Thursday morning coffee includes complimentary mug

published 6/1/2012
Thursday’s morning coffee is sponsored by IGRC Communications, in cooperation with United Methodist Communications. Stop by the coffee station and pick up your free Imagine No Malaria coffee mug (whether you drink coffee or not; limit one per attendee). These mugs can be purchased in quantity for $2 each postpaid and churches will be able to place orders during the month of June as a fundraising effort for Imagine No Malaria.   Sell the mugs for $5 each and send the $3 profit to Imagine No ...

IGRC Prayer Vigil During General Conference

published 4/23/2012
The IGRC Cabinet is asking every United Methodist in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference to participate in a prayer vigil during General Conference, beginning on Tuesday, April 24. "It is our strong hope that every United Methodist will be praying for all those who are involved in the vision casting, decision making processes  of the 2012 General Conference," the Cabinet statement read. "To help us give focus and serve as a reminder of this time of prayer, we are asking each district of IGRC to...

Weatherall appointed Spoon River District Superintendent

published 2/27/2012
SPRINGFIELD -- Bishop Gregory V. Palmer has announced the appointment of Rev. Sylvester Weatherall as conference superintendent assigned to the Spoon River District, effective July 1. The announcement was made Feb.26. Weatherall, 56, said he was humbled by the announcement combined with a "healthy fear of the unknown." "I am aware that the learning curve of the office of District Superintendent is steep," Weatherall said. "However, I am confident that my colleagues will be great teachers. They ...

How Congregations Can Reach the Hispanic Community

published 2/24/2012
Being missionaries in your own “back yard” may be not sound as fun and risky, but let me walk you through different suggestions with the hope you can feel called to partner in ministry by reaching your own Hispanics neighbors for Jesus. Get in a High Risk Mission by reaching the Hispanic Community. Buy a box a Spanish Bibles and prepare ready to hand them out to your “amigos,” in the restaurants or when they visit your church. Change both outdoor and inside signs. Go “Bilingual.” ...

The End of an Era: Holden Center closes at UM Village

published 2/24/2012
LAWRENCEVILLE – After 86 years, a landmark at the United Methodist Village closed its doors. The United Methodist Village Board of Directors and administration announced the closing of Holden Center, the oldest section of the Lawrenceville campus in late January.   Officials at the Village noted that changes in long-term care led to the closure. “As the government has become increasingly involved in the regulation of long-term care, more and more changes have been forced upon the industry,” the ...

Griffith appointed Assistant to the Bishop

published 1/31/2012
SPRINGFIELD – Bishop Gregory V. Palmer has announced the appointment of the Rev. Janice L. Griffith as Executive Assistant to the Bishop, effective July 1. Griffith, who is currently in her sixth year as Spoon River District Superintendent, will succeed the Rev. John Hartleroad, Jr., who is retiring after six years of service. Ironically, Griffith succeeded Hartleroad as Spoon River District Superintendent when Hartleroad was appointed Assistant to the Bishop in 2006. Hartleroad served as Spoon ...

Opportunities Abound for Prison Ministry Both Inside and Outside the Facility

published 1/27/2012
I am a United Methodist chaplain with more than 25 years’ experience in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I was asked the question, “How can a congregation get involved in prison ministry?” My first thought was that they may already be involved and not know it. Prison ministry is much more than going into a facility and teaching a Bible study. Re-entry programs are now looked upon as the most important part of reducing recidivism and crime in the community. If there is an AA or NA group that meets ...

What's Involved in Becoming a Prison Ministry Volunteer

published 1/27/2012
Ministry in the prison system in Illinois is one that is not seen as a viable ministry by many people.  You work with men and women who are convicted felons. I worked in the Illinois Department of Corrections for more than 20 years and my chapel programs were enhanced by volunteers.  They provided various types of programs for the inmate populations at John A. Graham Correction Center in Hillsboro and the Vandalia Correctional Center that I served. We had Bible studies, prayer groups, A.A., ...

