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People of Faith
The People of Faith project preserves the stories and spiritual journeys of Illinoisans from the wide variety of religious faiths and callings as practiced in the early 21st Century
In 2014 representatives from three ELCA Lutheran congregations in Springfield, Illinois, all with aging congregations and facing the loss of their minister, began discussions on the possibility of blending their three congregations into one. They agreed that the former Atonement Lutheran Church facility would be the location for the new church, but that was just the start of lengthy discussions. Mike Barker (Atonement Lutheran), Clair Edgecomb (Faith Lutheran) and Ron Krause (Luther Memorial) share their memories of the year-long process that eventually resolved all of the issues involved with combining three congregations into one. The end result was that a new congregation, Peace Lutheran Church, held its first service in September 2015.
Jon and Jeanne Berg were American Lutheran missionaries in western Africa. From 1977 to 1979 in Jon and Jeanne were stationed in Poli (northern) Cameroon, and from 1985 through 1992 in Dakar, Senegal. While in Poli, Jeanne gave birth to two sons. They returned to the states (for a ministry in a Fairbury, Illinois) only after their home in Poli burned to the ground. During their ministry in Senegal, Jon helped start the Galle Nanondiral community center in Dakar, and Jeanne raised their three sons and worked as a teacher at the International School of Dakar.
Rev. Dr. Blythe Denham Kieffer is the pastor, head of staff and minister of word and sacrament at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Illinois. She discusses her journey to that position, and also gives an in-depth discussion about the theology and doctrinal foundation of the Presbyterian Church in America. Reverend Denham-Kieffer earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Hope College, a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry with an emphasis in Pastoral Counseling from Eden Theological Seminary. She also received a clergy renewal grant from the Lily Foundation in 2011.
Doris Fischer and her husband Harold were long-time members of Faith Lutheran Church in Springfield, Illinois. Doris traces the history of Faith from its founding in 1946 to its consolidation with two other Springfield-based Lutheran congregations in 2015. All three congregations had long-serving pastors retiring in 2015, and were also experiencing a decline in membership. Doris speaks extensively about Pastor Wellington P. Witkop, who served as Faith's minister from 1956 to 1989, and Pastor Glen VanderKloot, who served as pastor from 1989 until 2015. She also discussed the various construction phases the church experienced in the 1950s through the 1970s.
Daniel Krumrei was born and raised in Wisconsin, and joined the Wisconsin National Guard as an enlisted man in 1977. A couple of years later his life took a dramatic turn, and he decided to become a minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). After finishing his religious education at Phillips University in Oklahoma, he and his wife moved to Iowa. In 1990 he deployed with the 209th Medical Clearing Company for the Gulf War, serving as a unit chaplain. Following the war, Krumrei answered a call to a church in Pittsfield, Illinois. By 1998 he was serving a congregation at Parkway Christian Church in Springfield while also making steady progress in his military career. He went on to become the Adjutant General for Illinois.
Mary Loken discusses the history of Luther Memorial Church of Springfield, Illinois, tracing its earliest days at the dawn of World War II, to its merger with two other Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) congregations in 2015. Mary Frisk grew up in Mason City, Iowa and pursued a long career in education, especially in the field of special education. She married Dennis Loken in 1963, and the couple moved to Springfield in 1965, joining Luther Memorial Church that same year. She is an insightful observer of her congregation's history, and passionate about its role in the Springfield community.
Rabbi Barry Marks served as the rabbi for Temple Israel in Springfield, Illinois from 1973 to 2017. He graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City in 1969 and began his rabbinical career in Danville, Illinois. He then attended the University of Illinois law school for two years, but in 1973 he became the rabbi at Temple Israel in Springfield, a Conservative synagogue. Rabbi Marks became very active in the greater Springfield community, and because of his lifetime of service to his temple and the community, was honored with Springfield's First Citizen Award in 2011.
Ron Moorman has taken a spiritual journey through life, and served humanity each step of the way. Born in Ohio, he attended Catholic parochial schools and a high school level seminary program before enrolling in a Catholic seminary at St. Joseph's College. Following his ordination in 1966, he served parishes in Iowa and Missouri before leaving the priesthood in 1970. Ron spent the next thirty-one years in child-centered social work, first with the IL Department of Children and Family Services, and then with the Child Care Association of Illinois, many of those years as its director. Following his retirement in 2001, Ron returned to the ministry, this time as a Lutheran pastor in the ELCA Synod, serving the congregation at Luther Memorial Church in Springfield.
Maryam Mostoufi was one of Springfield, Illinois's Muslim community faith leaders for many years. She was born into a strong Disciples of Christ family in Marshalltown, Iowa, with Janice Hallam being her birth name. She had an active curiosity about religion growing up, but was rejected by a Disciples of Christ seminary due to her belief that Jesus was not divine. While attending Iowa State University, her religious quest led her to Islam. She met Siavash Mostoufi, an Iranian student working on a masters degree in soil science, while there. They married in 1971 and in 1972 the couple moved to Iran, staying there until the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Maryam talks at length about her faith, and about her family's experiences as Muslims in America today.
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki has spent a lifetime of service to the Catholic Church, culminating in his appointment in 2010 as the Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Since his ordination in 1978, he has served in a variety of demanding positions, including as Vice-Chancellor and then Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Along the way he also earned a law degree from DePaul University in 1981, and in Canon Law from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome a decade later. Bishop Paprocki speaks several languages, including Polish, Spanish, and Latin.
Pastor Paul Schwartzkopf spent his lifetime serving others, beginning with his college years at Purdue University, then as a Peace Corps volunteer helping build bridges and culverts in Tanzania in the mid-1960s, then as a Lutheran minister. He began his ministry with the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, but early in his ministry the church experienced a major upheaval that resulted in the Missouri Synod splitting. He aligned himself with the more liberal faction, which took the name of Seminex in the early 1970s. That group eventually joined with two other Lutheran synods to create the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA) in 1988. He finally retired from the ministry in 2017.
Ray Stroh became a charter member of Atonement Lutheran Church in Springfield, Illinois in 1966, and talks about that congregation's history from its inception in the late 1960s, to its decision to merge with two other Lutheran congregations in Springfield in 2015. Ray grew up in tiny Sibley, Illinois, in the late 1940s and 1950, and describes his childhood in intimate detail. Following graduation from Southern Illinois University, he spent a long career working as a personnel officer in a variety of Illinois state agencies.
Martin Woulfe was born and raised a Catholic, and attended Catholic schools, but by the conclusion of college in 1982 his religious views had evolved. After some tough financial and emotional challenges, he began the Meadville/Lombard Theological School in 1988 to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. Martin still faced significant challenges over the next several years, graduated from the seminary in June 1998, and was ordained in April 2003 by UUCC-Park Forest as his interim there was nearing completion. He has served as a congregational minister since 2001, most of that time at the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian-Universalist Church in Springfield, Illinois.