Leader Update - October 27, 2019

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I went to the retinal specialist last week. My right eye is getting better. Sometimes I can see well out of it, and then it gets cloudy or blurred again. The specialist thinks things are progressing and it will likely take every bit of 60 days to assess.

My left eye has cleared of blood, but there is a film over the lens of the eye. I was hoping the film could be lasered off last week, but the cataract surgeon is the best one to do this procedure. His first available date is November 19th, so I’m scheduled to have the film removed then.

Thanks for your continued prayers and patience as we walk through this season in life.

Leader Update - October 6, 2019

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I was at the surgeon’s last week. He said my right eye (the one I just had surgery on) is draining and more time is needed to assess the progress. With my left eye, it was a good-news/not-good-news moment. The blood has drained from that eye (good news) but there is a film that has formed and if that film doesn’t clear, it will need to be removed – probably by laser.  So…some moments I can see pretty well out of my right eye and then it goes away. I can see pretty well out of my left eye, but it is not as clear as it once was. There are moments when both eyes see well, but other moments when either eye (often the right one) returns to a cloudy and foggy state without any noticeable triggering event.

I’ve been in conversation with the Managing Directors, with Isaac Gaff, Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts, and with Dale Herring, chair of SPRC. We have a plan for a preaching schedule for the next several months. Because of the difficulty involved in looking at a computer screen and reading; Michael Pitzer, Ray Owens, Lori Bultemier, and Isaac Gaff are participating in a preaching rotation with me. They are helping with the Prayers in the Bible series in October. I’ll preach a couple of times in November, and then they again will help with the Prayers of Advent series in December. The plan is for me to preach the Sunday before Christmas, the five Christmas Eve services and the last Sunday in December.  

I’m deeply grateful for those who are watching out for and helping me. We are blessed at Calvary with so many gifted, talented, and committed people, including those who can hear God’s voice and bring the church His word for a Sunday morning.

If you have any questions, email me and I’ll do my best to answer them.


Pastor Randy

Leader Update - August 18, 2019

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With the news of Pastor Randy deciding to retire at the end of this year, I know that many may have questions of what will happen next or who will replace him. The Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) has begun the task of working with our District Superintendent, Rev. Jim Barnett in the appointment process. We have completed a lengthy profile and our needs going forward on Calvary UMC for the District Superintendent, Bishop’s Cabinet, and Bishop and others to consider. In addition, last week SPRC held a meeting with our District Superintendent and we were also joined by our Bishop, Frank Beard. We were very grateful both could join our meeting.  It is pretty unusual for a Bishop to join in on these types of meetings with local SPRCs, however since we are one of the larger churches in the conference, his presence implied the importance of finding the right replacement for Calvary UMC.

This appointment process will continue over the next several months. I would ask everyone for your prayers for guidance and discernment for all involved in this process as we move forward. SPRC will keep you posted as new developments come up.

Dale Herring

Chair, Staff Parish Relations Committee

Leader Update - July 28, 2019

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Change is a part of life. It creates opportunities and sometimes some anxiety along with it. For several months, I’ve been struggling more with my sight issues. The word from the surgeon following cataract surgery was not encouraging. Through some tests he ran, he could look behind the eyes and, in simple terms, it’s not good. Deb and I have been in prayer and conversation for some time prior to, but especially since, that doctor visit. The general condition of my eyes (diabetic related) coupled with the amount of time in front of a computer and the lights on Sunday mornings have led to a decision to request of the Bishop and the Conference Board of Ministry my retirement effective 12/31/19. I’ve been in conversation with God and Deb, with the Managing Directors (Lori Short, Ray Slaubaugh, and Isaac Gaff), the SPRC, and our District Superintendent, Rev. Jim Barnett. I am aware from a Cabinet, Bishop, Superintendent perspective as well as a husband, father, and pastor the challenges of mid year appointment decisions. The one factor that overcomes all challenges is Holy God. I know God will provide for the pastoral leadership at Calvary.

The staff has been so helpful and done so much beyond what is required of them in recent months. I am deeply grateful. God has provided strength on some difficult days and given me a peace about this decision.

There are likely some questions you may have so let me try to answer a few:

What now for Calvary? The District Superintendent is scheduled to meet with your Staff Parish Relations committee in the next week or so. When the cabinet reconvenes, they will begin a process of discernment about who might be a missional fit for pastoral leadership here. After a season of prayer and discernment, they will make a decision, share that with the pastor identified, and then that person will meet with the superintendent and the SPRC. It could be a while before you hear anything, so don’t panic. The cabinet is usually off a bit in the summer for vacation as well.

What can you do? The persistent fervent prayers availeth much. In other words, trust God, pray often, and don’t let the enemy infiltrate your thoughts or your mouth. God has been, is, and will continue to be faithful.

Am I going to continue to preach and lead the church until 12/31? Absolutely. There were already some plans in place before all of this happened. For instance:

  • Michael Pitzer has been preaching every six weeks. That will continue.

