Sojourner is a community of people from different backgrounds in life and on different places in our spiritual journeys. We are united by our community life together, our desire to live lives of service, and our growing relationships with Jesus.
Imagine a place where you are welcomed as the person who you are, and treated as the person you are becoming. Imagine a community where relationships stretch across barriers of class, culture, and race. Imagine friends who are willing to put aside their own opinions and comfort for the sake of your growth in relationship with the God who created you. Welcome to Sojourner Covenant Church!
Below are pictures and highlights of various community events at Sojo...
Compassion, mercy, and
justice are words you hear often at Sojourner. For several years now our church, in partnership with
Interfaith Action, has hosted a warming center during the winter for those
experiencing homelessness in Evanston (Compassion,
Mercy). But this year we wanted to go deeper, to learn more about why and
how people become homeless in the first place. And we wanted to learn how we can be better neighbors to
those at risk in our community and help prevent homelessness (Justice).
On October 7 we invited representatives from Interfaith
Action, Connections for the Homeless, and the Chicago
Coalition for the Homeless
(CCH) to participate in a panel discussion about the causes of homelessness in
our community. The panel included
those who had experienced homelessness as well as those work with the homeless
The event began with a series of anonymous oral histories of
homelessness read by members of our church community.
“Because homelessness is a
life disappointment, and a felt shame, the outside world can look at us as
losers. Not so. I’m an honors graduate from Northwestern, I had a
private practice in psychotherapy, was key in the development of the alumni
association of the Chicago Center for Family Health, and I am visible in the
professional community. After September 11th, 2001, I lost my job, only one event in a series of traumatic experiences
that left me destabilized and homeless. And I thought I might just die of
“Two things happened
when I turned 12, my Father who used to beat the hell out of us left home and
the other thing that happened is I started using drugs... One of my friends
said 'Here try this it will make you feel better', and it did. When I turned 13, my
Mum found a new partner who lived at home with us. He raped
me regularly and abused my younger sisters as well. I was only 13. He
also use to beat Mum up and it was hell on earth. For about a year I suffered through
it but when I was fourteen I couldn't take it anymore, so I said to Mum 'You
have to get rid of this guy, either he goes or I go.' Mum chose him and I
landed on the streets.”
Through these and other oral histories, as well as the
reflections of the panel helped us to understand more about the factors and
circumstances that lead to their homelessness. A lack of affordable housing, employment barriers for
ex-offenders, joblessness, and health care costs were some of the factors noted
by our panel.
J.D. Klippenstein from CCH talked about the importance of
faith communities engaging in advocacy to end homelessness. “The church is good at doing mercy or
charity work, but also needs to embrace justice,” said Klippenstein.
Lisa Todd from Connections challenged those present who controlled
housing, such as landlords or owners of two-flats, to consider providing
affordable housing to help prevent homelessness.
The Reverend Charles Austin, from CCH, talked about the
challenges formerly-incarcerated individuals face when trying to re-enter the
community and find legitimate employment.
Ban the box, HB 1210, is proposed legislation that would prohibit
non-law enforcement applications for State employment from asking whether an
applicant has been convicted a crime.
While it’s not a total solution to discrimination against ex-offenders,
it could help ex-offenders get job interviews where they can explain in person
the circumstances of their offense, explained Rev. Charles.
We pray that God will use all that we learned during this
forum to help us to be better neighbors to those who are homeless and who are
at risk of homelessness here in Evanston.
Compassion, Mercy, and
On Sunday, September 16, we formally installed Rev. Dr. Jo Ann Deasy as our permanent pastor at Sojourner Covenant Church. Pastor Jo Ann began serving as our interim pastor in March 2010 and led our community through a difficult time of transition. During that time of transition, a pastoral search committee was formed and began the work of looking for a new pastor. Over the next 18 months, the pastoral search committee and Pastor Jo Ann both prayed and asked God to reveal to them the next steps in their ministries.
By the Winter of 2012, it became clear to both the committee and to Pastor Jo Ann that God was calling her to continue her work as pastor of Sojourner Covenant Church. Pastor Jo Ann was officially called by the congregation to serve as the senior pastor on April 29 and was officially installed during our worship service on September 16. We celebrate the beginning of this new season of ministry and of our life together.
