January 2019 Informer

Merry Christmas! (keep celebrating with your January Informer)

Christmas doesn’t end until this Sunday, Epiphany. On Epiphany we celebrate the gift of the magi to Jesus and the revelation to the broader world that this child was something different. On epiphany, we celebrate the revelation that Jesus came into the world as a beacon for us. In the days when Twelfth Night (that is, the night before Epiphany) was a bigger time for celebration than Christmas Day, it also marked the start of a new time in our calendars. Some of you may still have the tradition of holding the magi out of your nativity scenes until Epiphany. Here (among other places, including New Orleans) you may even bake a King Cake in their honor.

This Epiphany, we have another way of celebrating the gifts of the Magi. Our Capital Campaign Committee has designated January 6 as the day to receive our pledges for the capital campaign. Depending on who you are, different parts of this campaign may speak to you. Maybe you think it’s time, after 25 years, to retire our outstanding debt from building the church. Maybe you’ve taken a look at the bathrooms and wondered if there are more efficient ways to use the space and live into our mission. Maybe, in your hours of contemplation while mowing the back yard, you’ve thought if there were ways to reclaim the topsoil carted away when we built the land, to improve drainage, and to increase pollinator activity around our garden. If you’re like me, you miss having recycling and trash bins in predictable places, rather than as makeshift water pails. And maybe you’ve sunk down into a seat in the blue room and wondered if you would ever get out. As the Magi visited Jesus and imagined something new so many years ago, we imagine something (on a much smaller scale) new and possible for the future now. Our gifts help us build the facilities that we can fill with our imaginations and creations to realize God’s vision for us in Ankeny. I’ll have my card. If you’ve already returned yours, thank you! If not, I invite you to join me with yours on Sunday. Our campaign target is $225,000, roughly 1.5x our budget over three years.

Grace and Peace, Pastor Nathan

Ankeny UCC June Newsletter

Get your June 2017 Ankeny UCC Newsletter!

Dear Church-
In the midst of national division, even watching the news can create a feeling of isolation within us. We wonder whether we are alone in our thoughts and beliefs. We wonder whether we are safe going out of doors (we are! It’s just that every crime is reported 20 times!), we wonder whether anyone can understand what we are going through, and afraid to speak for fear of being shown to be weak or broken.

This spring, we read through the Gospel of Luke and some of Paul’s letters to the Galatians. Throughout those stories, we saw messages of connection and community. Jesus certainly new the great global game Israel suffered under, with a king appointed by a foreign power and people subject to military rule. But in the midst of it all, Jesus and then Paul reached out to people who were different, and invited them in for meals. They recognized that power does not come from above. Power comes from the Holy Spirit, the presence of God that joins us whenever two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus not to talk only about the weather, but to talk about our hopes and fears, to talk about what we are seeking, and how we might accomplish our goals together.

As part of the work of the Welcoming Task Force and AMOS, our council spent a large part of May’s meeting talking about the importance of one on one lunches, coffees, walks, and talks that take more than a few minutes and trend not toward talking about other people and other news, but about our own pains and joys, hopes and fears. This is the best way to build our relationships together, so we can welcome more fully, explore more deeply, care more intensely, and serve more joyfully.


Ankeny UCC March 2017 Newsletter

Our monthly newsletter and calendar available here!

March 1, 2017
Dear Church-
Welcome to Lent! This period of 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays) commemorates Jesus’s time in the wilderness dealing with the weight of understanding who he was and where he was going. Who was he? God’s Son, but fully human and equally the son of Mary and Joesph? A healer? A scholar? A carpenter? A Fisherman? Where did he fit in in the world of ancient Jerusalem? He was a Jew among Jews, but he also had a different understanding of where the world was going. So he was an outsider even as he was an insider.

Throughout Lent, we’ll explore this theme in Jesus’s life. Our scriptures for worship in this Lent contain some of the most famous insider-outsider dynamics of the New Testament: The Good Samaritan, The Lost Sheep, Zaccheus, and even the city of Jerusalem. We’ll complement that with our Wednesday night studies!

This year, we’ll kick off our Lenten potlucks at 6pm on Wednesdays, with the program to start at 6:30. We’ll have speakers March 15, March 22, and March 29, with in-depth studies and activities around Bible stories on March 8 and April 5. March 15, Beth Yale will share some of her work from her, Martha, and Teddy’s fall in Germany. March 22, we’re talking with Dhoal Larjin, a US citizen, ISU grad, and Ankeny resident, who has twice been made a refugee from conflicts in South Sudan. And March 29, we’ll host John and Karen Campbell Nelson, missionaries in Indonesia with UCC/DOC Global Ministries.

Along with our adult programming, Sarah has been working on youth CE opportunities and projects, so bring your whole family as we explore Insiders and Outsiders in the Bible and our world today.

Come, explore with us.

Ankeny UCC February Newsletter

Hot off the presses: 2-17 Ank UCC NL

Dear Church-
A recurring theme in the New Testament is a gathering of disciples to figure out where they should go. Whether it is in Jesus’s call to the first disciples, the determination of the 12 apostles, the great commissioning of missionaries, or the gathering in an upper room to figure out what Jesus’s death meant, the gospels and Acts are full of planning sessions. And this is a model for us as a church. How do we listen to one another’s stories and then understand the story our church is to tell together?

