Top 10...By admin - April 16, 2015, 4:18 pm
Summer planning is underway as we crawl out from hibernation.
And from one Iowan to another, I hope that your summer includes being at Recharge this June 5-6.
Never been? Come on!
Haven’t been in a bit? It’s totally worth it!
Came last year? Come back and bring a team to join in!
Not yet convinced? Well, here’s the top ten reasons why our church will have a team attending again this year and why you should too!
10. It increased congregational stewardship. Continuing months afterwards, the workshops led our leadership to rethink – 1) how to talk about stewardship, and 2) the spiritual discipline of being a church with a mission worth investing in.
9. It strengthened our intergenerational ministry. Over conversations at lunch and in workshops, tidbits of wisdom were shared with us that helped us articulate why intergenerational ministry is important and how to make it a vibrant part of our ministry.
8. We laughed so hard we were in tears. Perhaps you know that Rev. Jonna (Jensen) was once a comedian, but it’s no wonder that she facilitates gatherings so full of laughter and joy that nearby workshops wonder what is going on.
7. It fostered community among those who are discerning a call to ministry. Some folks joined in conversation about theological education, some gathered around tables to ask about life as a pastor and the others about ordination, but all learned of the support in community. Are you discerning a call to ministry?
6. It renewed our spirits. Folks opting in to experience writing as a spiritual discipline would later speak the truth, “We, as people, are like batteries, and it’s easy to get rundown if there isn’t some time to process it.” The time to write and pray was a source of renewing our energy.
5. It connected us to other UCC folks in our area. Enough said! This conference is filled with amazing people and churches!
4. It strengthened and encouraged us to be a church that speaks (and listens) for justice. We again heard God is still speaking voice as Krista Tippett challenged us to be churches that cultivate conversations for the transformation of our world. Though she will not be with us this year, her words of wisdom are sure to be present among us in the voices of others.
3. It empowered our lay leaders. Teaching them about best practices for work on church councils, pastor parish relations committee, and stewardship, each of our areas of ministry walked away feeling more confident in their ability to serve (and our meetings are way more fun now!)
2. This year Shane Claiborne is speaking. As a guy who has actually bent swords into plowshares (okay, they were AK-47s that were turned into gardening tools), I suspect he will challenge and inspire us to live the gospel in ways we will never forget.
1. This year Recharge will be epic. With the great folks of the Iowa Conference; with workshops on music, narrative lectionary, faith formation, practical tactical church stuff, leadership development, and more; with faithful and spirited worship; with opportunities to gather for meals and communion, this is an opportunity no one should miss.
See you June 5-6 in Ames,
By admin - April 16, 2015, 4:18 pm
—Rev. Laura Arnold, Pastor at Decorah Congregational UCC
Who am I...By Brigit Stevens - April 10, 2015, 8:18 am
It’s a good thing for me that Easter is a season, not a holiday. A very good thing.
It’s too much to take in for just one day. It’s too big for one big church service and family celebration. It feeds my soul that we kick-off the Easter season bursting forth from the darkness of Lent and the midnight of Good Friday and Holy Saturday with the brilliant dawn of Resurrection Sunday, and then we get to marinate and soak in the light for a bit.
Thanks to the brilliant sharing of your staff of the Iowa Conference UCC this past week, I’m sitting in the stories of resurrection of Christ, basking and bathing in the sonlight, and wondering. I’m wondering, who am I in this story, today?
Am I one of the women, getting to the work at hand now that the Sabbath has ended, tending to the details and the rituals?
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. (Matt. 28:1, NRSV)
Am I the mighty angel, full of power and bravado, causing earthquakes and perching nearby to see who notices?
And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from Heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. (Matt. 28: 2, NRSV)
Am I a guard, protecting and holding, paralyzed by my fear?
For fear of [the angel] the guards shook and became like dead men. (Matt. 28:3, NRSV)
Am I that same angel, but with a message to be shared with the world?
Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’” (Matt. 28:5-7a, NRSV)
Am I among the priests and elders, making plans and explanations that make sense out of nonsense, trying to protect and calm the status quo?
After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
(Matt. 28:12-14, NRSV)
Am I with the disciples, receiving the Good News and yet still drawn to the tomb?
Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves;
And forever changed by what I saw there?
then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:10-12, NRSV)
Christ calls us into his story this Easter season. May you find yourself and be found by Christ among the characters forever changed by the gift of life and love winning over death.
Brigit Stevens, Associate Conference Minister
By Brigit Stevens - April 10, 2015, 8:18 am
Live Easter - fullyBy admin - April 2, 2015, 2:16 pm
For the followers of Jesus, each Sunday is Easter.
For some years, the last words in each worship service spoken by my congregation were these, adapted from Desmond Tutu’s An African Prayer Book:
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours, victory is ours
Through God who loves us.
On any given Easter, whether the annual one or the weekly ones, there were saints in the sanctuary for whom evil was stronger. For whom hate was stronger. There were always saints in the sanctuary who were walking in darkness and in the shadow of death. Sometimes, it was in this pastor’s soul that evil, hate, darkness, death were ahead on points. For certain, not every saint could recite every word every Sunday. For certain, there were saints standing in silence. Standing in tears. For certain, we took our turns at choking over one line or another.
Easter after Easter, Sunday after Sunday, these were the last words of the congregation before the start of a new week of bold Jesus following. Surrounding the scattered silence, tears, and choking, the voice of the congregation proclaimed Easter faith that was both ours and not entirely ours:
In our sanctuaries this Easter, we will raise an ancient affirmation: Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! It is our witness that goodness is stronger even if we stand in evil days. It is our witness that love is stronger even if we are hated. Or hating. It is our witness that light is stronger even if we cannot discern the way forward. It is our witness that life is stronger, even when the evidence is far from overwhelming. It is our witness that victory is God’s. And ours, loved by God.
