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The Friendly Beasts

January 18, 2018

Three boys in the Donnellson United Methodist Church were worship leaders during the Christmas season.  Austin Fogarty, Evan Fogarty and Wyatt Pundt presented the story of the birth of Jesus through the eyes of the animals who were in the stable that first Christmas night.

donnellson.xmasThey blended their narration of the Christmas story with a 12th-century hymn called “The Friendly Beasts.” The traditional Christmas song tells about gifts that a donkey, a cow, a sheep, a camel, and a dove give to the baby Jesus at the Nativity.

The song’s text probably originated in France during the 12th century. Its melody is attributed to Pierre de Corbeil, the Bishop of Sens at the time, who died in 1222. Hymnody expert Michael Hawn says, “This song is distinctive in that each of the animals sings to the newborn Christ child in the first person, offering a gift to comfort him.”

The boys wore costumes to depict the various animals featured in the verses of the song. The congregation also enjoyed other special music from the boys as well.

The children’s Christmas program was a great success. “We are so blessed to have these young folks teaching us,” their pastor, Peg Ellingson, said, “as only a child can do.”

Mental Health Resources

January 10, 2018

A task force of laity and clergy in the district worked over the summer and fall to compile a booklet of mental health resources. The team has collected a list of area food pantries, emergency shelters, crisis lines, mental health facilities and counselors and other related community services. The material is organized by the ten counties in the Southeast District for easy access to the nearest available support.

Screenshot (6)The booklet includes the statement in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church about mental health. The resource offers suggestions about when and how to refer individuals for professional care. It also includes a form for reporting suspected abuse and information about following up when someone is found to be living in an unsafe environment. Worship resources and scripture references are also provided to assist local church leaders in coping effectively with mental health issues.

The planning team knows that further updates will be necessary from time to time, so readers are invited to send information to the district office for inclusion in the next edition of the booklet. The task force hopes that this material will be of help to all persons who are coping with mental health concerns in their churches, communities and personal lives.

Minority Senior Program

January 3, 2018

The Diversity Service Center of Iowa (DSCI) strives to improve the living standard of minority senior citizens by connecting them to a variety of community resources. A biweekly authentic Hispanic meal is perhaps their most well-known ministry. Anyone who is at least 60 years old may join in. An average of 67 persons attend on a regular basis. The meal is served at the Musserville and San Pablo United Methodist Churches site at 1001 Oregon Street in Muscatine.

The minority senior program offers a variety of benefits. Participants learn about resources available to seniors. They receive language interpretation services when English is not their first language. They experience improved health and living conditions through home visits, case management services, and health education. They also gain self-esteem through interaction and socialization with other seniors.

rosa.mendozaRosa Mendoza, the Executive Director of DSCI, says that their ministries “work to establish a community of support and sense of security by advocating for minority and under served senior citizens.” Other agencies in the community are their collaborators, including the Department of Human Services, the Social Security Administration, and Muscatine County Services.

DSCI is receiving a $1,000 Matthew 25 grant from the Southeast District in 2018. These funds are made possible from the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout Iowa.

High School Student Starts a Choir

December 27, 2017

Katie Palmer is a difference maker at the West Chester United Methodist Church. When she was a sophomore in high school, she had the idea to start a children’s chime choir. She presented a proposal to the Administrative Council of the church, complete with PowerPoint slides, to ask them to buy the chimes.
West Chester chime choir

She sent letters to all the parents in the community who had children in kindergarten through the fifth grade to invite them to participate in the chime choir. Only two of the first dozen kids to join the choir had attended Sunday school.

Children and their families have become more active at the church because of Katie. As a result, she received the Harry Denman Youth Evangelism Award in 2015 from the Iowa Conference. “Parents of the children, some of whom had not ordinarily come to church,” Kim Palmquist said, “have attended because of her efforts.”

Katie’s initiative has sustained the chime choir to this day. Earlier this month on December 17th, they shared their music in worship in preparation for Christmas. Now a senior at Mid-Prairie High School, Katie is planning to attend Central College in Pella as an elementary education major with a specialty in reading.

Lessons and Carols

December 20, 2017

Iowa Wesleyan University hosted a Christmas celebration of Lessons and Carols on Sunday evening, December 3rd in their University Chapel. The “Gloria” by Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi was the featured musical work with scripture readings interspersed between movements.

The Iowa Wesleyan Concert Choir, Primae Voces, and the Southeast Iowa Symphony Chamber Orchestra combined their musical talents for the occasion under the artistic direction of Blair Buffington, Director of Choral Activities at Iowa Wesleyan University. Other area groups also contributed to the evening, including the Mount Pleasant High School Chamber Singers, Mount Pleasant Choral, Sound Appeal Bell Choir, and Acapella Women’s Ensemble.

“The culmination of our semester’s work is here,” said the director, “and we’re so pleased to showcase the talents and hard work of our student and community musicians. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be have the Southeast Iowa Chamber Orchestra involved with our festival of Lessons and Carols.”

Iowa Wesleyan University seeks to promote spiritual development as well as intellectual growth in all of its students. The university encourages its students to participate in the worship, study, and fellowship of the religious community of their choice in the area. District Askings gifts from the United Methodist churches of Southeast are earmarked for the religious life of the university.

Keota United Church of Faith

December 13, 2017

Local missions are at the heart of the outreach ministries of the Keota United Church of Faith. In their small community of approximately 1,000 residents west of Washington, “we focus primarily on the needs of the children,” says Vicki Fagen. They provide school supplies in August and Christmas presents for the children and a food box for each family in December.

keota.christmasThe church also operates a food pantry which is open one day each month. Participants can receive nonperishable items and “a voucher for perishables at our local grocery store.” Members of the church, community and local organizations, particularly Holy Trinity Parish Catholic Church, help to support their mission efforts as volunteers and with donations.

“Not only do we supply food, but also our friendship and love,” Vicki says. “We try to make them feel comfortable in our church and encourage them to join us worship.”

Born of a union between the United Methodist and Presbyterian U.S.A. churches in town two decades ago, “The United Church of Faith seeks to be a light in the Keota community and beyond. We reach up: in worship as a family of God. We reach out: demonstrating God’s love and acceptance. We reach in: to become more like Christ.”

UCF local missions received a $1000 Matthew 25 grant from the Southeast District in 2017. These funds are made possible through the apportionment gifts of United Methodist churches throughout the state of Iowa.

Can Drive in Delta

December 6, 2017

Teresa Dawson is a Difference Maker in the Delta United Methodist Church. For the last two years she has worked with their Sunday School Kids to collect gloves and hats to be given to local schools to help the youngsters stay warm in the cold winter weather.

Screenshot (62)This year the kids decided to do something a little different. “They wanted to gave back not just to the kids, but also to their families,” Teresa said. So the Sunday School Kids are collecting non-perishable food items for their local food pantry at their sister church in neighboring What Cheer.

The food pantry is made possible through a partnership with the Food Bank of Southern Iowa in Ottumwa. Over 160 affiliated nonprofit agencies, including groups such as churches, senior centers and daycare centers, distribute food in a 13-county area of southern Iowa through the Food Bank.

On average the food pantry in What Cheer serves between 60 and 90 families a month from the basement of the What Cheer United Methodist Church. This season the food pantry is providing a Christmas Store where families can buy new, donated gifts for $1.00 each. The food pantry serves the Tri-County Community School District and the people of Delta at the What Cheer location.