  • In August with the series on the Holy Spirit, I will be helping to lead worship but Isaac Gaff, our Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts is bringing a message one Sunday on the fruits of the Spirit as well as Lori Bultemeier. The SPRC has allowed me to take some unused vacation time from last year and I will be on vacation the first two weeks in September.

What will I do after I retire? Deb and I plan to continue to live in our house in Normal. Deb loves her job at Home Sweet Home Ministries and plans to continue working there. As for me, I think driving 18 wheelers across the country may be off of the table. Other than that, I hope to work a bit in my wood shop and, after a season of resting my eyes, maybe preach or fill a pulpit here and there. I’d like to just sit on the couch, watch tv, and eat bon bons but I don’t like bon bons so that may be out of the question too.

Undoubtedly, you will have other questions, please don't hesitate to ask me. he devil is the author of confusion and I don’t want to give him an inch, so ask me. You’ll not be bothering me at all. You can email me or if I’m busy or not in the office, share those with the staff. My word of encouragement and exhortation to all of you is to keep your eyes and heart focused on Jesus. Trust in Him and He will lead all of us.

Blessings and peace.

Pastor Randy Reese

Leader Update - June 16, 2019

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Bishop Frank Beard fixed the appointments this past Saturday and Pastor Randy has been reappointed to Calvary UMC. This will begin his 6th year appointed to Calvary.

Several people have inquired about an Associate Pastor position at the church in light of Debbie Reese’s retirement.  There have been many hours of prayer and discernment given to this matter by the SPRC, the Managing Directors, and Pastor Randy.

Our first priority is to the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Considerations about the missional needs we have and how we best meet those needs have driven our thoughts. Below are several considerations the SPRC, Managing Directors, and Pastor Randy have been in dialogue about over the past few months:

  1. The Strategic Leadership Team will share their work with the church on June 23 in worship and through the bulletin and email news the same week. They have identified 3 goals that will set the course for ministry over the next several years. The question then becomes, “how can those goals be accomplished in the best way possible.” What gifts are needed (from both staff and laity) to address those goals.   

  2. The continuing conversation in the denomination around LGBTQ inclusivity is an ongoing issue for our congregation here at Calvary. What will happen at next year’s general conference? What changes, if any, will happen? Where will this leave Calvary in terms of leadership? How will this impact our resources for ministry?

  3. Do we need help in a full-time way or can part time, specific areas of giftedness help us the most? The District Superintendent will certainly listen to the needs of Calvary as presented by the SPRC and Pastor and share that with the Cabinet and the Bishop, but gifts specific to our need may not be available in one person at the time appointments are made. The person appointed, while gifted and grace filled, may not meet the leadership needs we have here at Calvary.

  4. We need to consider financial responsibility in conjunction with appointed clergy. A full-time appointed clergy person bears the financial cost of not only salary, but a housing allowance, increased insurance costs, and increased pension costs in addition to salary. Because of our tenuous situation as a denomination (see #2 above), the time might not be right for such a deep investment (both on our part and on the part of a clergy person stepping into such a financially fragile role).

We recognize that Randy and Debbie had different preaching styles, different gifts, and more combined hours to offer in ministry. We acknowledge that with Debbie’s retirement, things are different. Randy has asked Michael Pitzer to preach about every six weeks. Other preachers will share their gifts from time to time as well (Lori Bultemeier, Ray Owens, etc.). A variety of preaching helps us hear the gospel from different perspectives and different voices. Al Behrens continues to take leadership with the Outreach portion of Calvary’s ministry – one of Debbie’s areas of work before her retirement.

Having said all of this, we believe that waiting on the Lord at this moment in time and not requesting an Associate Pastor from the Annual Conference would be prudent. We need time to look at every aspect of ministry – what is done, who does it, how it is done, etc. This assessment deserves much consideration and is a priority for both the Managing Directors and the SPRC.  Since Debbie’s retirement, Randy has been asking the question “what are we missing.” As we move forward together in 2019, we seek to answer that question so we can equip Calvary to be the light of Jesus Christ in Bloomington-Normal, across the country, and around the world.

Leader Update - June 2, 2019

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Summer has finally arrived. School’s out, vacations have started, summer leagues are going strong, the call of the golf ball is wafting over the greens, the water is lapping against the boat, the pools are open for swimming and splashing, and the time of fellowship and fun continues at Calvary. It may look different at times but the name of Jesus covers all seasons and times.

As Al Roker frequently says, “Here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods.”

  • Worship, KidVenture, Jr High, and High School programming every Sunday

  • If you're traveling, join us on the live stream at connectwithcalvary.org

  • Modified children and youth programming outside of Sunday mornings includes Park days, Family Movie Night, Reach Mission Trip, VBS, etc.

  • Several study options available throughout the week - like Tuesday evening Men's Faith and Fellowship, Beth Moore Women's Study, Moms Bible Study, etc.

