District News

The Road Goes Ever On

As we will be gathering at our Annual Conference next week, this will be the closing Puzzler’s Corner for the Midwest District and for me as the Superintendent.  I want to say thank you, not only for the celebration on April 30 but also for the privilege and honor to have been on this journey with you for the past five years. 

Together we have planted seeds for the new Michigan Conference, have weathered the storm of a pandemic, have had to say goodbye to laity, clergy, and faith communities who have gone on to glory or are preparing to start new paths of faith, mission, and ministry and to learn and grow as our Lord continues to speak to us and call us to a life of service for His sake. 

Each day brings new struggles, tasks, and troubles while simultaneously offering us joys, celebrations, and even miracles. Our faith assures us that God is with us in the peaks and valleys and the places in between. And though we can’t see the future clearly, know that our Lord is not through with us yet.  As I will continue to serve as the next Superintendent of the East Winds District, I hope these little Puzzler’s Corner blog posts have been a source of comfort, discernment, and inspiration for these past 5 years.

When I was in what is now fondly known as Middle School, I read the first book of Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  This particular series of books introduced me to dragons, magic, and the epic battle of good vs. evil.  This first book also included a song/poem which is the title of today’s blog.

I share the second verse with you to help you know that our journeys of mission and ministry continue.  The Lord is shaping us for the next thing, preparing us for those who are still lost and have no voice, for people who hunger and thirst to know they matter and that God is with us.  May we strive to wear the mantle of service and servant ministry that we have been given.  May we seek to embrace the words attributed to John Wesley to do all that we can, whenever and however we can for whomever we can.  And may the words of Tolkien help us to know that no matter where our road leads, God is our constant companion who surrounds us, sustains us and supports us with His everlasting love.

The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.


And Amen.

Everyone Counts

At the end of last month, I found myself watching the NFL draft.  There are seven rounds, each with 32 slots for teams to fill out their rosters.  The first night of the draft is a mega event with glitz and glamour as players, their families, college coaches, and fans wait to hear which team will call their names.  The order of the draft then determines how agents will negotiate their salaries as they make the transition from college to professional football. Although there are more than 100,000 college football athletes, there are only about 1,700 who have the opportunity to play in the NFL (Google.com). That’s less than 2%.

There are numerous other ways we categorize who’s who and what’s what in our lives.  Music has a weekly Top 40 list.  Nielsen Ratings and other viewing statistics indicate which shows will be canceled or renewed. Each year the companies that make the Fortune 500 list is released.  Some law schools and medical schools still rank students, based on their GPA. 

Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder about the athletes, songs, shows, companies, or students who don’t make it into that top category.  Is the 41st song on its way up the charts or on the way down? What product is sold by the 501st company? Who determines which shows are the most or least popular? What happens to the players who aren’t drafted? How does law school or medical school ranking affect where someone practices?

To consider the rankings we create in another way, what happens to those who don’t make the list?  Although I have never watched an entire season, over the years I’ve noticed that the runner-up on American Idol is sometimes more successful than the winner.  The football player who wins the Heisman Trophy doesn’t always have the most successful professional career.  Some physicians and attorneys who struggled with coursework excel in the field. So, the rankings can be misleading.

As Christians, we are invited to be the best we can be, not in competition or in comparison to one another.  We are asked to embody what our Lord and Savior taught us that in God’s eyes, we are all precious, each of us has value and we are loved by the one who created us.  Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he repeatedly showed us what it meant and what it means to know who we are matters.

Jesus could’ve chosen Pharisees and Sadducees as his disciples. Instead, he asked fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and even a thief to journey with him. Our Savior could’ve only spoken to Hebrews about what His presence in the world meant.  And yet, he shared with a Samaritan woman who he was and healed the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman. On his way to Jairus’ home, he stopped to speak with a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years.  Those who suffered from leprosy, blindness, or in other ways that made them outcasts, found love, mercy, and grace when they met Jesus. 

And when we seek to be like our Savior, we can also lift up someone who believes they do not matter.  There are far too many people who feel that who they are and what they do has no meaning. How do we share our gifts in a way that will help others discover God’s blessings in and for their lives?  Our dedication to mission and ministry invites us to journey with those who may be considered lost, be ranked at the bottom of some list, or ignored altogether.

