Strategic planning on tap for Watervliet schools; H.S. principal search underway
By Annette Christie The Watervliet School Board authorized the hiring of a facilitator to lead them through the strategic planning process at their Monday, September 9 meeting. Superintendent Ric Seager described the process to the board prior to the authorization. The three stages of the strategic planning process are engage, focus, and execute. To engage is to create a roadmap, gather stakeholder data with surveys and focus groups, review the current state of the district, clarify the ideal state, and analyze data and identify trends. The focus is to create and document the district’s mission, vision, values and beliefs, to identify the key strategic goals both near and long term, and to identify the measurable. The execution stage includes communicating the new plan to all stakeholders, developing the implementation plan, developing a monitoring system, and to schedule progress checks.
Board member Eric Laws stated that he is excited about this process. “With this we are seeking clarity on what we are trying to accomplish,” Laws said. The hiring of a facilitator is for phase one. “The facilitator is the driving force that will lead us and the community through the process,” Seager said. With the approval of the board, Seager will reach out to leadership organizations to get some proposals for the strategic planning facilitator.
High school principal search Seager also provided a hiring timeline for the vacant high school principal position. Susan Toothman is currently the interim principal. During the month of September, surveys of parents, students, and staff will be collected. The job will be posted near the end of September. Those being interviewed will be selected by mid-October. First round interviews and second interviews will follow with a potential start date of January 1, 2020.
A look back at the 175-year history of the Coloma United Methodist Church
Community open house to celebrate milestone, Sept. 21 “Remember, Rejoice, Reach Out” The Coloma United Methodist Church is celebrating their 175th Anniversary as a Methodist congregation this year! To mark this occasion the following events and festivities have been planned: Sunday, Sept. 15 at 9:45 a.m. – An Old Time Hymn Sing; Saturday, Sept. 21 – An Outdoor Community Open House Party from 1 to 4 p.m. They are hoping for good weather so this event can be outdoors with food, history, games, music, and time capsule burial; Sunday, Sept. 22 at 9:45 a.m. – A Covenant Renewal Service. All are invited as they look forward to celebrating this anniversary with community members!
Church has roots from 1844 log cabin meeting of Mt. Hope Class What sparks the beginning of a church in a community? Christian scripture says that wherever two or more are gathered in the name of Christ, there is love. Perhaps love is the spark for a group of people growing to care for one another, seeking new understanding of the circle of life, seeking traditions that help them to embrace all of it in the acknowledged presence of a higher being known to them as God. That is likely how the Mt. Hope Class began in 1844 meeting in a log house west of Coloma United Methodist Church’s present site, part of the then Silver Creek Circuit of Methodists. In 1855 The Congregational Church began building and the Mt. Hope Class united with them as a Union or People Church. This is cited in “History of Coloma Methodist Church” written by Mrs. A.C. (Mabel) Stark in 1954. The building completed in 1859 was dedicated as First Congregational Church and the relationship of the two sister churches was begun. Methodists held services there until 1879 when their first church building was constructed next door thanks to a combination of initial “subscriptions” by members providing $553.00, 24 hours of team labor, 92 days of hard labor and 500 feet of hemlock logs. The building housed a sanctuary and classroom heated by a big round oak stove. The first bell cost $107.00, paid by subscription. By 1915 the horse sheds had been removed from the property and winter 1928 saw expansion and remodeling including new windows, carpet and rear exit. Several decades later in 1950 under the pastorate of Rev. George Elliott a “beautification” project was begun that led to a 1954 vote for a three-level educational wing plus basement at a cost of $30,000.00. The 1950s were high attendance years for Sunday School with student attendance recorded at around 200 at times. The Reverends Royal Synwolt and Paul Blomquist pastored the congregation in the 1950s and early 1960s during continued high attendance periods but soon church school and worship attendance began to decline. Women’s Society for Christian Service (WSCS, now United Methodist Women) was strong, contributing to the spiritual growth of women as well as to financial health through their popular fund-raising chop suey and turkey dinners and fall festivals. During the pastorate of Rev. Leon