xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: March 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Comes Down Will Go Up

March 27, 2012

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

This July 2nd marks the thirtieth anniversary of a bizarre event in the history of human aviation. In 1982, 33-year old truck driver Larry Walters attempted to fulfill a lifelong dream. Poor eyesight had prevented his childhood goal of joining the Air Force and eventually becoming a space shuttle astronaut. But that did not keep him from making plans to soar among the clouds.


His plan began with constructing his own aircraft in his girlfriend’s home near Los Angeles. He went to his local Sears store and purchased a cockpit chair, in the form of the sturdiest lawn chair he could find. Then he went to a nearby army surplus store and picked up some rope, a tank of helium, and forty-five large, industrial-sized weather balloons.

On the day of his launch, he secured the lawn chair to the ground with several lengths of rope, inflated each of the weather balloons, tied them to his chair, and sat down with a sack full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a six-pack of beer. Oh, and he had his BB gun. His plan was simple: take the aircraft into the air, hover a bit above the treetops for a few hours, and use the BB gun to shoot the balloons, one by one, until he could safely and gently descend back to earth.

Foolproof plan.

With a crowd of friends watching, a sack of sandwiches, a supply of beer, and a trusty BB gun at his side, Larry Walters cut the rope securing his chair to the ground. The newspaper the next day described what ensued as Larry being “shot up into the LA sky like being shot out of a cannon.”

Rather than traveling 30 feet into the air, Larry quickly ascended to 16,000 feet. In the process of being shot up that quickly, his eyeglasses flew off his face, rendering him essentially blind. He suddenly learned two things about high altitudes. First, one is subject to prevailing winds. His homemade dirigible swept across the greater Los Angeles area, into the airspace of LAX International Airport, and towards the Pacific Ocean. Second, he discovered that at 16,000 feet, one gets awfully cold, a lesson that he realized when he reached for his shotgun to begin bursting balloons. With his fingers numb from the freezing temperatures, he dropped the gun.

His aircraft caught the attention of several TWA, Delta, and Pan Am airplane pilots in the sky, and a rescue helicopter was dispatched that could do little more than follow him around. Eventually, after several hours, Larry Walters and his deck chair did come down, in Long Beach, California, tangled amid several power lines in a local neighborhood. When he hopped down from the power lines, he landed right into the hands of law enforcement officers, who arrested him for numerous violations, including trespassing LAX airspace and knocking out power in the greater Long Beach area.

The New York Times reported on Larry’s antics the following day, and reporters asked him three questions:

  1. "Were you scared?" Yes, said Larry.
  2. “Are you going to do it again?" No, he said.
  3. "What in the world made you do it?" Larry gave an answer that only guys like Larry Walters could appreciate. “Because,” he said, “A guy can’t just sit around and do nothing.” He was a guy’s guy, that Larry Walters.

He learned the hard way that what goes up must come down, a lesson underscored by John’s gospel in chapter 20, and the words of Jesus during the last week of his life. Except Jesus would have said it this way...


Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem coincided with the festival observance, and an international crowd gathered to hear Jesus declare, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” The disciples of Jesus had to be downright giddy at these words. It was Jesus’ moment to shine, to ascend to power, to assume the throne, and to take the disciples with him. It was time for Jesus to rise up.


Except Jesus then said something that utterly shocked the disciples, surprises the reader, and turns conventional wisdom on its ear. He knew full well that if one seeks to rise up, one will only tumble down. So he said, Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Can’t you hear the disciples say, “Excuse me, Jesus? I beg your pardon? That doesn’t make sense!” Everyone knows that if you want to be great, you have to climb the ladder of success! You have to be better than the other guy! You have to sink the competition! You have to look out for yourself! What is this nonsense about going down and falling to the earth in order to be great?

But that’s exactly what Jesus said. If you want to be great, you have to descend. To go up, you have to come down. You have to descend into greatness.

