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We are a progressive, faith-based organization that works to eliminate race and class barriers. Founded in 1882, CRS informs, organizes and trains both communities and individuals to advocate for social and economic justice.

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.
— Ida B. Wells

Working together, with one voice and many hearts, we fight for what we believe—life, justice and equality.

Together, with many hands, working every day to become a region free of race and class barriers.

That’s why we will:

Work purposefully on multiple issues, principally housing, jobs, education and criminal justice, because they are often intertwined.

Work with a cross section of communities and leaders, engaging them in these critical issues.

Examine and suggest improvements in current public practices.

Expose the direct relationship between reducing social inequities and the long-term economic health of our region.

Hold government accountable for its role in breaking down race and class barriers and making the region work for all of its residents.



Community Renewal Society informs and brings people of faith and congregations together, in partnership with communities, coalitions, interfaith organizations, and civic leaders, to intentionally and decisively transform society toward greater social justice at the intersection of racism and poverty.


The Beloved Community: where all God’s children flourish and live in dignity.

Our Racial Equity and Social Justice Framework

  • Our Shared Language*

    • Structural Racism is the cumulative impact of historical and current policies and practices and cultural stereotypes and norms that together maintain racial hierarchies and inequitable racial group outcomes.

      Systemic Racism is comprised of policies and practices in public and private institutions that result in the exclusion or promotion of certain racial groups that perpetuate and reinforce inequitable outcomes; it is what enables structural racism to persist.

      * Woods Fund and its partners, Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity and Association of Black Foundation Executives.

  • Community Engagement and Advocacy

    • CRS is committed to engaging and empowering people directly impacted by systemic and structural racism. CRS works with congregations and community leaders to build power and identify problems they share and the solutions to those problems through public policy and advocacy.

  • Accountability

    • Experience has demonstrated that creating and implementing new policies or programs does not always lead to the outcomes advocates had articulated and policymakers agreed upon, for a variety of reasons. CRS monitors the implementation and impact of the policy or program and, in doing so, holds the policymakers and public agencies accountable for its success.

  • Investigative Journalism

    • Effective public engagement is intertwined with building knowledge, understanding, encouraging action and creating change.  CRS’ newsmagazine, The Chicago Reporter was founded on the heels of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The Reporter confronts racial and economic inequality, using the power of investigative journalism. The Reporter’s mission is national but grounded in Chicago, one of the most segregated cities in the nation and a bellwether for urban policies.

  • UCC Affiliation

    • CRS' mission since its founding has always reflected the spirit of the denomination that founded it, the Congregational Church (predecessor denomination to the United Church of Christ). Even today, CRS' programmatic focus aligns with the mission principles of the United Church of Christ: combating social injustice, striving for economic and racial justice and combating poverty.

      CRS was started in February 1882 when seven laymen and ministers of the Congregational Church of Chicago formed the Chicago City Missionary Society to address the social, educational and economic needs of newly arrived immigrants. They envisioned an organization that would provide a Christian structure that would renew the quality of life in the Chicago metropolitan area.

      Congregationalist were strong in their belief of the civil rights of all people. They believed in the transforming power of the gospel to right social ills, particularly inhumanity to other races, specifically the injustice of slavery. The Congregational Church was comprised of black and white Americans who were active supporters and workers in the faith. One example of their belief in action was the now famous episode that began aboard the slave ship Amistad. In 1839, Africans being transported to Cuba led a mutiny for their freedom that landed 44 of them in a New Haven, Connecticut prison. Congregationalists provided legal counsel for the prisoners which resulted in their acquittal and freedom in 1841.

      In addition, since migrating to America, Congregationalist have been responsible for the establishment of hundreds of churches, colleges, social justice organizations and universities including Harvard, Dartmouth, Tougaloo, Fisk, Talledega, Lemoyne Owen, Oberlin and Dillard.

      As the needs of the city changed, so did the organization as reflected in the evolution of its name. Four name changes reflect four different approaches to urban centered faith-based mission: Chicago City Missionary Society, Chicago Congregational Missionary and Extension, Chicago Congregational Union and, today, the Community Renewal Society. Though the name has changed, the mission has remained the same: to provide a moral voice, faithful witness and concerted action on social issues.

  • ~accord


Become A Member Congregation 

Our Member Congregations come together across racial, ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic lines to shape public policies that foster hope and create opportunity for all Illinois residents. Member Congregations form an effective and powerful network that speaks the truth with one resounding and persuasive voice to overcome the barriers of poverty and racism. A Leadership Council of Member Congregations determines legislation and campaign priorities over the course of the year.


Board of Directors