Briefing previews General Conference issues

published 1/26/2012
Editor’s note:This is look at issues explored at a recent Pre-General Conference News Briefing in Tampa, Fla. A separate story, which will be posted on, will focus on the proposal to restructure the church.   TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS) — Diverse issues presented at a recent three-day briefing signaled the workload ahead for the lawmaking body of The United Methodist Church, which meets this spring. More than 300 delegates, communicators and others who will be part of the 2012 General Conference ...

An Audience for Both Prisoner and President

published 1/25/2012
VANDALIA – Phyllis Rames recalls a 1992 meeting at Vandalia Correctional Center as a life-changing event. As one of several persons representing various churches in the community, Rames met with the chaplain of the facility as speakers talked about getting involved in prison ministry. “I didn’t want to go,” Rames recalled in a feeling reminiscent of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience. “I reluctantly went and we listened to the speakers and then participated in breakout sessions. It was time to ...

At the Roots of Methodism: Wesley fought for Prison Reform

published 1/25/2012

“Restorative justice opens the opportunities for personal and community transformation. This transformation cannot be mapped, planned or put into a program or structure. Nevertheless, it can be encouraged and nurtured.

"United Methodists have the will, the vision, the opportunity and the responsibility to be advocates for systemic change. We are called to minister with all parties affected by crime: the victim, the offender and the community.

Expectations are high for the faith community to lead the way in practicing restorative justice. We need to own and advocate a vision for restorative justice. We need to be supportive to members of the congregation who are victims, offenders, and their families, and especially those who work toward restoration in the criminal justice system.”

From Resolution 5034, Mission Plan for Restorative Justice Ministries, 2008 Book of Resolutions, revised and readopted by the 2008 General Conference

Fasting for Hunger luncheon

published 1/25/2012
A Bread and Water Fast, aimed at focusing attention on the issues of hunger, is being planned by the IGRC Board of Church and Society for this year’s Social Justice meal at the 2012 Annual Conference. The Fasting for Hunger lunch will be held on Thursday noon (June 7) at the Peoria Civic Center.   Kathleen Finkle of HELPS Ministry based in Jacksonville will share information about hunger in the state of Illinois and discuss specific ways for the whole church to help serve local people in need.  ...

Finding God in Prison

published 1/25/2012
By Sam Hodges and Nick Liao If a society’s approach to punishment reflects its understanding of God, the $68 billion U.S. prison system is a crucible for theology On a clear, brisk Sunday morning in January 2009, Ken Carder and his students arrived by appointment, in separate cars, at the Bureau of Prisons Federal Correctional Institution north of Durham, N.C. The class members, who had met only once before, had not formed a bond. Most of the students had never been inside a jail or prison. Even...

Henson elected NAUME vice president

published 1/25/2012
Rev. Matt Henson, general evangelist from the IGRC was elected vice president of the National Association of United Methodist Evangelists (NAUME) at its annual meeting Jan. 3-6. Bishop Gregory V. Palmer appointed Henson as a general evangelist July 1. He is available for revivals, retreats, conferences, evangelistic events, trainings, youth events, and mission trip and youth consultation. Henson also leads trips to Haiti where the United Methodist Church continues to work with the Methodist ...

Platform announced for Covenant Keepers 2012

published 1/17/2012
Singer, song writer and worship leader Keith Elder will be leading the worship and the Southern Gospel group, the Wanda Mountain Boys will perform an evening concert for Covenant Keepers 2012, which will be held Feb. 6-7, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. Online registration is underway... Child care will be provided free of charge to Covenant Keeper participants... Elder has spoken and performed for more than 30 years in a wide variety of church, conference, and community settings. ...

Bishops Endorse 20/20 AIDS-Free Initiative

published 1/11/2012
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer is one of 55 United Methodist bishops that has endorsed the 20/20: Visioning an AIDS-Free World initiative by lending their personal and financial support. This effort by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee seeks to mobilize the denomination to raise $5 million for HIV and AIDS education, prevention, care, and treatment around the world. Retired Bishop Fritz Mutti, Kansas City, Missouri, notes that “United Methodist episcopal leaders believe that global ...

