The 131st annual Sunday School Convention will be held May 2 at the Effingham County United Methodist Campground on South Laurel Street in Springfield.
Participating Sunday Schools will gather and march into the tabernacle at 9:45 a.m. and the morning program will begin at 10 a.m. according to convention President Richard Loper. This longstanding traditional gathering unites Sunday Schools of all denominations featuring special music from each group, congregational singing and a sermon by a guest preacher provided by the host denomination for the year.
This year is Methodist year and Vice President Billy Myers said that the oldest and youngest in attendance will be recognized.
The minister for the day will be Rev. Al Fernandez, who is pastor of the Silver Hill and Clyo Methodist churches in north Effingham County. Rev. Fernandez is an Illinois native who grew up to beat the odds in a housing project environment of gangs, domestic violence and drugs. One of the bright spots of his youth was attending a Lutheran grade school, where he learned to memorize scripture.
His first job was delivering papers in a very tough neighborhood. After high school, Rev. Fernandez went to Chicago where he graduated from Hyles Anderson College with a pastoral degree. His work while there included ministering to Latin street youths.
Accepting a call from Grace Baptist Church in Muncie, Ind., as an associate pastor, Rev. Fernandez was able to obtain his Masters Degree in Public Administration from Ball State University and a Bachelors degree in Sociology during his time there.
In 1989, Rev. Fernandez received the Dr. Martin Luther King Scholarship at Christian Theological Seminary where he completed his work for his Master of Divinity Degree. This led him to be called as pastor at Christus Victor Lutheran Church.
He also answered calls to Sherwood Christian Church and Christ the Savior Lutheran Church. In addition to all of his pastoral duties through the years, he taught courses at Indiana Institute of Technology, Washington State Department of Corrections, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Effingham County High School and South Effingham High School. In 2002, he accepted the call to serve Clyo and Silver Hill Methodist churches.
Not only does he have two church families, he is also a father and grandfather.
A business meeting and election of officers for 2011 will be held by the delegates of each Sunday School under the tabernacle after a lunch break with the time being announced at the close of the Convention.
Everyone is welcome to attend Sunday School Convention, a longstanding highlight of the year for Christians who gather here annually. For more information or for your Sunday School to participate, contact Stuart Exley, convention secretary at 754-3402.