Posts by Communications

District News & Announcements – October 2021

District News & Announcements

October 2021

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by October 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

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In this issue

  1. In Our Prayers
  2. Camp Pine Lake News
  3. Patrick Jackson Installation in Cedar Rapids: October 10
  4. Armouraires gospel concert at Dallas Center: October 16
  5. Continuing Education Courses
  6. Moderator Moment
  7. Holiness in our Midst
  8. Leadership Development Musings
  9. Congregational Newsletters

Quick info

Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Northern Plains group attending National Youth Conference in 2018.  Send in your photos for future newsletters!  Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 109

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION CIX: ON ‘HOLY BURDENS’

Story Circle Prompt: Is God giving you a “Holy Burden’ to help address these times of national and international turmoil? What are you being called to do?

In a taped sermon on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, Rev. April G. Johnson, Minister of Reconciliation for the Christian church (Disciples of Christ), empowered all Ames First Christian Church members to be leaders and implored us to name our individual “holy burdens” from God to address these tumultuous times.

Because my attention has been focused recently on the lingering damage from the derecho of Aug. 10, 2020, my “holy burden” has become the planting of trees. I figure that each of us Iowans, all 3.2 million of us, will have to plant at least two trees just to replace the trees destroyed by what has been deemed “the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The destruction is immense. In a Des Moines Register article on Sept. 17, 2021, reporter Donnelle Eller detailed an Iowa Natural Resources report on the extent of the derecho damage. “Iowa lost an estimated 7.2 million trees in cities and farms when last year’s hurricane-force derecho swept across the state,” she wrote. Daniel Perrault of TV station KWWL in Cedar Rapids interviewed Iowa DNR Disaster Recovery Coordinator Nick McGrath on Sept. 15, 2021, about recovery from the effects of the derecho. McGrath estimated that “it will take 30 to 60 years to get the ecosystem back to something close to what it was before the storm.” 

McGrath gave some direction to those of us who wish to plant trees. He said the DNR encourages all Iowans to plant new native trees to help the ecosystem recover. (The DNR state forest nursery gives out seedlings.)  He also said that “utility companies Alliant, Black Hills Energy, and Mid-American are funding some grants, and Trees Forever has held several tree adoption events.” In my research, I read that the Iowa Arboretum and Gardens in Madrid lost about 40 per cent of its collection and launched a “ReLeaf campaign this year. 

These are some starting points for those who also feel called to replace the trees that the winds destroyed. (Let me know about your tree-planting efforts!) If your focus is elsewhere, what is your call to action? 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the following: What am I being called to do to make this world a more peaceful place for all?

FOR GROUP STUDY:

      1.   Read aloud Session CIX.

      2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – September 2021

District News & Announcements

September 2021

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by September 24th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Trouble viewing pictures and videos? 
Click here to view the newsletter in your browser.

TO PRINT – go to browser view
Windows: right click + Print OR [Ctrl] + P
Mac: [Ctrl] + click + Print OR [Command] + P

In this issue

  1. In Our Prayers: Don Butler (1933-2021)
  2. Camp Pine Lake News
  3. 2021 District Conference Report, Business Overview, and Board Reorganization
  4. Introducing 2022 District Conference Theme
  5. Patrick Jackson Installation in Cedar Rapids: October 10
  6. Continuing Education Courses
  7. Holiness in our Midst
  8. Leadership Development Musings
  9. Dick Burger Honored at the Iowa State Fair
  10. Paul Shaver Called to Bethany Seminary, Concludes Ministry with Ivester
  11. BVS Volunteers Needed
  12. Congregational Newsletters

Quick info

Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Participants gather over zoom for our virtual District Conference.  Photo by Paul Shaver. Send in your photos for future newsletters!  Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 108

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION CVIII: ON LIFE-CHANGING WORDS

Story Circle Prompt: Share some words that were life-changing for you. Who spoke them? Where were you at the time? What happened because of them?

