Blayer says her story will continue
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · July 05, 2013

Pastor Ruth Blayer wants the congregants of Springdale United Methodist Church to remember her for a few things:

• That she pointed them to Jesus Christ

• That she stressed the importance of the Bible

• That she wanted people to ask themselves: What is God asking me to do?

And, even though she leaves with 11 years at the church, she wants them to know ... that the story continues.

Not just her story, but the story of Christians, and the story of Springdale UMC.

Blayer is stepping out of the role of clergy — she is not pursuing another pastorate. Yet she stresses she still is a person of faith and has neither lost her gifts nor her “graces.”

She gives an example of a sermon where she speeds through the high points of the Bible, from Adam and Eve all the way through Christ’s resurrection. She then shifts to Christian history after the Bible, talking about major movements and leaders. Then she zooms in on 1875, when “someone among the cornfields” in Springdale, Iowa, decided the town needed a church. From there, she brings the story up to modern day.

Part of that 1875 building may still be in the current church, Blayer surmises, but nonetheless, Springdale UMC is part of the larger Christian story, and that story will go on after she leaves.

“We are a continuation of God’s story,” she said.

Blayer’s story with Springdale starts back when she got a nursing degree from Iowa Wesleyan in Mt. Pleasant, then her theology degree from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminar and then St. Paul’s School of Theology in Kansas City.

She was serving as a parish nurse in Iowa City and knew she was going to be appointed somewhere else. While she was fully trained to lead a church, she thought she would continue as a parish nurse.

“This was an unexpected appointment,” she said. “On the first of June (2002) I learned about the appointment, and on the first of July, I arrived.”

At first, she was a one-third time pastor, replacing Sharon Treloar. Springdale UMC had only broken away from West Branch United Methodist Church two years before.

Eventually, as the church got more established, she became a half-time minister and that is how she leaves the position.

“It’s a small congregation,” she said. “But it’s growing in organization.”

Over the last decade, Springdale UMC faced a few significant problems, like the “Great Furnace Disaster” of the fall of 2003, where the furnace fuel sprayed out like an atomizer, spreading oil and fumes throughout the building. The church was displaced for three weeks, and it caused a “financial and sentimental jolt” to the members, even though they were insured.

Blayer oversaw the addition of air conditioning, a sound system, a projector, a computer and reorganization of task forces and teams. They updated the sanctuary, adding wood stairs and handrails that blend with the old and allow the elderly members safer access to the “upper room” — a meeting room/office south of the sanctuary.

The driveway is paved, the church has new carpeting and new paint, too. Most of the work is done by church volunteers.

The minister said the congregation fluctuates, but over the long term, it has stayed “about the same.” While some families move away, others continue to attend from West Branch, Oxford, Tiffin and Iowa City.

The members have reached out to Crestview Nursing and Rehab with their ministry, and helped collect clothing for women leaving the Mitchellville state prison, or for families at the Ronald McDonald House. They knit hats for newborns, pulled together ingredients for trail mix for the free lunch program, and responded to appeals for help after floods, hurricanes and natural disasters.

Blayer said that she is thankful for her time at Springdale, and for the joint effort with the church board.

“We didn’t always agree,” she said. “Some are sorry to see me leave. Some are ready for change.”

Blayer and husband Jim live in Iowa City, and while they will not attend Springdale any longer, she “may be seen around here” even after they are gone.

“I will be respecting the boundaries of the new pastor,” she said.

Pastor Kimberly Bowles took over as minister on Monday.

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