If the New York Times were there covering this story, they might ask him the exact same questions:

  1. “Jesus, are you scared?” Yes, he said, in verse 27: “Now my soul is troubled.” But then he went further: “And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” He was scared, but he was undeterred.
  2. “Jesus, why are you doing it?” “To glorify God,” he said in verse 28. Jesus knew that no fear of death, no risk of failure, no anxiety about the future, was more important than his central task: Glorifying God, and leading others to realize God’s love for them.
  3. “Jesus, would you do it again?” Yes, over and over again. Verse 28: “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’”

Larry Walters learned the hard way that what goes up will eventually come tumbling to the ground. Yet that’s the way the world would want you to live, seeking yourself and your own needs before others. But Jesus put it differently. If you want to rise up, you must first come down. Down in the form of a servant. Down in the spirit of self-sacrifice. Down in sharing God’s love with others.

As we begin Holy Week this Sunday, God is calling each of us to live in the example of Christ, and to engage the challenge of the cross. It is the challenge to live for God and for the sake of others, rather than for yourself. A challenge to serve the church with energy and vitality, rather than leaving others to do the work you are uniquely equipped to perform. A challenge to surrender to God, getting rid of the habits, sins, and obstacles to grace that have plagued you for so long. A challenge to tell others about Jesus, telling them of God’s love for them, that their lives might be transformed just like yours. A challenge to humble yourself before God so that you can be like a grain of wheat, falling to earth, and rising up to bear fruit.

The challenge is yours if you will seize it. And these same questions are for you:

  1. Are you scared? Of course we are. It is scary to take risks, scary to get out of our comfort zones, and scary to tell others about Jesus. But remember: “it is for this reason that we have come to this hour.” This is our purpose, to give our lives to God and service to other people.
  2. Why do we do it? Just like Jesus, to glorify God. Nothing is more important in our lives, for we are part of something grander and greater than anything else in the world.
  3. Should you do it again? Yes, yes, and yes. Not just once. Not just during Lent, and not only on Easter. But over and over again, practice the law of love and self-sacrifice in our life, and make it a consistent pattern of your discipleship. Seize the challenge, over and over again.

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA 51012
Ph: 712-225-3955
Email: mdevega@sp-umc.org


– Grundman Hicks began building scaffolding last Wednesday, a process which will take most of this week to complete. ServiceMaster will then begin cleaning the walls, followed by a complete repainting by the company in Dubuque who did the prior painting. Care will be taken to ensure that all the gold leaf on the ceiling will be preserved, as it does not appear that they will need to be redone. Grundman Hicks will also repatch the part of the ceiling in the southwest corner damaged by a leaky roof several years ago. In addition, a piano and organ cleaning professional arrived last Wednesday out of Sioux City was able to clean both instruments on site.

Kitchen and Dining Hall – Grundman Hicks did an amazing job last week thoroughly clearing out the debris and items from the kitchen and dining hall. All items have been removed and the areas have been stripped down to the walls. The entire east wall of the kitchen, the part including the service windows, has been completely removed, for possible expansion of the future kitchen. An environmental engineer in Des Moines determined on Friday that there is no asbestos in the walls and ceiling, so removal of all lath and plaster began yesterday. An asbestos abatement company arrives today (Tuesday) to begin removal of the floor tile and the stage. A structural engineer arrived yesterday and determined that there is no damage to the structural integrity of the sanctuary floor. Finally, the architect came last Friday to take pictures of the cleared kitchen and dining hall to make further adjustments to the design plans.

We will be having our normal Holy Week schedule of services at the Community Center, with the exception of Maundy Thursday, which we will suspend for this year.
Palm Sunday, April 1, 10:10 am
Good Friday, April 6, 7:00 pm
Easter Morning, April 8, Identical Services at 7:00 am and 10:10 am
Youth Easter Brunch, in the upstairs Community Center, from 8:00 to 10:00 am.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Tale of Two Bowls

March 20, 2012

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”
(Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 1)

These famous words came from Lady Macbeth, who was so overcome with guilt from her part in the murder of King Duncan that she began hallucinating blood on her hands. Despite her constant hand washing, she could not remove the stain from her conscience. Little could William Shakespeare have known when he wrote the play that over four hundred years later, in 2006, researchers at Northwestern University would coin the term “Macbeth Effect” to describe the psychosomatic link between a person’s guilty conscience and their personal hygiene.

In one experiment, researchers asked a group of students to remember a time in their lives when they had committed some unethical deed, such as betraying a friend. They asked a second group to remember a time they performed a noble deed, like returning lost money. Afterwards, researchers offered members of the two groups the choice of a gift: either a pencil or an antiseptic wipe. Amazingly, people asked to relive an unethical episode in their lives were twice as likely to accept the antiseptic wipe and use it to wash their hands.

