Message from the Pastor

RSS Feed

Together Again Worship

Welcome back to Zion!  In-person worship opportunities are available. Registration is requested for our in-person opportunities for both indoor and outdoor worship times.  
Register using the buttons below:   


Worship will also be live-streamed at 8:30 a.m. You can watch independently from your home or join a Zoom watch party and watch together with Zion friends.  Virtual coffee hour will follow the Zoom worship party.
Join using the buttons below:

Pentecost Picnic Church

What if church was like a good picnic? Find out by joining us for Pentecost Picnic Church as we set the tables outdoors for food, faith & friendship on Saturday, May 22 @ 5:30pm.

The details:

  • Picnic Church will be held in the Zion parking lot. Bring your own picnic meal. Tables and chairs will be provided.
  • Moo Moo’s Ice Cream Truck will be parked in front of Zion and ready to serve up delicious ice cream treats after our picnic supper. They sell all Iowa Made ice cream goodies! (treats range in price $2-$6)
  • Masking, unmasking, and physical distancing expectations: Because picnic church involves eating, there will be times when we will be unmasked. Who will be eating near you? This is an invitable event! Invite and register your own table-full of people who can comfortably unmask and eat together. Tables will be physically distanced from each other and can comfortably accommodate 4-10 chairs.
  • Communion: Yes, there will be communion shared around each picnic table.
  • Music and singing: Zion Brass will be playing. Singing, while masked, will be part of the event.
  • Choosing Safer Activities:You may want to refer to this CDC Guidance to Choosing Safer Activities as you think about participating in Pentecost Picnic Church.

On the day of the event, please do not attend if you answer yes to any of these questions:

  • In the last 24 hours, have you had ANY COVID-19 symptoms, that are new or not explained by another condition?
  • In the past 10 days, have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 or had a test confirming you have the virus?
  • In the past 10-14 days, have you had “close contact” with anyone who has COVID-19, during their contagious period?

Worship Announcement

We have two weeks left in our livestream experiment. While it is clear this isn't the most manageable technology for our set up at Zion, it is an important tool to hone for a few reasons, most notably funerals, weddings, baptisms, or similar milestones that would benefit from being shared in real time.

The weekend of Pentecost, May 22-23, will be our first experiment with Picnic Church (Saturday, 5:30) and a Sunday morning worship recorded at 8:30AM in the worship space, and available for a 10:30 Zoom watch (we miss the Zoom worship crew!) or worship on your own schedule.

Sunday, May 30 will be our first experiment with Parking Lot Church (weather permitting) and we will again record worship early so it is ready for Zoom watchers at 10:30 and worship on your own schedule the rest of the week.

In June, we will continue to experiment with Parking Lot Church and begin experiments with limited seating for indoor worship.

Please keep your feedback and great attitudes flowing! We continue with our season of experimentation and investment, listening to the Holy Spirit and each other as go!

Experimenting with Live-Stream Worship

Beginning April 25, our worship will be live-streamed from Zion for four weeks at 10:30 AM Sunday mornings.  

Live stream worship means the worship leaders will be in the building at Zion, but the worshippers will still gather online using a link emailed to them. We value an online worship presence beyond this time of pandemic, and we will use the upcoming weeks to experiment in our worship space with pastors, musicians, and leaders live-streaming through Vimeo, with recordings available on our website shortly after worship concludes.

Please note these important details for worship April 25-May 16:

  • We continue to gather online for these weeks.  However, we will not use Zoom.
  • You will continue to get emailed invitations to worship on Sunday mornings, however when you join at 10:30, you won't be able to interact with each other as we have via Zoom. You will be able to see the worship space at Zion and all the leaders for worship.
  • Communion will be included in every worship. ELW Setting 3 will be used. Please have bread and wine/grape juice handy.
  • The access to "worship on your own schedule" will be available around noon each Sunday. Because we will record the live stream at 10:30, it won't be available until after that worship concludes and the recording can be posted to Zion's website. We apologize to those of you who like an early worship hour. Please remember this is a 4-week experiment, and we will be learning as we go!
  • We invite your patience, good humor, and generous feedback across the coming weeks of experimentation. We all want Zion to worship in the most faithful, vibrant ways possible; working together, we will figure out how best to do that. Submit comments and feedback here.
  • This schedule is in keeping with the Council's decision to begin in-person worship once Zion's pastors and staff have been fully vaccinated. As those milestones are met, and the weather warms, we expect more opportunities for outdoor gatherings.  A Vigil of Pentecost is planned in the Zion parking lot on Saturday, May 22.
  • While Sunday worship will be online only, that does not mean we cannot gather in-person outdoors. As we are able, we will also experiment with smaller gatherings and outdoor gatherings across the coming weeks and months. And as you feel comfortable, you should absolutely gather with your Zion friends every way you can! Updated Together Plans are coming soon!

