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By Douglas Harding*
The Confirmation Class of the Van Buren Co United Methodist Churches participated in a weekend retreat in Des Moines April 19-21. The retreat enabled the students to learn about their Methodist history as well as modern day workings of their church. Attending were students: Hunter Boecker, Brooke Dunkin, Hanna Chubb, Quentin Story, Tessa Story and Martin Vineyard; pastors Ann Donat, Peggy Ellingson & Douglas Harding, and chaperons Beth & Fred Chubb.
Bright and early Saturday morning the class was greeted by Naomi Sea Young Wittstruck at the UMC Conference Center. Naomi Sea Young is one of the conference Leadership Development Ministers and led the group in a presentation on Advocacy Justice. After which she lead us on a tour of the Conference Center. Highlights included the Chapel, the Bishop's office, and a small table owned and used by Methodist founder, John Wesley.
From the Conference Center the group went to Bidwell-Riverside Center, a neighborhood help center combating poverty that has been sponsored by Methodists since the 1890's. Bidwell-Riverside runs a day-care center, food pantry, clothing distribution, and many other help ministries. We learned about poverty, including the fact that Bidwell-Riverside gives away 10,000 pieces of clothing each month.
After a picnic lunch near the Soldiers and Sailors Monument next to the State Capital, the class ventured to "Methodist Hill", home of the Iowa Methodist Medical Center, First United Methodist Church, the former Iowa Methodist Nursing School, the former Methodist Conference Headquarters, and Hawthorn Hill a building once used to provide save housing for single women working in Des Moines, that now provides shelter and aid to families and children. A highlight was seeing the original Disney wall paintings from the first Blank Children's Hospital building.
Then. on to the Drake neighborhood where we visited Grace United Methodist Church, where Rev. Jackie Thompson now serves. We also met with Father Basil at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, who explained to us some of the similarities and differences we Methodists have with Orthodox Christianity.
Sunday found the group attending worship at Burns UMC, the historic Black Methodist Congregation in Des Moines, where we were warmly greeting and made to feel welcome. After a rousing music filled service the class was invited to join in a dinner Burns was having after their service, giving us a wonderful opportunity to meet and greet the members of Burns.
*Rev. Douglas Harding is pastor of the Keosauqua - Center Chapel - Milton United Methodist Churches