Can we begin to see one another through the eyes of love and the words of 1st Corinthians 13? It is a passage that is often shared at weddings.  When we focus on the love God has for us and the love we have for one another, we will be transformed.  May we seek to be like Jesus in all that we say and do. And Amen.

Western Waters District Conference

The first Western Waters District Conference took place via Zoom on Saturday, May 13.
The purpose of this conference was to vote on the proposed 6-month budget and leadership roster for the new Western Waters District.
The recording and minutes are below along with all the voting items.


  • View the recorded Western Waters District Conference  ⇒ HERE
  • Passcode: ^it&JR3E



Leadership Roster

Mission & Ministry Grant History – Midwest District

Mission & Ministry Grant History – Northern Waters District

We Are Called

When I began my journey of ordained ministry, my pastor shared Jeremiah 1: 4-10 with me.  It is a part of the prophet Jeremiah’s call story, reflecting God’s plan for him.  It is the passage I share with others as they begin to discern their call to servant ministry.

When I served on the Board of Ordained Ministry in the then Detroit Conference, a portion of the interview time was listening to each candidate’s call story.  Each story is unique in how our Lord speaks to someone’s heart and soul inviting us to a life of service.  Our stories also resonate with people from Scripture who have also been called to serve.  The call stories of Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah are examples from the Old Testament.  Simon Peter’s call by Jesus in the Books of Matthew and Luke inform us that anyone, and everyone is chosen to serve our Lord.

As clergy candidates move forward in the process, there are fewer and fewer invitations and opportunities to share how God has led us and is leading us on the path of following His plan for our lives. And yet, this moment is a pivotal event in our relationship with our Lord.  Who we were before and who we are after hearing God speak our name is life changing.  It is when we recognize that we are special as we are, while simultaneously beginning to understand that we may become much, much more.

Every person has a story to tell.  The Holy Spirit lives in each of us.  That’s what Pentecost is all about.  God is calling each of us, shaping all of us and asking every one of us to help and support one another. Whether the Lord speaks to you through your favorite hymn or a particular Scriptural passage, God still moves in our lives.

How often do we tell one another about how our Lord first touched our lives.  Did we have a strange warming of our hearts like John Wesley?  Or was it more like a lightening bolt experience like Saul? Did we hear a small voice like Elijah? Or did the Lord have to call us more than once, like Samuel, before we recognized who was calling our name?

And once we said yes, I can do that, how was our life transformed, and how does it continue to be transformed by what it means to let the Holy Spirit work within us and through us.  I invite you to read the story of Pentecost once again.  How does this passage affirm how our Lord is speaking to you, and asking you to serve one another?  And how will you celebrate this wondrous gift that Jesus promised to everyone who gathered together on that particular day.

We are called! We are blessed! We are God’s voice and hands and feet! And Amen.

I Love Jesus’ Style

First, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for the Farewell Celebration on Sunday.  I will always treasure the time we have journeyed together as laity and clergy within the Midwest District.  I especially want to thank Pastor Dean Prentiss, Liz Bode, and Emil Jensen for planning the party and sharing my story as your Superintendent. After July 1, even though we will be in different parts of our state, we will still be together in the ways that our Lord calls us and invests in who we are, so that we may all better accomplish His mission for the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With only a few of these to write, I hope that these Corners have provided some ways for us to discover how awesome our relationship with our Lord is. I was watching a movie from the ‘80s recently.  I happened to turn it on after it had already started.  I was able to hear one of my favorite quotes from the film: “I love Jesus’ style.” These four words are the foundation of what it means to be Christian.

As we consider these words, and how you and I embody Christ’s teachings, I invite you to look at the parables.  Each one of these narratives is a request for you and I to see ourselves and each other in new ways.  For Jesus’ contemporaries, the Parable of the Good Samaritan would’ve been very shocking to hear.  How could an enemy of the people be an example of loving kindness, while two Jewish leaders intentionally passed by the injured man? The Parable of the Sower illustrates what no farmer would ever do, throwing seeds anywhere and everywhere, rather than intentionally planting them in cultivated soil where the growth and harvest is ensured.

The trilogy of the Lost Parables: sheep, a widow’s coin and the Prodigal Son, ask us to ponder how we care for the one thing that is lost, rather than let it go.  In Matthew 25, Jesus shares the Parables of the Ten Virgins and the Bags of Gold in preparation for the Sheep and Goats passage.  In today’s context, we struggle to imagine 10 women who would wait for their husband, who is late to his own wedding.  The fact that 5 of them didn’t prepare for this wrinkle, and at the last minute, seek to recover, reminds us to be ready for what God asks of us at any moment.  The Parable of the Bags of Gold asks us to share the gifts we have been given, with others, because one day there will be an accounting of what we have done in the name of the Lord.