Another research experiment showed that people who felt guilty about transgressions in their past were significantly more likely to participate in volunteer projects designed to improve the lives of others in the community. “It’s sometimes called symbolic cleansing, or moral cleansing, and it’s an attempt to repair moral identity,” said Dr. Philip Tetlock, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of California, Berkeley. However, when these same persons were offered the chance to wash their hands, their willingness to follow through and participate in those volunteer opportunities dropped by half. [1]

What is it about washing hands that somehow clears a conscience of wrongdoing?

Consider Pontius Pilate, who followed his sentencing of Jesus to death by washing his hands. Perhaps he had grown weary of the debate, and the competing voices between his own conscience and the Jerusalem crowds. Perhaps he had sensed Jesus’ innocence, but cowered in fear of the growing mob. Perhaps we would want to give Pilate some credit for at least considering the correct choice during his deliberation. But when he washed his hands, he absolved himself of any opportunity to do what was costly, what was risky, and what was right.

His decision was antithetical to the meaning of the cross, which calls us to take the narrow, more complicated path. Whereas the Pilates of this world will choose what is easy and expedient, followers of Jesus are called to live a cruciform life, a life of service and self-surrender. In contrast to the way of violence and appeasement, disciples are called to peace, self-sacrifice, and love.

Ultimately, the hand washing bowl of Pilate is a direct contrast to the foot washing bowl of Jesus. On the night before he died, just hours before Pilate washed his hands, Jesus assumed the role of a servant and washed the disciples’ feet. And then, he gave them a new commandment: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:34-35)

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us ponder this question: Are you a foot washer or a hand washer? Will you offer yourself in self-giving love to others, or will you choose the less complicated way of self-centeredness? Will you follow a road that is marked by cowardice, or a road that leads to a cross? Will you choose a love for power, or the path of powerless love?

Join us this Sunday as we dig further into the story of Pilate, and may we live the prayer captured in the words of the immortal hymn “Rock of Ages”:

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to your Cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA 51012
Ph: 712-225-3955
Email: mdevega@sp-umc.org

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/12/health/psychology/12macbeth.html?_r=1

Education Wing: All classrooms and offices have been cleaned and are ready to resume use.
Sanctuary: All pews, hymnals, carpet, and audio/visual equipment have been removed from the main floor of the sanctuary. A structural engineer is expected to arrive in the next week or so to check the structural integrity of the sanctuary floor and begin building scaffolding for the repainting the walls. The upholstery of the pews is expected to be cleaned, and the carpet will need to be replaced.
Kitchen and Dining Hall: Grundman Hicks Construction began work last Wednesday removing all debris from the damaged areas, a process which will take about two weeks. A large dumpster is now located on the loading area in front of the church, which means that entrance to the office will need to be through the east doors for the next seven to ten days. Modern Heating and Cooling has been contacted to remove the radiators, and Champion Electric has installed temporary lighting. Jean Anderson and Phyllis Parrott are overseeing inventory of all kitchen items, so if you are aware of any personal items that you may have lost in the fire, please contact them. All tables and chairs in the dining hall are damaged or affected by smoke and soot and cannot be recovered, along with dishware and silverware in the kitchen. All of those items will be completely replaced by insurance. The Building Committee will be meeting again with the architect on Wednesday, April 4, at which time we expect the kitchen and dining hall to be completely stripped down to the bare bones and we can resume plans for the renovation.

We will be having our normal Holy Week schedule of services at the Community Center, with the exception of Maundy Thursday, which we will suspend for this year.
Palm Sunday, April 1, 10:10 am
Good Friday, April 6, 7:00 pm
Easter Morning, April 8, Identical Services at 7:00 am and 10:10 am
Youth Easter Brunch, in the upstairs Community Center, from 8:00 to 10:00 am.

“My brother Greg just shared your letter about the fire in the kitchen and damage the Schuldt dining hall. We are so sorry! Uncle Victor and Aunt Ruth were cherished members of our family. Although I never lived in Iowa, I attended more church camps there than in places where I did live. The Schuldt legacy is strong and I am pleased to know that St. Paul’s remembers my uncle and aunt.” Blessings, Scott Jones, Bishop of the Kansas Annual Conference.

