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July 23, 2015

A Faithful Church is in Business 24/7/365


Grace to you and peace from Carly, called to be servant, prophet, and teacher with and among the saints, sinners, sitters, settlers, students, simple, and sharp in La Grange and beyond. We are the living Body of Christ at all hours of the day and night and every day of the week. But we have a long way to go to reflect that reality to the world.


A large group from our church attended the meeting of the La Grange Plan Commission on July 14 to be the Body of Christ in action as the Commission worked through the specifics of a long series of proposed amendments and refinements to the Zoning Code for the Village. The amendment that concerned most of us related to the redefinition of "religious use" for church buildings. The proposal had some serious implications for how congregations can use their buildings and land.  


The proposed amendment was removed from the agenda prior to the meeting and was not discussed. Upon this realization, many in attendance left the room. About a handful of village residents remained through the meeting. I remained to hear the discussion of the other amendments; others remained to await a time of public comments. During those comments, the overarching concern was that this amendment removed from the agenda and not discussed. One of the residents said something to the effect of this:  

"When I moved here 12 years ago, I expected that the church would be busy on Sunday mornings.... but there is something happening there every day.... that is not acceptable; it needs to be regulated."


Wow. That did not connect with my understanding of how our society operates. Has our educational system so failed this person that basic civics is not within the speaker's grasp?

  • Surely somewhere in the educational system this person was required to study the First Amendment of the Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
  • Where was this person when in school they taught about the Anglo settlement of New England in the 1600's by people fleeing religious regulation? You remember them -- the Pilgrims, who established a faith based community where the work of faith and life itself were indistinguishable?  
  • Surely it was covered in school that the 1740's settlement of the  west coast was led by Roman Catholic Missionaries was taught?  You remember that -- the Roman Catholic missions that housed and educated the native population and established all of the oldest communities in California, and were the back bone of that society.   
  • Surely someone taught this person about the founding of public education by churches who opened their doors to children returning from long hours of labor in factories and mines, whose doors were open 365 days of the year to provide food, education, and places to organize for the establishment of child labor laws.

How did public education fail the person who spoke this complaint?


I understand that someone who does not practice faith might think that Sunday morning is the only time a faith community is active. Clearly the speaker had an impression of faith communities that did not match my experience.  There was a lack of understanding on both sides of this conversation. Some things just didn't connect.

  • How could someone not know that the work of a faith based community is non-stop? 
  • Why would a church need a building if it is a Sunday-only association?  
  • Why not just meet in people's homes?   

Clearly the CHURCH that formed this person's experience of church had failed in its 24/7/365 practice of faith.


My initial reaction was anger.  I left the meeting with my blood pressure through the roof.  I took the long way home -- walking briskly in the night air five blocks out of my way so I could think and pray about the situation. God has a way of turning my reactions into responses if I can just keep my mouth closed long enough.  


My reactions are usually knee jerk responses in anger or defense; I should never speak after 9 p.m. when my brain operates only in the brain stem and my reactions are reptilian. Responses are the result of trying to understand the other point of view and offering a reasoned, rational reply.  Responses come from the cortex and upper brain anatomy.  I cannot be reasoned or rational if I'm angry.  


Through the cool night air and the brisk stride, God doused the anger with another possibility. In the middle of the second block it struck me that the church this person was talking about is doing faithful ministry -- if they are doing "something every day," if their ministry is not just on Sunday morning, they are being the Church, the Body of Christ.  If that faith community feeds the hungry, offers drink to the thirsty, welcomes the stranger, clothes the naked, visits the sick and the imprisoned (Matthew 25), they are indeed being the church.    


God reminded me that we need to celebrate with this community of faith that someone is complaining that they are faithfully following Christ by providing for "one of the least of these who are members of [Christ's} family" [Matthew 25:40).  This IS the work of the church.


If our building is not used 24/7/365, we are not being faithful. We are not being good stewards of the blessings God has given to us through our predecessors in the faith.   We are called to fill our empty space with those busy going about the work of providing for the least of these.  We are called to commission those among us for ministries.  If the Kingdom is going to come "on earth as it is in heaven," we cannot sit around and wait for it to happen; we are called to use our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits - and every asset with which we have been blessed.  Let us fill the building with God's work!  Let us make busy the doors! Let us be the church to all the world.  