“I love Jesus’ style.” Through His teachings and example, our Savior invited us to take on the mantle of the Good Samaritan, to spread the Good News everywhere, telling Christ’s story as we sow seeds of faith, because we don’t know when the words we share will take root and grow in others.  We are challenged to find those who are wandering, and those who are lost, even if that means you and I must leave the security of what is familiar to us in order to bring another into our community and the Lord’s embrace.

We are to be vigilant, always ready to listen to and respond to the needs of others.  Do we have a plan of mission and ministry?  And how can we change that plan when we realize the people, we once served, are able to stand on their own and continue their life journeys?  This is the post-COVID question we are seeking to answer.  Who are the people in need today, and what are those needs? Some may be the same as before the pandemic.  Our time of isolation has also brought new opportunities for us to be in mission and ministry with one another.  How do we invest the gifts we have received from our Creator so that they will produce a harvest which is 100, 60 or even 30 fold?

Jesus’ parables call us to look at the world our Lord created in new ways, to redefine our relationships and to re-examine how we live out the Great Commission.  Whether or not you have a favorite parable, I invite and encourage you to reflect upon them again, and to incorporate the inspiration they offer us to be bold and daring as we serve our risen Savior. And Amen.

Below are a few photos from Sunday’s Farwell.

To watch the Farewell service, please follow this link ⇒ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1VrMW6OgFE

DS Farewell
Margie Crawford and Jodie Flessner
hands on
ONO mug



A Long Time Ago

In July of 1977, one of those life-changing moments happened.  A friend invited me to the movies to see the biggest hit of the summer. That was the first time I saw Star Wars (now known as Star Wars: A New Hope).  I was fond of sword battles even then. I’d grown up watching Errol Flynn spar with Basil Rathbone in films like Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood.  But swords that glowed and hummed brought a new level to the duels.  In the 1970s you could sit and watch a movie twice, without paying again, as long as the theatre wasn’t sold out.  I spent most of the rest of that summer watching that movie over and over, discovering something new each time I saw it.

I’m not sure if anyone thought that over 45 years later, this one movie would give rise to 10 more, numerous cartoons and shows, hundreds of books and there are still more on the way.  While I was in London at the Star Wars Celebration, many of the actors who have been in the movies or shows said the same thing about what it was like to be a part of the Star Wars universe.  From Vivien Lyla Blair (Princess Leia in the Obi Won Kenobi series) to Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian, first seen in Empire Strikes Back), most of the actors said the same thing, that they were excited to be part of this ongoing story.  Below are a few pictures from the event.

As much as I am a fan of all things Star Wars (or other fantasy and science fiction stories), there is one story I love even more. It is the story of God’s loving and salvific presence in our lives.  Even though fewer people go to church, join a church or even say they are Christians, I am still excited to share the Good News of what it means to be saved and redeemed. When I was a child, the narratives started in Sunday School and Wednesday night prayer meetings, when an adult would retell the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark or Abraham and Isaac.  Hymns like We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder and Go Down Moses taught me about these two men of the Old Testament. 

My parents would watch classic movies about people in the Bible.  Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba and Ben-Hur were among them.  One of the first films I saw about Jesus was called The King of Kings and starred Jeffrey Hunter.  When I was in high school there was a mini-series called Jesus of Nazareth.  I still watch this series and The Ten Commandments nearly every year.  For me each film reminds me how wonderful it is to have God in our lives.

As good as some of these movies are, I enjoy reading the passages of the Bible the most.  I never tire of how God continues to journey with us.  Our Lord’s steadfast love truly endures forever.  Nearly every time I read passages from the Bible, I discover something new about how we are in a dynamic and awesome relationship with our Lord.

As we continue to celebrate the wondrous and miraculous joy of the empty tomb, may we tell the stories of faith from both the Old and New Testaments.  Each time we share them, we learn a little more about how God is with us, continuing to accompany us on our journeys of faith.  I hope that each time a part of our Lord’s story is shared: in a Bible study or a sermon message, or even in a casual conversation in a parking lot, that you may discover new revelations about God’s love and God’s light which shines in and through every one of us. And Amen.

