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Matt Mardis-LeCroy Resigns as Senior Minister

2020-07-22

Church Council met in executive session with Senior Minister Matt Mardis-LeCroy on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, where it received his letter of resignation. You can read the full email sent to the congregation following that by clicking here, or using the Senior Minister Transition tab at the top of this webpage. Worship on Saturday, Aug. 1 and Sunday, Aug. 2 will feature Matt’s Service of Leaving, and we hope you will join us on Facebook Saturday at 5 p.m. or on YouTube Sunday at 9 a.m. to participate.

As the Senior Minister Transition progresses, you may continue to refer to the tab at the top of the website menu bar for current information.

Thank you good and faithful servant.

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News

Welcome New Members!

2020-06-22

The following new members joined Plymouth Church on Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21 following our first virtual Discover Plymouth class. Welcome!

John Bunz

John is a bond attorney with Ahlers & Cooney, P.C. John has three children: Sam (27), Ellie (25), and Emma (19).

Jay & Katie Byers

Jay is the CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Katie is the Founder and CEO of Home Ditty. Sophie (18) is a student at DMACC and Charlotte (16) is a junior at Des Moines Roosevelt. She is the drummer for Plymouth’s Saturday night band and a member of the Matins Choir.

Molly Ford and Drew Becker

Molly and Drew are a recently engaged couple looking to grow some roots in wonderful Des Moines, IA. Molly, a Wisconsin native, is a Soccer Coach with Sporting Iowa who enjoys being involved with the youth in her community. Her focus is to help kids grow, learn, and become well-rounded members of society through the sport of Soccer. Drew works for Rain & Hail in the Johnston area. He also helps coach with Sporting Iowa in his free time. He comes from Lawrence, KS. They both enjoy soccer, the outdoors, and staying active with friends. They also enjoy these activities with their wonderful pup named Luna.

James and Ynes Oggel

James is a retired M.D. who specialized in Allergy-Immunology. Ynes was born in Cuba and is a retired professor. Now living in Florida, James and Ynes have a second home in Urbandale allowing time to enjoy their two grandsons (8 & 4) and youngest son who live in Johnston. They have a son in Denver and a daughter in Durham, N.C., who has two little girls (5 & 4). Interests include reading, walking or biking on the area trails, traveling, very occasional golf, fine dining and good wines! When in Iowa they enjoy Reverend Matt’s Bible study classes. James is impressed with the Spiritual energy of Plymouth Church, and Ynes is looking forward to meeting other people at Plymouth who enjoy her joie de vivre.

Andra & Greg Peeler

Andra is a music therapist and financial representative. Her husband, Greg, is a special education associate in Waukee and in the process of earning his teaching license in theatre and speech. They love the outdoors, social justice, and are proud cat parents.

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Plymouth Goes Solar

2020-05-25

Plymouth Church is looking on the sunny side. Solar panels may be installed in the coming months on the south-facing roof that overlooks the driveway between our church and St. Augustin’s Catholic Church. This solar array is a landmark in our church-wide effort to live more sustainably and protect God’s creation.

As heard from the pulpit, particularly during our Rooted in Creation summer sermon series, we are called to care for God’s creation and ensure a safe and healthy planet for future generations of all life—be it human, animal, or plant.

During this COVID-19 crisis, the effects of climate change are abundantly clear. As humans stop flying, driving, and gathering in large crowds, we see dramatically cleaner air and water in major cities around the world. We also realize how innovative, resilient, and compassionate people are in a crisis. This pandemic is the perfect time to rethink how we live and work and to make adjustments that allow us and Mother Earth to thrive.

What better way to alert people to clean energy options than with a solar display on our church. Visibility is a key component of the project. The 2003 addition roof is prime because it provides optimum southern exposure to the sun. Also, the installation will be visible from the south (Grand Avenue) and southwest (some stretches of 42nd Street) sides. At the same time, the array will not be seen from the front (Ingersoll Avenue) or east side so as to not impinge on the historic architecture of the church.

The Plymouth Creation Care and Justice Coalition and the House and Space Committee are spearheading this installation after investing the past few years researching feasible environmentally friendly options. A $50,000 grant request is pending with the Plymouth Foundation to finance the installation.