“Our prayers are with you and the Cherokee church. I pray that the fire in the church did not cause damage that is not reparable. Thankfully no loss of life and worship continuing as you rebuild. Please share my support for your ministry. Julius Trimble, Bishop of the Iowa Annual Conference

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sad News on the Home Front

March 11, 2012

Dear St. Paul's Family,

This morning, during the Sunday worship service, I read the following statement regarding some sad developments in our family. Thank you for your support and prayer during this difficult time.

Statement to the Congregation

It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I share with you a significant development in my personal life and family.

Nearly five years ago, my family arrived in Cherokee to start a new chapter of our life together. Jessica was beginning her exciting new career as the Assistant Professor of Religion at Morningside College, and I had received the privileged assignment of serving as your new pastor. We had exchanged the bustle of big city life in Florida for a quieter, more intimate community life in Iowa. Though the first several months of our transition came with sizable adjustment, we steadily became acclimated to our new surroundings, and established relationships with many wonderful people.

However, over time, our marriage underwent significant strains, stemming from what I can best describe as growing differences in our perspectives, our values, and our priorities. Despite my best efforts, she has not always felt that I have been supportive of her career and of her driving passions as a professor. Likewise, I have not always seen our relationship as an equal partnership, falling short of my ideal definitions of both a healthy marriage and healthy parenting. These divergent values and priorities led to regrettable actions and numerous instances in which we felt severely hurt by the other person.

Without divulging the full details of our problems, I want to assure you that any part that I have played in the fracturing of my marriage is no way immoral, irresponsible, inappropriate, or illegal. It may be easy to jump to those conclusions given our scandal-addicted, tabloid culture, but I can promise you that I have done nothing to compromise my responsibility as a moral and spiritual authority for this congregation.

At first, Jessica and I worked at repairing the marriage, seeing a therapist regularly for about twelve months, as well as spending time together as a family during my summer renewal leave. Despite my hopes that these would remedy the broken trust, things continue to stagnate, and even worsen, over time.

So, three weeks ago, on Friday, February 17, Jessica told me that she had found a place to live in Sioux City, a move that she had been contemplating for several months. It was her intention to leave the girls with me, here in Cherokee, for the foreseeable future, in the hopes of arranging a visitation plan that would involve the girls staying in school here and staying with her on many, if not most, weekends. Last Saturday, she moved out of our home, thus beginning our separation.

I will admit to you a great deal of sadness, as well as bewilderment, at these developments. Family has always been, and continues to be, the highest priority in my life, and it is hard not to feel profoundly disappointed in my inability to keep this family together. I have no idea what the future holds for me and the girls, but I have finally come to realize that some things need to die in order to be resurrected. That is a belief that will hopefully sustain me during a Lenten season that is anchored on that very conviction.

I do ask that you assist me in ensuring that the two persons least responsible for this separation - our two daughters, Grace and Madelyn - continue to grow and mature in as normal environment as possible. Indeed, they will need to make difficult adjustments to these new living arrangements, and Jessica and I are committed to making sure that they are loved, supported, and nurtured. I ask you to join us in that effort, treating them as you would any other child, rather than children of a high-profile separation. No one their age wants to stick out from the crowd for all the wrong reasons. They are much too special to be deprived of the opportunity to stand out for who they are: amazingly gifted, intelligent, and beautiful young women with an immeasurably bright future. The girls are this morning with their mother in Sioux City, in order to relieve them of experiencing the burden of hearing this public announcement. Yet, on forthcoming Sunday mornings, both the girls, and perhaps Jessica, will continue to be a visible presence in this congregation for morning worship.

I know that for many of you, this is not surprising news. Since we shared these developments with the girls three weeks ago yesterday, we gave them full freedom to share their thoughts and feelings with any teachers or friends they wished to tell. As a result, word of our separation has been circulating in this community for weeks, leaving many of you to wonder what was fact and what was rumor. I regret the confusion that these swirling rumors may have caused you. I hope you'll understand the reasons for the timing of my announcement today. I wanted to wait until after Jessica actually moved out, which she did eight days ago. I also wanted to refrain from clouding our already emotional first worship service here in the Community Center following the fire. But most importantly, before I made this news public, I wanted to speak to my parents in person, which I did last Tuesday in Florida.

