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.
Deke Rider, the site director of our Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center, had a lunch meeting at a local restaurant recently. This is the season of the year for preparing for the busy summer months of camping for children and youth.
“It was a fantastic meeting,” he reports, and as the conversation was coming to a close, a women dropped a napkin into his hands. The message written on it read as follows:
I’m a Methodist & went to Wesley Woods Camp as a child. My 3 sons camped there too. It was wonderful! Thank you for sharing the Gospel with our youth. God bless you both & your ministries.
Wesley Woods is located just southwest of Indianola on 344 acres of rolling hills. The staff there offer outdoor education to school groups at all times of the year. The camp also plays host to retreats for families, businesses, individuals and non-profit organizations in adult-friendly facilities.
The Iowa Conference is investing $731,316 in camping ministries in 2017 for the work of Wesley Woods and two other sites, Pictured Rocks in northeast Iowa near Monticello and Okoboji in northwest Iowa near Spirit Lake. These funds are made possible with apportionment gifts from United Methodist churches across the state.
Students at the University of Iowa have a weekly opportunity to learn about people of faith and their spiritual journeys. Every Tuesday evening, students gather at the UI Wesley Center to break bread, be in community, pray, listen and receive sustaining nourishment for body and spirit.
This semester they are continuing a Spiritual Biography series. Each week a guest shares personal stories of God’s leading. They reflect on how their spiritual journeys have formed and informed their vocational work. Over the course of these Tuesday Table conversations, students have hosted community leaders, university faculty and religious leaders from across the Iowa Conference. Recently, for example, Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, the pastor at Trinity/Las Americas and Wesley United Methodist Churches in Des Moines, was their guest.
“Each week,” UI Wesley executive director and campus minister Anna Blaedel says, “we deepen our own sense of our spiritual journey and reflect on the events, experiences, moments, decisions, questions and beliefs that guide our lives and our life work.”
The Iowa Conference is investing $577,000 in our four Wesley Foundations in 2017, including the University of Iowa as well as Drake University, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. This support is made possible with the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
The Greenfield United Methodist Church is making plans to start a second worship service later this year. Their worship life has always been a focal point for ministry, and they want to expand their worship offerings to help others come to know Christ Jesus. Last fall, for instance, they installed a new audio system to that end.
The Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) process helped them sense the calling of the Holy Spirit to pursue a new service. 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. Their coach, Melissa Drake, who serves as the Field Outreach Minister in the Southwest District, has worked closely with them on their goals.
Last month they invited Phil Carver, the Field Outreach Minister in the Southeast District, to help them begin planning for the new service. This experience is one of the growing edges of HCI in the Iowa Conference: to focus more specifically on ways to help our churches intentionally connect their ministries with new people.
These efforts 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.