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Meet: Flat Jesus!

By Brigit Stevens - June 22, 2017, 1:39 pm

Wednesday, June 21st was the longest day of our year, Summer Solstice! The way the sun and the moon and the earth and the stars, and all that are within them, move and cycle are in the hands of our amazing Creator! It is a gift to be invited to this playground of God’s for today. Most days, I can easily forget who and whose I am. I am focused on what needs to be done, what needs to be accomplished, and what needs to be achieved. But in our earliest stories of how we all came into being, we hear of God dwelling in the darkness, swirling the mediums of light and dark, land and sea, and forming all that each of us is, and calling us and all of Creation good. And then God rested. Sabbath was created too. And it was good. It IS good.


In the spirit of playfulness and Sabbath, I invite you to some fun in the coming months! Meet: Flat Jesus!


In the Iowa Conference UCC we proudly proclaim that we are, “Boldly following Jesus!” Well, show us where YOU are following Jesus! Print out the attached link of Flat Jesus, cut him out and take him with you wherever you go. Then, email us at the Iowa Conference office with your pictures and descriptions of where you boldly followed Jesus! We will collect and share the pictures on our brand new website to be unveiled this summer

NOTE: By submitting your photos to us, you acknowledge that they’ll be used on our public website, Facebook page, and other promotional materials. Only send to us pictures of people who consent to this use.


Today, I am celebrating the 7th birthday of my daughter Terra by boldy following Jesus on big yellow school buses with 150+ elementary-aged school children to Adventureland!  Prayers accepted!


Where are you following Jesus today?


Blessings for the journey!

—Brigit Stevens, Associate Conference Minister



By Brigit Stevens - June 22, 2017, 1:39 pm

  • Judy Dolphin says:

    Hi, I am now living in CT but was a member of the Ames UCC for 37 years. I LOVE your Flat Jesus and hope you won’t mind our using it here at the Ledyard Congregational Church (UCC). What a great summer idea for our kids. Thanks for coming up with the idea and image.

    • Brigit Stevens says:

      Of course you may use this idea! I am certainly not the first to propose it and am glad to see it shared where it will be enjoyed!

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The world belonged to...

By admin - June 16, 2017, 11:40 am

When I was very young, I remember that my dad had three jobs. He had a day job which I don’t remember. In the evenings, he worked in a liquor store and I remember going to see him there. And, on Friday night and Saturday, he played Country Music with my grandpa, uncle and a couple of other guys.
From stories, I know that this last job was the one my mom hated the most and my dad loved. My recollections of going to sleep on wooden benches at the back of dance halls are pretty vague, but, my dad’s delight in playing banjo, guitar and rhythm piano was his sweet spot.
As a kid trying to sit still and listen never goes well. I had to dance.Roddy-Dunkerson
My dad was injured in a mining accident before I was born and couldn’t work in the copper mines. Those were the good jobs. So, having dropped out of school to join the Navy in World War II, he had to take what he could get.
We were a not quite respectable family. It didn’t feel like I had privilege.
Racism in my home town centered on Mexican Americans. We lived on the Mexican border, so, the truth is that most Mexican Americans were “native” and my folk were “immigrants”. But, we didn’t tell the story quite that way.
Because I was white, the world belonged to my tribe.
Some years ago, I saw an excellent program about Latino contemporaries of mine who went to Viet Nam out of a hyper patriotism. The program focused on an Arizona mining community much like the one where I grew up. While that taught me a great deal about the privileged place that I enjoyed, it wasn’t the gut check that first made my privilege clear.
I dropped out of college during the Viet Nam war and joined the Navy and was richly rewarded for an act of questionable rationality. When I came back to finish my undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona, a young white man confessed to the murder of one of my high school class mates whose body had been found burned in a vacant lot several years before.
Tony, the victim, was bright and a very gifted clarinet player. He was first chair among many, I was the third chair tuba player among three. Tony was also a good scholar. I could compete with Tony in Math and Science, but, nowhere else.
Amazingly, the man who confessed to Tony’s murder was convicted and released. The years of suffering from guilt before his voluntary confession were considered sufficient punishment.
Tony was Mexican and gay.
I am alive and have been blessed. I like to think that I have earned some of the good things that have come my way. But, Tony deserved wonders of which I could not dream. Tony’s skin color and sexuality in the eyes of a judge made his death insignificant.
Reading the story in the newspaper I knew Tony was not valued.
I am privileged because I am white.
—Roddy Dunkerson, Nebraska Conference Minister

By admin - June 16, 2017, 11:40 am

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JOY infuses spirits

By admin - June 8, 2017, 9:32 am

Last Sunday – Pentecost Sunday – I celebrated in a way that I never would have dreamed possible a generation ago.   I attended my niece’s ordination. But instead of being ordained as a Christian minister (as you might expect), after graduating from Rabbinical School, Sarah was ordained to be a Jewish Rabbi!! In many ways it was a similar ceremony to our ordinations – she was charged with responsibilities, invested with a prayer shawl, given a blessing. She was surrounded by her teachers and family and fellow students. And then she was sent out into the world to teach and preach and walk with faith communities on their holy and blessed journey. It was lovely – and not just because my niece was one of the ordinands (although that helped!).


Once the ceremony was finished, the celebration began. And what a celebration! Dancing and singing, clapping and hugging, laughing and crying! The young rabbis (11 of them) were lifted in chairs and danced around the room! Joy pulsated and caught everyone who was gathered in its outstretched arms. Celebration overflowed.


