January 7-Day Challenge


In January, we offer a new 7-Day Challenge to help you explore new and different Practices. While you’re doing it, feel free to share your thoughts with Karen Jeske at and with each other whenever you have the chance.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these 7-Day Challenges. If you have, you’re going to love Lent at Plymouth. This year our theme will be “Practice Makes Plymouth.” We will explore the four pillars of the Strategic Plan and offer you a 40-Day Challenge to help make all of these new ideas more real for you.

1. Complete any six of these items on any six days you choose during the month of January.

  • Silence is one way we can pay attention to God. Find a Practice of silence that works for you. Start with five minutes a day, experimenting with different times of the day and building the length of time to whatever feels right for you. If you want, you can do this for each of your six days.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to get centered, then recite the Lord’s Prayer (our most well-known prayer) as often as you need to remind you of your love for God and your call to love what God loves.
  • For inspiration about how we are called to love each other, practice saying the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis. Find this prayer below.
  • Read Chapter Ten of The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg.
  • Do an internet search for Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail and take an hour to read it, thinking about the challenge it still poses for us today.
  • Donate money or food to the Food Bank or find another organization in our community that is giving direct aid and comfort to people suffering in our community this winter.
  • Do an internet search for “Nichole Nordeman Dear Me” and listen to this beautiful song as a reminder that we all grow and change and that the ways we love God will grow and change throughout our lives as well.
  • Participate in Plymouth’s Evening Prayer Service on Facebook. This service is at 5:30 p.m. each Monday to Thursday. Let yourself be renewed in prayer and feel connected to other Plymouth members.
  • Watch your mail for a special envelope from Plymouth this month. Inside you will receive a gift of your very own Star Gift. Read the letter that comes with your Word and place your Star Gift someplace where you will see it often. See more information to the below.

Star Gifts

It’s the season of Epiphany and at Plymouth we will be using this season to explore different facets of Jesus’ identity−teacher, servant, healer, prophet. As we do so, it’s also an opportunity to explore who we are in the light of Christ.

This month, you will receive a letter in the mail from Plymouth with a bookmark that will have a special word for you printed on it. We hope you receive this word as a sign and a gift that may guide you in some new way during the season of Epiphany and maybe for all of 2021.

Place it where you will see it often, write it down in the places where you want to encounter it, and let it work with you.

Throughout this season and beyond we will encourage you to engage with this word and maybe to share it within the Plymouth community.

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

2. For the seventh day take a rest or sabbath.

Make space for an intentional break from your work, worries, stresses, or perfectionism. Make the duration whatever length of time would feel like a true sabbath−five minutes, an hour, half a day or a whole day. Unlike God, we need to Practice rest in order to be our most loving selves.


Blob of Blessing 2021


Are you picturing it now? Plymouth church, hands on shoulders, connecting each person together in a BLOB OF BLESSING! We’re good at it! It’s beautiful. It’s important. It’s holy. It’s time to continue our tradition. We need to be blessed by the blob.

Join for a moment of connection via Zoom with some of your fellow Plymouth members. You’ll be blessed by your pastors and the video will be included in worship for the whole church to add their hands of blessing. Even though the gathering is virtual, the blessing will be real! There will be four blessing opportunities on Sunday at 11 a.m. on January 10, 17, 24, and 31. Each blessing will be for different groups in our community.

Jan. 10: Public servants (lawyers, judges, politicians, city, county, state, etc.)

Jan. 17: Educators (teachers, child-care providers, administrators, etc.)

Jan. 24: Essential workers (service industry, post office, DOT, grocery store, janitorial staff, sanitation, etc.)

Jan. 31: Healthcare & First responders (doctors, nurses, EMT, fire, police, mental healthcare, etc.)

To join us on Zoom, visit:


Plymouth Library Goes Digital


Have you been missing the cozy comfort of the Plymouth Library and Reading Room in our Center for Spiritual Growth? Now you can access digital books from our library using the Overdrive system. The new digital library is sponsored by the Plymouth Board of Spiritual Growth and funded by a competitive grant from the Plymouth Foundation.

Go to and set up your login. You may sign up for an Instant Digital Card on your smart phone using the Campaign Code: puccwinter20. Remember to select United States for your phone country code. If you need help signing up, email the Library Committee (

Our new digital selections feature books on Social Justice, Spiritual Growth, Climate Concerns, and selections for Plymouth reading groups and all church reading. The collection includes fiction, nonfiction, streaming videos, audio and digital-print books. You may suggest new books on our Overdrive page or by contacting the Plymouth Library Committee: Final selection decisions will be made by the Plymouth Library Committee.

