Bishop Hill designated historic site


Rev. Dr. Jonathan Dixon, Rev. Dr. Donald Jones, Rev. Richard Chrisman, Cheryl Dowell and Rev. Ann ChampionBishop Hill UMC was recently designated as a United Methodist historic site.

A marker, issued by the General Commission on Archives and History of The United Methodist Church was dedicated in an Aug. 22 service.
Bishop Hill is historic site 450 among United Methodist historic sites.
The Aug. 22 ceremony marks the end of a process that included application by the church, recommendation by the Conference Commission on Archives and History, approval by a majority of the Annual Conference and final approval by the General Commission on Archives and History.
The church at Bishop Hill qualified for the designation because it is the birthplace of Swedish Methodism. A group of immigrants from Sweden settled in that area in 1846, having fled religious persecution in Sweden due to their dissent from the state (Lutheran) church of Sweden.
They came to form a commune under the leadership of Erik Jansson, bringing their Swedish language and culture with them. Jansson was subsequently murdered and the colony eventually broke up.
In the meantime the colony came into contact with Methodist circuit riders and class leaders. They established a Swedish Methodist Church, which is now the Bishop Hill Community United Methodist Church. As the Swedes moved away from the colony, Methodism went with them, and a Swedish conference was formed. Some former colonists from Bishop Hill returned to Sweden and took Methodism to that part of the world as well.
The ceremony was led by Pastor Ann Champion. Also present were Rev. Dr. Jonathan Dixon, conference chair of the Commission on Archives and History; Rev. Richard Chrisman, conference historian; and Rev. Dr. Don Jones, member of the conference commission and former pastor at Bishop Hill. The historic vignette was given by Ms. Cheryl Dowell, local church historian for Bishop Hill.