Bill talks with the Rev. Dr. David Wood of Glencoe Union Church, learning how his congregation has been coping with the pandemic and taking us inside their sacred space.

David Wood and Glencoe Union Church

Bill: Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg and I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church, and this is Doogie, my assistant minister. You’re going to have to forgive me. Doogie slimed me a minute ago, it’s kind of a snowy, muddy day, and I have an extra special guest this morning. Yes please, take the mask off.

This is David Wood, who is the senior minister at the Glencoe Union Church. This is in the center of the village of Glencoe, we’re on Park Avenue here, and David you’re a sister congregation, your congregation and mine went to Israel in 2016 together. We’ve had a great relationship. Tell us how Glencoe Union came to be.

David: It was around 1872 that this congregation formed, and at that time it was called Congregational Church. It is existed that way, I think off the site, but eventually they built a building on this site, it would have been the 1870s, and then in 1910 the church burned to the ground.

A new minister had come just at that time named Cornell, his last name was Cornell, and he advocated that the church become a Union church at that time, such as like Kenilworth. I don’t know what year you were formed.

Bill: We’re 1892, you’re twenty years older, so there’s a lot of foment in the American Christianity, global Christianity, council of churches in the nineteenth century. Probably both of our congregations were born out of that new sensibility of humanism and interfaith.

David: So you were formed as a union church, right from the beginning.

Bill: So David, tell us about yourself. Tell us about your career, and your family. How long have you been at Glencoe Union?

David: We’ve been here, I came in the summer of 2009, so 11 years. My wife Jennifer, who works here on staff with me, she is director of communications and children’s ministries. And what else do you want to know?

Bill: What’s your ordination? And tell us about your family.

David: We have three kids, twin boys that are 31 and a daughter that’s 33. I’m ordained in the American Baptist Churches, USA, so that’s not Southern Baptists. Northern Baptists. We call that the liberal type of Baptist, free-thinking and so forth.

I was born and raised in Australia, and then my family moved here when I was a teenager. We lived in Kansas, and then I went to school in New England, and then to Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and then I had churches up in that area of the country, up in New England. And then we spent some time in Europe, in Paris at the American Church in Paris, and then I worked for Lilly Endowment doing programs, and then we came here.

Bill: I appreciate you as a colleague and a friend, and partnership between Kenilworth Union and Glencoe Union is very valuable to us, so we’re going to go into Glencoe Union’s sacred space and show you the inside.

Dr. Wood, this church burned down in 1910. This building is vintage. Beautiful, calming sacred space. Tell me your favorite thing. What’s the most interesting architectural thing in this room?

David: In this room, well I like the fact that it’s a wide sanctuary and so you feel—separately it’s large, you can get 400 people with all the pews in—so I like that feeling of closeness to it, that it’s an open chancel and I like that the choir sits back there. This normally isn’t there but that’s just there because of how we’re filming it now.

Bill: So what’s going on during the pandemic? What is your worship like on Sunday mornings?

David: We film in here. We do a livestream service that goes out live every Sunday from here, and when the weather’s right we’ve been also meeting outdoors. And that’s where we’ve had people present, when we’re outdoors. When we’re indoors we don’t have anybody present at this point. We’re still trying to figure out when that might happen, how that might happen.

Bill: No plans yet.

David: No definite plans yet because of how things are happening, but I would hope before the end of the year we’ve got a couple of dozen people at least inside. That’s the hope.

Bill: How’s the congregation thriving during this time of stress around the world for congregations?

David: As you know, it’s hard to measure because you’re not together, so all those normal measurements are gone. But if one measure is finances, you probably could say the same thing, our finances are more on track this year than any other year that I’ve had. So I think in some ways people are being more intentional, so that’s a good sign.

And when we’ve had outdoor services, we’ve had upwards of 70 people, so that’s been great. And we feel like people are signing on every Sunday to the livestream, more than we’d actually get in the sanctuary. In that sense, I think we’re feeling hopeful that we’re holding together, communicating in all kinds of ways.

This last weekend we sent a loaf of bread—we bake bread here and sent it a loaf to everybody. So we have different things.

Bill: Way to stay in touch with your folk, that’s great. Most of those things are true of Kenilworth Union. Money is good right now, our attendance virtually is higher than it would be physically, but we’re not as robust on our outdoor service, so I’m glad for Glencoe Union. A lot of signs of vitality.

David: It feels as good as I think it can right now. Whoever thought we’d be nine months into this and still doing what we’re doing?

Bill: David, our friendship and the congregation’s partnership is very important to Kenilworth Union and to me. When people are traveling again, let’s do another trip with the two congregations.

Thanks for hosting Matt, the videographer, and Doogie and me here in your holy space. Thanks for coming over, and I do hope going forward that we’ll find more and more ways to be connected. God bless you, and God bless you all.