Pastor Rod Dye of Erie United Methodist Church is quite involved with community outreach. The community-minded congregation works with several outreach programs, including the Meet and Eat program for young people, as well as Kings Closet, the community food pantry, the baby basket ministry and the prayer shawl ministry.
Pastor Rod Dye of Erie United Methodist Church is quite involved with community outreach. The community-minded congregation works with several outreach programs, including the Meet and Eat program for young people, as well as Kings Closet, the community food pantry, the baby basket ministry and the prayer shawl ministry.

ERIE, Ill. — Pastor Rod Dye had many connections to the community when he was appointed to serve the Erie United Methodist Church.

“I grew up on a farm five miles northeast of here near Fenton,” he said. “Going to church on Sundays was always important for us. My parents were involved in the church, and in a small town at that time, our social life revolved around the church.”

After graduating from Erie High School, Dye went to the University of Illinois to complete a degree in agricultural industries and then worked for a few years for the Production Credit Association and the Illinois Farm Business Farm Management Association.

“In the fall of 1979, I came back to farm with my dad, and I also worked for a lawyer during the winter,” he said. “I was involved with our church in Fenton in various ways, like serving as a lay leader and a lay speaker.”

During this period of his life, Dye said he was struggling with his identity.

“It was partially a personality conflict and partially a spiritual struggle,” he explained. “I was torn over what I was supposed to be doing.”

In 1992, Dye made a career-changing decision.

“I decided the Lord was calling me to ministry, so I talked to the district superintendent,” he said. “I was appointed to the Methodist church in Apple River, and I started studying at the University of Dubuque Theologi cal Seminary for my Master of Divinity.”

Dye completed his degree in December 1996 and was appointed to be the full-time pastor at a church in Lanark.

“Our bishop decides where pastors will serve,” he said. “Most Methodist pastors serve from seven to 10 years at a church. However, it depends on the congregation and the pastor.”

Dye served the Lanark congregation for seven and a half years before he was appointed to his current position for the Erie community.

Returning to the area where he grew up resulted in mixed emotions.

“I left as a farmer and a came back as a pastor,” he said. “Some people were not sure if they could adapt to me as a pastor.”

After almost 10 years at the Erie church, Dye said the overall experience has been positive.

“There was one lady, whose husband coached my baseball team, who told me that she didn’t think it was a good idea for me to be the pastor,” he said. “But when she got sick, she told me that she was glad I was her pastor.”

The Erie church currently has a membership of almost 300 people, with an average Sunday attendance of about 120.

“The Lord had a plan for me to be here,” Dye said.

The congregation is quite involved in community outreach, including a Meet and Eat program for both middle school and high school students, which gather once a week after school.

“The middle school group has from 30 to 40 kids, and the high school group includes 15 to 20 kids and many of them are unchurched,” Dye said.

A clothing ministry, Kings Closet was initiated by a couple of church members who were inspired after returning from a mission trip. People donate clothing, toys and dishes, for example, to the mission, and the items are resold at a very low cost.

“All the community churches support Kings Closet, which is located in the building that is attached to the grocery store,” Dye said. “We also have two or three ladies who are very active in the food pantry, and they get the church involved in donating to that ministry.”

The church’s baby basket ministry provides a basket of baby items to all new moms to welcome their babies.

“My wife, Brenda, who had worked with hospice, is involved in the prayer shawl ministry, and over the years they have distributed a couple hundred shawls,” Dye said.

The shawls are given to people when they are sick or during a time of mourning.

“They make the shawls, and my wife adds a tag that says, ‘Made especially for you by the Prayer Shawl Ministry,’ and when they deliver the shawls, they pray with them,” Dye explained.

“This congregation allows me to do lots of community outreach because they see it as an extension of our congregation. I serve as the chaplain for the fire department, I’m involved in the Rotary Club and I am on the Education Foundation Board.”

Dye also works with four other churches in the village.

“All five churches are pretty active, and we get together to do community services a couple of times a year,” he said. “I don’t think every community does that.”

Since deciding to serve as a pastor, Dye said he has been fortunate to be appointed to three congregations that have been very supportive.

“There are people here able and willing to do things I don’t like to do,” he said. “Part of my role is to encourage people to do ministry, so sometimes I need to just stay out of the way.”

For example, the technology and sound system in the church has progressed significantly in the past several years.

“We can record services, and we have projectors and screens in both the front and the back of the church,” Dye said. “The screen in the back is used when the kids are singing to project the words for them.”

If he is moved to a new church, Dye said it will be difficult to break the roots that have grown even deeper in the Erie community.

“If I’m appointed somewhere else, I will still be involved in Erie,” he said. “My dad is still farming, and I help him with his financial business.”

And the Dyes have purchased a home in Erie for retirement.

“I’ll leave it up to God to decide how long I serve this congregation,” the pastor said.