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Connecting and forming relationships across the conference

Posted: February 21 2023 at 12:00 AM

Bishop Dan Schwerin, newly assigned episcopal leader for the Northern Illinois Conference, spent his first month focused on meeting key leaders within the conference and the denomination. A cabinet retreat and bishop training, locally and across the country, filled his calendar. Late January and February were set aside to work on forming relationships across our conference.

Korean Bishop Lunar New Year

Korean clergy to celebrate the lunar new year with Bishop Schwerin.

To celebrate the Lunar New Year, Bishop Schwerin met with the Korean Caucus on Thursday, January 26. They connected over scripture, words of encouragement, kimchi, and rice cake soup. According to Korean tradition, you have to eat the soup on the Lunar New Year to become one year older officially.

Bishop At Journey Of Hope 2

Bishop Schwerin addressing the laity of Prairie Central at Journey of Hope UMC in Elgin, IL.

During the first two full weeks of February, Bishop Schwerin traveled across all parts of our conference to make connections and relationships. During the Bishop’s Days on the District, organized by the District Superintendents, Bishop Schwerin shared about himself, our Wesleyan heritage, and the importance of relationships.“It was beautiful to experience Bishop Schwerin's desire to get to know people, places, and testimonies and celebrate the ministries of the clergy and laity,” District Superintendent Fabiola Grandon-Mayer shared. “His presence in our districts benefited the clergy and laity as they had the opportunity to listen to reflections, thoughts, and vision of our episcopal leader for the next years.” Prayers, music, and food were enjoyed in fellowship in each of the five districts.

“Relationship is the essence of creation, everything exists in relationship. Relationships are at the heart of everything: protons and neutrons, the sea and dry land, cheese and burger.” Bishop Schwerin noted when he met with clergy and laity. “Relationships are made of sameness and difference, but only difference teaches. Maybe your greatest gift to me is your difference from me.”

Pn Clergy Lunch With Bishop

Clergy fellowshipping in Prairie North at Christ UMC in Rockford, IL.

The time spent within the districts also provided an opportunity to discuss integrity and wholeness-making, especially as it relates to our past, the BSA harm over decades of child abuse, and the challenges of disaffiliation. Information was shared regarding disaffiliation, and the floor was opened for questions. “No one needs to leave the UMC,” Bishop Schwerin reminded us. “There has been difference in the body of Christ since Acts 15, since Peter & Paul. There will always be relationships of sameness and difference in the church. There will always be theological diversity. This has long been a reconciling conference, an inclusive table is at the heart of the invitation from Christ. I will speak well of those with whom I differ and relate to all for building up the unity of the body of Christ. I will be your bishop.” The NIC Cabinet is currently working with 15 churches exploring their future and the possibility of disaffiliation.

Bishop At Construction Site

Shaun Chapman, Project Manager for Irving Construction, explains the progress at the First UMC in Dekalb, IL construction site to Bishop and Julie Schwerin.

While Bishop Schwerin was visiting the districts, the District Superintendents took him around to meet church leaders and ministries in their areas. He met with the mayor in Rockford, visited churches in Chicago, including St. Matthew and Grace of Logan Square, and prayed over the construction site for DeKalb: First. He also explored the work of three river town churches on the Prairie Central District working cooperatively, Geneva, Batavia, and St. Charles: Baker Memorial, who are all partnering to bring ministries to their area.

Bishop Schwerin also shared a video message during Laity Convocation 2023, a hybrid event held in three different locations and online. He met in person and prayed with those gathering at Disciples UMC in Mount Morris. His video message reminded us that we are sent out to work in the community. Mark Manzi, Conference Co-Lay Leader, expressed his gratitude. “Bishop Schwerin understands our goal of making community ministry happen. His words were an inspiration to all those who attended.”  The Bishop’s time at Disciples UMC was also a time for him to learn about the rich history of the Northern Illinois Conference and the Rock River Conference with a beautiful display created by Sally Gray. (Click here for more information about Laity Convocation)

More time for building relationship is approaching as the Bishop joins the clergy at the Order of Elders meeting on Feb. 28, meets with Local Pastors, Associate Members, Certified Lay Ministers, and District Superintendent Supply during their spring meeting on March 25, attends a Congregational Development and Redevelopment planning day, and participates in the Annual Conference Shepherding Team Spring Retreat.

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