A Short Time Away

Last week my son and I went to London to celebrate a milestone birthday.  We attended the Star Wars Celebration in Europe along with nearly 30,000 other fans of the movies, TV shows, comic books, and memorabilia. 

Fans were treated to guest appearances by actors who were in the first films as well as those who had just been cast in the newest productions which are premiering later this year.  Vendors and exhibitors offered the latest toys, books, crafts, and games.  In the conversations between those of us who waited in line to attend special panels or purchase one or more items for our collections, we talked about what it is like to be part of something that began a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

In a way, what was unfolding on the convention floor was a backdrop to the Easter celebration that was taking place across London. I saw an interview with the Right Reverend and Right Honorable Dame Sarah Mullally, who is the Anglician Bishop of London. She addressed some of the same issues we are facing here in the United States regarding the decline in worship attendance over the past few years.

Bishop Mullally hoped that on Easter, people would be returning to churches in greater numbers now that the COVID restrictions of the past couple of years were gone.  Although I wasn’t able to attend a service on Easter morning, I did visit Wesley Chapel for an Easter Vigil service on Saturday night.  The service was online and in person. 

As I traveled all over London to take in the tourist sites and attend the Star Wars convention, many of the people I spoke with were talking about Easter.  One of my Uber drivers and I spoke about the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  A waiter at a restaurant, shared with me how wonderful God’s salvific acts were and are when he observed that I had a bookmark with John 3:16 on it.

As The Reverend Steven Cooper, the pastor at Wesley Chapel, reflected on the wondrous miracle of the empty tomb, he spoke about the significance of the day between Good Friday and Easter morning as the point when life and death connect with one another.  It is the one day, in the life journey of our Savior, when these two events are juxtaposed. 

Rev. Cooper’s message brought new light to what it means to be an Easter people.  Our Lord continues to reach out to us to ensure our salvation.  As we continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, I invite us to consider the words of Romans: 8: 38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is the promise that our Creator offers us.  May it be so.  And Amen.

An Event Like No Other

As we journey through this year’s Holy Week, with our eyes looking toward Easter, our time takes us through a week of mixed emotions.  We see the events of what happened in those few days through a 2000-plus-year lens.  We know that Sunday is coming.  But each year, we are invited to relive the days that forever transformed what it means to be in relationship with our Lord.

Throughout the Old Testament, God declared how precious we are and how much He loves us.  After the flood, God came to Noah and showed him a rainbow, to remind all of us of God’s presence in our world and in our lives (Genesis 9: 12-17). When the descendants of Abraham were released from slavery and began their exodus from Egypt, God, who had visited 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, opened a way through the water to lead the children of Abraham to freedom (Exodus 14: 21-22).

During the time of Jeremiah, as the Israelites were exiled from their homeland, the prophet offered hope in the midst of despair.  God continued to renew the covenant He made with our ancestors.  In Jeremiah 31: 31-34, the Lord promises to write the new covenant upon each of our hearts.  Time and again, our Lord reached out to us in new ways to help us know what it meant and what it means to be in a covenantal relationship with our Creator.

In each of the 4 Gospels, as Jesus is celebrating the Passover meal with the disciples, remembering how God saved those in Egypt from slavery, he made with them a new covenant (Luke 22: 14-20), an everlasting covenant for our salvation.  As we know, on that night, what began as a time of joy and celebration quickly turned into an unjust trial, which led to our Savior’s suffering and death on the cross.

The Seven Last Words of our Lord and Savior, from the cross, magnify and affirm how much our Lord loved and loves us.  Jesus asks God to forgive us because we don’t know what we’re doing (Luke 23:34), He blesses a thief (Luke 23:43), seeks care for His mother (John 19:26-27), cries out in anguish to our Lord (Matthew 27: 46), expresses a very human need for water (John 19:28), and pronounces that God’s mission for the world is accomplished (John 19:30 and Luke 23:46). 

But that was not the end.  On Easter morning, when the women discovered that the tomb of our Lord and Savior was empty, the words that Jesus spoke during the Passover meal became the foundation of the new covenant we remember each time we break bread and drink from the cup.  May we rejoice in the meaning of the empty tomb as once again, we offer our humble thanks for God’s everlasting love and grace.  He Is Risen, He Is Risen, Indeed!


I share this song with you as you journey through Holy Week.  And Amen.

Midwest District