Zion Annual Meeting FAQ 

How will Zoom work for our Annual Meeting? A: We're working hard to make it work as well as possible, but as noted by Council President Steve Nelson, it's going to be different. We throw ourselves into grace and invite you to join us in making the best of a very difficult situation.  Here are a few important notes:

  • The "Zoom Waiting Room" opens at 10:15AM. You may have to wait a few minutes before you move from the waiting room to the actual annual meeting because we have to take note of every voting member as you arrive. If possible, please put your names on your Zoom screen. If you have any trouble with Zoom, please email or call the church office:  (319)338-0944.
  • Worship and the Annual Meeting are different Zoom links. The worship Zoom will close and everyone will need to join the second, different Zoom link to move into the Annual Meeting. These links are in this e-news and will be provided again in the Sunday morning email that arrives at 8AM on February 7.
  • The meeting will begin as soon as we have 50 identified voting members (quorum) present AND the waiting room is empty. Expect this to take some time. Patience is a wonderful gift of the Spirit.
  • We will use Zoom Chat to collect and process questions, as well as the "raise hand" function to vote. Please familiarize yourself with these things before the meeting. If more than one voter is on your screen and you want to vote differently, you'll be instructed to use the chat to register separate votes. Otherwise, use of the "raise hand" function will be considered a vote for every voter in the screen.
  • What if I'm feeling disconnected or discouraged by church right now? A: It is certainly understandable, and you are not alone. Many people are struggling as this pandemic, and its many restrictions, drag on. Many are even struggling with their faith and sense of God's presence. Please know you are a treasured part of the community of Zion, and the community has many resources available to help and support each other. Contact either pastor or any member of staff to invite a conversation, a time of prayer or an offer of support or connection.

The budget is balanced, but it concerns me that some important things are not included in the budget.  Is there wiggle room?  

Yes! The Finance Committee and Council were both committed to presenting a balanced budget, but they also recognize that no one is confident predicting how 2021 will go. This is a “Covid-Budget,” meaning it is a conservative, best guess.  Zion’s leaders share an equally deep commitment to regular budget reviews, updates, and revisits. As soon as the new council is installed, we will schedule a “Coffee with Council,” for some time in April. In the meantime, questions about the congregation’s health and vitality are always welcomed by the pastors, staff, and leaders. 

What about music ministry?  

In 2019, the Music Ministry Task Force wrestled mightily with how best to keep Zion’s powerful music program vibrant, especially in the face of significant financial challenges. The recommendation of the task force was to fill the Music Minister position and the Director of Adult and Youth Choir position as soon as possible in 2020, and then work together to figure out the best way forward with the remaining needs and potential. In March, with the onset of the pandemic, the Council determined it was still critical to fill the Music Minister position, but to pause the Adult/Youth Choir Director search until it was safe to resume indoor, in-person choral singing. The 2021 budget continues that commitment with priority being placed on filling the Adult/Youth Choir Director position hopefully no later than June 1, if finances go as planned. Together with the rest of the Zion staff, the music staff has generously and energetically swapped out familiar tasks for new, COVID-responsive ones, finding Music Ministry opportunities in a time that is in so many real ways inopportune.  We are so thankful for this hard work! And we fully expect all of Zion’s ensembles to be supported and reinvigorated as soon as giving rebounds to support it. What we don’t yet see clearly is exactly how that will happen. But the commitment to music at Zion has always been strong and generous. In fact, the commitment to music ministry at Zion is more zealous than ever, with many new ideas ready to launch. 

 What about the Sunday School Administrator and children’s ministries?

Currently, the SSA is not included in the 2021 budget, which is something we’d like to see change, soon! Like other important things that are not currently in the 2021 budget, this position should be restored as soon as giving rebounds to support it. This has been an incredibly hard season for families with children, and Zion staff have worked diligently to support them with prayers, texts, emails, calls, Sidewalk Church and God’s House/My House kits. Supporting families and rebuilding VBS and Sunday School will take effort and intention, something families have to ration carefully across the months of the pandemic, we know. Currently volunteers are being sought to work on VBS alternatives for this summer.  When we are able to resume in-person activities, and when families are ready to return, we look forward to welcoming all to Sunday School with open arms. 

What about the organ--how long will it be out of commission and how will it be covered?

The gap between the existing funds for organ repair/maintenance and the expected expense is $66,000. This project came together too late for inclusion in the 2021 budget, but as these are one-time expenses and considerable generosity for them has already surfaced, we are confident this project will be fully funded. For example, a matching gift challenge is already in the works. In the meantime, gifts given to the Organ Preservation Fund at any time will be applied to this gap. Additional plans for meeting this expense will be developed in the coming weeks. Our hope is to sign a contract with the organ technician as soon as possible that provides a timeline to a full or partially-functioning organ, hopefully by time we are ready for in-person worship again. Our wonderful musicians have recorded a small stash of hymns on the organ to be used over the next few weeks. Beyond that, most hymn accompaniments and other service music will be recorded on pianos at their homes. 

Why can’t worship happen from the building?

