Bishop Laurie Haller called the 2020 Iowa Annual virtual Legislative session to order and began by saying, “None of us could have dreamed a year ago that we would be meeting this way. In the midst of COVID-19, we are learning a new way to do Holy conferencing. I trust that we will help one another with the technology, that we will be patient with one another, and that we will see God at work through the new thing that God is doing with us and the decisions that we need to make.”
Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson, Director of Congregational Excellence delivered the Opening Worship along with Rev. Ronald Carlson, Superintendent Northwest District, and Rev. Melissa Drake, Superintendent Southwest District.
The Conference heard from the Scripture reading from Isaiah 43:1-7.
Rev. Johnson told a story about how when he was a little boy, he was afraid of monsters under his bed and he was afraid to go to sleep. His dad would come into his room and get rid of all those monsters. Eventually, he wasn’t afraid of the monsters but knew that, when his dad came in to check for monsters, he was loved.
“In other words, I wanted to be reminded daily in a tangible way that I was loved. And be reminded that love, in action, is the antidote to fear. After all, isn't that what we all long for, to have love or to be loved? Love casts out fear—whatever that fear might be in our lives,” said Johnson.
Watch the AC2020 Opening Worship from the Legislative Session - here
Opening Worship - "The Mission Doesn't Stop" Video
Johnson went on to say that the scripture from Isaiah 43 reminds us that God is present with us in difficult times. When we pass through the deep waters, we shall not be overwhelmed because God is with us. When we walk through the fires of life, we shall not be burned because God is with us. When we face a world-wide pandemic, God is with us. Those of us who claim the name of Jesus should know we need not live in fear, but how do we help others, especially those who do not yet know Christ, also not live in fear?
Johnson told a story about how a little girl responded to finding out her classmates had committed a violent crime, saying with conviction in her voice, “They needed someone who loved them and showed them that, someone that really cared about them.”
“Knowing we are loved—this is the antidote for fear,” Johnson said. “As people of faith, we do not need to fear because we are loved. We are loved by a God that has not left us—in fact, one who walks with us. This does not mean we can or should be careless in the face of COVID-19. It is not a matter of faith over fear causing us to dismiss the seriousness of the virus.”
Johnson went on to say how proud Bishop Laurie and the entire cabinet is about all the ways churches have responded in this season of COVID-19, saying, “There is always more work to do, more love to share, more people to reach, but thank you to each one of you for telling and showing people in creative ways they are loved.
He thanked them for casting out fear and showing with their words and actions that the people of each community is loved by God.
“Thank you for reminding people that when they are going through deep waters God is with them, and the churches of the Iowa Annual Conference are as well,” said Johnson.