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Sweet takes over as MUMC Pastor

By FRED KRONER
fred@mahometnews.com

Craig Sweet’s wife understands what is involved in being a minister, the time commitment, the need to be available beyond regular working hours and the prospects of relocating every few years.

She not only understands, but she is also supportive.

And yet, you will likely not see them together on Sunday mornings.

Craig Sweet starts as the minister at the Mahomet United Methodist Church on Sunday July 1.

That same day, his wife Kathy will start her duties as the minister at the Monticello United Methodist Church.

They met at seminary school in New Jersey. Craig Sweet graduated from Drew University in 1982. Kathy graduated in 1984.

This month is a bittersweet one for the Sweets.

As the couple prepares to move to Monticello from the Springfield area, Craig Sweet said, “the absolute hardest part is the dual sense of grief and excitement.”

The grief is associated with the need to say goodbye to parishioners they’ve gotten to know well during the past six years at their respective churches.

Earlier this month, Craig Sweet was the officiant at a wedding which was the third he had performed for that particular family.

The excitement revolves around the people they will meet in the days and months ahead at their new churches.

He doesn’t anticipate shaking up the routine at MUMC.

“We’ll keep moving forward with the ministry the church has in place,” Craig Sweet said.

In his early childhood, Sunday morning church services were a routine part of his life.

“The option came in sixth grade,” he said. “I could go to church with Mom or stay home and do extra chores for Dad,” Craig Sweet said. “My older brother chose that.”

Craig Sweet continued with his church attendance, but didn’t immediately consider it his calling for future employment.

“I grew up thinking I would be an architect,” he said.

After two years of junior college classes, Sweet was registered at the University of Arizona, where he planned to pursue his intended major.

Financially, it was a good deal for an in-state student.

“It was $450 for room, board, tuition and fees,” he said.

Before he arrived on campus, the pastor from his hometown church offered an opinion.

“He kept telling me I had the gifts and graces of ministry,” Craig Sweet said. “He  kept saying, ‘Are you sure (about being an architect?’ He asked the question and kept me thinking about it.”

Sweet then considered the University of the Pacific, in Stockton, Cal., but the private school was “an expensive school,” he said.

“When the time came to continue my education after junior college, I decided if I could afford to go there (Pacific) I would,” he added.

To his surprise, two sizeable scholarships were forthcoming.

“Doors opened in that direction,” he said.

Sweet made the move to the west coast and then out east for the seminary.

“I came out of college and seminary only owing $2,000 in student loans,” he said.

He completed his training with a year in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Methodist Hospital, and then began the job search.

A person who was born in Idaho, raised in Arizona and attended colleges in California and New Jersey became an Illinois resident, and hasn’t left.

“They (United Methodists) had a church there,” he said. “We felt welcomed and at home.”

Mahomet United Methodist Church will be the seventh appointment he has had in the state.

He started at Washburn and Lowpoint, in the Peoria area, was sent to Alexis, near Galebsurg, and then back to the Peoria area for an assignment at Cuba.

His next moves were to churches in Kankakee and Bourbonnais. For the past six years, he has served at Sherman, near Springfield, while his wife has been at Rochester.

Both he and his wife are on one-year assignments, but he expects to be in the area longer.

“They like you to stay five or six years,” Craig Sweet said.

He has enjoyed his work in the ministry, but took notes of the changes.

“It used to be the church was the center of the community,” Sweet said. “If people wanted to get involved with things they started with the church.

“Usually now, the first thing they do is get involved with school things. We got comfortable.

People came and we didn’t have to ask. The challenge for the church is to make this communication.

“To make that initial invitation is hard sometimes.”

In his free time, Craig Sweet enjoys woodworking, reading, traveling and golf, a sport where he acknowledged, “I would probably be better if I practiced.”

The family’s travels last year took them to Scotland and Amsterdam.

They also like to immerse themselves in their communities.

At past stops, they were involved with the local Rotary or Lions clubs, but Sherman doesn’t have those organizations.

“Instead, they volunteered at nearby Springfield at the Lincoln Library and Museum.

At MUMC, Craig Sweet will replace John McIntosh, who is retiring.

The Sunday services are at 8:30 a.m. for the traditional worship and at 10:45 a.m. for the contemporary service with the Praise band.

Sweet’s first day on the job is also Communion Sunday, but one other first-week staple will be pushed back a week.

The church’s Fellowship Meal will be held on the second Sunday in July.

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I may do it all, but I have not done it all.

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