I also hope that you will understand, moving forward, that my primary priority as your pastor will continue to be as it has always been: as a father to these two girls. I will carry out my duties to this church with the same kind of faithfulness, compassion, and joy that has marked my first five years here. But now that you are aware of what has happened on the home front, I trust that you will have a deeper awareness of the fullness of my heart which I bring to this task. Nevertheless, I am as committed as ever to serving as your pastor.

Finally, I want to express to you a word of gratitude. These last two years have been incredibly draining on my spirit and my heart. There have been days when the pain has been nearly unbearable. But two things have continued to sustain me. The first is my two girls. The second are all of you. In those times when living here in this situation has felt too dark and dreary to move on, I have always - always - been uplifted by being with you on Sunday mornings. You all have no idea the degree to which you have ministered to me, week after week. When everything else has seemed to be going wrong in my life, being with you in worship has strengthened my spirit and reminded me of why I am called to do what I do, and why I am called to be here. Your response to my pastoral leadership, the amazing ways that you are working to fulfill our mission together, and even your laughter at my feeble attempts at humor, have given me infinite encouragement. Whenever the suffering has seemed inconceivable, being with my girls - and being with you - has made all the sense in the world.

I am trusting in that same spirit of unity and love in Christ to be the one center that will hold amidst the swirl of my professional and personal life. As we recover from the fire and work to rebuild the campus together, I will turn to God - and to this church family that I love very much - for the same kind of rock solid support that has sustained me throughout these years. Now, more than ever, I feel privileged to be your pastor. And I look forward to experiencing resurrection with you.

Grace and Peace,


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA 51012
Ph: 712-225-3955
Email: mdevega@sp-umc.org

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Kitchen is the Heart of the Home

March 6, 2012

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Last week, I asked you to share with me your favorite memories of the church kitchen and Schuldt dining hall, which were ravaged by fire nine days ago. My inbox burst with messages from a wide cast of people, from recent arrivals to the St. Paul’s family, to those whose roots go back to Victor and Ruth Schuldt themselves. The stories range from the amusing (like Chuck Tolzin’s jello) to the moving (like Brenda Wetherell Kluger’s funeral luncheon for her father.) But all of them are personal, poignant, and fitting tributes to sacred spaces that have put God’s love into action for ninety-five years.

Also, for those of you who were not in the service last Sunday, read the end of today’s message for the latest developments in the recovery and reconstruction of the damaged areas.


From Donald Schuldt, youngest son of Rev. Victor and Ruth Schuldt, after whom the Schuldt Dining Hall is named:
Rev. DeVega, I received the sad news of the fire today via e-mail. This is from Donald Schuldt, youngest child of Victor and Ruth Schuldt. I now live in Lakeland, Fl. I have many memories of St. Paul’s. Dad served there from June, 1962 thru June of 1974. Cherokee was my home for several years while I attended Morningside College (as both my parents had done). I was married in the sanctuary by my father in Jan. 1967 and we had our reception in the dining room. I also want to mention that following the memorial service for my Dad in 1985 we had a wonderful reception in the dining room. The last time I was in St. Paul’s was in 2002. I attended Sunday morning services and was warmly greeted by and enjoyed visiting with many old friends, again in the memory filled dining room. I hope all goes well with the work restoring the damaged areas. Sincerely, Don Schuldt

From Miriam Kashia, daughter of Vic and Ruth Schuldt:
Dear Rev. Magrey R. deVega, The sad news of your recent fire reached me through a roundabout route, and I share your sadness at the loss and difficulty your church community is experiencing. I hope your clean up and reconstruction and renovation proceed with all speed and ease. Thank you for your kind words about Rev. & Mrs. Schuldt. I am their daughter, and was married in St. Paul's sanctuary in 1962. I recently visited the church when I was passing through and was given a warm welcome and lovely tour by your church secretary. My parents had many happy memories of their time in Cherokee, and though none of us 5 offspring ever lived there, we visited the beautiful big parsonage on Roosevelt often during those years. Blessings to your and your congregation as your rise up from the ashes and, with the support of the community, "rebuild the temple."

