Two unique faith communities in the East Central District welcomed Bishop Julius Trimble on the first Sunday of Lent.
Bishop Trimble preached on March 9 in Cedar Rapids at St. Paul United Methodist Church and at the International French Fellowship at Asbury United Methodist Church.
Both were diverse collections of nations and languages, and an opportunity to display the welcoming mission of the United Methodist Church. In the services he had an opportunity to worship in six languages with persons from seven different countries.
Field Outreach Minister for the District Rev. Jill Sanders was on hand for both, along with the Bishop and East Central District Superintendent Rev. David Crow.
“At the first service we were at St. Paul’s, the bishop brought the message there,” she said. “And the youth choir from the African National Ministry at St. Paul’s, most of those folks are from Burundi, and we had music in Swahili led by Pastor Daniel and in Kirundi led by the choir.”
There was alternate verses sung English and Kirundi, said Rev. Sanders.
In his sermon at St. Paul UMC Bishop Trimble preached from the Matthew 4:1-11 where Jesus goes into the dessert to face temptation.
He told those in the congregation that day that they must take time to be true disciples of Jesus.
“We must be reminded that we are members of Christ’s body in the world,” Bishop Trimble said.
“You don’t cease to be St. Paul’s United Methodist Church after the benediction,” he said. “You are St. Paul’s United Methodist Church as you leave the sanctuary, and enter into the world.”
The message applies to him as a bishop as well, he said.
“I am part of a body of believers,” said Bishop Trimble. “I am not a freelance Christian.”
The faith is not to be private, but shared, he said.
The Bishop challenged the faithful, rather than to fast this Lent, to pursue a change of diet, more Word and less worry, more time in prayer and less in procrastination, more joy and grace, and less judgment and regret.
“Then we went over to Asbury,” she said. “The International French Fellowship (IFFM), it’s one of our newest faith communities, it’s been in existence since the end of January.”
“It has remnants from another attempt, the African Ministry at St. Mark’s,” Rev. Sanders continued. “That has stopped being a worship community but the ministry still continues there.”
“Several of those folks have decided to make that a French-language-focused worship,” she said. “So they’ve had people from six different countries, including Haiti. So Sunday their worship was largely in French, but then also Creole, and somebody also sang in Lingawa as well.”
Two men from Africa lead the six-week-old French Fellowship faith community, Rev. Sanders said, both refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The bishop’s role there was to bring greetings and to just experience,” said Rev. Sanders. “And so he was introduced by the pastor at Asbury, Willy Mafuta who is in strong support of this International French Fellowship but is really equipping others to be in leadership in that.”
The traditional service is still in place at Asbury along with the International French Fellowship. Rev. Sanders said it was likely that this isn’t what Asbury members had originally anticipated for the future of Asbury UMC, yet many of the original members of Asbury attend both services. Those who do have offered positive feedback on the experience, saying it’s not “us and them,” it’s “we,” she said.
“It’s very much, I see, as the congregation that used to be Asbury, and still is, but was there before, is understanding this as something God is doing and they’re participating in it, and it’s their present and their future.”
The Bishop’s visit and sharing worship with the International French Fellowship community at Asbury UMC had an effect on members there.
"Le Bishop Trimble par son mot de circonstance m''a apporte l' encouragement, la motivation et l' amour de travailer pour Dieu, dit Minouche Mwanza, Steering Committee Member of IFFM. “Il a dit: losque nous elevons nos adoration a Dieu, et Dieu a son tour nous benira.”
“La presence du Bishop a aussi apporte un grand impact pas seulement à IFFM, mais aussi à Asbury,” dit Mwanza. “ L’ impact qui est le soutien, la consideration."
"Bishop Trimble has brought encouragement, motivation and love for the work of God,” said Minouche Mwanza, Steering Committee Member of IFFM. “He said, “Let’s raise our worship to God, and God will bless us in turn,” said Minouche Mwanza, Steering Committee Member of IFFM.
“The presence of the Bishop also brings a great impact not only IFFM but also Asbury,” said Mwanza. “The impact is support, consideration."
"With happiness and joy Asbury United Methodist Church of Cedar Rapids was honored by the attendance of Bishop Julius Trimble, Rev. David Crow and Dr. Jill Sanders at our International French Friendship Ministry Worship Service,” said Jane Pike, of Asbury UMC.
About 100 Asbury members and guests attended the March 9 worship service and potluck.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for us to meet Bishop Trimble, to worship with him and to be inspired by his words of joy, happiness and encouragement,” Pike said.
The International French Friendship Ministry at Asbury is designed to provide a worship service for anyone who is French-speaking. Interpreters are available for non-French speaking attendees.
Pastor Rev. Dr. Willy Mafuta leads the worship team of Pastor Jacques Luzindya, Patrick Munyakazi and Mrs. Gloria Luzindya, said Pike.
“It was a very proud, yet humbling, day for Asbury UMC,” she said. “We at Asbury would like to thank Bishop Trimble for his attendance and hope that someday he will join in our spirit-filled worship service again."
"It was a great honor and pleasure to have the Bishop in our midst,” said Patrick Munyakazi, Steering Committee member, IFFM.
“I recalled the joy that I felt when I was told that Bishop Julius Trimble was coming to worship with the International French Fellowship Ministry,” Munyakazi said. “The Bishop’s visit meant a lot for IFFM.”
“As member and one of the leaders of this new ministry, I realize that the Bishop was really interested to know more our organization,” he continued. “Our team was able to answer all the questions that the Bishop had in mind regarding our activities. We felt very blessed by his presence, but most of all we felt challenge because we believe that the Bishop would like IFFM to growth and be a very useful tool not only in our local community but also in the whole Methodist Church for God’s Glory.”
More than 100 people representing 6 different countries were in attendance on the International French Fellowship Ministry on its inaugural day, January 19, said Rev. Mafuta.
“The influx of immigrants from French-speaking countries gave us the idea to minister to them in the language they are more comfortable with,” he said. “Because I speak French, I regrouped a team of leaders in the community who were looking for an opportunity to work with the Methodists. IFFM was then born.”
“It is fully embraced by Asbury members, he said. “In six weeks, the attendance is between 40 and 55, and it is growing.”
Countries that are represented are Rwanda, Congo, Chad, Haiti, Cameroun, and Togo.
“Our ultimate goal,” said rev. Mafuta. “Is is to be a vibrant multiracial and diverse Church in the Cedar Rapids area.”
Listen to a conversation about the day HERE.
Hear Bishop Trimble's sermon HERE.