Our Church Council gathered for retreat on January 24 to ask “Where Are We Going?” As we explored our faith together, and what it meant to us to be a Welcoming Church Family, Exploring Progressive Christian Theology, Caring Within and Serving Beyond, we set goals for each of these areas in our church life, from the important question of ensuring consistent greeting and welcome every week to examining once again whether we should adopt a church inclusivity statement and add our names to the list of Open and Affirming churches in the UCC to increasing participation in studies and helping people identify the ministries of the church they’d most like to live in their lives. On February 19, we’ll have an opportunity in worship to talk and explore more about what that looks like for each one of us. I hope you’ll join us as we find new ways of being the church together.

Come, explore with us.

July Newsletter

Our July 2016 Ankeny UCC Newsletter, starting with this letter from Pastor Nathan:

Dearest Theophilus-
While we are in the usual summer program slowdown, a number of people have decided to make this a summer of study and exploration. Our Council has been working on setting measurable goals that challenge us to go out and do things. We’re midway through our Monday book group’s read of Beyond Resistance: the Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern Age (a big fancy way of saying: the world of church is going to be nearly unrecognizable in 20 years, so we need to make sure our focus is on how we serve people in our community, growing in fath through connections with people if we are to thrive in the new world), and Nancy Pingel, Doug Fulton, Annette Hong, and I are taking an online class from the Center for Progressive Renewal called Church Renewal 1.0, where we’re examining in-depth what other churches in similar settings and situations have done to reorient themselves to be relevant in the lives of their communities. And our #UnexpectedQuestions group addressing what we do with the faith questions of the children in our lives is meeting monthly at Firetrucker.

As we’ve read through the books, it’s become clear that it’s unlikely we will thrive by remaining the same. And that’s scary. It’s scary to think about losing treasured elements of worship, or letting go of ministries, or going out to talk with and serve people outside the church as part of the church. It’s scary to make choices we know may result in people deciding not to come, or deciding not to stay. And that’s good. It’s good to be a little scared. One line that really stuck out from our Church Renewal Class is that courage is fear that has said its prayers. Faith in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, faith in the infinite possibilities of God, faith in the gift of Jesus Christ can give us the strength to meet our fears, knowing that doing nothing creates loss, too. One look at our budgets and average weekly attendance for the past four years tells us that the way we have lived into our mission has not fully matched up with the spiritual needs of our community.

We’ve spent money with consultants to study us, and they’ve given recommendations. We’ve done self-study to understand who we think we are. And now is our time to act. Now is the time for courage. Now is the time to tell our story out loud and in public. Our sermon series for August will be on Public Narrative—the story of Me, the story of Us, and the story of Now. How do we tell our stories and live into our final acts?

Lenten Comings and Goings

Feb 10, 2015


We enter into our season of Lent with contemplation on our minds and reconciliation in our hearts. This Christian season remembers Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness responding to his call to ministry and the 40 years Israel sojourned in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. In these 40 days, we are invited into new practices that push us to change the way we look at ourselves and our roles in the world. In worship, we will be moving some elements around for Lent, and doing one or two experimental things. In my personal life, I will be reading through all the parts of Mark that we’re missing in worship, and invite you to do the same with posts on our website and facebook page. But we’re starting with Penitential Pancakes tonight at 5:30pm and our service calling us to Holy Lent on Ash Wednesday at 6:15 tonight.

On this solemn note, I also share the news that after several years and four ministers, Jennifer, our church secretary, has decided to resign her position and move on. Join me in thanking her for her service, wishing her well and keeping her in your thoughts and prayers as someone who has been part of this congregation’s life for a long time.

This also means we’ll need some volunteer help in the office while we work on a new job description and engage in our job search. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me on my cell phone at 515-639-0602 or stop by community office hours at Cafe Diem tomorrow (or to volunteer to fold bulletins this week).


February 1 Pastor’s Letter

February 1, 2016

Greetings, our siblings in Christ!

This year, the season of Lent begins early—February 10. This is great news. For me, at least, February is always the hardest month of the year. Winter slogs on, each snow and subzero day becomes a little more dispiriting, and I just don’t want to leave the house. But in Lent, we are called to contemplate our calling to God as Jesus did in the wilderness. We are called to try something new, and bring a new structure or discipline to our lives. Last year, we read through the book of Lamentations together, and reflected upon it in worship. This year, as we march through the book of Mark in the Narrative lectionary, let us focus on that story in daily readings, weekly Bible studies, and Sunday worship. Our Wednesday night studies are back for Lent, with Medea leading the younger members of our church family in Markan work after we break from dinner to go through our passages for the week and live into them.

We’ll also be offering some worship changes to the beginning of worship as a Lenten discipline. They’ll be minor, but enough to change the feel. We’re moving the Prelude before the welcome, so that our first act of worship together will be to join together in singing praise to God, after which we will invoke God’s name and presence in our call to worship. Our announcements will fall to the end of worship, as we are commissioned to go out into the world and share God’s presence with others. The worship committee may also have one or two other changes for special Sundays in Lent as we explore different ways to bring our congregation closer to God and live out Jesus’s command to make disciples.

Do you have a favorite Lenten discipline? Share it with us!

Pastor Nathan