It was only a two-minute happening 14 or 15 years ago, yet it has had lifelong instructive value. The scene was a parking lot outside of a guest house in Daytona Beach, FL. I was attending a National Council of Churches event, a meeting of the Education and Leadership Ministries Commission. My role was to represent mission educators among leaders of other interest areas. Gathered with a group that was going out to eat, I was catching up with an ecumenical colleague and continuing the conversation as we got into a car. The person driving, who was representing community churches, asked me a question: “Janis, do you mind reframing your conversation so that all of us can participate?” I was quietly called out for conducting a side conversation in a group setting. All during the meeting, participants were asked to be conscious of others when we were around tables. We were encouraged to sit with people we did not know well and were given thoughtful questions that everyone could participate fully in.  (Perhaps, this column was born in those hours.) New friendships all around were formed during that weekend. 

The parking lot encounter in Florida also awakened me to the toxicity of exclusion, no matter how commonplace, innocently conducted or socially acceptable the practice of engaging in private conversations in public. (Spaces for closed conversations can be easily arranged.) Especially now, when the pandemic carries with it inherent isolation, I find myself thinking about including others at work, community gatherings and even in grocery lines. On one hand, the consequences of unchecked deliberate exclusion can be devastating, ranging from hurt feelings to covert bullying if there in a power differential between the persons. On the other, the results of intentional inclusion can be awakening, enlightening and life changing.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the following: Share the story behind words that changed your life. 
  1. FOR GROUP STUDY:

      1.   Read aloud Session CVIII.

      2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – August 2021

District News & Announcements

August 2021

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by August 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Trouble viewing pictures and videos? 
Click here to view the newsletter in your browser.

TO PRINT – go to browser view
Windows: right click + Print OR [Ctrl] + P
Mac: [Ctrl] + click + Print OR [Command] + P

In this issue

  1. 2021 DISTRICT CONFERENCE: AUGUST 6-8, 2021
  2. DC Young Adult Worship Service
  3. Camp Pine Lake News
  4. Panora Pancake Breakfast & Ice cream social
  5. Disaster Ministries Building Project, King Lake, NE
  6. Continuing Education Courses
  7. Holiness in our Midst
  8. Leadership Development Musings
  9. National Youth Conference 2022
  10. Feeding America campaign for the Northern Plains District
  11. NOAC Scholarships
  12. CoB Olympic Athletes
  13. Congregational Newsletters

Quick info

Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Campers and counselors acting silly.  Photo by Betsy Kuecker. Send in your photos for future newsletters!  Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 107

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION CVII: ON HORIZON-EXPANDING EXPERIENCES

Story Circle Prompt: Do you have a horizon-expanding experience (or experiences) to share?

This question is inspired by an event that happened Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and of spaceflight company Blue Origin, flew into suborbital space with other civilian passengers in a rocket named New Shepard. Upon landing, he was interviewed by NBC’s Stephanie Ruhle about the horizon-expanding experience. 

“It’s amazing. There are no words. I’m not talented enough to put this into words. When you look at the planet, there are no borders,” Bezos said. “It’s one planet, and we share it and it’s fragile.”

He added: “We have to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future. We live on this beautiful planet. You can’t imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space.” (Personal note to Mr. Bezos: Hopefully, you can use some of your resources to make our lovely Earth a cleaner, safer, more equitable place. Note to self: Same message.)

Bezos’ reactions to his flight touched me and prompted me to contemplate my own horizon-expanding experiences. Three came to mind:

  1. When I was in my early twenties, I was a reporter for the Canton (IL) Daily Ledger. A trainer at a skydiving center in Peoria offered to pay for my jump school if I would write about the experience. I went for it! I jumped out of a small aircraft. From 10,000 feet above an Illinois field, I could see a big X where I would land. But all my fears suddenly turned to joy. I hadn’t anticipated the life-changing impact of a minute of free-falling. I hummed “Up, Up and Away” by the group, The 5th Dimension:

Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly, we can fly

Caught up in the flying part, I landed with quite a thud, but also with a wider perspective on adventuring through life.

