Welcome New Members!


The following new members joined Plymouth Church on Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14 following our virtual Discover Plymouth class. Welcome!

Britt Teply Carlson
I am an attorney practicing in-house and focused on employment law. I live in Clive with my husband, Charlie, and nine-month-old son, Miller. Charlie and I were married at Plymouth in 2015. We enjoy all outdoor activities, especially anything involving a lake. Pre-COVID we loved to travel, with some of our favorite trips being gorilla trekking in Rwanda, hiking the Inca Trail, and touring Easter Island. We hope to share our love of travel with Miller once it is safe to do so.

Megan Sowa and Calvin Utt
Hello! We currently live in Clive in our new home with our wonderful puppy, Gus. Megan is an eighth and ninth grade English teacher in Johnston and Calvin is an Ag claims representative at Farm Bureau. We love to hang out with our friends and go on walks with Gus. Megan’s unique collection is her ever growing collection of owls, because her last name means owl in Polish! Calvin grew up on a farm in Southern Iowa and loves to go home to help whenever he can. Together, we rarely miss a Taco Tuesday!

Taylor and Dillan Crawley
Taylor (Rookaird) and Dillan Crawley reside in Des Moines. Dillan is a Des Moines area native and is an Ag underwriter for Nationwide. He’s a big movie/music buff, baseball fan and enjoys coaching with Kiwanis Miracle League. Taylor is an account manager at Lessing-Flynn, an advertising agency in the East Village. She enjoys trying out new recipes (especially sweet ones) and volunteering with local organizations. In our free time, we enjoy exploring Des Moines, walks with our dog, Georgie, and spending time with our families.

Ben & Jen Kleene
Ben and Jen enjoy hiking, traveling, and exploring new places – mostly with their combined family of four children and cadre of grandparents! Since marrying in 2018, coordinating kids across two districts, four buildings, and more activities than you can shake a stick at consumes most of their time. In addition to managing the constant chaos, Ben is an accountant with Athene and Jen manages construction projects for the State of Iowa.

Hardy Whiteman
Hardy moved to Des Moines a little over 20 years ago when his wife, Cheryl Thomas accepted a call to serve as Pastor for Calvary Baptist Church. Cheryl died 2 1/2 years ago. He has 2 children, John who graduated from Mizzou Law is working in the Attorney General’s Office and Glenna who is a teacher with Des Moines Public Schools. Hardy works in Quality Improvement. He is looking forward to participating in Plymouth’s social justice efforts and feels he can add some perspective to TIM ministers about the experiences a pastor’s spouse and family have.

Randy Breese
I was born and raised in Des Moines and have lived here most all of my life. My favorite city to visit is Paris (I completed my MBA program there just so I could live there.) My hobbies include wine tastings (over Zoom these days), genealogy and photography. (I started genealogy just a couple of months before the pandemic hit and that really helped to pass the time. So far during my research I have discovered that I am a descendant from at least 3 of the original Mayflower pilgrims. Also, my 4th great grandfather was a soldier in the American Revolution.)

Deb Roberts
I have been retired from teaching elementary art for a few years now; trading that in for time spent watching my granddaughters, which turns out to be a pretty good trade.  I am fortunate to have my daughter and son (and their families) in the Des Moines area, as family is my number one “hobby”! I also enjoy spending time in my art studio, working in clay and painting.  Before the pandemic I enjoyed taking classes at the art center, so I am thankful I have my own in-home creative space.  Other past times include yoga, biking, and long hikes. Since my husband’s retirement a year ago we have returned to our love for camping, giving up the days of setting up a tent to now traveling in our camper sprinter van, much better suited.  So, I am enjoying lots of travel in the U.S., hoping to resume some international travel again, when possible.

Doug Roberts
I recently retired from a 21-year career with Deere & Co., which followed a 21-year career as a surface warfare officer in the United States Navy.  My chosen careers had one thing in common – a lot of international travel – so it’s been great to hang around home to focus on my hobbies: wood working, bike riding and fly fishing.  The pandemic has limited our travel opportunities; however, we’ve found that we can safely see the U.S. in our small RV, which has been a lot of fun. Like most of us, I’m looking forward to a return to normal socializing and large family gatherings, especially the opportunity to see my parents and grandchildren on a regular basis.


Plymouth Church Closed Due to Weather


Plymouth Church Closed Tuesday, Jan. 26


Due to inclement weather, Plymouth Church is closed on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Please stay home and stay safe.


Weather Alert


WEATHER ALERT UPDATE: Plymouth Church will be closed all day, Friday, January 15 due to continuing unsafe travel conditions as a result of inclement weather. We will reopen Tuesday, January 19 following the MLK Day Holiday on Monday.


Christmas Plant Pickup Postponed to Monday, Dec. 14


Due to the snow that continues to fall, Plymouth is postponing the Saturday morning Christmas Flower sale that was scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday morning, Dec. 12. Please stay home and stay safe.

Instead, please plan to stop by the lower level of the Plymouth parking garage on MONDAY, DEC. 14, 1-3 p.m. to pick up your Christmas flowers.