If the grant is approved, we will work throughout the summer with Des Moines city officials to gain zoning approval and file for permits. Plymouth staff and House and Space committee members will hire and supervise a solar contractor. The solar panels may be up and hard at work by the Fall of 2020.

To read more details about the Plymouth solar project and solar energy in general, please download the following documents:

Plymouth Church Solar Power Plan

Plymouth Church Solar Power FAQ

https://www.iaenvironment.org/webres/File/News%20%26%20Resources/Publications/Real_Potential_Ready_Today_2016_updates_web.pdf

 

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News

THE HEART OF THE MATTER: An Invitation for the Summer

2020-05-21

As we move into summer, we invite you to join Plymouth Church as we read The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg together. Many of the online opportunities you’ve seen the past weeks will revolve around discussions of this book.

This All Church Reads program will begin on June 1, so get a copy of the book now and get ready to join the discussion. We will cover one chapter each week. You can purchase the books from your favorite online retailer or by contacting Beaverdale Books.

During the 12-week book study, worship texts will be selected to complement the book each week and sermons will be prepared to explore themes from the book as well.

Watch the monthly Contact and Plymouth Weekly emails for details about the book discussion opportunities. You can also request to join the Group for the book study on Plymouth’s Facebook page.

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Blog News Uncategorized

Help Us Make Plymouth Church The Answer to Jesus’ Prayer

2019-10-02

 

Can Plymouth Church be the answer to Jesus’ prayer?

 

We are about to find out.

 

When my friend Allen Hilton was here in September, he reminded us of Jesus’ prayer for all who would become disciples: that they may all be one (John 17:21). As Jesus sees it in John’s Gospel, our unity with one another is a sign to the world that we belong to God.

 

I believe Plymouth can be the answer to Jesus’ prayer. I believe we can find a deep and powerful unity with one another. But it will not happen apart from our efforts. It will require some courageous conversation.

 

That is why Allen is coming back in October. He will preach, once again, at all of our weekend worship services (October 12 and 13). And, on Saturday October 12, from 9 a.m. to about 1 pm., he will facilitate something we are calling Friendship in a Purple Church. Allen will help us develop the skills to really listen to one another across our differences. And he will facilitate a Courageous Conversation about friendships in a politically diverse church.

 

Because here is what we know: partisan political polarization is driving a wedge between friendships. We all know somebody who has lost a friendship because of the deep divide in our nation. And, at least in the short term, it looks like it will get worse before it gets better.

 

But Plymouth offers a unique opportunity to address the challenge of polarization.  Because while we, in many respects, a pretty homogenous congregation, there is one way in which we are undeniably diverse: we are a purple church.

 

What is a purple church? Well, we talk about red states (Alabama, Utah) and blue states (California, Massachusetts). And a lot of churches are like that. Many times, you can predict how somebody votes based on their church membership. But Plymouth is not like that. When it comes to partisan politics, we have a lot of diversity: Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives all belong to this church, share its covenant and support its work.

 

So we are positioned to do something almost unheard of in this divisive season: we can build deep and meaningful friendships, across partisan differences, right here at Plymouth. And when we manage to do that, we will become the answer to Jesus’ prayer.

 

But we have to show up and we have to do the work. So I am asking you to join us on October 12. ESPECIALLY if you have ever felt estranged from another member of this church because of partisan politics. We will gather in Waveland. There will be food and there will be childcare. Nobody is trying to convert anybody to a different point of view. The idea is to learn to relate across our differences and be enriched by the experience.

 

But the absolutely essential element…is you. I need you to make this a priority. I need your voice in this conversation. Join us on the morning of October 12. Help Plymouth become the answer to Jesus’ prayer.

 

See you in Waveland Hall?

 

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Blog News

I Have Called You Friends (September 7 & 8 at Plymouth Church)

2019-09-02

 

It’s here! It’s finally here!

Around the weekend of September 7-8, a lot of the things I love best about Plymouth Church come back from the summer hiatus. Choirs return. Church school resumes. Confirmation kicks-off. 9 to Dine begins again And, this year, we will see some new things: a Wednesday noon class on friendship, a Wednesday 7 pm adult Bible study, meals on Wednesday nights, new programming for older adults and so much more.

All of that is pretty exciting.

But wait! There’s more!

