The Laity Session kicked off the opening night of 2018 Iowa Annual Conference Friday, promoting inspiration and friendship among lay conference attendees.
“It is so good to be together as the Laity of the United Methodist Church in Iowa,” Iowa Annual Conference Lay Leader Margaret Borgen told the laity at the Conference.
Those gathered first sang, “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place” led by Phil Carver, SE District Field Outreach Minister, followed by Borgen’s introduction of a special presentation from Bishop Laurie Haller.
Bishop Laurie’s message referenced Eph 2: 8-10, for which she told the laity that we are not saved by our faith, rather by God’s grace.
We are God’s accomplishments, she said, “God’s plan is for these good things to be the way we live our lives.”
The bishop shared a story about Count Nicolaus Zinzendorf, a German bishop of the Moravian Church and pioneer of the Protestant mission movement, the message centering on the Christians living in community. Zinzendorf was involved in starting a prayer vigil that would last for 100 years, and he had ties to John Wesley. The men didn’t agree on everything but respected each other and were friends, she said, the fruit of their relationship was helping the Methodist movement catch fire.
"What do we need to give up to be disciples of Christ at the Annual Conference?" Bishop Laurie asked.
"Will it be the need to always be right?" she queried.
Bishop Laurie prefaced future discussion during the Annual Conference Session on how the Iowa Annual Conference could move forward on the sexuality issue, and she spoke about common ground.
“The world needs United Methodists,” she said then prayed for attendees to lay everything aside that might get in the way of accomplishing things at the Conference.
“We have a mission,” she told the crowd, and that is to “make disciples, transform the world and ourselves.”
After her address, Laity Session attendees sang the prayer hymn, "Kum Ba Yah,” which means “Come By Here,” and Borgen shared what the Laity Session is about. The crowd was mixed between first-time attendees and veterans.
Borgen told the crowd it was important to be aligned in the goal for the event, because, “We do not want you to be disappointed!”
The session is no longer conducted in previous formats, she explained, such as strictly a music session, a national speaker, time to conduct business or legislation, or a Q-and-A session.
“What the Board of Laity hopes this session will be, is a time of fellowship, worship, recognizing some of our peers, inspiration, of fun and laughter, and of learning together,” said Borgen.
Laity did have the ability to ask questions via sheets on their individual tables.
“We just are so happy that you are here and deeply hope that you will enjoy this time together,” she said.
Borgen then introduced the members of the Board of Lay Ministry, who each shared a favorite quotation:
Jeff Anderson, Vice Chair/Financial Secretary
“Hope is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel; faith is believing in is not a train”
Karen Benton, SW District:
“What God knows about me is more important than what others think of me.”
Scott Benton, SW District:
“If you tell the truth you don't have to remember what you said.”
Janice Bolger, SC District:
"I can do things that you cannot. You can do things that I cannot. Together we can do great things."
Margaret Borgen, Chair & Conference Lay Leader
“Try to be the rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
Lynn Calvert, President, UMW and Dean for School for Lay Ministry:
“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
Karen Day, NW District
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
Marsha Gerot, SE District, School for Lay Ministry Committee Chair
“In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, step home within yourselves and be still. Wait upon God, and, step home within yourselves and be still. Wait upon God and feel His good presence; this will carry you evenly through your day’s business.”
Angela Hansen-Abbas, Central District:
“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity.
Don't fight them.
Just find a new way to stand.”
Richard Klinefelter, NE District:
“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can come together. God doesn't close one door without opening another. Trusting God means that you know He has the best plan for your life. Disappointments are God's way of saying there is something better. Your situation may not be changing because God wants your heart to change first!”
Duane Kruckenberg, NC District:
“The surest way to fail is to give up. Success happens when you try one more time.”
Marilyn Lancaster, SE District:
“Forget yesterday—it has already forgotten you.
Don’t sweat tomorrow—you haven’t even met.
Instead, open your eyes and your heart to a truly precious gift - Today!”
Colleen Petaros, Conference Director of Lay Servant Ministries:
“Though we cannot think alike may we not love alike?"
Michael Petkewec, EC District:
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
Bev Spencer, Secretary
“Regardless of your experience or circumstances, nothing will be so overwhelming that my joy cannot bring you my peace and love.”
Laity Session attendees sang the hymn "Rise Up, O Saints of God," before Petaros recognized new Certified Lay Speakers and School of Lay Ministry graduates.
Petaros explained the three levels of Lay Ministry of Certified Lay Servant, Lay Speaker and School of Ministry.