Home for the Holidays: Advent 2020


This year Plymouth, like most of the rest of the world, is Home for the Holidays. But that doesn’t mean nothing is happening! Far from it! During Advent, Plymouth will host online and in-person, socially-distanced events, along with an Advent Bag full of ideas for you and your family to enjoy at home. If you didn’t pick up a bag (or if you want to print additional copies of any of the bag’s pieces), never fear…we’ve created a Virtual Advent Bag just for you. Click here to visit a page that includes all the elements of the bag in PDF format. We wish you Peace, Joy, Love and Hope during this most holy holiday season!


An Introductory Conversation with Rev. Sarai Rice


Rev. Sarai Rice is the newly selected Interim Senior Minister for Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Des Moines. In this video on Plymouth Church’s YouTube channel, Rev. Rice is interviewed by 2020-2021 Church Council Moderator David Johnson.


Sarai Rice Named Interim Senior Minister


We are very pleased to announce that we have called our new Interim Senior Minister—Rev. Sarai Rice. This past Tuesday, September 22, Church Council approved this action. Sarai will begin her work with us on Monday, October 5. Sarai’s name will be familiar to many; she recently provided her consulting expertise to our strategic planning group as they crafted our Practicing Radical Love plan.

Here’s a recap of the process that led us to this moment. The August 24th Moderator Minute provided insight about why calling an Interim Senior Minister is important and outlined the selection process. A collaborative effort resulted in a robust job description that grounded our search.

Former moderators comprised the initial search team: Dave Everett, Steve Jacobs, and Beth Stelle Jones. They sent their top three of five candidates on to the interview team that was approved at the August 25th Church Council meeting: Dave Everett, Anita Fleming-Rife, Jim Green, Jodi Gruening, David Johnson, Linda Sullivan, and LeAnn Stubbs. And then the entire Plymouth staff conducted group interviews with all three candidates. After this thorough vetting process, our top candidate emerged. On Tuesday, September 22nd the Church Council voted to accept the Interim Senior Minister candidate, who was recommended unanimously by the interview teams and the church staff.

Some may ask, “Is Sarai too close to Plymouth Church, does she know us too well?” In fact, we considered this question, also discussed it with Sarai, and we determined quite the opposite: her considerable consulting and organizational expertise, combined with her understanding of our operations and our values means she will “hit the ground running.” There is much work ahead! Considering revisions to our bylaws, laying the groundwork for a new senior minister search, acting on our new strategic plan, continuing our virtual and then in-person worship—all these initiatives and more. We are very enthused Sarai will be part of our journey over the coming months, helping us grow in love of God and neighbor.

Comments from some staff and others involved in the interview process include: “Sarai is exactly who we need right now. . .” and “She demonstrated great pastoral care during thinterview by the questions she asked us.” When we asked Sarai about her favorite Bible story, she referenced  an Old Testament story of Jacob and God’s advice to him. One of her takeaways from the story is to “listen to everyone”.

In sum, we believe Sarai’s experience, wisdom, compassion and enthusiasm are exactly what Plymouth needs at this moment in time. As our congregation gains clarity about who we are, and what we need from lay and staff leadership, particularly our next called and settled Sr. Minister, Sarai’s gifts will serve us well. And it sure doesn’t hurt that she is super smart and has a great sense of humor!

There will be many opportunities to hear from and get to know Sarai in the coming days. By Monday afternoon a brief video chat between Moderator David Johnson and Sarai will be posted on the website. Please check back to see the Q&A.  With radical love, we welcome Sarai Rice to Plymouth Congregational Church!


NEW Monday Moderator Minute Email Newsletter: Find back issues here!


Access an archive of Monday Moderator Minute Newsletters by clicking here, or visiting the Life at Plymouth: Resources area from the top navigation bar on this website.

As we enter into this time of transition, communication is especially important. We are committed to sharing what we can, when we can – in a consistent, timely and transparent way.

Starting the week of Aug. 17, we will send a weekly message to keep everyone informed of what is happening with various work being done by passionate members of our church. We will use this forum to brief you on the most current information about things like:

  • Status of senior minister interim leadership
  • Senior Minister search
  • The Strategic Plan
  • Bylaws Committee Updates
  • Returning to in-person worship


Depending on the pace of the work on each topic, some weeks may have more updates than others. If there are things you’d like to know more about, please let us know.

We will send these weekly messages each Monday during our transition period, and also archive them on our website. It will be a short read, from the Moderator and Moderator-Elect, sent on Mondays – so, look for the Monday Moderator Minute.

As always, please reach out with your questions, comments and ideas.

Sincerely yours,

David Johnson

Jodi Gruening


It’s Time for VBS!


It’s Time for VBS!

Do you have your packet? Whether you’re participating in Plymouth Church’s Vacation Bible School 2020 Aug. 10-12, or at another time that’s convenient for you, you may find ALL the goodies HERE!


AARP Article Features Plymouth Choir Members

Meg and Chuck Smith, members of Plymouth’s Chancel Choir, are featured in an article on the AARP website. They talk about how COVID-19 has affected choirs, socially and for performance, and how virtual choirs have become the temporary norm. Enjoy!