Published July 11, 2013
Adventist church has history of giving back
Seventh-day Adventist Church’s diverse congregation makes an impact in local community
By Nick Schnell
The story of Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church begins with a dream shared by Drs. David and Mary Paulson at the turn of the 20th century.
The two aspired to move their sanitarium out of the polluted city slums and into an open area in the country.
However, their hopes of patients enjoying walks in fresh air and a more relaxed country lifestyle were tempered by the financial challenges of relocation.
The Paulsons’ prayers were answered when a regular patient suggested they move out to Hinsdale. His suggestion came with a lucrative offer to buy a $16,000 plot in the budding village and allow his doctor to pay it off over 20 years with no interest.
In March 1904, an abandoned 10-acre estate became home to Hinsdale’s first hospital and later a Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Paulson, a deeply religious man, invested time and money in his new community. He would regularly give health lectures for the public and took over a floundering publication that he used to spread God’s word. Just three years after building Hinsdale Sanitarium, Paulson and his wife were two of the founding members of a “hospital church” that would one day evolve into Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Although church meetings took place in various places from the old Oak Street Parlor to the sanitarium gymnasium, the membership grew from 12 to 300 in 20 years. The congregation was largely made up of hospital employees and patients.
The Paulsons’ medical and spiritual ventures are inextricably linked, according to the church’s history book, “Celebrating God’s Faithfulness: 100 years.”
“The foundation story of the hospital is also the foundation story of the church… The caring and compassionate outreach overlapped so much that it would be impossible to separate them,” it states.
The church’s current senior pastor, Ron Schultz, arrived in the late fall of 2006, just less than 60 years after the first church building opened.
The church had been searching for a pastor for more than a year, when one of Schultz’s friends put his name in consideration.
“A real sense of call brought me here,” Schultz said. “Hinsdale was never on my horizon. God’s hand was in it because I certainly wasn’t looking.”
Schultz has taken the opposite route of Paulson. While pastoring for more than 20 years in Idaho and Washington, Schultz was in charge of some of the most rural churches in the United States.
“One of the communities I pastored in, there was a lot more cattle than people,” he said with a laugh.
It took some time to adjust to life in Hinsdale, said Schultz, who sold his four-wheel drive truck and pop-up camper to move here.
“It’s clear God brought us here, and we love Chicago,” he said.
Although Schultz admits he misses the beautiful mountains of the northwest, he has really enjoyed becoming more familiar with the diverse cultures surrounding a big city.
The majority of Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church’s congregation commutes from outside of Hinsdale to attend service each Saturday. They have members drive from as north as Lake Geneva, Wis., and from as east as Indiana.
“Here, there is a real richness and desire within the congregation to understand different cultures,” he said.
The 900 members that attend Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church represent 32 different countries.
“They may be immigrants from other countries, but they find community here at our church,” Jenniffer Ogden, associate pastor, said.
One member of their congregation does not even live in the United States. A lady from Mexico City tunes into the weekly Sabbath service online each and every week. After following the church interactively, she made her first visit to Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church about a month ago.
Schultz believes the church’s extreme diversity is something that goes unnoticed by the local community.
“They see a building, but they don’t know how much this congregation reflects Chicago,” Schultz said. “This church, when we gather here, is a reflection of the country.”
Although many of the church members do not call Hinsdale home, the congregation and students of Hinsdale Adventist Academy value the local community.
“We have a real heart for our community,” Schultz said. “We do it (volunteer work) because we believe Jesus has asked us to love people and represent him in no matter what we do.”
The church is very proud of its relationship with HCS Family Services. Some of the church’s and academy’s recent volunteer efforts include monthly food drives, flood relief help and many health-related programs.
“The beauty of faith is that I understand it theologically, but also how it affects me day-to-day,” Ogden said. “I think getting your hands dirty and seeing adversity and poverty face to face helps us see that faith is more than just a thought. It’s a lifestyle.”
In conjunction with the Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, the church sponsors Complete Health Improvement Program. CHIP is a month-long program featuring health screening and lectures about improving eating habits and exercising routines.
The staff at Hinsdale Adventist Academy stresses the importance of community service to students. While young students stick to smaller tasks such as writing cards for the sick, each year the senior class devotes its spring break to a mission trip in Puerto Rico.
“We try to educate not for just a lifetime, but for eternity,” Schultz said.
Heather Hoffman, who attended HAA, has two children a third-grader, Jonah, and a fifth-grader, Eli, that currently attend the school. Hoffman said she worked very hard to ensure her kids would have the same education she received.
“It’s like one big family that goes to school together,” Hoffman said.
The kindergarten through 12th grade school has approximately 250 students. Just like the church, HAA has a very diverse student body, the majority of whom commute long distances to attend the academy.
“It really broadens a kid’s spectrum, growing up learning about different cultures,” Hoffman said. “”It’s good for them to know that not everyone goes home and eats the same dinner you do.”
The congregation’s diversity and their strong local ties is a truly unique combination. Some believe it is just about perfect.
“We really are what I think heaven’s going to be like,” Schultz said.
Affiliation: Seventh-day Adventist
Pastors: senior pastor Ron Schultz, associate pastor Jenniffer Ogden, youth pastor Kenneth Parker
Worship: The Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends on sundown on Saturday. Worship begins at 9:30 a.m. with Sabbath school for children and adults for approximately an hour. The worship service begins at 10:50 a.m.
Membership: 900 members
Location: 201 N. Oak St.
Theology: Seventh-day Adventists believe in Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. They believe in salvation through Christ alone and read the Bible as a guide to everyday life. In preparation for his soon return, they value community service and volunteerism. Their Sabbath is a day of high importance, an opportunity to spend time with family and avoid secular work.