August 2019

On the last Sunday of June, while Eric, Dir. of Youth and Family Ministry and Intern Nicole and our youth shared about their mission trip to Birmingham, Alabama; I attended the closing worship service at one of my first call perishes, Trinity Lutheran, Ottosen, Iowa. It was a bittersweet day to come together for the closing of a church. Ottosen is located about 35 miles north of Fort Dodge in the heart land of beautiful farm land where farms are growing larger and communities smaller and small enough to no longer sustain a church community. The people of this worshiping community will be able to find other churches to worship with. They are a faithful group of people and it was good to see familiar faces that I haven’t seen for 20 years. I am thankful for how these people shaped and formed me into the pastor I am today and I grieve the closing of this church.

Bittersweet seems to be the theme of my month and is bringing me back to my Epiphany word, LIFE. Last year it was joy, a gritty kind of joy and this year a bittersweet kind of life with the mixing and stirring of all that life brings with it, its joys and sorrows all stirred into one.

This month, after a year that has gone so fast, we will say fare-well to our intern Nicole Hanson Lynn and her husband Anthony on Sunday, August 11. It too is a bittersweet time. I have so enjoyed Nicole and Anthony and the gifts of ministry that they shared with us. I am sad to see them leave and grateful that they will serve the church well. Thank you for your willingness to support and encourage this internship year. I will miss Nicole and I will pray for her and Anthony and the Christian community that gets to help shape and form her pastoral ministry. We will keep you posted as to which synod she is assigned to and where she is called to. Please keep Nicole and Anthony in your prayers. It is an exciting time of expectation but also a time of waiting with many unknowns.

Bittersweet – sadness combined with happiness, such an odd combination swirling together. But we are Lutherans and we are accustomed to experiencing two odd combinations together. We are saint and sinner simultaneously; duty and delight; law and gospel; life and death.

In our Vacation Bible School in July, we met in Athens where our path crossed Paul. We learned a bit about Paul’s journey of not believing in Jesus and then having an encounter with Jesus that changed him forever, so that anywhere he went he could not help but talk about Jesus even if it landed him in jail or had him run out of town. There is a wild mix of emotions for Paul and the communities he lived in and the experiences that propelled him.

Life often brings an element of bitter sweetness. In this mix, the Holy Spirit calls and gathers us with a relentless pursuit to show us God and God’s will for us and the world God loves. Keep stirring us up, Holy Spirit and shape us to be your faithful people who share what we know with our neighbors about this bitter and sweet life that we have been called into.

Believing It Boldly Loving Expansively,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

June/July 2019

Greetings to the Holy People of God,

Last year, the Lead Team invited you to attend a story telling retreat in June. This year, the Lead Team invites you to help in the planning and participating in the hosting of National Night Out for our neighborhood. This is a gentle way to meet our neighbors and explore with them possible partnerships for the future.

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live and work. It provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances. Millions of neighbors take part in National Night Out across communities from all fifty states on the first Tuesday in August – AUGUST 6.

We are looking for people to help us plan this event. Because it is the first time, we can create the kind of event we want.

The Lead Team has drummed up some ideas to begin with but would like your participation as we use the gift of King Park to welcome and get to know our neighbor. We have thought that this could be a trial run for hosting music in the park similar to Iowa City’s Party in the Park. Some of our ideas include live music, art & games for kids, invite fire & police departments, bookmobile, Iowa City Transportation as well as local business like Hartig Drugstore, University of Iowa Credit Union, Fareway and Java House and maybe a food truck or serve popcorn.

There is lots of planning and preparations to be made and we need your help and your prayers as we reach out to our community and trust God to guide us through the venture as our LEAD Team frequently prays:

O God you have called your servants to ventures on which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Believing it boldly loving expansively,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

And our LEAD Team –
Chris Rothfuss
Mary Knudson Dion
Susan Surom
Matt Orvick
Yvonne Page
Eric Klein
Intern Nicole Hanson Lynn

May 2019

Greetings to the Holy People of God,

Thank you for all those who attended the adult forum on Sunday, April 28. We enter into that stage of finding the sweet spot, where listening to God, listening to each other and listening to the neighborhood come together. It is a stage that we enter into with curiosity and experimentation. As the disciples were first called with, “come and see”, we too will move forward with a kind of expectancy of what God will do next with us.

