IRMS Marks 31 years of service
Iowa Religious Media Services, an ecumenical resource cooperative, marked 31 yeas of service to communities of faith across Iowa during its annual meeting. “Connecting the Dots” was the theme of the event held at the Iowa Conference Center on February 15.
Click to see an album of images from the IRMS gathering
Bishop Laurie Haller was among the denominational leaders who signed the covenant of support for IRMS, which provides a “comprehensive, ecumenical service…[with] a holistic approach to media uses in church and community with access top the resources and talents of hall participating members.” IRMS is supported by the Mid-American Baptist churches. Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), in the Upper Midwest, the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, Synod of Lakes and Prairie, Presbyterian Church USA, Iowa Conference United Church of Christ, and the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Collection helps the whole person to grow
There are some 10,000 DVD’s, VHS tapes, audio recordings, books, and other resources in the collection that is assembled to “assist with faith formation and growth of the whole person including exploration of the Bible and religious issues,” according to the IRMS website.
Through the ministry, “Teachers can touch hearts and open minds through new and creative ideas. Children can learn in new ways, see new possibilities for the future, and grow to be like Jesus. Youth can discover a faith that is made real through stories experienced in a variety of media and through service they engage in together. And adults can ask questions of the spirit and find answers for daily life.”
More than sixty people gathered in the Wesley rooms of the Iowa United Methodist Conference Center for the annual meeting. Members of the IRMS board joined with lay and clergy from the sponsoring organizations and affiliated local faith communities. In prayer, they expressed gratitude “for the many dreamers, visionaries, volunteers, and workers who have made this ministry possible.” They also acknowledged that “as representatives of our varied traditions, we recovenant together to the ministry” of IRMS.
Executive Director declares, "There is still hope!"
Sharon Strohmaier is the Executive Director of IRMS, which is also staffed by a library manager and library associate. In her remarks, she talked about the growth in the number of subscribing congregations including nine smaller United Methodist communities of faith that received scholarship funding by Iowa Conference communications. She talked about “connecting the dots” during her 17th meeting – she began in 2002. Iowa’s viability is impacted, she said, by the declining population across the state where half of the communities have populations of 500 or less. Some 600 towns in Iowa have no schools because of consolidations and closings. The Des Moines metro area is an exception…it’s projected to grow by 41 percent over the twenty-year period between 2010 and 2030. Another sensitive aspect relating to Iowa’s viability is the fact that nearly 700 towns no longer have a grocery. Community gathering spaces are also at risk. And it’s into this changing landscape that churches can provide valuable leadership. “Denominational leaders,” Strohmaier said, “are wanting to connect with communities, to ‘connect the dots,’ often in an environment of decreasing resources.”
Click here to listen to Sharon Strohmaier's remarks.
“The future calls for elegant solutions,” Strohmaier noted. This often comes through organic growth and determination – it took six years of ecumenical dialogue to create IRMS and the “growth of IRMS,” she added, “is because of simplicity and creativity.”
“How can you connect the dots when the only real choice is to close the schools, stores, and gathering places,” the IRMS executive director asked. “This is a time that offers churches terrifying challenge and wonderful opportunity.” It’s a time for “new thinking, different thinking” Strohmaier suggested, noting that closed bowling alleys and nearly abandoned malls are being repurposed as churches and community gathering spaces.
Ultimately, “there is still hope” Strohmaier declared as sue reminded the annual meeting that “IRMS connects churches with resources. It connects churches with denominational partners.”
Bishop Laurie Haller closed the meeting with a challenge. “We need to let go what has been and discover what will be,” she said. “We need to look at our world and ‘connect the dots.’ We need to reach out to the least, last, and lost and live into the vision of what can be.”