Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

Our independent study for continuing education was exactly what was needed for my heart and soul. For at least five years now, Jeff and I have focused on Celtic Christian spirituality. Celtic Christian spirituality is all about connection: the connection between God and creation, the connection between God and humanity, the connection between humanity and creation. Growing up on a farm taught me from an early age that God is revealed in the glory of creation. Celtic Christian spirituality plumbs the depths of those connections.

I didn’t plan that my study would be on connection, but that was the theme that ran through all the books that I read. Two of the authors (Brown and Rohr) explicitly pointed out that the biggest problem in the world today is our sense of disconnection. The rest of the authors implied that assessment in their words and their work.

You will be hearing more about these books in the upcoming weeks as we engage together the sermon series The Tie that Binds – a focus on connection and relationship! Meanwhile, if you are looking for thought-provoking books, here are the ones that fed my soul at the cabin:

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. With her characteristic wisdom and occasionally salty language, Brown invites us to courage and connection in the work of overcoming the political, religious and societal divides of our times. 

The Body of God by Sallie McFague. McFague uses the metaphor of all of creation as God’s body. It is a way of picturing our connectedness, not only with all of humanity but with all of creation. If we are indeed connected, what are the ethical implications for Christians? McFague would say that we have a responsibility to care for creation and to suffer with all who are impacted by our deteriorating environment.

small great things by Jodi Picoult. This well-written book of fiction explores the issues of racism and white privilege in the story of a black neonatal nurse who is accused of killing a baby. It is a book that at times is hard to read, yet highlights our shared humanity.

The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr. Rohr uses the dance of the Trinity to explore the relationship and connection between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To be made in the image of God is to be connected and relational. This Trinitarian dance flows through all of creation and, when we are open and willing, flows through us as well.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Wohlleben reveals the surprising connections and relationships within creation, especially between trees.

Thank you for the time you gave Jeff and me to immerse ourselves in thought and conversational partners. May this gift bear fruit as we explore together The Tie That Binds!

On the journey with you,

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dear Friends,

Come to the table! Come to the communion table, the kitchen table, the summit table, the potluck table! Come to the table of love, peace, grace and joy! Come to the table!

This is the invitation that Jesus gave numerous times during his ministry. He ate with his friends and family. He ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. He ate with the weak and strangers, the outcasts and outsiders. He ate with the powerful and the insiders. He ate with people he agreed with, people he confused and people he disagreed with. In the time of Jesus and in his culture, to eat with others was to create relationship. To offer hospitality at the table to a stranger was a commitment to the life and well-being of the other. Jesus created sacred space and a sacred place at the table, so much so that the table became the communion table and a sacrament of connection and relationship.

Our hope is that the focus on the table relationships created over food and conversation opens your eyes to the sacredness of every table you gather around. The kitchen table is sacred space as the family gathers for a meal, phones silenced (at least occasionally!), candles lit, prayer shared, conversation engaged. The table expands when friends are added!

The tables we gather around to learn and grow together are sacred space as well. Whether it is a Sunday school class, youth group or a journey circle, relationships are created and holy conversation is shared around the table. At our September Church Council meeting, we sat around the conference room table and began our meeting with an adapted journey circle. After the meeting, as I walked through the hallway, I could hear laughter at the trustees meeting. Sacred space, indeed.

Our Wednesday community meals offer a place at the table for friends and strangers of all ages, people from all walks of life. If you happen to sit down for a meal on Wednesday night, you will notice conversation starter cards on the table. Pick one up and get started, whether it is with someone you know well or someone you’ve never seen before in your life. In the process, you are creating relationships. You are sharing communion that is holy.

On October 1, we will celebrate World Communion Sunday. It is the longest table in the world, stretching all around the world. We celebrate the diversity of Christians and our unity in Christ. Around the table, we truly are one. Come to the table! It is a sacrament – and it is sacred indeed.