Health Miles program announces changes, includes retirees, spouses

published 12/30/2011
For Active and Retired participants in the IGRC Group Health Insurance Plan: Changes are coming to the HealthMiles walking program: Retirees and Spouses who are in the IGRC health insurance plan can now join the program. Go to to sign up. Hint: choose "Other" for your department. The Preachers' Aid Society and Benefit Fund is paying for retirees' participation. For all members - the Rewards system is changing. It will be goal-based instead of total steps taken. ...

IRS keeps mileage rates the same for 2012

published 12/15/2011
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2012 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes Dec. 9. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2012, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 55.5 cents per mile for business miles driven 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable ...

HealthScope new conference health benefits administrator

published 12/1/2011
  Effective January 1, 2012, RightChoice Benefit Administrators will no longer be the third-party administrator (TPA) for the IGRC group health insurance plans.   The Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits has approved HealthScope Benefits as our new Third Party Administrator. We are very hopeful that this change will result in a level of customer service that our participants expect and deserve.   HealthScope was chosen over several potential vendors. The main headquarters is located ...

Advanced lay speaking courses online

published 11/22/2011
The Richard and Julia Wilke Institute for Discipleship, in cooperation with the General Board of Discipleship is offering several online advanced lay speaking courses. These courses have been approved by the General Board of Discipleship as fulfillment of advanced lay speaking training. Topics for the early part of 2012 include: Multimedia Technology in Worship for the Church Volunteer 101, Growing Spiritually through Daily Discipline; Leading Worship 101 for Lay People; Bible Storytelling I, ...

IGRC launches partnership with Honduras

published 11/22/2011
Knowing that God continues to each of us to move out beyond our comfort zones and to walk our faith journey alongside Christian brothers and sisters in other cultures experience a faith journey, Illinois Great Rivers Conference will launch a partnership with the United Methodist Churches in Honduras in August 2012. The first IGRC mission trip to Honduras is scheduled Aug. 18-26, 2012. The trip brochure is posted on the IGRC website and is also available by contacting An initial ...

Liberia Election and Partnership Update

published 11/22/2011

IGRC Missions and Outreach Coordinator Bunny Wolfe and West Point pastor Sam Quarshie along with a future West Point student.






IGRC Missions and Outreach Coordinator Bunny Wolfe and West Point pastor Sam Quarshie along with a future West Point student.



Photo courtesy of Bunny Wolfe

Canteen Run offers help to some of Champaign-Urbana's neediest

published 10/27/2011

(Editor’s note: Since publication of this story, Canteen Run is now operating year-round three nights a week. Canteen Run is a five-year-old ministry of the Salvation Army and Savoy UMC is one of its partners and members volunteer regularly to staff the canteen as well as donate other items that are given away, such as blankets, underwear, socks, shirts, vitamins, toiletries, jackets, gloves, gifts, scarves, towels, backpacks, duffle bags, sleeping bags and baby food. Volunteers are also available to pray with persons they meet.)

Granite City Gains a Vision for Feeding the Hungry

published 10/27/2011
GRANITE CITY – A vision for caring for a community’s hunger during the summer by providing them a free lunch has become a partnership of church, the school district and several government entities that is growing and meeting the needs by taking ministry to them. Granite City Trinity UMC has embraced such a vision of feeding children during the summer. The congregation, which had been a student pastorate until returning to full-time status in 2009, the congregation began to see deep hunger in ...

Jacksonville Grace UMC addressing homeless problem

published 10/27/2011

Shelter Director Vanessa Tyus, a homeless advocate, discusses the ministry with Grace UMC pastor Mike Fender.


Shelter Director Vanessa Tyus, a homeless advocate, discusses the ministry with Jacksonville Grace UMC pastor Mike Fender.

Photo by Paul Black

Related story

View related story: Shelter Director a Tireless Advocate for Homeless




Society of St. Andrew offers Alternative Christmas

published 10/27/2011
While you and your family celebrate the joyous Christmas season, many Americans will experience first-hand the reality of hunger and poverty in our land of abundance. This Christmas, you can give them hope by the simple act of honoring your loved ones with a gift donation to feed the hungry. Each $12 gift donation to the Society of St. Andrew provides about 600 servings of fresh, nutritious food to America's hungry families. It's a sincere and loving way to feed the hungry and honor special ...