Beloved bold Jesus followers, this is the witness of our words and of our decisions. We decide daily (and hourly and sometimes even moment by moment) toward Easter. We decide toward good actions with more risk than reward. We decide to love ones who are irresistible and ones who are very resistible. We decide to shine, even if with a single candle in an overwhelming darkness. We decide to live Easter-fully. We decide toward the wellbeing of each one who can experience God’s love through us.
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
By admin - April 2, 2015, 2:16 pm
Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister
Easter...and what's afterBy admin - March 26, 2015, 8:59 am
Every year I find myself saying things like “After Easter…..I’ll get to that project.” “After Easter….I’ll find time to write those thank you notes.” “After Easter….” You can fill in the blank, because we’ve all said it in one way or another. There are even times in the life of the church when Holy Week and Easter become one more “task” to check off the list in an already too busy schedule.
After the busyness of Lent and Holy Week, and then the final crescendo of Easter morning, we all hope there will be a bit of time to catch our breath and catch up with all those things we’ve set aside in order to attend to this holy (and busy) season. And I pray that will happen for you! Soon.
But I also pray that the coming week will be something more than a series of unending “tasks”. This is the week when we come to the center of our faith. We speak the words all year long in creed and liturgy – Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. This week we, one more time, live this ancient story.
All the sin and sorrow and fear of all the world is gathered up in this coming week – refugees fleeing from Syria, African Americans struggling for the respect that ought to be their birth-right, Jews all over the world standing up in the ugly face of anti-semitism, parents mourning their children and children mourning their parents, children going to bed hungry while the rich struggle with overeating. That list of sin and sorrow goes on and on. Our sin. Our sorrow. Our fear. Two thousand years old, and as new as the morning news.
While that’s an important part of the reality of Holy Week, it’s not the only part. Easter morning dawns, and with it comes the reality that God’s promises are true. The alleluias ring out! Hope is stronger than despair. Love is more powerful than fear or hate. God’s word of resurrection is the last word. I think it’s why so many people return to the pew on Easter morning. Resurrection, hope, new life – however you want to name it – it’s real, and we know it. This coming week was a week from hell which ended when God broke the boundary between life and death to show us what real life looks like. Life eternal in spite of the physical reality of death. Life abundant no matter what the scarcity in our life is. Life of belonging even when we live in isolation. Life of hope in the face of despair. Life in the presence of death. Life that cannot be overcome by death.
You and I are blessed to live our lives both “Before Easter” AND “After Easter”. We know this ancient story. We know the ways that it has been lived out over the centuries in the lives of saints and sinners. We know how it has been made manifest in our own lives. Yet we live in a world of busyness and hurry that too often drowns out the glorious truth.
This year “after Easter”, maybe we can all hope for a bit of time to breathe freely – and then something more. Maybe this year when we make our “after Easter” list, we can dream a bit bigger than just finishing a project or sleeping late for a couple of mornings. Maybe this year we can include dreams like new life, new hope, renewed faith, renewed energy for a life of witness to the living Christ. Or justice and peace in places of turmoil and fear. What’s on your “after Easter” list this year? Resurrection? May it be so.
—Katherine Mulhern, Iowa Conference Program Support/Adjunct for 2030 Iowa (Young Clergy Support)
By admin - March 26, 2015, 8:59 am
Boldly Following Jesus in a CardiganBy Jonna Jensen - March 19, 2015, 11:50 am
March 20th is the birthday of the Rev. Fred McFeely Rogers, whom most of us recognize by the familiar, respectful title “Mr. Rogers”.
I’m too old to have known Mr. Rogers as a child. I knew of him later, but I’d name the day I met Mr. Rogers as a day in middle age, on a not-all-that-beautiful day in my own neighborhood. Something bad had happened at church. I don’t remember any longer what was bad, but I remember coming home early, angry, and sad. I popped on the TV and Mr. Rogers appeared. In his bathroom. I turned up the sound, wondering what this peculiar man was doing in the bathroom. Something about potty training? No, it was a different kind of training. He was sharing with his viewers, whom he called his neighbors, a bit about his childhood fear of bathroom drains. And he wanted to share an important truth. It was certainly possible to slip into the potty. But it was not possible to go down the drain. That slice of gospel evoked a flood of healing tears, then laughter, then the beginning of a long stretch of years as a member of the Rev. Rogers’ television congregation.
Just in case these words reach you on a not-all-that-beautiful-day in your neighborhood, I repeat the good news: Slip into the potty we may, but we can never go down the drain.
In the years after the Rev. Rogers’ death, traditions have grown up around his birthday (as they have done for many other saints before him). Folk wear cardigans. Folk engage in purposeful acts of neighbor love, in deliberate expressions of gospel.
I commend to you on March 20th a cardigan, if you have one. I commend to you a gospel-full act of neighbor love. It’s a good day for stretching in an act of kindness toward a neighbor whom it’s difficult to like. It’s a good day for stretching in an act of kindness toward a neighbor who’s new. It’s a good day for stretching out in an act of a kindness toward a neighbor who’s short on neighbors. It’s a good day for stretching toward any of the neighbors around us toward whom we need to stretch in order to reach.
Thank you for letting me know what you may have learned from being one of Mr. Rogers’ neighbors. Thank you for sharing a stretchy story with me of your March 20th offering of neighbor love.
Boldly following Jesus.
Sometimes, in a cardigan.
Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister
By Jonna Jensen - March 19, 2015, 11:50 am