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There’s an old cliché that you can’t come home again. Marion native Darrin Patrick is proving that adage wrong, and in doing so bringing his message of faith and hope back with him to Southern Illinois.

Patrick, one of the founders and lead pastor of The Journey — a multisite church in greater St. Louis — recently added another church to the fold, this one in Marion.

The Journey-Southern Illinois recently began offering 9 a.m. Sunday services at a location on Illinois 37 just north of Marion. For Patrick, this first location outside of the metropolitan area has been a long time in coming. He says he’s had a vision for sharing faith in Southern Illinois since high school.

“I grew up in Marion, but did not grow up in the church,” the 1989 graduate of Marion High School explains. “My family was not churched and I broke all kinds of commandments as long as I could. Then one of the guys, Joe Wagner (now pastor at First Baptist Church in

Du Quoin), shared Christ with me and I came to understand the gospel during my junior year.”

Patrick says it was then that he realized that he was supposed to be in ministry. After attending seminary in Kansas City and helping to establish a church there, he started The Journey in St. Louis in 2002. Currently, nearly 5,000 people worship at the church’s four locations. He says he’s eager to do it again in Marion.

“I have a heart for Southern Illinois,” he says. “There are a ton of my buddies who are still in the area but haven’t connected to faith or to a church. They are the reason we are here. Statistically, in Williamson County 85 percent of the people are not participating in a local church. We’re here for those unchurched.”

He already has help for the mission at hand. Tim Buehler, who has worked in ministry in Williamson County for several years, will serve as local pastor for The Journey-Southern Illinois. Aaron Smith of Harrisburg serves as the church’s worship leader. A core team of area residents already has been identified and is assisting with the launch of the new church.

“This church will be led by local leaders; they will be the decision makers,” Patrick explains.

Buehler says each service of The Journey–Southern Illinois will feature a live worship band, Holy Communion and Biblical teaching, mostly from Patrick via a combination of live and video teaching. Programming for youth and children will be part of church services.

“We’ll be listening to the people of Southern Illinois as to what the ministry needs to look like,” Patrick adds. “We’re a church of very real, very normal people. We’re very community focused. We don’t want to just build a good church, we want to build a great community.”

Area residents have already been able to get a feel for what services at The Journey-Southern Illinois will be like. The church has held a number of preview services at The Pavilion of the City of Marion since November.

“Response has been fantastic,” Buehler says. “The turnout has been very good and we’ve received a lot of very positive feedback.” The Journey Southern Illinois had 493 attenders at their recent Easter service, which was held at the Marion Civic and Cultural Center.

Patrick says that even though the atmosphere and flavor of the Marion location may be different than those of the St. Louis churches, the goal of The Journey-Southern Illinois will be the same.

“Our mission statement is ‘Love God, Connect People, Transform the World.’ We’re trying to help people to know God and what He wants for their lives,” he explains. “We want people to experience true community, and we want them to go into their part of the world — their neighborhood, their workplace, their school or wherever-and transform that part with the gospel.”

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