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.
The St. Charles Parish raised nearly $2,000 at their Old Settlers Reunion food stand in July to support ministries for children. Half of it was used to purchase school supplies for students in the Interstate 35 Community School District.
Amy Reyes went shopping with a friend on behalf of the church to get items from the class supply lists. They divided everything up according to each grade and delivered it all to the school in time for registration.
She also sent an email to every teacher in the elementary school to let them know of the church’s ongoing support. Some have responded with requests already, so she is picking up additional items for the teachers using the remaining funds from this summer.
Grandmas broke down in tears and mothers gave out hugs when they saw the school supplies. They were fearful of the financial burden that purchasing school supplies would bring and were relieved by the donations.
The generosity of the church has spurred even more giving. “A teacher that was moved by your generosity bought a backpack and all the supplies for an elementary student,” said Deann Strange, a secretary at the high school, “and I purchased all of the supplies for a high school student.”
Leaders in the St. Charles Parish are participating in the Healthy Church Initiative with support from the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.
The Compass is a contemporary worship service that welcomes everyone, no matter where they are in their faith journey. The Casey United Methodist Church began this new ministry less than a year ago, and now they have expanded its reach through their Facebook page.
“It’s phenomenal,” exclaimed their pastor, Melodee Carstens. “We decided to begin posting videos a couple of weeks ago when some folks really wanted to hear the message, but were unable to attend The Compass.” Their first worship video appeared on June 21 and received 982 views—in a town of just over 400 people!
Their decision to post the videos felt a little risky. “It made us a bit nervous, because we wondered what it would do to attendance, but so far it hasn’t had an effect.” The feedback has been positive, often because the videos can be watched whenever a person’s busy schedule allows.
Church leaders decided to pursue their Wednesday evening service during their discernment of God’s vision through the Healthy Church Initiative process. Apportionment gifts of $60,000 from the United Methodist churches of Iowa in 2017 support the workshops, consultations and coaching associated with HCI. The Healthy Church Initiative is an intentional leadership development process designed to enhance the skills of pastors and laity to lead growing, vibrant, spirit-filled congregations.
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.
A third grader from Colo saved pennies for an entire year to support Change a Child’s Story. Seaton participates in the church‘s education ministry, called WOW, on Wednesday nights. The program provides a meal, music and a Bible lesson for about forty to fifty children and youth each week.
Last year, working with his grandmother, Seaton began saving pennies. On the first day he saved one penny. The second day he set aside two pennies, and so on. He kept this up for the entire year, saving 365 pennies on the last day!
As you can imagine, at the end of the year he had a pile of pennies, and he decided he wanted to give some to the church. He approached his pastor and told him that he had $60 he wanted to give to a project that would help third graders like himself.
“I asked if he liked to read,” pastor Douglas Harding reported. “He did, so I suggested he use his money to buy books for children.” The photo shows Seaton giving money to buy books for Change a Child’s Story one night at WOW.
Change a Child’s Story is a literacy initiative of the Iowa Conference that is giving books—and spending time reading—to children in poverty. Patty Link has been serving as a part-time advocate for this ministry for the last year. Apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state have helped to support her work.
A personal passion for fitness helped to inspire Brady and Maddie Tubaugh to develop an outreach ministry in their southwest Iowa community. The Carson United Methodist Church was featured in the January/February 2017 edition of the United Methodist Interpreter.
In the last few years, a Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) team from Carson has been learning and praying about ministry in the 21st century. They are responding to God’s call for ministry in a variety of ways, building on the passions of church members as they share the love of Christ with the people of their community.
Brady, the church’s pastor, says that “being physically active is our way of being stewards of what God has given us so that we can better serve God in the world.” One member reported in the Interpreter article that he lost 65 pounds as a participant in the workout group during Lent last year.
United Methodist Communications is the agency responsible for the publication of the Interpreter magazine and other resources to extend the reach of the Church throughout the world. Just over 20% of the Iowa Conference budget, made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state, helps to support the General Church ministries whose stories are told in the Interpreter.
Iowa Religious Media Services (IRMS) recently added some great new resources to their collection of adult Bible studies. Among the DVDs and related print materials are the newest Adam Hamilton study, Moses: In the Footsteps of the Reluctant Prophet, and a new women’s study, Listen, Love, Repeat, by Karen Ehman. IRMS Director Sharon Strohmaier reminds local church leaders that periodic announcements about new resources is a “personal service we provide to churches wanting to do advance planning” in their educational ministries.
IRMS is an ecumenical lending library with over 10,000 DVD, VHS, audio, book, and other resources available for use by subscribers and renters. The ministry provides religious media resources to assist with faith formation and growth of the whole person, including exploration of the Bible and contemporary religious issues.
IRMS staff can provide guidance to you and others in your congregation when you have questions about the various resources they have to offer. Their experience and expertise can significantly increase your satisfaction with the resources you receive. They are there for you to facilitate a successful use of every product they have in their library.
Apportionment gifts of $75,000 from the local United Methodist churches of Iowa helped to support IRMS in 2016. Visit their website to learn how your church can become a subscriber.