Community Renewal – One Broken Window at a Time

Post a Comment » Written on November 6th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (November 6, 2008) – Atonement Covenant Church in the heart of the city’s Englewood neighborhood is turning a crisis into community renewal, one broken window at a time.

Like many of the buildings in the poverty-stricken neighborhood, the church’s building was in poor condition. The sanctuary was in disrepair, structural maintenance had been deferred, and paint was peeling.

Peter Sjoblom, director of congregational vitality for the Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, was invited to help the church reverse the effects described by the “broken windows theory.” The theory holds that when ordinary repairs are left unresolved for weeks and months, people assume a lack of care and concern that perpetuates loss of ongoing care and responsibility in the community.

Under the leadership of associate pastor Duane Nelson and pastor Karen Brewer, the church began to apply their resources and employed men from the community to renovate an eyesore into a neighborhood landmark. The improvements began to make a difference.

Longtime church member Carolyn Polk heard a neighbor comment that she used to attend Bible classes, but had left the church. She returned after the repairs. Another member, Mary Anderson, reflects that the project “is such a positive image to build in our community.”

Tom Lach, pastor of Community Covenant Church in Menominee, Michigan, brought a team to assist the church with the final touches. Atonement Covenant would need additional assistance if it were going to help the neighborhood, however.

The Central Conference awarded the church a ministry grant to move the project into the surrounding community. Atonement Covenant offered to scrape, paint and even structurally improve the porches – the welcome point – of nearby homes.

John Couleur, a member of Winnetka Covenant Church in Wilmette, enlisted friends in other Covenant congregations to help with Broken Windows. Couleur learned of Atonement’s situation while visiting the church as part of the Youth Nexus program at North Park Theological Seminary, where he is a student. Six churches have sent mission teams, resources, and skilled workers of all ages.

In addition to the teams from Community and Winnetka Covenant churches, workers came from other area congregations: Trinity Evangelical Covenant Church in Oak Lawn; Libertyville Covenant Church in Libertyville; Northwest Covenant Church in Mt. Prospect; and Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago.

To help with the Broken Windows project or inquire about ministry grants, churches should email the Central Conference office.

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