Editor's note: This story is part of a new series I'm working on that highlights our local places of worship. If you'd like to see your church featured in this series, contact me, editor Korrina Grom, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more than 35 years, Libertyville Covenant Church has focused on helping people grow in their faith, from the children of the congregation who take Sunday School classes to the adults who attend Wednesday night Bible study.
But the church's focus has also been on the community-at-large, whether members are assisting United Methodist Church with its PADS shelter or holding a community dinner for the needy.
"I think it's at the center of what Christ asked for us to do. It's really what the church is supposed to be," said Senior Pastor Dwight Nelson, adding that churches are supposed to show mercy and compassion. "It comes out of a sense of what the word of God tells us to do."
Libertyville Covenant Church, located on the southeast corner of Route 176 and St. Mary's Road, was founded in 1977. It is a part of the Evangelical Covenant Church, which started 135 years ago as a Swedish immigrant group that split off from the Lutheran church.
Evangelical Covenant churches, Nelson said, stress a personal faith in Jesus Christ, personal devotion and serving a mission in the world.
Nelson is in his 37th year serving as a pastor. He was called to Libertyville Covenant Church 10 years ago after serving in Mt. Vernon, WA, for 24 years.
Nelson said what he loves about the church is "just the kind of people and their gifts and their faith and their love for each other that comes through. It's a family."
Over the past 10 years, Nelson said that church family has "developed in the areas of prayer and Bible study." He added that the church has also "matured in an inclusive form of worship, trying to include everyone in that."
The church has one Sunday service, at 9:30 a.m., that is both traditional and contemporary. There's a choir and an organ, but there's also a worship team.
"We really worked on it," Nelson said of developing the service. "It takes real maturity and a willingness to do it that way."
Nelson said the church is focused on unity and working with other groups.
That community focus includes a number of programs:
- The church provides "significant support," Nelson said, to a food pantry in Waukegan.
- The church is involved in an organization called "Love in the Name of Christ" out of Zion. The organization aims to provide furniture and starter kits for people for are transitioning from being homeless or living in shelters and moving into their first apartment.
- Members help with the PADS shelter at the United Methodist Church of Libertyville on Saturday nights.
- The church hosts an annual adopt-a-family Christmas party for about 70 people who are invited through Catholic Charities. Guests hear the Christmas story and can complete a craft.
- The MOMs group offers support for stressed-out moms of preschool-aged children. "It's a good opportunity to bless and help people who are in that situation," Nelson said.
- The church offers a Vacation Bible School program that is tailored specifically to preschool-aged children that is open to the community-at-large.
- The worship team and choir hold worship services once a month at Winchester House and once a quarter at Advocate Condell Medical Center. The service at Condell is broadcast from the chapel throughout the whole hospital.
People who are interested in checking out Libertyville Covenant Church and helping with these community-focused initiatives "would be given the space to really explore and grow," Nelson said.
"I think they would find a good home here," said Nelson. "I think they would find people who care about them and they would find opportunities to serve."