Garden Chat with Bill Evertsberg and Ken Harris, June 17

Bill and Ken discuss the status of the church both before and during COVID-19 and protests, and talk about when reopening might happen and what it may look like.

That Personal Touch That Means So Much

BILL: Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg and I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church. This is Doogie, my assistant pastor, and this, Doogie’s buddy, is Bo Harris. Bo belongs to Ken Harris, who is the president of the Kenilworth Union board.

Thanks for coming to chat with me, Ken, about our ministry. It has been my honor and pleasure to work with you for almost two years now, you as board president, I as senior minister. I really appreciate you a lot. I appreciate the way you take care of the staff at the church and also how hard you work for our church. There’s no way for us to quantify the value of what you’ve given to the church in terms of time and experience and wisdom, so thank you for that.

And I would just like to hear how you would assess Kenilworth Union’s ministry before nationwide quarantine hit, before nationwide protests hit. You know, 100-year-old traditional protestant churches like Kenilworth Union face a lot of challenging social pressures, and so how do you feel we were handling all of the changes in the world even before quarantine and protests?

KEN: That’s a great question Bill. First of all, thank you for inviting me here to have this chat today, and for inviting Bo. Bo and Doogie are very good friends so it’s kind of nice to give them a chance to play.

I think that, first of all, the “I” is “we,” I have to say hats off to the board of trustees and the executive committee for all the hard work that they do. I can lay claim to nothing—and really, it is because it’s such a team effort in, and frankly with the ministers as well. And to that point, I think the church was on a great trajectory prior to COVID-19, and still is.

When I started and took over the presidency, I had three things that I was interested in, really trying to get the board to focus on. It was membership, stewardship, and kindership. As far as membership goes, pre-COVID-19 we had signed on ten-plus new families–young families, which is outstanding. Really the direction we’d like to go with the church. When it comes to stewardship, we’ve had more families give this year than they have in the prior two in terms of family units, and we will be on budget this year in closing 2020. And as far as kindership goes, if you think of the young families, what we’re trying to do as a church is to bring younger families in and honor our elder congregation members as well. They have that great dynamic. So as far as the family goes, with kindership we have an all-star team with Christine, Greta, and Diana Connolly as board member, as well as Silvi, Claire for youth, all doing incredible things. And this is pre-COVID-19.

BILL: So how has quarantine affected Kenilworth Union’s ministry? Are we financially solvent after almost 100 days of lockdown? Are we serving our folk? Is the flock gathering together still one in Christ despite our physical distance from each other?

KEN: I would say unequivocally yes to all those questions. We are one church. We are still a flock that worships Christ and his teachings, and we’ve had a change of venues. But if we needed to be

reminded of how great our three ministers are—you, Jo, Katie—and then also how incredible the staff is, with John Sharp in charge and all of the other administrators, it’s unbelievable in terms of what’s done. Because we’ve had to jump ship like everybody else, but our outreach is even greater. We’ve had as many as 1,200 people attending our virtual services. And it not only warms the heart but it makes you realize how incredibly important Kenilworth Union Church is to so many people. Just because we can’t be together now doesn’t mean that we’re not going to get together virtually to be able to worship God.

BILL: So, gaze into your crystal ball and guess with me what ministry will look like once the world is “normal” and safe, once we are able to physically come back to church. People are telling me that worshiping virtually is so satisfying and so easy, they’d like to continue to do it. What do you think about that?

KEN: First of all, I think there are probably some families that have actually been brought back to church as a result of the virtual church. So as a result of that, that’s a plus. I think you’re going to see both things. And with the appropriate caveats of the State of Illinois, the CDC, all the other things that people are watching, I think it’s our intent to try to start to have some on-premise worship in July. We will be sending out notifications about it. It will be appropriately spaced, it will be small, reservation-based, simply because we need to be respectful of the laws and people’s distance.

But I think the one thing I will say as an editorial comment about people’s desire to be a part of the church, I get letters, emails, texts, about how people ache to get back together in person. Even what we’re doing right now, where we have a chance to just be in one place and talk to each other. There’s just something about that dynamic, that personal touch that means so much, and I believe people will add that to the church just as soon as they get the opportunity.

BILL: Ken, I’m glad to hear you’re hearing those things because from my position, it’s very hard to care for people pastorally from a virtual standpoint. So we miss you all, we’ll be glad when you can come back to us. Be safe until then. Thanks for listening to Ken and me, and to Doogie and Bo, and may God bless you and keep you. Amen.

June 17, 2020

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