You may read or listen to our books on a computer, tablet, smart phone, or a digital reading device such as a Kindle or Nook. You may use several applications including Overdrive and Libby to read, listen or view. If you are a Des Moines area library Overdrive/Libby user or an Iowa Bridges reader, you may already be familiar with the system. Just sign up for a Plymouth instant card and add our church library to your library list. Our books will be checked out one at a time for 14 days and may be renewed if no one else is waiting. You may return a book early if you want to check out another book. Some books may be available to be checked out by many people at the same time.

A few of the items waiting for you to borrow:

  • Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life (audiobook) by Joyce Rupp
  • God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath (audio and print) by N. T. Wright
  • The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border (print) by Francisco Cantú

Feast of Holy Innocents


The Des Moines Faith Committee for Peace will be holding a Service on the Feast of the Holy Innocents at 7 p.m. on Sunday, December 27, 2020. The theme for the service will be “Weeping for our Children”. We will raise our prayers to stop violence against innocent children caused by wars and conflict around the world. This service is co-sponsored by the Plymouth Peace Committee. The service will be online via Zoom and the information to connect to the Zoom meeting can be found at the bottom of this article.

The service has its roots in the Christmas story recounted in the Book of Matthew, 2:16-18. Herod was infuriated, and ordered the killing of innocent children in and around Bethlehem. Rachel wept for her children and refused to be consoled, because they were no more. The service will emphasize deeply that all children need peace with justice. This will be a moving service of music, scripture, reflections, and prayer. We will remember the holy innocents of Bethlehem, ask for God’s mercy upon innocent victims everywhere, call upon God’s great might to frustrate the designs of evil, and pray for the coming of justice, love and peace on earth.

Topic: Holy Innocents Service
Time: Dec 27, 2020 07:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting Link:
Meeting ID: 862 2618 5742
Passcode: 563233
Find your local number:


Senior Minister Search Committee


Meet the Members of our Senior Minister Search Committee

Council voted to approve the composition of the initial nine members of the Senior Minister Search Committee. You’ll recall that our current bylaws prescribe a process of naming nine members nominated by the boards of the Council, which nine shall then recruit an additional three at-large members for a total committee of twelve. Those initial nine are: Mike Baldwin, Caroline Bettis Valentine, Emily Chafa, Bryan Fiala, Dr. Erin Netteland-Sandvig, Doug Rumple, Kait Scanlon, Tony Stoik, and Joy Wilhelm.

Read below for a short bio intro to each member. We are excited about the talents, passion, and perspectives found within the group. Under the initial organizing efforts of Sid Ramsey, the group will meet for the first time mid next week; thereafter they will finalize their committee membership and commence this exciting, critical work.

Mike Baldwin

Mike is a lifetime resident of the Des Moines area and joined Plymouth church two years ago. He currently serves on the Board of Christian Stewardship. Mike is a trained Stephen Minister and also serves on the board of the Des Moines Concert Handbell choir.

Mike retired after 35 years from the Iowa Department of Human Services, primarily in the administration of the Medicaid and hawk-i programs. He has two adult children and four granddaughters. His wife is currently a resident of a metro-area long-term care facility.

Prior to joining Plymouth, Mike was an active member of another large metro-area church, serving on numerous committees and as committee chair of a major building initiative at that church. As a relatively new member, Mike brings a perspective of how new members connect at Plymouth.

Caroline Bettis Valentine

Caroline has been attending Plymouth since 2010 and joined as a member in 2015. During Caroline’s time at Plymouth, she has served on the Career Closet Steering Committee, the TiM Committee (current chair), Board of Membership, Board of Benevolences (current), the Fruitful Change campaign, and most recently the Strategic Planning Committee. While she has been heavily involved during her time at Plymouth, Caroline still sees herself primarily as being your average member who sits in the pew on Sunday mornings (pre-COVID!).

Caroline currently works for EMC as an attorney and wants Plymouth to be her forever church home where her future children are baptized. In order to do that, she believes that as a church we need to refocus our energy and priorities. She also believes finding the right Senior Minister for this time in Plymouth’s life is critical to our longevity and future success.

Emily Chafa

Emily first became involved with Plymouth Church through the Chancel Choir tour of Australia and Fiji in August of 1999. This life-changing musical experience persuaded Emily and her family to begin attending Plymouth Church in 2000. Emily and her husband Brad joined Plymouth in 2002 and she has been a faithful Chancel Choir member for the past 20 years.  Emily and her husband have two adult children.

Emily has served on the Fine Arts Series Committee, the Hymnal Committee, and is a frequent soloist for worship services, weddings, and funerals at Plymouth. She is co-chair of the Cuba Partnership Team, serves on the Career Closet Steering Committee, AMOS Core team, the P-JPAN Committee and the Board of Music and Fine Arts.

