In the early 1970s, the Austin community, situated on Chicago’s far west side, underwent a profound transformation. As white residents relocated, making way for the migration of African-Americans further into Austin, the neighborhood experienced a series of intricate changes. These included a significant decline in real estate values, the erosion of community services, and the emergence of challenges such as drug-related issues and prostitution.

Simultaneously, a cohort of earnest individuals in their twenties, hailing from a diverse urban church, sensed a divine calling to embark on a remarkable journey. Their mission was to manifest their faith in a distinctive and impactful manner. These dedicated souls came together to establish the Austin Community Fellowship, characterized by resource-sharing and a unified vision. Their overarching goal was to manifest God’s love within a community facing adversity, ultimately giving birth to what would become known as Circle Urban Ministries, initially named Circle Community Center.

Approximately one year after their arrival in Austin, Circle Urban Ministries emerged as an outreach extension of Circle Church Free Church, under the leadership of Pastor Clarence Mains. Glen Kehrein assumed responsibility for managing the operations at the Circle Community Center.

The year 1974 witnessed our humble beginnings, as we initiated our journey from a modest storefront, inaugurating a drop-in youth center. Glen was soon joined by a cadre of committed professionals from the Austin Community Fellowship, each spearheading various facets of the ministry.

A dedicated social worker inaugurated a counseling center, a legal expert established a legal clinic, and a medical practitioner pioneered a medical clinic. In 1975, Circle Church acquired a former Catholic rectory, affording the burgeoning ministry the physical space necessary for expansion.

A significant milestone occurred in 1983 when we forged a faith-and-works partnership with the newly established Rock of Our Salvation Evangelical Free Church.

Fast forward over four decades, and Circle Urban Ministries stands as a stalwart force, profoundly influencing Austin for the better, while steadfastly serving the divine purpose. Through a multifaceted approach encompassing family support, poverty alleviation, housing initiatives, hunger relief, educational advancement, addiction rehabilitation, medical outreach, and legal advocacy, we have borne witness to the embodiment of God’s love through our actions. This love has touched the lives of thousands.

The narrative of Circle Urban Ministries remains an ever-unfolding story. In addition to our meticulously curated programs and devoted staff, our invaluable volunteers and collaborative partners have played an instrumental role in shaping Circle’s indelible impact on our community.

Visit our Volunteer Page to explore the myriad ways you can actively contribute to the ongoing work of the divine here in Chicago. Together, we continue to craft a narrative of profound significance and lasting change.


"Often times, low-income communities are devoid of the much needed resources for their residence to survive. "
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