Pastoral and Spiritual Care
Bishop Trimble is inviting all of the Iowa Conference to a FIT Challenge to Focus on long-term disaster recovery, Invest in new ministries, and Tell the story of Jesus' transformational love. A goal of $2 Million dollars over the next two years is proposed for disaster recovery and new ministry initiatives.
Spiritual Care in Disaster Response
for Churches, Families, and Children from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Helping Children Deal with the Flood Crisis
, an Iowa Public Television video of an event sponsored by the Cedar Rapids Public Library.
Are you taking care of yourself? This Disaster Caregiver “At Risk” Test
is provided courtesy of Rev. Mary Hughes Gaudreau, UMCOR Emergency Services Office.
Prayer Litany for 2008 Disasters
Handling the Stress after a Disaster
Visit the Iowa Conference blog
to read first hand experiences related to the flooding.
Cedar Rapids Congregations Gather for Service of Hope
Read the complete text of Rev. Courtney Ball's sermon, Stubborn Hope in New Life
. (Text size can be enlarged by the magnifier at the top of each of the sermon pages.)
See the video
of Rev. Courtney Ball's sermon.
of the service and the process through the neighborhood.
Some five months after the ravaging waters swept through Cedar Rapids the United Methodist faith communities of that city gathered together for “A Flood of Hope: Connecting in the Heartland.” Pastors of the three most affected congregations, the co-directors of the Matthew 25 Hub, the Flood Recovery Disaster Volunteer Coordinator, the Director of Recovery-Storms 2008, and the Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries led the nearly 200 persons who came together in the sanctuary of the St. James United Methodist Church on Sunday afternoon, November 2, 2008.
Spirited music from the Dixie Notes and engaging direction from song leader Linda Cursor enabled the assembly to declare, “I’m gonna’ lay down my heavy load, down by the riverside.”
Acknowledgement of the Losses
The service began with words of greeting and acknowledgement of the losses suffered by St. James, Trinity and Salem United Methodist churches. Rev. Beth Straw, Pastor of St. James, said, “We are here to acknowledge our loss. At the same time, in the paradox of God’s love, we are also here to celebrate with hope our future together, in the neighborhoods that were flooded, in the whole city of Cedar Rapids that has come together in such a wonderful way.”
Rev. Bob Voels, Pastor of Trinity, recalled walking into the sanctuary three years earlier, “seeing those majestic stained glass windows, visualizing the pipe organ, leading generations of worshippers over the years. It literally took my breath away. When the waters receded from the flood of June of this year, and I entered the church with the team that first time, it was as though the walls were crying out, ‘come to me all you who are burdened and heavy laiden, and I will give you rest.’ It’s on that assurance that we move forward.”
Rev. John Louk, Salem’s Pastor, remembered that “like these other congregations we had our building destroyed greatly; we had people who lost their homes, their businesses. The “Walk to Emmaus” group that had 135 walks at Salem lost everything…We do have loss, but that’s not where we end…that’s just where we begin.”
In a prayer adapted by Rev. Gayle Wilcox, the congregation’s voice declared, “O Lord Jesus, we long for the day when the wreckage, the aftermath of the flood, will disclose a disguised blessing, buried within like an un-tapped well.”
Witnesses from the three flooded-out congregations brought their own personal words of witness. Carol Farris, from St. James, recalled that she “lived in the time check neighborhood for close to 60 years. That whole area will soon be gone forever. I’m just hopeful that the new levee and green space that replaces it will be a good place to bring our families, to have good times, to make new memories to cherish along with all the old memories that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.
Steve Thompson, a member of the Trinity congregation, remembered that “we got six and a half feet of water over there; it came up eighteen inches into our first floor. I’m blessed by all the help I’ve received; to date it’s been about thirteen groups. We’re not done yet, but we’re well on the road.”
Mark Minger, from Salem, described how he had been part “of a group that sandbagged. When we left there that day, thinking that the flood waters were only going to get ‘a little high,’ we had no idea what was going to happen during those next two days. I was also fortunate enough to be with the group that got to go back in the following Wednesday after the flood. None of us in that group were anywhere near knowledgeable about what we were going to find inside that church.” He described the devastation, including the loss of the pews, recently remodeled kitchen and flooring in the fellowship hall. “We were very fortunate this summer,” he added, “to have a lot of people come through and help us.” On a positive note he revealed that the organ that had been under water for seven days still works “quite well.” He showed a small ceramic angel. It had been on a table, near the altar, prior to the flood. “For some miraculous reason it floated, intact, on the table, with the lace draping, down through one of the aisles, and gently sat down in front of the double glass main entry doors.” He concluded by observing that “our building is just a building. Our church is our people…and we will recover.”
A Stubborn Hope for Life
Rev. Courtney Ball, co-director of the Matthew 25 Hub, brought a message entitled, “A Stubborn Hope for New Life.” “After the initial shock of the situation we found ourselves in many of us started out with the strong belief in the power of our community to rebuild. I remember that first week or two when everybody on my block was out working, working, working, working to try to clean things up and to start putting things back together. I remember that great sense of energy and drive. Now it seems, in some ways, like death is closing in around us. We’re not so sure how our neighborhood is going to end up. Winter is coming. The recession is looming. Some of us are beginning to sense that we really don’t have a grasp on how this is all going to affect us in the long run.”
