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Bishop's Column: Coming Back Home

Posted: January 21 2021 at 01:44 PM
Author: Bishop John Hopkins

“From John, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will. To the holy and faithful people in Christ Jesus (in Northern Illinois). Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 1:1-2 (CEB)

Hopkins John L

Bishop John Hopkins

As the Apostle Paul greeted the Ephesians, I greet new Christian friends in Northern Illinois. Of course, Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter and I am merely in COVID-19 confinement in Indianapolis. His letter may have been written by someone else and carried for weeks to reach the church in Ephesus, while I can instantaneously connect via Zoom by clicking a link.

Since I was assigned by the Council of Bishops last June to serve with you:

“I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. (v.15-16)

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. (vs. 17)

I pray the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers.” (vs. 18)

It is a joy to come back to serve as your interim bishop for 2021. I say “come back” because Elaine and I have a special connection with Northern Illinois that began September 4, 1964. At 18 and in love, we turned down college scholarships to different schools so we could stay together. We were married in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and started our life together with a honeymoon in Chicago!

A couple of years earlier, Elaine’s youth group had toured Chicago and even visited the “Top of the Rock” at the Prudential Building and the “Chapel in the Sky” at the Chicago Temple. When we decided to get married on Labor Day weekend to get three days off work, Elaine put these destinations on our agenda.

If my research is correct, the Chicago Temple was the tallest building in Chicago from 1924-1930. The Prudential Building was the tallest Chicago building with an observation deck in 1964. From these tall buildings, we dreamed of our life together while looking over the most beautiful city in the world.  

Our visit to the “Chapel in the Sky” was a time of asking God to bless our marriage and keep our faith strong whatever would come our way. We purchased a print of Sallman’s “Head of Christ,” which hung on our walls over the years to remind us to keep Jesus in our lives. Now, 56 years later, much to our surprise and by what must be God’s plan, we come back to serve a people and a place we already love.

After college, seminary, and a resident program in hospital, campus and parish ministry, I served in the North Indiana Conference for 15 years and the South Indiana Conference for seven years. I was elected bishop and assigned to the Minnesota Area in 1996. Since that time, Elaine and I have made countless trips through Northern Illinois going back and forth from Minnesota and Indiana.

We are familiar with Highway 39 from Bloomington to Rockford. Believe me, we know to stop at Rochelle for a restroom break going north and how to find restaurants on the east side of Rockford. We have even been to Malta to visit my former administrative assistant’s parents on the farm where she grew up. 

In 2004, I was assigned for 12 years to the East Ohio Conference, and continued to return to Minnesota mostly for regular visits. We know Highways 90, 290, and the exhilaration of getting into the express lane just as the rush hour traffic starts.

I plan to work at home with occasional visits to the office until I receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Then I hope to learn more about the people, churches, geography and history of this magnificent area. Already I like what I see. After 56 years, it is good to come back home where our dreams were born and where God sent us forth in gratitude and ministry.

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