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Mornings with a Mission serves coffee and souls

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Coffee, donuts, and stickers

Members at Iroquois UMC served up coffee, donuts, and stickers to all who showed up on a chilly February morning, and the turnaout was a record.

Where do you go for morning coffee or hot chocolate in Iroquois, South Dakota? The United Methodist Church, of course! On the second Thursday morning of each month, from 7:30- 9 a.m., people of all ages gather at the church to launch their morning with coffee and rolls and connect. The Fresh Expressions team has dubbed the time Mornings with a Mission.

Iroquois, population 294, is in the east-central part of South Dakota, along U.S. Highway 14. The church is located just a block away from the school. The only other place to get a cup of coffee in the morning is at the gas station. The United Methodist Church is the only church in town. There are churches just outside town.

Pastor Tia Felberg serves United Methodist congregations at Iroquois and DeSmet, South Dakota. The two congregations have formed a Fresh Expressions team. The team brainstormed and came up with the idea of Missions in the Morning. Coffee, hot chocolate, and treats are served to anyone who wants to come to both communities.

Red Dragon pajamas

Even red dragons were served treats in the church fellowship hall (it was pajama day at the local school).

At a recent Missions in the Morning in Iroquois, Darcy Lenz and Tracy Miller, members of the congregation and Fresh Expressions team in Iroquois, prepared the coffee and hot chocolate and greeted the guests.

"Last month, we had 69, so we are hoping for that many or more this month," said Tracy. "It is fun to see who comes."

That morning, several notable guests showed up. The "Blues brothers," Rex and Brycen Blue, stopped by. The two siblings are quiet but quick to share a smile. They dressed up as the Blues Brothers on Halloween.

Jim Hulbert, the mayor, wandered in for coffee. Although he was not on official business, he noted it was a good place to check in with people. "I might as well come here and see what is on the people's minds," he said.

Several students stopped by from the nearby school. It was pajama day. Some students were in sweatpants, some in their flannel pajamas, and one came dressed in red and black spotted dinosaur pajamas. One of the guests remarked with a smile, "The things you see kids wearing these days."

Bonnie Moffit

#70 Bonnie Moffit was celebrated just for showing up.

The noise level in the fellowship space rose as the number of guests gathering increased. Tracy, who works from home in health care, faithfully traced numbers and soon announced. "Bonnie, you are number 70!" Bonnie Moffit was the 70th guest that morning. She received joyful greetings and shared her joy with others. "I wouldn't want to miss this," she said.

"This is so much fun," said Darcy, a part-time nurse. "It doesn't take a lot of money or effort. We simply make coffee and hot chocolate. We buy some rolls, granola bars, and mini donuts and set them out. I love to see the people as they come in the door."

Tracy ordered stickers and wristbands with scripture references for people to take. "It is something they can take with them. Maybe it plants a seed," she said.

donut and muffin buffet line

The mission of the Fresh Expression team is to bless each person and give them some fuel for the day. That day, 77 people stopped by the church on their way to work, school, or wherever they were headed to enjoy a cup of coffee or hot cocoa, something to eat, and a cheerful greeting.

"It is a way just to welcome everyone and bless them," said Darcy. "Most of these people are not going to come to worship on Sunday, and that is OK. We just want to bless them."

The United Methodist Church in DeSmet also serves coffee to the community once a month. The number of guests is increasing. It is all about fresh expressions of faith.

Fresh Expressions allows church leaders and pastors to use both traditional services and innovative forms of church to live out Christ's mission. One does not replace the other but instead creates a mutual benefit for both—a mixture of what we know as church today.

Why consider a "fresh expression" of church? On any given Sunday, the day reserved for worship or church, most people don't participate. According to Pew Research, about 60% of Americans aren't attending church. That means the Sunday service, even with attempts at contemporary-style worship, will only ever attract less than half of the population. Why continue to pour more resources into a form of church that isn't attracting people to walk in the doors?


Stickers were offered to everyone.

"Fresh Expressions requires a mind shift. Serving coffee to the community is a step as we grow our Fresh Expressions movement. This is something for people who might not feel comfortable serving hotdogs on the highway," said Pastor Tia.

The highway through the community, U.S. Highway 14, is busy. One idea is to offer people driving through a hotdog and prayer.

"Darcy had a vision that we could invite people to stop by for prayer, hotdogs, lemonade, or something," said Pastor Tia. "It's something we could offer and try to see what would happen."

Not every fresh expression idea works out, explains Pastor Tia. "The other thing with Fresh Expressions is that not everything will work. We are OK to try things. If it doesn't work, that is OK."

Fresh Expressions is a difficult concept for people to embrace. "You know the saying, 'It is what it is?' To me, that is Fresh Expressions. We are not trying to gain new members. We are just here blessing people. It is what it is." Darcy.

"It just makes you feel good," said Tracy. "I am an introvert. But this works for me and many others."


Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church 605.996.6552 1331 University Ave. Mitchell SD 57301-0460 US 43.69689310 -98.03291320 122 W. Franklin Avenue Ste 400 Minneapolis MN 55404 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 W University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000