A new minister, with an agenda for social activism, has taken over the pastor-ship of Illyria United Methodist Church.

Grace Warren became pastor this past February of the popular church, located at Park and 2nd streets. She replaced Iris Elliot, who had been asked by the Methodist bishop of Northern Greenville to become pastor of a church there. (Methodist pastors are appointed to their positions by their bishop, who tries to match a minister’s skills with the needs of a particular congregation.)

Warren, 37, was not unfamiliar with Illyria, however, having worshiped there for over two years prior to becoming pastor. She also interviewed with her new congregation after her appointment, to make sure she and church members were well suited.

Before coming to Illyria, she was a campus minister at Durant College.

Born in Massachusetts State, Warren was raised in a small town with the rather ominous name (for a future minister) of Babylon.

Her parents were not particularly religious, she recalls, but her mother wanted her children to have at least some exposure to a religious education. So when Warren was around 4, she and her two younger sisters were sent to Sunday School.

Warren found the experience very meaningful. “It seemed to offer a lot of guidance on how to live the rest of the week,” she says.

By the age of 14 Warren had decided upon the ministry as a calling. In high school she was very involved in religious activities.

After graduating from University in California with a degree in psychology, Warren moved west to Texas, where she attended the School of Religion and received a master’s degree in divinity.

In 1998 she was ordained a minister in the Methodist Church of Durant.

Her first ministerial position took her to a tiny, rural community of 350 people in the Mountains. Besides serving as the local minister, she also drove the town ambulance.