PEORIA -- Rev. John Hartleroad noted that in 1972, when he entered the ministry, the former Central Illinois Conference ordained 15 deacons and the former Southern Illinois Conference ordained 17 deacons.
"Of course, we were in the midst of the Vietnam War and there was a draft," he said. "But for those of us who have stuck it out -- Terry Edele, John Sims and Bill Minor, the war is over. We can quit anytime."
Using the refrain, "I love the church, don't you?" with the conference responding, "Yes, I love the church," Hartleroad noted in his sermon recognizing 25 clergy members encompassing 615 years that everything that he knew about the faith, he learned through the church.
Recalling the story of moving to a new community, Hartleroad pointed to a life-changing experience that began when his sister's teacher invited Hartleroad, his sister and his brother to Sunday School, and even going the extra mile by picking them up the first Sunday.
"That woman who made that simple invitation long ago changed my life," he said. "A youth group leader 'loved us into the church' and was the first to pose the question, 'Have you ever thought of being a preacher?'"
The service included two five-minute vignettes produced by IGRC Communications with a cross-section of perspective offered by the Retiree Class of 2012.
Utilizing a text from Ephesians, Hartleroad said the Apostle Paul's prayer for the Ephesians was four-fold:
Hartleroad said that in his years of superintending where churches create profiles about what they want in their pastor can be reduced to two things -- one who loves God and one who love their people. "On the one hand, it is strange that churches have to ask for this and they will put up with a great deal of mediocre preaching if they know they are loved," he said. "We are all in this together."
"I am convinced that some of the biggest risks God may have taken are sitting up here with me on the platform (the retiree class of 2012)," he said. "We hear God call us and don't think we have what it will take to do the job and then somewhere on the journey, we honestly ask, 'God, do you know what you are doing?'"
And then addressing the conference, Hartleroad said, "On behalf of my fellow retirees, thank you for your care, your prayers, your generosity and your encouragement,"