This Saturday!By Brigit Stevens - October 20, 2016, 8:00 am
This Saturday! First Christian Church in Des Moines!
Our Conference Annual Meeting!!
Marketplace: opens at 8:30am
Hearing – “Tri-Conference Staff Proposal” – Hosted by BOD Chair Stephanie Haskins and Tri-Conference Cooperation Task Force: 9:30am – 10:15am
Opening Worship/Business/Lunch: 10:30am – 3:30pm
Come and celebrate BEing the church together! It’s a party when we gather! Yes, yes, there is work to be done. Important and meaningful work. Work focused on how to more fully and boldly BE the church together! That work is work that is in and on behalf of the Church, God’s Church, and that is joyful work! We will sing together! We will pray together! We will talk together! We will work together! We will commune together! We will see how God has been at work in our midst and will ask for the Holy Spirit’s direction and guidance on where God will lead us to next.
We will have a great crowd…over 170 of us are already registered…and there is always room for more at the table! Clear your schedule and come to the party!
See you Saturday!
Brigit Stevens, Associate Conference Minister
By Brigit Stevens - October 20, 2016, 8:00 am
Do you have a covenant?By admin - October 14, 2016, 2:49 pm
Pastors who have joined the Iowa conference since last September gathered to build community, and to learn and share resources for equipping and building up congregations in our midst. One of the topics that came up was about community covenants. That’s churchified language for describing what promises individuals make about how they will act and behave towards one another and towards the community as a whole.
One person took a survey of the room asking, “How many of your churches have a community or behavior covenant?” I had the solo hand in the air. But, y’all, each of our churches needs to write one together.
It may seem like one of those goofy things to have, since most of us hold the value of being kind, generous people who always listen to one another and welcome others. So, why write out a statement of how a church agrees to be and behave in community with one another? Well, because the church is full of people, and people are amazing yet messy and complicated and simply put, sometimes we are not our best selves. But how we act with one another matters. Our behavior is an extension of God’s love in the world. As such, its important that we can hold ourselves and one another accountable, not to police one another, but to be able to point to the promises made when being in community is hard or wavers off course so that we relate to one another and to the community in life giving ways.
So, I hope you’ll think about initiating a process for writing a community covenant (what we call it) or a behavior covenant (other popular language) so that you will have something that records the promises you make to one another about how you will act and be in community. Writing it long before there’s a conflict, is the healthiest. We never do our best work when we are reactionary or dealing with conflict.
I’ve included our community covenant as an example below, not because it’s perfect, but because we found inspiration from other congregations and because a blank page as you begin this process might be intimidating.
Blessings as you undertake this important and holy work,
Laura Arnold, Pastor of Decorah Congregational UCC
OUR COVENANT WITH ONE ANOTHER
We covenant with one another to create a safe environment and to uphold the dignity of each person in our congregation.
We will consider the impact of our words and actions on others as we seek to make our church a safe place for all.
Our communication with others will be timely, direct, honest, open, and sensitive although we may disagree with another’s assumptions, opinions, and decisions.
We understand that conflict is a healthy part of life, including life in the church. We will accept and affirm differences. While we may have strong opinions, we acknowledge that others do also. We will embrace the diversity in our spiritual family, imagine other perspectives, and be enriched by these differences. We will be respectful of one another as we direct our attention to the issues and challenges at hand.
We understand that our church stays strong as each person is heard, and we seek the participation of all our congregants.
We will engage in self-reflection and prayer, seeking ways that our presence will build up our church and its people, as well as our community and our world. We will seek God’s guidance and grace to listen attentively as we live into our future.
As a part of this faith community, we will work responsibly for the benefit of the whole and endeavor that all we do and say will be grounded in love.
By admin - October 14, 2016, 2:49 pm
An Inherited DebtBy Jonna Jensen - October 6, 2016, 10:28 am
When we think of inheritances, we think most often of inheriting assets – money, property, treasures, traditions, gifts, abilities and such. But debts can also be inherited. Some of us have experienced repaying debts of our parents or grandparents after their deaths. All of us are mindful of the impact of our nation’s debt passed on to our children and grandchildren.
We attend less often to a debt that those of us who are white Americans have inherited from our ancestors: the debt we owe to black Americans whose ancestors were bought and sold and held in bondage as slaves in America. Even those of us whose ancestors were not in America during the time of slavery have inherited the privilege of whiteness in America and so we, too, inherit the debt generated by slavery and by injustice that persists to this day. Conversations about reparation for this debt are not new, but they are renewing. Just days ago, one recommendation of a study presented by the United Nation’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was that reparation be made in America to the descendants of African slaves, through a variety of means including health initiatives, educational opportunities, and technology investment.
Study, discernment, and action around reparation for slavery is a huge endeavor. The dollar amounts named by scholars in this field are enormous. It’s tempting to do nothing while we wait for bigger minds and hearts to figure it all out, but another possibility in the context of ongoing study, discernment, and action is to do what we can when we can. Here’s one idea:
The American Missionary Association, one of the historic treasures of the United Church of Christ, gave shape to a commitment to education and to racial equality by founding six colleges with missions to provide empowering educations for the descendants of slaves. These six historically black colleges continue as racially diverse settings for higher education. As we make our tithes and offerings between now and year’s end, those of us living with the privilege of being white in America can send offerings to the general scholarship funds of one or more of these colleges, as small repayments of our inherited debt:
- Dillard University, New Orleans, LA www.dillard.edu
- Fisk University, Nashville, TN www.fisk.edu
- Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, TX www.htu.edu
- LeMoyne-Owen College, Memphis, TN www.loc.edu
- Talladega College, Talladega, AL www.talladega.edu
- Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS www.tougaloo.edu
Are you registered for a rich new learning opportunity in the Iowa Conference this month? October 7th is the deadline for registering for A Day For Sharpening Pro2717. “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.” (Proverbs 27:17). We will gather at First Christian Church in Des Moines with Drake University Professor Jennifer Harvey, author of Dear White Christians. Dr. Harvey will guide a day of sharpening our understanding of racism and white privilege in our Iowa communities and our discernment around repaying an inherited debt.
