It's time for our annual meeting and that means annual reports! If you are part of our our community at The Community Church of Wilmette, then I hope you can join us after worship this upcoming Sunday to celebrate with us during our meeting. In the meantime, here is my report from this past fiscal year.
“I will lead them... by paths they have not known.” Isaiah 42:16
Looking back over the last year I feel the most important thing is to say thank you. Thanks to God for God’s blessings and faithfulness. Thank you for each person who contributes to the life of our congregation and our ministry.
Over the past year, the church has continued the conversation about how the environment around us has changed, a fact that has impacted a variety of industries including religious organizations. How people interact with churches, what they look for regarding faith, what they consider important is all in flux. While we can’t do much to change the environment, we can explore ways to adapt. The old Church may not impact this new terrain, but we’ve always been a different kind of church. Looking through old reports, these are not new conversations within the life of CCW, though this past year we’ve been working towards executing some of these ideas to see what might be an effective ministry in this new climate.
One of our goals has been to look at worship. What does meaningful worship look like in today’s community? We started the program year off by expanding our monthly dinners to twice a month. Wanting to know what it looked like to have a worshipful experience around the table, much like the early Christian communities, we shared a meal and incorporated some liturgical elements. We brought in more first time guests from the community during our Sunday night dinners than we did the past three years of worship. We tried out various ideas at the Sunday night dinners, including hosting a conversation with a group from Family Matters.
We began discussions about what our Sunday morning worship service might look like in the future. A worship task force made up of Matt Long, Rich Ramlow, Judy Jane Smith, Rich Winship, and myself began conversations about some of the deeper reasons we worship as a community with the goal of finding ways of developing meaningful worship that reflects CCW’s values and speaks to the wider community.
This past year has been a year of deepening partnerships within the community. We were able to launch a new program, Project Rise, with Family Matters. We were able to provide job training and internship programming for a group of six young men. This summer the program is expanding to include more participants and also a group of young women. Participants from Project Rise not only gain work experience but work in a group and table conversations to reflect on their workplaces and practice various skills together. Each week during the program, members from CCW went to Family Matters to talk with participants, share stories about their professions, and to help run mock interviews. One of the roundtable conversations involved local police officers and focused on intentional conversations around violence in Chicago. The discussion resulted in CCW producing a thirty-minute documentary sharing personal stories of participants from Family Matters. We are looking to premiere the film to the wider Wilmette community this fall.
We’ve been looking at ways to strengthen a partnership with Our Place, our space sharer whose goal is to provide support to teens and adults with developmental disabilities. Artwork from Our Place participants was blown up and made into banners for the front of our sanctuary. We will be sharing booth space at this year’s Wilmette Summerfest. Leslie Henderson and Betty Jacobs are serving on a joint task force with leaders from Our Place to explore options for future building usage.
We also used our partnerships to promote and advance our congregation’s mission. We partnered with GoGreen Wilmette to become more ecologically aware. We had a booth and presence at this year’s GoGreen Fair, served as a community site to screen the documentary Before the Flood, and brought in Marcia Heeter from GoGreen Wilmette to preach during our Earth Day service.
Also, we continued regular fellowship events like summer movies on the lawn, summer BBQ’s and cocktail parties, a weekly Bible study group, monthly book study, monthly service at A Just Harvest, and serving a monthly breakfast and dinner at The Crib at Night Ministry.
Our ministries could not happen without a good team. Last year, we combined two positions to create the Operations and Programs Pastor position. We placed Robert Rawls into that position. The ordination of Rob in June was a wonderful celebration. Rob participates in worship, program development, and community outreach. He has been an asset to our congregation and community. Winifred Brown continues to bless us with beautiful music, bringing in talented soloists to join the talented voices of our choir members. This continues to be an important part of our worship. Mallory Harding has continued to organize the office and this year has taken on more duties with Worship Arts in helping put together the worship service. Matthew Long’s extensive range brings opportunities to worship and has been an asset to the worship task force. This year has also provided consistent childcare for a variety of events, including regular care and programming for our children during Sunday morning worship.
I am proud of the work we were able to accomplish this past year and I am honored to be part of this congregation as we think about our future. Our congregation has seen changes over the past several generations, yet we carry on an enduring legacy of serving the community, caring and supporting one another, and deepening our faith. It is a blessing to serve in this community!
Pastor David Van Brakle