“This is a time when we as a community are going to have to look to those who carry within themselves that stubborn belief in new life. Now is the time when the body of Christ has got to be on its feet, when the people of the good news have got to be engaged. We have got to be the ones who believe that these neighborhoods can and will come back. I mean the kind of belief that causes us to act, the kind of belief that causes us to testify to the truth that we see, the kind of belief that causes us to lead, to offer a way to those who cannot see the way, who cannot see the renewed reality, the new possibilities that God has in store for our community.”
“We need to love our neighbors. We need to focus on the Good News. We need to lead by humbling ourselves.”
“It’s time to let go of the term, ‘flood victim.” It’s time! It’s time to start looking at these neighborhoods as centers of extraordinary giftedness. It’s time to look at the people here for who they are, especially those who have poured everything they have into rebuilding the neighborhood. They are people of profound strength and commitment.”
Rev. Karen Nichols Dungan, Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries, invited the congregation to be and live in a spirit of thanksgiving. From Psalm 40 she offered words of encouragement, celebrating how many had “dared to hope.” Rev. Melisa Bracht-Wagner, Flood Recovery Disaster Volunteer Coordinator and Becky Wood, Director of Recovery-Storms 2008, encouraged on-going offering of service and gifts.
Concluding the service, Rev. Beth Straw declared, “We will go marching on!” And then march they did…through the streets of the neighborhood declaring, “We are not overwhelmed! Amen!”
Pastoral Care for Farmers
In light of recent events and weather, I have strong concerns for the agricultural community. If you have farmers in your congregation(s), I urge you to offer them some pastoral care in these next few days/weeks. A brief “stop by” visit or a phone call to just “check in on how you’re doing” could either provide opportunity for a significant conversation or plant a seed of care which might sprout or even blossom into an important encounter later.
Grain farmers are under sever stress from the rains that have saturated the state. If they didn’t get fields planted, or if they got planted but didn’t get herbicide applied, or if they are faced with replanting (which is both risky and very expensive), farmers will have definite feelings about it. And if they have only an “elementary school faith” that blithely taught them that God has everything under control including the weather, their belief structure may leave them angry at God and isolated. You have an opportunity to help them mature in their understanding and trust.
Livestock farmers, particularly pork producers, are also under severe stress, but from a different quarter. Several factors have conspired to raise the market price of corn and other feed grains to levels not seen in recent history. Those hog farmers and cattle feeders that don’t have sufficient land to raise all their own feed have to purchase corn at a price that sends them into deficit. The director of the Iowa Pork Producer’s Association told me last week that their members have reported losses of $50 a head for the past 6 months or more. That simply is not sustainable, especially for the smaller feeders. The rains only compound the issue for them.
And all of them are increasingly oppressed by the price of fuel.
Along with the personal behind-the-scenes contacts, I also encourage you to claim an appropriate community ministry during these times of storms and stress. Be in touch with your town and county emergency preparedness personnel: county disaster coordinators, law enforcement, public health leaders, area Red Cross/Salvation Army/FEMA organizations, and county extension directors. Talk with your church leaders about how your congregation and their assets could be utilized for the good of the community. And, even if you are a shy introvert, I encourage you to “show up” at the meeting places where locals gather to discuss the weather, and just sit in on or eavesdrop on what is going on. You don’t even have to say anything, beyond greeting everybody who makes eye contact with you. As Woody Allen once said, “85% of success is just showing up.”
And in the worshiping community, I trust that you will explicitly offer prayer for farmers, ag business people, and t heir families, publically linking the abundant grace of God with the several needs of the people as you know them or imagine them. As far as many farmers are concerned, when the church is silent, God is absent.
Gratefully, here in the hill country of Southwest Iowa, most all of the rivers and streams have crested, and the water is receding. Problem is, there’s just SO MUCH of it! And our hearts go out to the people related to the Boy Scout camp at Little Sioux, where the 4 youth were killed, despite their training and preparation. These are times that will test faith. Please remember, that the testing of our faith through “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope; and hope will not disappoint us,” because it is anchored not in us, but in the grace and love of God.
As Garrison Keillor says, “Be well; do good work; and keep in touch.”
Your Southwest District FOM,
A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer
June 11, 2008
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I rejoice with you and thank God for you for the great Annual Conference just adjourned.
Our ministry continues in many ways. But uppermost in our minds and hearts is the devastation from the tornadoes of late May and the current flooding across the state. Please know that my thoughts, prayers and labors are with those acutely affected.
Members of the conference staff and our Conference Disaster Response Coordinator are monitoring and organizing as you read this. Marcia Young is our Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. She is working vigorously with a statewide coalition, as well as with the conference and denomination, to help us take the appropriate actions at each stage. She has helpfully reminded me of the three stages in a disaster to be kept in mind: Rescue, Response and Recovery.
I urge you to:
“Pray and faint not”
Keep your district office updated with pertinent information
Check the Conference website daily
Direct gifts to the Conference Disaster Relief Fund #223
Remember “when you pass through the waters, God will be with you”.
Your servant in Christ Jesus,
† Gregory V. Palmer