Watch the bulletin, email news, web and social media for updates. We change "tempo" in the summer, but we still make the "music" of faith here, so be a part of the song. Prayers of blessings, peace, fun, and may God’s joy cover you and your family this summer.

Leader Update - May 19, 2019

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Friends, I want you to know that the conversation at a local, national, and international level about inclusivity and unity in the UMC continues. The 2019 General Conference decisions will most likely be back on the table in some way at the next General Conference in 2020. 

For those of you who are looking for ways to connect with others who value inclusivity and unity, I want to point you to a newly formed “grass roots” group of United Methodists from our Conference (the IGRC). The name of the group is “IGRC for Unity.” You can find them at www.igrcforunity.org and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/igrcforunity.

Below is a section from their FAQs that describes their intent:

“The United Methodist Church in Illinois has always been a group of diverse people with different opinions on many things. Our unity has always been in our relationships and our commitment to serving the world in the name of Jesus Christ. This unity is threatened by forces that seek to divide and separate us. We believe that we are stronger together. We believe that our United Methodist family needs the diversity of our ideas united under the big-tent of God’s gracious love. We are working to foster conversations, relationships, and actions to build up one another and find a way to stay together in midst of our differences.”

If you’re looking to connect with others who support the current legislation, I would suggest looking at the Wesley Covenant Association. You can find them online at www.wesleycovenant.org.

Whether you identify with one of these groups or not, I still think God will show us a way. That has, is, and will be my prayer for all of us.

Leader Update - May 5, 2019

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The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church met last week in Evanston, IL. The Council found that while some provisions of the newly adopted Traditional Plan remain unconstitutional, the rest of the plan is valid as church law. In a separate ruling, legislation to provide an exit strategy for local churches wishing to leave the denomination meet three minimum requirements and thus is constitutional when taken together with the consent of the annual conference as specifically outlined in the Book of Discipline.

What does this means for us at Calvary. We continue to invite, include, and use in ministry all persons. In the meantime before next year’s General Conference, my plan is to have several gatherings/studies in some form or another. There is one new book written by 24 UM Pastors called "Where Do We Go From Here? Honest Responses From Twenty-four United Methodist Leaders” and available by the middle of May. I’ve ordered it and if it is helpful, those who are interested can do a study or a book read together. There are two questions that are out there regarding “how to interpret or read the Bible?” and what does the Bible say about homosexuality. I’m still working on who helps facilitate these discussions, the best time to do this (i.e summer vacations and sports take a lot of people out during June, July, and August), and the best way to do this (i.e. face to face, online in some manner or form, or using some media platform. I’m not there yet. This discussion on interpreting the Bible is a “hot button” conversation both from a religious as well as political perspective. When we have this discussion, I just want to do it well, if that makes sense.

My opinion/belief/conviction is the same as it was after GC 2019: we hold steady because the conversations are certainly not over. Also, my opinion is that GC 2020 will have an outcome that will most likely look like the One Church Plan - a plan whereby churches and pastors will be able to choose their path to follow. Hear me on this, this is my opinion and nothing more. There is nothing official, but as I’m reading things from across the spectrum of thought, I sense a growing conviction that this needs to happen. For now, continue in the practice found in Psalm 46:10 and in persevering for the cause of Christ Jesus.

The following is an excerpt from United Methodist Insight highlighting some of the detail in the Judicial Council’s decision. The full text can be found here.

These pieces of legislation had been ruled constitutional in JCD 1377 and JCD 1378 reaffirmed that previous ruling.

  • An expanded definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” that includes “living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual” (Previously, “self-avowed” had been limited to openly acknowledging oneself to a bishop, DS, BOOM or district committee on ordained ministry). [90032]

  • Minimum penalties for clergy who fit the above definition or who perform same-sex weddings (first offense - one-year suspension without pay; second offense - lose of credentials). [90042]

  • Prohibiting bishops from commissioning and ordaining elders and deacons and consecrating bishops who are “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” even if they have been recommended by BOOM or elected by a jurisdictional conference. [90036, 90043]

  • Gives complainants a role in the complaint process. [90044,90045 except the second sentence,90046]

  • The church has the right to appeal findings of a trial based on egregious errors of church law or administration. “This is not to be double jeopardy.” [90047]

In sum, they upheld what they had ruled in previous decisions. These changes to the Discipline eliminate most (but not all) of the loopholes. It imposes severe penalties for violations and greater scrutiny of allegations.

This decision reviewed the “Taylor Plan” for the disaffiliation of a local church from the denomination that was approved in the last minutes of the General Conference [90066]. The original version had been ruled unconstitutional because it did not contain a role for the annual conference. Later, it was amended to give the annual conference a role in the disaffiliation process.

The Judicial Council ruled that, in its amended form, it did provide a sufficient role for the annual conference when it is combined it with another paragraph in the Discipline [¶ 2529.1(b)(3)].

They concluded by saying, “In deference to the legislative branch, we reluctantly declare amended Petition 90066 constitutional but stress at the same time that the General Conference bears the responsibility to legislatively address the deficiency identified in ¶ 2553 [the new paragraph number for the Taylor Plan].”

In short, we now have a process in the Discipline for a local church that disagrees with the denomination’s position on homosexuality to be released from the trust clause. However, there is no process for the creation of new denominations.

Leader Update - April 28, 2019

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I said in the pre and post conference information sessions that I would keep you abreast of information as it becomes available such as it relates the the Special Called Session of the General Conference in 2019. This week the Judicial Council met following the General Conference session.

Here’s a link that describes the work of the Judicial Council as well as the docket of this week’s meeting (what’s on its agenda). I thought they met through April 25th, which would have allowed a chance to report through the Leadership Update, e-newsletter, etc. but I was wrong. They met April 26th as well as so we’ll not know anything about decisions until later that day or Saturday.

What we do have are the questions you asked during the post conference information sessions, and our best attempt to answer those questions. Here’s a link for you to follow and digest those if you so desire. We will have some printed copies available Sunday at the Connections Desk as well. Just see Angie or Amanda.

The conversation is continuing across the globe and across the jurisdictions in the United States. Again, if I know something for certain, I will share that information. At the moment, there are numerous expressions across the board but no clear direction has been set for the 2020 General Conference.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Randy

Leader Update - April 14, 2019

This year continues to roll, or maybe race, by and here we are looking at Holy Week 2019. Preparations, both corporate and individual, have been underway for some time. From the Ash Wednesday Service on March 6th, we as Calvary have spent time in the Scripture and in prayer, asking God for His presence in our hearts and minds through the season of repentance and reflection. Lent ends Thursday, April 24th and we celebrate with a Maundy Thursday evening service of Holy Communion that begins at 7:00pm. Holy Week however, begins Sunday, April 14th when at all three services we remember and celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It’s interesting that in some traditions, these times are not celebrated while in other traditions, like the Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic traditions, the liturgies used for Holy Week are very similar. Our Moravian brothers and sisters gather daily for services. 

As you, and your family or small group prayerfully live your way through the week, you will make time to pause and be still so you may know He is God. Traditions may differ a bit:

  • Holy Monday usually recognizes Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple

  • Holy Tuesday includes Jesus’ predictions of his own death (John 12:20-36; 13:21-38)

  • Holy Wednesday is considered to be the day of Judas’ betrayal and deal with the High Priest

  • Maundy Thursday services remember the gathering of Jesus and His disciples in the Upper Room - the breaking of bread and sharing the cup 

  • Good Friday is the day we remember his crucifixion through a 7:00pm Tenebrae Service 

  • Holy Saturday or Black Saturday is the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. There is not a general practice of a service on this day. It is a day for prayer, fasting, and meditation on Jesus’ death. Some will gather after sundown, beginning in darkness and then lighting a candle. This light, as we are moving into Easter or Resurrection Sunday, symbolizes the light of salvation and the hope that God brings into the world through Christ’s resurrection.

Traditions are a wonderful gift. They attempt to help us grasp, remember, and relate to the indescribable gift of grace and light and life that Jesus brings to us from the heart of God. I’ve included a link where you might go. It has a prayer for each day of Holy Week, again an attempt to help pull us from our everyday life and never ending amount of stuff that takes space in our hearts and minds, and tries in some way to bring us into a holy space with Almighty God. 

Whatever the day or means, I want to encourage you to make some time to reflect this week on God’s way of saying, “I love you.”

Leader Update - April 7, 2019

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Trustees are charged with stewardship of the nuts and bolts (sometimes literally) of the Church.  It is perhaps not a charge as exhilarating as, say, a mission trip overseas, but is an essential part of ministry and ensures that we have a suitable place to worship, study, and do good works.  For example, a couple weeks ago a 100-gallon water heater went out (original to the building and 18 years old – we got our money out of it), with a replacement cost of about $9,000 (was replaced March 28).  Not a terribly exciting development, but with its replacement, youth groups that sometimes stay the night on their way to mission trips can now take a hot shower before they go to serve; with the hot water, our kitchen is health code compliant to provide meals for fellowship times or food for the preschoolers; with the hot water, custodial staff can effectively clean and keep areas safe and sanitary; while coffee is not necessarily made directly with hot tap water, it can help brew coffee faster – a very good thing for some congregants such as myself.  All kidding aside, those who tirelessly devote their time to ensuring the facilities at Calvary are up and running are doing a fantastic job, especially our Director of Building and Grounds Larry Gamblin, and we are very grateful for their service.

Some recent developments you may or may not have noticed or heard about:

  • Much of the carpet throughout the building, until recently, was original from when the building was constructed.  After nearly two decades, it was starting to wear beyond what could be remedied by cleaning and some areas were starting to buckle/wear holes (unsafe!), and so much of it has been replaced - most notably in the nave of the worship center (where we all sit during services).  Classrooms, hallways, and offices have received new carpeting, and soon the atrium / main foyer will as well, as well as the sanctuary (stage up front).

  • In the summer months when the air conditioning is running the most (June/July), the monthly electric bill at Calvary can sometimes run more than $6,000!  Hence our excitement to have approved LED light upgrades to all interior and exterior light fixtures.  Not only will they reduce our monthly electric bill and are easier to maintain, but after about 3 1/2 years, they will have paid for themselves in energy savings.  Most of the exterior lights have already been upgraded to LED, as well as some interior spaces, and by the time you read this, nearly all the classroom lights will be upgraded as well.

  • As with any large facility, the health, safety, and security of those who come and go are of great concern.  While we are a church and do not want to discourage people from coming and going from the House of the Lord at any time of day, we historically have not had a fast, efficient means of securing the building in an emergency.  As a result, resources have been dedicated to installing automatic door locks at the main entrance and at the south/east entrance (next to the Hub, the closest double doors to the gym).  The new system will be able to be locked at the push of a button by select staff, enabling the building to be secured very quickly if need be.  While most of the work that has been done is invisible (new wires and cables ran from the main office to the two door locations), parts for the installation of the door components have been ordered and we are waiting on a date of installation.

Through the hard work of the facilities staff and guidance from the trustees, Calvary continues to be a safe, comfortable, and beautiful place to serve the Lord and one another.

Leader Update - March 24, 2019

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Every other month, the Church Council gets the opportunity to meet. I truly believe this to be an “opportunity” and not an “obligation.” These meetings are a chance to check in on the health of the church from a variety of viewpoints. We take the time to review reports from the staff, which gives us an opportunity to be informed about what is going on before us and behind the scenes that makes Calvary such a wonderful place, and we get to hear about the work that our church committees are doing from the chairs of those committees.

I am consistently overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy that our members are pouring into our church to make us a better vessel to serve God and the world. It is always interesting to me to see how the various “threads” that these committees and staff are responsible for intertwine to make the “fabric” that we know as Calvary. I want to personally thank those that serve on these committees and as staff for all of their hard work.

During our March meeting, our discussions included looking at the church ministry programs, the overall financial picture, confirming appointments to committees and building and maintenance needs for now and for our future. We discuss many things that when we come to Calvary it would be easy to take for granted.

This month, we also discussed a proposal from the YMCA regarding Calvary being a host site for an after-school program for two of the elementary schools in town.  While the final details are still being worked out, the Council felt this was a wonderful opportunity for us to partner with the community in way that showcases our facility.  Our hope is that this will lead to a greater interest in our ministry as well.

We also continued the conversation regarding the recent decisions made by the Special Session of the United Methodist Church General Conference. I know that there are a wide range of questions, beliefs and emotions surrounding the issues that still remain unresolved. As Pastor Randy has mentioned in previous updates, we are waiting to see what happens when the Judicial Council meets to review the actions taken at the Special Session. That meeting is scheduled for April 24-25.

The Calvary Church Council knows that those decisions will only be the next step in this conversation. We ask that you keep us, both the Council and Calvary as a whole, in your prayers as we continue this journey together. I know that God will guide us as we navigate through those questions and emotions.

Leader Update - March 17, 2019

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I have said in several places that the conversations about decisions at General Conference will continue. We finished the 3 planned Info Sessions on GC Tuesday morning. We (Lori, Isaac, and I) gave  everyone  an opportunity to ask questions at these sessions. We used a “paper” method whereby folks would write their question(s), the questions would be collected with Isaac and Lori sorting through them to see if any could be grouped together, and then I did my best, with their help, to answer those questions.  The questions and responses (which we’re referring to as FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions) will be available to everyone (both electronically and on paper) later this month. My answer to some of the FAQs, especially related to demographic breakdown both in the USA and outside of the country, were simply and honestly “I don’t know, I’ll try to find out.” Numerous FAQs about the policy, practice, and structure of the UM Church were asked and there will be some opportunities to learn more about that in coming months.

Questions were asked about the Bible and interpretation of Scripture. The book “Living Faithfully” continues to be a good resource to read and then begin some conversation. In addition, we are considering one or two sessions on interpreting the Bible – the process of how different groups of good intentioned people come to different conclusions.  Dates have not yet been determined.

If you have questions, after having read the FAQs or if it wasn’t clear and you need more information, please ask. When the FAQs are published, there will be a place to ask any unasked questions at the end of the document. Then, after a season, those will be answered and published for everyone to read. If writing a question on paper is your preference, see Angie or Amanda at the Connections Atrium Kiosk on Sunday mornings, or stop by the church office during the week, or simply drop a note in the mail. On Sunday mornings, my mind is fairly focused on worship services, so please help me by not giving me your questions either verbally or on paper. Give them to Angie or Amanda at the Connections Atrium Kiosk or use the electronic form. Thank you in advance for your help.

As more information becomes available, it will be passed along, especially following the Judicial Council meeting on April 24 & 25. My encouragement is to hold steady a bit. I’m not sure today how long a bit is, but I am convinced that we need to. We, as Calvary, need to pray about what being in the center of God’s will looks like for us.  We are not of one mind in the matter, not even close. Uniformity may not be achievable or even desirable in this matter; however, unity in the middle of struggle might be our way forward.

Praying for each of you, for our Church family at Calvary, and for the whole UMC.

Blessings and peace!

Leader Update - A Call to Lent (March 10, 2019)

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by Randy Reese

Reflections on Ash Wednesday morning:

Life is constantly changing and always on the move. Yesterday was what is known as “Fat Tuesday” and today (Wednesday morning) we in the Community of Faith in Jesus Christ call the day “Ash Wednesday.” Ash Wednesday begins a forty day journey (not including Sundays) that leads us to Maundy Thursday. The intent of these forty days is for us, as disciples of Christ Jesus, to take some time, claim some time, make some time to think about God and the things of God in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

Ash Wednesday was celebrated here at Calvary by some singing, a reading of the Word, a reflective homily and then coming, with a willing heart to say:

“God, you are ever so important to me. I want to clear my heart, mind, and soul of anything and everything that might stand between us. I want to ask for forgiveness of any sin I’ve committed against You and against someone else. Show Yourself to me and show “myself” to me.”

This desire found expression in the imposition of ashes (ashes from last year’s palm branches mixed oil placed on foreheads in the sign of the cross) and the sharing of Holy Communion.

Some practice these forty days of Lent by fasting. Their fasts include abstaining from certain foods for one or many days, fasting once a week with a full (nothing but water) or a partial fast (diabetics have to adjust differently in fasting for example). Others find abstaining from something else for forty days as a means of expression for them (electronics, facebook, coffee, and the list goes on and on). The key is to exchange the time and desire for the thing given up and instead, spend it with God. God knows our need - to spend time in His presence. In the words of last Sunday’s scripture text - “to be still and know that I AM God.”

From Pope Francis, I have found his thoughts on Lenten fasting just amazing:

  • Fast from hurting words and say kind words

  • Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude

  • Fast from anger and be filled with patience

  • Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope

  • Fast from worries and have trust in God

  • Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity

  • Fast from pressures and fill your hearts with joy

  • Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others

  • Fast from grudges and be reconciled

  • Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

Embrace Lent. Give God some extra time and space.

“Be still, and know that He is God”

Leader Update - General Conference Followup

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by Randy Reese

I’m sure most of you have heard by now through the media outlets, but just in case you didn’t, the Special Called Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church narrowly approved the Traditional Plan. That plan maintains the UMC’s policies on same-gender weddings and lgbtq clergy ordination. In other word, pastors are not allowed to do same-gender weddings, churches are not allowed to host same-gender weddings in their churches, and lgbtq person are not allowed to be ordained. In addition, it seeks to strengthen the enforcement of those guidelines throughout the denomination.

The measure passed 438-384 or about a 53%-47% margin.

I am, because I knew I would be, searching for the best words to write to all of you about the 2019 General Conference. Most of all, I’ve been listening for the voice of God is speak to me what He would want all of us to hear.

These words came:

Psalm 46 - My suggestion is for all of us to pull out our devices or our books and read - not peruse, but read and let it soak deeply into our souls and beings - especially verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God.” Let me say that again, “Be still…and know that I am God. And once more, “Be still…and know that I am God.”

Once the gate opened, more of God’s word came flooding into my mind and heart and soul, like a river of living water. I’ll share those Sunday morning as we gather for worship.

There are other pieces from the General Conference that I’m still trying to understand, pieces like what parts of the Traditional Plan passed will be declared unconstitutional when the Judicial Council reconvenes in April (I will speak to more of that during the General Conference Info Sessions I’ve planned) and what the implications of a substituted exit plan mean.

I’m going Saturday to Bishop Beard’s Post Conference gathering to listen and learn. Following that, I think I will be better able to share more information. Please join me at one of three identical General Conference Information Sessions held at Calvary. The days and times are listed here.

The United Methodist Church has been fulfilling her call from Christ Jesus to “Go and make disciples” since her humble beginnings. In fact, the UMC as we know it here in this country, is a result of the Wesley’s leaving their land to come to a different land with the good news of Jesus Christ. The voices from the global church were certainly reflected and heard this past week. The cultural matters in those countries outside of the United States impacted the decision making as this global church met.

I wrote this at 4:30 in the morning, the sun was not yet up - I didn’t know if I’d see the sun today or whether clouds would cover it. I do know that it’s there. Even at 4:30 in the morning, God was still God, just as He was when I went to bed the night before. He is still the “I AM”, Jesus is still my Lord, and the Holy Spirit is still bringing understanding and connection to Holy God.