On the journey with you,

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone come back from Walk to Emmaus or Chrysalis and say, “Why can’t our church be like that?” I’d be rich. People who attend these retreats often come home transformed through engagement in meaningful conversations and connected community. In the process, they discover they have opened themselves to the Holy Spirit in powerful ways.

We all bring a soul hunger to church. Sometimes our empty souls can be fed as we participate in the life of the church. Other times, the hunger is deeper than our current ways of doing church can address. Our souls are empty because we long for a connection with others that is more than fellowship time following worship. Our souls ache to belong and be accepted. Our souls are tired of hiding, of pretending, of wearing masks to protect ourselves with people at school, at work, at church and even at home. Retreats like Chrysalis and Walk to Emmaus offer us relationships that are honest and community with a deep sense of belonging. So why can’t our church be like that?

I think that it can. And I think that journey circles are an important part of the answer.

I am convinced that utilizing journey circles as often as possible in the life of the church is the missing piece of satisfying our souls. (You may remember the workshop that Kendy, Kendall Clarke, Tim Smith and I attended last March with Fred Van Liew’s leadership – and our assessment that this is what we want church to be like!) Parker Palmer, in his book A Hidden Wholeness, delves into the gifts of journey circles. This way of being together creates the community and relationships that people long for. Journey circles are the safe space where we don’t have to pretend, safe space that allows the Holy Spirit (each person’s inner teacher) to show up. Journey circles help us love alike even if we do not think alike. Together we create common ground for our life together.

Something new is happening this fall. You will experience aspects of journey circles in the Monday brown bag study and Wednesday evening Bible study that Jeff and I lead. Church Council and staff meetings may also have elements of journey circle dynamics. Our children and youth will have opportunities to experience journey circles in their gatherings. There will be short-term journey circles offered. There will even be conversation starter cards on the tables for the Wednesday community meals. Stay tuned for other opportunities as we work to incorporate deeper ways of being together into the life of our church. 

And for those of you who feel a little intimidated by the whole idea, do not be afraid. Nobody is going to force you to do anything that you don’t want to do. 

But what if this is your opportunity to do the soul work that you have been wanting and needing to do? You wouldn’t want to miss it.

On the journey with you,


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I Don't Believe in Climate Change. I Believe in God

Friday, June 16, 2017

I Don't Believe in Climate Change.
I Believe in God.
by Katharine Hayhoe

I don’t believe in climate change.

I believe in God. I believe He created this amazing planet we live in, and gave us responsibility—or stewardship—or dominion over it. I believe God delights in his creation and wants us to, as well. And I believe we are to love others, especially the poor, the vulnerable, and those most in need, as Christ loved us.

I’m a Christian – but I’m also a scientist. I spend my days studying how climate change is affecting us, in the places where we live. Rainfall patterns are shifting, sea level is rising, and weather is getting weirder: when we add them all up, there’s more than 26,500 separate lines of evidence that the planet is warming.

I don’t believe in global warming. The evidence of God’s creation tells us it’s real. Nearly two hundred years of meticulous scientific studies has established that it’s not a natural cycle this time: it’s us. And my own research demonstrates the severity of the consequences for all of us, particularly those less fortunate than us who are already suffering. We care about a changing climate because it exacerbates the risks we face today: hunger, poverty, disease, and injustice.

Yet when we hear Christians discussing climate change, often the predominant responses are negative: hostility, anger, and denial, a stew of toxic emotions underlain by fear. Fear of losing an identity that’s based on politics and ideology, if we get on board with a “liberal” issue; fear of rejection by our family, our community, even our church; or fear of losing our comfortable lifestyle in search of what’s right and just.

As Christians, we have a litmus test for these emotions. Because, as the apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So when we see people responding in fear, we know that’s not who we’re meant to be.

What gifts does God give us? Power, to effect meaningful, long-term change. Love, to share God’s heart for our brothers and sisters who are hurting and in need. And a sound mind: to look at the reality of what is happening in our world and acknowledge that yes, climate change is real, it’s serious, and we need to fix it.

