Ahern: Mount Greenwood church small but active in community
By Patti Ahern Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org February 6, 2014 2:00PM
Pastor Bill Crowder, in his seventh year of leading Mount Greenwood Community Church, stands in front of the many baby clothes that are available to needy families through one of the charitable programs of the church. | Patti Ahern ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 10, 2014 6:12AM
It’s tempting to compare Mount Greenwood Community Church to a magician’s hat.
After all, a magician can pull many things out of the magical hat — a bunny, a deck of cards, flowers, balloons. The hat nearly seems limitless, and similarly, the church, 3509 W. 111th St., Chicago, has so many programs that it nearly seems limitless as well. And yet they look for more.
Currently the church has a program for parents and toddlers called “Birth to Three;” a family market where needy families can learn about parenting by attending classes to earn points that they can exchange for diapers, clothes and other necessary items; an Alcoholics Anonymous group; a prayer shawl ministry where members knit and crochet prayer shawls and lap robes, and a food pantry that has assisted 47 families since December by providing nonperishable groceries.
And that’s not all. The church also has a scroll saw club that meets once a week, and a girls club for young girls who meet to work on projects and earn various badges. Church officials also loan the building to the community and have had several gospel concerts.
“All in all, not bad for a small church that averages 55 to 65 on Sunday mornings,” Pastor Bill Crowder, the leader of the church, wrote in an email. “We are an older church with young hearts.”
Crowder, 57, in his seventh year as pastor, seemed destined to a life in the ministry. The grandson, nephew and son of preachers, he tried to avoid the ministry but actually heard the calling when he was 16 and happened to look at the steeple of the church, he said.
“As the sun’s rays shone on the steeple, I heard an audible voice saying to me, ‘Bill, one day you will preach for me,’” Crowder said. “I fought the calling for many years, trying to find my way in other lines of work, such as a ... welder, painter, mechanic and environmental service technician, but through it all God continued to call me to the ministry.”
Now in his 22nd year as a preacher, he’s busy with Mount Greenwood Community Church and loving all the different things the congregation does because “ministry is not meant to be boring. Every church is unique, but this particular church has so many different things to offer,” Crowder said.
Despite it being a small church, Crowder feels the members accomplish much because they are not mired down by committees or groups discussing programs and having different agendas. He said when someone has an idea for a new program for the church, members determine how to make the idea become a reality.
Still, despite the enthusiasm that he and his congregation display, they are hindered by a lack of members and finances. The lack of funds, however, does not deter their commitment to the community.
Kathy Peters and Lori Winkler, parent-infant educators from St. Xavier University, have run the Birth to Three program at the church for five years. Peters said St. Xavier’s program, now entering its 10th year, is for families with children under 3 who are at risk for academic failure and/or have special needs.
A valued component of the program includes a family support group for families whose children are receiving early intervention services. Meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every other month at the church.
“They have really been wonderful at the church,” Peters said. “Pastor Bill has opened his doors and his arms to our families, and we have a wonderful relationship.”
Celia Crowder, Bill’s wife of 25 years, was instrumental in starting the prayer shawl ministry, and every Wednesday she meets with eight to 10 women who make shawls or lap robes for the sick or elderly.
“We’ve done this for 61/2 years,” she said. “Over the years, we’ve made at least 400 of these, and that was a year or two ago when we had that number. I know we have given away 100 to 150 of shawls or lap robes to a couple of nursing homes. We enjoy getting together, and others are welcome to join our little handful of people.”
Pastor Crowder, who’s steadfast in continuing the community outreach, is determined that the church will grow.
“We are trying to determine what God has called us to do in this area, but we are looking for the ‘one thing’ that might bring people in because we are not drawing people in from the community. We are looking for that ‘one thing’ to help us connect with the community,” he said. “We are looking for ideas and looking for families. We have to consider the financial side of things because how long can you keep pulling money out?
“We’d like to get families in, and we are also open to other churches coming in and sharing facilities with us. We are willing to try almost anything to keep going as long as we don’t lose our commitment to Scripture and who we are as a people of God.
“Our commitment to being God’s people is profound. We don’t just ask ‘what would Christ do?’ but also ‘how would Christ do it?’ ”
To learn more about Mount Greenwood Community Church, visit www.mtgreenwoodcc.org.