The South Sudanese (Mabaan) United Methodist Church in the Central District was honored for having certified 12 Lay Servants this past year.
Three Lay Speakers were honored; Katherine Howell and William Howell, of the SW District, along with Grace Knapper, from the SE District.
Borgen said that the School for Lay Ministry represents a tremendous commitment to learning and service primarily in the local church. The course work is covered over three years in four week-ends per year, she said, plus a substantial amount of reading and written reflection.
Courses are taught by well-qualified members of the Conference, Borgen continued, and cover such topics as Bible, theology, prayer, church history and organization, missions and social concerns, stewardship, ethics and more.
“So while the graduates' walk across the stage is short, their journey has been long and deep,” she said.
The graduates were introduced by the Dean of the Campus they attended and recognized on stage.
Graduates of the School for Lay Ministry recognized at the 2018 Annual Conference were:
Lynn Calvert honoring those from the Cornell campus:
David R Sundberg
Jonathan R Cooper
Joseph E Steckelberg
Julie Dowd Baty
Linda Kay Werner Hines
Mary Irene Horn
Shane M. Waltz
Teresa M. Hoy
John Rothlisberger recognizing the graduates from the Simpson campus:
Mechille S. Boldt
Christine A. McFarland
Nancy N. Sutherland
Bryan K Willis
Leonard W Willis II
Edward E. Young
Dean Gabhart recognized School of Ministry graduates from the Morningside campus:
Gerot offered a prayer for the graduates and their lay ministry, before the Laity Session recognized them with applause.
Gabhart is retiring and was recognized for his service 2006 forward.
Gerot was also recognized for assuming her leadership role of the School for Lay Ministry Commission.
Borgen announced “The Care and Feeding of Pastors” segment of the evening, telling those present it was a serious but fun part of the program.
Building leaders is one of the responsibilities of the Board of Laity, she said. Several members serve on the Kaizen Leadership Team, and one of the team’s areas of discussion is how to develop a Culture of Call where young people and others consider their possible call to Ordained Ministry.
Part of a study by the Team looked at factors that discourage people from responding to a call, Borgen said, and “Sadly, one of several discouraging factors is how churches sometimes treat their pastors.”
“When the Board of Laity discussed this finding at its April meeting,” she said, “the response was 'We can do something about this. If our congregations are just more aware, we can do better.' And that's how this skit and presentation came to be.”
The skit was a, "New Pastor Rap," with an original script written by Jan Hill and directed by Dan Corrow. The Board of Laity players in the rap skit were Jeff Anderson, Toni Anderson, Lynn Calvert, Dan Corrow and Lorene Dykstra, with Shawn Mullen playing drum.
The rap parodied the many and often unreasonable expectations people may have for desired qualities in procuring a pastor.
Following the skit, Rev. Diane McClanahan, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Development at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, spoke, opening with her own skit drawing upon the same humor portrayed in the rap skit, answering a phone call seeking a new pastor.
McClanahan then moved on to discuss care for pastors and supporting them in their ministry of being difference-makers.
“What is my church already doing well to make a positive difference in my pastor’s life,” she asked.
McClanahan talked about making a difference for pastors in their time of transition, some ideas for caring for the parsonage, the importance of pastor’s taking time off and having their own spiritual renewal, as well as professional growth and addressing family needs.
McClanahan invited laity at the session to commit to making a difference in their pastor’s life, and to write these thoughts on cards to be posted on a wall for pastors at the Annual Conference Sessions to see.
“Think of the difference that alone will make for them!” she said.
“We always want to do well,” Borgen said after the conclusion of McClanahan’s address, though this doesn’t always happen.
“This is not about theology,” Borgen stated. “This is about treating pastors well.”
The laity then broke to the four corners for mini-workshops for 30 minutes offering practical tips for the local church.
Monique Shore, Lay Leader at First United Methodist, Grinnell, and a member of the Annual Conference Mental Health Task Force, discussed Mental Illness and the Local Congregation.
Will Raney, Deacon in Extension Ministry, offered advice on How to Grow Your Church for $1 and 1 Minute a Day via Facebook.
Phil Carver, Field Outreach Ministry in the SE District, talked about intentional planning in What is our WIG (Wildly Important Goal)?
John Rothlisberger, national JFON (Justice for our Neighbors) board member, retired school superintendent and Dean of the School for Lay Ministry at Simpson, covered JFON and the Local Congregation.
At the conclusion of the mini-sessions, Duane Kruckenberg offered the Laity Session’s ending benediction, the Session then wrapping up with the hymns "Bind Us Together Lord" and "Pass it On."