Springfield Woodside UMC gets vision for reaching poor, needy

published 10/27/2011

Jon Cross and Beth Brinkerhoff at Laketown Ministries


Jon Cross and Beth Brinkerhoff sort through a shopping cart full of clothes in preparation for the Grand Opening of Laketown Ministries Nov. 5. The thrift store is the newest ministry of Springfield Woodside UMC.


The storefront of Laketown Ministries is located at 2617 Stevenson Drive in Springfield, one of the busy thoroughfares in the capital city.


Photo by Paul Black

2010 Report on Illinois Poverty

published 10/26/2011

Homelessness in Illinois

Based on the January 2011 National Alliance to End Homelessness State of Homelessness report, an estimated 14,055 people experience homelessness each night in Illinois.

  • 84% were living in shelters and transitional housing, while 16% were unsheltered.

  • 53% were single adults and 47% were persons living in families.

  • 16% were chronically homeless according to HUD’s definition.

People who are homeless in Illinois have a variety of characteristics. Of the total persons who are homeless at a given point in time, sheltered and unsheltered, in Illinois:

  • 15% are veterans

  • 32% are severely mentally ill

  • 48% have chronic substance abuse issues

  • 4% are living with HIV/AIDS

  • 25% are victims of domestic violence

(The State of Homelessness in America. Prepared by National Alliance to End Homelessness. January 2011).

Illinois Poverty Levels Continue to Surge Upward, New Data Shows

published 10/26/2011
Some depressing statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 13 show that Illinois is currently home to more poor people than was the case nearly two decades ago. As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, more than 1.82 million people lived at or below the poverty level in Illinois last year compared to 1.69 million the year before -- percentage-wise, that's an increase of 14.1 percent from 13.2 percent in 2009.   While Illinois' poverty rate is high, it is still lower than the current national ...

McKendree honors Edwards, Souders at Awards Dinner

published 10/26/2011
LEBANON — McKendree University presented its highest alumni honor to the Rev. Robert Edwards, of Mascoutah,at an awards dinner on Oct. 22 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 Rev. Peter Akers, the first McKendree degree recipient and the institution’s first president. Rev. Edwards graduated in 1957 and completed a...

Bishop Lee Announces Retirement

published 10/20/2011
SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. – Bishop Linda Lee, episcopal leader of the Wisconsin Area of The United Methodist Church, has announced her intention to retire, effective Sept. 1, 2012. Lee will be one of 13 active bishops seeking retired relationship in 2012 across the five U.S. jurisdictions. Because of legislation passed by the 2008 General Conference where each jurisdiction was to reduces its College of Bishops by one, only 10 will be elected to fill the vacancies left by retirements. Lee, who was ...

IGRC Task Force, seminaries, conferences benefit from Racial Justice grants

published 10/20/2011
WASHINGTON, D.C.  --  The IGRC Task Force on Cross-Racial and Cross-Cultural Task Force has been awarded an $8,000 Racial Justice grant by the General Commission on Religion and Race, the agency announced Oct. 18. In all, 13 recipients received awards totaling more than $300,000 for “bold and innovative programs promoting diversity within the denomination.” Seven conferences, five United Methodist seminaries, and a jurisdictional organization received the CORR Action Fund (CAF) awards (funded by...

Cunningham teacher competes in Ironman Triathlon

published 10/14/2011
URBANA – Cunningham Children’s Home Teacher Roy Riley, competed in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship Oct. 8 in Kona, Hawaii. The Ironman Triathlon consists of three parts: a 2.4-mile swim in the ocean, a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a full marathon of a 26.2 mile run.   Riley finished the course 1290th overall in a field of 1855 from 50 countries. His overall time of 11 hours, 47 minutes and 46 seconds was 85th among men ages 25-29. Riley clocked the swim in 1:13:30; the bike ride time...

Sesame Street is coming to Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House

published 10/12/2011
  Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House of East St. Louis has been selected to host a screening of Growing Hope Against Hunger, a special program in support of children and their families who are impacted by the struggle with hunger. The Sesame Street production will introduce a new character, Lily, a Hispanic child who is homeless and hungry. In the special Elmo and Rosita meet Lily. Like many others, Lily's family doesn't always have enough to eat. Along with country-western singer Brad ...

A Barber's Diary: Former Altamont Methodist recalled as African-American pioneer

published 9/28/2011

The inner mind and powerful voice of a visible man

The Barber’s Diaries is the true story of one black man’s journey in America, from the 1920s through the 1970s. A story about perseverance, commitment, family, education, and faith. Working as the sole barber in a time before the Great Depression – surrounded by racial violence in the Midwest and South – Charles Everett Ellis lived with his wife and seven children. They were the only black family in an all-white town. As the town barber, Ellis was a valuable yet low-paid asset in the white community.


Ellis cut the hair and shaved the faces of businessmen, traveling salesmen and farmers as he had done since the age of 15. He worked silently while they talked, about crops, the weather, community events, politics, and, no doubt, about race issues. In order to survive, he never openly expressed his thoughts. He was an invisible “necessity” to the whites.


In 1927, at age 40, Ellis made the decision to bring purpose to each day of his life, and to express his voice in a different way. He began writing a diary. At the same time, Ellis chose a path of higher education, to become a self-taught scholar and intellectual by reading every book he could acquire.


In his diaries, Ellis wrote about his quest for knowledge, faith, about his family, and the challenges of the world around him. On issues of racial tension, he wrote of teaching his family where to hide and how to walk through the town, without being noticed.


He would write for the remainder of his life. When he passed away in 1971 at the age of 84, his diaries contained more than 2,650 pages in six volumes spanning world events, his family, civil rights, and his own philosophical journey. In the diaries of Charles Everett Ellis, one sees and feels an American life that inspires the heart, encourages the soul and embodies the human spirit.

(From the production website,

Camping to launch Mission Illinois

published 9/28/2011
Looking for a Mission Trip where all the planning  is already done for you? Mission Illinois is designed for you!   IGRC Camping and Retreat Ministries has announced plans for the first Mission Illinois experience July 22 to 27, 2012 at Little Grassy Camp.   The week will be spent working on mission projects in southern Illinois. All of the planning is done. Youth leaders need only provide transportation to and from the mission sites and chaperones for their youth.   The cost will be $225 per ...

Eastern Europe/Balkan consultation at Alton Main Street UMC

published 9/28/2011
The General Board of Global Ministries is sponsoring the Eastern European/Balkan States Consultation Oct. 27-29 at Alton Main Street UMC. Representatives from seven European countries -- Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Hungary and Macedonia – will be on hand for the consultation. Information about The United Methodist Church in Romania and Albania will also be available. This is a wonderful opportunity to visit these countries and learn about the work of our church ...

Illinois 'doubles down' on gambling expansion

published 9/28/2011

You can help in defeating gambling expansion by asking Gov. Quinn know you to VETO SB744 when it is sent to him. You can also pray for the governor as he deliberates.

How United Methodist state legislators voted on SB744. A yes vote was to approve expansion; a no vote opposed additional gambling:

State Rep. David “Dave” Winters (R-Shirland) -- YES

State Rep. Donald Moffitt (R-Gilson) -- YES

State Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) -- YES

State Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) – was a House co-sponsor – due to the passage of House Amendment 5, adding slots to the racetrack at the Illinois State Fairgrounds -- YES

State Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) -- YES

State Rep. John Bradley (R-Marion) -- NO


Peoria First plans for expansion

published 9/28/2011

Artist's drawing of Peoria First UMC's expansion

Timeline on Gambling Expansion in Illinois

published 9/28/2011
1927 – Pari-mutuel wagering on horseracing is approved by the Illinois General Assembly. 1971 – Bingo games legalized.   July 1, 1974 – Illinois Lottery launched on July 1, 1974, after Gov. Dan Walker signed legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly. The Lottery released its first tickets by distributing to 7,000 retailers statewide. Marketed as the “cure all for state education funding for K to 12 education,” funding levels began dropping off and failing to keep pace due to the ...