From Mary Jo Carnine:
My earliest memories, as a small child in the 1940's, were when my Mother and Dad (Margaret & Jeffery Barry) belonged to the Sunday Morning and Evening group--usually a group of married couples, when they met in the evening for a pot luck supper. All of the children, myself included, had a fun time exploring other areas of the church while the adults did what adults did after our meal.
Other memories were when I was in MYF youth group, in the 1950s, for our monthly get-togethers locally or when we hosted district youth rallies. Rev. Feller was our 'fearless leader' most times, and he would join in with any of our games and become a 'kid at heart.' what fun we all had. But for serious times he was a great leader and role model as well as his wife, Mildred.
My other memory was the wonderful time spent with family and friends, when I was married at our church, with the reception held in the dining room. Also, I remember all of the many WSCS gatherings (a Methodist women’s group in the 1940s) which I attended with my mom. And, of course, I think of the many United Methodist Women’s events I have helped with and attended.

From Liza Parker wrote:
Throughout the two years I have attended St Paul's I have become familiar with more and more lovely people, but have especially become acquainted with my church family in the dining room. Face to face communication....(with the accompaniment of FOOD,) allows me to get to know people on a more personal level. I have great memories of delicious food for Thanksgiving, Christmas, the pancake supper, and good laughs while practicing the bells etched in my memory bank. All said, my favorite memories will be all the friends and family gatherings in the "old" kitchen and dining room hall at the St Paul's United Methodist Church.

Abby Hausmann-Virgil, Sheree and Louis’ daughter, wrote in:
I have many, many fond memories in that space from growing up in the church. From drinking the signature watered down Kool-aid during VBS to donning my choir robe on the stage – and many in between.

From new members Kim and Karen Aduddell:
Kim and I were so sorry to hear the news of the fire Sunday. We have only been members of the congregation for a little over a year, but I feel I have come home at last. St Paul's was my stomping ground when I was in Jr. High and High School. Then I got this notion to get married (a good thing) and joined the church my husband and his family attended. I wish it hadn't taken me so long to come back to where there are so many more familiar faces, friends and family.

From Linda Christensen:
I can remember many hours of prepping for the UMW Election Day Bazaar. With Sherry as the captain, the crew made an assembly line for adding the ingredients to our famous chicken casserole. I remember a long line of ladies gabbing as they "ta-da-dumped" their portion into the passing pan. I’m not going to say that we never goofed, but somehow they were always delicious!
During the Bazaar, we worked our stations in the kitchen with fun and efficiency. Every year, improvements were made in the system of dishing up, handing out, and cleaning up. It’s amazing how much we got done in a few hours time.
As for the dining room, besides after church coffees, UMW Mother/Daughter banquets, and potluck meetings, it means music to me. It is where I got the children’s choir lined up before they entered the church for their anthem. It is where I heard the bell choir practice before I went up to chancel choir practice in the sanctuary on Wednesday nights; and where the chancel choir put the final polish on their anthem before worship service began on Sunday mornings.

From former pastor Rev. Gary Armstrong:
One of my favorite recollections relative to the kitchen at St. Paul’s UMC was when we used to have “Bread Auctions” for missions. Cinnamon rolls would be baking in the kitchen while the worship service was going on. The aroma from the baking rolls would rise to the sanctuary. For a preacher to compete with the smell of fresh baking cinnamon rolls was something that seminary did not prepare one for.
The fellowship and fun of such occasions is a great memory for a former pastor.
As pastor during the sanctuary renovation one of the facets I appreciated was that the congregation was more concerned with what happened to the church as a people than with what happened to the church as a building. That approach served to contribute to a cooperative spirit that helps make wonderful things happen in the life of a congregation.
My family and I feel blessed to have had 9 years at St. Paul’s – and the memories of that time together are indeed precious for all of us. You and the congregation will be in our thoughts and prayers as you meet another challenge.

From Michele Witcombe:
St. Paul's has been in my thoughts and prayers, as I received word of the fire happening as it was going on actually. My dad responded to the fire, and I couldn't believe what he was telling me. And Fireman Keith has to be very proud:)
I wanted to share my favorite kitchen and dining hall moment. I had my high school graduation reception in the kitchen and dining room area, and I can just remember all of the familiar faces helping out and it made my graduation so memorable. I had so many friends, family, relatives, teachers, and church family members in attendance at the reception, and it will always be a very clear, vivid memory. I was so full of joy and excitement that day for the past, present, and future. I am very grateful that I could hold such a great event at my home church.
I also have one other great memory. I went Christmas caroling with some of the members of the choir and a few others, and afterwards, we had very great chili in the dining hall area. I remember being so cold from the snow and cold, but it was great to share a warm meal with others. It was a good time that I still think about when December roles around.
I will continue to keep St. Paul's in my thoughts as I go on this week, and remember everyone on Sunday. Thank you for the update! Talk to you soon!

