Local churches are started with passion and intensity – with fire! Whether the founding motivation was abolitionist zeal or religio-ethnic conviction (or something else) – the churches that today comprise the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ were founded because people embraced faith with sufficient passion to commit time, energy and resources to start something that mattered.
It’s one thing to get started – it’s quite another to keep the fires of passionate purpose alive after the passing of years and decades. In that respect, the churches of the Iowa Conference display a normal range of diversity. Some are still alive with passionate intensity of purpose – others have a hard time knowing why they exist. Most are somewhere in-between.
When the question of clarity of purpose is overlaid on a demographic of community decline, the challenges facing a local church can be depressingly difficult. For significant numbers of our churches this is precisely today’s challenge – the local population base is aging and declining simultaneous to a gradual loss of clarity about the church’s reason for existing.
Can there be hope – can there be life in such a situation? Do you sometimes wonder whether your local church has a future?
Some years ago leaders in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) decided to offer a program of support and direction for congregations on the verge of closing. The program was intended to offer congregations in the last stages of institutional life an intentional way to celebrate their history and then form a self-conscious and deliberate plan to pass on their legacy and remaining assets. In some cases an interesting thing happened – churches woke up to possibility that what they were doing could really matter – not only to the folk who were already there, but for others as well. The program became a new beginning point for some of these congregations, and thus a new program was birthed – New Beginnings! The program has been adapted for use in the United Church of Christ, and it is that version that we are offering to congregations across Iowa.
During the last weekend in March the Iowa Conference will offer a series of “Come and See” meetings around the conference to introduce a new resource: “New Beginnings.” Perhaps you and some folk from your church should attend. If there are times you wonder whether your church has a real future, then New Beginnings is precisely for you!
People naturally gravitate to fire. Even on a warm summer’s night people will circle a fire. When faith resembles fire, it becomes attractive – even compelling. But when the only vestige of the past is ash, there is little reason for expecting a vibrant and compelling tomorrow.
If you’d like to see your congregation once again catch fire, please come to a New Beginnings “Come and See” meeting and decide whether this resource might help your church sort out important questions and maybe once again burn with a fire that matters – to God and to people who long to know the fire of purpose and meaning – the fire of God.
“Come and See!”
United Church of Christ in Iowa
Come and See Meeting Schedule:
March 22 at 10:00am-noon = Waverly Peace UCC, 11th Street SE, Waverly 50677
March 22 at 3:00-5:00pm = Iowa City Faith UCC, 1609 Deforest Ave, Iowa City 52240
March 23 at 4:00-6:00pm = Carroll First United Methodist Church, 1621 N Main, Carroll 51401
Note: Thanks to Sharon Strohmeier of Iowa Religious Media Services for lifting up the Jaures quote during her report at the IRMS Annual Meeting!