Reconciliation, Compassion & Justice
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10
Pioneering Racial Reconciliation: The Circle Urban Ministries Saga
Our story is an odyssey, a perpetual voyage marked not by a final haven but by an unyielding commitment to advancing social change. It’s a narrative shaped by unassailable challenges, born from our steadfast resolve to be a catalyst for transformation.
Over four decades have elapsed since our inception, in the humble surroundings of St. Lucy’s Parish’s former rectory at the intersection of Mayfield and Lake Street. In November 2011, our visionary founder, Glen Kehrein, transitioned from this world, but his legacy lives on—a legacy steeped in compassion, reconciliation, social justice, and the empowerment of future community leaders. Our journey continues under the enduring influence of his ideals, as we remain humbled by the work that lies ahead.
Though significant milestones have marked our path, the quest to confront the multifaceted challenges of Chicago’s Austin community remains a work in progress. Education, economic disparities, employment opportunities, the scourge of destructive behavioral patterns, and the persistent deficit in affordable housing demand unwavering attention. Circle Urban Ministries remains unwavering in its commitment to instigate positive change within Austin and its broader sphere. We remain dedicated as we embark on the next 40 years of transformation.
Our origin story dates back to 1974 when we founded an After School Drop-In Program at the Circle Community Center. This endeavor was birthed from an ardent desire to bring essential social services to a community still grappling with the aftermath of the tumultuous race riots of the late 1960s. It was a community fractured by the exodus of its middle to upper-middle-class residents and the vanishing of employment opportunities. While the world may have seen despair, crime, and urban decay, Circle Urban Ministries and its supporters perceived the potential for renewal and healing.
Our inaugural step was the acquisition of a dilapidated three-building former high school at the intersection of Central and Washington Boulevard. Raising the necessary funds was a formidable challenge, but in this community hungry for stability, we anchored a cornerstone. A beacon of hope had found its permanent abode.
The 118 N. Central address became the home for our After School Program, the Austin Circle Law Center, and the Circle Family Health Care Network, all reaching out to embrace the community. In 1983, the Rock of Our Salvation Evangelical Free Church, led by the dynamic Pastor Raleigh B. Washington, was planted in our premises. This pivotal moment solidified a “Faith and Works” partnership that would prove invaluable to both organizations in the ensuing decades. These early days laid the foundation for a reality we uphold today – holistic ministry through strategic collaborations.
Our calling extends beyond the geographical confines of our Chicago neighborhood. An instrumental milestone was the publication of “Breaking Down Walls,” co-authored by the late Glen Kehrein and Pastor Raleigh B. Washington. This groundbreaking work delves into the Biblical imperative of racial reconciliation and outlines practical steps towards addressing the intricacies of racial division.
Today, Circle Urban Ministries is under the capable leadership of James Borishade, a veteran with over 15 years of nonprofit management & ministry experience. He carries forward our vision to catalyze life transformations within our community and beyond.
Our story is one of perpetual commitment to racial reconciliation, an ongoing journey that propels us forward in unity and hope.
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