A young mother of twins said “Everything was great!” about worship. A church rebuilt from the ashes. 200 free hot meals for the community. A young father and his infant’s upcoming baptisms. A camp filled with beloved children of incarcerated parents. Congregations longing for pastoral leadership. Churches who love their pastoral leaders.
I saw all of these on my trip to Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula from July 15-23, 2023. After 9 days, 21 ministries, dozens of leaders, three sermons, 1563 miles, and a flat tire and dead battery, I am so grateful for all I experienced and learned as I traveled through Mackinac Presbytery.
The genesis for the trip was my journey to Native American congregations with other synod leaders last fall. I learned a lot about rural ministry that week, but I was inspired to learn more about rural ministry in our Synod, too. The trip up north taught me so much:
Smaller churches, some as small as 12 members, have as much desire to serve their communities as suburban and urban congregations.
Elders and deacons play an even more critical role than they do in larger congregations; their passion and gifts propel their church families forward.
Like in other industries and sectors, it is difficult to attract candidates to serve in small rural areas. (Please pray that God will bring pastors to the many churches searching, not just in Mackinac, but also throughout our Synod.)
In declining population areas, congregations usually shrink in size but not in mission and faithfulness.
The Spirit of God swirls around worship, coffee hours, mission projects, and Bible studies, just as in all congregations.
It seems to me that it is easier to give thanks to God for the beauty of creation, of sustenance, and of relationships in these congregations in this location.
Rural Presbyterians enjoy eating just as much as urban and suburban ones. (I may or may not have gained eight pounds on this trip!)
I had hoped to meet with even more churches on the trip, but the distances were just too great to accomplish in one week. I look forward to other journeys like this one, not just through Mackinac but also to other presbyteries. I’m deeply grateful for the churches and leaders I met with—thank you for your joy, your faithfulness, your inspiration, and your time.
Tawas Area Presbyterian Church
Kay Morrill, retired Stated Clerk of Mackinac Presbytery
Community Presbyterian Church, Gould City
The Church of the Redeemer, Manistique
First Presbyterian Church of Kingsford/Iron Mountain
Presbytery Point Camp
First Presbyterian Church, Marquette
United Presbyterian Church, Ishpeming
Community Church, Big Bay
First Presbyterian Church, Munising
First Presbyterian Church, Newberry
First United Presbyterian Church, Sault Ste. Marie
Donaldson Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church, Dafter
Pickford Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church, Rudyard
First Presbyterian Church, Hessel
First Presbyterian Church, Boyne City
Ewen Holmes, new Stated Clerk of Mackinac Presbytery
First Presbyterian Church, Spruce
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Harrisville
Your partner in ministry,
Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD Executive email@example.com phone number 309-530-4578