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The Roseland neighborhood on the south side of Chicago was settled in the 1840s by Dutch immigrants who called the area de Hooge Prairie, the High Prairie, because it was built on higher ground.

According to Ed Rockett, pastor of Fresh Word Ministries, a Home Missions-supported church planted in the struggling heart of Roseland, there’s reason to believe this community will find higher ground once again.

“Since the 1960s,” Rockett says, “the area has become known for crime, drugs, gangs, and prostitution. But there are strong businesses operating here and ministries passionate about reaching out.”

Rockett launched Fresh Word in 2009, envisioning “a ministry founded on Reformed sensibilities that would incorporate both worship and art.

“I have theater and musical performance in my background,” Rockett says, “and I wanted to use creative and performing arts in worship to bring the gospel to life in urban areas of Chicago.”

Rockett has found that community members are drawn to the church’s inventive blueprint.

While attending a party at a college friend’s house, the pastor told a young man, a bass player, and a young woman, a singer and keyboard player, about his church. “They started coming to Fresh Word because we were doing something out of the box as far as arts and music,” Rockett says.

With the music ministry and other outreach programs, Rockett’s dream is to draw troubled teenagers from gang culture into a church that will embrace their talents.

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