Upcoming COWF gatherings

Upcoming COWF gatherings

published 9/5/2018
Bishop Laurie's Update on the Commission on a Way Forward

Dear Friends,

Grace and peace! I hope that you are enjoying this beautiful summer here in Iowa. At the same time, I would ask for your prayers for those parts of our state that experienced significant property damage as a result of severe storms over the past month, including United Methodist churches and parsonages. If you wish to make a contribution toward the relief effort, process, please click here.

I also want to give you an update on the work of the Council of Bishops and the Commission on a Way Forward, in preparation for the Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. In response to Judicial Council Decision 1360, which was announced on May 25, 2018, the Council of Bishops issued an amended call. According to COB President Ken Carter, “The purpose of this Special Session of the General Conference shall be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Commission on a Way Forward and recommendations of the Council of the Bishops.” In the original call issued in April last year, the bishops stated that the purpose of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference is to be “limited to receiving and acting on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward.” 

Bishop Carter explained that the amended call in response to the Judicial Council decision was made “out of a great sense of caution and the desire to help delegates to the Special Session of General Conference 2019 do their best work.”  

Then, on July 12, The Council of Bishops requested that the Judicial Council issue declaratory decisions on the constitutionality of the petitions submitted by the Commission on a Way Forward to the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. COB President Carter said, “We are asking for this so that we can gain greater clarity about constitutional issues within the three plans, and in service to and support of the delegations, who will do extremely important work in a very limited amount of time.” The Proposed Legislation includes the One Church Model, the Connectional Conference Plan, and the Traditional Plan.

On July 31, the final report of the Commission on a Way Forward was released in all four official languages of the General Conference: English, Portuguese, French, and Swahili. The report will be presented to the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. Subject to final copy editing, the report will be printed in the Advance Daily Christian Advocate (ADCA) in November. Please click to read the Commission on a Way Final Report and Plans in: I encourage you to take the time to read the entire Commission on a Way Forward report because there is much to take in. Starting in September, gatherings will be held around the conference where I and our General Conference delegates will be present to worship, answer questions, and be in dialogue together around the pros and cons of each plan. This report will be received by the gathered delegates in St. Louis, Missouri, on February 23-26, 2019.

2018 Fall Gatherings – Commission on the Way Forward Also, don’t forget our denomination-wide Praying It Forward initiative. I invite you to join me and the Iowa Annual Conference in prayer daily from 2:23-2:26 a.m. or p.m., the numbers of which correspond to the February 23-26 dates of the special General Conference. Praying at another, more convenient time is fine. Please pray for our delegates, the called General Conference, and for our future as The United Methodist Church. 

Bishop Laurie

Tiny church—big impact

Tiny church—big impact

published 2/7/2018
A small church continues to have a big impact in Bolan, Iowa and surrounding communities because of the motivation and drive of a congregation that is half made up of folks over eighty-years-old. 

On Sunday, October 15, 2017, a “Special Recognition” Day was held during the Bolan Trinity United Methodist Churches morning worship service to honor those members who are in their eighties and nineties.

Those in their eighties are: Duane and Betty Anderson; Jacie Erdmann; Roger and June Erdmann; Lois Krumm; Dale and Shirley Meyer; Forrie and Dorothy Urbatsch and JoAnn White. 

In their nineties are Art White as well as Stan and Bev Lucas. 

Many of their favorite hymns were sung or played during the service and each in attendance was given a carnation; pink for the ladies and burgundy for the gentlemen. Pastor Don Preston had a special scripture and message. The younger people of the church family took part in a special litany. After the service a brunch was served with the honorees seated at a special table. They also shared some memories of their years attending this church plus some words of wisdom.

"This was such a special day! Joe and I have been members at Bolan Trinity since October of 1965. I know there have been at least a couple of other Honor days during those years," said Linda Nydegger.

The Village of Bolan only has one street, Tulip Lane. There are 10 considered in the “city limits” and eight in the close “suburbs!” Four people on Tulip Lane attend the Bolan Trinity UMC and eight who live in the outskirts of town.

"I don’t know how far out they went to get the 2010 census at 33," remarked Nydegger. "Many of our members come from the surrounding communities of Kensett, Grafton, Northwood and Mason City." 

Church Reaches Out
Bolan Trinity holds a unique ecumenical vacation bible school where the children rotate around town.

They meet in a big quonset for the opening and closing. The study part is held in the renovated Barton #2 Schoolhouse basement; story time is in the feed shed; snack time is at Scott and Lori Willert's home; craft time in another older garage; recreation time in the Bolan park; and the preschoolers are in the Trinity UMC basement.

Children come from all around the area. They have had as many as 103 children attend with 60 helpers. To help with expenses, they hold a free will donation Pancake Brunch at the Bethel UMC in Manly in February. Many of the neighboring churches give donations also. The Bolan Trinity Church family hosts a hot dog supper with veggies and bars before the VBS program on Friday night.

Pastor Don Preston and Lori Willert for the last three years have continued with a VBS Club during the school year. On Thursdays the buses from Northwood and St. Ansgar drop off children either at the schoolhouse or church. Linda Nydegger is the snack person.

This tiny church has been active in many other outreach and missions including the Thanksgiving Ingathering, Toys for Tots and Operation Christmas Child. Some of the members have also participated in the reading of the Bible at the Northwood Courthouse over the 4th of July weekend.

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 and 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 

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.

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