We at Calvary reflect the complexity of our global church and our world. Our theological spectrum spans from east to west and from north to south. That’s what makes us Calvary United Methodist Church. The diversity and breadth of Christian faithfulness at Calvary looks as different as each one of us looks. Each of our experiences with the risen Christ and each of our lives lived out in faith are a unique, vital, and necessary contribution to the body of Christ that is Calvary United Methodist Church.

Some of you have experienced relief this past week, some of you have experienced joy, some of you are experiencing deep sadness, grief, anger, and pain. Even so, we are still the church of Jesus Christ that we call Calvary United Methodist Church. Our calling is to love God and love our neighbor - we will always strive to do that as people of God.

Many of the brothers and sisters of United Methodism had planned to leave the church depending on what was decided - and some still are. As I’ve talked to you (you collectively and individually as Calvary), I know some of those same thoughts reside here. I urge you to hold fast while things get sorted out. I would have urged you to hold fast if other decisions had been made. My sentiment is that if you feel you cannot stay, for whatever reason, you will call me and set up a time when we can visit. I may or may not try to talk you out of it depending on your wishes. I just don’t want people to fade away. Believe me, I understand and likely don’t understand the magnitude of what I just said. I will commit my time and energy to care for the whole body of Christ as much as I can.

I could keep going but it’s time to for now to “Be still and know that God is God.”

Leader Update - A Call to Prayer - February 24, 2019

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Isaac Gaff - Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts

As Randy mentioned last week, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will be meeting this week in St. Louis to consider legislation on how the UMC will interface with persons in the LGBTQ community – specifically in regards to marriages and ordinations within the UMC. As members of a local United Methodist Church, General Conference matters often feel far away and unimportant to many of us. While this specific issue is of great importance, the distance we feel between the local church and the worldwide General Conference can still lead us to complacency about our part in the matter. As members of the Body of Christ (the Church) we are all called to prayer – not simply as a means to an end, but as a way of life that opens the mind of Christ in us (see Phil. Chapter 2). Even though we will not cast ballots in this decision, our work is of equal (or perhaps greater) significance. When we pray together as the church; our hearts, minds, wills, and strength(s) begin to feel, think, act, and look more like Jesus.

The Upper Room (a ministry of the United Methodist Church) has called us to pray together each day for at least four minutes (to represent the four days of General Conference). I encourage you to pray the following four minute prayer sequence (developed by the Upper Room) several times throughout the day today and in the days ahead. Add or edit as you need, but take the opportunity to join millions of methodists around the world in prayer during this important time in the life of our church. The prayer sequence begins below.

Minute #1 Prayer of Adoration

Good and great God, we recognize and celebrate that you are loving, kind, and faithful. You are everywhere in this world and beyond. You are also as close as our next breath. With John Wesley we rejoice knowing, "Best of all, you are with us.”

Minute #2 Prayer of Thanks

God of grace, we thank you that you hear us when we pray and are ever ready and able to act in ways beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Thank you for our brothers and sisters around the world, and especially for those who have offered to serve by attending the special-called General Conference. Thank you for ordering our steps and for preparing a way.

Minute #3: Prayer of Confession

Forgiving God, we confess that we have allowed fear and distrust to place distance between us and our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Forgive us for making idols of our own thoughts, voices, and opinions. Thank you for forgiving us and for your perfect love that casts out all fear.

Minute #4 Prayer of Asking

God of peace and wisdom, from this time forward, may we walk with you in trust and peace, and with our brothers and sisters in the love and unity you desire. May we truly sing together in harmony a song of praise that draws all to you. Even now, may you bless those who will attend the special-called General Conference, assuring them of your love, filling them with you wisdom, preparing them with your peace. May they and we become more sensitive to the voice of your Holy Spirit, so that all we do will please you and bring you glory. All of these prayers we offer in the name of the Risen Christ. Amen.

Leader Update - February 17, 2019

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In just 11 days, brothers and sisters of the United Methodist Church will gather in St. Louis to make decisions for the church, people in the church and out of the church, and in some way attempt to navigate something that will, without a doubt, have an impact on the general church, the local church, our church, and the Kingdom of God.

With such a moment in time and history in front of us, I believe that individually and collectively we here at Calvary need to be on our knees, seeking the face of God, praying “thy kingdom come, they will be done,” and whatever else the Holy Spirit lays on our hearts.  I usually pray my way around something - praying over the parts I can see and then, trusting God to hear when I don’t know how to pray over the parts I can’t see.  Scripture says the Holy Spirit will intercede when we don’t know how to pray.  I’ve relied on the Holy Spirit day after day after day since I came to Christ.

Let me offer a couple of thoughts:

  • There will be prayer direction and follow up conversation from General Conference the next three weeks in this Leader’s Update section. 

  • Monday night - 2/25 -  I’m inviting you, as a member of the Body of Christ, to gather at Calvary at 6:30pm to pray together as you are able. That’s the Monday before decisions are made on Tuesday, 2/26.  We’ll meet in the Parlor (and hopefully need to move to the worship center if we outgrow the Parlor).