Two IGRC congregations awarded Older Adult ministry grants

published 9/28/2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two IGRC congregations were recently awarded grants for caregiving ministries to older adults by the General Board of Discipleship. East Alton First UMC was awarded a $1,000 grant, while Godfrey First UMC was awarded a $500 grant. The two were among 45 projects funded with the $75,000 allocation that is part of the Comprehensive Plan for Older Adult Ministries approved by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church.   “The Committee on Older Adult Ministries ...

United Methodist Student Day resources available

published 9/28/2011
United Methodist Student Day is just weeks away. Be sure to order your free offering resources for this Nov. 27 offering. United Methodist Student Day provides scholarships and loans for students attending United Methodist-related and other accredited colleges and universities. Scholarships and loans funded through United Methodist Student Day prepare leaders for The United Methodist Church and the world. The financial support students receive help keep them in school and focused on their ...

Walgreens, Express Scripts at odds over prescription benefit

published 9/28/2011
You may be aware that Walgreens and Express Scripts have not been able to come to an agreement regarding pharmacy benefits management in year 2012. While we are very hopeful that an agreement will yet be successfully negotiated between Express Scripts and Walgreens, you may wish to take proactive steps soon to ensure that you do not experience a lapse in prescription availability early next year. These provisions DO NOT AFFECT Medicare-eligible retirees, since they will all be moving to ...

McKendree University among top regional universities for 2012

published 9/13/2011
LEBANON -- U.S. News and World Report’s 2012 “Best Colleges” edition rates McKendree University’s overall score in the top 25 percent of all 626 participating institutions in the Regional Universities category nationwide. Ranked at No. 44 of 146 Best Regional Universities in the Midwest, McKendree is listed ahead of all other comparable St. Louis area institutions but one.   This year is the first time McKendree is included in the Best Regional Universities category (rather than Best Regional ...

MacMurray College places high in national ranking

published 8/30/2011
JACKSONVILLE – MacMurray College was ranked No. 14 in the Washington Monthly magazine’s 2011 annual rankings of baccalaureate colleges in the country. According to the September/October issue, which was published Aug. 29, the rankings are intended to measure how much a college or university gives back to the country. To gauge that effect, the magazine based its rankings on such criteria as social mobility, research and service. The magazine uses several measures to gauge these three criteria. ...

2012 CDLI Dates Announced

published 8/25/2011
The 2012 Congregational Development Leadership Institute promises to be another excellent equipping event for pastors who desire to learn more about their leadership style and how to lead vital ministry. The CDLI will have four workshops throughout the year. Workshop leaders will include Jim Griffith, Christie Latona, Mike Crawford, and Doug Anderson.   The dates for the workshops are:   Jan. 16-17: Launching New Ministry with Jim Griffith (UM Center, Springfield).   March 12-13: Leading a Vital...

Death of Pastor's Cousin Leads St. Joseph UMC to Joplin

published 8/25/2011
The Rev. Mark Harris, senior pastor of St. Joseph United Methodist Church, had made all the arrangements to take a mission team from the church to Manhattan, Kan., to do repair work on the campus of Kansas State University. And then, less than a month before the trip was planned, an EF5, multi-vortex tornado roared through Joplin, Missouri, cutting a one by six mile swath of utter destruction. The storm killed 159 people, including Sally Moulton, Rev. Harris’ first cousin. Sally was performing ...

Fruitful Congregations Process Workshops forming

published 8/25/2011
The series of Fruitful Congregations Process (FCP) workshops hosted by the Iroquois River District will begin on Oct. 15-16. This 2 1/2 year process is designed to bring new life and fruitfulness to congregations. The process includes five workshops, each based on one of the practices of fruitful congregations (Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, by Bishop Robert Schnase). To participate, a congregation must send a team to each event that includes the pastor and three to five laity. ...

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