Local church leaders gathered on the campus of Morningside College recently to explore how every congregation is uniquely created by God for its mission in the world. Bryan Rose presented the basic principles of a book entitled Church Unique, which is a new resource being utilized with the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) across the Iowa Conference.
The basic assumption of the book is that “God is up to something both cosmically significant and locally specific” in the lives of each of our churches. It inspires and equips congregations and their leaders to discern, develop, and deliver on a clear, compelling, and shared picture of where God is leading them.
Ryan Christenson (pictured), the Field Outreach Minister for the Northwest District, helped to coordinate the training event, which was held on November 16-17. He and his seven colleagues work with local churches to develop partnerships among laity and clergy through processes such as HCI to strengthen our ability to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Field Outreach Ministers serve with a Conference Superintendent and an Administrative Assistant in each of eight districts across the state. The total investment in 2016 related to these district ministry teams is $3.1 million, which represents about 25% of conference apportionments contributed by the local churches of Iowa.
Nineteen first-year students at Drake University have been exploring faith this fall with Ted Lyddon Hatten, an artist who also serves at the director of the Wesley Foundation there. Guests can learn more about their conversations by viewing Seeing ~ Believing: an exhibition of visual manifestations of belief. The display is now open through December 17th at the Wesley House Gallery, 2718 University, Des Moines, Iowa.
We “have been wrestling with weighty questions about the nature of belief and the limitations of seeing,” he explained. “Over the course of the semester, we have looked at the difference between sacred and profane, between sight and blindness, between art and propaganda. We have discovered that some things are easier to believe if they are not seen, while others are impossible to believe unless they are seen.”
The Wesley Foundation at Drake University is one of several United Methodist campus ministries in Iowa. Each Wesley Foundation serves as an extension of our local churches as students are experiencing one of the most significant times of faith development in their lives. Apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa will provide $111,768 to support the Wesley Foundation ministries at Drake University in 2016.
Last summer the Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center hosted over 1,600 campers, including children and youth of all ages. Generations of families throughout Iowa can share stories of common experiences and spiritual growth that they have enjoyed over the years there.
However, last weekend four different retreat groups came for a visit to their facilities, which are located just southwest of Indianola. These guests, who number in the thousands each year, have become an important part of the ministry at Wesley Woods. Churches, youth groups, support groups, and family reunions are among the many kinds of people who use the grounds.
Housing choices include adult-friendly retreat lodges and heated and air-conditioned cabins, as well as tent and RV sites. Wesley Woods staff members are available throughout the year to help coordinate a memorable and uplifting experience for groups. A variety of food and activity options help guests take advantage of the beautiful rural scenery at any time of the year.
Apportionment gifts of $171,000 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa will help to support the ministries of the Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center in 2016.
Samantha Shepard works through Americorps Vista in the Office of Student Development at Iowa Wesleyan University to coordinate service learning and civil engagement projects between faculty, students, and community partners.
As a student she took a class trip to Haiti, where she encountered a tiny baby girl named Sophie who was fighting for each breath she took in a children’s hospital. “I reached out for her hand, and as our fingers touched, her eyes began to open. All at once, I felt both her pain and her hope.”
After many years of searching, she says, “that trip was the first time I felt God’s presence.” A friend invited her to a Bible study and then to church. “God placed her there for me to have someone to look up to, to question, to confide in.”
Gradually, she noticed changes in her life as she explored the Word, thanked Jesus every day, and asked the Holy Spirit to help her “live like I should.” Surrounded by supportive peers, she felt ready for her next step. She asked Ron Bupp, the director of campus ministry at the university, to baptize her last February. She wanted to “show that I have committed my life completely to Jesus.”
The Iowa Conference invested $29,000 in apportionment gifts from the local churches of Iowa toward Iowa Wesleyan University last year.
“Soul Talk” is a mostly weekly Biblical reflection written by Harlan Gillespie (pictured on the right). He serves as the Conference Superintendent of the North Central District of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Soul Talk is one of his ways of fulfilling the role of a superintendent as a spiritual leader to “extend the witness of Christ into the world” (The Book of Discipline, p. 333).
He and his seven colleagues serve as an extension of the office of bishop (center of the photo) to oversee the total ministry of local churches in their communities. Each superintendent is assigned responsibilities primarily in one of the eight districts of the Iowa Conference. As the chief missional strategist in their district, the duties of superintendents include presiding at charge conferences in the fall and caring for pastoral appointments in preparation for the beginning of each conference year on or about July 1st.
Superintendents serve with two other staff members on each district team, a Field Outreach Minister and an Administrative Assistant. The total investment in 2016 related to these district ministry teams is $3.1 million, which represents about 25% of conference apportionments contributed by the local churches of Iowa.