'I'm gratified': Rev. John McIntosh gives his final sermon this Sunday after over 40 years in ministry

After more than 40 years of ministry, Rev. John McIntosh of Mahomet United Methodist Church will give his final sermon to his congregation on Sunday.

Though McIntosh has only been with the Mahomet-based church for the last five years, the Waynesville native has served six other locations in Illinois, including Bellflower and Foosland, Kewanee, Normal, Peoria, Pittsfield and Vandalia.

He first learned of Mahomet during his service to the Bellflower and Foosland churches when his wife, Patty, commuted to Champaign via the Mansfield blacktop or U.S. 150 and stumbled upon Mahomet's previous antique shops.

"I only found later how much she supported the antique stores in downtown Mahomet," McIntosh joked.

The couple had friends here and always thought Mahomet to be an ideal community.

"In the United Methodist Church, the bishop and the bishop's cabinet assign people to churches, but they do take some input from us," McIntosh said. "I had put in some input that I had hoped would land me here."

After a series of reassignments, McIntosh's wish finally came true in 2013.

"My favorite memories are probably the times of the height and joy — weddings, baptisms and confirmations," said McIntosh as he pointed to a photo that rested near his desk. "This picture of this wedding couple, I did her mother and father's wedding."

The Iliff School of Theology alumnus also relishes in the nontraditional portions of ministry, such as youth backpacking trips.

"Those are great experiences," he said.

The conversations typically drifted toward one question: What are you going to be when you grow up?

"People just pound them with that question," McIntosh said. "I'd say, 'You were not put on this earth to be a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker, you were put on this earth to be a great soul.'"

Though the heartfelt discussions were warming to McIntosh, they were equally met with grumbling.

"Usually, midweek you start to hear, 'Oh I wish I could have a Coke or a Pepsi. Oh I wish I could go to McDonald's or what about a hot shower?'" he said. "I say, 'Yeah, it's pretty tough out here. You're eating instant oatmeal for breakfast and you're carrying your possessions on your back and you've got filtered water you can drink. You're sleeping in a tent on the ground.'

"I'd say, 'But the water is safe, you have more than enough calories, you are warm and safe and dry and you're living better than 85 percent of the world.' If nothing else, they'd stop complaining for two days."

His hope was that the youth would see the bigger picture.

"We came off the trail in Colorado and went into Estes Park and they wanted to go to a fast-food store like an Arby's or McDonald's even before they showered," McIntosh said as he laughed. "You should've seen the other customers in the place."

McIntosh employed the same strategy during the more challenging moments of ministry.

"Lift your head up, see the beauty of the world, the big picture," he said.

He saw this type of faith in action first with his friend who lost his second wife to cancer.

"After she had died, I thought I'd better touch base about his grief and his heart and we were talking and he said to me, 'I'm not mad at God about Beth's death, I'm grateful I had those two and a half years with her,'" McIntosh said. "I had some very profound experiences."

He witnessed a similar moment of strength during the midst of tragedy after a mother lost her son to a terminal disease.

"I was there at the moment he stopped breathing," he said. "She looked at me and said, 'But I didn't lose my faith in God.'"

The desire to help in time of need is one that is engrained in McIntosh. His father, Burt, also served as a pastor to several United Methodist churches. He watched his own father leave the house in a hurry to assist in a trauma or tragedy.

"A part of me wanted to be that kind of person who was not afraid of the deepest hurts and tragedies," McIntosh said. "At some point, I could come to those things with some resource and some help in some way."

"There aren't magic words that make things all better and you can't wave the magic wand," he added, "but you can be a source of some strength and some encouragement in those times."

Fittingly, in his second-to-last sermon last Sunday, McIntosh discussed the importance of the Sabbath and rest.

"(I'm) feeling like he is missing us already," said Sherri Orenic, a member of McIntosh's congregation.

Sherri and her husband, Steve, have attended the church for the last 21 years and enjoy the pastor's rapport and storytelling.

"We came in Wednesday and met with John for about an hour and a half. It was not supposed to be that long," Steve Orenic said. "We just sat just talking, just telling stories both ways and that's what I'll miss."

Other members of the church, such as Eileen Waters referred to McIntosh as a "great breath of fresh air."

"I think that he brought a completely different direction and a little bit more of a less formal (approach to his sermons)," she said.

In his final sermon, he hopes to reiterate to his congregation the importance of the Christian faith as a resource for all of life's ups and downs.

"You or a loved one are never beyond God's redemption, God's capacity to redeem the human life," he said. "We are never beyond that and that's the core of the gospel — that's Easter morning."

After his final sermon, McIntosh will fulfill his appointment through June 30, the day after his 65th birthday.

"It's time for me not to be full time," he said. "I don't need a plaque anywhere. I'll happily ride my Tennessee Walker off into the sunset."

Before leaving the pulpit, congregation members will gather on Sunday to share cake and honor the pastor with a retirement reception after worship services.

"A very sincere, heart-felt thank-you for what you've given to us," Steve Orenic said. "He really cares about his congregation. He's really thrown himself into our community and we know it, we feel it. We really feel like he's part of this family."

"I wish John all of the very, very, very best," Waters added. "You've got to realize, they (pastors) give every Sunday of their lives."

While McIntosh looks forward to spending more time with family and friends, he reassured he isn't going anywhere.

"We own the house we live in on the very northwest side of Mahomet," he said. "We'll stay here. My wife (Patty) grew up in Champaign. She loves being where we're at. We have 30-year friendships in the area. We have a 2-acre yard so I'll have plenty to do."

McIntosh intends to fix up a 1971 International Scout, which was manufactured the same year and month that he graduated high school, along with training his 2-year-old English Setter and building a rapport with his Tennessee Walking Horse.

As for his legacy, McIntosh hopes that his congregation simply felt as though their spiritual lives grew during his time as pastor.

"I'm gratified with how my life has been lived." McIntosh said. "I tell people, 'I'm not supposed to be remembered,'" he added "I have a saying, unless you have holes in your hands and feet then it's not about you. Not everybody gets that."

Categories (3):News, People, Religion

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