To the specific concerns raised that evening, I offer these responses:

Comment:  Churches rent their space to outside businesses and agencies so that they can increase their coffers and make their expenses.

Response:  Churches do not rent space. Rents and leases are legal terms that refer to a business proposition. Churches offer to share our space with agencies who are doing work that tends to "the least of these" that the congregation lacks the ability to do for themselves, or that the agency can do more efficiently and thoroughly than can the congregation. That may include, but is never limited to work with the young, aged, widowed, addicted, homeless, oppressed, unemployed, under-employed, poor, disabled, sick, naked, hungry, imprisoned or newly released, mentally ill, sinners of all sorts, immigrants and other strangers, and even you.  


Sharing space is just that: space is offered so that those who are working toward the fulfillment of the Realm of God (see Matthew 25) can have a safe and secure place to do their work.


If churches make a profit of any kind, they lose their property-tax exempt status and will incur massive expenses in the form of property, income, and unemployment taxes; these would far outweigh the benefits of operating at a profit.


Churches offer space at the cost of having that space -- which is far below the market rates.  Churches may recap the cost of the space, but nothing a church can do will ever re-cap the cost of building and upgrading the space; the best that can come of shared space is re-cooping the cost of heat, air conditioning, electricity, and maintenance of the space.  This is no different than lending your car to a friend. You don't ask them to pay for the car; but you expect that it will be returned in the same condition and with the same amount of fuel in the tank as when it was lent. Churches do not make a profit at anything they do.


Sharing space is a stewardship issue. We have been blessed with huge buildings by our predecessors in faith. The Gospels tell us that to those whom much is given, much is required. We share our space so that it does not sit empty and unused when there are others who need space to fulfill their mission - their role in the Body of Christ to bring about the Realm of God. When we have an abundance, scripture requires us to be generous and meet the needs of those in need. We share space because we have space and others need it.


Sharing space is not a business proposition. It is not an income generator. It is a faith requirement.


Comment: Not for profit is tax terminology; it does not relate to what the churches (in La Grange) are doing. (I believe this comment is referring specifically to BEDS shelters and day services.)

Response:  Unlike other entities in our Capitalistic Economy, the goal of the church is NOT to make a profit or to stay "in business."  The mission of the church is to usher in the Realm of God by offering God's extravagant welcome, unbounded hope, abundant grace, and unlimited love to all who will accept it and be transformed by the realization that they are children of God. 

When this mission is completed, the churches can and should go out of "business;" but it will never be complete in your lifetime or mine.  It is ongoing and fueled by hope and the vision of a better world. The difference between the capitalist business (aka a "for profit") and a faith community rests on the benefactor of the activity: For-profits are fueled by the vision of benefit to the owner(s) (monetarily) while not-for-profits have a "benefit the other" driven vision. Not for profits "do it" at a loss -- always because we're not in it for the money; we're in it for the benefit of "the least of these." That's why we depend upon donations. 





Church News and Reminders

"Intern-ing the Database"

As you have probably already aware, our membership database is very out-of-date. This has made the task of communication difficult. It has also made it difficult to match the gifts and abilities of our members with tasks and roles in

the congregation.  


The best solution is for someone to help us get that database up to date. With the limited number of hours for our office staff, this has not been possible. Through the generosity of a couple of members, however, we have found a solution: A summer intern.


Meet Adrian Petterson. Adrian is no stranger to First Congregational Church: she attended preschool here, and then took many years of lessons through First Conservatory. When she is home from college, she is a regular volunteer at our Saturday Meals Program. She is currently a student at McGill University in Montreal.

The primary work of the Summer Intern is:

  1. Providing input on the database update forms that will go out to every member;
  2. Overseeing the update of the database of members' skills, interests, gifts, passions, and abilities and then coordinating volunteers to input the data into the church database (the actual input of data is not part of this role).
  3. Assemble a list of volunteer opportunities. The potential volunteers will come from the database.
  4. Based upon the data gathered, work with the Nominating Committee to suggest people for positions opening at the end of the year.
  5. Bonus: Identify a volunteer to fill the position of the Volunteer Coordinator.

Adrian will work with us through July and August toward the completion of these goals. You will hear from her first through the all-member survey that will be sent out soon, and then through her coordination of office volunteers to follow up on the survey and its input into the computer.  