Being Christian isn’t a hindrance to acting on climate. On the contrary, if we believe we’re called “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God,” then caring about a changing climate, and those already suffering its impacts, is what we’ve been created to do. It’s who we are.

 Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist known for her work bridging the broad, deep gap between scientists and Christians on climate change. For her efforts, she’s been named as one of Christianity Today’s “50 Women to Watch” and Fortune’s “50 Greatest Leaders.” Follow her Facebook page and watch her PBS Digital Series, Global Weirding, for more on climate, politics, and faith. (Photo by Artie Limmer, Texas Tech University)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Mid-Week Update from Pastor Carol Myers

Dear Friends,

The theme of the 2017 Iowa Annual Conference was Creating Difference Makers! From start to finish, we were exhorted to make a difference in our world. How do you know you are making a difference? You can see the fruits of your labors! I found myself smiling as I thought of the church campaign that could be created with the simple question, “Got fruit?”

A key part of making a difference is aligning our mission, vision and resources in the church. Bishop Laurie, in her opening sermon, told the story of flying in dense fog. As the plane was almost ready to land, passengers looked out the window and saw nothing but clouds. Minutes from the wheels touching down, the pilot accelerated and the plane began to rise again. It turned out that as the plane broke through the clouds, the pilot discovered that the plane was not in alignment with the runway. (The instruments for an instrument landing were apparently not working at the time.) Not being in alignment can cause some pretty serious problems, whether in a plane or in a church.

With that in mind, the mission of the Iowa Conference is to inspire, equip and connect communities of faith to cultivate world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ. (In Iowa, we know all about cultivating, don’t we! How else to have a harvest?)

The vision of the Iowa Conference is to see God’s hope for the world made real through faithful leadership, fruitful communities and fire-filled people. (Let me ask again: Got fruit?)

How do we live the vision and mission of our Conference out in our church? By gathering for worship. By growing in small groups. By going in mission and ministry in the name of Jesus Christ. When we participate in the life of the church in these ways, it is to God’s glory. We are bearing fruit.

Annual Conference, as always, was a kaleidoscope of worship, celebration of ministry and mission that stretch around the globe, connection with friends old and new, learning, legislation and holy conferencing. Some of those conversations are easy and some are difficult. Always, always, the center is Christ, binding us together with Holy Spirit power.

When you see Kendall Clarke, Jane Schultz or Kate Swartzendruber, thank them for sharing their time and talent at Annual Conference. Thank Kendy Miller not only for her gifts but for the gift of co-leadership with the high school students (including Kate) who were the diakonos! (I don’t think Kendy got much sleep…) What a great group to share laughter and conversation!

On this spiritual adventure that we share, make a difference. Be a difference-maker.

Got fruit?

On the journey with you,

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Prayer always carries us forward. No matter what we are facing, joy or sorrow, darkness or dawn, prayer turns us toward God and offers a way forward. 
The United Methodist Church is now engaged in a world-wide discussion about our understanding of human sexuality. More than 12 million United Methodists in a 120 countries speaking dozens and dozens of languages all coming together to discuss one topic. Their views on human sexuality vary.  Their reading of scripture varies. Their cultural backgrounds vary. Their countries and the laws and customs of their countries vary.  Their approach to controversy varies. Seems like an overwhelming task, except for one thing:

All 12 million pray. 

The discussion of human sexuality is called Finding Our Way Forward and it is being led by a commission which was established at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in 2016.  Their work will take several years.  As they carry out their work they have asked that United Methodists blanket their efforts with prayer.  Every conference worldwide is dedicating itself to a week of prayer.  We will be Praying Our Way Forward.

The Iowa Annual Conference will be Praying Our Way Forward 
May 21-27. 

