New pastor at Newberry United Methodist Church

By Carol Stiffler

Jackie Roe was only able to call Milan, Michigan, home for two years before she was asked to move to the Upper Peninsula. Roe was asked to take over the United Methodist congregation from Tim Calloway, who was moved to Bad Axe.

The decisions are made by the church’s bishop, Roe said, and she hadn’t requested the transfer. Neither had Calloway. But they said yes, and Roe believes it was all inspired by God, though the transition is always painful.

Before Milan, she was in Cass City. Before Cass City, it was Gladstone. Before that, she was in Gwinn. She is now pastoring the United Methodist churches in both Engadine and Newberry, and she lives in the parsonage in Engadine. She moved here with her cat, Tigger, who rules the roost, she admits.

Roe has learned the art of delicately jumping in, because time is short. She doesn’t barge in, but she may not have time to ease in slowly before the bishop calls the next move.

“I try to be relational,” she said. “I get to know people. Get to know what they think, where they’re at with their relationship with God. You have to meet their basic needs before they can hear, or get to know God.”

Upon arrival, you already have a family, said Roe, who is in her 25th year as a pastor. “People are ready to greet you. Yet you are the new person.”

Roe had been visiting the area five years ago when Randy Hildebrant gave her a shirt for the God’s Country Cooperative Parish, which the Newberry and Engadine United Methodist churches belong to. She put it in her closet and never wore it. But when the bishop gave her the news of her move, she remembered the shirt and put it on for the first time. It fit.

“I think that was such a God thing,” she said. “God knew I was coming.”

She arrives to the area in strange times – church services have only recently resumed, and the congregation is wearing masks. There are no hugs, hymns, or cups of coffee. Every other pew is taped off, and half the congregation attends at 8:30, sitting in the available pews. After a 30-minute service, the church hall is cleaned. The other half of the congregation shows up at 9:30, sitting in the rows that had been taped off earlier.

She introduced herself in her first sermon, given on July 19, and began a series on transitions in her July 26 message. Why do we have to go through transition, whether it is a new pastor, life after COVID, the death of a loved one, or high school graduation.

“Where is God in all of that?” she asked. “God is there. We just have to be open to God.”