Space Sharing: Already in Progress

As you are probably aware, our building is being shared with the Early Education Department of School District 105. This public organization arranged to use our first level classrooms and offices for their overflow space when the classrooms swelled beyond the local schools' ability to house these littlest of students. Up to now, this space has been held in reserve and not used by the District.

On Wednesday, July 22, we learned that due to an abundance of unexpected registrations, the District will be utilizing this space beginning August 10. This gives us about 2 weeks to do the final preparations for their use. Here are a few facts that the congregation should know. We will share more as the specifics of the District's plans are known.

  • This is a space sharing arrangement that gives the School District use of our educational space on the first level of the building on Monday through Fridays during the school year. We will retain use of the space on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • This space sharing will involve all of the rooms on Level One of the building from the hallway east of the kitchen to the Sixth Avenue side of the building.
  • The space sharing provides 5 parking spaces in the church parking lot for use by the School District employees. These spaces will be marked "reserved."
  • It is anticipated that the children will be bused from their neighborhood schools to the Sixth Avenue door. Parents will not be dropping children off at this location.
  • In cooperation with the School District, we will provide the neighbors around the church with information about the program and invite all to an open house where questions and concerns can be addressed and worked out.

Because of the short amount of lead time for this implementation, we will need the help of the congregation to make ready the space. Currently the offices and one classroom are being used as storage for items following the calamity of last summer. We need help to empty these rooms, clean them, and ready them for painting. Please watch for requests on Facebook, in your mailbox, and in the bulletin.

Volunteer Opportunities


Braun and Cleaners Needed:

In getting ready for District 105, we need assistance getting rooms ready. If you have some time between now and Aug  ust 10 to help empty, clean, paint, and make ready rooms, please stop by the church office and we'll put you to work. 

CNN/Meals on Wheels 

Community Nutrition Network/Meals on Wheels provides meals and resources to older adults and persons with disabilities, and assists them in leading healthy and active lives. If you can  

volunteer to help prepare or deliver meals to home-bound seniors, or have any questions, please call Tanya Harrison at 708-310-4434.  


Lawn Mowing

The grass is green and it's time to mow! Sign up to help keep the church lawns looking their best. We have both a self propelled mower and a rechargeable mower for you to use. This includes the front, back and side lawns.

The sign-up day and time are listed as Saturdays, 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, but the actual day and time you mow is flexible.  

Reaching Out

Have some extra time? We can use your help!

Your office staff are updating the church's membership database. Our hope is to have our data as complete as possible by the end of August. This will be a time-intensive process over the next 7 weeks that requires the cooperation of our friends and members in filling out the census, as well as individuals to help to do the updating. We need help in three areas. For each, volunteers will need to attend a training session to become familiar with the processes and the systems.

  • Member data and access to the updating process instructions distribution and collection. This will involve talking to people as they arrive, settle in, and leave worship, as well as in the time of fellowship. You will be needed on self-selected Sunday mornings between July 19 and August 23. You'll need to attend a brief "training session" to become familiar with the process.
  • Data entry and synchronization. Work times are flexible. You'll need to be comfortable working on a computer in the church office and learning how to use new software. We need help in two ways: inputting the data from paper surveys from those members and friends who do not use computers; and following up on the data that is self entered by members. This work will happen during July and August.
  • Telephone follow up with friends and members who do not respond to the survey electronically or on paper. Work times are flexible. This will entail calling people from your home or from the church office, and completing the census survey over the phone. This work will also happen during July and August, but may run into early September.
In Our Church

HANG OUT WITH 'Flat' Jesus

You are all invited to take a cutout of Flat Jesus, color and decorate him, and take him with you throughout the summer, sending pictures and stories back to the church via Facebook (tag the church!), email, or drop them by the office. We'll print photos and put them on the bulletin board in the Office corridor.


What a great way to share our faith and remind us that Jesus is with us wherever we go. This is an easy-to-do outward expression of an inward faith. Keep an eye out for pictures of the adventures of Flat Jesus on Facebook!   



