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CLOTHED in Christ

April 18, 2018

The Southeast District Latino Task Force is expanding its pursuit of developing racially diverse communities of faith. Earlier this year they began discussions about their vision for the future. They explored values, such as God’s love for all people and all of creation, and they affirmed our shared mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

sedltfAs their discussion continued, they realized that the communities of southeast Iowa are much more diverse than they were when the group originally formed more than 30 years ago. Hispanic immigrants have come from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Honduras, and Ecuador, for instance. There are also Asians living in Iowa from Vietnam, Myanmar, and China, and Africans from Liberia and The Congo, among others.

Their discernment led to dream of being CLOTHED in Christ. “All of you who were baptized into Christ,” Paul writes in Galatians 3:27, “have clothed yourselves with Christ.” To that end, the group is inviting all of the churches of the Southeast District to live a life of faith, “Celebrating and Living Out Tolerance and Hospitality, Embracing Diversity.” At their next meeting, the task force will review demographic information of the region to discover opportunities for outreach among these diverse groups of people.

Bringing Blessings to the People

April 11, 2018

Davenport Grace UMC has had a “Blessing Closet” in their church basement for many years to offer people free clothing, shoes, and other items. It’s open one evening and one morning a week and staffed by volunteers from the church, RSVP (a senior citizen volunteer program), and also by some of the people who have been grateful past recipients of the goods they offer to those in need. The clothing closet is self-supporting, with the clothing donations coming from the congregation, rummage sales in the area, and other churches. This past year Grace started having a coin collection during worship one Sunday every other month, which they designated for the Blessing Closet and use to purchase new underwear and socks to give out.

Pastor Linda Morris was inspired after attending a monthly clergy meeting for HCI to take the clothing closet “out to the people” on the streets, in shelters, or at free meal sites.

Pastor Linda explained, “The church is about 6 blocks from the downtown area of Davenport. The free closet serves about 3000 each year, but the homeless, which desperately need the clothing, shoes, etc. are too far to walk in most weather. We began by taking things to one of the meal sites. It had a nice sidewalk in front of the building, so on Thursday afternoon once a month we took tables, boxes of clothing marked with sizes and set up. The meal site put notices up a week before telling the folks when we would be there.”

Two parishioners from Grace are in charge of the Blessing Closet and have assistance with these once-a-month outreach mission events from Pastor Linda and 2-3 other volunteers from the congregation. They sort the clothing ahead of time so they only take “season appropriate and street appropriate items” to give to people at the sites they visit.

Pastor Linda said that church members who have helped with this ministry “have been amazed at the need of the people” they serve, as well as their helpfulness and gratitude. For example, two years ago Grace collected 160 pairs of shoes to be given away with new pairs of socks, and within 30 minutes all of them had been claimed.

The events are also about building connections among people and connecting with the Holy Spirit. People who are lined up to receive the clothing often help the church members set things up, Pastor Linda prepares a small table off to the side to offer communion to anyone who would like to participate, and once during rainy weather in December, they set up the clothing under an awning tent and sang Christmas carols underneath umbrellas.

Jesus often went out to the places in communities where people already were as he touched lives through his ministry. Praise God for the incarnational mission work of the Blessing Closet at Grace UMC! If you would like to partner with Grace, or if you would like to learn more about this ministry, please contact Pastor Linda at rnlinda@gomorris.net.

Lenten Offerings for Diapers

April 4, 2018

The United Methodist churches in the Burlington area have offered joint Lenten services for a number of years. They meet in a difference worship center each week on Sundays at 5 p.m. The preachers and musicians of the various churches rotate responsibilities, usually not in their home church building.

umc-logoThe churches also work cooperatively throughout the year in “Shared United Methodist Ministry,” better known as SUMM. The organization was created to encourage the United Methodist churches in the area to share in ministry together by pooling their resources, talents, and ideas.

At the end of each month, for instance, SUMM arranges for the churches to serve a free meal at Grace United Methodist Church for anyone who would like one. The churches take turns preparing and serving food as well as cleaning up after each month’s meal.

Another SUMM ministry is the Socks and Underwear Project. They supply Toys for Tots with packages of socks and underwear and also deliver the items to all the elementary schools in the area for emergency situations. Last year they helped a total of 265 families in need, including 555 children.