The neighbors we met were Johnson County Neighborhood Center, Walden Place and Melrose Meadows, West High School, Borlaug, Horn and Weber Elementary Schools, All Nations Baptist Church and UI Credit Union and Hartig Drug Store. In our conversations, the idea of “partnership” moved us forward in conversation. The Neighborhood Center of Johnson Co. serves a large territory, like we do. They have a working relationship with the schools. We all care about children and youth and involve ourselves with food insecurities. CTK partners with elementary school parents in providing take home food for the weekend in families where food is scarce. The West High School has a food pantry. Schools face language and transportation challenges for both students and parents.

All Nations Baptist Church truly lives into their name as they host Korean, Sudanese, and Hispanic worshiping communities. They have preschool and daycare. And draw people from a large geographic area. Their facility is large with several worshiping areas.

A common theme that emerged from our visits with UI Credit Union, Hartig Drug, Walden Place and Melrose Meadows was building trust within the neighborhood and the transient nature of our communities.

As we have put all this together, we want to encourage our easy entry relationships through our preschool and community garden. These are the best ways that we get to know our neighbors. Consider coming to preschool graduation at 9:00 am on May 23 & 24 or being a mystery reader or volunteering with community garden. Be curious and visit these places. Drive the back driveway and if someone is gardening, stop and say hi and ask them how their garden is doing. Be a good neighbor.

None of our neighbors know us very well, nor do we know them. One idea that rose to the surface in our Lead Team meetings through this listening process is the possibility of hosting “National Night Out” on Tuesday, August 6 for our neighborhood as an opportunity to get to know each other better. “National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live and work.” (natw.org)

This would give us the opportunity to get to know our neighbors in a safe and trusting environment. We need your help. If this is something that you could invest time and energy in and commit to, please let the LEAD Team know how you can help. This is something we need to do together. The Lead Team is not going to do it for you or on your behalf. We need your commitment and your presence. The people of our community need to get to know us – all of us, the “us” that makes us CTK so that God’s love and light can shine in tangible ways.

We are experimenting. This is something that uses the gift of King Park to reach out in a concrete way to our neighbors with hospitality. We all want this to be a safe neighborhood. Ideas that we have discussed would be inviting the Police, the Fire Department, Public Transportation, Book Mobile, Hartig Drug and UI Credit Union. It would be nice to have live music and maybe invite a food truck and/or provide some sort of simple snack. Let us know your thoughts and your willingness to help with this event.

Some of the other ideas that came to the surface as a result of our meetings with our neighbors and the talents of our community include hosting the Free Health Clinic, hosting Parent Teacher Organization and adopting a class room at the Johnson County Neighborhood Center.

Your Lead Team invites to you to pray, to talk with one another about this and to share your thoughts with the Lead Team.

Believing It Boldly Loving Expansively,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

LEAD Team
Chris Rothfuss
Mary Knudson Dion
Susan Surom
Matt Orvick
Yvonne Page
Eric Klein
Intern Nicole Hanson-Lynn

April 2019

Greetings to God’s Beloved People,

This is the time that we witness the depth of God’s amazing love for us most clearly.  I hope that as we come to the end of our 40 days of Lent and make our final preparations for Holy Week that you have been richly blessed in this journey.  I certainly have.

 I have so enjoyed watching us try to learn how to fold the complicated origami butterflies as our community discipline.  I came face to face with all the feelings that surround me when I am learning something new and my own frustrations at not taking the time to read all of the instructions, guessing and hoping I did it right, not wanting to appear stupid and adding the word ‘torture’ to the “discipline” bulletin board.  And I was reassured that I was not alone as I watched the origami folding on Wednesdays and Sundays as people tried and failed and succeeded and I watch some become teachers and some take the instructions and paper home to try in solitude or with the help of YouTube. I am grateful for Nicole’s instructions and her patience.  I am grateful for this community of faith and our willingness to try.