This weekend will also witness the start of our fall focus on Friendship. From September 7-8 right through Thanksgiving, our worship will explore the spiritual practice of friendship.

It all starts this weekend with Jesus.

John 15:12-17

12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

The setting here is the Last Supper –Jesus telling the disciples what they will need to know as they prepare for life without him. And in this section of the discourse, he is teaching them something important about the nature of their relationship with him and with one another.

“I have called you friends.”

Last week I did something I do not often do. I pulled a couple of volumes of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament off my shelf. (It was pretty dusty). And I consulted a couple of entries to formulate what follows.

The passage opens with the most fundamental commandment: that the disciples “love one another as I have loved you.” The Greek word for love in this verse is ἀγαπᾶτε, the Greek word denoting the highest and most selfless form of love. To make that even more clear, Jesus gives content to the concept by appealing to the example he is about to give them. There is no greater love than “laying down one’s life” for one’s friends.

Does that make you cringe? It makes me cringe a little. To “lay down one’s life” sounds like an invitation to self-sacrifice. Feminist theologians like Rita Nakashima Brock have rightly warned us of the dangers of construing love as self-sacrifice. That kind of rhetoric too often authorizes victimized and oppressed people to “lay down their lives” by continuing to suffer.

But this is where Kittel’s Theological Dictionary was (surprisingly) helpful. To “lay down one’s life” is an expression unique to the Johannine literature (the Gospel of John and the three epistles of John). But if you look at similar phrases in non-biblical literature, you start to see, not a connotation of self-sacrifice, but rather self-risk.

“To hazard one’s life for one’s friends.” Does that sound different? To me it does.

And then we have the Greek word for “friend”: Φίλοs. It is related to the word for “kiss.” But the original root may have meant something like “to regard and treat somebody as one of one’s own people.”

On his last night, Jesus founds a new community –a circle of friends who know that they belong to each other, are defined by Jesus’ example of love and who freely risk themselves for each other and for the advancement of that love.

And Jesus means to make that happen. There is a little conjunction in v.17 that does a big job:  ἵνα (“so that”).  Jesus does not merely set out some vague wishes for how we will be together as a church; he means to make it happen. He tells his disciples about so that it will happen.

He has called us friends.  And he means to make it so.

Plymouth Church, this weekend we start something special. Please don’t miss it. Jesus called us friends. And we’re going to start figuring out what that means –for each of us, for Plymouth, for the whole world.

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Blog News

A Course on Friendship

2019-08-26

Today we unveil the syllabus for A Course on Friendship, an adult education class that Matt Mardis-LeCroy will be offering on Wednesdays over the lunch hour.  Plan on joining him -and plan on bringing a friend!

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Announcements News

Plymouth Church Seeks Director of Child and Family Ministries

2019-08-20

Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Des Moines, Iowa seeks a full-time Director of Child and Family Ministries. We are a progressive congregation of approximately 3,200 members, committed to inclusivity and diversity.  We are looking for someone with the creativity and commitment to help us build upon our vibrant tradition of engaging children in the life of our church. Working closely with the Senior Minister, lay leaders and church staff,  the Director of Child and Family Ministries will direct the faith formation programming for children, including weekly church school, Vacation Bible School, and other family activities. Strong organizational skills and a proven ability to oversee effective programs for children are a must, as well as a bachelor’s degree (preferably in a related field) and five years of related professional experience. Position includes competitive salary and full benefits. A criminal background check is required.  Applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to mmardis-lecroy@plymouthchurch.com 

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“To See Your Face”: Seeing and Loving God in our Neighbor

2019-08-19

 

We are talking about growing in love –love of God, love of neighbor, love of self.

But what does love of God have to do with love of my neighbor?

Maybe more than we think.

 

Genesis 32:24—33:11

  24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

 Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. 3He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.

 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, ‘Who are these with you?’ Jacob said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant.’ 6Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; 7Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. 8Esau said, ‘What do you mean by all this company that I met?’ Jacob answered, ‘To find favor with my lord.’ 9But Esau said, ‘I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.’10Jacob said, ‘No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. 11Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.’ So he urged him, and he took it.

 

We are, obviously, parachuting into the middle of a long and messy story. Here is the nickel version.

 

Like the last time we were in Genesis, this is a story of strife between two brothers. Jacob and Esau are, in fact, twin brothers. But Esau is the older one and therefore, under the rules of primogeniture, is set to inherit all of his father’s property.