I began to wonder, as I made my way through that crowded room, what it would feel like if we celebrated Pentecost in our congregations with some sort of abandoned joy. Certainly, abandoned joy and overflowing celebration marked the first Pentecost! The authorities thought Peter was drunk, after all! Might it be that one of the deepest gifts of Pentecost was the unbridled joy and celebration that welled up in the crowd as the gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured out upon all flesh?


We talk a lot these days about what is needed to revitalize the church.   It is important pondering. I wonder, in this first katherine officeweek after Pentecost, if one of the things we need most is joy! Simple awe, wonder, gratitude and joy. These are genuine responses to the amazing blessing that has been given to us in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe revitalization Is not only about programs or buildings or strategic plans. Maybe it is also about an outpouring of JOY that infuses the spirits of all who have gathered, and then sends us all out into the world glowing with the Spirit’s fire.


The gift of the Holy Spirit is an amazing gift! Let’s sing and dance and lift our hearts to the One who blesses us each and every day with a faith that brings strength, and courage, and prayerful peace, and hope, and justice, and so much more into our lives and the world. Thanks be to God!


—Rev Katherine Mulhern
Program Support/Adjunct for Iowa Conference 2030 Iowa

By admin - June 8, 2017, 9:32 am

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    Ah...things change!

    By Rich Pleva - June 1, 2017, 12:21 pm

    “We remember the cucumbers, melons and leeks of Egypt….”

    Numbers 11:5

    I do, too. I remember the bliss of idyllic life at 542 Ada St. around 1960. I remember the perfect harmony around the dinner table and the abundance that was always there to be found.

    richreading 20130502Don’t, please, look too carefully at the framed photo I have sitting on a small table in my home office. It’s me and my next two siblings – a shot taken about 55 years ago. We were on family vacation (always a fascinating adventure!) and are wading in some body of water in our (baggy) swim suits. We are three of the skinniest kids you’ve ever laid eyes on. Not quite to the point of malnourishment, but it’s obvious these three were unacquainted with the kind of abundance that apparently can lead to childhood obesity. The fact is, “seconds” were a rarity at our dinner table.

    I mention this to guard against the temptation to harshness in my assessment of the complaint laid at the feet of Moses by the rabble he led out of Egypt into the Sinai wilderness. “We had it so good, Moses! Why, oh why, have you led us out here??”

    Why? Well…. there may have been fish, cucumbers and leeks…. but for goodness sakes…. you were enslaved back in good old Egypt!!!

    Nostalgia may be a pleasant anesthesia but it is destructive of adaptive growth. Here’s something we know without doubt: Things change.

    I received a note from the chair of the Tri-Conference UCC Board earlier today – “Make sure the agenda for thus fall’s Annual Meeting of the Iowa Conference includes a vote on a call to the new conference minister.”

    Wait a minute? A new conference minister? We already have a conference minister!

    Ah…. things change!

    The fact is, by this time next year the old conference minister will be nothing more than a flickering memory. “Wasn’t he that guy that screwed up……??”

    Leaders DO matter, but only as means to important ends. Community life isn’t about leadership – community life is about meaning and service and justice and hope and reconciliation. Leaders – if they do well – help us get there, but it’s never about them.… it’s about the mission.

    October 7 (the fall meeting of the Iowa Conference) may seem a long time away, but it’s not. It will be here in almost no time. And together we will make an important decision for the ongoing life, welfare and mission of the United Church of Christ in Iowa (and South Dakota and Nebraska, too).

    I can hardly wait! Thanks be to God!
    With the Greatest of Hope!

    Rich Pleva
    Conference Minister
    UCC in Iowa

    By Rich Pleva - June 1, 2017, 12:21 pm

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      Where the story took a turn

      By admin - May 25, 2017, 9:09 am

      Ephesians 4:32

      Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.


      As I picked up my youngest from her last day of school this week one of the other moms that was there to pick up her child came up to me as I signed out my baby from preschool and said,

      houser“Girl, these babies have grown so much over this last year…and have you lost weight?!”

      Now this woman like most could easily see the growth of any of the kids in that school since the start of the year, but she could not have known how hard I have been working to achieve my own fitness goals.   And she most certainly couldn’t have known how much simply noticing would mean to me.

      And yet, she said something none the less.

      I laughed and said, “Well if strangers are noticing, I must be doing something right.”

      And this is where the story took a turn…

      She looked at me funny and responded, “Strangers?  I see you here twice a day. I wave at your daughter and she waves at my son, we exchange hellos at 8 and again at 3.  It’s like clockwork.”

      And she’s right.

      Those interactions have been the start of my day Monday through Thursday for the last 10 months.

      They have also been the interactions that have lifted my spirits after sitting in a most often lonely church office.

      The sentiment has left me thinking as I start my day with four kids repeatedly asking me, ‘what is there to do’ now that they are not in school that none of us are invisible.

      All of us have people cheering us on that we might not even know.

      This stands as a reminder to me to always encourage small successes and to take notice of the little things. To always say the words of encouragement that dance in my thoughts.  And to be kind.

      Those few words of kindness mattered to me and surely they matter to most of us who hear them.

      Sending love!

      —Pastor Samantha Houser, Program Support/Adjunct Youth Ministry at Iowa Conference UCC

      By admin - May 25, 2017, 9:09 am

      • Linda K Cron says:

        Thanks for sharing these important observations and connections. We never know how we affect people so it is best to always put our best foot forward. That “best foot forward” could be that one important time that makes a difference in someone’s life for that day and forward.

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