Their Church Was Torn Down, But This Community Responded with an Act of Charity

A century of baptisms and Sunday socials laid down strong community roots.

Edison Park Community Church stood for 87 years in northwest Chicago before it was razed in 2016. Churches come and go, but what makes the passing of this house of worship notable is the beautiful way its members chose to go out.

Edison Park Community had 300 active members when the most recent pastor, Rev. Katherine Karch, was a kid growing up in the working-class neighborhood in the 1960s. But by the time Karch took over, 12 years ago, membership had dwindled dramatically. By last year, Edison Park Community was home to only 30 congregants. “We couldn’t pay the bills anymore,” Karch says. The church’s members had little choice but to sell their brick building. A developer paid $740,000 for the property and planned to tear down the church to make room for single-family homes.

Yev Haidamaka for Reader's Digest

Yet the sale of the property created an odd reversal of fortune. Edison Park Community is part of the United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination in which each church is owned by its members. That means the church and its assets belonged to the congregants. The proceeds from the sale were theirs to do with as they wished. You can see how that might give people ideas.

Yet almost a century of baptisms, funerals, and Sunday socials had laid down strong community roots. Karch says there was only one idea considered from the start. “What they have chosen to do is donate that money to charities to further God’s work,” she says.

Their first check, for $100,000, went to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and funded more than 300,000 meals for the hungry. Other beneficiaries include United Church of Christ’s disaster-relief efforts, a hospice, and a no-kill animal shelter. Let these extraordinary stories of generosity inspire you to give back to your own community, like the story of this family that keeps their community warm. 

While the members may have lost their building, the heart of their church lives on. True to its name, Edison Park Community has seeded life throughout its community. The spirit of giving can be found in all religious congregations—when this rabbi needed a kidney, a methodist minister came to the rescue. 

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest