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McIntosh, Pastor at Mahomet United Methodist Church, looks back on life of service

>Fred Kroner Fred Kroner
January 23, 2018
By FRED KRONER
John McIntosh had an insistent side as a youngster.
“I made people call me ‘Farmer John’ “ he said. “I had these toys and I’d farm the carpet.”
His interest stemmed from having a grandfather (Earl W. McIntosh) who was a farmer.
As John McIntosh got older, his interests changed.
“I started college (at the University of Illinois) to be an architect,” he said, “but I ended up getting my bachelor’s degree in finance.”
McIntosh had opportunities to proceed in that profession.
“I had interviews with insurance companies and a bank,” he said. “I was working at a restaurant at the Round Barn, and they wanted me to be the assistant manager.”
He earned his degree from the UI after the fall semester of 1975, but didn’t see his calling in the business world.
Though his father had never tried to recruit him to follow in his footsteps, John McIntosh liked what he witnessed.
“I’d see my father happy, satisfied and finding a purpose in life,” McIntosh said. “He enjoyed what he did.”
Burt McIntosh was a United Methodist preacher.
“I had a desire to have a more developed spiritual life,” John McIntosh said.
He applied and was accepted into the United Methodist Seminary School in Denver, his enrollment starting in September, 1976.
The decision meant carrying on a family legacy that can be traced back centuries.
“I since found out that three relatives on my mother’s side were circuit-riding Methodist ministers in the 1700s and into the 1800s,” said John McIntosh, whose maternal grandfather (Harold Halfyard) was also a Methodist minister.
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In less than five months — on June 10 — John McIntosh will deliver his final sermon at the Mahomet United Methodist Church.
When he arrived in 2013, it was the seventh stop for him in a distinguished 41-year career. McIntosh’s final official day at MUMC will be June 30, the day after he celebrates his 65th birthday.
“I’ve invested a lot of time, energy, prayers and hope here,” he said, “but I’ll disappear for a while.
“I will tell people, I will be their friend and will pray for them, but I won’t be their pastor.”
He will leave with no regrets.
“What I’d hoped to accomplish here, I’ve accomplished,” McIntosh said. “It’s time for a new person with new energy and ideas.
“Hopefully the next person will take it from where it is to the next level.”
McIntosh takes comfort in a Biblical passage as he reflects on his journey.
“To everything there is a season,” he said, quoting Ecclesiastes 3.
***
McIntosh and his siblings share a family trait.
“All of our names start with ‘J’ “ he said.
There’s Jennifer, John, Jane, Jeff and Joseph.
“Mom would refer to us as the five J’s,” McIntosh said. “I was J-2.
“She might write a postcard to someone and say, ‘J-3 and 4 went to the ocean today.’ “
During his pastoral stops, he has been referred to in different ways than Rev. McIntosh.
“In Peoria, a man said, ‘You’re like an old shoe. You’re comfortable like that.’ “
McIntosh recalled. “His wife looked upset that he’d say that, but I told her, ‘That doesn’t hurt my feelings.’
“I’ve got to be who I am.”
During his stint in Normal, an early assessment stated, “I was more on the folksy side and not as academically-oriented as my two predecessors.”
It was an interesting observation about the person who was chosen the Outstanding Student in his first year in Seminary School.
***
Throughout his youth, McIntosh was groomed for the role he would serve.
At regular intervals, his father would be transferred and put in charge of a new congregation.
McIntosh spent part of his formative years in Williamsville, Divernon, Marshall (from where he graduated high school) and Clinton.
He and his four siblings grew accustomed to change.
“If you asked the five of us, ‘Would you do anything different,’ we’d say ‘no,’ “ McIntosh said. “You learn how to make friends wherever you go.”
Whether it was in speech class or as the lead in a school play, McIntosh never shied away from addressing an audience.
“I was always one who could talk in front of people,” he said.
If that point wasn’t already clear in his mind, it was vividly illustrated during a high school art class.
“I spent too much time visiting with the people around me instead of on my drawings,” McIntosh said.
***
During his time behind the pulpit, McIntosh said, he has seen “things tragic and things hilarious.”
During a 130-week stretch in Pittsfield, he did 130 funerals.
“Having that much experience with grief, I’ve learned if I get emotional during a service, I stop,” McIntosh said. “Don’t force it.
“When family members are speaking (at a funeral), I tell them, ‘We’re not in a hurry. You’ll never have a more sympathetic audience. These people want to hear what you have to say.”
Among the eulogies he has delivered was one last year after his mother passed away.
It’s important, he said, for him to release his emotions in advance.
“I lean into the pain,” he said. “I make sure I get my cry in, get my emotional expression in.”
And then, there are the joyous occasions.
McIntosh has done two weddings for daughters whose parents he also married.
“People bring you into the most significant times of their lives,” he said. “I’ve done weddings for kids I’ve baptized.”
He once officiated a wedding where — almost by cue — as the ceremony was ending, “a bat started flying around,” he said.
***
McIntosh disputes the image some folks have of ministers.
“I’m not the spiritual giant,” he said. “The spiritual giant is often the least noticeable person in the pews.
“People expect ministers to be the answer person. I have seen the hurts people have experienced and there aren’t magic words sometimes.
“The sooner you recognize that, the better off you are. You can’t talk your way into making it better. It’s your presence that’s comforting.”
He is humbled, he said, to have served United Methodist congregations.
“United Methodists tend to be good people who want to make a difference in the world,” McIntosh said. “What a great way to live.”
***
McIntosh’s father is 91, living in Bloomington and keeping active.
Especially during the summer.
“He comes over and mows my yard,” John McIntosh said.
As he anticipates his own retirement years, John McIntosh doesn’t expect any problems keeping busy.
“I have a horse to train (a Tennessee Walking Horse), a young Irish setter (18 months old) to train, I’m fond of flyfishing and hunting and I have a 1971 International Scout to rebuild,” he said.
That’s not to mention the 2 acres of yard, if he can convince his father to share the workload.
Beyond that, there will be time for himself and his wife, Patty, a nurse whom he met while making hospital rounds in Kewanee.
“I’m looking forward to a little more privacy,” McIntosh said.
***
Like everyone, McIntosh has reasons to be thankful.
For him, one could center around the growth he has made during four-plus decades on the job.
“My first sermon,” he said, “took almost 30 hours to write.”
He usually starts on his Sunday message on Thursday.
Since he speaks without notes, “some people think I wing it, but I’m not,” he said.
“When I’m sitting alone, or driving, I’m thinking about the sermon. My hope is to give people things to understand so they have something to grasp, and make it relevant to the day.”
If his name is not prominent in people’s minds years from now, he’s OK with that.
“If people forget me but say, ‘my spiritual life grew,’ that’s great,” McIntosh said. “I’m happy to be obsolete.
“At some point, you realize a relationship with God is the best way to life and all these resources that come into your life.”
McIntosh’s Methodist journey
YEARS LOCATION
1976-80 Denver (Seminary School)
1980-83 Kewanee
1983-93 Bellflower, Foosland
1993-99 Pittsfield
1999-2004 Peoria
2004-08 Vandalia
2008-13 Normal
2013-18 Mahomet

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