Elgin church series on faith to focus on racial justice Feb. 17

First Congregational Church of Elgin, 256 E. Chicago St., continues "Faith and …," a six-part series on the intersection of faith and key social issues.

In addition to the focus of this weekend's two services, a Community Forum will be held at 9 a.m. in the church's fellowship hall with more detailed input and discussion.

Each week, panels representing local nonprofit organizations, government officials and advocacy groups will discuss the issue at hand with an emphasis on local action.

The worship theme on Feb. 17 will be "Race and Racism." Jesse Rojo from the United Church of Christ's Community Renewal Society will lead the 8:15 and 10:15 a.m. services. He will speak on the importance of working for racial justice, based on Mark 3:24-25. Rojo grew up in Hillsboro, Oregon, the son of immigrant parents and also a child of poverty. The Elgin church works with the Community Renewal Society to organize people to transcend cultural and ideological divisions to bring about a better tomorrow for all.

During the 9 a.m. panel discussion, Rojo will join Julia McClendon of the YWCA of Elgin and Cory Dixon of the Elgin City Council to discuss the problem of racism in society and what churches can do about it.

On Feb. 24, the topic will be "Faith and Mental Health." The Rev. Michael Montgomery will preach on the church being a healing place. How can churches be places of healing and health and not shame and abuse? The services at 8:15 and 10:15 a.m. focus on how religion can be a source of healing. The community forum at 9 a.m. brings Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley, Irene O'Neill from the Awakenings Project, and Lauri Huske from the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness to discuss the problem of mental illness in the community.

The series began Jan. 13 on "Care of the Environment." It included a panel discussion featuring Bill Jones of the Elgin Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America; Erik Anderson, a commissioner on the Elgin Sustainability Commission; and Sandra Kaptain, a member of the Valley of the Fox Sierra Club.

It continued on Jan. 20 with "Faith and Income Inequality." The sermon by the Rev. Montgomery reflected on the different biblical and religious foundations and challenges facing work with people who suffer from poverty. The pastor has a doctorate in sociology and theology from Chicago Theological Seminary and 12 years experience working with people who are homeless in the Oak Lawn area. Panelists included Sheila Jackson of Food for Greater Elgin; Deb Dempsey of the Kane County Regional Office of Education's Equal Chance Program; John Steffen, a church member and Elgin City Councilman; and Jennifer Ford from Women on the Brink, a local advocacy group. They discussed the nature of the problem in Elgin, what they are doing about it and what they want churches to do.

The third program on Feb. 10 featured "God Loves Gays!" Rev. Montgomery preached on what the Bible actually says about people who are in sexual orientation minorities, with a panel of Rich Jacobs (Elgin Commission on Human Rights), Rev. David Pattee (UCC Open and Affirming Coalition) and Andrea Draper of Youth Outlook speaking about the issues faced by people who are lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual or otherwise differently identified. Youth Outlook is the first social service agency in Illinois solely dedicated to the support of LGBTQ+ youth and their caregivers.

Worship is at 8:15 and 10:15 a.m. More information can be found on the church's Facebook page or website at, or by calling the church at (847) 741-4045. Child care is provided. The church is accessible to people with disabilities.

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