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2010 Illinois Great River Annual Conference

The Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference was held in Peoria, Ill., June 2-5, under the theme of Passionate Worship: Lost in Wonder, Love and Praise.

Theologian in Residence for the conference was Rev. Taylor Burton Edwards, director of worship resources for the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn., who led two learning sessions on passionate worship.

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, in his episcopal address, proposed four initiatives which will guide the work of the conference for the next year, which includes a major fundraising campaign that will raise between $2.1 million and $3.5 million for Imagine No Malaria. The Cabinet also introduced two initiatives that will guide their superintending work streamlining of clergy and church assessments and a call to United Methodists to pray and fast on the first Thursday of each month for the next year.

The conference also was honored with the presence of the Rev. Gary Henderson, executive director of Imagine No Malaria; Rev. Tom Albin, dean of The Upper Room for the ministry's 75th anniversary; and Rev. Patrick Friday from the General Board of Global Ministries, representing the Advance. The conference celebrated its efforts in Haiti earthquake relief, having provided $776,000 in funds for the effort. The Illinois Great Rivers Conference was also recognized as one of 14 annual conferences to have paid 100 percent of apportioned general funds for 2009.

Rev. Jerry Kulah of Liberia participated in the conference's Liberia Project Report. In the past three years, more than $2.5 million in support has been sent to Liberia centering around four priorities: educational scholarships, pastoral salary support, reconstruction of churches and hospitals and bed nets to combat malaria.The report included an update on a number of projects of which the conference and its churches have been a partner.

The conference was filled with celebration and inspiring worship. Bishop Gregory V. Palmer preached the three morning devotional times called Morning Manna. Palmer used the occasion to punctuate the conference theme of passionate worship during these morning sessions. Rev. Mike Rayson served as conference worship leader with assistance from Grant Norsworthy and Josh Brown.

Special offerings were received for the following: the John Kofi Asmah School in Monrovia, Liberia, $5,244; Africa University, providing scholarship assistance for two students, $8,478; the Tom Brown Scholarship at Wiley College, one of the church's historic Black Colleges, $6,359; and funds for a mission trip experience for newly ordained clergy, $5,731.

Bishop Palmer ordained 17 elders and one deacon in full connection. The elder class included brothers Anthony and Michael Paulson. Palmer commissioned one provisional elder and one provisional deacon. A total of 17 pastors, celebrating 478 years, retired.

Attendance stands at 66,761, down 2.3 percent from the previous year. Membership is at 140,619, down 1.5 percent from 2008. Sunday School attendance stands at 24,943, a decrease of2 percent from 2008. Professions of faiths increased for the second straight year with 2,433 recorded in 2009, an increase of 5.3 percent over 2008.

--Paul E. Black, IGRC Director of Communication Ministries