Religious conventions big business in Springfield

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News,Business

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Religion is big business in the state capital when it comes to bringing in convention and tourism dollars.

Between now and the summer of 2015, nearly 20 conferences and conventions are planned in Springfield, and those are just the events handled through the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"There are many more," said interim bureau Director Gina Gemberling. "... It's just a market where we've seen a lot of success."

They include next month's Rapture Forums Prophecy Conference, which is expected to draw about 400 people from across the country. Then there's the American Baptist Association's gathering in June 2015, which could see 2,000 participants.

Organizers of the Rapture Forum went through the visitor's bureau to help reserve the hundreds of hotel rooms needed for the four-day event. It's the first time the forum has come to Springfield.

"We're talking about what does the Bible say of things that are happening in the last days," said the Rev. Michael Henderson, pastor of the Springfield First Baptist Church, which is hosting the June 5-8 event. "It's coming straight out of the Scripture."

Bureau sales manager Dawn Bernardes tells The (Springfield) State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/1n7UDJ3 ) the competition for religious conferences is no different than that for other conventions.

"They all look for different things," she said. "They like our affordability and our history here."

American Baptist Association's gathering is one of four national conventions scheduled for Springfield over the next year. The others are Aldersgate Renewal Ministries National Conference, General Association of General Baptists Mission and Ministry Summit, and Baptist General State Congress of Christian Education.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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