The Harvest Offering’s 45 Years of Witness to God’s Grace

The Harvest Offering’s 45 Years of Witness to God’s Grace

The Harvest Offering’s 45 Years of Witness to God’s Grace

By Nancy Lister-Settle

This year, 2023, marks 45 years that the Presbytery of Des Moines has been faithful to rural neighbors in Iowa and around the world with its own special offering.

In 1978, the Presbytery demonstrated its witness to God’s grace by supporting rural ministries in communities near and far. In the beginning, through the Harvest Sunday Offering, help was provided for educational opportunities to make available to ordinary rural people in less developed countries simple, basic agricultural knowledge special to their own type of agriculture.

In 1987, in response to the farm crisis here at home, the Rural Harvest Offering was born in the midst of very difficult circumstances—farm foreclosures, business closings, population loss. Presbytery members saw the hardships and worked together on a shared mission to meet the particular needs of rural neighbors.

In 1996, after five years of partnership with the Parish of San José in Berlín, El Salvador, a portion of the Rural Harvest Offering was designated for support of rural projects there. And in 2004, the Presbytery’s Joining Hands – Egypt partnership was included.  These two partnerships represented an acknowledgement of the original intent of the Harvest Sunday Offering, to recognize the reality of rural neighbors worldwide as well as the ongoing needs of Iowa’s rural communities.

In recent years, the Presbytery of Des Moines’ Harvest Offering grants have been offered by application to programs and projects that meet the criteria set forth by the Presbytery’s Peace and Justice Committee (now called the Committee for the Promotion of Social Righteousness).  Funding has been provided for a number of local initiatives, and international grants have prioritized women in agriculture who carry an extra burden in their own cultures and economies.

The Harvest Offering is a uniquely hands-on special offering. Congregations are able to share the love of Christ with many friends and neighbors. Past giving supported a wide variety of innovative and inspired projects.  It has provided emergency assistance in the eleventh hour for families and communities on the brink of disaster; it has encouraged ordinary people who care about their community to develop ministries of sharing and development; Iowa Presbyterians have stood together with brothers and sisters at home and afar, and this solidarity has helped to make better life possible.

Over the past 45 years, grants have gone to a wide variety of programs:

  • Dexter Rural Neighbors for emergency assistance and self help activities
  • PrairieFire’s Renewing Rural Iowa, assisting with faith-based, ecumenical community organizing
  • Food for Life for processing donated livestock and distributing meat to families in need in Union County
  • Southern Iowa Ag Diversity Corporation to help diversify agricultural production in order to improve the income levels of the rural population
  • Sharpsburg Presbyterian Church for preservation of the Spring General Store, the town’s only main street business and community gathering place
  • Comm-UNITY for the Common Good in Wayne County for training neighbors to assist neighbors, linking the rural poor to available services, and the following year, to create a used furniture warehouse
  • First Presbyterian Church of Creston for their “backpack mission” providing new backpacks to students in four school districts
  • WeLIFT program to provide individuals with the necessary skills to find employment and function well in the workplace, sponsored by Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Indianola
  • Corning’s weekend backpack project for students who rely on school programs for healthy food

The Committee for the Promotion of Social Righteousness has rededicated the Presbytery’s commitment to the Harvest Offering in its 45th anniversary year to supporting local projects focused on food insecurity.  Although the plight of hungry Iowans is not often on the front page of the news, congregations in the Presbytery recognize that needs still exist and they have a role to play in addressing hunger in their midst.  This year, grants of $1,500 have been made to food pantries in Allerton Presbyterian and First Arabic Presbyterian, and grants of $1000 were given to Windsor Presbyterian and CROSS Outreach.  In addition, $500 was allocated to Corning Presbyterian to help sponsor the local food pantry fundraising efforts.

Each pantry determines its own particular needs and its own protocols.  For example, pastor Melanie Hafferty indicated that the Allerton food pantry often purchases gift cards to be used at the local grocery rather than stocking food that might spoil or go unused.  Assessing the needs and how best to address them is how local programs are most effective.

First Presbyterian Church in Grinnell submitted a grant application for their established mission relationship with the College of Veterinary Medicine in Mekelle, northern Ethiopia.  Recalling the purpose of the original Harvest Sunday Offering, the program was a most fitting recipient of the international portion of the 45th Harvest Offering: “for educational opportunities to make available to ordinary rural people in less developed countries simple, basic agricultural knowledge special to their own type of agriculture.”  In addition, the criteria for 2023’s grants, food insecurity, was also met.

Rev. Kirsten Klepfer submitted the following information:  The program grew from the Peace Corps experience of a Grinnell First Presbyterian member.  At the same time in 2016, links were being made between the College of Veterinary Medicine in Mekelle and the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University.  For the first three years First Presbyterian in Grinnell sent gifts enabling each new Ethiopian veterinarian to receive basic diagnostic equipment.

