Enjoy your hammock timeBy Rich Pleva - December 12, 2013, 4:28 pm
Dear friends around the Iowa Conference,
There is no member of the conference staff who works any harder, and gives of herself more generously than does ACM Jonna Jensen. Jonna is a remarkable asset to the churches and leaders of the Iowa Conference! I’m sure the conference has NEVER made a better hire!
Jonna has just marked the completion of her 5th year as a member of our staff and has richly earned the sabbatical she will begin on Friday, December 20th.
What does this mean for churches, clergy and lay leaders who would ordinarily turn to Jonna for resources and support? Well, it means we’ll be stretched for a time, but assuredly you will not be left “high and dry.” ACM Brigit Stevens and I, as well as our support staff and adjunct staff members intend to work diligently to provide essential services and support during Jonna’s absence.
To whom should you turn for support during the first three months of 2014?
If your congregation is in pastoral search, you will soon be contacted by either Brigit Stevens or me. We have divided up the searching congregations and will do our best to provide helpful and responsive support for these next few months. Don’t hesitate to be in touch with us!
What about general issues which might arise in either the Eastern Iowa or Northeast Associations? Please email or call the conference office (firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-277-6369) and explain your need. Someone will be in touch with you just as soon as practical.
Even during times when we are fully staffed, our workload can be daunting. Obviously the absence of someone like Jonna will noticeably impact our capacity to respond. Still, we covenant to do our best. Your patience and understanding will be a gift.
Jonna will return to work on April 1, 2014 (no fooling!!). For Jonna’s sake, I hope the next three months seem an eternity, but I know that I’m hoping the winter passes in a blink!
Thanks, Jonna! Enjoy your hammock time!
By Rich Pleva - December 12, 2013, 4:28 pm
Making RoomBy Jonna Jensen - December 6, 2013, 1:06 pm
Many of us cherish the time we find in closer communion with God through the practice of lectio divina, literally “divine reading”. Even if those Latin words are unfamiliar to you, the practice may be one you’ve kept for years. A quiet, slow, attentive reading of a small portion of Scripture; meditating on it, listening for what the Spirit stirs; maybe memorizing some words; raising to God what prayer the Spirit prompts; contemplating, resting, waiting in the presence of God.
As we journey through Advent, we have the blessed opportunity to pray deeply into very familiar words and to hear the voice of God through old words in new ways, through familiar words in unexpected ways. It’s a spiritual experience quite a bit like noticing a house or a tree or a sign on a regular daily route and asking, “Has that always been there?”
Among the wonder-filled images in Luke’s nativity, I’ve been lingering with two words: no place. “And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 NRSV) Maybe you, too, have lingered this Advent in no place. Maybe you’ve been scrambling around like an over-booked innkeeper and are struggling to squeeze Jesus in. Maybe you’re praying, as I’m praying, over making a place for Jesus, over making more space for Jesus in my mind and heart and in the witness of my daily choices. Maybe you, too, have listened in these purple and blue Advent weeks of preparation, penitence, and hope for the Spirit pointing out the tight quarters we’ve provided Jesus. May the Spirit stir with wise light as we sort out the stuff that needs to go so that Jesus can come – and find within us a welcome place and ample room.
—Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister
By Jonna Jensen - December 6, 2013, 1:06 pm
What does Facebook introduce?By admin - November 22, 2013, 9:26 am
I’ll admit it.
I might have a problem.
I am in love with Facebook.
It started innocently when I created my profile in 2008 when Joe and I were expecting our first child. It was a fun way to share pictures, thoughts, and anxieties about this new chapter in our lives with the friends and family we have scattered across the country. We enjoyed being able to connect with people whom we loved and who loved us back, even though separated across miles. It seemed like a fun toy, maybe a little bit of a distraction, and with other social media sights around, I had no sense it would become such a big part of my life, as it is today.
I wake up in the morning and part of my routine includes checking Facebook for posts throughout the night. Which there are usually only a few to catch up on, because one of the last things I usually do before going to bed includes the same.
You and I can agree to disagree on the health/unhealth of my Facebook viewing habits…however, I am in love with Facebook because of the way it helps connect me with friends, family, and strangers around the world. I believe I am a better Christian because of Facebook.
It’s on Facebook that I hear about votes happening in the state senate of Hawaii to legally move ahead with marriage equality. It’s on Facebook that I have theological discussions with my brilliant UCC colleagues about the theology of Advent vs. Christmas hymns, safe church policies, power and authority issues in multi-staff congregations, bullies on governing boards, (and these were all just in one week!). It’s on Facebook that I share prayers of hope and healing with friends I’ve known for years, and others I’ve never met face to face. It’s on Facebook that I see the links to stories and pictures from the interests of the wide net of my friends, that all remind me of the great diversity, beauty, pain, anguish, and overwhelming grace and love that is our world. It’s on Facebook that I am introduced to opportunities every single day to more fully and boldly follow Jesus.
I trust that Facebook won’t be around forever. And I will have to learn a new habit in the future. But for now, I’m in love with Facebook because it helps me love others and our world more fully and deeply and boldly.
Does your church have a Facebook page? We’d love to know about it and follow it in the conference office!
Did you know that the Iowa Conference UCC has a Facebook page? We’d love if you’d “like” it and post your comments, links, pictures, and ideas!
What an amazing world and time we live in…a time when boldly following Jesus sometimes means remembering your login and password!
