|The formation of God’s Country Cooperative Parish came about because of necessity. During the 1960s and 1970s, the seven churches that now make up the Parish were served by only two pastors. One served Newberry and Paradise, and the other served all five churches of the “McMillan Charge” – McMillan, Engadine, Hulbert, Germfask and Grand Marais. These seven churches covered five counties, five school systems, five funeral homes, at least nine cemeteries, four hospitals, two regional hospitals, and several nursing homes.The first seeds of the Cooperative Parish were planted by Pastor Audrey Dunlap, Rev. Ralph Edwards, District Superintendent John Grenfell Jr., and Field Worker Rev. John Huhtala. Many meetings between any or all of these four took place in 1976 and 1977. Ideas were bounced around and support for the idea of some type of cooperative ministry began to grow.
In 1978, the District Consultation Team met with members of each church to gather information concerning the church, its effect on the community, and related information.
Reports from the Consultation interviews came out in the form of a “Blue Booklet” and were presented to the staff members and to two members from each church in February of 1979.
In August of 1979, Rev. Ralph Edwards moved to a new appointment and Rev. David Hill became the pastor of Newberry and Paradise.
By the winter of 1980, Grand Marais was removed from the McMillan Charge except for administrative oversight. The church was served by “supply” speakers during the winter and by a Resort and Leisure student pastor for ten weeks in the summer.
In June of 1980, the decision to staff Paradise/ Hulbert with a student intern became a reality. This effectively took Hulbert off the McMillan Charge and also left Newberry as a single station. The staff in June of 1980 consisted of Audrey Dunlap at McMillan, Germfask and Engadine (with oversight at Grand Marais); Steve Schick, summer student pastor at Grand Marais; David Campbell, intern at Paradise and Hulbert; and David Hill at Newberry. The new Marquette District Superintendent was the Rev. Theodore Doane. Also involved with the Coop plans was the Rev. Larry Brooks who was the Detroit Annual Conference Associate Council Director for the Marquette District.
On August 13-18, 1980 a meeting was held at the Hulbert church which called for a plan to secure final approval of all seven churches individually to form a Cooperative Parish. The Administrative Boards of each church, according to a previously set policy, had to provide their approval in the minutes of their meeting to make it official. At this special meeting in Hulbert were the Rev. Robert Davis (Conference Parish Developer), Larry Brooks, David Campbell, Audrey Dunlap, and Dave Hill who was the “Director-to-be”.
September 7, 1980 – all seven churches had given their approval and the birth of this Cooperative was accomplished. For convenience, it was called the “Newberry-McMillan Area Cooperative Parish”.
The Cooperative Parish staff, under the leadership of the new Parish Director — Audrey Dunlap, continued to meet on a regular basis throughout 1981. This served a purpose of joint planning, support, and fellowship.
In 1982, steps were taken to involve the laity in the administration of the Coop. An Advisory Committee was formed from volunteers from each church. This committee continued to function with monthly meetings until 1987 when an official elected Parish Council was formed with representatives from each church.
At the September 1982 meeting of the Advisory Committee, a budget for the Parish Director was drawn up. Each church paid a percentage of this budget.
At the Advisory Committee meeting on November 22nd, 1982, a plan was developed to name the Parish. At the time it was still called the “McMillan-Newberry Coop”. A contest was designed and held in all seven churches. The contest came to an end on January 9th, 1983 with the judges selecting the name “God’s Country Cooperative Parish”. Dr. James Terrian of the Newberry church received a Jerusalem Bible for his winning entry.
Also in 1982, Audrey Dunlap started a newsletter for the Cooperative. In 1984, a contest was held to name the newsletter. The name “The Cooperative Courier”, submitted by Valerie Robinson, was the winner. At present, the newsletter is still called the ”Courier” and it is distributed four times a year to approximately 600 recipients..
In April of 1983, an application was submitted to the Board of Global Ministries requesting a Church and Community Worker. This worker would focus on Hulbert outreach ministry – primarily for youth and children. This became a reality 1985. As the years went by, the Church and Community Worker became the Parish Director.
In January of 1984, the Advisory Committee formed a “Purpose Statement” for the Coop and this was subsequently sent out to the seven churches for approval.
So by the end of 1985, the Parish had a birthday, a name, a purpose statement, a newsletter, an Advisory Committee, a Church and Community Worker, and a Parish Director. The God’s Country Cooperative Parish had become a reality.