News

Building Beloved Clergy Community

Building Beloved Clergy Community

published 5/3/2018
A beloved community was in full bloom at the spring Order of Elders, Order of Deacons, Fellowship of Local Pastors & Associate Members Gathering on April 26, 2018. Clergy gathered at Ames First United Methodist Church to address the common anxiety in the Iowa Conference around the upcoming General Conference sessions.
 
“Today is an opportunity to be together, take a deep breath, and address our common anxiety about where our church is right now,” said Rev. Scott Lothe, an Orders planning committee member. “We’re in limbo, and not really sure what the 2019 General Conference will bring. We’ve brought the clergy around the important and critical issues of our day to be in conversation with one another.”
 
 
Orders events typically revolve around those critical issues, and also topics like self-care, communication and clergy support systems.
 
“One of the things that Orders does is bring us together and reminds us that we’re part of a greater connection, part of a beloved community among ourselves as we seek to serve God and our people at our local churches,” said Rev. Fred Lewis, Senior Minister at Ames First U.M. Church. “They bring in speakers that address the various concerns that we face as we try to be leaders in our local parishes and the arenas of our ministries”
 
The speaker of the day was Dr. Mark Minear, who served for about 20 years as a minister in the Society of Friends as a Quaker pastor before returning to get his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Dr. Minear asked the clergy to Befriend their Anxietyby seeing it as something to explore, so that they could be more present for others.
 
“I was aware by the committee that put this together that there is considerable anxiety in regard to the human sexuality issue,” said Dr. Minear. “Without tackling it directly I was wanting to explore some ways to work with the anxiety around that, so that we can be as followers of Jesus, spiritually centered and emotionally grounded.”
 
He led clergy through an exercise to discover their anxiety personality type, and then followed with small group discussions on how to deal with it in a more creative way.
 
“Instead of seeing anxiety as something we need to push away, find a way instead to be curious, draw closer, investigate it with kindness,” he said. “Perhaps, with that self-compassion, we may be able to work with that anxiety in a more creative way. Thus, we can then be present to other people and amidst their anxieties, whatever they may be.”
 
In the months leading up to General Conference, Rev. Lothe and his committee is hoping to make room for everyone to have a place in the conversation.
 
“What we’re attempting to do here, is to bring all Iowa United Methodist Clergy into our order and fellowship with all its diversity and try to make room for everyone in these conversations,” he said. “While this is a day apart, it is within an order with all of its theological and practice of ministry diversity, to share with one another and to connect.”
 
The next Orders day will be held October 30, 2018, and will focus on what proposals are coming to General Conference and the Way Forward discussion.

ISU students make a difference

ISU students make a difference

published 5/1/2018
Collegiate Wesley United Methodist Church has developed a relationship with the Emergency Residence Project, a homeless shelter in Ames, to help homeless children be more successful in their lives. Iowa State University students gather each Wednesday night to help kids with anything from practicing math problems to musical instruments.
 
“Getting to know the kids is really, really great, and so is getting to know the other students helping in the program,” said Anna Bilek, a sophomore studying civil engineering. “It makes a little community, including the members of the church. The community at the church is something that feels like my church away from home.”
 
Bilek has been helping with the program since she heard about it her first Sunday on campus.
 
“Study Buddies has been such a great experience and I look forward to the next Wednesday night the second I leave the church,” she said.
 


The group has averaged about eight kids each week this year. Since they are working with a homeless shelter they don’t always know how many kids will be around, but the college students are always excited to see them and work with them.
 
“Participating in Study Buddies is probably the best decision I made in my whole college experience,” said Michael Litscher, a junior double-majoring in mathematics and civil engineering. 
 
Litscher says he sees value in the program because he’s learning valuable lessons about how to work with people from different backgrounds and experiences.
 
“Across the street (on campus) the world is totally different than it is in the church,” said Litscher. “Study Buddies is a great experience to learn more about yourself and about other people, and to be an obvious help to someone’s life. Whatever I end up doing, hopefully I’m improving the community.”
 
Lisa Steel, Assistant in University Student Ministries at Collegiate, helps coordinate the program, which also includes a snack, a meal, and some time to play.
 
“It’s great for the college students to learn about these family’s situations and to get to know how great these kids are,” said Steel.
 
When asked how others could help, Steel said she’d welcome more help from college students and donations from others to help keep the program running.
 
“We are always buying snacks and workbooks for the kids,” said Steel. “If someone is interested in starting something similar to this in their church I’d be happy to work with them and see if we can get this program going further.”
 
To learn more about Study Buddies or to help, contact Lisa Steel by emailing lisa@cwames.org, or by visiting www.cwames.org. To give to the Emergency Residence Project, visit www.amesshelter.org.
 

"God bless this holy place and all who enter here"

published 3/23/2018
Psalm 127:1 Unless it is the Lord who builds the house, the builder’s work is pointless. Unless it is the Lord who protects the city, the guard on duty is pointless.
 
“You are the ones who are building the house, you are the ones who are protecting those who are defenseless, and God blesses you for your ministry here,” read Bishop Laurie Haller at the blessing celebrating the new office of Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) on March 15, 2018.
 
“We think that all means all, and that all should have access no matter what their status or their economic status is, that they should have access to these important services,” Iowa JFON Executive Director Sol Varisco-Santini said. “To have a chance to be in the U.S. to be treated with dignity and respect, and that is what this faith mission allows us to provide. We provide legal services at no cost, and so these free services really make a change in their life to start a new life and be treated with respect in Des Moines.”
 
