News

Calvary UMC living Nativity reflects true meaning of Christmas

Calvary UMC living Nativity reflects true meaning of Christmas

published 12/22/2016
By Roxanne Strike

Since St. Francis of Assisi first displayed a Nativity scene, or crèche, in 1223, these depictions of the Christmas story have been a popular part of the Advent season across the world. United Methodist churches in Iowa have gladly been a part of that tradition for years, often making it an annual tradition.
 
Calvary United Methodist Church in Ames has hosted it annual living Nativity scene for more than a decade, said church member Dennis Toft, who has been involved with the program for 10 years.
 
“Pastor Lynn Elrod came up with the idea and promoted it,” said Toft. “He and a family in the church supported that and built the barn with wood from a farm in Prairie City.”
 
The annual display includes church members who sign up for 30-minute shifts to play the roles of Joseph, Mary, shepherds and wise men; a manger, a large barn structure and live animals. Inside the church, several volunteers prepare a hot meal for the actors for between their shifts. Women from the church sewed the costumes and continue upkeep on the costumes.
 
The scene is set up in front of the church so families and visitors can drive past or park to come visit the animals and actors. When all is said and done, anywhere from 20 to 40 volunteers help pull off the annual event said current Pastor Steve Campbell.
 

Enriching the experience 

After Elrod left Calvary in 2008, the Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Dass took the reigns and continued the annual tradition, while overseeing updates to create a more fulfilling experience.
 
In 2011, Toft and other church members redesigned the barn. The original barn was very large and extremely heavy, making storage and set up difficult. Toft drafted the design of the barn and utilized the original lumber. The barn could now be set up by only two people in less than two hours.
 
“We saw a need and it made the process much easier, “ said Toft. “It helps so we can focus on our efforts on other planning.”
 
Dass and Toft oversaw an addition to the actual portrayal of the Nativity. Church members and Nativity actors Gary and Jami Mirka thought to read the Christmas story from the Gospels as people stopped by.
 
“It helped enrich the experience,” said Dass. “Not only were people seeing the story in flesh and blood, but they are hearing it as well from the Gospel.”
 
Toft said he and volunteers are always thinking of new ways to add to the experience. Toft said he’s thought about using some kind of animatronics in addition to the live animals and volunteers.
 
“I haven’t done anything with the idea yet, but there are always ways we can improve the event,” he said.
 

Connecting with the community

“The tradition is a good way to connect with the community,” said Dass. “People really enjoy coming out there to see it.”
 
This year, due to bad weather, between 40 and 60 attended. Last year, though, on Friday night, 70 people visited and 100 people came the following night.
 
“The scene is a very deeply moving experience,” said Campbell, who has not participated in a live Nativity before coming to Calvary. “The meaning of the Incarnation comes to life.”
 
Just like St. Francis hoped to bring the true meaning of Christmas to followers, so do modern day churches. Through the years, the members of Calvary have seen the way community members have connected with the spirit of Christmas.
 
One year, a woman was brought to tears as she looked on the scene. She then prayed together with church members. Another year, a woman asked what the church was doing. She left, but shortly came back with a van full of people wanting to make donations.
 
For the members of Calvary, though, it isn’t about receiving donations or what they can get in return, it’s about giving back to their community.
 
“We want to keep the money out of it,” said Toft. “It’s our gift to the community.”

Glory Sightings

Glory Sightings

published 7/25/2016

By: Rev. Katharine Yarnell, Field Outreach Minister North Central District
 

Swaledale UMC lets their bells ring


Swaledale United Methodist Church participated in the Healthy Small Church Initiative this year, and Pastor Travis Stevick invited longtime church member, Don Hanson, to preach. 

To Hanson, this was a bold step out in faith, and it was immensely appreciated! 

During Hanson's childhood, the Swaledale church would ring their bell to call the town to worship. Over the years, that tradition had gradually stopped. Hanson encouraged the Swaledale congregation to continue their tradition of ringing the church bell.

Since Swaledale United Methodist Church is the only congregation still open in the area, they can let the bells ring out to the entire town now!

Thank you for your witness!

