Fitting In

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 how to buy accutane 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 
Associate Pastor, St. John’s UCC

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