Changes in Pastoral Care and Counseling

published 4/30/2013
SPRINGFIELD – The Committee for Pastoral Care and Counseling is conducting a survey as they consider the next steps for the ministry. “For the past two years, Karen Blank-Ewell has been the Director of Pastoral Care and Counseling for our conference. Karen’s time as Director is now coming to a close. For the past few months, we have been asking the question, “What is the best way to serve our IGRC family in this day and time?”   We welcome your ideas and feedback,” said the committee in an April...

Dixon Lodge Dedicated at Jensen Woods

published 4/15/2013
MT. STERLING -- A time of celebration and reflection was a part of the April 13 dedication of Dixon Lodge at Jensen Woods Camp. The dedication service marks the completion of the new Jensen Chapel, a fully equipped commercial kitchen, and a basement that doubles as a storm shelter. Many years of dreaming and about 18 months of construction went in to making this occasion possible.   The addition doubles the floor space of the existing Dixon Lodge, which has served as a meeting place, dining ...

Illinois Area Takes Africa University to Heart

published 4/1/2013
On Saturday of the first week of the 1988 General Conference, the plenary session opened debate on establishing a university on the African continent. The air was electric with excitement and anticipation as if the contagious enthusiasm of Richard Reeves had spread throughout the throng of 1,000 delegates and 2,000 visitors. When the overwhelming approval came, plus $20 million for its 1988-1992 budget, spontaneously everyone rose as one body and applauded what we had done until our hands were ...

It All Began with a Bishop's Dream

published 4/1/2013
On March 24, as people gathered for the 20th anniversary celebration of Africa University in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe, few, if any, knew that 115 years earlier (on March 24), an event occurred in London that would ultimately determine the location of the school.   On that day, Cecil Rhodes – of Rhodes Scholarship fame – deeded 16,000 acres of land to Joseph C. Hartzell for Methodist mission work in Southern Rhodesia, which Rhodes was trying to develop through immigration of white people from South ...

Speakers announced for Annual Conference

published 3/15/2013
PEORIA – Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton has announced the speakers for the 2013 Annual Conference which will be June 5-8, at the Peoria Civic Center. Bishop William B. Lewis will be preaching the Memorial Service on Thursday and Rev. Louie F. Zuck, pastor of Geneseo Grace UMC and one of the Class of 2013 retirees, will be preaching the Retirees Recognition service – also on Thursday.   Bishop Keaton will be preaching the opening worship Wednesday night around the annual conference’s theme Extravagant...

IGRC Embarks on New Scholarships Fund

published 3/7/2013
The Illinois Great Rivers Conference (IGRC) is expanding it support for Africa University by raising an additional $250,000 for scholarships. The conference's plan is to provide immediate support and help at least 10 students to complete four years of study. Each of the conference's 10 districts is being asked to raise $25,000, which would support one student from freshman year to graduation day. The IGRC's Africa University Committee announced the effort at the 2012 Annual Conference. Richard ...

Chaplaincy: Part of the Team Providing a Faithful Witness

published 3/6/2013
The mission of the Naval Academy is "to develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government." As a battalion chaplain, my ministry includes serving more than 800 midshipmen and staff members from various ...

Extravagant Generosity: My Itineracy as an Army Chaplain

published 3/6/2013
It’s been a little less than 29 years when I answered the specific and nuanced call to serve as a military Chaplain. It has always been and remains a “grace work”. Short the period of time that I was treated for leukemia from May 1992 with retirement in August 1992, and then my subsequent return to active duty in November 1994, it has been continual service. I am at 26 ½ years of service to our God, our Church and our Nation and still feel that this is what God is calling me to. It has been such...

Ministry to Military Members (Where There Are None in Town)

published 3/6/2013
Given the location of most United Methodist churches and the average age of most members, ministry to those in the military is a stretch for most of our congregations. Scott Air Force Base in Belleville is the only military installation of any size within the conference. Many churches that have a long and yellowed “Roll of Honor” list of dozens who served in World War II posted in the fellowship hall (or stashed in a closet off the hall) could not match that output today because of the few young...

