A question leads to an answer for The Church at Rogers Park
By Jeff Campbell
Three years ago, when Rev. Lindsey Joyce became pastor of the Church of Rogers Park in Chicago, both she and the congregation asked themselves a question: What does it mean to live out the Bible and the teachings of Christ as a progressive Christian?
The answer to that question set the pattern for Rev. Joyce’s ministry and the church’s discipleship direction.
They all saw The Church at River Park as a progressive congregation, eager to accept everyone into the church.
“For us, we respect and embrace the standard things: what it means to be United Methodist; what (John) Wesley taught; what we believe and why; what it means to commit to prayer; and generosity,” Rev. Joyce said. “We use those United Methodist commitments. We believe them.”
Rev. Joyce believes it is important to teach the congregation how to live out those commitments.
“We think people want to give their lives to something,” she said. “They are learning how to give their lives to God and to each other. It is scriptural.”
For this Chicago church, part of giving their lives to others is being welcoming and supportive to everyone.
“We put up a big sign in front that says we support the inclusion of LGBTQ community,” Rev. Joyce said. “We will always be supportive, and we think it is important that everyone know that. But this goes farther than just welcoming the community itself. We also want to be a welcoming place for others who support them. We have people who have come to us because they can’t accept a theology that that says the LGBTQ is lesser.”
The church doesn’t reach out to others just on Sundays, either. They have a variety of ministries that reach out during the week: a law office; a hip-hop ministry called Circles and Cyphers; a weekly Sunday meal; English as a Second Language classes; a sewing ministry; a book and Bible study; a depression support group; and a day-old-bread/food ministry.
“We think people want to give their lives to something. They are learning how to give their lives to God and to each other. It is scriptural.”
Given the church’s commitment to discipleship and bringing people into their fellowship, the Northern Illinois Annual Conference awarded the church a 2019 One Matters Award.
“We believe whatever you have, you give,” Rev. Joyce said. “We decided we would always say ‘yes’ when people ask for help. Maybe not money, but do whatever it is that we can do. We serve a meal every Sunday and haven’t missed doing that for 30 years. We work so that all people can live a decent life. I can say with certainty that the neighborhood would be up in arms if we closed our doors. We’d be missed because of how the congregation lives. The neighborhood has a lot of needs, poor people without resources, and we do what we can to meet them. Social holiness is very Wesleyan.”
Hoping you care for others,
Rev. Jeff Campbell is the General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries. He comes to this role having led Discipleship Ministries as the Associate General Secretary for Strategic Programming, where he coordinated the work of the agency around three strategic priorities: an Intentional Discipleship System in every church; equipping local churches to engage their communities; and lifting up and creating local, contextual resources globally. Rev. Campbell joined Discipleship Ministries in 2013 as Executive Director of Conference Relationships.