Each summer Sojourner gathers at a local park in Evanston for an afternoon of fun, food and fellowship. It has been a great opportunity for those who are new to the community to connect with others and this summer was no exception. Visitors, members and regular attenders of all ages gathered as family to eat, laugh, throw bean bags, and play a little something called "Ultimate Football."
On June 17, Sojourner Covenant Church once again participated in the Northshore/Evanston YWCA's Ricky Birdsong Race Against Hate. The event honors the memory of Ricky Birdsong, a former coach at Northwestern, and several others who were killed in a racially motivated shooting spree several years about in Illinois and Indiana. It was a privilege to once again partner with the YWCA and to take a stand against racism with thousands of others throughout our city.
Throughout the past year, Sojourner has been working to deepen relationships with three organizations within our community: The Northshore/Evanston YWCA, the Youth Job Center and Interfaith Action. The Race gave us an opportunity to make a significant increase in our efforts to partner with the YWCA. This year
Sojourner was an official sponsor the race and was able to set up a table showing our support of the event and inviting others to run for justice with us.
In addition, thanks to a grant from the Compassion, Mercy and Justice Committee of our regional denominational office, we were able to make a substantial donation to the YWCA in honor of those running the race.
Over 25 people from the church participated on Race Day, walking, running, or helping out at the booth. It was a great turn out and we look forward to many more years of partnering with the YWCA as they fight against racism and domestic violence in our community and around the world.
The Race Against Hate was the first of three Running for Justice events our congregation is sponsoring this year. The second will be a run against human trafficking in the TraffickFree 5K taking place on Saturday, August 25. For more information about the run, check out the Sojourner Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SojournerCovenant.
Over the first weekend in June, over 35 members of Sojourner Covenant Church gathered at Chain O'Lakes campground in northern Illinois for our 2nd Annual Camping Trip. We had a great weekend enjoying God's creation, sharing in food and fellowship, and resting together as a church family. There was no program for the weekend. Just a chance to be together.
Perhaps one of my favorite moments during the weekend was a walk we took together as a community. People moved back and forth in conversation with one another. Children mingled among us, looked after by whoever they were closest to. Winston represented the family pets who were present... three dogs that joined us over the weekend! Over the course of the weekend, there were games of ultimate, frog hunts, shared meals, evenings roasting marshmallows over the fire, impromptu jam sessions on guitars, quiet moments shared on morning walks and listening to a child read aloud.
Some of us headed back to Evanston for church on Sunday morning. Others stayed to continue enjoying the Sabbath rest at Chain O'Lakes. What a wonderful experience of community, one that already has me looking forward to next year.
Pastor Jo Ann
Earlier this spring, members of Sojourner gathered for a discussion around the topic of mental illness and faith. The discussion was led by several Christian counselors within our congregation and by our pastor, Rev. Jo Ann Deasy. The purpose of the discussion was to raise awareness of mental health issues within the church and to provide a safe place for those living with mental illness, whether in their own life or that of a family member, to speak about their experiences, bringing them before God, but also educating our community about ways we might better support one another through these experiences. The event was a great success, opening a door to a conversation that is often avoided within the church. We wrestled with the Bible's response to mental illness, recognizing that several key Biblical heroes suffered from depression, anxiety, and even struggled with suicidal thoughts. We talked about varies ways to respond, how to seek help, and how to support one another.
As a follow up, our congregation met again on Sunday, June 10 for a more focused discussion on the topic of depression. Our Compassion, Mercy, and Justice committee put together a panel of those within our congregation who suffer from depression as well as those whose family members have struggled with this issue. We are grateful for the honest vulnerability of the panel, of their willingness to share their experiences and their struggles as well as their courage in sharing how their illness, and that of their family members, has challenged their faith. What a powerful experience to be in a faith community that was willing to talk openly and honestly about their struggles and questions! In the midst of struggle, there was sense of God's presence moving us deeper into community with one another and deeper into relationship with a God who is always present but who is not always felt or seen in the lives of those who suffer.
