Hope United Methodist Church celebrates giving, welcoming history on 50th anniversary

T-R PHOTO BY TREVOR BABCOCK The Hope United Methodist Church has been apart of Marshalltown since 1971 and will celebrate their 50th anniversary this month. Pictured from left to right: Pastor Nan Smith, Cheryl Searle and Joann Neven.

With respect for the past and an eye toward the future, the Hope United Methodist Church is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Marshalltown.

Members are hoping to reignite the excitement around the church that got it off the ground in its early days.

Current Pastor Nan Smith said history is what gives the church and its members their identity today. Since its birth, the church has had an outward focus of giving back both locally and globally. Hope continues to host monthly donation drives benefiting various community organizations including, most recently, the Marshalltown Animal Rescue League.

“It’s a strong part of the DNA of this church,” Pastor Smith said.

As written in the bylaws, 10 percent of any gift given to the church must immediately be donated to its missions.

“This is a very generous congregation,” Smith said. “They will give up materials. They will give up money, (and) they will give up their time.”

Back in 1970, there were five Methodist churches active in Marshalltown, but none located in the southern half of the community. With city growth in Marshalltown moving south, various members of the five churches decided to purchase land on the west side of Highway 14- back when the area was just an open field- in order to build the Hope United Methodist Church. Now, the church is surrounded by streets and buildings.

“It was kind of on a whim and a prayer,” Smith said.

Members from the five other Methodist congregations-and new churchgoers altogether- steadily began to fill the pews.

Church historian Joann Neven, who is also part of the planning committee for the 50th anniversary celebration is among the members who have been with the church since its inception.

Neven said the original members joined the church by their own choice, not out of a sense of obligation just because they lived on the south side of town.

Now, the congregation is around 150 members between those who attend in-person and online. As Neven puts it, Hope represents more than just a building where people gather: it’s a community of individuals who look out for each other.

“It’s not just a place to go,” Neven said. “It’s a place to interact and be given support to. We want to not only improve our own spiritual life, but also to help others in so many different ways.”

Member Kirstan Condit said that as a developing church, growing over the years has helped instill a sense of pride in the congregation.

“I think that we would like to continue to grow, and I don’t necessarily mean that in numbers,” Condit said. “We want to grow in participation and identifying people’s talents and using those talents to enrich the church and enrich the community.”

She also said the church has a history of being welcoming and open-minded. While members sometimes hold opposing views, there is a sense of acceptance and willingness to work together.

“I’ve never heard, ‘Oh, we can’t do that,'” Pastor Smith said. “I’ve always said, ‘Well, how are we going to do that?’ But then we go forward with it.”

As with many other churches, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed Hope and is reshaping what it will look like in the future. The situation provided an opportunity for the church to increase its online presence and offerings.

“It’s a given now,” Smith said. “We do have a congregation that is an online congregation and will continue to be an online congregation. We don’t know who all are in that online congregation, but it’s consistent.”

Celebration of the 50th anniversary has been ongoing, and shelves of history books documenting the church have been out for people to read as they come in for services.

A special worship is planned for Oct. 24 at 9:30 a.m. to commemorate the anniversary, complete with special music performances and a luncheon to follow. Assistant to the Bishop of the United Methodist Church Iowa Conference Lanette Plambeck will be the special guest preacher. Previous pastors will be in attendance, and charter members of the church who have attended since the beginning will share their memories.

Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com


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