The yoked parish of First Presbyterian Church in Hiawatha and First United Presbyterian Church in Falls City called "NEB-KAN Parish," began a period of pastoral transition on June 1, 2015 with the retirement of Rev. Roxie Sullivan, who served as the pastor for 14 years. Recognizing that the congregations and the society at large have changed much since the last pastor was called, this transitional time has called for each congregation to complete a mission study process and consider what God might be calling the church to do and be in the years ahead.
The Hiawatha mission study team, consisting of Jena Meyer, Cheryl Riley, Pam Smith, Debi Wright, and Sue Weast and led by Rev. Carolynn Winters-Hazelton (interim pastor), designed the mission study process, gathered and discussed the information, and compiled this report. History was researched and input from the congregation was sought in various ways, including questionnaires, and personal and group conversations.
Who Are We Today?
Through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit, we seek to bring people into relationship with and nurture our relationships with God. With a committed membership of 37, we demonstrate spiritual vitality through traditional Sunday whip and music, working together on outreach, mission and fund-raising activities, and regularly communicating with and caring for those within and beyond the congregation. A Sunday school is offered for our children during the school year. Week night Bible Studies during Lent and Advent have been provided. Members serve in school, health care, business, and farming professions, while those retired include teachers, business persons, doctors, farmers, and those with a farm-related heritage.
Members enjoy a close knit family feeling, sharing in weekly coffee and cookie fellowship time together, church potlucks, and special activities like hayrack rides and Christmas caroling. They regularly reach out to each other in times of need. Homebound and hospitalized members stay connected through visits and frequent contact. Sic newsletters a year keep members and friends informed, along with frequent church emails.
About half of our members are over the age of 60, though we have a small but strong core of young adults under 50. With several active, young families, four young children participate regularly along with several older youth. Several families represent three generations.
Most members have a long history with the church with cherished memories. The experiences in the church, identified as having particular importance and/or meaning to members over the years, included the opportunity to serve in leadership or work together on a project like the annual soup supper, teach Sunday school or work with VBS, participate in Bible studies, hear relevant sermons, celebrate Easter, provide monthly communion and outdoor worship. Many members particularly appreciated their own or family weddings, baptisms and memorial services celebrated in the church.
Members gladly shared in leadership, with an active Session, Deacon Board, and Parish Council. In recent months, the Presbyterian Women's group has not met as regularly as in the past, but they continue to receive contributions in order to continue support of their mission projects. Most summers we join with other churches to provide a Vacation Bible School program. Each year the congregation reaches out to the community through its root beer float sales at the Relay for Life, partnering with a social service agency to provide a Thanksgiving food basket to a family, participate in a tri-church sponsored summer event on the town square with bands and children's activities, and contribute food on a regular basis to the local food bank.
Our congregation deeply values vibrant preaching, worship and music, our family-like feeling and close relationships, the nurture of our children, and the way the church has been a consistent place of love, support and outreach through the years. Members work well together to accomplish projects and provide programs. There is a strong sense of resiliency as a church, having faced changing times and various storms with grace and a positive attitude.
A key way the congregation helps strengthen the wider community is through the Hiawatha Ministerial Association. The clergy meet monthly to administer several programs and provide support to each other. Programs include administering a fund to provide for financial needs like transportation and utility bills, providing over 100 Christmas food baskets to those in need, weekly Lenten services at noon that include lunch, and leading worship services for residents in assisted living and nursing home facilities.
Our facility is attractive and well maintained, with volunteers who clean the church and maintain the grounds. The sanctuary is known for being one of the most beautiful in town, with its dark wood and stained glass windows. In the 1980's an elevator was installed along with a parlor and upstairs restrooms. In addition to a shared pastor (at 50% time for each church), we share an organist with the Falls City church.
We have a history of generous giving, with members and friends fulfilling their pledges each year. However, over the last five-eight years our annual expenses exceed our income, and we must draw down our reserve accounts. Reserve funds are becoming very limited. We recently completed the Presbyterian Foundation's "Road to Financial Health Assessment," which recommended we give attention to the following areas to maximize resources: bequests and planned giving, actively discuss stewardship with the congregation, and explore online giving possibilities.
Shared activities with our yoke, the First United Presbyterian Church in Falls City, Nebraska, include a Sunday service in the spring, an Advent Sunday worship service, the Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday services,as well as potlucks and picnic fellowship activities.
Members are committed to the PC(USA) denomination, and particularly appreciate its openness, theological and liturgical traditions, and how it engages with important issues of our time. We participate in the One Great Hour of Sharing offering, as well as support the church through per capita, Basic Mission Giving and the Theological Educational Fund.
Like many small rural Midwest congregations today, we face a variety of challenges. Attracting new members has been difficult, and the few new members gained most recently have been new residents.
Our Mission is to.....Give glory and honor to God by proclaiming His word, shaaring the faith, reaching out to the community, and nurturing our members. The church exists with the presence of God at its center and the mission of Christ as its purpose.