New Connections with African Neighbors in Iowa City

February 01, 2018

This past fall, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Iowa City adopted a goal for 2018 to “take an active interest in our neighbors that results in more diverse relationships and new and deeper partnerships with our community.” I was expecting to start that effort with some neighborhood canvassing and intentional listening effort, when one of our neighbors called me up with an invitation.
Jean Claude Muhoza is a refugee from Rwanda who has been living in our community for ten years. Jean Claude is a United Methodist; and helps lead a worshipping congregation that was in need of a space. As I talked with him, I realized that this was not an opportunity to provide space to a partner congregation, but a chance to be in ministry with people who are seeking a spiritual home. Jean Claude was looking for a congregation that would recognize his gifts, receive the gifts of his family and friends, and who would provide the relationships and support they needed to continue to grow in faith and in ministry.
I invited this congregation to come worship on Sunday afternoon, to see how it would work, and that is where we are now. The worship service, which starts around 1:30 and lasts several hours, is conducted in multiple languages, including Kinyarwanda, Swahili, and English. It is a joyful celebration of prayer and praise and is both familiar and very different from my previous midwestern United Methodist experience. I would encourage you to come worship when you are able.
The next step for us is to learn together as we establish relationships founded on God’s love and grace. Jean Claude has invited English-speakers to come to the Sunday afternoon service and is encouraging his congregation to participate in St. Mark’s worship, classes, and other activities. I will be offering an orientation (with translation) for those who are interested in joining St. Mark’s in the upcoming weeks. I am excited to see where God will lead us in this emerging expression of Christian community, and I encourage you to prepare to say “yes,” when God invites you to move in new and unexpected directions.
Pastor Sean McRoberts
St. Mark’s United Methodist Church
2675 E Washington St., Iowa City, IA 52245
(319) 337-7201