From Brenda Wetherell Kluger:
I'm so sorry to hear of the fire! St Paul's is the location of one of my happiest and one of my saddest memories. And one of my early cooking ventures.
I was married there 23 years ago and we held our reception in the dining hall downstairs & celebrated our happy occasion with many family & friends. Then almost 3 years ago, a little over 20 years after walking me down the aisle, I followed my dad’s casket down the aisle & said goodbye to his physical being. After his funeral we had our luncheon in the dining hall & were surrounded by friends & family in our grief. At both events we were appreciative of the United Methodist Women for preparing & serving the meals. I remember UMYF but one still makes me giggle to this day. The memory of the look on Ande Leatherman’s face when Rob Pickens & I showed her our pan of egg & ham casserole that we had added food coloring to make Green Eggs & Ham for Easter sunrise breakfast! She advised us that us UMYF members would be the ones eating that!

And finally, here’s the story I shared in my sermon last Sunday, from Tasha Timmermann:
One Sunday not long after Kent and I had started officially dating, his parents invited both of us to attend church with them as well as the meal that was being served afterwards. Of course Kent and I weren’t extremely comfortable in their attempts to show off “Kent’s new friend” but there really was no arguing with his dad….over anything….so we went. After a lot of stares and whispers during the service, we joined everyone in the dining hall for lunch. I got the privilege of sitting next to Chuck Tolzin!
After a lot of small talk and questions about who I was and where I came from, Chuck asked a question totally out of left field, “Do you know what’s so great about jello?” You can about imagine the questions going through my head.
Who was this guy and what was wrong with him? Why did I decide to date a guy whose church family was crazy? Was this some sort of psychological test? WHAT WAS I DOING HERE??????
I simply smiled and said I really wasn’t sure what the greatest thing about jello was. He took a giant scoop of jello, put it in his mouth, looked at me, smiled, and squeezed it all through his teeth. I nearly choked on my food. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen and is etched in my memory forever. He and I still joke about it quite often.


Q. How and when did the fire start?
A. Magrey received a call at 4:30 pm Sunday afternoon, February 26, from a person passing by the church reporting that the building was on fire. The Cherokee Fire Department arrived within minutes to dowse the flames and evacuate the smoke. After subsequent investigations by the fire marshal, our insurance adjuster, and an independent forensic investigator, the conclusion is that the fire was accidental in nature and originated with the north stove stop in the center island of the kitchen. No criminal activity is suspected.

Q. How much damage is there?
A. The process for putting a cost estimate on the damage is underway, but it is safe to assume that the kitchen will be a total loss, with significant renovation required in the dining hall. In addition, the Sanctuary, Feller Lounge, Heritage Room were filled with smoke that left behind a layer of soot on all the surfaces.

Q. What happened to the Sanctuary, and why are we worshipping off site during March?
A. Though the Sanctuary escaped major damage, it requires extensive cleaning due to soot and smoke odors. In addition, a structural engineer needs to verify that the structural integrity of the Sanctuary floor was not compromised. There may be additional concerns that arise as we move forward. For example, should the Sanctuary require repainting, it may take longer to resume worship, since it would involve removal of the pews and the building of scaffolding.

Q. How does this affect Sunday school?
A. We will be suspending Sunday school during the month of March as well, including Confirmation. The classrooms were largely untouched by smoke, but there is some soot on the surfaces in the Education Wing, particularly in the nursery. Sunday school teachers are welcome to come in and survey their materials by the end of next week, to help us determine what can be cleaned and what needs to be thrown out. All materials, including personal materials, should be inventoried for damage and can be replaced under our policy. Our arrangement with Service Master is that our own folks can come clean classrooms if they wish, but please help us keep track of the hours you volunteer to do so.

Q. How will the Sanctuary be cleaned?
A. Service Master has been contracted to do the cleaning of all areas affected by smoke and soot. Their services will be paid for under the provisions of our insurance policy.

