Lance Leeds Leaving; Dwight UMC Pastor Since 2011

LANCE AND JUDY Leeds have been serving the Dwight United Methodist Church for six years, he as pastor and she as Sunday School teacher. Her classroom has a “Fruit of the Spirit” tree on the wall (background) with fruit representing gifts of the Spirit such as “kindness.” The Paper photo

The Rev. Lance Leeds, pastor at the Dwight United Methodist Church since July, 2011, will preach his last sermon in Dwight on Sunday (June 11). He and his wife Judy will be moving to the Marion Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Marion. “Marion is the first place we will move to that we have actually heard of before,” Lance said, having served in many small towns throughout Illinois in his career. Not only has Pastor Leeds and his family had to move 11 times during his career with the United Methodist Church, but the way he started his career was not your typical “call” to serve, he said. At the tender age of 27, Leeds was general manager of an AM/FM station, one of the youngest in that position in Illinois. He was fired from his job. The first thing he did was turn to his pastor for guidance. “I need you to pray for me,” he told the Rev. Prosper Tournier of the First United Methodist Church of Pittsfield. He explained to his pastor that he lost his job and began shooting out his resume to various radio stations to secure employment. This went on for two weeks with no response, Leeds said. At that point, the Rev. Tournier called Leeds back and asked him if he had ever considered going into the ministry. This pulled the rug out from under Leeds. “You don’t just go into the ministry because you need a job,” he said. So he prayed to God. “I said, ‘Here’s the deal, God. I don’t want to do this just because I need a job.’” When he first was dating Judy, who has been his wife for the past 31 years, she told him at that time that Leeds could have a career in any field he chose except for being a politician or a pastor. It just so happened that for a few months, Judy had been working with a pastor’s wife, and was asking her questions about what being a pastor’s wife was like. “It was unbeknownst to me,” Leeds added about his wife’s discussions about leading the life of a pastor’s wife. Instead of saying “no,” Judy obviously responded “yes” which gave Lance confirmation it was what God wanted. Judy agreed. “In my head, I get goosebumps thinking about it,” Judy told The Paper last week. “I saw my life as a jigsaw puzzle. At that moment …” she made a motion and sound like the puzzle pieces all magically and suddenly fit together as one piece. “Of course that’s what we should do,” she thought. And since that moment, she knows it was the right decision, meeting all sorts of people that she has grown close to in all the towns they served, including Dwight. Lance attended Garrett Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, and graduated in 1994, although he was a student pastor since 1990. Some of the places he has been pastor includes Smithfield, Astoria, Geneseo, Waterloo, Rantoul, and Vienna, all in Illinois. The couple has two sons: Tyler and wife Maria who reside in Metropolis, and Braydon who works at the ALDI warehouse in Dwight. During his six years in Dwight, he officiated at 79 funerals and 18 weddings. The Dwight UMC was built in 1975, and is a merger of Zion, First Methodist Church, and Salem EUBChurch in Dwight. As a resident of Southern Illinois for many years, Leeds is a St. Louis Cardinal Fan. This, of course, was in conflict with many Cub fans in Dwight. Last year, during the World Series, he promised to wear a Cub hat and sing “Go, Cubs, Go” for his congregation. He did it, as much as he did not want to. “I had NEVER worn a Cubs hat,” he explained. The new pastor will not have those issues. Pastor Leeds will be replaced by Mike Ebersohl from Salem, who is a Cubs fan.