Emily retired as a lawyer and administrative law judge in 2019 after 30 years of service. Emily’s father was a United Methodist Church minister and she became accustomed to frequent moves to various small Iowa towns as her father was re-assigned within the church. Emily states that she is honored to serve with this committee. She hopes to bring a fresh thoughtful perspective to the search process. She states, “It’s an important decision for the future of Plymouth Church, living through its strategic plan with radical love and operational excellence.”

Bryan Fiala

Bryan and his wife Maggie have been coming to Plymouth since 2014 with an intent to find a church they could call their own – they joined Plymouth in 2016. Bryan joined the Board of Deacons in 2019 and currently serves as secretary to the Board. Bryan has a great appreciation for music, especially choral arts, and enjoy the many opportunities to enjoy the fantastic music at Plymouth.

Bryan is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) with Principal Securities and has been working in financial services since 2007. Bryan and his wife, Maggie, are expecting their first child in December and are excited and hopeful for the opportunities that Plymouth will offer their growing family.

Bryan states, “I am looking forward to working with my fellow Christians in finding the next leader of this Plymouth flock. Our commitment to this congregation is deeper than the financial commitments we make through our pledges; it includes our commitment of time and effort that are necessary to make this place possible.”

Dr. Erin Netteland-Sandvig

Erin came to Plymouth in 1989 to participate in the Matins program and youth activities and became a member when she was sixteen. Erin’s education eventually took her to Chicago for a residency in medicine and while there she was a member of a UCC Church in LaGrange, Illinois. Upon moving back to Iowa, Erin and her family re-connected with Plymouth.  She has been active in family ministries and has taught church school. Erin is active with PWAG and is a member of the Board of Trustees. Erin’s family includes her husband Jeff and two children. She is a family medicine physician with MercyOne.

Erin is honored to be a part of the search committee for our next senior minister. She states, “Plymouth has been a life changing place for me and I want to continue to see its mission grow in the future.”

Doug Rumple

Doug has been a Plymouth member for 14 years and has attended Plymouth since 2002. His earliest Plymouth involvement was serving with his wife as regular and substitute Sunday school teachers for 3-4 years. He also served on the Board of Deacons and currently serves as co-chair of the Board of Membership and is a member of the TiM Committee. Doug cares deeply about the future of Plymouth Church and is honored to serve on the Senior Minister Search Committee.

Doug has lived in West Des Moines since 1998 with wife Julie and daughter Madalyn. He works for American Republic Insurance Company and is also active with the Lions and the student mentoring program at Callanan Middle School.

Kait Scanlon

Kait is a mother of two young children, three year member of Plymouth, and recent addition to the Board of Christian Education. She graduated from Cornell College with a degree in Religion and Psychology. Kait is an avid reader with a particular interest in theology and social justice. She is passionate about lifelong learning, spiritual growth, and community connection. Her commitment to the long-term success and relevance of Plymouth for her children and the community prompted her to agree to serve as a member of the Senior Minister Search Committee.

Tony Stoik

Tony is a retired attorney who practiced law in the Sioux City area for 35 years. He was ordained as a minister in 2011 and served as a part-time pastor at a UCC church in Calumet, Iowa and as an associate conference minister in the UCC. He has also served on the board of directors for the Iowa Conference of the UCC.

Tony and his wife moved to Des Moines and joined Plymouth about a year and a half ago. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees and is currently a member of the Board of Spiritual Growth. He enjoys his work with Rev. LeAnn Stubbs as she works to make the Center for Spiritual Growth a more welcoming and functional space.

Joy Wilhelm

Joy has been a member of Plymouth since 2016. She and her husband came to Plymouth after over 20 years at their previous church home. They specifically sought out Plymouth as a church family because of its commitment to social justice and inclusiveness.

Joy currently serves on the Board of Christian Social Action and is the liaison to the Anti-Racism Committee. She has also been involved in small group book studies and bible study. She previously served on the stewardship and education committees at her previous church and was active in lay ministry. Joy retired in 2018 after spending most of her professional life in journalism and marketing. Her most recent professional experience was working for the Iowa Newspaper Association. She is a Master Gardener and in her spare time enjoys traveling, cooking, and reading.

Hayley Harvey

As section chief and director of dental education at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, Hayley Harvey, DDS, MS, has been a champion for increasing access to dental care and improving the oral health of underserved populations.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, and daughter of an Army veteran, Harvey came to the University of Iowa and discovered a passion for improving oral health and access to care for at-risk and rural populations. After earning two degrees from Iowa, Harvey—who served for a decade in the Army National Guard—practiced dentistry and later became the dental director for Baldwin Family Health Care. Her clinic provided dental care to at-risk populations in Baldwin, Michigan, which resides in one of the poorest counties in the state.