Q. Can I see the damage?
A. Though all of the investigations have now concluded, we are still not allowing the general public to be in either the kitchen or the dining hall. There is still structural stability to determine, as well as the danger of asbestos.

Q. What will our insurance policy cover?
A. We are very pleased by the service given to us by Employers Mutual Insurance Company, whose representatives have been very active with us in the wake of the fire. We carry a policy of over 3.5 million dollars to cover the loss of church property, plus an additional amount to cover personal items used for church business lost in the fire. We also have funds to cover expenses related to continuing normal operations such as renting the Community Center. Our insurance company last week bumped us up to a “Large Loss” category; this means that the settlement should be sizeable. Everything lost in the fire or in need of repair will be addressed.

Q. How does this affect our plans for renovating the kitchen and dining hall?
A. The insurance company is willing to work with us on any changes we would like to make to the layout and equipment of the new kitchen and dining hall. Naturally, we will begin working from the designs approved by the congregation as part of our recent capital campaign, and we will make necessary adjustments as needed. Our insurance policy will pay for the replacement of all our equipment with new, updated pieces, as well as making sure the new rooms meet all necessary building codes. If there is significant additional cost associated with implementing the new designs, the church would have to pay for those. Nevertheless, our insurance company wants to be very flexible in working with us to get the kitchen and dining hall we need.

Q. How can we help?
A. We are thoroughly amazed and inspired by the overwhelming number of offers from church members to come in, get dirty, and do whatever it takes to help in the recovery. At this point, we are following the recommendations of both our insurance company and our Service Master agents, who strongly advise that our people refrain from being in the kitchen and dining hall for the foreseeable future. This is so that they can make sure that the areas constitute no structural or electrical danger, and so that professional people can handle the difficult initial waves of debris removal. All of this work is covered by our excellent insurance policy.

Q. How long will it take to get a new kitchen and dining hall?
A. That is very difficult to predict with any accuracy at this early stage in recovery. There may be new challenges that we discover as we further determine the extent of the damage, which would frame the length of time it takes to rebuild and renovate. The best guess at this point is that we could have a new kitchen and dining hall by Thanksgiving, but it could be sooner or later than that.

Q. What committees are overseeing the recovery and renovation?
A. The Trustees have all been apprised of the latest developments, and they will be overseeing the recovery, clearing, and cleaning of the damage. The Building Committee, created in 2010 as a subcommittee of the Trustees, will be overseeing the design and implementation of the renovations. The congregation will be kept informed of every major development, and we anticipate that a Charge Conference will be called to approve any final designs of the kitchen and fellowship hall. Along the way, comments or questions can be directed to any of the Trustees, particularly Don Witcombe, the Chairperson. You can also talk to Gene Anderson or any member of the Building Committee.

More than ever, it’s great to be the church together!


The Rev. Magrey R. deVega
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
531 W. Main St.
Cherokee, IA 51012
Ph: 712-225-3955
Email: mdevega@sp-umc.org

We continue worshipping in the upper level auditorium of the Community Center as our sanctuary is cleaned and inspected for damage. There is no Sunday school while we are off site, but worship is at our regular 10:10 start time. For those able to park further away, please reserve the main south parking lot for those with accessibility needs. We will have a team of senior high youth available to escort to the door those who need special assistance.

Over the next month, while worshipping in the Community Center, we will be using the upstairs carpeted classroom for nursery care. Karissa Wych will be there to take care of toddlers through 2nd grade.

We are once again taking orders for lilies to be given in honor and in memory of loved ones. Please place your order by calling the church office or writing it on an attendance form. We need to turn in the orders by Monday, March 19. The cost is $12.00.

Many of you know that Dr. Jessica Tinklenberg deVega, Assistant Professor of Religion at Morningside, has just completed a new book called All You Want To Know But Didn't Think You Could Ask: Religions, Cults and Popular Beliefs. The Book Vine will be hosting her for a book signing on Thursday, March 8, from 6:00-7:00 pm. Come meet the author, pick up a book, and have it signed!

Come hear Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, author of “Up, Up and Oy Vey!” How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero” as part of the Goldstein Lecture at Morningside College. It takes place Thursday, March 15, at 7:30pm in the Yockey Room of the Olsen Student Center or Morningside College. The event is free and open to the public.