Margaret Borgen, Conference Lay Leader, looks to strengthen ‘bond of Christian faith’

Margaret Borgen, Conference Lay Leader, looks to strengthen ‘bond of Christian faith’

January 15, 2015

Margaret Borgen is the new Lay Leader of the Iowa Conference.  In that role she looks to strengthen “the bond of our Christian faith.”


Margaret became the Conference Lay Leader following the untimely death of Dave Decker last fall.  “I never expected to be in this role,” she said, “because Dave loved this role and I know he would have stayed in it as long as our Discipline allows.”  Noting that, “We were very different people,” she added, “we just go along so well and I think we learned a lot from each other.”  It was a “great experience” working with Dave Decker.  “It was a real pleasure to work with him.  We recognized our differences but we also recognized how we both felt about the church and about making disciples and all the things that this role is about.”  In retrospect, she feels that “without preparing me he was helping to prepare me” because of their frequent conversations.


Margaret Borgen is no stranger to Conference leadership.  “Sometime during Bishop Job’s years,” she remembers receiving a phone call from “someone who asked me to chair the Conference Council on Ministries…I spent a lot of time talking with Bishop Job and praying about it.”  Assuming new, major responsibilities has “been the story of my life in some ways.”


Dave Decker and Margaret, who was, at the time, the Associate Conference Lay Leader, worked closely together.  “Because Dave lived a distance from here, and once he knew me well, he’d often ask me to go to meetings for him – either because it was a distance or a conflict, or before he retired.”  That’s a pattern she plans to continue.  “I plan to…have other people who are on the Board of Laity to fulfill that role.  It will be something very sound for multiple people to be involved.”


Significant responsibility to speak for the laity


“No one can really be the voice of everyone,” she admits.  “You can only really speak from your own heart and knowledge.  At the same time, I feel it’s so important to try to be sensitive to everybody, to bring different voices to the table.” 

The Board of laity includes “All the district lay leaders and then there’s a secretary, treasurer, and chairperson.  There are also representatives of programs that followed by the Board of Laity, like the Heifer Project, Scouting, the Ingathering, and others.  We also have a member of the Cabinet who is assigned.”

The Board is a representative sample of the perspectives, ideal, hopes, and dreams of the laity of the Conference. “With the size of the group there’s enough diversity of experience, geography, and other diversity and differing interest that comes to the table,” she said.  That’s important she observes, because “Everybody has different experiences.”

Big goals

“One of the big goals that we have worked on the last few years,” Margaret reports, “is helping to equip laity, which is in line with our strategic priorities.”  With a background in education she feels “We’re so fortunate to have, in Iowa,  the incredible School for Lay Ministry, something that nobody else has…it’s such an amazing opportunity for lay people.”

A second goal is to continue to support the development of lay servant ministries.  “I think the new framing of that is so sound,” she said, “such a good idea because I think people saw it before as primarily preaching.  There are so many more things that a lay servant can do in a local church.”  

She has other particular interests, as Lay Leader of the Conference.  One is stewardship.  “I mean stewardship is a wide sense, our resources, who we are, and our money.  I think that’s part of our spiritual life, our commitment to God and to our church.”

Worship attendance is a second focus.  “I really am concerned sometimes about attendance at worship.  We have so many more members than we do people at worship.”  Margaret Borgen spoke, in personal terms, about worship.  “For me, daily worship is where the faith is nurtured. It’s where you get ideas to think about and inspiration as well as your action in support of your congregation.  I read somewhere, recently, a poll in which people feel that if they attend church half the time that they are regular attenders.  I don’t think that that’s good enough.  It seems to me that worship is a regular discipline, something that’s very important.”

A third is “the improvement of our lives – what we do and the choices that we make.”

A fourth area is a caring conversation about the issues that face the church.  “There are always big issues, always have been historically, and there always will be.  I feel strongly that we can’t walk away from those and that we need to think about.”  She has particular guidance – “In all of our decision-making we need to think about what the Gospel tells us…to try to think of the response of our faith, in the grace of God…what does that say to me in a particular decision.”

The “big issues” have a personal, people impact.  “We need to ask,” she says, “both who is helped and who is hurt as I make a decision.”

Margaret Borgen, as the Iowa Conference Lay Leader, looks to foster a caring, compassionate environment for our conversation.  “I want to help people to feel comfortable talking about the issues and to do that without judgment.”  Aware that “We’re all on a journey about issues,” she also realizes that “People are in different places.  Even so, she believes, “wherever people are needs to be honored, and not in judgment.  No matter what our issues are I’d like us to be able to, and be willing to, listen to each other in respectful conversations.”

She’s confident that “In faith we can get to solutions, and in the church it’s more than respect, it’s love, because that’s there in the bond of our Christian faith, no matter how much we may disagree.”