Three Insights from Chaplaincy to Parish

published 3/6/2013
In 1977 I entered active duty as a Navy chaplain, retiring in 2005 to return to local church ministry. Now that I am eight years into that transition, I offer three insights that ministry as a military chaplain offered me that have transferred with rich benefit to ministry in the local church. I chose three in honor of the Trinity and because Augustine said that a good sermon, like a good stool, needs three legs.   First, get out of the office. “Chapel-dweller” chaplains were viewed by the young...

NIU: Five Years Later

published 2/13/2013


Five Years Later: A Search for Common Ground on Gun Violence

published 2/8/2013
DECATUR – For IGRC retired pastor Miley Palmer, the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School causes he and his family to relive a five-year-old nightmare all over again. It was on Feb. 14, 2008, that a shooter entered a lecture hall of 160 students in Cole Hall on the campus of Northern Illinois University, killing five students, including 19-year-old Ryanne Mace. Mace was the granddaughter of Palmer and his wife Janet, as well as the granddaughter of fellow retired IGRC pastor ...

Faith, Courage and Selflessness: The Story of the Four Chaplains

published 2/3/2013

Methodist Army Chaplain Lt. George Fox has Illinois connection

Gilbert new Higher Education consultant

published 1/23/2013
SPRINGFIELD – The conference Equipping and Connecting Team has announced the hiring of Teresa Gilbert as consultant to higher education. Gilbert is the founder and owner of Pathways to Excellence, which provides training, speaking and coaching services in leadership and organizational communication. She has more than 20 years experience in administrative leadership as well as having served with her husband as director of the Wesley Foundation at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.   “Campus...

Mandatory sexual ethics training April 17-20

published 1/23/2013
SPRINGFIELD – The mandatory sexual ethics training for all pastors will be April 17-20 at four locations: April 17 – Mt. Vernon West Salem Trinity UMC April 18 – Washington Crossroads UMC April 19 – Champaign New Horizons UMC April 20 – Sugar Creek UMC, Chatham Persons may choose to attend any of the four training sessions, which will be from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with lunch served at noon. Registration will be $10 per person. Online registration is available through April 10. Michelle Foster, ...

Letter on Gun Violence

published 1/22/2013
As the new year dawns many items in the news triggers our sorrow--children blown up by U.S. drones in Afghanistan or Pakistan, Israeli families hit by rockets from the Gaza strip and Palestinian families destroyed by Israeli air attacks, African children forced to become soldiers by some mad warlord--the list goes on and on. We are not certain we have any better answers than anyone else.  However, we want to reflect and motivate reflection upon violence in this nation, especially the horrendous ...

Copies of books available

published 1/15/2013
The Illinois Area Office has 200 copies of Bishop Robert Schnase's book, Remember the Future: Praying for the Church and Change, available at a discounted price.   Cost of the books with shipping included in the price are as follows and will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis: 1 to 5 copies: $5 each 6 to 10 copies: $4.50 each 11 or more copies: $4 each Orders may be placed by emailing the quantity order and shipping address to Michelle Hammitt. Checks should be made payable to ...

IGRC zeroes in on INM fundraising goal

published 1/15/2013
SPRINGFIELD -- United Methodists in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference are closing in on its $2.3 million fundraising goal to Imagine No Malaria. As of Jan. 10, the IGRC was just over $24,000 of its goal with pledges and donations totalling $2,275,973.  This included nearly $1.5 million in one-time donations. A strong push in the month of December generated gifts of $103,000 that flowed through the Conference office and was remitted to the Imagine No Malaria office in Nashville. Total receipts...

No changes to Health Miles program for 2013

published 12/19/2012
HealthMiles – the IGRC Group Health Insurance department is announcing that there will be no changes to the HealthMiles program in 2013. The 2013 plan will run exactly the same as the 2012 plan. There will be a $50 reward for meeting your HealthMiles goal each quarter, for a potential reward of $200. If you meet your goal each quarter, there is a $100 bonus at the end of the year for a maximum reward of $300. Clergy and spouses who are in the IGRC health insurance plan (both active and retired) ...

