NE Iowa Backbone Rally

August 14, 2021
NE Iowa Backbone Rally Aug 14 2021
History and Current Information of the Northeast Iowa Backbone Rally
By Eileen Birth

The Northeast Iowa Rally has had an evolving history. Many years ago, in the early 90’s, church members from several northeast Iowa churches were invited to come together for a special Sabbath of worship and singing and fellowship. We were invited to the Village Creek Seventh-day Adventist Church in rural Allamakee County in far northeast Iowa. No one had been worshiping in the church for many years and inside the church was a layer of sticky mud. But that did not discourage those who came to worship! We sat together on the hillside in front of the church. At the end of the day, many decided that they had appreciated the day of fellowship so much that it was decided to try to meet again. And this was the beginning of an annual weekend of worship and fellowship with those from churches in this part of Iowa and some from western Wisconsin.

After that first gathering at Village Creek, various pastors continued to plan the weekend of worship and fellowship. Later, weekends were planned at Pikes Peak near McGregor, IA. Those that attended had worship service on the lawns near the Peak’s overlook. One time, the shelter at the park was reserved (not large but with 2 solid walls). Those walls were so appreciated when a storm came through and gave the area a very thorough drenching. Many remember that the sermon was a retelling of the story of the sinking of the Titanic and the thunder boom that came at a very appropriate time in the story!! From there, the Rally moved on to the Osborne Nature and Welcome Center and Conservation Park near Elkader for a couple of years. With a campground there, several families decided to group camp for the weekend for even more fellowship.

When Pastor Robert Ross became the Pastor for Hawkeye and Waterloo churches, he further expanded the Rally weekend and moved it to Backbone State Park near Strawberry Point, IA (on Highway 3). The CCC built several building projects in this park and one was a large, and now popular, open air auditorium–perfect for this annual Rally weekend. This gave the benefit of great camping, protection from weather yet still in the open air and great outdoors.

There have been many different presenters through the years; speakers, and groups (some well-known and some not as well-known) that have presented wonderful thoughts which have encouraged and helped us grow in our spiritual lives. We have had music groups & speakers from far & near: some from Union College, some from Mid-America Union and the KS/NE Conference, some youth, some elderly, some from out of state, some authors of books, some musical soloists and music groups! These are the presenters that bring us our inspirational messages for Sabbath School and Church. At present – Ages 2-12 come to the back of the auditorium for special Sabbath School stories and activities during the morning meeting.

Lunch is a wonderful fellowship potluck meal with everyone contributing to the meal, though in 2020, we served a haystack meal because of considerations due to the covid virus. Lemonade and eating utensils and paperware are provided for everyone.

Even our afternoon program has evolved through the years. In the beginning many young people from churches in the area had musical talents they could share. Pastor Ross would collect a list (during lunch time) of people who were willing to share their talent with everyone–musical instrument, vocal solo, testimony, storytelling, a reading…. This special sharing time was so appreciated by everyone. But eventually there were not as many to share and so the afternoon became time for part 3 of the speaker’s thoughts for us to grow on or an afternoon concert. Following this many often go hiking.

After a wonderful Sabbath, the day usually ends with a fellowship evening meal (leftovers from dinner and other potluck contributions) along with a hot dog roasting fire (bring your own hot dogs and buns) and of course Sabbath evening vespers and more singing! This is a fun time for everyone to bring their musical instruments and play along. This is done at a shelter further in the park that has a fireplace.

Those who camp (numbers of church campers are growing) in one of the park campgrounds are invited to a pancake breakfast/brunch at one of the campsites in the park Sunday morning. Pancakes, peanut butter, applesauce, and syrup are provided–others share melons, other fresh fruit, stripples and veggie sausages or links, and other creative breakfast brunch treats.

Originally the area churches took turns organizing the events and getting the speaker. The Hawkeye church became the “master of ceremonies” as this process wasn’t working. This centralized the organization which has led to advantages in getting speakers who need a year or two advance planning. Kathleen Bonjour coordinates the rally, but a committee to work with her on ideas for presenters, music, SS for the kids–kindergarten through junior classes would be a great addition!

Everyone looks forward to meeting new friends, and old friends each year! There are a number that come up early for camping just to enjoy the fellowship and peacefulness and others who come for the day. All churches in northeast, north central, and east central Iowa are invited as well as anyone who would enjoy our rally.

This rally is funded mainly by the offering taken at the morning church meeting though occasionally the churches have shared the cost of a presenter when funds were low. The money is kept by the Dubuque church treasurer and goes to the expenses of the use of the park facilities, dinner ware, speaker/presenter expenses, activities for the children’s Sabbath School and a handicap porta potty located near the auditorium.