"Being Christ In Community" – church charters in Johnston

April 16, 2018

Worshippers at Johnston River of Life on Easter Sunday 2018.
Easter Sunday at Johnston River of Life was a celebration in more ways than one this year. This new church plant has taken the next step in the life of a church by choosing to charter with the Iowa United Methodist Conference.
“We had the intent to charter a United Methodist church in Johnston by staying in connection with Des Moines New Hope. When we began building relationships in the community, it became the best choice to charter,” said Pastor Craig Ferguson. Ferguson serves both Johnston River of Life (JROL) and Hopkins Grove U.M. Church in Madrid.
Chartering means that the congregation has voted to become full members of the denomination, with approval from the conference. A special service is held, and people are given the opportunity to join as individual members of the church. After the service, leaders of the new-formed church gather to create committees such as Staff Parrish Relations Committee and the Mission Committee. Detailed information on Chartering can be found in the Book of Discipline, Section VII, paragraph 259.
“This church is totally involved in their mission statement,” said Bishop Laurie Haller, who led the chartering service. “The thing I noticed the most was the smiles that day. They were able to set aside any differences they had and come together and focus on Christ and the community.”
Their mission statement is Being Christ in Community, and Pastor Ferguson says people that attend at JROL are not only aware of it, they are truly committed to it.
“We are community engaged and people know that from the start,” said Pastor Ferguson. “We’ve been raising up and sending out leaders, even before we chartered. We have sent people to seminary, School for Lay Ministry, and disciples into our local community.”
Left to Right: Central District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Heecheon Jeon, Bishop Laurie Haller, Pastor Craig Ferguson, and Director of New Communities of Faith Rev. Bill Poland.
JROL meets in Beaver Creek Elementary School on Saturday night and Sunday morning, using a trailer to store everything they need for worship. 
“Because they don’t have a building, they have more freedom,” said Bishop Laurie. “The trailer they have holds all of their worship materials like the praise band equipment. Someone has to set it up and take it down every week, which takes time and effort, but because of this they can focus their human and financial resources on really being in the community and the world.”
The vision of the church doesn’t end at chartering, however. They are currently discussing renting a 7-day-space in Johnston, where they can be constantly in front of and involved in their community.
“We envision a community space that could hold a coffee shop, art classes, ESL courses, and other classes,” said Pastor Ferguson. “We want to be friendly to business professionals and the modern generation, giving them a place to relax and work. A place where we could adjust the space as needed for worship.”
All of these new ideas center on the simple idea of Being Christ in the Community, and Bishop Laurie is hopeful for the church’s future.
“When Pastor Craig took renewal leave (last summer), the church members really stepped up,” said Bishop Laurie. “He puts his heart and soul into the church. He has the right personality to be at a new church start. The most important thing for them is to continually keep their mission statement in front of them.”
To get involved or learn more about Johnston River of Life, visit their website www.johnstonriveroflife.org, or find them on Facebook www.facebook.com/JohnstonRiverOfLife/.