It was an information-packed, friendship-building and joy-filled new beginning for the Michigan Conference United Methodist Women as they gathered in Petoskey, October 26-27, 2018 for their first joint Annual Meeting.
Michigan Conference United Methodist Women
“Have Courage! Embrace Change and Grow!” was the theme of the first joint meeting of The United Methodist Women of The Detroit and The West Michigan conferences held at Petoskey United Methodist Church on October 26-27, 2018.
Like the Michigan Annual Conference held in Traverse City last June, this event provided the opportunity for voting on new standing rules, a new budget, and a new slate of officers for the UMW of the state.
A Leadership Program was hosted on Friday evening, coordinated by the Detroit Conference UMW President Micki Phelps. The focus of the time together was the “School-to-Prison Pipeline,” one of the four major social issues from National United Methodist Women. Other officers, Linda Darrow, Brenda Street, and Alice Tucker, assisted in the presentation.
Approximately 140 in attendance learned about the history of School Resource Officers, how DARE and other organizations came along to help with the prevention of drug use and other behaviors associated with crime in public schools. The concept of School-to-Prison Pipeline starts as early as preschool, depending on the family situation. Participants learned facts that most never knew existed in the United States.
Sharing of introductory information was followed by a panel discussion. Panelists spoke on how to stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Panelists included:
- Sharon Appling, a retired teacher/administrator for Detroit Public Schools. She helped lead students, impacted by the system’s zero-tolerance policy, toward restorative justice rather than suspension. Her main objective was to keep kids in school and help them succeed. She stressed the importance of involvement by United Methodist Women in loving children and youth in order to avoid the criminal justice system.
- Doug Mantha, Director of Ministries at Petoskey UMC. He is involved with the Safe Families Program that pairs children, whose parents are in crisis, with host families rather than send them into foster care. Doug also coordinates Kids Hope, a mentoring program. He believes there’s hope for children and parents facing complicated situations.
- Honorable Judge Valerie K. Snyder, 7th Probate District Court/Petoskey. The first female judge in Emmett and Charlevoix counties, she is keeping families together by addressing delinquency, abuse and neglect. The judge believes education and rehabilitation are keys to keeping children and youth safe and focused on success in school.
- Karen Starkey, retired Petoskey High School Counselor and members Petoskey UMC. Responsible for 500 students, she shared her methods of keeping kids in school … assisting with teens’ home issues and listening to both youth and their teachers. Karen believes all students need to be given the chance to dream and that zero tolerance policies may be too strict
Question-and Answer-time allowed engagement between panelists and participants. Names of other organizations and individuals that have kept children and young adults out of harm’s way were offered as additional resources.
The Saturday gathering was a momentous celebration. We sang, led by song leader Beth Mitchell (from Kalamazoo) and pianist Marna Jeffrey (from Grand Haven). We worshipped. We were greeted by Bishop Bard. We celebrated communion, led by the Rev. Anita Hahn, the Superintendent of the new Northern Waters District that hosted the event. Rev. Hahn also installed the 2019 Conference Mission Team.
We were wowed by the Drum Voices of Greensky Hill United Methodist Church. They provided special music featuring a wide variety of Native American drum music and singing.
We were encouraged in our giving by global missionaries Stephen and Gail Quigg and national missionary Randy Hildebrant. Muriel Nelson, President of the Liberia Conference United Methodist Women, was a special guest. Leaders of our own United Methodist Community House in Grand Rapids — CEO Eric Williams and COO Carla Moore – also shared. The total collection was almost $3,000 which will contribute to our Pledge to Mission!
We were humbled by Rita Smith, president of the North Central Jurisdiction UMW. She motivated the Michigan Conference United Methodist Women to carry on the mighty work of mission through faith, hope and love in action.
Finally, we were moved to tears as we held hands and closed this significant meeting/celebration by singing, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” A wonderful ending as two conferences become one in mission locally, throughout the nation, and around the world.