As we began in 2016 to think more seriously about anti-racism, we began to realize that the only way we could do this work with integrity was not from simply our “well-intentioned white people” point of view, but in relationship with people whose skin color and life experiences were different than our own.
Then in 2018, something kind of amazing happened. Our then Senior Pastor, the Rev. Jeff Braun (2015-2023), met the Rev. Lawrence Blackful, Jr., Senior Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Chicago Heights, at a local conference on gun violence, and they immediately connected in a way that truly felt Spirit-led. After months of conversation, prayer, table fellowship, and deep reflection between Pastor Jeff and Pastor Lawrence, it became clear that God was inviting our congregations into relationship. Once vetted and prayerfully embraced by both our congregations, our official Winnetka Congregational and Bethel Baptist Church partnership was born.
Since then, our two congregations have begun to come together on a regular basis, to worship and pray and sing, to share meals and talk with each other, and to dream God’s dreams of a world of justice and belonging, together. One of the things we firmly believe at Winnetka Congregational is that relationships matter – and they can help us become more of who God wants us to be. That is exactly what is happening through our relationship with Bethel Baptist.
Our partnership continues to grow as we respond to each other’s questions and needs and hopes and fears. We aren’t completely sure where all of this will take us, but we can see that the Spirit is in it and we’re happy to be along for whatever ride God has in store for us.