  1. In my early twenties, I was on a vacation trip to the Everglades. I was awakened in my motel room well past midnight by some primal force. I sat on the floor and looked out the large plate glass window into another eon. I was made aware that the world was millions of years old and would be here long after I was gone. The deep, dark, mysterious jungle-y beauty of the Everglades was lit by moonlight. I felt connected to the Earth in a once-in-a-lifetime way. Past, present and future problems seemed insignificant. I stayed there, transported, for a long, long time.
  1. In 2002, I was on a night flight over the Sahara Desert from Amsterdam enroute to southern Sudan. For hours, I could see nothing but a few pinpoints of light. The vastness and darkness of the beautiful ancient land of Africa seeped into my soul and stayed. 

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the question: Have you ever received “postcards” from God? What were the images or messages?
  2. FOR GROUP STUDY:

      1.   Read aloud Session CVII.

      2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – July 2021

District News & Announcements

July 2021

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by July 25th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Trouble viewing pictures and videos? 
Click here to view the newsletter in your browser.

TO PRINT – go to browser view
Windows: right click + Print OR [Ctrl] + P
Mac: [Ctrl] + click + Print OR [Command] + P

In this issue

  1. Camp Pine Lake News
  2. Dave Kerkove’s Turtle Jubilee Birthday Party – July 18
  3. Dallas Center Ice Cream Social – July 21st
  4. 2021 Virtual District Conference
  5. Moderator Moment
  6. Holiness in our Midst
  7. National Youth Conference 2022
  8. Feeding America campaign for the Northern Plains District
  9. NOAC Scholarships
  10. Congregational Newsletters

Quick info

Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: Congrats district graduates – Addison Gingrich from Open Circle and Emma Cage, Tom Lee from Lewiston.  Photos by Beth Cage. Send in your photos for future newsletters!  Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 106

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION CVI: ON ‘POSTCARDS FROM GOD”

Story Circle Prompt: Do you receive “postcards from God?” How are they delivered? What are the messages/images?

My practice of looking for “postcards from God” began April 15, 2020, the Wednesday after Easter. It was back in the days when all I worried about was a world-wide pandemic. (I have since added the future of U.S. democracy.) 

I had called into the Ames First Christian Church noontime prayer line. During sharing time, I was touched by a member of the circle who had come across 70 picture postcards while cleaning drawers and had used them to send messages of good cheer while life was at a standstill. After the leader closed with prayer. I found myself spontaneously saying, “P.S., Lord, please send us little postcards from you.” (My real prayer to the Almighty at the time was something like: What in the WORLD are you doing? Where ARE you?”  Hence, I did not expect an answer to my request.)

The next day, sitting at my desk, I looked down at a yellow stickie note. It stood out like a neon sign. My first postcard had been hiding in plain sight. The note preserved a quote I saw in the Chat Box during the Easter Sunday Zoom service three days earlier. Former Pastor David Digby had written: “The dog and I walked in the cool and cleansing rain this morning out at Peterson Pits, a bit after sunrise, and we thought long thoughts about Resurrection and eternity and love, and the rain baptized us both with Easter and hope. It was good.” 

More than a year later, I have opened a whole file cabinet in my brain and an actual file on my computer to store all the postcards I have received. My definition of “postcards from God” has become “visual images so moving that I want to frame them or word pictures so strong that they leave a lasting impression.” Receiving them changed my prayer stance from chronic complainer to active recorder of ways God is communicating with me!

