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Learning Event

May 2, 2018

Joy Carter of the United Methodist Church of Wilton shared stories about being a welcoming church at a Southeast District learning event last Saturday. She described an effort at her church many years ago that began with a simple note the pastor placed in their bulletin: “The friendliest church in Iowa.” The statement seemed a little odd at first, but it had “a lasting impression on our congregation.”

Her inspirational speech was one of several at the event that morning, which was hosted by First United Methodist Church in Mount Pleasant. Other presenters offered ideas for creative worship with little or no budget, storytelling, small group ministry, visual arts, and music.

loving.learning.leadingThe agenda of the learning event reflected the L3 process of Loving, Learning, and Leading, which is being used throughout our ministries in the Iowa Conference at every level. We spent time loving God in devotions and loving each other with an intentional activity to “Know and Be Known.” We learned together creative worship practices. And we concluded with a discussion of what good ideas we would take back to our local churches for the sake of God’s mission in the church and the world.

Churches United Hunger Ministry

April 25, 2018

The United Methodist churches of Iowa got a shout out from Churches United of the Quad Cities Area last month. CUQCA received a $500 hunger relief grant award from the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church. The funds originated from monetary gifts at the Thanksgiving Ingathering last fall on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan University.

cuqcaCUQCA will use these dollars to help keep the shelves stocked at Churches United’s 24 Quad City Area food pantries for free distribution to individuals and families in need. Over 125,000 persons are served annually throughout Rock Island and Scott Counties. Over 100 churches and other organizations contribute money or food and scores of volunteers to operate them.

Emergency food pantries are located in neighborhoods. A person or family in need can visit the food pantry that serves their location and receive three to five days of emergency food for free. Referrals from caseworkers, pastors, school nurses or counselors allow the pantries to provide this emergency food more than once while someone works to overcome the challenges of providing for a family with proper food and nutrition.

CUQCA also received a $2,000 Matthew 25 grant from the Southeast District in 2018 to supplement the gifts coming from the United Methodist churches in Scott County.

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!”

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