Iowa Presbyterian Gathering 2023


August 26, 2023

10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Northminster Presbyterian, Ames, IA

Worship, Keynote And Workshops Will All Center Around The Theme Of Belonging To God And To One Another

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Mary Kay Duchene and Mark Sundby have studied loneliness and pathways to belonging for the past two years. Their book, A Path to Belonging: Overcoming clergy Loneliness, was released in July 2022. In her keynote address, Mary Kay will share why loneliness is an epidemic, what they’ve learned about loneliness and belonging for people in ministry, and what specific strategies individuals, clergy, and congregations can pursue to address this epidemic.


Rev. Erica MacCreaigh serves as transitional pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Independence, Iowa. A librarian for 25 years, she coauthored library services to the incarcerated and coedited on the road with outreach. A graduate of Iliff school of theology, her ministry interests include political use and misuse of christian religion, adult christian spiritual development, reclaiming the biblical notion of communal salvation, re-centering christian leaders in scripture and prayer, and Ignatian spirituality.

Workshops and Registration

  1. Sacraments and Belonging – John Pea
    In a time when everyone is booked to the max, when community-building media and calendar-numbing programming seems to choke our days, sometimes we feel lonelier than ever. Belonging seems like a nice dream, but who has the time? This workshop will explore God’s promise and pledge of a deeper, broader, and more abundant life of belonging. The sacraments are God’s way of creating this extravagant belonging in the body of Christ. We will practically examine the sacraments to enhance this understanding that the sacraments are God’s continuing invitation to communal, embodied Christian life.
  2. Belonging in Small Rural Churches – Skip Shaffer
    It is no secret that the rural landscape continues to change and our communities and churches are changing with it. Rather than lamenting about what used to be, we will engage in a conversation about how our rural churches can adjust and adapt in ways that reflect their new identity and mission. Vital ministry doesn’t depend on the size of our church, but rather on the focus of our faith and how we respond to God’s call with the resources we have available.

    Skip Shaffer is the pastor of the Oswego Presbyterian Church in Oswego, Illinois and former Associate Dean at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.

  3. Reimagining Belonging with Children, Youth & Young Families – Sara Sutter & Sarah Hegar
    Join Sara and Sarah to talk and learn together! It is 2023. When we talk about “the good ole days” those days in the church were nearly 70 years ago. How can we shift our thinking to reimagine ways to connect with the younger generations of today? We will explore a few ways to reach families, youth, and children in today’s culture. Bring some ideas to share with the group!

    Sara Sutter is the Director at Lakeshore Center in Okoboji, IA. Sarah Hegar is the Director of Congregational Ministries at First Presbyterian Church, Mt. Pleasant, IA.

  1. A Path to Belonging – Mary Kay Duchene
    In a recent Atlantic article on church decline, Jake Meador, editor in chief of the quarterly magazine Mere Orthodoxy, is quoted as saying: “The problem in front of us is not that we have a healthy, sustainable society that doesn’t have room for church. The problem is that many Americans have adopted a way of life that has left us lonely, anxious, and uncertain of how to live in community with other people.” In the book I co-authored with Mark Sundby, we wonder together about what if churches could be the center of a return to a sense of belonging. What would that look like?
  2. Disability Awareness, Inclusion, and Belonging – Sarah Hegar
    Sarah has been the mom of a special needs child for 11 years. Before her experience with motherhood she rarely gave disability inclusion and awareness and second thought. Now she has led multiple workshops at Synod School and APCE on the topic. Join this workshop to learn about a few ways in which your particular worshipping community can be accessible to all people.

    Sarah Hegar is the Director of Congregational Ministries at First Presbyterian Church, Mt. Pleasant, IA.

  3. Equipping Ruling Elders – Skip Shaffer
    One of the strengths of our Presbyterian polity is that our ministry and mission depend on a system of shared leadership. Ruling elders and teaching elders work together to guide our congregations and other governing bodies, sharing from a wealth of abilities and life experiences, both theological and vocational. The key to successful ministry lies in our ability to discern the gifts within our leadership and find ways to focus those gifts on the worship and work that we are called to do. Our conversation will center around developing a theology of leadership while at the same time giving our ruling elders the tools they need to fulfill their call and do God’s work.

    Skip Shaffer is the pastor of the Oswego Presbyterian Church in Oswego, Illinois and former Associate Dean at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.

  • Stated Clerk Annika Lister Stroope will be available throughout the day to answer questions,
    specifically to Clerks of Sessions.

  • What’s Changing at the Board of Pensions and Why it Matters? Rev. Ken Green of the Board of Pensions will be present to talk about the anticipated new benefits structure for congregational leaders to be in place on 1/1/25, and the new Medicare Advantage program for retirees beginning 1/1/24. 

Please register to attend.