History is important. It tells you a lot about who you are and where you're going. Addison Street Community Church straddles Chicago's northside neighborhoods of Roscoe Village and Northcenter. It has been led by twenty-six pastors with a mixed history of liberalism and orthodoxy. How does a church survive such volatility?
In the spring of 1893, six men and four women, led by a dedicated layman named William H. Hopkins, gathered for the first time as the Gross Park Congregational Church. These were the days when Western Ave was the city border and a golf course existed on the current Lane Tech High School campus. It was the year of the World's Fair, and Chicago was growing. The neighborhood at the time was mostly German and a couple of our local schools also got their start the same year. A Christian businessman from Oak Park funded the purchase of the church's building which was near the corner of Roscoe and Leavitt originally— until the neighborhood's growth seemed to cave in on the little church. Two years later (1911), after the church raised the money, they jacked up the building onto wood logs which a team of horses tugged a few feet at a time to where it stands today on Addison and Hamilton.
For the longest time, Addison St Congregational Church (as it was later called) was the only congregationalist church from Lake Michigan to Cumberland Ave. In 1931, the Congregationalist denomination merged with the ‘Christian’ denomination to become the Christian Congregationalist Church (CCC). Our church, however, didn’t incorporate the name ‘Christian’ into its name. Then, in 1957, another denominational merger occurred wherein the CCC along with the Evangelical and Reformed Churches (another kind of previous denominational merger) became the United Church of Christ. This church voted to stay in this denomination in 1960.
Through the revolving door of pastors, the Depression, the mergers, world wars, things looked bleak for the fragile church. In fact, there had been three planned closings. But God had other plans.
Then, in 1963, a young youth minister by the name of George Rice was hired on as the interim pastor to preach to the dwindling membership. He described the spiritual condition of church like having a “box seat in hell.” It was Rice's commitment to the core doctrines of evangelical, orthodox Christian faith, a faithful 50 years as pastor and the congregation's rekindled commitment to generosity and evangelism that preserved ASCC to see its best days yet. It seems that the church became more theologically baptistic due to Pastor Rice’s own heritage and his connection to the Baptist General Conference.
While the neighborhoods around us were gentrifying, the church became more inward focused and began losing touch with the newer residents of the community and their needs. This, coupled with the general decline in religious fervor nationally, presented new challenges for ASCC. And opportunities.
Despite the changing landscape of the community and all these other changes over the years, one thing is certain: God has preserved us to be a light in our neighborhood for his glory and the joy of our fellow Chicagoans. Over the last five years, we have decided to start paying more attention to God's Word, focusing on Jesus, and the neighborhood around us. In fact, we are church in the midst of gospel resurgence.
Want to find out why we've stuck around for so long? It's kind of supernatural. Don't believe it? Come visit us this Sunday!
Our parish neighborhood would not be able to ignore our beautiful Lord Jesus and His body.
We exist to establish redemptive presence in our parish neighborhood and wherever we may be.
Our Core Values
We are a community of believers proclaiming the Word through Worship, Discipleship and Service.