Reconciliation, Compassion & Justice

Our Story – Reconciliation, Compassion & Justice

Our story is not one of having arrived, but of being on a wonderful journey.  A journey filled with the challenges that come with trying to make a difference this world.  We are 40 years into this journey and there have been many victories since our days in the former rectory building of St. Lucy’s  Parish on the corner of Mayfield and Lake Street.  Our founder, Glen Kehrein, went to glory in November, 2011 but his legacy of compassion, reconciliation, social justice, and empowerment of the next generation of community leaders remains intact.  There is much work to be done in Chicago’s Austin community to address the educational, economic,  employment, destructive behavioral patterns, and affordable housing deficits that continue to exist.  Circle Urban Ministries is committed to seeing positive change in the Austin community (and beyond).  It is to this purpose that we dedicate our next 40 years.

We began as an After School Drop-In Program at the Circle Community Center in 1974 with a sincere desire to bring needed social services to a community still reeling from the effects of the famous race riots of the late 60’s, a mass exodus of its middle to upper-middle class citizenry, and the disappearance of employers.  The Austin community was on a decades-long decline but where others could only see the hopelessness, crime, and urban blight, Circle Urban Ministries and its supporters saw the potential for growth and healing.  Our first step was to purchase the dilapidated 3-building former high school on the Corner of Central and Washington Boulevard from the Chicago Board of Education for $80,000.  Raising the money was not easy but a corner in a community desperate for stability had just been anchored.  A beacon of hope had come to stay.  Our After School Program, the Austin Circle Law Center, and the Circle Family (Health) Care (Network) all moved into the 118 N. Central address and began reaching out into the community.

In 1983, Pastor Raleigh B. Washington, a dynamic graduate of Trinity International University and former Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, planted the Rock of Our Salvation Evangelical Free Church (Rock Church) in our building.  Driven by the visions of two passionate reformers who were keenly aware of the historical and influential role the Church has played in African-American communities, a critical strategic partnership was forged between Circle Urban Ministries and The Rock Church.  This “Faith and Works” partnership would serve both organizations well for decades to come.  The reality of wholistic ministry through strategic partnerships was forged in these early days and continues today.

We have also been called to reach out beyond the borders of our Chicago neighborhood. The first significant milestone was the publication of the book Breaking Down Walls co-authored by the late Glen Kehrein and Pastor Raleigh B. Washington. The book deals with the Biblical call for racial reconciliation and outlines very practical steps to be enlisted in working through issues of racial division. (See Philosophy of Ministry page.)

While Pastor Washington has been called to serve the Lord with the Promise Keepers organization in Colorado, the “Faith and Works” Strategic Partnership begun with Glen Kehrein continues today.   Today, Circle Urban Ministries is led by James Borishade while Rock Church is led by Pastor Robert Stevenson.  Mr. Borishade brings more than 15 years of nonprofit management experience to lead Circle Urban Ministries’ vision to transform lives.

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