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Click here to see images from the first Sunday River of Life service
Johnston River of Life United Methodist faith community held its first Sunday service on October 6.
The new faith community currently meets for worship at Beaver Creek Elementary School in Johnston.
The inaugural Sunday service gave Pastor Craig Ferguson reason to describe River of Life's mission as, “being Christ in community.”
“This is our first Sunday service and it just felt very energetic,” said Pastor Craig Ferguson. “We had all of those community leaders that were here and present.”
Johnston Mayor Paula Dierenfeld and Camp Dodge Chaplain Major Gary S. Selof were among the local community leaders in attendance who took part in the service, including prayer. Rev. Ferguson said the congregation prayed for the entire community.
“All of those community leaders were here so that we could recognize who our mission field is,” he said. "And that they also already have an active part in our community of serving those around us.”
“We talked about being the hands and feet of Christ,” said Rev. Ferguson. “We talked about, as being Johnston, who are the people around us that we can reach out to, and care for, and serve in more effective ways?”
Johnston River of Life’s mission statement is Being Christ in Community.
“Which means we live that out not worried about a building, or doing things in a building, but really getting into the community,” Rev. Ferguson said.
River of Life recently began Sunday services and had held Saturday evening worship as well. Sunday services have been packed, Rev. Ferguson said, and Saturday has a smaller, committed group that attends.
“A very committed group, a group that understands our mission,” said Rev. Ferguson. “And they’re just taking it upon themselves to actively engage the community as well.”
The church puts on events and activities to get into the community and invite people in.
“We knock on doors, which is I know a little old fashioned,” he said. “But it’s also still one of the greatest ways to say, hey, we care about you, and we want to let you know what’s going on and how we can serve you, as well as how you can be a part of what we’re doing.”
The community of Johnston continues to grow, along with River of Life.
“We’re engaged in all of that, we’re active in community,” said Rev. Ferguson. “We find it’s a great opportunity for us to really get out there and do something, rather than just sit in a building and worship.”
“Sitting in the building and worshipping is great,” he continued. “But people know when they leave this building that they have a week of service.”
These efforts and outreach help to shape the identity of the Johnston community as it grows.
“Which is why everybody in the community knows who we are,” Rev. Ferguson said. “They know us because we’re doing those things.”
Rev. Ferguson said the River of Life church community is very, very engaged.
Johnston Mayor Paula Dierenfeld echoed Pastor Ferguson’s enthusiasm.
“We’re excited that the River of Life church is a member of our religious community here in Johnston,” she said. “It’s exciting to see how it’s grown over time.”
“It’s been fun to see them grow as a church, be more involved in the community here in Johnston,” said Mayor Dierenfeld. “It’s exciting to see them everywhere I go now just being involved in different activities, different events and supporting our community.”
“So again, we welcome the River of Life here in Johnston and look forward to a long and successful location,” she said.
Mayor Dierenfeld is excited by the growth of the Johnston community and sees some real opportunity for River of Life to engage in young families, whether it would be recreational, educational or other daily needs. “I’ve seen the River of Life church engage in that way,” she said.
River of Life core team member Amanda Samuelson shares the excitement.
“This is our first Sunday kick off for fall at Johnston,” Samuelson said. “And we are ready to go, and have plenty of people that are excited about the community participation and the service that Johnston is doing here in its ministry.”
Samuelson noted the active participation in the worship service on the part of local community leaders as well, remarking how they were sharing in the blessing of the new church community.
“Absolutely we’re all pumped and excited to see how the rest of this year and forever happens with God’s work,” said Samuelson.
Samuelson said the church is significantly involved in the Johnston community.
“We are constantly here doing things with the rest of the community that you don’t normally see happen with the population here that’s sometimes overlooked,” she said.
Samuelson said she is really happy to see the business community, the interfaith community, and people in general, come out and really support Johnston.
“And that’s really what it’s about,” said Samuelson. “It’s about serving others where you’re at. And seeing the change you can affect immediately in your own area and in big ways.”