Just found out that our church now has its own baby blog. So far, there have only been three entries, but it's only a few days old.
Also, our new minister, Pastor Brian Brandsmeier, was featured in the Iowa City Press-Citizen this weekend. It's a pretty good article. Unfortunately, the PC's online articles only last a week, so I'm going to re-post it here:
Pastor hopes to breathe new life into Faith United by Josh O'Leary for the Iowa City Press-Citizen
Brian Brandsmeier always has found a certain peace in the outdoors, be it at summer camp as a kid, leading boating trips up the Mississippi River in college or hiking with his wife.
"I really feel spiritually grounded outside," he said.
So when the pastor position opened up at Faith United Church of Christ with its outdoor worship services and community garden projects, the recent seminary graduate knew it would be an ideal fit for his first full-time job leading a church.
Last month, Brandsmeier replaced former Pastor Bruce Kittle at Faith United, located at 1609 DeForest Ave., near Mark Twain Elementary School in southeast Iowa City. The Waukon native graduated from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis in 2008 and most recently worked as a seminary intern in Bellville, Ill.
From his desk in his new office, he can look down the corridor and out the doors to the church's community gardens, where vegetables of all varieties grow. It's one of Faith United's many social work projects, he said, and one he's excited to be a part of.
"They're meant to give people a space who might not have room for a garden of their own, plus raise awareness of hunger issues in the neighborhood," Brandsmeier said. "Some of the vegetables that are grown are shared with the local food pantry."
With a large portion of those living in the Mark Twain neighborhood near or below the poverty line, Brandsmeier said the garden projects along with the church's free monthly dinners and its participation in Project Backpack, which sends food home with schoolchildren, are among the social justice causes championed by Faith United. The church also is an "open and affirming" community, meaning those of all sexual orientations are welcome.
"It's kind of an organic church," Brandsmeier said of his congregation of about 100. "People are very relational, and it's a small church. They're committed to social justice and putting their faith in action."
Brandsmeier hopes to energize the church by introducing new music styles to the services, supplementing traditional hymns with jazz, blues, African-American and Latino styles. He and his wife, Sara Klosterboer, enjoy writing songs together, and he hopes to lend his musical talents to services down the road.
"I think music does something deeper than words alone," Brandsmeier said. "A good sermon can do so much, but I think music done well can go even further."
Before seminary, Brandsmeier attended Luther College in Decorah with the idea of becoming a therapist. While working as a summer camp instructor at Camp EWALU, a Christian camp in northeast Iowa, he discovered he enjoyed working with the adult volunteers and campers alike.
"I ended up liking working with the adults as much as I did working with the kids," he said. "I had several people who came up to me and said, 'You should think about going into the seminary.'"
Brandsmeier discovered Faith United long before being hired here. When Klosterboer was in college at the University of Iowa, they would attend services on Sundays at the church.
"So it was exciting to not only come back to Iowa but to come back here to this church," he said.
Brandsmeier, who is an active blogger, would like to enhance the church's online presence to attract new members from the university and people in their 20s and 30s. He also would like to coordinate more social events and outings to bring people together.
"I'm biased, but I think it's a really cool church, and I'd like to help it grow and develop and create some buzz and excitement with special things going on," Brandsmeier said. "They're really committed to justice, but I'd like to help them have fun, too. If you do a lot of social justice work, you can get burned out pretty quick because it's overwhelming."
• Age: 31.
• Hometown: Waukon.
• Occupation: Pastor at Faith United Church of Christ in Iowa City.
• Education: Graduated from Luther College in 2002 and Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis in 2008.
• Family: Wife, Sara Klosterboer.
• Hobbies: Anything outdoors, writing and performing music.
• Did you know? Brandsmeier is an avid Iowa women's basketball fan.