  • Our goal in Praying Our Way Forward is not to win the debate. 
  • Our goal is be faithful in a time of controversy. 
You and your church are invited into this holy season of prayer. This is an excellent time to renew your commitment to prayer. Paul says we are to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)  Every breath should be prayer, but that is not easy in our distracting world. We have to be intentional about praying. We encourage you to set aside special times and opportunities for prayer during the week of May 21-27.

During the week of May 21 we will be Praying Our Way Forward:

  • With Daily Devotions. Our Praying Our Way Forward team of laity and clergy have prepared daily devotionals. These will be in your email inbox every morning during the week of May 21. 
  • Through A Prayer Vigil. A prayer vigil is really a blanket of prayer, hour by hour, moment by moment, covering our church worldwide in prayer.  You and your church will have an opportunity to sign up to pray at a specific time.  
  • By offering a time of prayer at your church. You may want to hold a special prayer service in your church or you may want to simply open the sanctuary for an evening giving the people of your faith community an opportunity to come and pray. We have offered worship suggestions and prayer resources on our website. 
  • By Announcing Praying Our Way Forward week. In order to help you and your church focus on prayer, we have provided bulletin inserts and prayer signs to post around your church. You might encourage people in your church to create more signs. They might look good on t-shirts. Feel free to have some fun with these. Download these posters and bulletin inserts.

A week of prayer, sounds amazing doesn’t it? 

As I write this the New Mexico Annual Conference is praying for us. A few weeks ago United Methodists in Sierra Leone were praying. Germany, Mozambique, Oklahoma, the Desert Southwest, all around the globe, prayers rise to God. “Lead us forward,” we pray. 
Prayer always carries us forward. No matter what we are facing, joy or sorrow, darkness or dawn, prayer turns us toward God and offers a way forward. 
And nothing is impossible with God. 
Rev. Cindy Hickman
Praying Our Way Forward Coordinator
Bishop Laurie encourages you to sign up for a day of prayer either individually or as a congregation. You can use the use the Register Now button below to register your commitment to prayer during this week.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Pastoral Message to the Iowa Annual Conference


To the saints in Iowa,

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul; “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.

(Lamentations 3:22-25)

Grace and peace! As many of you know, the United Methodist Judicial Council issued a ruling on Friday that the July 16, 2016 consecration of Karen Oliveto as a bishop in the Western Jurisdiction violated church law. Bishop Oliveto is legally married to her spouse Robin Ridenour. The decision also said, “Self-avowal does not nullify the consecration and cause removal from episcopal office but is a sufficient declaration to subject the bishop’s ministerial office to review.” That review from the Western Jurisdiction will be forthcoming.

By all reports, Bishop Oliveto has been an exemplary bishop in the Mountain Sky Area, visiting almost every church in this geographically vast conference, connecting in a deeply pastoral way with clergy and laity alike, and working toward health, vitality, and outreach in local congregations. I have gotten to know Bishop Oliveto well over the past eight months and admire her passion for evangelism and preaching Christ with conviction and courage.

The Judicial Council ruling has caused confusion and dismay among some who were hoping for a definitive decision and reinforces our deep divisions in The United Methodist Church around human sexuality. Yet the ruling it also redirects us to the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, which is creatively seeking a way for United Methodists to serve and live and change the world together in the midst of our differences. 

In this time of waiting until the called General Conference session in 2019, God asks you and me to keep praying for the Commission at the same time as we continue being the church! Every day Jesus calls us to be faithful in loving all people, demonstrating forgiveness, and seeking justice. And the Holy Spirit lights a fire in our hearts to focus on our mission of making disciples and giving ourselves away in humility to a world yearning for grace.  

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!


Bishop Laurie

P.S. I would also ask for your prayers for the victims of three deadly tornadoes in east Texas last night. Five fatalities have been confirmed so far, there has been extensive damage, and search and rescue efforts have begun. First United Methodist Church in Canton is one of the American Red Cross shelters. Canton is sixty miles east of Dallas, where the Council of Bishop is meeting this week.