the text Ankeny UCC surmounted by a rainbow comma in a circle of words that says A Welcoming Church Family Exploring Progressive Christian Theology Caring Within and Serving Beyond

It's the Wednesday Email!

Dear Church-

As a long-time fan of Des Moines-area reporter Linh Ta, part of my morning routine is reading the Axios Des Moines daily email newsletter. This morning, it contained an article about the recent wave of teen suicides in the area. That was the third time that these deaths had come to my attention in the last 10 days, and it brought to mind some of the work I did in my pastoral care training.

Most of us go through periods of feeling down, separated from the world around us, and of questioning the point of our existence, especially in the midst of loss or disaster. Some of us have brains and minds that not-so-helpfully trap us in these cycles, while others of us wander in and out of them. Each of these responses can be situational-being in a fulfilling work environment can help to smooth down patches, while being in a toxic one can deepen them. Being in a relationship built on trust and mutual love can reveal possibilities that the isolation of divorce or death mask. In Ankeny United Church, we try to provide opportunities to connect with other people, in the hope that the loving purposes of God might be fulfilled in our relationships with one another, helping us to be honest with our struggles and to find commonality in our struggles.

But sometimes our bodies and our minds resist the messages of hope that God, that friends, that family, that strangers are sending, and our thoughts turn from “what is my purpose” to “this life is pointless.” When we see those moments in ourselves and others, we should heighten our attention.

One thing we are taught to listen for is a specific plan-it is always easier to do something we specifically envision and that we have the means to carry out—in the United States, girls and women traditionally attempt suicide at higher rates than boys and men (see, eg, this chart focusing on emergency department admittances that shows girls 12-17 admitted at rates 4 times higher than boys 12-17), but more boys and men die, because they are more likely to use guns (which account for over 50% of suicide deaths).

One of our hopes in the church is that the Holy Spirit might help us to transform our lives into lives of hope, love, reconciliation, and joy. In Christ, we, in our best moments, know that there is hope for tomorrow and that our stories continue on through our lowest moments, as Christ’s did. This compels us to offer what help we can to our loved ones in those moments. In times when connection helps, we can offer that, but sometimes more help is needed.

To that end, I want to share that Olivia Jeffries, as part of her MSW program, is interning at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. She and other colleagues are offering no-cost counseling services at Grace United Methodist Church in Des Moines. We’ll have a flyer up in the church with details, or we’re happy to share them via email.

Sometimes, though, all of our efforts are not sufficient to pierce the shadows that envelop ourselves and those we love. In those moments, Jesus reminds us that one of the ways we prevent violence is to beat our swords into plowshares. To that end, I wanted to pass along a note from Sara Lockie, who is involved in education and advocacy around the upcoming Public Measure 1 ballot amendment.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Nathan

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A Welcoming Church Family

Exploring Progressive Christian Theology

Caring Within

And Serving Beyond