Here are some postcards from my “collection”:

In the early evening on Earth Day 2020, the weather vacillated between sunshiny and rainy on a “joy drive” through the countryside. Rainbow conditions, for sure. As I alternately drove through fields of sunbeams, windows down, and sheets of rain, I was conscious of many glorious picture postcards from God. A weathered shed shrouded in swirling clouds. A farmstead on a hill, its two-story house, barns, poplar windbreak and silo silhouetted against the setting sun. A patchwork quilt of fields as far as my eye could see. To do justice to the memory of the images that day, there would have to be a scratch and sniff feature to capture that fragrance of just-planted Iowa black earth when the rain settles the dust. (My Scrabble-playing friends know that this is called petrichor.) Driving past the farm I grew up on near the town of Fernald, I hinted to God that a rainbow over it just then would be a fine touch, a perfect postcard, but no. For the record, a double rainbow hung over my apartment building and adjacent field as I pulled into my parking lot that evening. For real!

…….

A few days later my friend Tony, a geriatric social worker from suburban Chicago, sent his latest round of e-mail photos from woodland trails. He is a modern-day St. Francis of Assisi. Even on his bike, wildlife likes and trusts him, even follows him around. I began categorizing his visual images and word pictures of snapping turtles, salamanders, bald eagles and great blue herons as “postcards from God.” One morning after his sister Debra passed away in October, he woke up early, thinking of her. Along his walking path that morning was a doe with four fawns. 

…….

Around this time, I stopped in at Casey’s on Lincoln Highway in Nevada for my daily papers and treats. Meghin, the associate on duty, was sitting down at her cash register station. “He likes breadsticks,” she said, pointing to her tummy. “Are you eating for two?” I asked, though I could see the answer. She volunteered that she had gotten a sonogram of her ultrasound earlier that day and wondered if I would like to see it. “Yes, of course!” The thought, “postcard from God,” flashed through my mind as I got my first glimpse of little Alexzander (yes, spelled with a z), who already had dark locks of hair. Alex appeared in person on June 17, 2020. Though I have never actually met him, I have followed his visits to grandpa and his attempts to fly before he walked on Mehgin’s iPhone, each image a precious postcard in an ongoing series. In one memorable video, in a front-facing baby carrier, he is kicking and squealing at the fish in the aquarium at Blank Park Zoo. (I just saw pictures from his first birthday party.)

…….

The daily lives of my family members are also a source of holy postcards. An example: the photo my younger sister Jill of the Denver suburbs sent from Mother’s Day 2020. There she was surrounded by her grandchildren with their gift of a clay flowerpot decorated with butterflies and flowers created from their handprints and footprints. Another postcard was from my older sister Janet, who lives in an assisted living center in Dallas Center. In vivid detail, she described a group effort to create a dazzling display of 100 hearts in all colors and sizes to surprise a resident on her hundredth birthday.

…….

For a couple weeks in June of 2020, a row of poster-sized photos of the Nevada High School Class of 2020 was attached to the south side of the school’s chain link fence baseball diamond. More like a banner than a postcard, the grouping withstood all sorts of weather. More than once, I wondered if this class was set apart by God for something special, uniquely strengthened from the bond formed by COVID-19 hardships. Time will tell. 

…….

In the early evening after the derecho on Aug. 10, 2020, my neighbors and I assessed the damage on our street. We were accompanied by the only living being grateful for the storm: Ryder, our apartment building German Shepherd, named after the trucking company. Because she lives to pick up sticks, she had already amassed enough for a bonfire on our lawn. A postcard image is etched in my mind from that walk: Ryder smiling at me while holding a stick in her mouth. Heaven for her is an eternal game of fetch.

…….

On Dec. 21, 2020, I bundled up in the late evening to behold the brilliant light, the “Star of Bethlehem,” from the once-in-800-years alignment of Jupiter and Saturn and pronounced it a “postcard from God.”

…….