 Due to the blessing of Intern Nicole and her faithful leadership, I was able to take some time in the “wilderness” of Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado to spend some time on Copper Mountain.  It was good to be away for a bit of time and in the “wilderness”.  As Lydia and I drove across these states with their familiar landscapes and smells and some flooding at the Platte River, I also delighted in seeing a cowboy on horse, out early in the morning checking the spring calves.  And as we drove through the mountains I was in awe of the beauty of God’s creation and human ingenuity to make a path not only through the mountains but also in the delight to be able to traverse the mountains through chair lifts and skis. And to conclude this time with being in the most perfect place to experience sunset and full moon rise on the plains of Nebraska.  It was breathtaking to see multitude of colors everywhere I looked.  My whole being was filled in this “wilderness” experience.

I was gifted with teaching Psalm 104 in our adult class which affirmed my experience with God’s creation.  Take a read through this Psalm and see if it encourages you to trust God.  When I look at the creation of this world and spend time in it, I can’t but help think of God’s amazing creativity and artistry.  And why wouldn’t I trust God with all that I am as I look at God’s creation? 

Then within just a couple of days, I came across two different Lenten devotions (SE Iowa Synod & ELCA Worship) that used the same Japanese illustration, “Kintsugi”, the art of putting broken pieces back together with gold creating a more beautiful and durable piece of art.  Barbara Bloom states that “they believe that when something breaks and has suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

I look at the beauty that God brought to us, to humanity, to our brokenness, our history and added God’s kind of gold.  God became one of us by entering into the very fullness of our humanity.  Jesus entered into the hurt of our humanity and our death and created beautiful new life for us.  So I take a new look at my sin, my brokenness and my rough edges, knowing that the Holy Spirit meets me here to do some amazing work.  I know this because of this journey in the wilderness and the witness of Jesus.

 Believing It Boldly Loving Expansively,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

March 2019

Greetings Holy People of God,

In my annual report for 2017, I had hoped to devote time and energy into Sabbatical planning for 2018 and then other things came up that drew my attention away from planning a sabbatical. The preschool flooring project ended up with asbestos abatement, internship for Nicole, and my mother’s death all added together to put planning on the back burner. So, when I wrote my 2018 annual report, I rededicated my efforts. With all staff in place this year and with Intern Nicole able to share in pastoral duties, I would like to apply for the 2019 Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program. This just might be a practice run seeing the deadline for submitting applications is April 11, 2019 with the intention of the sabbatical taking place in the summer of 2020. But we seem to work well with deadlines.

For the application we, pastor and congregation will work together to design the renewal program. I will be working with Executive Committee and council to agree on 1) the length of the program, 2) the pastor’s activities during the program, 3) congregational renewal activities that will take place during the pastor’s absence, and 4) how the pastor and congregation will share their experiences and insights with one another when the renewal leave is completed. The congregation will submit the proposal to Christian Theological Seminary. Please go to http:// www.cpx.cts.edu/renewal for more information on clergy renewal.

At the February council meeting we approved a Sabbatical policy which will also guide us in this process. The policy requires a written plan covering the following areas: 1) the purpose of the sabbatical, 2) the hoped-for outcomes, and 3) a description of how this will benefit both the ministry setting and the rostered leader.

One of my long-term goals in ministry is to visit the Holy Land but not just on a tour, but a lengthy stay with a home base. The Tantur Ecumenical Institute in association with the University of Notre Dame offers a one-month program in June or July that weaves together classroom instruction of the Bible, geography, history and spirituality along with guided tours. In addition, Tantur Programs seek to introduce participants to the people of this land, both in their history and in their contemporary existence. It would be an immersion experience into the Holy Land.

One of the most obvious hoped for outcomes of a Holy Land experience would be in preaching but also in the experience of living in a communal setting for a month might also bring some insight into our endeavors to be “present” in our community and to form relationships with our neighbors. I think time spent with people who live in Israel and Palestine may have some unique ideas and experiences that may have the potential to help us truly be a light shining on the corner of Melrose and Mormon Trek.

That’s a bit of my brainstorming. I invite you to do some brainstorming with me. Think about the conversations we have had over the past two years with the LEAD Team. Think about our neighborhood and the community of Christ the King and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to blow through our midst. What do you think would need to happen to give us a sense of renewed energy or help us to sing a new song? What renewal activities could we engage in for us and for our community? I am thankful to be on the journey with you, my faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.

Believing It Boldly Loving Expansively,

Pastor Connie Spitzack