Threehouse, the Wesley Foundation of the United Methodist Church at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, offered free breakfasts to students during finals week at the beginning of May.
“Too busy cramming for finals to cook?” they said. “We’ve got you covered!” The breakfasts were available from 8 a.m. to noon each day. “Let us take some of the stress off your plate as the semester winds down. All are welcome!”
They served a different menu item each day, including a breakfast casserole, French toast, assorted baked goods, and paninis.
Threehouse is combination of three ideas. First, the Trinity, “our belief in a relational God that wants us to grow in compassion with God.” Second, Third Places, “not school, not work, but that other place where community happens.” Third, Tree Houses, which are “playful, creative, safe, and green.”
“John Wesley, the Founder of the Methodist movement,” their website reminds us, “was himself a campus minister at Oxford University. Methodism has a rich tradition of social activism and personal growth.” They are “Rooted in Faith, Free to Branch Out.”
The Iowa Conference is investing $131,542 in apportionment gifts in 2018 from United Methodist churches across the state to support the ministries of Threehouse.
MissionInsite provides demographic information to local church and conference leaders to help them in their outreach efforts. One way of learning about new people in our communities is to study statistical data provided through the U.S. Census. Demographics assist both established churches and new communities of faith better understand and engage their mission field.
Local church leaders participating in Healthy Church Initiative consultations, for instance, prepare a demographic report provided by MissionInsite to help them assess their outreach potential. The material can identify persons or groups who are not being reached by our churches and offer insights about how we can develop relationships with them.
In addition to HCI and other church revitalization processes, the demographic information is used by superintendents as they consider pastoral appointments and by conference leaders to identify and start new communities of faith. Bruce Wittern, the chair of the Iowa Conference Standing Committee on Parish Development said, “We have seen a great increase in the use of MissionInsite over the past couple of years.”
His committee invests $10,000 annually in a contract with MissionInsite so that this demographic information can be available free of charge to all churches and leaders within the Iowa Conference. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
Last month many new members from Africa joined St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, the result of the work of Pastor Daniel Niyonzima. He was appointed in 2016 as a full-time pastor through a $90,000 grant from the Iowa Annual Conference made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state.
The new members of the church come from several countries including Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. St. Paul’s UMC has responded to the growing population of African National immigrants in their community by developing worship services and other ministries in which the principal languages are Swahili and Kirundi. These ministries are intended to help these new residents from Africa grow in their faith and retain their heritage while becoming American citizens.
In 2007 Pastors Carol Sundberg and Harlan Gillespie received a call from a St. Luke’s Hospital social worker requesting a pastoral visit for Daniel Niyonzima and his wife, Perpetua, who had just given birth to their eighth child. Daniel explained to the hospital staff that he and his family were immigrants from Burundi and a refugee camp in Tanzania. In his homeland he was trained as a pastor by United Methodist missionaries. A close relationship developed and within a year an African National (AN) congregation of 130 was worshiping at St. Paul’s.
On Saturday, Sept 16, 2017, San Pablo United Methodist Church in Muscatine hosted a great fiesta in conjunction with Mexican Independence Day. The gathering attracted nearly 100 people.
Participants had a wonderful opportunity to see the Quad City Folkloric Ballet with their dancers composed of Caucasian, African American and Mexican children and adults. They enjoyed catered food of tacos, Spanish rice, beans and salsa. They also played a few games outside, and children received helium balloons.
“It was a fun way to let the neighborhood and all the people of Muscatine know we are here,” said Cecilia La Roché. The congregation shares a building on the south side of Muscatine with the Musserville United Methodist Church, which is located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. Her husband, Eduardo, is a preacher at the church. We are “energized and excited to the Lord as we serve the community,” she exclaimed.
In 2016 the Standing Committee on Community and Institutional Ministries of the Iowa Conference Board of Global Ministries provided $12,500 to support the ministries of the San Pablo United Methodist Church. These funds were made possible with the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa in fulfillment of our conference mission to mobilize the church at local, district and conference levels to be in ministry with Latino/Hispanic people in areas of significant concentration.
The Greenfield United Methodist Church launched a new worship service earlier this month. Previously, the church had a service at 9 a.m. followed by a time of fellowship and Sunday school at 10:30. Now they are offering worship at 9 and 11 a.m. with Sunday school in between at 10 o’clock.
Church leaders have been engaged for the last two years in prayer and discernment about their future through the Healthy Church Initiative. First, a team of their leaders studied ministry in the 21st century. A consultation weekend followed to help them determine their future plans based on their gifts and graces as a church. They determined that God was calling them to experiment with ways to connect new people to God.
On the first Sunday the new service was offered, the church netted 17 new people in church attendance. “We welcome with open arms those seeking to understand what Christianity is about,” they say on their website, “as well as those who are yearning to deepen their discipleship and grow into the likeness of Christ.”
The ministries of the Healthy Church Initiative are supported in part with $60,000 from the Parish Development Standing Committee of the Iowa Board of Global Ministries. The funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of local United Methodist churches throughout the state.
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.
In September of 2015 the Manning United Methodist Church began a new worship service for people in recovery called “The Source.” Now more than 40 people are gathering at the church on Fridays at 6 p.m. to sing praise music and hear a message. Pizza is served at 6:35. A Recovery Bible Study begins at 7 p.m., and Al-Anon and A.A. meetings follow at 8:30 p.m.
“Recovery,” they explain on their website, “can be from illness, to loss of a job or a loved one, to every type of addiction you can come up with! Live in the spirit of love with us as we hold each other up in Christ!”
Inspired by a visit to a similar service at First United Methodist Church in Ankeny, church leaders in Manning are encouraging others to begin a second worship service. They joined several other churches teams for an HCI (Healthy Church Initiative) retreat at the Lake Okoboji United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center at the end of March.
They shared their experiences of getting started with other teams that are just beginning to consider ideas. “We had to grow into it,” said their pastor, Vicki Fisher. They didn’t have everything perfected when they began.
Retreat participants plan to meet together again in a few months for further encouragement. HCI is budgeting $60,000 in 2017 to support these kinds of events. The funds are made possible through apportionment gifts from the United Methodist churches of Iowa.