By admin - November 22, 2013, 9:26 am
Fitting InBy admin - November 15, 2013, 7:58 am
Often, we like to stand out. But this is about fitting in.
We preach it, we study it, we teach it. This is about living it.
An important part of the mission and ministry of St. John’s UCC in Clarence is serving, supporting, and building community in the town of Clarence and North Cedar School District. This extends beyond the walls of the church, and its hard work, but it’s also fun. We truly believe that work can be Christ-like without mentioning the church. It’s about presence.
Think about the ways your church fits into your community as you read about St. John’s.
Rev. David Mears, our senior pastor, takes pride in being the stand-outish pastor who wears cowboy boots and rides a Harley motorcycle. He doesn’t go for “typical.” Christ himself didn’t always take typical routes in ministry either! Dave likes being told that he doesn’t look like a minister.
On Monday and Thursday mornings at 6:30am he leads a dedicated group of 7th and 8th graders in the middle school weight room. There’s nothing more important to a junior high student than fitting in, and this is a group where everyone who participates fits in as they get fit together. Participants are kids from St. John’s, kids from other churches, and kids who don’t have a church. Dave shows up (yawning) and the kids show up. Bodies, minds, and spirits are fed in the community that has formed in the weight room. A ministry of presence by a minister who has found value in obtaining an Iowa coaching certificate.
On Wednesday afternoons a special ministry happens for Kindergarten through 7th graders. Again, St. John’s is present at the school, gathering kids at the bus stop to walk to church for the after school program. Participants are kids from St. John’s, kids from other churches, and kids who don’t have a church. All are welcome. Once we reach the church–our turf–we are the church. We talk about church, we play bells, we gather around fellowship tables, we work on mission projects, we pray, and we play. For some kids, St. John’s is a safe place that provides food and we think Jesus would say, “Yes!” For kids who are from St. John’s, this is affirmation that their church is here for them and their friends. Many of “our” kids seem proud to call this their church. This program doesn’t operate without challenge. This program does operate by the principle that all are loved by God and by the church, and that makes everyone fit in.
Other connections with the community include our participation in Adopt-A-Highway. We don’t just pick up trash. It’s a project of the confirmation class, and an excellent hands-on way to learn about stewardship and our charge to take care of God’s creation.
St. John’s is home to the day-to-day operation of the local food pantry and the Good Neighbor Fund which helps folks in need with things like utility, medical, and transportation expenses.
Often, Dave dons his purple North Cedar garb and is found in the announcer’s booth at a football game, wrestling meet, or other sporting event. The voice from St. John’s pulpit is often tagged as “the voice of the Knights.” Once again, it’s about presence.
Our church is an active participant in the North Cedar Clergy, which consists of churches throughout our school district which includes the towns of Mechanicsville, Stanwood, Clarence, and Lowden. Baccalaureate is the annual project of this group. Monthly meetings are held, providing important exchanges of information which keep all of the churches in the loop with the school. This group has been available numerous times for grief counseling at the school, another ministry that really is about presence.
These are examples from St. John’s. We know many churches in the Iowa Conference are doing outstanding work fitting in their school districts and communities. In our last 15 years at St. John’s, we have witnessed changes in how ministry is both carried out and received. We are constantly in a state of conducting “fitness reviews” about our work, adjusting how we minister beyond the walls of our church.
Blessings to all Iowa churches who are fitting into their schools and communities with Christ-like passion!
—Lynn Butterbrodt, Guest Writer
By admin - November 15, 2013, 7:58 am
Associate Pastor, St. John’s UCC
Our Turn to SpeakBy Jonna Jensen - November 7, 2013, 4:34 pm
During my years of ministry at Central City UCC, there was a provision in the congregation’s by-laws that a stewardship message be given by the pastor each year. We talked and wondered and chuckled about the source and meaning of this particular by-law. What was going on in the meetings where this rule was shaped? Is the intention of the by-law to raise the spiritual discipline of stewardship by requiring pastors to address this essential discipleship practice once each year? Or…is the intention of the by-law to protect the congregation from whatever would be imagined as too much money talk by limiting the stewardship messages to one annually? What is the implied modifier? Is the pastor being asked to preach “at least” once each year on the spiritual discipline of giving or “only” once each year?
As you read from the gospels each day in your prayer time, you recognize that Jesus had a lot to say about money. His stewardship messages were more nearly daily than yearly. He cast divine light into our pockets. He assures us that each decision we make about money is a decision about faith and following.
I write today to invite each of us (not just the preachers, but each of us) to give at least (not only!) one stewardship message a year. Let’s each have a conversation, a conversation that involves both our voices speaking and our hearts listening, about the spiritual discipline of giving in our lives.
- If we share household financial decisions with others, let’s have a conversation with those money partners about how we want to follow Jesus with our pocket money, our bank accounts, and our investments.
- If there are children and youth in our homes, let’s have a conversation with those who are watching us to see what we really believe. Let’s talk about how we follow Jesus with our money and let’s help them discover how they might follow Jesus with their money.
- In our congregations – at an adult class, at Bible study, at a committee meeting, at after-worship fellowship time– let’s start up a conversation about giving. This conversation wouldn’t be about our congregation’s budget. It would be about our budget and the stirrings of the Spirit in our hearts and our daily decisions, a conversation about delights and about struggles.
Send them in! Pass them on! Let us know what you were moved to say in your stewardship message this month!
Thanking God for you!
Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister
By Jonna Jensen - November 7, 2013, 4:34 pm