We are pleased to announce that Bishop Frank Beard, in consultation with the cabinet of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference, has appointed Rev. Sara Isbell to serve as Directing Pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church, effective July 1, 2018. Rev. Isbell brings a wealth of pastoral experience to her role as our new Directing Pastor, having served local congregations since 2003. She succeeds Rev. Vaughn Hoffman, who is retiring on June 30 of this year. We are delighted to make this announcement and look forward to welcoming Rev. Isbell and her husband Andy into the Wesley family.
Sara Isbell considers herself a “child of the church.” Daughter of a United Methodist minister (Rev. E. Paul Unger) and lay woman (Judith Unger), she has always thought of the church as her home.
Her calling became apparent during her time on staff at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Illinois. Experiences of God’s presence and guidance during mission trips, campus ministry conferences, student choir travels and Bible studies made it clear that this call to ministry was personal and not just hand-me-down. The Wesley Foundation is also where she met her husband, Andy, and where their two children (now adults) were born and baptized. One of those children now attends and works in the nursery at that same Wesley Foundation and Church.
Sara earned her Masters of Divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and has served on the seminary’s Board of Trustees for over a decade. Her particular interests and passions were Biblical studies and Intercultural perspectives. Upon graduation in 2003, she was appointed to Decatur Grace UMC as associate pastor. Sara was ordained in 2006 and has served Chatham UMC from 2007 to the present.
Within the Illinois Great Rivers Conference she has served on several district committees as well as Sessions (Worship Coordinator), the Conference Board of Church and Society and the local chapter of MFSA (Methodist Federation for Social Action). Sara is a three-time delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conference, is currently serving as chair of the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee and will attend the special called session in February 2019.
She continues to love studying and teaching the Bible and is a particular fan of Disciple Bible Study. She is committed to working for peace and justice and to full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church. Sara is particularly drawn to interfaith connections, and plans to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions in November 2018. One of her strongest passions is “holy conferencing”: mutually respectful, honest conversations by which people find “the holy” in one another, whether they agree on particular issues, or not.
Sara and her husband Andy will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary this summer. They both love music, especially singing: Andy sings bass with the Ambassadors of Harmony barbershop chorus in St. Charles, MO, and has been in choir, praise band and handbells in every church they’ve served. Andy is also known as “The Voice of the Marching Illini” and announces for Women’s Volleyball at UIUC. Besides church activities, Sara also enjoys exercise classes, running, bicycling, reading, and vegetarian cooking.