Published April 18, 2013
Redeemer marks 90 years and counting
Church cherishes traditional roots while building bridges with fellow faith communities
By Ken Knutson
Nearly a century ago, a group of families at Hinsdale’s Zion Lutheran Church believed worship services for the next generation needed to be in English, not German.
So in 1922, Redeemer Lutheran Church was established under the motto, “Our father’s faith in our children’s language.”
Today, many of the time-honored practices and hymns of the congregation’s forebears remain central to worship.
But Pastor Katie Hines-Shah said the church is not trapped by tradition.
“We have a love for liturgy and for great music. But, at the same time, it’s a forward-looking church,” she said, noting the church has both an organ and contemporary praise band.
One of the ways the church stays vibrant is through mission outreach.
Eight years ago the church became a shelter for the DuPage PADS homeless outreach program after learning of shortage of shelters during the summer months.
Members Dirk Landis and Valerie Lee oversee that weekly program from May to September, which serves dozens on a given night.
Landis said the program gives local residents a chance to come alongside those less fortunate right in their neighborhood.
“You come to understand the causes of homelessness,” he said. “We get families, they come in and we serve them dinner. We give them a sack lunch in the morning and give them a breakfast.”
Lee said while Redeemer houses the guests, volunteers come from many of the other churches in town.
“Redeemer is very focused on cooperative activities with other churches,” she said, listing eight supporting congregations. “It’s the cooperation of all these different faith communities that make it happen.”
Landis, who joined the church in 1986, said those relationships spill into other efforts, such as a youth shoe collection to raise money for clean water wells in Africa and the annual Crop Walk.
Those activities, he said, help animate his walk in faith.
“For me, spiritual growth comes not just on Sundays. It has come from my association with others, developing a relationship to the point where you can talk about substantive things,” Landis said.
Hines-Shah said the church’s missional motive is not to gain God’s favor but the desire to share God’s blessings.
“We do these things because we are so glad in the love that God has poured onto us that we can’t help but spread it on to the world,” she said.
Lee, who’s been a member of the church for 14 years, is gratified to see her three young kids learn the virtue of service.
“They make meals and set up pads. Even my young kids have spend the night there,” she said. “I just hope that they grow up with the mindset that giving back is just kind of a normal thing.”
Lee, who’s also served as Sunday school teacher and church council member, said the depth of congregational fellowship she’s experienced may be the norm everywhere.
“A lot of times it’s hard to clear out the hallways after church,” she said. “There’s always a group doing something.”
Sarah McCabe said the feeling of familiarity is what drew in her family 11 years ago after they had moved to Hinsdale.
“It was important to me to worship in our own community,” she said. “What made the difference for me was simply this incredibly warm, welcoming atmosphere.”
McCabe’s older daughter, Grace, is 13 and in the second and final year of the church’s confirmation program.
Grace said she looks forward to the weekly lessons, which go beyond rote learning and use games and the youth’s own experience to amplify Biblical teachings.
“I’ve learned why my parents had me baptized, and I’m having my own faith strengthened, too,” she said. “Confirmation helps me know who I want to be when I grow up and helps me have a stronger identity.”
Mom Sarah, who serves as a confirmation adult leader, is surprised at how much she’s been edified by the process.
“I have enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would,” she said. “It turns out that confirmation class is for me.”
Adult education is also a hallmark of the Lutheran denomination, Hines-Shah said. Being in close proximity to a Lutheran seminary in Chicago affords the church rich opportunities to learn from guest professors.
“The classes are extremely well-attended. It’s not unusual for us to have 40 or 50 adults coming to mid-hour,” she said, referring to period between the church’s two Sunday morning services.
Landis enjoys the lasting relationships with those he does ministry with or are part of his small group.
He also appreciates the chance to welcome new members into the Redeemer family.
“The flow through of new people, new ideas and new energy is important,” Landis said.
Hines-Shah said efforts are under way to refurbish the church’s 30-year-old organ and install state-of-the art technology for use in Sunday services and for other purposes.
She sees a parallel between the founding members’ vision and today’s generation’s desire to utilize the most effective means of communication.
“The intention is always to make worship accessible to people of all ages and to bring the truth of the Gospel in ways that people can understand.
“What’s speaking English nowadays? It’s being alive on Facebook, but it’s also having hands-on things people can do,” Hines-Shah said.
Location: 139 E. First St.
Affiliation: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Senior pastor: Katie Hines-Shah
Worship: 8:30 a.m. traditional service and 11 a.m. modern liturgical service on Sundays, with religious education for all ages at 9:45 a.m.
Membership: 200 families
Average attendance: 160
Theology: “Called by Christ and led by the Spirit, we strive to grow in faith, proclaim the Gospel and share God’s blessings.”