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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Some of the work at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church is pop-up ministry. Other efforts are built to last across generations


The Iowa City congregation is heeding Christ’s call in Matthew 25

July 10, 2023

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The Lettuce Feed Others garden is a community outreach effort on the St. Andrew campus. St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, Iowa is a Matthew 25 church addressing issues such as mental health, particularly in youth, and using its new property to benefit its neighborhood. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, Iowa, constructed its beautiful and versatile campus seven years ago. While the Pop-Up Ministry Room is not the most eye-catching of St. Andrew’s varied ministry spaces, it’s easily the most versatile, with plenty of storage and display space for clothing and food distribution as the need arises. Church leaders liken the large space to the Room of Requirement in the Harry Potter novels.

“The Pop-Up Ministry Room is a great space,” said Amy Schmidt-Rundell, St. Andrew’s mission and outreach coordinator. “We recently made sure to bring in the community because in addition to … helping people with food security, they also help … with other resources that are common needs that people don’t always know where to go.”

Schmidt-Rundell’s children were instrumental in designing and building St. Andrew’s outdoor facilities used by children and others. A prayer path has two pillars representing biblical themes of wind and fire. The pillars have 12 layers of bricks for the 12 disciples. One of her children saw the need for her neighbors’ food security and planted apple and cherry trees, which ought to bear fruit anytime now. To the rear of the building, another family planted prairie grass, which has been appreciated by birds of prey in the area.

Thomas Hartley is director of Children’s and Family Ministries at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

It’s Schmidt-Rundell’s job to meet with Iowa City-area service providers that have partnered with the church in the past or may soon partner with.

“We love to see this wonderful building being used by others,” Schmidt-Rundell said.

When Thomas Hartley isn’t directing St. Andrew’s Children’s and Families Ministries, you’ll find him teaching in an Iowa City kindergarten classroom.

“Kids are my whole life,” Hartley said, saying he came to his current position at the church in part because “I saw myself as someone who could share my faith. … A lot of what I do now is not only share what my own experiences are, but also share the imperfections of my own faith experience. … Everyone is a work in progress. I don’t want kids to feel like, ‘Oh well, I could never do what Thomas does because he’s got it all figured out. It’s all perfect.’ No! We all have flaws — not just in the way we live, but in our faith. We’re all growing and working through that.”

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, Iowa is a Matthew 25 church addressing issues such as mental health, particularly in youth. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

He called the church’s emphasis this year on mental health and wellness “an important part of being a whole person. … If you’re piling things up on yourself and you’re just go-go-go-go, yes, you’re very successful, but are you a whole person right now? Are you taking time for yourself? Are you ignoring things that make you worry or frustrate you?” In his ministry with children at St. Andrew, “I think mental health and wellness are just super important to being a whole person.”

One youth in the program had her home destroyed in a tornado this spring that struck nearby Coralville, Iowa. As the news reports came in, Hartley “vividly remembered” how the church youth had studied the life of Job the previous fall. At the time, Hartley posed this question: “What would you do if all of a sudden everything was gone — and you felt like there is no answer from God?”

He remembers this particular girl wondering at the time if she would lose her faith under those circumstances.

Fast forward to the tornado taking her family’s home. Just a few weeks after the catastrophe, the girl helped lead worship at St. Andrew.

“She’s doing her worship leading, and then she’s sitting next to me in the front row,” Hartley said. “In the fall, she felt like, ‘Man, my faith can really be on this one tipping point.’ But hopefully through the things she’s learned this year, and the things we’ve worked through, she’s got a strong faith that can withstand anything. Her faith has not wavered, and I was super impressed. … She absolutely came back just the same kid with a strong faith and was very grateful for all the help from our church. She still believed. It’s been such a cool experience to see that.”

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: St. Andrew Presbyterian Church’s pop-up ministry

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Ken Green, Church Consultant, Chicago, Church Engagement, Board of Pensions
Annette Greer, Office Manager, Office of Public Witness, Compassion, Peace & Justice, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

Creator God, create us anew through the community of faith that you have called us to. Empower us to follow the way of Jesus so that we may be a people who are more and more fully who you have create us to be. Amen.