Dr. Mary Lautzenhiser Bellon is the Director of the Office of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Her ministry provides confidential counseling and consultation for clergy and ministerial professionals of the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church and their families.
She provides approximately 1200 hours of direct counseling and consultation to over 250 pastors annually. Her office is in Urbandale, and once each month she travels to satellite locations in Waterloo, Mount Vernon and Atlantic.
Dr. Bellon teaches about ethics and care and nurture at the School for Lay Ministry and in the Course of Study and provides consultation and support at the School for Ministry. She leads staff days apart and district support days for groups desiring coaching and leadership development.
She employs a range of mental health techniques, such as mindfulness, humor, spirituality and listening, to help people strengthen personal practices of wellness, contemplation and relaxation. Her ministry also gives people opportunities to address issues from spiritual growth, depression or burn out to anxiety or concerns with family relationships.
The Iowa Conference is investing $162,164 in the work of the Office of Pastoral Care and Counseling in 2017. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
First United Methodist Church in Webster City hosted one of a series workshops last week to help local church leaders develop discipleship pathways. Ken Willard led the events, which were designed to further the “Wildly Important Goal” of the Iowa Conference to see every community of faith develop a discipleship pathway by 2020. Willard is a published author, certified ministry coach, certified church consultant, and owner of Leadership4Transformation.
A pathway, he explains, is an intentional process to help people grow in faith and develop deeper and deeper spiritual disciplines as they move through life’s journey from childhood into adolescence and continuing throughout adulthood.
Willard outlines four key areas of discipleship. Invitation refers to the ways we help people enter into the life of the church. Community describes the supportive relationships we develop with other disciples. Learn reminds us of the need to continually grow in our faith through Bible study and other educational opportunities. Serve identifies how our gifts and passions are applied to ministry for the benefit of our community and world as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Apportionment gifts from the local United Methodist churches of Iowa helped to underwrite the expenses for bringing Ken Willard to Iowa for these seminars.
The Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) honored Rita Carter during the Iowa Annual Conference in June. She was the recipient of the 2017 Ambassador Award, which recognizes the efforts of a United Methodist person who exemplifies the goals and values of COSROW. A Difference Maker in many ways, Rita is a catalyst and monitor who empowers women and transforms the Church through her ministry.
Rita has been serving as Social Action Coordinator for United Methodist Women in Iowa. In addition, she advocates for legislation related to social justice issues through the Legislative Action Alerts for individuals and the Methodist Federation for Social Action.
One avenue for her witness is in organizing the Legislative Advocacy Day to provide training for people to contact legislators and visit with them at the State Capitol. The immigration ministries of Justice for Our Neighbors and legislation to end human trafficking are among the many topics of concern she addresses with government leaders.
Rita has always led with a positive attitude in challenging women and men to become involved in social justice issues as people of faith. “Let’s do what we can,” she says, “to shine some light.”
COSROW is receiving $1,500 this year to support their ministries as inclusive people of God reaching out to care for a hungering and hurting world. These funds are made possible with the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
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.