Interview with Jennifer Green, Rev. Hannah Kardon and Carter Kelly of Urban Village Church, Wicker Park
Tell me about Urban Village Church and how the church has evolved since it began 8 years ago.
CK: Urban Village is one church with four sites throughout Chicago that makes space for people who have not felt included in the church. Urban Village invites us to bring our entire selves to the church and know that God is still working in our lives.
HK: Urban Village was founded on the core principles of being bold, inclusive and relevant. These values have demanded that we become more antiracist and more committed to justice issues in our communities.
Urban Village Church is made up of people with a variety of racial identities. How does this diversity impact the church’s approach to social justice?
CK: We have to make our justice work accessible to white people, which requires a lot of education. If we were a church with a majority of people of color, we wouldn’t have to do as much explaining because the need would be super obvious all the time.
HK: Because of our congregational make-up, we’re not working on something that happens to people over there. It’s a little more intimate, but because of our diversity, it takes more time to move on something.
What is one way that you create spaces for your congregation to connect around justice issues?
HK: Testimony is key. In every single Sunday worship service, a member of the congregation or community shares a part of what God is or isn’t doing in their life. When people who are more active in justice work share parts of their stories, they give someone else the courage to think, “Oh, I could do that!”
How does your membership with Community Renewal Society help your congregation get involved in justice work?
CK: Community Renewal Society gives us a lot of entry points. The Martin Luther King Faith in Action Assembly and the Day of Faith at the Capitol are high-energy, high-action days that are really accessible for people. For those who want to go deeper, there are Chicago and Illinois Advocacy 101 Workshops that teach activism skills for any campaign or social justice fight that you have going on in your life.
How does Community Renewal Society come alongside Urban Village Church to amplify the congregation’s justice work?
HK: Community Renewal Society brings people and faith communities together to build power—so much more power than we would have alone. Being in relationship with Community Renewal Society allows us to be led by people who really know what’s up and can decide what the next most important thing to fight is, using information and experiences that we simply don’t have as a young transient community.
What would you say to a church considering getting involved with Community Renewal Society?
JG: What are you waiting for? If you are at all interested in getting your congregation involved in justice issues, the resources from Community Renewal Society are fantastic. I don’t think you can find the trainings or opportunities to impact the political process from any other organization!