Many of our local churches are saying good-bye to their pastors and receiving new ones this month. Since the 2016 Iowa Conference met in early June, pastors and their families who are anticipating moves this summer have been packing their belongings and making plans for living in a new home. Similarly, local church trustees have been cleaning parsonages and caring for various improvements and repairs in anticipation of new residents.
The Conference Council on Finance and Administration has contracted with Hawkeye Moving Services to provide professional, low-cost relocation of pastors and their households. The moves are spread over a three-week period and scheduled to provide at least two days for work to be done on the parsonage while it is empty between occupants.
This year the Iowa Conference is investing approximately $35,000 in moving expenses. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The Conference provides $100,000 in insurance coverage for each move and pays for moving household goods up to 14,000 pounds. Another $500 is available to cover the costs of loading and/or additional stops, such as the church office. Churches do not incur moving costs directly when they have a change in pastors. Likewise, pastors are only billed for expenses that exceed the weight load limit.
St. Marks United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids was recently featured in the Cedar Rapids Gazette for its African Ministry. The church offers English language classes and citizenship classes to assist recent immigrants as they settle in Iowa.
The ministry began a few years ago in response to a growing community of Central Africans refugees who had moved into the Cedar Rapids area. Initially, efforts focused on starting a new community of faith with the support of a $6,000 grant from the East Central District’s Matthew 25 funds.
This outreach effort unexpectedly shifted as relationships developed between Iowans and Africans. What emerged, among other things, is African Women Empowered (A.W.E.), a micro-business designed to give African immigrant women opportunities for employment. They produce fabric bags, beaded jewelry, baby blankets, and more.
The Gazette article by Keegan O’Neil reports that as many as 3,000 refugees from Burundi have migrated to Cedar Rapids in the last several years, although “there is no official data on how many have migrated to the city.”
The African Ministry at St. Mark’s UMC, embodies their mission: “We seek to welcome all people, to share life’s journey learning to know Christ as our Savior, and to serve Christ by serving others.”
Saturday, June 4th, was a special time of celebration at our Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center. Over 150 alumni and families participated in a staff reunion to mark sixty years of ministry at the camp. They had time to reminisce together and explore many of the improvements to the facilities over the years.
The previous week was spent completing final preparations for a season of summer camp. Summer workers received a variety of specialized training, including outpost staff (pictured) who stayed in covered wagons.
When Saturday finally arrived, they were joined by more than 300 people for their 2016 summer camp kickoff in conjunction with the reunion. Participants came to enjoy a variety of activities that are available at Wesley Woods, including their zip line, a climbing wall, an archery course, fishing ponds, a swimming pool, horse rides, carnival games, and the aquatic playground at Broken Arrow pond.
The day concluded with supper followed by a worship service, reminding both staff and guests about the core purpose of Wesley Woods and its ministries. “Through exploring the outdoors, being mentored by our staff, cooking over fires, attending worship, having tons of fun and developing new skills, each camper has an opportunity to learn a little more about who they are” as a child of God.
Today is the closing day for the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference. The event is a gathering of lay and clergy leaders from across the state, who are meeting to plan for another year of ministry in our shared mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Monday morning’s schedule begins with a worship service celebrating the “Fixing of Appointments.” This is the time when we formally acknowledge the changes in pastoral leadership anticipated this summer in the local United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Another highlight of the Annual Conference is aligning our ministries to our three strategic priorities. Our focus is on “Creating World-Transforming Communities of Faith.” This fundamental purpose is pursued both by starting and nurturing new churches as well as in revitalizing our existing congregations.
Two additional priorities support this development of vital churches. The first, equipping transformational leaders, is accomplished in a variety of training events throughout the year to help lay and clergy leaders guide churches in effective ministries.
The second, aligning our resources in support of local church ministries and their leaders, is affirmed in one of our final actions as adjournment approaches, the approval of our 2016-2017 budget. Apportionment gifts of $185,000 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa have been spent on facilities and equipment for our 2016 Iowa Annual Conference.