Andrews (Arlene) the decision was made to build a new parsonage in Timberbrook Terrace, completed in 1968. The Civil Rights Movement in full swing then prompted Reverend Andrews to initiate special worship services and meals shared at both sites with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church of Benton Harbor. Periods of activity are often followed by quieter periods of reflection and deepening faith as was the case during the pastorate of Rev. George Chaffee and Doris in the late ‘60s. The year 1971 brought pastoral change and vitality in the leadership of Rev. Carl Hausermann (Marsha). These were years of increased youth activity, emphasis on Christian camping and creative worship that included liturgical dance, drama and musicals like Godspell, Lightshine and Cool in the Furnace. As Mrs. Stark noted in 1954 music has always played an important role in the life of this church. The current Hope Resources grew from the food pantry and clothing closet begun in these years. The Rev. Perry Elizabeth Nord was mentored toward ordination by Rev. Hausermann becoming his associate in the then Coloma/Riverside charge. In addition to regular Sunday classes for children, youth and adults, small study groups have continued to be foundational over the years from adult GROW classes, WSCS and youth groups (MYF) of the 20th century to Care Teams, Disciple, Covenant Disciple and Companions in Christ of more recent years. Vacation Bible Schools were annual events that drew many community children to the doors of the sister churches often collaborating with the Riverside and St. Paul’s United Church of Christ each summer through 2016. This tradition has been lost to the aging of the congregations that has included a decline in willing volunteer leadership and participation. This year Pastor Christine Beaudoin has initiated a summer opportunity for children called Friends Reaching Out for God (FROGS), involving children and youth in service opportunities. Attendance showed a slow decline in the latter part of the 20th century as families became less intentional about Christian Education and pastoral strengths lay in other areas of service. Ongoing adult groupings were minimal, UMWomen and UMYouth in decline in spite of new dimensions in worship such as liturgical dance and intergenerational activities. The gradual increase in Sunday activities offered by other organizations has taken a toll on church activities. Two houses adjoining the church property to the north were purchased and moved or demolished with an eye to expansion of worship and fellowship facilities. The Reverend Dr. Dwight Benner (Joan) with Associate Pastor Perry Nord were followed by Timothy Closson (Gloria) in 1981 with Rev. Nord pastoring Riverside UMC full time; single congregations once again. The sudden departures of the Reverends Closson and Nord in 1986 leaving their families and congregations presented huge challenges to the stability of the respective congregations. Former Watervliet UMC Pastor Emerson Miner served a two-month interim followed by the mid-year appointment of the Reverend Laura Truby, with her husband Tom. She is an ordained pastoral counselor trained in Family Systems Theory and grief work. Her primary focus was on bringing about the necessary healing in order that the congregation did not remain stuck in their grief by the departure of two beloved pastors. Her efforts were often met with difficulty but the congregation did move forward with new spiritual growth, continuing work toward enlarging and improving the building, embracing the newest UMC hymnal and innovations such as Lenten suppers with Coloma First and St. Paul’s Congregational UCCs and Riverside UMC. That tradition continues each Lenten season. 1991 brought another pastoral change in the form of Richard Rossiter (Lucinda). One of his many gifts was encouragement and leadership of adult study groups. He initiated Disciple and Covenant Disciple groups as well as spiritual gift identification groups laying the groundwork for the spirit-centered and dedicated lay leadership that result from intentional Christian study. Consecration of the building addition and refurbishment took place October 17, 1993. Pastor Rossiter’s personal journey took an unexpected turn when he recognized and acknowledged his homosexual orientation, an event that ruptured the calm of the congregation and the community. Watervliet First UMC’s Pastor Len Schoenherr (Jan) with lay assistance, led small groups in the United Methodist Study on Homosexuality which helped but did not prevent the disagreement among members. Many folks left for a few years, some permanently as the lay leadership chose to stand with Rev. Rossiter until he left in 1996 with Pastor Schoenherr appointed to serve both churches. From 1996 to 1999 Pastor Len’s impartial ministry among us, calmly meeting the substantial controversy made him a fitting pastor to follow Rev. Rossiter, once again providing a healing environment.