A dozen local churches across the Iowa Conference received cross-cultural appointments this summer. Pastors have come to Iowa from all over the world to serve our churches. Their presence reflects the vision of Pentecost. People “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) gathered in Jerusalem, and “we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” (Acts 2:11).
The Commission on Religion and Race has an ongoing ministry to encourage our churches to appreciate the blessings of diversity in having pastors of different ethnic backgrounds. This practice in the United Methodist Church testifies to our commitment to overcoming racism in our culture and our world. Racism is defined as a belief that one’s own race is superior to others.
Commission members offer workshops for local church leaders on the topic of cross-cultural appointments. The seminars highlight the particular gifts and graces of both the pastors and the local churches they serve. Participants gain a deeper understanding of each other through conversations that establishes strong ministerial relationships.
This year the Iowa Conference is investing $31,000 in the work of the Commission on Religion and Race, which includes support for cross-cultural appointment workshops. These funds are made possible with the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Campers at Pictured Rocks got a chance to become Difference Makers this summer. The United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center near Monticello in northeast Iowa hosted a week at the end of June for teens from twelve to eighteen years of age called IMPACT. The experience, which was new in their camp catalog in 2017, gave young people an opportunity for hands-on development of leadership and serving skills.
Participants worked with Matthew 25 in the Taylor Neighborhood of Cedar Rapids on a project called Transform Week. They joined other volunteers and area residents who were painting and siding houses, putting up decks and fences, and cleaning up debris.
IMPACT provided a chance for students to build lifelong friendships with other teens who desire to make a difference in their world. The experience also included many classic camp activities and in-depth Bible exploration. All of the ministries of Pictured Rocks support the strategic priority of equipping ourselves and others as transformational leaders and focus on the Christian spiritual formation and growth of youth and families.
The 2017 budget of the Iowa Conference earmarks $671,316 to support our three United Methodist-related camps in Iowa: Wesley Woods near Indianola, Lake Okoboji in northwest Iowa and, of course, Pictured Rocks. These funds are made possible with apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches throughout the state of Iowa.
Kathy Martin received the Francis Asbury Award this summer in recognition of her service to and support for campus ministry as chaplain and director of church relations at Morningside College. The Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry of the Iowa Conference highlighted her deep care for the students, faculty and staff with whom she worked. She is known as a mentor and a compassionate advisor that they can trust.
During her tenure, she expanded the number of campus ministry events and opportunities for students. She led mission trips to Gulf Coast communities devastated by hurricanes and assisted residents in many other areas. She also invested in collegial relationships and advocated for strong connections between United Methodist-related colleges and local churches.
Although she retired from full-time ministry in 2014, she willingly stepped back into service as interim chaplain at the college for the 2016-2017 school year. She continued her work seamlessly and passionately, raising up leaders for the church and providing ways for students to engage in the needs of the world through service and mission opportunities.
The Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry has a budget of $632,000 in 2017 to support ministries throughout the state, including $20,000 for Morningside College. These funds are made possible with apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The Simpson Youth Academy successfully completed it’s first Summer Residency from June 24 through July 2, 2017 at Simpson College for seventeen rising high school juniors and seniors from Iowa. The students, thirteen of whom were from United Methodist churches, joined college-aged mentors, Simpson professors and guest teachers from two United Methodist seminaries for a challenging experience of worship, service and reflection.
Participants explored the central question of what God might be calling them to do in the world: “Where does my deep joy meet the world’s deep need?” The students engaged with twelve churches and social service agencies and learned from sixteen guest practitioners, including eight United Methodist clergy.
“The students will now return to their home churches,” says Eric Rucker, the program direction, “where they will continue in a mentoring relationship with their pastor.” The goal is for each student to plan and implement a worship or service project based on their gifts and passions.
The Simpson Youth Academy is looking for high school students who might find this experience intriguing next year. Please contact Eric Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information about the program.
Simpson College is receiving $20,000 in apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa to support their ongoing efforts to develop a new generation of leaders.
The Rev. Lee A. Schott, pastor of Women at the Well United Methodist Church at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, ministers to the inmates with supportive and compassionate care to help restore these women to wholeness and community. Many of the women are mothers separated from their children and may struggle with drug addiction or mental illness. She offers grace and love to each person, enabling them to find healing and hope during the most stressful times of their lives.
Pastor Schott received two awards at the 2017 Iowa Annual Conference. The Harry Denman Evangelism Award from the Board of Discipleship honors exceptional ministry of evangelism that brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. In her tenure as chaplain, weekly worship attendance often averages around 75 people, and seventy women have been baptized and an additional 83 have reaffirmed their baptisms.
The Beje Clark Award of the Board of Church and Society recognizes her work in restorative justice. She takes her ministry beyond the prison walls to challenge the injustices many of these women are facing. She urges United Methodist churches to join in the struggle by changing their attitudes about these women—from criminals to victims and children of God.
Apportionment gifts of nearly $11,000 from the local United Methodist churches of Iowa are helping to support the work of the two awarding agencies in 2017.
The first seven graduates in the Spanish-language classes of the School for Lay Ministry were recognized earlier this month at the 2017 Iowa Annual Conference.
In response to the growing number of Hispanic residents in Iowa, the specialized course was initiated to help our churches reach new people for the sake of Christ. Students attend a series of twelve classes over the course of three years to explore a wide range of topics on faith and leadership in the United Methodist Church.
Students come from many places around the state, and most are already active leaders in their local churches. The graduating class includes Norma Cabezas, Eileen McPherson, Alfredo Mendoza, Rosa Mendoza, Martha Olague, Omar Paz, and Maria Roldan.
The program takes its inspiration from John 15:5, where Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit.” The ministry is a part of our strategic priority to “equip ourselves and others as transformational leaders.”
The School for Lay Ministry is sponsored by the Board of Laity in partnership with several other agencies of the conference. For example, the Commission on Religion and Race provided $5,000 in seed money in 2015 for the new Hispanic class with apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
Today marks the closing day of the 174th Annual Conference Session of the United Methodist churches of Iowa and their predecessor bodies. Clergy and laity from across the state have come together at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines to worship God, celebrate ministry and make plans for the future.
The theme for the session is “Creating Difference-Makers!” Every day, God calls each of us to use our God-given gifts to make a positive difference in our world. This theme directly relates to our shared mission with United Methodist people around the globe to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
A number of ministry decisions are addressed each year during the Annual Conference Session. Budgets are confirmed, clergy are ordained and agency nominations are approved. This year a major simplification and update of the Conference Rules of Order is being finalized.
The Iowa Conference is investing $265,206 in this year’s three-day event with the support of apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state. The Annual Conference Session Committee cares for a wide range of expenses to coordinate the event, including rental of the meeting space, travel costs and honoraria for guest speakers as well as preparation and publication of an official record of actions in the Annual Conference Journal.