By Jonna Jensen - October 6, 2016, 10:28 am
I’ll see you there!
—Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister
Sharing Burdens Amid DisastersBy admin - September 29, 2016, 11:36 am
One of the (many!) things I love about the United Church of Christ is how seriously we take the admonition of Christ that we should love one another. We express our faith by loving our neighbors as if they were our own kin. Whether those neighbors are literally next door or on the other side of the globe, when there are burdens, we respond to share those burdens. Our passion to reach out and help others marks and shapes our faith.
UCC Disaster Ministries is one way we work together to express that aspect of our faith. Through compassionate witness and service to neighbor, we express the love of Christ to the world, our many congregations working together to be One Church. We are a faith community who share burdens and joys, locally and world-wide.
It is considered a basic Truth within the disaster response community that “All Disasters are Local.” Flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana may be featured on the National News, but it is an event experienced by the residents. Flooding in Northeast Iowa may not even make the Des Moines news outlets, but it is just as important for the residents there as for those whose homes are flooded out in Louisiana. A flood, tornado, or other disaster may not make the national news, but it can still be a huge event locally.
Local congregations will often be the first groups to respond to local needs. We offer the use of our buildings as temporary shelters or feeding stations, our members are among the first to begin helping neighbors clean up and recover, and our pastors reach out to members and community alike to offer pastoral care and support as disaster survivors struggle to find meaning in the chaos. All that work can be physically and emotionally exhausting, and the financial burden on a congregation can be large.
Responding congregations are not alone. As congregations within the United Church of Christ, we are part of a larger community of faith; a family of believers who come together to help one another; who share burdens as well as joys. One of the ways we work together in the midst of disaster is through the UCC Disaster Ministries.
UCC Disaster Ministries can offer financial assistance to impacted areas and congregations through solidarity grants to congregations, through seed grants to help start Long Term Recovery groups, and other financial assistance. We also offer pastoral support to congregational leaders serving in disaster areas, and when the rebuilding phase begins, may even be able to assist in recruiting volunteer teams to help rebuild.
The Iowa Conference has a representative of UCC Disaster Ministries, a Conference Disaster Coordinator. Brice Hughes, Pastor at Zion UCC in Burlington, IA has recently been named to that post. Part of his task is to ensure that when local congregations are impacted by disasters, the larger church responds.
When disasters occur, pastors in affected areas are often overwhelmed with immediate needs, to the point that reaching out to Disaster Ministries becomes one more task on a list already too long. The goal of Disaster Ministries is to help, not add extra work. If the local pastor can find five minutes to contact the Conference CDC, we can begin a process that may ease local suffering as you continue to minister to your communities in the midst of disasters.
To contact the Conference Disaster Coordinator, call or text message Brice at 515-450-1321, or email at email@example.com.
As part of the United Church of Christ, we work together to share burdens and live out our faith through loving neighbors.
By admin - September 29, 2016, 11:36 am
Embrace a different approachBy Rich Pleva - September 23, 2016, 12:44 pm
I’m watching the neighbor’s dog – a friendly lab/mutt named Harley – do the thing he seems to spend about 40% of his life doing: running laps around the backyard utility shed under which (apparently) there lives a rabbit. On each lap he stops for a few seconds to stick his head into a space from which he can see under the thing. After that glance he does another lap. It’s like clockwork – around and around and around.
To my knowledge he’s never caught Br’er Rabbit. But hope, it seems, springs eternal.
I hate to say this out loud…but it reminds me a little of church: Doing the same thing and expecting different results.
There are, of course, some other takes on this scenario. Perhaps it’s the game that counts. Maybe Harley doesn’t really want to catch the rabbit (okay…. I’m attributing higher thought to a dog…. I get it!). Nonetheless, I’m thoroughly convinced that there are fishermen (not most, but more than a few) who don’t really want to catch fish. It’s about solitude and the lake/river and being outside. That’s legit…. even commendable.
But if one believes (as I do) that the Gospel is entrusted to the church as a treasure to be winsomely given away – then offering it in ways that bore those who might benefit from it seems scandalous.
We all know this, of course. But our collective attachments to the familiar are strong and our affection for our own familiar ways can blur our thinking. The end result is that we fool ourselves into imagining that these comfortable habits are as attractive to others as they are to us. But in fact, they are not. If they were, we’d be seeing different results. They are like Harley endlessly circling his owner’s storage shed. The dog may have hope that this accomplishes a desirable end, but if the goal is to catch a rabbit, that’s probably not going to happen.
You can make your own application of this principle to your own local congregation (and maybe your own life – if the shoe fits, wear it!), but I think of it in terms of the conference. I am convinced that the conference must be willing to try new ideas if this middle setting of the church is to sustain real relevance for local congregations.
On Saturday, October 22, the people of the Iowa Conference will have the chance to embrace a (modestly!) different approach to staffing our conference. Can I guarantee this will be a smashing success? I cannot, but I’m pretty sure maintaining the current status quo is unsustainable.
Come to our meeting in October. You, after all, are the Iowa Conference. We all have a stake in this. Let’s work together to find our way into God’s hopeful tomorrow. See you soon!
With Great Hope!
UCC in Iowa
By Rich Pleva - September 23, 2016, 12:44 pm