Nick Goodwin

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In relation to geography, the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (IGRC) is worthy of close scrutiny. Established in 1996, with a mission to form disciples of Jesus Christ (according to the conference website), the IGRC consists of 10 districts in downstate Illinois. The conference centers on United Methodist churches in the southern three-fourths of Illinois, as seen in Figure 1, and excludes all or part of 15 counties in the northern portion of the state. The other conference in Illinois, the Northern Illinois Conference, is, of course, much smaller in terms of geographical area covered. However, it is almost as big as the IGRC in terms of clergy and churches present because of the urban areas of Cook and surrounding counties. The IGRC is geographical raw material in several ways. First, I will focus on district boundaries, as shown in Figure 2. When looking at the map of the conference, the boundaries of the 10 districts do not seem to follow a consistent pattern. Boundaries sometimes run along county lines, roads, or waterways for a bit, but eventually they follow nothing notable. The boundaries will randomly curve and skew, sometimes multiple times depending on the district. Second, I will discuss the district names, comparing the old naming system to the new and reflecting on interviewee thoughts regarding the two systems. Third, I will examine pastoral migration from one church to another in the conference and talk about the process of assigning pastors. Finally, I will look at cultural geography across the conference and share some cultural facts and impressions that I learned when talking with interviewees.


This article was originally published as Goodwin, Nick. "Geographical Aspects of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, The United Methodist Church." 2014.

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