The Harvest Offering application submission included this current information: Relationships of cooperation and mutual learning were being firmly established.  All that changed dramatically in November 2020, when a genocidal war broke out in northern Ethiopia.  After two years of fighting the College of Veterinary Medicine was ravaged, faculty and staff were not paid for more than two years.  The facility became a make-shift rehabilitation center for people injured in the war, even as its buildings were damaged in the fighting.  The immediate, urgent need is for food assistance for families of faculty and staff, as well as those still rehabilitating at Mekelle University. The Presbytery Committee elected to grant $1,000 to Mekelle University by way of First Presbyterian Church of Grinnell.

The Presbytery of Des Moines’ Harvest Offering continues to serve the needs of local communities, and to bring to light the common issues facing global neighbors.  For the past 45 years, congregations across the Presbytery have shown unflagging support for this unique special offering with innovative ministries and generous giving.

The Harvest Offering can be scheduled at any time during the year as best suits individual congregations.  Grant applications are accepted and reviewed by the Committee for the Promotion of Social Righteousness, and that Committee determines funding. Contact Mission Executive Amgad Beblawi for more information.

Book of Order Amendments and What They Mean For Your Church and Session

Book of Order Amendments and What They Mean For Your Church and Session

Book of Order Amendments and What They Mean For Your Church and Session

by Annika Lister Stroope, Stated Clerk

During the covid pandemic, the 2020 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) had to delay conducting business. This meant that the 2022 General Assembly (GA) needed to consider the previous GA’s business as well as new business.

At the conclusion of the 2022 GA, 33 proposed amendments to the Book of Order (Part 2 of the Constitution of the PC(USA)) were sent to presbyteries. All of the proposed amendments have been approved by the majority of presbyteries.

What does this mean for your church?

Please find below information about the amendments that directly affect church sessions. You are welcome to contact the presbyteries’ stated clerk with questions.

Boundaries Training

The new Book of Order requires ruling elders, inquirers, candidates, and those pursuing certification as Christian educators to complete boundaries training on the topics of sexual misconduct and child sexual abuse prevention every three years.

All church sessions should already have child and youth protection policies and sexual misconduct policies. If your session has not already adopted such policies, please visit this link for an example of a policy that your church session might use as a template.

Insurance companies often require their insureds to have child and youth protection policies and sexual misconduct policies. Please contact your insurance agent to connect you with resources, often provided by insurance companies to their insureds at no cost.

The Presbyteries of Des Moines, North Central Iowa, and Prospect Hill offer boundaries trainings that all ruling and teaching elders are encouraged to attend annually.

Boundaries trainings conducted by other Christian denominations may meet the new Book of Order requirement, and many boundary trainings are offered online. If you find a boundary training accessible to you, please contact Pastor to the Presbyteries, Rev. Ian McMullen, as to meeting the requirements of the Book of Order.

Harassment and Anti-Racism Policies

The new Book of Order requires that all church sessions adopt harassment and anti-racism policies. If your session has not already adopted such policies, the stated clerks of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies have a group of clerks currently working on policy templates as resources for congregations. Background and study resources about how congregations can practice anti-racism may be found here.

Family Leave

The new Book of Order requires that all installed pastors/associate pastors are eligible for 12 weeks of family leave. Some examples of family leave include (but are not limited to): a family member with a physical and/or mental health crisis, medical treatment, pregnancy, adoption, and military caregivers. Please contact Pastor to the Presbyteries, Rev. Ian McMullen, with questions as to how this new policy might affect your congregation.

Apply to Serve as a Commissioner or Young Adult Advisory Delegate to the 226th General Assembly

Apply to Serve as a Commissioner or Young Adult Advisory Delegate to the 226th General Assembly

Apply to Serve as a Commissioner or Young Adult Advisory Delegate to the 226th General Assembly

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meets every other year in even-numbered years. It consists of commissioners – teaching elders (ministers) and ruling elders (active on session or not) and Young Adult Advisory Delegates (either ordained or not) – elected by each of our 167 presbyteries. Each Iowa presbytery sends one teaching elder commissioner, one ruling elder commissioner, and one Young Adult Advisory Delegate (YAAD) to the next General Assembly. All teaching elders, ruling elders and young adults may apply to serve.

The GA is full of activities: business sessions, committee meetings, an exhibit hall, daily worship services, and mission tours. The GA pays or reimburses the expenses of GA service.

The 226th General Assembly will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, from June 25 to July 4, 2024.

At their fall meetings, presbyteries will elect one teaching elder to serve as a commissioner (and one alternate), one ruling elder to serve as a commissioner (and one alternate), and one Young Adult Advisory Delegate (YAAD) (and one alternate).

For more information, please click here.

For the application, please click here.

Save the Date: Iowa Presbyterian Gathering 2023

Save the Date: Iowa Presbyterian Gathering 2023

Save the Date: Iowa Presbyterian Gathering 2023

The Iowa Presbyterian Gathering will be on Saturday, August 26. It will be a day of worship, fellowship, seeing old friends and making new ones. It is open to all God’s people. Please mark your calendar and tell your congregation to do the same! More details soon.