2013 and 2016 visits. This two part report is from Des Moines, Iowa. The French translation is pronounced demwan and literally means ‘from the monks”. This capital city of Iowa was named for the Des Moines river which splits the downtown area from the State Capitol high on the hill to the east. Four churches lie along Des Moines street, one block north of the Capitol. In order from west to east are Capitol Hill Lutheran www.chlcdesmoines.org, Calvary Chapel www.calvarychapeldm.org, Elim Christian Fellowship www.elimdsm.com , and St. Peter’s Catholic www.stpeterdesmoines.org.
First Lutheran church occupied the oldest building dating back to 1887, after the community was founded in 1869 to serve Swedish speaking families and help Latavian and Sudenese refugees. Central Lutheran ( now closed) was formed in 1876 to serve Norwegian Families and help Vietnamese refugees in the 1970’s. These two communities merged in 2002 to create Capitol Hill Lutheran.
Calvary Chapel and Elim Christian Fellowship have both been established since 2000 only one block from the Capitol. Calvary Chapel started as Heartland Christian Fellowship from Forest City, Iowa in 1976. Elim Christian Fellowship was formed by Pastor Michael Hurst in 2001 and features a reconciliation ministry for all. It is the closest church to the Iowa State Capitol.
St. Peter’s church was established as a branch of another parish in 1915, and eventually transformed into the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Des Moines. 2008 brought the merger with Our Lady of the Americas. Now anchoring the east end of Des Moines street, it is the church with the greatest geographical separation from the State Capitol along this river of monks.
The Iowa State Capitol is unique among the 50 states, with four large green domes surrounding a central gold leaf dome that rises 275 feet above the ground. Finished in 1884, this massive structure commands your attention from every direction. Outside, the west entrance is most impressive with a series of never ending steps stretching towards the river and downtown Des Moines.
It is here on the West Capitol terrace, that Franklin Graham plans to start his Decision America tour of 2016 https://decisionamericatour.com on January 5th. His purpose is to hold prayer rallies at each of the 50 state Capitols to encourage Christians to vote for Christian leaders. He is president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The connection between church and state may never be closer.
Your intrepid Capitols and Churches reporter is planning to be there to witness what transpires.
Bold initiatives. One has to love them. If you do, then you must follow them and put yourself on the road to discovery. When Franklin Graham announced last year that he was going to every state capital to hold prayer rallies, my discovery senses came alive. His first stop would be in Iowa on January 5, 2016 in advance of the Iowa Caucuses, which is also the first political contest on the road to the presidency in 2016.
Decision America 2016 (decisonamerica2016.com) sure sounds political. A visit to the website looks political: red, white and blue, tour dates, pledge support. My first thought was that Graham is running for president, which would be interesting: another Republican in the ever growing field of candidates.
Alas, it was not to be. Evangelist Graham is merely leading his constituency to pray, vote and engage in the political process. He has left the Republican Party and is encouraging Christians to get off the sidelines and get in the game of becoming Christian leaders. No party labels needed.
To this reporter, a fascinating story lies within this effort. Can a famous religious leader make an impact in the United States presidential race of 2016 without running for office himself? Can one walk in the separation of church and state but still construct a bridge between the two? Does one have to build or break down walls to accomplish such a goal?
I packed up my Capitols and churches experience and hit the road to Des Moines. There I found a noon time crowd of 2600 assembled on the west terrace of the Iowa State Capitol. It was sunny, mid 20’s cold with a stiff southwest breeze.
Three Decision America 2016 buses wrapped in Red, White, and Blue set the scene for a 30 minute speech/ prayer rally by Franklin Graham. Orange vested chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association roamed through the crowd. Silently standing on the outskirts were two political campaign buses. Ben Carson 2016 and Rocky 2016. One Navy veteran stood on the Capitol steps with numerous signs of silent protest. After the event, the Iowa Governor arrived to meet with Mr. Graham on his tour bus.
It was a fine example of the freedom to assemble and express your opinion. With 2600 in attendance and thousands more following in various media forms, I’m sure it will inspire people to pray, vote, and engage. The question is how much? Will it make a difference in the final outcome?