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There is a Balm in Chicago

Rebecca Anderson grew up Evangelical, but as a young adult, she didn’t consider herself a religious person. That didn’t mean she didn’t dip her toes in the waters of different communities of faith.

And then she attended a local church in Boston at the suggestion of a fellow non-religious friend, which changed her life. In fact, she describes the experience as her day of Pentecost.

“It was this big lung full of bright, fresh air,” Rebecca recalls. “I hadn’t heard the gospel in the way that I heard it that day. I could finally understand what they were saying.”

This experience is what drives her ministry today, and it’s what inspired her in 2017 to launch Gilead Church Chicago, a joint congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, with her co-pastor Vince Amlin, who also pastors Bethany United Church of Christ alongside her.

“I try to create conditions where people who need a particular translation of the gospel can hear it,” Rebecca says. “I see on people’s faces, when the way we do church speaks to them, and I see it when it doesn’t.”

So, who does Gilead Church speak to? It’s with, for, and by people who’ve been told or made to feel that church isn’t for them.

“If these stories, traditions, practices, questions, and the person of Jesus are compelling or in any way meaningful to you, they are yours,” says Rebecca. “I’m not making seats at the table. It’s not my table, it’s yours. If you are drawn to this, God has prepared it for you. My call to ministry is to let people know that and then get out of the way.”

Worshipers at Gilead include members of the LGBTQ+ community, young adults, professional activists, and in Rebecca’s words “a disproportionately large number of women.” Several members of the lay and staff leadership are performers, as one of the faith community’s core practices, which were developed when Rebecca attended Leadership Academy in 2015, is telling true stories that save lives.

One of these stories is about a recent addition to Gilead, who returned to church after a 10-year absence due to severe spiritual trauma.

To learn more about Gilead and how it has stayed steadfast thorough struggle, visit New Church Ministry’s blog. To support emerging congregations just like it in the Illinois-Wisconsin region and across the denomination, make a gift to the Pentecost Offering.

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