Good afternoon, Iowa! This is the first installment of Wednesday Words of Encouragement as we seek Caring Connections across the state and around the world in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Like most of you, I am now working from my office at home because the Conference Center is closed. All of us need to be careful about going out and not being in large groups of people so that we can halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Our Crisis Operations Team in the Iowa Annual Conference is meeting regularly through Microsoft Teams in order to hear what is happening around the state and ensure that caring systems are put into place to regularly connect with clergy and laity. I am also seeking stories from about people and churches that are putting faith into action and are making a difference during the Pandemic. Here are a few stories from this past week.
Jena Finch Manchester is the pastor at Mapleton, Ticonic, and Anthon in the Northwest District. She lives in Mapleton, and last week Jena met people where they were by stocking shelves at the local grocery store. When she went shopping, Jena noticed that customers and staff were frazzled, the truck had arrived a day late, and things were generally in disarray. So, she decided to help, and by doing so, Jena shared her love for God and God’s people with all who came in the store that day.
Altoona United Methodist Church in the Central District, under the leadership of Pastor John Gaulke, is sharing their tech skills with area churches that don’t have the resources to livestream or video their church services. The Altoona staff will help videotape and upload the worship services so congregation members can worship with their own church at home.
Swea City UMC in the North Central District had drive-in church last Sunday. Using loudspeakers borrowed from local auctioneers, parishioners worshipped in the parking lot from their cars. Todd Hartsock is their pastor.
And here’s a great story from Graetinger and Terrill UMC’s in the Northwest District. At the same time as Pastor Lana Williams is live streaming worship on Sunday morning, she has a volunteer with an offering plate. Anyone who lives within an 8-mile drive of the church who sends a text saying, “Show me the plate!” will see the offering plate. Volunteers will drive over to the house, ring the doorbell, and receive the donation. How’s that for creativity?
In the midst of this very difficult time not only here in Iowa but around the world, God’s people are rising up to share Christ’s love in new and unique ways, just as God called Lazarus in our gospel lectionary for this Sunday to rise up out of the tomb. If you have a story to tell about how Iowa United Methodists are making caring connections around the state, please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every Wednesday, I will share new stories.
I also want you to know that we are starting a series of webinars this week. Thursday at 2 p.m. Matt German will be talking about Online Worship, and on Friday at 10:00 a.m. Gladys Alvarez will be presenting information about What Parents should say about COVID-19. Watch the conference website and social media for links to connect.
I’d like to close by sharing a beautiful prayer that was written by Lutheran pastor Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber this past Sunday.
God who made us all,
Our healers are exhausted, God. Give rest to those who care for the sick.
Our children are bored, God. Grant extra creativity to their caregivers.
Our friends are lonely, God. Help us to reach out.
Our pastors are doing the best they can, God. Help them to know it is enough.
Our workers are jobless, God. Grant us the collective wisdom to take care of them.
Our fellow parents are losing their minds, God. Give unexpected play and joy and dance parties to all in need.
Our grocery workers are absorbing everyone’s anxieties, God. Protect them from us.
Our elderly are even more isolated, God. Comfort them.
We haven’t done this before and we are scared, God.
I don’t even know what else to pray for.
May God bless you and keep you safe. Shalom.