175th Anniversary: A reflection of the past

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By Dan Swinson, Conference Historian

175deacons6June 2014 will mark the 175th Session of the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church. Since the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church came into existence following the merger of 1968, we have been very busy, or. . .we have an interesting history.

The United Methodist Church is the union of The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church, themselves the union of five predecessor denominations (The Methodist Episcopal Church, The Methodist Episcopal Church South, and The Methodist Protestant Church united to become The Methodist Church; The Evangelical Church and The United Brethren Church united to form The Evangelical United Brethren Church).

The new Annual Conferences organized after 1968 chose a conference of the predecessor denominations in their geographic area. For us, that conference was the Rock River Conference of The Methodist Episcopal
Church, which held its organizing session in Mt Morris, Illinois, in 1840 inside a log cabin.

Methodists (Episcopal and Protestant), Evangelicals, and United Brethren were here before 1840. Lay people who served then as preachers had been in the region for years. Methodist Episcopal appointments in Northern Illinois fell under the Illinois Conference in the 1820’s and 1830’s, with several districts in the boundaries of the present conference. Methodist Protestants, Evangelicals, and United Brethren all had work and appointments in the region around or prior to 1840. In the 1840’s and early 1850’s annual conferences organized for these denominations in the region. In addition to the Methodist Episcopal Rock River Conference in 1840, in 1842 the North Illinois Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church met in Princeton. In 1845 the first session of the Illinois Conference of the Evangelical Association met in Des Plaines.

Sunday School outing, 1920'sIn 1853 the first session of the Rock River Conference of the United Brethren met near Mt. Morris. Therefore, this anniversary is structural as much as chronological.
June 2014 will mark the 175th Conference session counting from the meeting in Mt. Morris. The first session sat from August 26 through September 2, 1840, so the
actual 175th anniversary will fall some two months after our June session.

In preparation for the 175th , there will be occasional reflections on “those days,” their differences, and their sometimes surprising similarities to ours.

*This is part one in a two part series on our 175th anniversary

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