As many of you know, Sojourner is a church that strives to live into the justice that God calls for in this world by lifting up various issues in our world and looking for ways to partner with organizations that are helping live out God's kingdom in the here and now. One of the issues that is on the heart of several within our congregation is that of human trafficking, a practice in which human beings created in God's image are sold like property and used for profit in the United States and around the world. Human trafficking most often impacts women and young girls who have been sold by their families, kidnapped off the streets, or been lured into a life of slave labor and sex trafficking.
On May 26, a group of us from Sojourner had an opportunity to partner with an organization that is deeply committed to rescuing young girls from sex trafficking here in the United States, the Salvation Army's Promise Program
. Ten of us made our way to Anne's House
, a home for young girls who are survivors of sex trafficking in the United States. Anne's House provides safety, security, love, and acceptance, walking alongside these young women and girls as they seek to heal and restore their lives, returning to school and learning once again what life is like outside of the sex industry.
We spent the day working on the house, planting a community garden, doing yard work, laying gravel to expand their parking for those working at the house, and installing a basketball hoop. Our hope was that in helping to provide a beautiful environment for these young women and girls we would somehow communicate to them that they are deeply loved and valued by God and by our church.
Throughout the day, we met several of the people who worked at the house as well as some of the beautiful young women and girls who live there. We heard stories of their struggles and triumphs. We were reminded of the powerful hold fallen systems can have on individuals, especially those whom they hurt. We saw beautiful girls, created in God's image, whom the world tried to destroy, but who have survived.
We, as a church, will continue to pray for and support Anne's House and the Promise Program. And we ask that you too might take a moment to lift up this ministry and pray for these girls. May God break the bonds created in trauma in the lives of these young women and girls. May God give them freedom, hope, and healing, that they might live the new life promised to them.
On Easter Sunday, Sojourner had the joy of dedicating two children. Infant dedication symbolizes the offering of a child into the tender care of God. It is a time in which parents declare their promise to bring up their child in the worship and teaching of the church that they might come to know Christ as Savior, be baptized, and follow Christ as Lord. It is also a time when the congregation promises to come alongside parents, sharing in the nurture of their children and supporting them in providing a loving and caring home. Central to the dedication is the act of blessing where the entire congregation prays for God to bless and keep the child, for God's face to shine upon the child, for God to be gracious to the child, and for the child to have peace.
Sojourner is part of a denomination that practices both infant dedication and infant baptism and both have taken place in our congregation. The pastor and the parents together discern which rite will be most meaningful to the child and to the family, a decision which is often influenced by family history and traditions, the experiences of the parents, and circumstances surrounding the child's birth. For us, both are a way of signaling the importance of children in our midst and of God's great love for them from even before they enter into this world.
Early Easter morning... well, before church at 9:45 am... which is early for our church! Early Easter morning the children of Sojourner gathered for an Easter Egg Hunt. We began in the basement as Ben Walker shared about the symbol of the Easter egg. While there are many different meanings associated with Easter eggs, we focused on the Easter egg's association with new life in Christ and how an empty Easter egg resembled the empty tomb that was discovered that first Easter morning. As the women gathered, expecting to find Jesus' dead body, they were surprised that the tomb was empty! Christ had risen from the dead and was going before them to Galilee! Hallelujah!
The children were then sent up the stairs and outside to find the eggs that had been hidden around the church and the community house that morning. What a beautiful day we had to be outside celebrating on this Easter Sunday!
On Sunday, March 4, a group of about 25 people gathered in the basement of Sojourner Covenant Church for a potluck and conversation about domestic violence. The forum was a part of an on-going partnership that Sojourner is developing with the Evanston/Northshore YWCA, which operates Mary Lou's Place, a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. Wendy Dickson, the YWCA's Director of Domestic Violence Services, and a representative of their Building Healthy Relationships program, which reaches out to youth to education and prevent relational violence, helped educate us about the realities of domestic violence as well as informing us of the many programs offered by their organization. Sojourner is excited about continuing to deepen our partnership with this organization as we strive for God's justice both in Evanston and throughout the world.
If you or someone you know is currently being impacted by domestic violence, the Evanston/Northshore YWCA offers a 24-hour crisis line at (847)864-8780 or toll-free (877)718-1868. You can also find more information on their website at http://www.ywca.org/site/pp.asp?c=erLOK1PJLsF&b=1075423.