November 22, 2014

Standish, Saganing Methodist churches get new pastor

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
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STANDISH — As of July 1, a new pastor has been in town to serve the Community United Methodist Church in Standish and the Saganing Indian Church in Standish Township.

Bill Sanders, a retired pastor since 2003, was appointed to serve the two churches by the Methodist bishop in Lansing. Sanders said the churches needed help, but were unable to afford a full-time, experienced pastor.

“Sometimes a church needs the experience an older, experienced pastor can bring, but can’t afford it,” Sanders said. “But since I’m retired and get a smaller salary, I can come in and try to help the church turn things around.”

Both are facing reduced membership. Sanders said there are about 30-35 members of the Standish congregation, while the Saganing church currently has no attendees. Sanders is hoping to reinvigorate the congregation at the United Methodist Church, and hopes to get some people coming to the Saganing Indian Church as well.

“I was really looking forward to meeting the Native Americans and learning from them,” Sanders said. “The church has been on-site since 1875, so it’s a historic church.”

Sanders has already made moves to introduce himself to the community. He and his wife Manila took part in the four-day vacation bible school the United Methodist Church held over the summer, and said turnout was relatively strong with 17 kids and teens attending.

“I enjoyed doing crafts with the children,” Sanders said.

The event also included games, songs, and a play, and alongside the church, was able to raise $136.05 to purchase 13 insecticide-treated bed nets for the Imagine No Malaria program.

A progressive dinner for congregation members, where he stops and meets with them over a meal, is also scheduled for this month.

“I’m trying, with my wife, to visit folks and build up their spirits, since our attendance is low,” Sanders said.

Sunday school has also started up again at the Standish church, Sanders said, taking place at 9:30 a.m. before Sunday services, which are scheduled for 10:45 a.m. Services at the Saganing Indian Church take place Sunday at 2 p.m., and Sanders said he will be there if anyone wants to come by.

Sanders is originally from southern California, where he served as a police officer for five years before moving out east to Michigan. Here, he taught biology at Delta College for a while before entering the ministry at age 37, graduating as a proper pastor at 41.

After that, he spent 22 years working in churches in Detroit, Inkster, Franklin, Bellevue, and Buchanan before retiring in 2003. Since then he has served as a part-time pastor in Vassar and Wisner Township, for a total of 25 years of experience.

Outside of the church, Sanders volunteers as a chaplain with the Michigan State Police’s Caro post, and he is the Michigan representative with the International Conference of Police Chaplains. He also helps train new chaplains, and set up a chaplain corps. in Tuscola County that now has six members offering their services at bad accidents and other deaths, he said.

Sanders said he is continuing to teach anatomy and physiology at Davenport University’s Midland campus while serving as pastor, primarily to nursing students. Nevertheless, he wants to continue settling into his new role with the churches, and work on improving attendance and helping the community.

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