 

And he would have done just that –if Jacob had not tricked him.

 

In Genesis 27, we read the elaborate story of how Jacob tricked his father into conferring the blessing on him instead of Esau. Jacob’s deception is deadly serious and Esau vows to kill him.

 

20 years go by before they see each other again.

 

Jacob flees for his life and has a whole series of adventures: he has a vision of angels ascending and descending (“Jacob’s Ladder”), and then ends up living with his Uncle Laban. Laban is every bit the manipulator and trickster that Jacob is, and each tries to get the better of the other. Eventually, Jacob amasses a large family and a small fortune. Life has been good to Jacob.

 

But Esau is still out there.

 

Our passage for this weekend—containing portions of chapters 32 and 33—is part of the longer story of Jacob and Esau’s reconciliation. It is drawn out, thick with tension. (In his Genesis commentary for the Interpretation series, Walter Brueggemann writes, “The narrator has found a style to carry the listening community along the tortured and risky way to reconciliation”). Chapter 32 begins with Jacob—perhaps knowing that an encounter with Esau is now inevitable—making anxious preparations for their eventual meeting. He sends elaborate gifts to his estranged brother. He also sends his wives and children across a river, out of harm’s way.

 

It seems safe to say that Jacob may be hoping for the best but he fears the worst.

 

The night before the brothers are to meet, Jacob waits, anxious and alone. In the middle of the night he is attacked by a mysterious assailant. They wrestle until dawn.  Neither one can get the upper hand. At daybreak, the stranger blesses Jacob with a new name: Israel, meaning, “the one who strives with God.” And then Jacob, in turn, names that place Penuel: “For I have seen God face to face.”

 

The next morning, Jacob and Esau meet at last.  And…they reconcile! Instead of killing his brother, Esau runs to meet him, embraces him, falls on his neck, kisses him. And the brothers weep together. It is a powerful moment of human connection and healing.

 

So how does something like this happen? How can brothers long estranged be brought back together in love? Mostly I am saving that for my sermon. But simply consider this: In 33:10, Jacob says, for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God.

Like seeing the face of God.

 

Jacob knows a thing or two about that.

 

Sometimes seeing God’s face is the secret to loving our neighbor.

 

See you in church!

 

 

 

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Hitting a Little Close to Home: The Story of Cain

2019-08-05

 

Sometimes the Scriptures hit a little close to home. As we struggle with the aftermath of multiple mass shootings in this country—as we grieve and grapple with the horror—our summer sermon series invites us to consider the story of Cain.

Genesis 4:1-17

Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” 2Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.

3In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

6The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? 7If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

8Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.

9Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 11And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”

13Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” 15Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

16Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 17Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch

 

 

We are back at the beginning again, all the way back at the 4th chapter of Genesis. The Bible opens with two creation stories, a description of the paradise in which human life began and of the subsequent exile from that paradise. Chapter 4 is a sort of starting over.  What will life look like “east of Eden”?

It will look like a brother murdering his brother for no good reason.

This is why I keep coming back to the Bible. I don’t know if this story happened the way that Genesis tells it, but I know it is true: Humans too often and too easily hate other humans.  Abel is Cain’s literal brother but that does not stop Cain from killing him.

This text tells some important truth for this moment. We need a real conversation about gun control in this country. We need to pay more attention to how we treat mental health. We need to clearly and consistently condemn racist and white nationalist rhetoric in our politics.

But.

But we also have to face up to the evil in the human heart. This may be one of the ways that I am not a good theological liberal: I tend to believe that there is something broken in us. We too readily and too easily slide into hatred and fear. Cain’s story is out story.  (It is interesting to note that, after killing his brother, Cain goes on to found the first city. The writer of Genesis takes a pretty dim view of city life. And Human civilization is itself founded by the guy who also invented murder).

But we will not be reading this text in a vacuum. We are in the midst of our summer series on Growing in Love. And this weekend we will focus on love of self.

So rather than share any more of my thinking, let me simply tell you where this weekend’s sermon will start.

I think Cain’s deepest problem is that he does not love himself. Everything follows from that.

I know how that sounds. But I believe it. And I believe recognizing the consequences of our failure to love ourselves could be the first step in turning things around.

See you in church!