Bishop Laurie was joined by Des Moines Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Richard Pates, Buddhist Monk Honorable Razida, and Hindu Priest Randit Mukti Subedi, who offered prayers for the persons served by JFON and the dedicated staff. The Jewish and Muslim communities also support Iowa JFON, but representatives were unable to make it that day.
 
“I’m so happy it’s an interreligious gathering, not only just ecumenical, because I think that better addresses the human family, and who we are and what we’re all about,” Bishop Pates said. “The aspirations that are on the hearts of each of us, and no matter what our faith, our faith is leading us to god and peace and to respect and love of one another.”
 
This is the fifth time that Iowa JFON has moved in the past 10 years, and they are looking forward to having a place to grow close to those that they serve.
 
“This brings us back together as one office with all of our attorneys, and all of our legal assistants and staff here,” Frank Camp, Iowa JFON Board Chair, said. “We’re able to provide help here in a neighborhood where we find a lot of our clients nearby. The ability to have some space where we can meet privately is so important. It’s been a great find and we’re really grateful for the generosity of both the conference to help us find this kind of a space, and to the landlords who really were very generous in offering a space mostly furnished.”
 
The main office has always been somewhere near the Drake neighborhood in Des Moines since the beginning of Iowa JFON in 1999, and over the years they have expanded to satellite locations across the state.
 
“We continue to provide monthly services in seven different locations: Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown, Columbus Junction, Storm Lake, Decorah, and Ottumwa.” Varisco-Santini said.
 
They are always looking for volunteers at all locations, and donations can be given online or mail to Iowa Annual Conference 2301 Rittenhouse St. Des Moines, IA 50321 with note in memo for Advance Special Offering #375. More information and resources can be found at IowaJFON.org.
 

Polk City U.M. Church embarks on mission trip to Puerto Rico

Polk City U.M. Church embarks on mission trip to Puerto Rico

published 3/6/2018
In response to the devastation that was caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, 15 Iowans are preparing to leave Thursday for Puerto Rico to help a United Methodist church rebuild.
 
The volunteers include high-schoolers through retirees, and not just United Methodists.
 
“We were able to get a good group of people from many denominations from all across the state of Iowa,” said the group’s leader, Reverend Hugh Stone. “We have a student at Simpson College, some retired doctors, a retired nurse, and a public defendant who is fluent in Spanish, which will be very helpful.”
 
The primary focus for the volunteers will be rebuilding bathrooms and other projects to help with basic needs for the congregation. They will be staying at another church in the area since the first has been so severely damaged.
 
Stone, the pastor of Polk City U.M. Church, is thankful for the help they have received.
 
“The Iowa Board of Global Ministries gave us a grant through The Great Commission Fund so we are able to go to Puerto Rico,” he said.
 
The group will fly out from Des Moines on March 8 and return on March 17. Check back soon for updates on the volunteer’s experience.
 

The little church that CAN

The little church that CAN

published 3/3/2018
By: Morgan Frideres, Spring 2018 Intern, Simpson College

Prole, IA – Linn Grove United Methodist Church in Prole, Iowa is home to a congregation of around only 40 regular worshipers, but they’ve proven their slogan as the “little church that CAN.” Their small congregation raised $5,580 for Heifer International to purchase animals for families in poverty.
 
Heifer International’s expression is “Passing on the Gift,” according to their website. The purchase of animals brings sustainable agriculture and commerce, providing both food and income. Families then share the training they receive and pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family. This helps bring families out of poverty and promotes communities to grow and improve.
 
The church aimed to raise $5,000, but exceeded their goal with an extra $580. The campaign started July 1, 2017, and ran through Christmas.
 
“I told them that we were going to shoot for the moon, and even if we didn't make it, we would land in the stars,” Pastor Ginni Otto said. “They decided they wanted the moon and stars both!”
 
The goal of $5,000 was to buy a Gift Ark, which includes: two water buffalos, two cows, two sheep and two goats, along with bees, chicks, rabbits and more, according to the website. Otto said she knew they raised enough in February, but waited to announce the accomplishment until they all decided what to spend the extra money on. They finally decided on also purchasing a Knitter's Basket, which includes: a llama, an alpaca, a sheep and an Angora rabbit, along with a trio of rabbits, a flock of chicks and a flock of ducks.
 
Otto said the inspiration for the campaign was God, and that she woke up in the middle of the night and just knew their fundraising should go to Heifer International.
 
“Some already gave to them on a regular basis, and to the ones who didn’t, they liked the idea that the Ark would help several villages and would continue to help for years to come,” Otto said.
 
Fundraising came from various methods. The church has a community supper the second Thursday of every month and chose the November and December suppers to donate to this campaign. The suppers had a free will offering, and when they advertised the money would go to Heifer International, people “responded with huge hearts.”
 
The church also had “Bethlehem” set up in their sanctuary and received significant donations from that, along with contributions from the congregation. They hit their goal the first week in December, then went on to collect an additional $580.
 
Heifer International wasn’t the only outreach program the church did last year, Otto said. “They feel that God furnishes what we need and that God wants us to share!”
 
Otto said she’s very proud of what the people of Linn Grove accomplished with the campaign.
 
“I thank God often that I am allowed to serve such a wonderful group of people who love God and show it!” Otto said.