REV. DR. R. PAUL SIMS Sept. 10, 1926-June 3, 2018
A spiritual giant
Paul Sims held the highly respected titles of Reverend, Doctor, United Methodist District Superintendent and Assistant to the Bishop. But, other titles reveal more about the life of this remarkable man. Mentor. Loving husband and father. Friend. Teacher. Pastor to many pastors. Spiritual giant. Rotarian – exemplifying Rotary’s motto of Service above Self.
“Paul was a spiritual giant, yet very approachable,” says Rev. Dr. Kent Lolling, pastor at Laurel United Methodist Church (UMC) in Springfield. “He was a pastor to many people, but also a pastor to many pastors. He was a living example of the faith. He was what many of us pastors aspire to be. His life was the preached word.”
Reverend Sims was born in Marion and died at his home in Rochester. He lived a life of ministry within the UMC for more than 70 years. He received his preaching license at age 16 and was appointed to serve three small churches while still in school. He attended SIU-Carbondale and then McKendree University, where he received his bachelor’s degree. He graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. He was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from McKendree and a Doctor of Humane Letters from Wiley College.
Paul’s beloved wife, Jeanné, was with him every step of the way. They were partners in life and in ministry. Married for over 66 years, they have two daughters, Carol Sims and Cathy Sims Norgaard, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Although he spent many years ministering in small towns in Illinois, he traveled the world as part of his ministry. Sims was one of 13 youth delegates chosen to attend the interdenominational, ecumenical, youth conference in post-war Oslo, Norway, and a work camp experience in Poland in 1947. He taught in mission schools in Hirosaki, Japan. He served on the executive committee for World Methodism with major conference events in Hawaii, Kenya and Singapore. He and Jeanné traveled to 29 countries together as part of their ministry.
Sims ministered at churches in Fairview Heights, Chester, DuQuoin and Granite City. He served the lower 13 counties in Illinois as a district superintendent before becoming assistant to the bishop in Springfield. He was pastor at the Effingham Centenary UMC until his retirement in 1996. After “retiring” he served as interim minister at several churches. In his later years Laurel UMC in Springfield became his church home. Sims’ fellow pastors describe him as humble, caring, approachable, a great listener and an outstanding preacher.
Ministry and Rotary intersected for Sims as part of his travels. He first joined Rotary in 1957 and was a member of several different clubs over the years. For the last 20 years he was a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise, where he had perfect attendance. Sims believed in the benefits of make-ups by attending Rotary Club meetings wherever he was traveling. He attended Rotary meetings in New Delhi, Nairobi, Singapore and Bangkok, as well as in cities throughout the U.S. and Europe. He never considered this a burden, but rather an open door to worldwide fellowship and service to society.
Sims gave the opening invocation at every weekly meeting of the Sunrise Rotary Club. He had a miraculous ability to address issues of the day in a manner that was positive, inspiring, meaningful to all and devoid of partisan undertones. Whether there were positive events to celebrate in the world, natural disasters, political strife or special circumstances in the lives of individual members, Sims spoke to these issues in his weekly devotions. His words connected with everyone, regardless of one’s age, gender, religion or political beliefs. These prayers are a lasting gift and continue to be read at weekly meetings to serve as a source of inspiration.
Sims was a caring and kind person. He routinely visited people in the hospital, even in later years when he walked with more difficulty. He visited people he knew as well as their family members he may not have known personally. These visits were greatly appreciated and always uplifting.
Sims was beloved by his family, within the ministry and by the family of Rotary. He is deeply missed. “Paul was humble, faithful, caring, loyal to the covenants he had made, especially to the clergy covenant and big on commitment, duty and responsibility,” says Lolling. “If Paul made a commitment to something, you were sure he would carry it out and give it his all. He served God and people with the same kind of tenacity but in the humblest way imaginable. He was a mentor to many. In him, we found a caring, listening ear. And in the pastoral ministry, that is something we pastors often discover is hard to find.”
Karen Ackerman Witter is a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise and Laurel United Methodist Church where she had the honor and privilege of getting to know Rev. Dr. Paul Sims.