We honor the staff and volunteers of The LeaderShop for the month of July for their dedication to the youth in the Western Suburbs. Since 1978, The LeaderShop has provided a variety of programs in a safe and welcoming environment for elementary through high school youth. Their goal is to give youth the confidence, passion and tools to make a difference in their community. Your annual pledge to FCCLG helps support this agency. This month we will also be collecting school supplies that they will distribute to youth in need. 


LeaderShop School Supply Drive

There are two more Sundays to bring in new school supplies for the LeaderShop drive. You can purchase any school supplies but they particularly need three ring binders (1 to 1 1/2" size), loose notebook paper, pens, folders, dry erase markers and pencils. Place them in the boxes outside the sanctuary or chapel.  These supplies go to students in the community who cannot afford the school supplies.  No donations will be accepted after Sunday, August 2.  Thank you for your support!


In the summer, Hooks & Needles meets the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month at a member's house.The next meeting will be on July 27th at Mary Forester's, and the following on August 10th is at Claudia Byrne's.



Evening Book Club will meet again on Thursday,
July 3 0 t h at 7:30 pm in the Chapel meeting room (doorway to the le ft of the altar). Next month's title is non-fiction, Travel a s a Political Act by Rick Steves. You may kno w Rick fro m public television. All are welcome!


There are no Big Brunch meetings in July. The next one will be August 16.


At the end of summer we feel restless and on the verge of new and exciting possibilities: How to respond to the Spiritual callings we feel? Where do we fit into God's plan? There isn't a better place to explore these feelings than on the women's fellowship retreat. Women of FCCLG please mark your calendars for Aug 22 & 23. All are very welcomed. We have been graciously invited again to Doris Bryant's home on Diamond Lake in Michigan, to explore with Pastor Carly, how to be attuned to the Spirit which surrounds us and make it a part of our lives. There will be time to enjoy the lake, to read, to talk with each other and be away from lives filled with hindrances which steal time from us. For more information please see the volunteer table or contact one of our hostesses, Jo-Anne Konkle, at 708-484-2099 or

Music News

Summer Musicians of all ages are invited to play, sing or ring. The choir is off for the Summer, so we need you!  Not a soloist, but want to lend your talents? That's ok! Ryan will find an ensemble for you, just contact him for more information or to sign up.   


First Conservatory, offering private lessons on most instruments including piano and voice, is housed in YOUR church. For almost 20 years our expert teachers have instructed many of the area's youth and adults, including many fine musicians in our congregation. Contact Ryan Cox to start lessons or for information to pass along to a music lover you know. Taking lessons is first and foremost for the student. However, the Conservatory has a symbiotic relationship with FCCLG. Each month the Conservatory contributes $1125 for the use of space. It sponsors teachers to play occasionally during our services and also provides all of the piano tunings in the building, including the sanctuary. More students means more opportunities for the Conservatory to support the church. We hope you will help make that happen!

Did You Know?

How About some Fun? 
Who's up for a little Foosball? Human Foosball! La Grange's Endless Summer Fest will include a Human Foosball tournament and FCCLG will have a team! We'll be playing on Friday, July 31 between 6 and 8:30 p.m. If you'd like to join the team, be in touch with Carly. If you'd like to watch the tournament, plan to be at the Endless Summer Fest's Foos & Broos.

Membership Census Happening!

Be watching for your opportunity to update your personal and family information in the church's database. Each household should receive either an electronic (or paper if we have no e-mail on file) survey that will help us have correct and complete information on each member. This is important so that you can be invited to participate in ministries, included in updates, and receive church news. Please complete and return the survey as soon as possible!


Touch List

Your Cards and Prayers Will Comfort and Touch...

Nancy Haiman who is recovering from surgery to remove a melanoma. 

The Balz Family in transition.

The family of Dennis Burke who passed on June 16th.

Rita Baumann, Mary Cooper's aunt who is recovering from surgery.

Our thoughts are with LuAnn Hall's niece Jessica.

Lois Hindman, who is house bound with a brain condition.

The family of Roger Leidigh who passed away on July 11th.

Kathleen McConnellogue, and Jennifer Powers who are each dealing with health issues.

Camilla Norby

Helen Pancer, Viola Clayton's daughter.

Erin Swan, daughter of Chris and Renee Bryant, who has ongoing medical issues.

Joyce Williams, Diane Kasnick's aunt who passed away peacefully on June 23rd.