and in between daily studies and moments for mission, participants will find breaks for fun and fellowship and opportunities for worship and reflection. Rev. Audra Hudson Stone encourages people to come and enjoy this time with others and stay open to the transformation that God can bring: “Those who are considering attending this year should expect a warm and authentic community of people all searching for connection with themselves, each other, and the Divine.”

Last Updated on May 9, 2023

The Michigan Conference