One of the great delights of my ministry with you is the privilege of worshipping with you. This past Sunday, I was the guest of Ripley UCC in Traer for a celebration of the congregation’s missions. They had a LOT to celebrate!
The photo you’re seeing is of some of the 124 quilts draped throughout the sanctuary. These 124 were the second gathering of quilts the congregation blessed and dedicated this year. The quilts themselves are given as love gifts to persons for whom a bright, beautifully pieced quilt is a vessel of blessings, including residents in care centers, veterans, those without settled housing, those who are homebound, and families with babies in a neo-natal intensive care unit.
A group of nine dedicated quilters assemble these beautiful quilts, but the entire congregation shares in the giving. Members of the congregation pledge donations for each quilt completed and those funds – in this amazing “quilts to blankets” project – are used to purchase Church World Service blankets. As of Sunday, the congregation had provided 98 blankets for refugees and those impacted by natural disasters here in the U.S. and around the world.
But the celebration of the congregation’s missions didn’t stop with hundreds of quilts. This year, the saints at Ripley UCC packaged 2000 dry rice and bean meals on their way to Africa. They sewed bags, purchased school supplies and assembled 100 Church World Service school kits. Four times this year, the saints at Ripley UCC have served a hot, sustaining meal to the guests of the St, Francis of Assisi http://nosubhealth.com/ Catholic Worker House in Waterloo. The congregation has provided financial support for at least fourteen different mission offerings so far this year. More mission projects are coming in December.
One more number is important to share. On Sunday mornings, worship attendance at Ripley UCC is usually in the thirties. While there are children, youth, and young families in the congregation, most of the members were certainly alive the first time Elvis Presley sang on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Sunday was a high mileage day in my ministry with you. When I left Traer, there were two more visits and 300 more miles to go. But the journey felt light. There was bouncing in the car seat. Singing. Prayers rising on sighs and giggles. The saints at Ripley UCC blessed me with energy and excitement for what one small congregation, with a big, loving heart and hands ready for service can do in the name of Jesus. Hallelujah.
If you’d like to send the saints at Ripley UCC your own hallelujahs, share your own stories of mighty missions flowing from a small congregation, or learn more about Ripley’s missions, your greetings will reach Pastor Bob Fread and the congregation at: RipleyUCC@mediacombb.net.
In this season of thanksgiving, I thank God for each of you and for the radiant ministries of your congregations. I thank God for the small but mighty gatherings of saints among us where expressions of holy justice, mercy, and love flow so freely.
Wow, hallelujah, and thank you!
—Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister