3 Who Are We Now?

3a Congregational Reflections

Describe your congregation's life of faith.

We are a congregation that recognizes  the dynamic changes in the world and the church.  Now more than ever, we feel called to be a church beyond the walls of the building.  As we experience the rise of nationalism, the effects of climate change, the discrimination against racial, ethnic, and LGBTQ2IA+ groups, the polarizing differences among people, and the tragedies of gun violence, we are called to be sources of light and healing in our community and our world. We encourage community dialogue and education around topics such as housing insecurity, the opioid epidemic, and gun violence, with guest speakers, forums, and discussions in our church.

We believe that our life of faith makes it imperative to be a witness to the work of God, to lift up the poor and marginalized, and to boldly proclaim the good news of God’s great love for all creation. To live our faith outside the walls of our church, we lead a coalition of churches and volunteer organizations to host a Community Kitchen and clothing pantry for the most marginalized and vulnerable.  During the pandemic, we served over 16,000 meals in the Community Kitchen and purchased outdoor showers when our homeless neighbors couldn’t use our indoor facilities. We continue these efforts today.

While every church struggled during the pandemic, our faith community rose to extraordinary heights to keep us together. From the very first week of the pandemic, we did not miss a service, because we were already online. During the pandemic, our online viewers ranged from 700 to 1000. With our Broadcast Ministry, we created online daily devotionals, Sunday school and Confirmation classes. 

Our Music Ministry created a virtual choir with people from all over the country. For Christmas 2020 we had a virtual Christmas Concert and Pageant. Despite freezing temperatures, we had two outdoor Christmas Eve Services in the park with over 50 people. 

We did everything possible to keep people connected.  We visited our homebound members through windows and doors. We created a Community Pantry and organized birthday car parades, and a 50-car driveby parade for residents in a retirement community. We formed a phone tree to continue connecting with our members. We held outdoor services through both summers.

This is our faith lived out in the everyday world. We may not be the biggest church in the community, but we are active and visible, spreading undeniable graciousness and compassion.

One of our values is to nurture faith as a lifelong journey. For us, baptism is more than a Sunday morning celebration - it is the beginning of a life journey we share with God and with one another. During every step into adulthood, we offer opportunities to learn and grow through mission, fellowship, and continued Bible study. 

As an Open and Affirming church, the first words of our Sunday service are “No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.” 

Describe several strengths or positive qualities of your congregation.

We are a responsive congregation. Early in the pandemic, shelters closed for public health reasons. Our church began making and serving sack lunches and distributing toiletries, clothing, and gift cards to those in need while a group of high-school students was serving meals out of the trunks of their cars to others in need.  We joined these students and other churches, individuals, and community organizations to form the Community Kitchen in a building on our site. Hot breakfasts and dinners were served daily for more than two years - more than 16,200 meals. These efforts continue today.

We are a resilient congregation. We hosted the UCC Fox Valley Association meeting just nine days after the 100-year flood left six inches of water standing in our entire lower level, including our Fellowship Hall. We continued hosting our Sunday worship services despite threats from far-right groups to hijack a worship service. We were united in our resolve to confront our feelings of betrayal when an associate minister was arrested for theft. We survived a ransomware cyber-attack that scuttled much of our church server network. We emerged after the dark, confusing times of COVID with a greatly expanded online congregation. 

We are a fun-loving congregation. We enjoy each other beyond Sunday worship and beyond our church walls. We even have a Facebook album entitled So We Like Cake. We have hosted Bowling Parties, Paddleboat Cruises, Tower Hill Campouts, Progressive Dinners, Trivia Nights, Murder Mystery Night, Game Nights, Ice Cream Socials, Pancake Breakfasts, Concerts in the Park, and Outdoor Worship Services.