The Bill Winston phenomenon

I say the Bill Winston phenomenon and not the Living Word phenomenon, because without Pastor Winston I doubt that Living Word Christian Center would even exist, let alone be the growing mega-church that it is. All is not perfect over there, however. At the faith conference in the spring, one speaker shared a “revelation” that Living Word would have a new building in a new location by the Fourth of July. They are still located just east of Wal-Mart. I heard another prediction that their bank would be open for business in May or June. Seven months later they are still raising capital and haven’t opened. I guess even Urlacher misses a tackle every once in awhile.

2. St. John: pain and healing

St. John Lutheran Church went through the painful process of voting to dismiss their pastor in January. They have followed that decision with a season of recovery and healing with a part-time interim pastor. Judging from their successful production of the Boar’s Head Festival, they have regained much of their momentum.

3. PADS’ 15th anniversary

That West Suburban PADS is a household word in Forest Park and is trusted by most residents as a competent organization is due in large part to the 800 volunteers – almost all of whom are church folk – who make it happen every night from Oct. 1 through May 15.

4. Ethnic churches thriving

New Harvest Christian Fellowship – in large part a Hispanic congregation – and the Thai Community Church are dynamic ministries that have just as much energy for their size as does Living Word. All three are ethnic ministries. In a way it’s deja vu all over again, since many of the congregations in Forest Park started out as German churches some 100 years ago.

5. Heroic measures to save parochial schools

St. John Lutheran School and St. Bernardine School both provide quality educational experiences for their students, but both were pestered by rumors of their closing last year. They acknowledged huge financial challenges, and both have made the adjustments needed to stay open.

6. Baptist fund raising

Forest Park Baptist Church raised $152,195 last year alone as they pursue their bold vision of adding more parking, a new handicapped accessible entryway and eventually a family ministry center to their campus.

7. Creative ministry at First United

First United Church of Christ knows how operate outside the box in a creative effort to adapt to changing times. Known for their Clown Sunday every February, the congregation also sponsored a trip to Mississippi to help rebuild homes destroyed by Katrina and held a dance at the community center.

8. West Side experiment

There seems to be a new willingness to collaborate between government, religious organizations and the private sector. One example is the Community Savings Center at Pulaski and Lake at which customers can receive $2 for every $1 they save, provided they attend financial management training and use their money for things like education or a new home. Bethel New Life and Park Bank of Oak Park operate the business, and the federal government and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans each kicked in $1 million to provide capital.

9. Female pastor comes to Forest Park

It’s been a while since Forest Parker’s have seen a woman wearing a stole in the pulpit. Audree Catalano changed that when she began her ministry as the new pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Oct. 1.

10. News that isn’t news

As the saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.” News about religion often doesn’t lead, precisely because it doesn’t bleed. Is it news that members of Forest Park Baptist Church gather every Wednesday evening for prayer or that St. Peter’s Lutheran Church raised money for Lutheran Child and Family? I give credit to publisher Dan Haley for printing the news of our religious communities, even if they don’t usually bleed.