Still, in 2021, the postcards keep coming, not every day, but often enough to help me realize that there is an abiding order to the Universe. I often think back to the most dramatic postcard I received. On April 17, 2020, just two days after becoming conscious of the concept. I entered the kitchen at my workplace, Windsor Manor Assisted Living Center in Nevada. I was given permission to visit a resident named Bill in his final hours. As I sat on a chair holding his hand and saying my good-byes, I was aware only of his shallow breathing and a big colorful sign outside his window, which read WELCOME HOME. The thought, “postcard from God,” crossed my mind as I took time to thank him for being so kind to me in my role as culinary server. On my day off, Bill had returned from the hospital, and his friends had put the sign outside his window to welcome him back to his room. But the message was also visible as he was passing. I was able to suggest to the family, as a comfort, that perhaps it was no coincidence the sign was still in place as he crossed over to his Heavenly Home.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the question: Have you ever received “postcards” from God? What were the images or messages?
  1. FOR GROUP STUDY:

      1.   Read aloud Session CVI.

      2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

District News & Announcements – June 2021

District News & Announcements

June 2021

“District News and Announcements” is a monthly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Church of the Brethren in the Northern Plains District.  District Leaders, Commissions, Committees, and those doing special ministries share information on programs and activities.  Local churches share news and invitations.  Send submissions by June 24th for inclusion in next month’s newsletter to Hannah Button-Harrison, Director of Communications, communications@nplains.org.

Trouble viewing pictures and videos? 
Click here to view the newsletter in your browser.

TO PRINT – go to browser view
Windows: right click + Print OR [Ctrl] + P
Mac: [Ctrl] + click + Print OR [Command] + P

In this issue

  1. Thomas McMullin Ordination Ceremony – June 6
  2. Camp Pine Lake News
  3. Dave Kerkove’s Turtle Jubilee Birthday Party – July 18
  4. Dallas Center Ice Cream Social – July 21st
  5. 2021 Virtual District Conference
  6. Moderator Moment
  7. Holiness in our Midst
  8. District-wide Compelling Vision Bible Study Continues
  9. Feeding America campaign for the Northern Plains District
  10. NOAC Scholarships
  11. Congregational Newsletters

Quick info

Calendar of Events | District Staff & Leadership Contacts | Documents & Resources

Banner photo: This tree frog was found visiting the red house at Camp Pine Lake.  Photo by Betsy Kuecker. Send in your photos for future newsletters!  Email communications@nplains.org.

Holiness in our Midst: Session 105

Holiness in our Midst

SESSION CV: ON ‘HOME WORSHIP CENTERS’

Story Circle Prompt: Describe your Home Worship Center and its meaning to you. If you do not have such a center, imagine how you might create one.

My Home Worship Center has a perfect red maple leaf, two smooth stones and a copy of a letter to God written in red ink by Eileen Sambos, a fellow member of First Christian Church in Ames. They are artifacts from a Fall Women’s Retreat in September 2019 on Lake Koronis in Paynesville, MN. The event was sponsored by the Upper Midwest Region of the Disciples of Christ denomination. 

The letter has a story behind it. Eileen was scheduled to give the pray before Sunday breakfast at the retreat, but she was having trouble finding the right words. As she talked through what she wanted to say, I said, “It sounds like you’re writing a letter to God.” For her prayer that morning, she did present her thoughts as a letter God and later gave a copy to me. 

My worship center items remind me of a spectacular autumn get-away weekend, a time of innocence before COVID-19 complicated our lives. Collectively, they transport me to a time and space truly apart from my hectic daily life, immediately putting me in a worshipful frame of mind. My gift from Eileen reminds me to write my thoughts in a letter to God when I do not know what or how to pray. My small sacred space invites me to come closer to God, as I read my morning devotions and begin my day with prayer.

FOR PERSONAL/JOURNAL REFLECTION:

Read the above reflection. Describe your Home Worship Center. Why did you choose these elements? How does your center give meaning to your devotional life? If you do not have such a center, imagine on paper what yours might include.

FOR GROUP STUDY:

      1.   Read aloud Session CV.

      2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.