11 IGRC Students Receive UM Scholarships, Loans

published 12/7/2012
NASHVILLE – A total of 11 seminary and university students from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference have been awarded a total of $13,900, to assist in their educational pursuits. Funding for the scholarships and United Methodist loans are derived from the United Methodist Student Day offering, which is one of six Special Sunday offerings. Although it can be celebrated at any time of the year, most United Methodist churches celebrate United Methodist Student Day on the Sunday following ...

Lebanon First continues work in Harrisburg

published 12/6/2012
HARRISBURG -- Since the Feb. 29 tornado tore through the southern Illinois town of Harrisburg, the members of Lebanon First UMC have been part of the recovery and rebuilding effort. Early after the storm, Lebanon First UMC pastor Rev. Peter J. Wehrly worked in the community as part of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference Spiritual & Emotional Care (SEC) Team, under the direction of Rev. Karen Blank-Ewell, Director of the IGRC office of Pastoral Care & Counseling. The SEC met with storm survivors...

Prayers sought for DS involved in accident

published 11/29/2012
My office learned last night that one of my District Superintendents, Rev. In-Sook Hwang, was involved in a car accident where a man lost his life. The Illinois State Police are conducting an investigation. It is not yet known when their report will be released. Please, please be in prayer for the family of the gentleman who lost his life. Also, pray for In-Sook Hwang and her family as they address the personal and public implications of this tragic accident.

Cody Sparks makes dream reality with Eagle Scout project

published 11/28/2012

Cross, garden new addition to Epworth Camp in memory of Omer Ulrich

A Missionary Who Doesn't Leave Home

published 11/27/2012
Bernice Stropes provides inspiration to her church and the children of Haiti through her sewing.

Board of Pensions continues healthcare conversation

published 11/26/2012
SPRINGFIELD -- The IGRC Board of Pensions met Nov. 13 to continue the conversation on health care for our active pastors. We are not actively contemplating health care changes for our Medicare participants. The Board reviewed the current costs of our plan as well as the continuing escalations of our costs. Our initial estimates put the local church cost of the continuing the current health care plan into 2014 at approximately $20,000 per pastor -- up from the current annual cost of $17,500. The ...

IRS releases 2013 mileage rate for business travel

published 11/26/2012
WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service has released mileage reimbursement rates for 2013. The standard mileage rate for transportation or travel expenses is 56.5 cents per mile for all miles of business use (business standard mileage rate).   The standard mileage rate is 14 cents per mile for use of an automobile in rendering gratuitous services to a charitable organization.   The standard mileage rate is 24 cents per mile for use of an automobile for medical care.

Liberia Partners Set Goals at Summit

published 11/17/2012
The Liberia Partnership Summit organized by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church gathered at Alton Main Street UMC Nov. 15-17. Bishop John G. Innis of Liberia praised the partners for the tremendous work they are accomplishing for the people of Liberia through the United Methodist Church. His commendation was contained in an evening message delivered at the Alton Main Street UMC on Friday, November 16, 2012. The Liberian church leader named the construction of ...

'Give Yourself to the Task,' Bishop Keaton urges

published 11/16/2012
Bishop Jonathan Keaton called on participants attending the Liberia Partnership Summit to bring what they have to God in order to maximize the use of their resources in Liberia. Delivering the opening message at the Alton Main Street UMC, Bishop Keaton challenged partners of Liberia “to be moved with compassion just like Jesus Christ when he fed the five thousand with the five loaves and two fish.” The Resident Bishop of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference spoke Nov. 15 at Alton Main Street UMC...

J. Clif Christopher selected as 2013 Annual Conference speaker

published 10/19/2012
SPRINGFIELD – Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton has announced that financial stewardship expert, the Rev. J. Clif Christopher will be the 2013 Annual Conference speaker. The 2013 Annual Conference which will have the theme, Extravagant Generosity, will be held June 5-8 at the Peoria Civic Center.   Christopher is the founder and president of Horizons Stewardship Company. Prior to founding Horizons he was a pastor in four churches, relocating two, concluding six building campaigns and eight capital ...