Gowrie UMC shows how the church helps those in need

The second “Glory Sighting” is Gowrie United Methodist Church, which this year held its 128th annual Chicken Dinner during the Fourth of July Festival in town. 

This event is so popular (and the chicken so tasty) that people need to wait in the sanctuary before it is their turn to go to the fellowship hall to eat. In previous years, bands would play entertaining music, but people usually talked over the music, so eventually they discontinued the music. 

This year, however, Gary Vosberg thought it would be a good idea to have mission videos playing (sound off, closed captioning on) for people to watch while they waited. 

Vosberg was able to play the mission videos from umc.giving.org and umcor.org under the Resources tab where there are several choices. 

To play them using the closed captioning, click on the small black square marked "CC" on the bottom right corner of the YouTube video (about 80% of the videos have this button).

For the first time, while people waited, there was silence in the sanctuary as people watched how United Methodist's mission support and apportionment partnership funds are helping those in need. 

As the United Methodist Mission Statement says, “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”  

Thank you for this wonderful idea!

 


Renwick UMC will host Special Hair Donation Event

Renwick UMC will host Special Hair Donation Event

published 5/5/2016

Pastor Lynn Gardner will be cutting at least 12 inches of her long white hair and donating it to "Pantene Beautiful Lengths" for cancer patients, as part of a Special Spring Fundraiser at Renwick United Methodist Church.  

On Sunday, May 22nd, the Renwick United Methodist Church will host this special Hair Donation Event that will begin at 6:00 PM with a pot luck supper and the community is invited to join in the fun of the evening.  

Following the community pot-luck supper in the Fellowship Hall at Renwick United Methodist church, 610 Kelling Street, Renwick Iowa, Pastor Lynn's hair will be cut by Linda Lane.

If the donation goal of $7,500.00 or more is raised, Pastor Lynn's hair could be as short as Nate Huntley's. Renwick Fire & Ambulance has been designated to receive 10% of the total cash collected. Another 10% of the cash collected will be given to help support Dr. Ashley & Mike McCurry who are serving at Kapsowar Hospital in Kenya, East Africa.


First United Methodist in Ames welcomes new associate pastor

First United Methodist in Ames welcomes new associate pastor

published 1/11/2016
By Grayson Schmidt, Staff Writer, Ames Tribune
gschmidt@amestrib.com 
 

The Rev. J. Cephas Davis’ faith is stronger than most people’s. That is because he was tested at an early age, growing up in war-torn West Africa.

“That experience completely shaped my thinking and belief in God,” Davis said. “By the grace of God I have come this far, from growing up in a civil war. Children my age (and younger) lost their lives and I’m still here today.”

Davis, 39, is the new associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Ames. He hopes his story can bring a different perspective on faith and the world to people in central Iowa. He will officially join the church during services on Sunday.

“When I talk about hunger, I know what it is like to be actually hungry. I’ve been hungry before,” Davis said. “I remember walking for days without food, just water.”

Born in the coastal country of Liberia in 1977, Davis said he lived in a peaceful country until civil war broke out when he was 12 years old. During that 14-year time span, death, war and starvation became an everyday occurrence. He said bombs would get dropped daily, and he became accustomed to seeing dead bodies in the street when he would walk home. By the time the war ended, Davis said approximately 300,000 people lost their lives. That period could have caused him to abandon his beliefs, but instead, Davis said they grew stronger.

“Coming to the U.S., I hear people talking about war, especially the Iraq War, and I just get sick to my stomach, because I have lived in a war-torn country,” Davis said. “I grew up in the church, and I think that is what really helped me.”

Davis became more involved with the church, eventually becoming a youth president in his home church, vice president of the district church school, campus minister and, finally, a deacon and elder in the United Methodist Church. He also began doing missionary work around the world and in his home country, where he worked with orphans, child soldiers and other children from broken homes.

He eventually immigrated to the U.S. in April 2005, where he became a volunteer youth pastor in Coon Rapids, Minn. (where he met his wife Phyllis), and then in various cities around Texas.

- See more: http://m.amestrib.com/news/first-united-methodist-welcomes-new-associate-pastor#sthash.G2cg4xvP.dpuf