The Rev. CLYDE SNYDER thought he was retired from ministry two different times — only to later realize “the Lord wasn’t finished with me yet.”
The 77-year-old cleric keeps busy these days, serving as both chairman of the board for the food pantry at Urbana’s Wesley United Methodist and pastor of 25-member Allerton United Methodist, his post the past 11 years.
Staff writer Tim Mitchell sat down with the Mahomet resident for a wide-ranging conversation.
You grew up in a farm community (Bowen) and now serve in one. Did you help out as a kid?
Yes, I grew up on a farm. We raised corn and soybeans, but don’t forget the hogs and the cows and the chickens. I got lots of practice milking the cows, feeding the chickens, cleaning out the hog house and walking the beans.
Sometimes, I incorporate my experience with farming in my sermons. Not every week, but periodically.
How were you called to become a minister?
I originally wanted to become a math teacher. I have a degree from Western Illinois to teach math, but I have never taught a day of math.
During my sophomore year at Western, I was involved with an ecumenical ministry. The guy who led it encouraged me to think about the ministry. Eventually, I decided to pursue serving as a minister. I finished my math degree and then went to Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and finished up at Drew University in Madison, N.J.
I was a kid from western Illinois who suddenly lived a mile from the Atlantic Ocean. That was a big culture shock. In 1969, I was ordained at my local church in Barry, Ill.
What do you remember most about your first sermon?
I was a sophomore in college, and I served two little churches. One had an average attendance of 12, and the other had an average attendance of 14. Compared with that, our 25-member Allerton United Methodist Church is a huge congregation.
What’s your sermon-writing process?
I preach from an outline. And I preach without notes and just talk.
On Monday morning, I look at the scripture I am going to use, pray about it and do a little research. On Thursday morning, I sit down and write the outline. And that outline is in my head as I preach. I go over it hundreds of times between Thursday morning and Sunday morning.
When I talk to people in the church, I literally can see that outline in my head. One Sunday a long time ago, I was preaching and completely forgot my outline. I told the folks:
‘Whatever that outline was, it was back in my office. I ain’t going to walk back and get it. We’re done.’
How did you meet your wife, Nancy?
Nancy is retired. She was a volunteer at a school library. We met for the first time when we were in the third grade in a little town named Bowen. It is halfway between Quincy and Macomb.
My dad was a tenant farmer, and my mom was a good-cooking homemaker in western Illinois, and we moved away. But our family eventually moved back to Bowen, and Nancy and I went to high school together. But we didn’t date until a year after high school.
We were married in 1965. We have two children and four grandkids.
What churches have you served at over the years?
I served at Barry and El Dara in western Illinois. Then I moved 30 miles up the road to Camp Point and Centennial Ebenezer, then I became a district superintendent supervising pastors and churches in Decatur for four years and in Galesburg for two years.
Then I came to the Urbana Grace Church on Philo Road, which is now called Quest. Then I went to Tuscola, where I retired for the first time.
Tell us about the construction of Tuscola United Methodist.
They had outgrown their old building. The congregation had decided to build a new church building. When I arrived in Tuscola, they had started some of the fundraising, but they needed to raise a total of $3 million.
We raised a lot of that from individual donations. It took years to get that much money. When we finished that building in 2001, there was nothing else out there. North Ward Elementary School had not yet been built next door. The school built around us.
I was a part of the team that helped design the building. I remember the opening of the new church in 2001. Here’s the fun part: The Sunday before we held our final service in the old building. That afternoon, various groups in the church had assignments to pack up a part of the church. That day, we moved everything to the new church.
For our last service in the old church, which people had loved for generations, we had a procession out carrying the Bible, flags and cross. For the first Sunday in the new church, we carried the same items inside. I wanted us to connect the old with the new.
How did you end up in Allerton?
I flunked retirement. I first retired in 2004 from Tuscola, and I planned on being done with ministry. Nancy and I found a house in Mahomet.
Then 13 months later, the pastor at the Bement United Methodist Church died. I was asked to go there for nine months. It ended up being more than a year. So I retired again.
One day, the district superintendent asked me to go to Allerton one Sunday a month to serve communion. They were between pastors. Then a few weeks later, I got another call, asking me to go to Allerton every week. I have been preaching there ever since.
The church has some good people, and we have a lot of fun together. I tell them I go for Sunday mornings and parties. Every Sunday after services, eight to 15 of us from the Methodist church go to Rich’s Family Restaurant in Ogden. When people get sick or go into the nursing home, I go visit them. I have actually had more baptisms than funerals, which is a good sign.
Do you have a story about helping somebody become a Christian?
I have had people tell me that I planted the seed for their conversion.
When I was a pastor at Camp Point, I was a community guy who always tried to support the local businesses. So I happened to buy a car from the local car dealer, a rough-and-tumble man. The dealer called me and said I kept on being his friend beyond the sale. And he started coming to my church.
What ministry are you proudest of?
There are two. First, I was part of the team that started a home-based Head Start program in five counties in western Illinois. It was called Parents and Children Together. It is still going today.
Second is the Wesley Food Pantry. Ten years ago, I was part of a group of clergy who met every Monday night. The pastor of Wesley explained to me that the students were gone at Christmas time, and the pantry really needed help with volunteers. So I came, and I have been coming back every Thursday since.
I help stock the food and help distribute it. I greet people and keep the volunteers going. I am chairman of the board. I do a little bit of everything. And I am not part of Wesley. It is rewarding to provide food to all these people who otherwise would not have food.
But this pantry has more than just food. We also have a social side. We have a library where kids can come and get books for free. We give out flu shots. Med people come here to give free health screenings. We have a guy who gives out toothbrushes and toothpaste and gives people appointments for dental work.
Have any hobbies?
I used to refinish furniture. We like antique furniture. When we bought an old piece, I thought I could make it look better.
We have a kitchen cabinet with a rolltop desk, and it had seven coats of paint on it. I took seven coats of paint off of that. It was oak underneath.
My hobby now is taking care of many flower beds at my house. I spent the last week on my knees pulling weeds out of flower beds because we were out of town for three weeks.
What time do you get up in the morning?
I wake up at 7 a.m. I spend my first hour of the day eating breakfast, reading The News-Gazette and listening to WDWS radio.
What’s the one place you’d like to visit for the first time?
I would like to go to Denali in Alaska to see the tallest mountain in North America. I would love to see that part of the world. We just came back from the Glacier National Park. We did see a grizzly bear.
Think you’ll retire for a third time?
I don’t have any idea. My blood pressure and cholesterol are under control. As long as I am healthy, I’ll keep working.