This summer, children in Fort Dodge are learning about the Ten Commandments thanks to the Sidewalk Sunday School of First United Methodist Church and partner organizations in Fort Dodge. The leaders of this mobile ministry share the gospel by “Taking It to the People.” Since 2003 they have set up in area parks around the city for events that often reach as many as 200 each week.
Their ministry is based on the principles of John Wesley and others of the early Methodist movement in 18th-century England. Church members go out in their neighborhoods to share the love of God through Jesus Christ to friends and strangers alike.
Participants can look forward to food, music, stories, games, and lots of fun. The central message of the Sidewalk Sunday School is simple and succinct: “God loves me. God loves you. God loves everybody!!!” The congregation takes inspiration for this ministry from Matthew 5:16. “Let your light shine before others so they can see the good things you do” and praise God (CEB).
A Matthew 25 grant of $3,250 from the North Central District helped to support this ministry in 2015. These district funds are made possible by apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches all across the state of Iowa.
Nitza Dovenspike has a passion for ensuring that people of all races, genders and backgrounds are served by, and in ministry through, the United Methodist Church. In recognition of her work, she received the Ambassador Award from the Iowa Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) this year.
A native of Panama, she maintains her career in the insurance industry and cares for her family while tirelessly serving in many ways through Church. Outreach to Latinos in Iowa has benefited from her recruitment of new leaders, representing Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba and Puerto Rico, who are being trained in the Spanish-language classes of the School for Lay Ministry.
She also serves as the secretary of the Conference Connectional Ministries Council (CCMC), a network of groups engaged with the poor, with students, with social justice, with hands-on mission projects, and with disciple-making in all its many variations. While working with CCMC budgets and goals, she steers the conversation to respond to the needs of the least and the lost.
COSROW acts as a monitor, advocate, change agent, and witness, working for the full inclusion of women in the life of the United Methodist Church. Apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa support their ministry throughout the year.
This week Iowa is sending a delegation of 24 clergy and laity to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Peoria, Illinois. The United Methodist churches of Iowa are contributing $22,954 in apportionment gifts this year toward this quadrennial meeting, which is focusing on the election of four new bishops.
The conference is a time of worship, celebration of ministry, and discernment as delegates talk with nominees for bishop and ballot to complete the election process. By the end of the day on Friday the elections will be completed and a special team of representatives from each of the annual conferences of the jurisdiction will meet to assign bishops to their respective annual conferences. Those assignments are announced on Saturday morning at a closing service of consecration.
The North Central Jurisdiction also provides some program and leadership training events for annual conferences and regional ministries that are shared by United Methodist people in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa.
Racial ethic ministries support Korean, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American, and African American communities. Specialized ministries coordinate discipleship development for youth, women, and men and respond to the unique circumstances affecting rural and urban regions. Emerging ministries encourage innovative outreach to create new places for new people.
The A’Cappella Choir from Rust College visited the Iowa Conference last month from their home in Holly Springs, Mississippi. They sang several times over the course of the conference, including the laity session, opening worship, and a celebration in honor of Bishop and Mrs. Julius C. Trimble.
Rust College was established in 1866 by the Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Its founders were missionaries from the North who opened a school in Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church, accepting adults of all ages, as well as children, for instruction in elementary subjects. A year later the first building on the present campus was erected.
The Iowa Conference has had a long-standing relationship with the school since 1931. Over the years many people from Iowa have served on the Rust College Board of Trustees. In addition, the choir and other representatives of the school have been frequent guests in Iowa to enrich our shared mission to develop principled Christian leaders.
General church apportionments from the gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa help to sustain Rust College through the Black College Fund. The fund was established in 1972 to provide a constant reliable way to support United Methodist-related historically Black colleges. Today we support eleven such institutions—more than any other religious denomination.