Liberia Partners' Summit Nov. 15-17

published 10/19/2012
ALTON – A gathering of partners with Liberia aimed a coordinating and maximizing efforts of evangelization, education, health care and economic opportunity among various annual conferences will be held Nov. 15-17 at Alton Main Street UMC. Bishop Jonathan Keaton will preach the 7 p.m. opening worship service on Nov. 15 and Bishop John Innis, episcopal leader for the Liberia Annual Conference, will preach the Nov. 16 worship service. Both services are open to everyone, including those not ...

Health Care Update

published 10/9/2012
I am writing from DFW while waiting for my connecting flight home from New Orleans.  I am one of several conference leaders who attended the Quadrennial Benefits Conference 2012, (QBC) an event hosted by the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits. At Annual Conference I shared that changes regarding our health care plan were certain, but the changes were largely dependent upon factors external to the church.  Since Annual Conference the Supreme Court upheld almost all aspects of the Health...

Illinois Donor/Consent for Organ and Tissue Donation

published 9/26/2012
On Jan. 1, 2006, Illinois became the 43rd state to honor an individual’s legally binding decision to become an organ and tissue donor. This is known as first-person consent for organ and tissue donation, or donor consent. Today, an individual who registers in the state’s new donor consent registry is registering his or her legal decision to becoming an organ and tissue donor after death. Additional witnesses, signatures or decisions from the donor’s next-of-kin will not be required to honor ...

Living the life of a recipient

published 9/26/2012
(Editor’s note: The following letter was received by Rev. Randy Reese from the 56-year-old woman who received his son Dylan’s left lung through organ donation. It has been edited to protect the privacy of those concerned.) Dearest Instruments of God,   There are no words…for breath, for life. There is no way to bring to your ears the fullness of all that is within my heart for what you have done. Yet, I would beg you to hear and listen to this feeble attempt to help you understand, in some way, ...

Applications sought for Newman Scholarship

published 9/21/2012
Applications are now being accepted for the Sondra Newman Scholarship, offered by the IGRC Commission on Status and Role of Women. COSROW offers the Newman scholarship to any woman who is a certified candidate for ministry from the IGRC; enrolled in seminary for degree or Course of Study; and has completed at least one semester of training.   Seminary applicants receive first consideration followed by course of study applicants. If there are no seminary or course of study applicants CPE ...

Benson new CEO at United Methodist Village

published 9/21/2012
LAWRENCEVILLE – A 30-year veteran in continuing care and retirement communities has been selected as the new President and Interim Administrator of the United Methodist Village. Robert Benson of Mason, Ohio, will begin his tenure at UM Village Oct. 1. Benson will be the CEO for both the Main Campus and the North Campus, both in Lawrenceville and will oversee the daily operations of The Village. Rose Sepulveda, current Financial Officer of The Village, will assume the additional role of ...

New Streams retreat focuses on prayer, peacemaking

published 9/21/2012
  Focusing on prayer and peacemaking, the New Streams Team will host Seeking God’s Power and Living a Shalom Life, which will be held Nov. 9-10 at Effingham Centenary UMC. The event is the next in the Deeper Still series.   Susan Nienaber of the Alban Institute will lead the two-day retreat with additional resource persons coming from the IGRC. Nienaber, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, has experience as a pastor, hospital chaplain, psychotherapist, and family and marriage ...

IGRC launches new partnership in Honduras

published 9/12/2012
As Illinois Great Rivers Conference launches a new mission partnership with the United Methodist Church of Honduras, seven members from throughout IGRC arrived in Honduras on Aug. 18. This is the first of future IGRC mission teams to Honduras. Those on the trip were Madonna Foster (Carrollton UMC), Gregory Gelzinnis (Alton Main Street UMC), Sharon Hicks (Stronghurst UMC), Bryan Lambdin (Springfield Douglas Ave UMC), Donna Schaad (Bloomington Wesley UMC), Ann Wagle (Danville St. James UMC) and ...

