I’m writing to you in the midst of a stretch of travel that included the most-monthly meeting of the staff of the Iowa Conference. What goes on at 5609 Douglas Avenue when the members of the staff leave their desks and cars for about ten hours of table time?
- Open arms. “How are you?” is more than a form of hello. It’s a spiritual practice. We’re glad to see each other. We stay connected by phone and email throughout the month, but our ministry is clearly strengthened by the opportunity to pull up chairs side by side.
- Treasure. Currently stirring through our shared work are words from a sermon by Walter Brueggeman based on 2 Corinthians 4:7-10. He reminds us that much of our ministry is about transitory earthen vessels (church stuff) holding the treasure of the Gospel. Each month, Rich begins our afternoon work with treasure, a biblical text to nourish and guide our work. Our morning meeting always begins with worship. We pray. We listen and wrestle with the Word. We sing. It’s not our strongest gift, but some of what we offer God (and what God offers us) needs to be sung rather than said. So far, no complaints from the neighbors.
- Laughter. We want to take this holy work seriously and ourselves lightly. When we gather, there is generous space for us to laugh at ourselves and the quirks we contribute to the ministries of the Iowa Conference.
- Celebrations. As we are in prayer for our congregations and pastors, we celebrate amazing ministries. We celebrate growth of all kinds. We celebrate new pastors to welcome, babies born, gifts of healing.
- Tears. As we are in prayer for our congregations and pastors, our words and sighs also rise from news of suffering and loss. As we look across the table into one another’s eyes, sometimes tears brim. Sometimes they spill.
- Encouragement. We are accountable to one another at every staff meeting for one thirty-day work goal. I actually made mine this month – a brochure introducing our new gathering of oblates!
- Learning. Some months, we spend a bit of learning time with a shared reading from a timely book or article. This month, our learning time was spent in a webinar introducing what promises to be a very rich, fruitful demographic research tool for our congregations and for the work of the Conference.
- Trees and forest. Of course there are more questions and pieces of information and tasks for tomorrow or next week than we can juggle in ten hours. One of the important responsibilities of our Conference Minister, and one at which he excels, is to make sure our common work also includes time to step back and take a wide, long view; to attend to the scope of years and decades as well as the scope of hours and days.
- Deep gratitude for one another and for the ministries we share. “Thank you” is more than a form of good-bye at the end of our time together. It is a prayer.
Thanking God for each of you and for your gifts of holy work!
—Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister