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News & Updates

March 24, 2022

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District Superintendent Rev Jeffry Bross brings you:

Where is God working in the Prairie Central District?

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Ashes to Go, AMoment that Linger  

Rev. Dr. Daniel Cochran


“Ashes to Go” is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Given the mercurial nature of this public ritual, I was a bit surprised to find myself eagerly anticipating its return after a pandemic hiatus. I grew up in a socially reserved New England town where public worship was unthinkable. To stand on a street corner in a clergy collar and rainbow stole offering ashes to strangers as a sign of their mortality and need for repentance goes against most fibers of my social being. But the Holy Spirit has a way of breaking through even the most tempered shell. Five years ago, with encouragement from colleagues in ministry, I stepped out onto the street to offer my first “Ashes to Go” and I haven’t looked back.


Those who practice this tradition know that reactions are unpredictable and sometimes unsettling. I’ve had folks yell at me to go home, others assert that no one wants me there, and still others see my collar and assume that I have the worst of intentions. But for every negative or demeaning comment there are dozens of deeply meaningful interactions that linger with me long after the day is done. I begin my conversation with each recipient by asking how I can pray for them, and always the prayers pour forth – prayers of desperation and of gratitude, of unbearable heartbreak and overflowing joy. Sometimes a prayer encompasses all the above. I am grateful for the opportunity to share with you today one such prayer with the hope that you will join your voice with mine in offering this prayer to God.


I was well into what would ultimately become an eight-hour day of offering public ashes on the side of the road when a middle-aged woman pulled over in a shiny suburban. Like most recipients, she was at first cheerful and enthusiastic, even somewhat amused by my presence in such an unexpected place. But when I asked how I might pray for her, the tears began to flow. She began by saying, “Thank you for wearing that,” pointing to my rainbow stole fluttering in the breeze. She continued through broken sentences, asking if I would pray for her teenage son who is bullied and excluded at his Wheaton high school because he is gay. He loves God and Jesus with all his heart, she told me; he gave his life to Christ when he was just eleven. After a long pause, she whispered, “But we can’t go to church in our own hometown.”


Friends, will you pray with me? Will you pray for this young man and his mother, for all our neighbors who experience discrimination for being who God has made them to be, that they might feel the presence of God’s everlasting and loving arms? Will you pray with me for the church when we persecute, bully, and exclude, that we might repent and believe the good news of God’s love revealed to us through the radically inclusive ministry of Jesus Christ? Will you pray with me?


I prefer to offer “Ashes to Go” in a public place such as a train station rather than at the church to bring this ritual and all that it signifies to those who can’t or won’t attend a worship service. I don’t consider it an advertising opportunity or a membership drive. But this year, after mall security thwarted my attempt to set up outside the local grocery store, I retreated to the road beside our church. I am glad the Spirit led me there. Standing in front of Aldersgate UMC, with its marquee proclaiming “God Loves You” and a roadside banner that reads “You Are Welcome Here,” I witnessed how the presence of this United Methodist church in Wheaton offered a message of hope and love to a mother grieving the pain suffered by her only son. I witnessed once again the tragedy of our failures as a church and the power of God’s word to overcome hatred with love, darkness with light, and anguish with everlasting peace.


Thanks be to God.

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Becoming The Beloved Community at North Shore UMC

March 26


UMCOR Sunday

March 27


Certified Lay Minister Information Sessions

March 31, April 2 & 5


Native American Ministries Sunday

Celebrated on a Sunday in April or May


Preview of "How to Reach New People"

April 2


2022 NIC Annual Conference Registration Opens

April 4


2022 NIC Annual Conference Legislation and Historical Documents due

April 6


Palm Sunday

April 10


Maundy Thursday

April 14


Good Friday

April 15


Easter Sunday

April 17


Earth Day

April 22


Golden Cross Sunday

April 24


Admin Assistants Day

April 27


2022 NIC Annual Conference Early Bird Registration Closes

April 28

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Apportionment Highlight - Hyde Park Korean-American Campus Ministry

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When Hyde Park Korean UMC was established as a Korean campus ministry, the community saw itself as a whole faith community, seeking to participate in every aspect of the life of the broader church, including mission participation with the broader UMC and the payment of an apportionment.


Rev. Woo Min Lee who serves as the Korean-American Campus minister and pastor of Hyde Park Korean UMC, emphasized the importance of responsible stewardship and faithful giving as a building block of a rich and full life of faith. He prioritized this message to help students cultivate lifelong habits of generosity. Full participation in the apportionment system is an important component of the community's discipleship program. Rev. Lee said, "It has been a leap of faith during the pandemic, and the students made a commitment to pay 100% apportionment."


Read more of their story here.

Learn more about Apportionments here.

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April Reporter Available Online


The April issue of the Reporter is now available online and heading to the post office. Read more about the NIC's connection to a United Methodist District Superintendent and his wife in Ukraine who are working to support refugees fleeing the war-torn country.


Also, Bishop Hopkins addresses questions about a division in the church in his monthly column.