She returned to the Hawkeye state as the public health dental director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, which then led her to a position at Broadlawns Medical Center. Harvey has helped Broadlawns establish a new $24 million facility with 22 operatories—six of which are for extramural rotations of University of Iowa dental students. Through her work at Broadlawns, she ensures that future generations of dentists will have a solid understanding of the dental and health disparities facing Iowa’s low-income populations.

Harvey is a wife and mother of two daughters, Hannah and Hadley. She is active in many community organizations and serves on the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation Board of Directors. In 2019, Harvey was awarded the University of Iowa Dental Alumni Service Recognition of the Year honor.

Dave Nelson

My wife Jean and I joined Plymouth in 1973, and I have sung in the Chancel Choir ever since. Boards: Christian Social Action, Deacons, Music and Fine Arts, Membership, Christian Enlistment Committee of the Trustees (before it became the Board of Stewardship) and Treasurer of the church; Bylaws rewrite Committee in the late 1970s and several subsequent bylaws revision committees; AMENS; 14 years as a Stephen Minister and a Stephen Leader; Search Committees: Jim Gilliom, Carl Gravander, David Ruhe, Bob Mann and Lindsey Braun. I am president of the Plymouth Place Board of Directors, and I have served on the Boards of Directors of the Iowa Conference of the UCC and Tri-Conference Ministries and, currently, the UCC denomination.

An Iowa native, I married Jean in 1965. We have three adult children, Anne, Bill, and Mary, and two grandchildren, Alonzo and Ada. Our oldest son, Joe, died of brain cancer in 2018. I operate my own business, Nelson Equity Development, LC, a mergers and acquisitions consultancy and business brokerage. I stay active by swimming regularly at the YMCA.

Mark Busch

Mark Busch (He, Him, His) is a lifelong Iowan and joined Plymouth in 2013 after moving to Des Moines. He currently serves as secretary to the Transition into Ministry Committee and is a proud attendee of the Saturday Night Service. In the past, Mark has served on the Board of Membership and the 2016-17 Music & Fine Arts Task Force. After spending time in public education and the nonprofit sector, Mark currently serves as an Education Specialist for the Iowa Judicial Branch, working to address bias and disparate outcomes in the court system.


2021 Scholarship


The Board of Plymouth Women Scholarship Committee will award scholarships in the spring of 2021 to college students who are preparing for a career in service. The estates of Susan B. Turner, Opal Jordan, and Mary and Frederick Royal fund these scholarships.

Click here for a fillable-form PDF of the application. Please fill out the application and submit it to by March 31, 2021.


Sounds of the Season: Virtual Concert


Each Friday Plymouth Church will present a virtual concert series of music for the season featuring your favorite Plymouth instrumentalists and vocalists. Concerts will be available at noon. Watch any time that is convenient for you! Click here to watch those concerts each week!


January 2021 Book Study


Plymouth’s Welcoming Migrant Committee and Faithful Readers will join together, along with any interested Plymouth members to do a book study January 21 and 28. We will read The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantu, and will meet by Zoom. Books will be made available for $10. and can be purchased by contacting Mary Nelson ( The author was raised in the southwest and became a Border Patrol agent, but ultimately left as he became aware of the dehumanization and violence. His is a memoir with knowledge of both sides of this complicated and harrowing human struggle. The book was a Top 10 Book of 2018 from NPR and the Washington Post.


Discover Plymouth: January 2021


Do you or someone you know want to become a member of Plymouth Church? Have you been worshipping with us for a while and are feeling ready to make it official? Have you participated online during the pandemic and are interested in learning more about us? Are you interested in getting to know some new people and discover Plymouth in a new way?

Discover Plymouth will be launching in January 2021! Here’s what we are thinking: Three Sunday afternoons, beginning January 10, from 1-2:30 p.m. We will cover things like communion, baptism, prayer, the Bible, Justice, and UCC history. After that, you can decide if you are ready to own Plymouth’s covenant and sign our book of membership! Click here to sign up!

Questions? Email Mary Kate at


Effigy Mounds Presentation


Plymouth’s Board of Spiritual Growth and Anti-Racism Committee are co-sponsoring a presentation on the Effigy Mounds National Monument over Zoom on Thursday, December 3 from 5 pm – 6:30 p.m. Effigy Mounds National Monument, located in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, preserves more than 200 mounds built by American Indian tribes. Numerous effigy mounds are shaped like animals, including bears and birds. The mounds are considered sacred by many Americans, especially the Monument’s 20 culturally associated American Indian tribes. The presentation will focus on the spiritual aspects of Effigy Mounds, as well as on systemic racism towards Indigenous Peoples, as reflected in how Tribal remains and cultural items buried in the mounds were treated.

Recording of the webinar will be available soon. Please stay tuned!

Click here for a transcript of the presentation’s Zoom chat.