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.
New Hope United Methodist Church in Muscatine will host a dinner and concert on Friday, April 28th, in support of the Diversity Service Center of Iowa. The fundraiser will feature Juan Carlos Mendoza, a tenor trained at The Juilliard School, who will be performing “Songs of Broadway.”
A native of Muscatine, where his mother serves as the director of DSCI, Mr. Mendoza holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa. He has performed in a wide variety of settings and in numerous dramatic roles in opera and musical theater. He has also taught voice at Drake University and Kirkwood Community College, among other schools.
The Diversity Service Center of Iowa provides consultation and assistance with immigration processes, serving nearly 300 clients from 20 countries and 39 different communities in Iowa and Illinois during 2016. Their ministries also include a Minority Senior Program, an annual International Fair and educational talks for community organizations, businesses and churches.
This year a $1,000 Matthew 25 grant from the Southeast District helps to support DSCI with funds from the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches across the state.
Call 563-264-8883 for tickets to this year’s fundraiser. Dinner and the concert together costs $35, and reservations are being accepted until Thursday, April 20th. Concert tickets are $15 each and will be sold at the door.
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.
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.
First United Methodist Church in Waterloo in partnership with the University of Northern Iowa School of Music is nurturing a love of music in children from Irving Elementary School and their church.
Last fall two groups of five students took group piano lessons for ten weeks. A twenty-week session began in January and will run through May of 2017. Staff from the university and Irving join with church volunteers to guide these experiences.
Another feature of MusicMania ministry is an interactive summer camp for children in grades K-9. Students explore a variety of activities related to music on the UNI campus, including singing, dancing, drama and art. They get a chance to play Orff instruments, African drums, pianos, keyboards, violins and violas. The camp culminates in a performance at the end of the week.
One student, Dohntay, for example, has enjoyed MusicMania for the last five years. Now in high school, he participates in the jazz band and concert band. His mother credits the program for his ongoing involvement, which “sparked the interest he has in music today.”
Support from the Northeast District began in 2015 with a grant of $2500. They followed up in 2016 with a Matthew 25 grant, which was made possible through the apportionment gifts of the United Methodist churches of Iowa.