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Historic Summerdale Church To Be Gifted To Night Ministry And Eventually Torn Down For Development

summerdale-2A long-standing wooden church at the corner of West Farragut Avenue and North Paulina Street in Edgewater will soon be gifted to an organization that helps the poor and those who are homeless, officials from both organizations said on Monday.

Summerdale Community Church is expected to transfer the title of its 65-foot by 126-foot lot at 1700 W. Farragut Ave. to The Night Ministry within the next two weeks, said Tedd Peso, manager of advocacy and community affairs for The Night Ministry.

The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that works to provide housing, health care and human connection to community members struggling with poverty or homelessness, the organization’s website said.

“The Night Ministry, Summerdale Community Church and the Church’s current and former congregants share very similar values and concerns regarding working to serve those members of our community who are in need,” Peso said.

The Night Ministry has decided to list the property for sale to a developer very soon after it takes possession to allow for the construction of single-family homes. Until the sale of the property to a developer occurs, The Night Ministry will maintain the building and its yard, so that it is secure and safe, he added.

Ann James is a longtime member, two-time former pastor and current secretary-clerk of Summerdale Community Church. She is one of 10 remaining members of the congregation. She said the church has a long history in Edgewater, but church membership has dwindled over the years. 

The church with large stained-glass windows and custom-made, curved pews was once used as a sewing school for girls in the early 1900s, when about 80 girls learned the trade, James said. Summerdale has, in the past, sponsored a Boy Scout troop, a senior group, music groups and theater companies. 

“There have been a lot of uses of the building throughout the community,” James said. “That’s always been one of our primary ways of having a ministry within the neighborhood.”

The older building has various issues that would cost roughly $225,000 to $250,000 to rehaul, she said.

“This is the death of this building and of this congregation, but because of this turnover to The Night Ministry, we really feel it’s a resurrection for us,” James added.

Peso said Summerdale Community Church and its congregants have been longtime supporters of The Night Ministry and its programs that serve youth and adults experiencing homelessness and poverty in Chicago. 

summerdale-3

Photo: Thom Greene

For many years, Summerdale’s congregation members have served meals at The Night Ministry’s outreach sites and have made financial contributions to support the organization’s mission, he said.

“It is sad whenever a congregation has to shut its doors; however, through this gift, the spirit of Summerdale Community Church’s long-standing ministry to the poor will carry on in The Night Ministry’s work,” Peso said.

James lived in West Andersonville when she joined the church around 1991. While she has since moved away, she still lives in the 40th Ward. Her fellow remaining congregation members have belonged to the church for at least five years, she said. One member, who died two years ago at age 99, had belonged to the church for more than 60 years. One of the remaining current members has likely belonged to the church for more than 45 years, James said. That member joined the church with the confirmation class when he was 13 years old.

According to Thom Greene with the Edgewater Historical Society, the cornerstone on the Summerdale Community Church lists the date of 1893. He said he believes it’s the oldest wooden church in Edgewater.

The Edgewater Historical Society’s website said the church developed from a Sunday school that had been organized to meet in the Summerdale railway station at Berwyn and the Chicago Northwestern tracks in May 1889.

This was a short time before the town of Lakeview became a part of Chicago, the website said. In 1890, Summerdale Congregational Church was organized under the leadership of the Rev. Zwingle H. Smith. In 1931, Argyle Community Churches merged with Summerdale Congregational Church to become Summerdale Community Church. Church membership in 1940 numbered 192 people, the website said.

“The spirit of Summerdale is now helping to animate the ministry of the Night Ministry, which is just an incredible service to the city,” James said.

For more information on the history of Summerdale Community Church, visit: http://www.edgewaterhistory.org/ehs/tours/940918/2

For more information on The Night Ministry, visit www.thenightministry.org.


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