  • After the General Conference Session on the 26th, I will, to the best of my ability and understanding, share what happened and how decisions made there might affect Calvary. My guess is there will be a lot of questions on procedure even after General

Conference is over.  I may need a bit of time to process, so please exercise the spiritual gift of patience.

Please be in prayer this week for the General Conference. Below is a suggested prayer activity for each day this week.


Give your ideas about the General Conference over to God - in others words: your views of General Conference, your views of the options, your views of notions and beliefs - give them over to God. Give the good, the bad, the confusion, and the unknown to God. Pray the name of Jesus over them and offer them God.


Pray over our delegates who are going. I know these folks and they are good people who love the Lord. We don’t agree on everything, but they are our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

Clergy: Sylvester Weatherall, Andy Adams, Sara Isabell, Chris Ritter, Bob Phillips

Alternates: Randy Robinson, Roger Ross, Jan Griffith

Laity: Rhonda Whitaker, Bunny Wolfe, Kim Woods, Steve Shonert, Larry Weber 

Alternates: Marian McCray, Anish Hermon, Carol Sims


Pray over the Bishops who are presiding over the conference. Pray for wisdom, discernment, capacity to help everyone stay focused, and grace to lead through the strong feelings and disagreements.


Pray over the witness of the church to the city of St. Louis and to the rest of the world. Pray that the Holy Spirit help us to be at our best in disagreement. Pray that love and grace are left in the ears of those who hear our dialogue.


Begin to pray for a peace that passes all understanding to settle into the venue, into the delegates, into the Church as a whole.


Pray that God would speak a word to people everywhere to be still and know that He is God. Again, begin to pray the name of Jesus over those who are starting the journey to St. Louis. Pray for all of those who will help with the logistics as delegates arrive.


This is a day set aside for prayer in St. Louis. Please pray with them: Come Holy Spirit, come.  Come Holy Spirit, come.

Post Conference Briefings:

Bishop Beard will be hosting Post-General Conference Briefings.

The link to sign up is https://www.igrc.org/newsdetail/12748295You MUST register to go. If one of the sites below is not listed at the website, that means the site has filled.


Saturday, March 2 -- Champaign Faith UMC, 10 a.m.

Monday, March 4 -- Willow Hill UMC, East Peoria, 6:30 p.m. 

Thursday, March 7 -- Geneseo First UMC, 7 p.m.

Saturday, March 9 -- O'Fallon First UMC, 10 a.m. 

Thursday, March 14 -- Harrisburg First UMC, 6:30 p.m.

Leader Update - February 10, 2019

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When Calvary hosts a funeral service, we have the opportunity to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to those who have experienced loss in their lives. The service of worship held is meaningful; but often, the meal following the service is where the majority of ministry takes place. As people who follow Jesus, this shouldn’t surprise us. Much of Jesus’ ministry was done around the table at a meal. 

For many years, there have been many Calvary folks who have worked hard and behind the scenes to make this much needed and much appreciated ministry of funeral meals happen. We’re now ready to train and equip the next generation of servants to continue this ministry into the future. Opportunities to help vary and can be matched to your availability. If you’re looking for a way to get connected to a ministry that makes an impact in the lives of hurting people, we’d love to get you connected and continue the great work that is already happening. See Amanda or Angie at an Atrium Kiosk, email Amanda Nesby at Amanda.nesby@connectwithcalvary.org, or give Amanda a call at 309-808-4821.

Leader Update - February 3, 2019

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By Val Funk - Director of Kid Connections & Lori Short - Managing Director of Family Ministries

Calvary Kid Connections preschool fills the building with laughter and learning throughout the week. Kid Connections was founded in 1970 as an outreach ministry of Calvary United Methodist Church. Christian values combine with an academically sound, research-based curriculum to provide a safe, stimulating Christian preschool program in which each child is encouraged to reach his or her full potential. Kid Connections is a nationally accredited program where all children of all faiths are loved and welcome.

Our wonderful, caring and creative preschool staff, comprised of 6 teachers and one director, combine to lead 7 classes that take place during the day Monday through Thursday and serve 92 children. A preschool board made of Calvary members serves to oversee the mission and vision. Many families without a church home find the preschool to be their first step to claiming Calvary as their church home. Calvary’s Kid Connections Preschool is a place where kids have fun, learn, are given a foundation of God’s love and are loved!

Leader Update - January 27, 2019

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As winter weather begins to hit its stride, we wanted to take a moment to remind everyone where to find information about cancellations at the church (if they become necessary). We will always post cancellation information in two places:

  1. The very top banner of our website (www.connectwithcalvary.org) and 

  2. On our voicemail message (or via live person) at the main church phone number 309-452-5413.

If the weather looks somewhat threatening or if you hear of other cancellations in the area, it's always best to check either of these two sources to find out about cancellations at the church. Thank you for helping us all stay safe together as we connect with God, one another, and our world through worship, wisdom, and works.