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‘Living the Kin-dom’ at Mission u

Women attending a conference

At Mission u, over 100 United Methodists came together to study God’s word and experience what it means to live out God’s vision of a world centered on justice, mercy, and love.

Content Editor

Over 100 United Methodists from all over Michigan met for a time of study, fellowship, and worship at Mission u, held July 13-15, 2023, at First United Methodist Church in Mt. Pleasant. Using the Lord’s Prayer as the scriptural focus, “Living the Kin-dom” was the study for all ages.

Sponsored by the Michigan Conference United Women in Faith, Mission u brought together 87 in-person adults, 12 virtual attendees, and 15 children and youth for a transformative educational experience. Each year, Mission u centers around curricula designed to inform, enrich, and prepare attendees for faithful Christian living and action in the world. This year’s curricula allowed attendees to use the Lord’s Prayer as the lens to explore the kin-dom of God, where humans relate to one another through equity, justice, and love as siblings in community.

Rev. Audra Hudson Stone, director and pastor of Wesley at Central Michigan University, led the adult study, Rev. Tiffany Newsom, pastor of Laingsburg UMC, led the youth, and Rev. Ronda Libbett, associate minister at St. Luke A.M.E. Zion Church, Grand Rapids, taught the children.

Women at a conference
Adult small group discussions and activities (left) are at the heart of daily study at Mission u. Rev. Audra Hudson Stone (right) from Wesley at CMU led the adult study sessions. ~ photo courtesy Cindy Thiele/UWF

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us a powerful spiritual practice that we can use to live out the values of the kin-dom of God. Jesus mentions the kin-dom (Greek word basileia; often translated as “kingdom”) of God over 90 times in the Gospels. The curricula for Mission u chose to use the term “kin-dom,” which follows more recent biblical scholarship that moves away from imperialistic and patriarchal language. “Kin-dom” is a more inclusive and relational word, conveying a sense of solidarity rather than top-down authority or rule.

Mission u attendees participated in study and activities that put their learning ideas into practice. Throughout the gathering, the worship—songs, scriptures, and messages—and the plenary study sessions reflected the themes of justice, inclusion, and community.

Rev. Audra Hudson Stone, who led the adult study sessions, noted these themes in the shared commitment of attendees to learning, reflection, and fellowship. She said, “The folks who attended seemed truly and deeply interested in imagining and working toward a world centered around God’s justice, mercy, and love—an essential part of the kin-dom that Jesus calls us to in the Lord’s Prayer. Challenging questions were asked, tender moments were shared in prayer and reflection, and lots of laughter filled the room. These all felt like tangible expressions of God’s kin-dom already among us.”

Group chatting at conference
Bishop David and Julie Bard join a group for conversation and a meal during the 2023 Mission u, held July 13-15, at First United Methodist Church in Mt. Pleasant. The event was sponsored by the Michigan Conference United Women in Faith. ~ photo courtesy Cindy Thiele/UWF

Connie Swinger, dean of Mission u, talked about how she witnessed the kin-dom of God throughout the event: “I saw the kin-dom of God many times—when someone helped a mom with her young one, when everyone shared at their table, when people did cheerfully whatever task needed doing! I personally feel the call to live into God’s kin-dom every time I am part of a group of United Women in Faith. I feel nurtured and loved and want to share that feeling.”

In their separate study sessions, the children and youth discussed what God’s kin-dom looks like. One of the children’s activities was a collage made by cutting out pictures from magazines of what would be in God’s kin-dom. Things like ice cream, flowers, and people smiling were just a few of the images depicted. The youth discussed the difference between “kin-dom” and “empire,” engaged in art projects, wrote in journals, and heard Bible stories.

This year’s Mission u study, “Living the Kin-dom,” will continue next year, as this was the first part of a two-year study. Several people noted that they thought the study was meaningful and plan to attend the second part next year.

Kids singing
Children created a collage depicting what the kin-dom of God looks like (on the back wall, to the left). They also learned a song that they sang for the adults on the last day of Mission u. ~ photo courtesy Cindy Thiele/UWF

Mission u equips others to learn together, allowing knowledge to transform hearts and then move people to action on matters of justice and mission. That’s the “mission” part of Mission u.

Attendees got mission updates from around the Michigan Conference, including campus ministry updates from Wesley at Central Michigan University and United Methodist Community House (UMCH), the only United Women in Faith national mission institution in Michigan. United Women in Faith assists nearly 90 of these organizations that provide vital services in vulnerable communities and advocate for the women, children, and youth in the communities they serve.

Methodist women’s groups have supported United Methodist Community House from the very beginning, going back to 1902 (read more about the history here). At this year’s Mission u, a silent auction and a used book sale combined to raise over $1,300 for UMCH’s ministry.

Mission u’s ingathering also moved hearts for mission by collecting items to help Mt. Pleasant’s Community Compassion Network replenish their baby pantry. Connie Swinger noted, “I didn’t count how many things we got, but the entryway at the church was full of diapers, formula, baby food, and other items. United Women in Faith are generous people!”

Women working on an art project
Women took time to work on a collaborative art project during Mission u. ~ photo courtesy Cindy Thiele/UWF

Great food and fellowship rounded out the time attendees spent together at Mission u. There were a variety of activities for people to engage in. A card-making station allowed people to make cards for others. Some made cards to encourage women who use the baby pantry at Community Compassion Network; cards could be given along with diapers, formula, or other items. The older youth got involved in making cards for family members.

Other fellowship activities included a hymn sing, a collaborative art project, and book talks. Attendees came to Mission u from all over Michigan, so these activities were great opportunities to make new friends, bond over shared values, and commit to the justice work that Jesus calls us to as we serve the world. Connie Swinger added, “All of the special activities were another way to break into small groups and get to know each other better and become a kin-dom.”

Last Updated on August 9, 2023

The Michigan Conference