The 2018 Annual Conference honored committed individuals and vital congregations.
Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Conference
The phrase, “Thank you,” was uttered many times during the course of the 2018 Michigan Annual Conference. However, there were some special moments of recognition for exceptional service and giving.
On Thursday … John Buxton Award
A highlight of the Conference Treasurer’s Report each year is the announcement of the recipient of the John Buxton Award. On Thursday afternoon David Dobbs introduced Ruby Anderson as the 2018 honoree. “She has provided creative and dedicated leadership at all levels of the church,” Dobbs said. Currently Anderson is a Director of the National United Methodist Women in addition to her district and conference responsibilities. Conferred annually since 1996, the award honors a member of the Detroit Conference– clergy or lay – who exhibits exceptional leadership. The first such award was posthumously given to John Buxton himself, for his role in making the Detroit Conference pension program one of the strongest in the denomination. Immediate past recipients were Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey (2016) and the Rev. Paul Perez and the Rev. Faith Green Timmons (2017).
On Friday … One Matters Award
The Rev. Gary Step, Michigan Conference Associate Director for Congregational Vibrancy, was at the mic on Friday afternoon to help confer Discipleship Ministries One Matters Award. Created in 2015 the award recognizes churches that rise up from zero baptisms and professions of faith. A $1,000 gift encourages further work in discipleship. Step introduced the Rev. Kevin Smalls, senior pastor of Southfield: Hope United Methodist Church. Once the largest African-American United Methodist Church in the North Central Jurisdiction, Southfield: Hope went into decline after the retirement of a long-tenured pastor in 2014. Worship attendance went from 800 to 300. “That’s falling off a cliff,” Step said. The congregation began to stabilize in 2015 under leadership of the Rev. Cornelius Davis. Then Rev. Smalls arrive from the Baltimore-Washington Conference in 2016. Step explained that they now average 500 in worship, had 81 professions of faith and 19 baptisms. “It is well on the way to restoring its historical significant to Michigan Methodism,” Step added. Pastor Smalls introduced his staff colleagues, Rev. Chris Grimes and Rev. Rosaline Green. He noted, “God has given us amazing results.” More innovative worship, new welcome techniques, relevant sermons, a user friendly building, and expanded avenues for becoming members were cited as reasons for new growth.
On Saturday … Lynn Grimes Spirit Award … Conference Canes … Advance Awards
During ceremonies hosted by the Board of Ministry on Saturday afternoon, several acknowledgements were made of servant leadership. The Rev. Dean Prentiss presented the Lynn Grimes Spirit Award to outgoing Board of Ministry chair, the Rev. Sherri Swanson. “You were kind and good in helping us understand what we are doing and why are doing it,” Prentiss commented. Prentiss also announced the current holders of the Conference Canes, the oldest living United Methodist Elders in Michigan: the Rev. Arthur Spafford (Detroit Conference) and the Rev. Bernard Randolph (West Michigan pastor 102 years young). “
The Rev. Jack Amick, Director of Sustainable Development for UMCOR and clergyman from the Detroit Conference, “came home” on Saturday to present three Advance Giving Awards. The Rev. Paul Perez, Associate Director for Ministry and Mission, and Detroit Conference Secretary of Global Ministries, Jackie Euper, were on stage to receive the plaques. The Detroit Conference was recognized for 2017 giving, among the top 10 supporters in The United Methodist Church in: 1) International Disaster Response; 2) Health Initiatives; and 3) Missionaries. Amick said, “Because we are better together, I am sure there will be 2019 awards for The Michigan Annual Conference, a place that is committed to mission.”
On Sunday … Goodbye to four Superintendents
Sunday morning’s Cabinet Report was offered in the context of worship. Bishop David Bard expressed appreciation to four superintendents who finished their service on his team: the Rev. Mark Spaw (Ann Arbor); the Rev. William Haggard (Grand Rapids); Rev. Dr. Dale Miller (Albion); and the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai. Bard’s tributes … “I have come to know Mark Spaw as a person who has a huge heart and who cares deeply about the ministry of Jesus Christ and the pastors and churches who are under this care. I love him even though he makes fun of my dog.” … “I appreciate the Rev. Bill Haggard for his choice of ties, his humor, his warmth, his authenticity and willingness to share his life’s journey. He cares deeply about how the church is doing. It pains him when churches are stuck in 1950s GM mode and wants to gently move them to a new place.” … “The Rev. Dr. Dale Miller said yes to what is not any easy jog to take on for just one year. He had done this job before but bishops all do things a little differently. He offered experienced leadership with kindness and grace.” … “Last July I got a call that said ‘We might think of Kennetha Bigham-Tsai for Chief Connectional Officer of the Connectional Table.’ In December we learned the appointment would be made. She has left us but her commitment to the Church’s people and her depth of faith have left something with all of us.”