This year the SUMM committee is investing their Lenten offerings in diapers. At last count the offerings have come to nearly $2,000. The diapers will be purchased and donated to three area agencies: Community Action, Young House, and the Nest.

Asbury UMC Scholarships

March 28, 2018

Asbury United Methodist Church in Wellman offers scholarships to students who are making plans for their future career choices. Members of their church or children and grandchildren of members are eligible to apply. The award criteria includes scholastic ability, financial need, and commitment to both education and the church. Awards for up to $2,000 a year are available, and annual applications are due by the first of April.

MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAOne scholarship is specifically for high school seniors who are members of the church. A second, the Erma M. Rugg Scholarship which is also for members, assists undergraduate students attending colleges, universities, trade and vocational schools, or other similar institutions. A third, the Lela M. Goodwin Scholarship, is for members or their children and grandchildren who are attending institutions of higher learning.

These ministries of education are a part of the way the congregation lives into its mission to “make disciples and spread God’s love.” This statement is a paraphrase of the passage in Matthew 28:20 where Jesus reminds the disciples of the importance of teaching others about life and faith.

The people of Asbury UMC have a vision to “nurture and utilize each other’s spiritual gifts,” which is made evident through their scholarship awards. They also invite students to explore additional educational support through scholarships offered by the Iowa United Methodist Foundation.

Ministries of Prayer

March 21, 2018

The Lenten season has provided an opportunity for the United Methodist churches in Sperry and Mediapolis to highlight their ministries of prayer. Both congregations have regular prayer meetings that are open to anyone who would like to attend.

vital.signs.mepoParticipants pray for the members of their church and community who have indicated needs. They also welcome guests who wish to be present to receive prayers in response to the circumstances of their lives.

As we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, “I like to take some time during Lent to highlight the ministries of prayer within our churches,” says Tracey Burgus, their director of lay visitation.

The churches distribute a weekly prayer update to all who wish to receive it. Prayer requests and email information to receive updates can placed in the offering plate during Sunday services, or members may contact the church office to be included in emergency prayer requests.

The prayer teams maintain a list of the needs of others so that participants can add them to their daily devotions between formal meetings. “Please remember our shut-ins and those in care facilities in the coming weeks,” he reminds us. “I know they would be encouraged by a note or a quick visit to brighten their day and our own!”

Lenten Devotions

March 14, 2018

The United Methodist Church of Wilton is posting daily devotions for the 2018 season of Lent on their Facebook page. This ministry is an extension of their mission: “As loving Christian disciples who experience God’s presence and power through prayerful worship, we share our gifts, nurture all ages to grow in faith, and spread the Gospel through missions at home and beyond.”

devotions+2018+iaumc.orgDuring Lent, United Methodist people around the world enter into a season of preparation, self-reflection, and repentance. The word, “repent,” literally means to “turn around.” Lent is a time when we seek to realign our lives and focus toward God more intentionally.

Many people give up things as one form of this practice. Others take on new life-giving disciplines that help to rid them of distractions and their own selfish desires. By doing so, however we choose to respond to Lent, we seek to live and love as more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

The congregation even has a link to their Facebook page on their website, so that visitors may have an opportunity to join them in their daily devotions throughout the season. “Through our actions,” the church reminds its members and its community, “we care, love, and serve.”

Night to Shine

March 7, 2018

The Washington United Methodist Church hosted a “Night to Shine” on Friday, February 9th. “Over 70 guests and 190 volunteers,” their newsletter reported to members, “enjoyed an evening filled with flowers, red carpet, paparazzi, hair, make up, shoe shines, dinner, karaoke, face painting, limo rides, and dancing!” Night to Shine, Washington

The eyes of their guests were filled with tears of joy as they received their crown or tiara. “It was a night to remember for a lifetime,” one volunteer said, “as God’s light shone bright!”

Night to Shine events are sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. It is an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older. On the same Friday night last month, 537 churches from around the world came together to host Night to Shine for approximately 90,000 honored guests through the support of 175,000 volunteers.

The “Washington United Methodist Church is for everyone,” they say to the people of their community on their homepage, “and that includes you and your family.” The Night to Shine experience is just one way they show their hospitality as they are in mission as ambassadors for Christ in their area. “When you visit” the church, they reminds their guests, “it’s important to us that you feel right at home, right away.”

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