Also, learn how one church is giving to reparations efforts in their city. Plus, find out what some churches are fasting from this Lenten season that will help the environment.


Read more and share with your churches.

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UMCOR Sunday - March 27

Giving to this Special Sunday offering allows us to make a difference in the lives of communities and individuals whose lives have been upset by storms, wars, fires, displacement and climate change. This offering underwrites UMCOR’s “costs of doing business,” allowing UMCOR to keep the promise that 100% of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs. Click here for resources.

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Annual Conference Registration Opens April 4

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The 2022 Northern Illinois Annual Conference will meet in person June 8 - 10 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. The Annual Conference Committee has been diligently working to make this a safe gathering for everyone while monitoring COVID-19 infection rates for the area. For current requirements for AC members to attend, please read the health and safety statement.


Important Dates:

April 4 - Online registration opens

April 6 - Legislation and Historical documents due (email to ACdocuments@umcnic.org - instructions at umcnic.org/AC2022)

May 24 - Clergy Session in person at New Lenox UMC starting at 9 am.

June 1 & 2 - Pre-Conference Briefings

June 8 - Laity Session 11 am - 12 noon (register with AC registration)

June 8 - Annual Conference session opens with Memorial Service at 1:30 pm

June 8 - Legislative Sections at 7 pm

June 8 & 9 - On-site Blueprint for Wellness screenings 7 - 10 am

June 9 - Retirement Service at 8:45 am

June 10 - Ordination Service at 1:30 pm


Download a Fact Sheet with more details and information.


The worship services and plenary sessions will be livestreamed on the NIC YouTube Channel for guests and observers.

Annual Conference Updates

2022 Bishop's Appeal for Ukraine Assistance

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The 2022 Northern Illinois Annual Conference Bishop's Appeal special offering will go toward Ukraine assistance. While immediate needs are great, we know the people of Ukraine will need assistance in the long term. For more details on fundraiser ideas and bringing your collective offering to Annual Conference, visit umcnic.org/Bishopsappeal2022. In the meantime, you are encouraged to give to your local church and designate "Ukraine Assistance."

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Invitation from Martin Lee to learn more about the "How To Reach New People" cohort

Since the pandemic, our ministry environment has shifted dramatically and each congregation needs to retool to more effectively reach new people. There are tools available to you through the Office of Congregational Development and Redevelopment. I encourage you to explore every tool at your disposal in this unusual time. Train to succeed in building a vital ministry.


I would like to invite you to come and see a preview of the "How To Reach New People" event n April 2 at 10:00 am online. Please visit the event page.


Together we can make a difference!

Martin Lee, Director of Congregational Development and Redevelopment

Conference Elder featured in Global Ministries Meeting

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Kyeong-ah Woo who is an elder in our conference is going to be featured in #StillInMission Episode 41 on April 7 at 1:00 CST. Kyeong-ah Woo is serving as the Consultant to the WCC Assembly Programs & Workshop Coordinator with the World Council of Churches in Switzerland. You will have the opportunity to meet in a small group to hear a presentation from a single missionary during the call. Find more information and register here.

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Uplifting Young Methodists Scholarship

For many students, continuing education beyond high school is a challenging decision due to financial circumstances. The United Methodist Foundation wants to

empower students to continue their education by providing financial assistance. This scholarship is designed to assist minority United Methodist students to attend a trade school, community college, college, or university. Applications are due April 30. For more information and to apply, click here.

Ministry Course Planning and Administration Offered

Christine V. Hides, an ordained deacon in the Northern Illinois Conference, is leading Ministry Planning and Administration Course for Faith Formation Leaders, Thursdays April 21-May 19, online. The Ministry Planning and Administration course is designed to equip ministry leaders with tools and best practices for organizing people, schedules, projects, budgets, communications, and content. Options for churches of varied budgets and sizes will be shared.

This course is sponsored by the Faith Formation Leadership Academy of the Rio Texas Conference

More Information and Registration available here.

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Resources for the Local Church


  • UMCOR Sunday (March 27) - Worship Resources, Children's Resources, Social Media graphics, videos and more.
  • Lent - Worship Resources, Stations of the Cross, Studies, Spiritual Practices, and more.
  • Easter and Holy Week - Worship Resources, Hymns, Devotions, Outreach Resources, and more.
  • Native American Ministries Sunday (Sunday in April of May) - History, Worship Resources, Communications, Children's Resources, Social Media Graphics, Podcasts, Devotions and more.
  • Social Media Shareables - Free graphics for social media for different events, months and ministries. (Through Outreach, log in is needed but resources are free)
  • UMC Giving Resources - Mission Moments, Special Sunday Info, Leader Kits, Pew Cards and more.
  • United Media Resource Center - Lending library of Christian materials for local churches - for small groups, pastors, children and individuals.

Like Us on Facebook: Prairie Central District


Rev. Jeffry Bross

Prairie Central District Superintendent

jbross@umcnic.org

312-346-9766 ext. 783


Leola Tucker

Administrative Assistant

ltucker@umcnic.org

312-346-9766 ext. 733

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