Best Practices for Business and Personal Email

published 8/28/2012
As several of you may have experienced, the IGRC email system has been under attack recently and it has affected the entire system. Staff has been working feverishly to contain and eliminate the problem, but is has affected the entire system. Of the 1,050 email addresses in the IGRC domain, five of them were compromised through a variety of phishing schemes and the addresses were then used to send out roughly 50,000 emails per minute. When those addresses are identified as spamming, the entire ...

IGRC one of two conferences to surpass $2 million for Imagine No Malaria

published 8/28/2012
Editor’s note: The following are remarks made by the Rev. Gary Henderson, at a farewell celebration for Bishop Gregory and Cynthia Palmer Aug. 19 at Fairview Heights Christ UMC. I begin with a simple and heart felt thank-you.   Just yesterday I returned from Accra, Ghana, where for the last week I participated in a Pan-Africa training event for United Methodist health professionals from all across the continent of Africa. It was a proud moment for for Imagine No Malaria and for our whole church....

McKendree University teacher receives award for exemplary service to students

published 8/28/2012
LEBANON -- Dr. Martha McDonald doesn’t just use her voice when teaching her nursing students about pathophysiology. She puts her whole body into the effort – literally throwing herself into a wall to make a point. The point — in that particular instance — is to illustrate the difference between normal breathing and breathing done for a patient by a ventilator.   “(I do a) floating through the air kind of thing, waving my arms — that I’m just a breath coming in naturally. And then I slam myself ...

MFSA, RUMI hosting fall retreat

published 8/28/2012
The IGRC chapter of Methodist Federation for Social Action and Reconciling United Methodists of Illinois will have its fall retreat Oct. 5-6 at Little Grassy Camp in Makanda. The retreat is open to all and membership in one of the two groups is not required. Cost for the weekend is $50, which will cover housing, Friday dinner and Saturday’s breakfast and lunch. The retreat will begin at 6 p.m. Friday and conclude around 3 p.m. Saturday. Those arriving and departing via Amtrak into Carbondale can...

Rooted in Tradition

published 8/28/2012

Lowe to receive Akers Alumni Award

LEBANON -- McKendree University will present its highest alumni honor to the Rev. Dr. Donald Lowe of Bloomington, at an awards dinner at 7 p.m., Oct. 6 at the Regency Conference Center in O’Fallon.

The Peter Akers Alumni Award is given annually to recognize a former student’s professional success, outstanding service and loyalty to the university. It is named in honor of the Rev. Akers, who was the first McKendree degree recipient and the institution’s first president.


Tickets to the Alumni Awards dinner are $32 per person For more information about McKendree University’s Homecoming and Alumni Reunion Weekend Oct. 5-7, call the Alumni Relations office at 618-537-6826 or e-mail

Imagine No Malaria campaign tops $2 million

published 8/14/2012
The Illinois Great Rivers Conference has topped the $2 million mark in gifts and pledges in August en route to a $2.3 million fundraising goal. As a farewell gift to Bishop Gregory V. Palmer and in honor of his four years as episcopal leader, offerings have generated an influx of money for the Imagine No Malaria campaign. Additional pledges or first-time pledges for up to five years' time can be made and will count toward the $2.3 million goal. Persons are also reminded that if they have made a ...

Farewell, welcoming celebration information

published 7/26/2012
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Great Rivers Conference will say farewell to Bishop Gregory and Cynthia Palmer in two weekend events and will welcome its new episcopal leader in a Sept. 30 worship service. Farewell celebrations will be held on Sunday, Aug. 12 at Normal Calvary UMC and on Sunday, Aug. 19 at Fairview Heights Christ UMC.  Both services will be from 3 to 5 p.m.   The Area Episcopacy Committee will host a welcome celebration for Bishop Jonathan and Beverly Keaton on Sunday, Sept. 30 at ...

IGRC Represented on General Church, Jurisdictional Boards

published 7/24/2012
AKRON, Ohio – Despite a reduction in size on general church agency boards, a number of persons from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference have been selected to serve in various capacities at both levels of the church. The NCJ Nominations Report included the following assignments for IGRC people: General Board of Church and Society: Melissa Calvillo, Carthage UMC, LaMoine River District General Council on Finance and Administration: Ryan Davis, Havana First UMC, LaMoine River District General ...

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