In the early 1970’s the Austin community on Chicago’s far west side was in the midst of major transition. The neighborhood’s white residents were fleeing the area as African-Americans moved further west into Austin. Real estate values were plummeting, community services were disappearing, drugs and prostitution were becoming commonplace.
At the same time a group of twenty-something’s from a racially diverse urban church were hearing the Lord call them to take some radical action. Called to live out their faith in a new way, they formed an intentional Christian community called the Austin Community Fellowship, shared resources, and a shared vision to impact a declining community with God’s love. Circle Urban Ministries (originally Circle Community Center) was born after about a year after their arrival in Austin as an outreach arm of Circle Church Free Church (Pastor Clarence Mains). Glen Kehrein was hired to head up the operations at the Circle Community Center.
We began in 1974 in a storefront with a drop-in youth center. Soon joining Glen were professionals from the Austin Com
munity Fellowship who started other arms of the ministry. A social worker opened a counseling center. A lawyer started a legal clinic. A doctor started a medical clinic. In 1975 Circle Church purchased a former Catholic rectory so that the fledgling ministry could have space to grow.
The ministry took a major step in 1983 when we joined in a faith-and-works partnership with newly planted Rock of our Salvation Evangelical Free Church.
Today, more than 40 years later, Circle has had a strong and widely felt impact on Austin for good and for God. With programs to address family needs, poverty, housing, hunger, education, drug/alcohol dependency, medical, and legal issues, we have seen God’s love working through our hands and hearts impact thousands of lives.
The story of Circle Urban Ministries continues to be written…In addition to the programs and staff, our volunteer friends and partners have played a major role in Circle’s impact on our community.
Go to our Volunteer Page to learn how you can be personally involved in the unfolding of God’s work here in Chicago.