MORE THAN A NAME
On July 1, 2021, Luke and Bernardine got married, so to speak. That is, St. Luke’s Catholic Church in River Forest and St. Bernardine’s Catholic Church in Forest Park united into one parish as part of the consolidation process in the Catholic Archdiocese called Renew MyChurch.
This summer, the new “couple” chose a hyphenated name, St. Luke and St. Bernardin Parish, even though it went against archdiocesan guidelines. The story of how it happened reveals that the Catholics of Forest Park and River Forest felt empowered to assert their will and that the men at the top were willing to listen.
FIRST UNITED CLOSED
Members of the First United Church of Christ worshiped for the last time in the building at 1000 Elgin which they owned. It’s the familiar story of mainstream churches shrinking their membership and therefore their income, closing and selling their property to what I’ll call “entrepreneurial” pastors.
TOWER. TEAGUE BECOMES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PTMAN
Reverend Bill Teague, the pastor of Hope Tabernacle Church who worships in the white stucco building on Dixon Street, is now executive director of the Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance Network and one of his parishioners, Dana Williams, is the nonprofit’s business manager.
In 2021, hardly anyone thought online worship would become the new normal. Now that COVID restrictions have eased, many members have returned to worship in person, but not all. Some have become accustomed to “going to church” in pajamas. The online cult seems here to stay.
RENEW MY KITCHEN
Renew My Kitchen is more than a fundraiser like so many church cookbooks have been over the years. When St. Bernardine and St. Luke “married,” members realized that the two congregations had different personalities and cultures. The cookbook is one of the creative efforts of two different churches in two different communities to make marriage work.
PASTOR PONGSAK RETIRES
Reverend Dr. Pongsak Limthongviratn has retired from both his full-time job as Asian Ministry Director at the Evangelical Lutheran Church headquarters in Chicago and his role as part-time pastor of St. Paul Thai over the past 30 years.
JEFF RUSSEL AT THE SEMINAR
Jeff Russell is the owner of the Millionaire Barber Shop on Beloit Avenue, just two doors down from the park entrance on Harrison Street. He ministered as a lay minister for many years, even leading worship in his barbershop for a time. Last year, he decided he was called to full-time ministry and is taking seminary classes with the goal of becoming an ordained minister.
ST. THE PAUL THAI CHURCH — TRULY MULTICULTURAL
While the cultural foundation of St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church is still Thai, the congregation has defied sociological trends by becoming truly multicultural. Three of the worship team members are black, and the senior pastor — who is assisted by a retired white pastor, a Thai lay minister and a Thai intern — is white. The entire service is translated into English when the speakers are Thai and into Thai when they are “farang”, that is to say Westerners.
LIVE WORD – REALLY MEGA
I bet many Forest Park residents don’t even know where the Living Word Christian Center meets for worship, but every Sunday thousands of people from across the Chicago metro area gather for worship at the state-of-the-art sanctuary, located in the southern part of the Forest Park Mall on Roosevelt Road, which is owned by the megachurch pastor.
That American culture is becoming increasingly secular is not exactly news. Ask members of the First United Church of Christ.
The trend is documented in Forest Park. Of the 33 displays in the front yards on Circle, Elgin, and Thomas south of the Eisenhower, 32 featured non-religious characters like Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, and candy canes. Ten had nativity scenes, but nine of them also had a Santa Claus or a snowman or a non-religious holiday symbol.