Faith plays a key role in the work of Hillcrest Family Services, which “enhances the lives of children, families, and adults in need by teaching skills” to help them “gain greater control of their lives.” Spirituality helps their clients build their confidence and strengthen their community ties.
Greg, for instance, first came to Hillcrest a year ago in the summer and”might have attended chapel once,” their chaplain, Dana Perreard, reported. But when Greg returned to Hillcrest for help a second time, something was different. He had swallowed a lot of pills in a moment of crisis and felt his liver shutting down. The experience changed his life and led him to reverse his destructive habits. Greg is still struggling with his condition and needs to continue taking his recovery seriously. Nevertheless, his engagement in chapel and Bible study has been non-stop since his return. The spiritual support from Hillcrest is making a difference in Greg’s life.
Based in Dubuque, Hillcrest serves 24,000 people across all eight districts of the Iowa Conference. Last year the Community and Institutional Ministries standing committee of the Board of Global Ministries contributed $8,500 to Hillcrest Family Services. These funds were made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
More than 800 active and retired clergy as well as lay staff members of the Iowa Conference have access to health and pension benefits through the Human Resources Office. Two full-time staff and their part-time support are active this month in the enrollment process as clergy and staff make choices about their coverage for 2017.
The Iowa Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits (CBOP) oversees this ministry. The Book of Discipline outlines their responsibilities for “providing for and contributing to the support, relief, assistance, and pensioning of clergy and their families, other church workers, and lay employees of The United Methodist Church, its institutions, organizations, and agencies within the Annual Conference.”
The CBOP is actively studying current health care legislation in order to respond to the changing health insurance industry and current laws. In addition, the board is working on the development of a funding strategy to deal with the conference’s long-term pension funding. These efforts help local churches provide the best care for the most affordable cost.
The Iowa Conference has budgeted $103,898 in 2017 for the ministry of the Human Resources office. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout the state of Iowa.
The United Methodist Church in Casey began a new midweek contemporary worship service in September called “The Compass.” Nearly forty people came to the first event, and regular participation now is reaching towards fifty persons. More than half of attendees either had no religious affiliation before or drifted away from previous participation in the church.
Melissa Drake, the Field Outreach Minister for the Southwest District, facilitated conversations with the congregation through the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) that led to this new ministry. “They felt God’s direct call for them to start a Wednesday night contemporary worship service,” she reported. Leaders were inspired by a similar, Friday-night service that the United Methodist Church in Manning had started—also through their involvement with HCI.
The new service is led by Jenny Knutter, a lay woman from the church, who serves as their primary preacher and evangelist each week. Melodee Carstens, the pastor at Casey, said, “Jenny and I were certain of the pushes and nudges and whispers of the Holy Spirit.” Already, The Compass has exceeded their wildest dreams.
The Iowa Conference invests a total of $24,000 for twenty local churches to enter the coaching phase of HCI to support new ministry development like The Compass. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
New immigrants to Cedar Rapids have formed a new community of faith with the support of United Methodist churches. These new residents in Iowa came originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda. Jill Sanders, the Field Outreach Minister in the East Central District, says, “Our African National Congregation typically has anywhere from 80 to 120 folks in worship on the weekend.”
At the end of August, Salem United Methodist Church hosted an African Cultural Festival for participants to take in the sights, sounds and tastes of several African cultures represented in the congregation. The event featured crafts, food, and three choirs.
The Iowa Conference Standing Committee on Parish Development has designated $98,000 in 2016 to support this emerging ministry. These funds are made possible thanks to the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
The African National Congregation is one of five new communities of faith across the state that are receiving financial support from the Iowa Conference in response to our Strategic Priorities. We are “Creating World-Transforming Communities of Faith (because) God is leading us outside of our churches and into our wider communities to build relationships with new people, reaching out especially – as Jesus did – to persons living on the margins of society.”