Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church in Berwyn, Ill., celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017 with three events, culminating in a Saturday night gala last weekend. In May the congregation gathered for an anniversary worship service celebrating God’s gifts; in August the church held a block party, welcoming the neighborhood to enjoy outdoor fun. On Sept. 23 the community gathered for a fundraiser dinner with about 140 guests.
With the theme “Great past, great future,” the vision of the anniversary celebrations was “a little bit of heaven on earth.”
Sam Hamstra, a CRC pastor and former member of Ebenezer CRC who helped to plan the events, said the church’s history tells an amazing story of a Dutch immigrant congregation that, by the help of the Holy Spirit, became a community congregation that “ministers to any and all who live in Berwyn.”
When established in 1867, the congregation was called First Christian Reformed Church. It used the Dutch language and was further east and south of its present location in Chicago’s Berwyn suburb. In 1923 the congregation shifted from Dutch to English, which, along with a location change, “brought about the organization of several ‘daughter’ congregations,” explains a history of the church on its website. When the congregation constructed its current building in 1947, it adopted the name Ebenezer, “making a statement of faith in the Lord, the Rock who had helped.”
Today the church’s surrounding neighborhood is more than 60 percent Hispanic. Rev. Pedro (Peter) Alvies, the church’s 23rd and current pastor, said the anniversary worship service “demonstrated a wonderful balance of our past style and present style . . . which included Spanish readings and some bilingual songs.”
The ministries of the church include a food pantry, free lunch to children under 18 three days a week, and a community center with computer labs, games rooms, and a gym. Kay Rops, a member of Ebenezer CRC since childhood, now serves as the church’s director of youth and community care.