The Rev. Beth Maynard

CHAMPAIGN — The more than century-old Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church in downtown Champaign is looking for a new rector.

Former rector the Rev. Beth Maynard retired Oct. 6 after eight years at this church.

Whoever replaces her, she said, “I have every confidence that God will send them someone great.”

Maynard, who is relocating with her husband, Mark Dirksen, to the Boston area, loved her years at the Champaign church and being part of the Champaign-Urbana community, she said.

“I’ve had an amazing staff throughout the time I’ve been there. The music program is fantastic, the building is drop dead gorgeous, the people are wonderful,” Maynard said. “It’s been such a privilege to be their pastor all these years.”

Maynard said she and her husband hope to travel more and do more volunteer work, but she’ll likely also be doing some fill-in assignments and guest preaching in her retirement.

“Clergy never completely retires,” she said.

Maynard grew up in Nashville, Tenn., and was an atheist before becoming a Christian in her late teens, she said. She was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1995.

“I went looking for God and Jesus found me,” she recalled. “It became clear to me that there was a dimension of life I had been raised to be blind to, and that there were deeper things going on in the universe.”

Maynard said a fundamental insight of the Christian tradition, shared with Judaism, is that every person is made in the likeness of God.

“Every human being, whether they are banker or criminal, White or Black, Democrat or Republican, every human being has something infinitely precious about them,” she said.

She applies that belief to the unknown person who committed a crime against the church recently — stealing two checks that had been placed in the mail.

“Whoever that person is, God loves that person absolutely, and I have to take that seriously in my thoughts and my actions about that person,” she said.

One of the highlights during her years at the church was celebrating the centennial of the church’s current building in 2017, Maynard said. It was a full year of celebrating that included a small capital campaign that allowed for improving signage and the sound system, she said

Another highlight has been the church working with programs that are working with the city of Champaign’s gun violence reduction blueprint.

CU Trauma and Resilience Initiative is now occupying space in an area of the church rebuilt after a 2018 fire, and Maynard she hopes there will be opportunities for the church to collaborate with that organization.

The church is already working with the nonprofit DREAAM, she said.

“It’s exciting to see a church getting involved in the flourishing of this community,” Maynard said.

If she has parting advice for the local community, it’s this, she said:

“This is a fantastic community,” she said. “Be confident in what a wonderful community Champaign-Urbana is, because it is.”

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