We are all mourning many losses across this time, not the least of which is worshipping together. Early on, decisions about worship were made based on what we could accomplish safely, quickly and with the skills and tools we had at the ready. As the pandemic drug on, our Emergency Response Team laid out safe boundaries for worship and other uses of Zion’s space. On more than one occasion, considerable effort was put into moving us back into the building in one way or another, and every time the changes in information and expectations resulted in those efforts being shut down for safety reasons. The present approach to worship is not ideal, we know, but it allows for the broadest participation of people with the lowest degree of risk and, for those able to join the Sunday Zoom, with a reasonable amount of interaction.  Music Ministry staff and volunteers are exploring apps that will potentially allow us to incorporate voices into the hymn recordings for the worship videos. Listen for this additional vocal support to your at-home singing to begin in Lent! 

How are Zion’s staff doing?

Thanks for asking! Like so many across this time, Zion’s pastors and staff have been working hard and pivoting often. They have, without exception, picked up all manner of dropped balls, new initiatives and even a few lost causes. They have all cancelled vacations and worked across countless days-off, and we are grateful for the dedication and faithfulness they have shown to Zion. We also want to support them in catching up on that missed time-off, and in taking good care of themselves and their families across this long, stressful season. Zion’s pastors and staff frequently express their appreciation for the support and encouragement they’re receiving.    



2021 Annual Meeting Special Considerations

We are looking forward to conducting our 2021 Annual Meeting using ZOOM.  As we have done with other Zion meetings ZOOM offers a useful tool to support presentations, discussion and voting on approval of business items. 

There are some changes we are proposing to support this approach.  First, we will be recording the identity of everyone logging into the meeting to establish the quorum number. Thus, if a computer joining the meeting has two or more people in the room we will record all names. 

We will conduct the discussion using the “chat” feature and a moderator will alert the speaker to questions or comments (the same process we used with the budget review). 

We will vote using the “raise your hand” feature or a literal raising of hands. We are trying to support essential business in the most effective and inclusive way. In consultation with the synod office, we believe that this is a temporary situation and decision making via use of “raise your hand” is a reasonable accommodation. 

We respectfully suggest that we avoid the use of written ballots, if possible, for this meeting. The Nominating Committee has provided a full slate of qualified, willing candidates for the open positions and the spending plan for 2021 is balanced. Voting on these items is the essential agenda of an annual meeting of the congregation. Other concerns are absolutely important and worthy of attention. Hopefully all those things can be discussed and considered through avenues like “Coffee with Council,” and, if helpful or necessary, a future congregation meeting with fewer restrictions. 

If a written ballot is required, we will use the list of attendees to send the ballot via email or via the US Postal service, with ballots to be returned within 7 days and the ballot results announced within 14 days. 

Comments or questions are welcome.  We will discuss this via ZOOM at the 4:00PM January 31, 2021 Open Forum. 

All Creation Sings

Dear Zion,

For many of us, Wednesday began with a recognition of the Magi and their gifts. It is a significant holy day in many parts of the world. By the end of the day, many more of us were riveted by the events unfolding in Washington D.C.  The distance between these two events cannot be over-stated. It was horrifying, even for people who saw it coming. It was a dramatic and jarring day for people everywhere, with or without a faith tradition. And it has left many of us angry, hurt and deeply mourning the divisions and inequalities of our country.

There is some comfort and insight for these times to be found in our shared faith:

  • With the Magi, we can expect God to lead us through even the most dangerous and unfamiliar things. We can move deeply into the world every day, constantly checking in with God and with each other, about the signs we think we are seeing and ways we believe God is calling us to act.
  • With the Magi, we can search ourselves and our many resources for the gifts we have on hand, and bring them along into uncertain times, offering them to complete strangers with earnest, humble, generous hearts, and with the expectation that God will use them to bring justice and peace.
  • With the Magi, we can be careful and smart about the paths we take--we can avoid dangerous confrontations, yet faithfully follow God.

As your pastors, we want you to know how much we care about the range of anger, fears, worries and despair people are experiencing. The separation of the pandemic has been difficult for all of us, but the divisions some might be experiencing with friends or family members in the current political environment are even harder. Addressing those wounds will be much harder, and will likely take much longer than even the most thorough vaccine roll out. We are here to listen, to pray and to accompany you through it all.

A new hymnal supplement was published for the ELCA in November, 2020. Certainly, no one planned for it to come mid-pandemic, and even more certainly, no one planned for this prayer to be so helpful and so necessary just a few weeks after its launch:

Rise up and come to our help, merciful God, for we are in need. Our spirits are weighed down with fear; our bodies feel as fragile as the dust from which we came. All that we have trusted seems hidden from sight. Although this moment has come upon our nation, you have not forgotten us. We do not trust in our own power or strength, but in your steadfast love in every generation. Show us your face in this time of trial, remind us of your faithfulness, and save us for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-All Creation Sings, p. 49, "A prayer for a time of civic distress"

Please join us in praying for each other, our community, our country and those who lead us.

Trusting in God's steadfast love, 

Pastor Susan and Pastor Jennifer