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.
As a teacher, Colleen Petaros thought that a natural use of her God-given gifts would be to pursue some sort of ministry related to education in her retirement. Indeed, she accepted a ministry assistant position with her local church in Maquoketa and oversaw the educational needs there for children through adults. Her classes in the Iowa School for Lay Ministry helped her feel confident in the role.
However, she found herself restless. She had a feeling that God had something else in mind for her. She discovered that a hospice chaplaincy position had opened up, so she applied. She found that caring for persons who were nearing the end of their lives was very rewarding. The work also led to a relationship with a local funeral home to preside at memorial services. “I found a paradox,” she said, “that in emptying myself, I was filled.” Her ministry with grieving families continues to this day.
The School for Lay Ministry is a three-year experience for lay persons to explore their Christian faith and further discern how God is leading them into a wide range of ministry, both paid and unpaid. The Board of Laity is designating $9,600 in scholarship support for students this year. These funds are made possible with the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout Iowa.
The Rev. Dr. Joel M. LeMon from Candler School of Theology in Atlanta approached the podium and began to sing the opening verse of Psalm 133 in Hebrew. He taught participants at the School for Ministry the words and melody, phrase by phrase, until the whole room was singing it together.
Only then did he reveal the meaning of the Hebrew text. “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” The text is a Song of Ascent which was sung by worshipers as they traveled to Jerusalem to attend one of the annual festivals of the faith.
The Iowa United Methodist School for Ministry is a continuing education event for pastors. This year the event was held in the week following Easter at the Honey Creek Resort State Park outside of Moravia on the shores of Lake Rathbun.
The multi-day event centered around the Psalms. Worship, meals and recreation offered opportunities in addition to the lectures for each participant’s growth and learning in the company of ministry colleagues. The Iowa Conference Board of Ordained Ministry provides $10,000 annually to help support the School for Ministry. These funds are made possible from the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
A team of six people from the Iowa State Wesley Foundation took a trip to Chicago during their spring break to experience God in a new way. Five students and one staff member volunteered through a ministry called the DOOR Network, a faith-based network of cities that provides opportunities for service, learning, and leadership development within the urban context.
The Iowa team helped make and serve meals at a food program, assisted a local gardening organization, packed meals in a warehouse for senior citizens, and joined in a food pantry ministry called Vital Bridges.
“We saw God in numerous ways,” one participant explained as they gained a deeper awareness “about similarities between people.”
They showed God’s love during the week by helping others and choosing to do something meaningful for spring break. “We are so thankful for the chance to go on this trip to Chicago. The relationships we built were marvelous, and we most certainly saw the face of God in the city.”
Apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa are directing $577,000 toward the ministries of our four Wesley Foundations in the state this year at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, Drake University and the University of Northern Iowa.
After some personal setbacks prompted Lisa Schroeder of Marion to take a leave from pastoral ministry, she “found her voice again” as a participant in the Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation. This ministry of the Upper Room in Nashville, Tennessee combines academic learning with experience in spiritual disciplines and community.
Lisa found that her personal devotion times, inspired by texts and practices in spiritual disciplines from a variety of traditions and ages, have given her new space for a deep spiritual experience and profound healing. “The daily rhythm of the Academy restores needed balance in our lives, through silence and conversation, rest and relationship.”
Her tuition is partially supported by a scholarship from the Spiritual Formation Steering Committee (SFSC) of the Conference Board of Discipleship. The board is receiving $6,000 from apportionment funds in 2017 made possible by gifts from United Methodist churches across the state. Over $1,300 was devoted to scholarships last year.
Laity and clergy alike may participate in the Academy’s two-year program or five-day program. This ministry of authentic spirituality promotes God’s shalom, a balance between inner peace and outer peace, holy living and justice living.
Iowa Conference scholarships are matched by gifts from the Upper Room. Lisa and others who have attended these academies say, “Thank you!” Contact Jerry Oakland for more information at email@example.com.