Baha'i News -- Religious variety is wide, and there's room for more

Religious variety is wide, and there's room for more

There's room for growth in Vernon Hills' religious diversity. But already, a variety of cultures calls the village home.

Worshippers from several faiths - including Jewish, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Baha'i - congregate in town.

Four congregations - Highland Korean Presbyterian Church, Christ Lutheran Church, Congregation Or Shalom and St. Mary of Vernon - have been in the community for nearly 25 years or more.

While they're competing in the same area for followers, all the groups say there's enough space for other religious groups to join them.

St. Mary of Vernon Catholic parish, 236 Route 45, Indian Creek, is the largest church in the area with a congregation of more than 2,000 families. The parish was founded in 1978 and is part of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

While the majority of the parishioners are from Vernon Hills, the church also draws members from the southern end of Mundelein, parts of Buffalo Grove, all of Prairie View and Hawthorn Woods.

"We have a very large religious education program with more than 1,100 students in kindergarten-through-eight classes," Business Manager Susan Gray said.

The parish also has a successful youth ministry targeted at high school students, an extensive social service outreach program through clothing and food pantries and a furniture redistribution ministry.

"There's a lot of poverty in our community," Gray said. "We have a huge client base between Vernon Hills and the Mundelein area."

About 60 families utilize the church's food pantry each month. The church also doubles as a Public Action to Deliver Shelter, or PADS, site, housing more than 60 people every week.

Both Christ Lutheran Church and Congregation Or Shalom have a significantly smaller congregations of 300 families.

"It's growing little by little," said Christ Lutheran Pastor David Dennison. "Can't grow too fast, won't have room."

The 27-year-old church, 595 N. Deerpath Road, draws members from Vernon Hills, Mundelein, Libertyville, Buffalo Grove and Lake Forest.

"Each church has to reach out to welcome (new residents) to be part of the community," Dennison said. "There's plenty of room for other churches."

Or Shalom, at 21 E. Hawthorn Parkway, is the only reformed congregation in Vernon Hills, says Administrator Zena Singer.

It draws from a wide area, which includes Vernon Hills, Libertyville, Mundelein, Buffalo Grove, Gurnee, Lake Zurich and Grayslake.

"The reality is that you go just a little farther south in Buffalo Grove and there are 11 synagogues," Singer said. Or Shalom is one of the few synagogues in this region.

It offers religious programs from kindergarten through high school and Hebrew classes.

Each of the groups have some unique traits and a specialized approach to their ministry.

Just like the name suggests, Highland Korean Presbyterian Church caters to a majority Korean congregation.

The church, at 820 S. Milwaukee Ave., was established in 1977. It's nearly 250 members come from Vernon Hills and other parts of the county.

"It's a typical local church," said Pastor David Park.

However, unlike a typical local church, this one offers services in Korean and English.

"We have a multiethnic group," Park said.

His mission is to expand services to other cultures and to invite more ethnic membership.

"I believe there is a need for a church for Hispanics," Park said. "We need to have a plan to outreach to the Hispanic society."

Some of the newer and smaller religious groups are the Lakeview Presbyterian Church, 1100 Lakeview Parkway, and the Local Assembly of the Baha'is of Vernon Hills.

Lakeview is about 12 years old with nearly 70 people in the congregation. It was formed as a result of a merger between North Shore Presbyterian and Hawthorn Community Church.

"It's a conservative denomination and we take very seriously the doctrine of inerrancy of the scriptures," Pastor Chris Gearhart said. "There's a strong emphasis on preaching and teaching."

The church also emphasizes evangelism, missions and mercy. It offers Bible studies for woman and ministers to women, youth, children and senior citizens.

"All of our programs will fit into one or more of those categories very specifically," Gearhart said.

Congregates are mostly from Vernon Hills, Mundelein and Libertyville. But members also come from Lake Bluff, Lake Forest and Deerfield.

"Our denomination is a small one, so if (people) are looking for a reformed church that is conservative, there's just fewer options," Gearhart said.

And smaller still is the Baha'i assembly, which has only 20 members from Vernon Hills and no fixed meeting place.

It's followers believe in the divine origin of the world's religions including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.

They believe religion is progressive and follow the teachings of Baha'u'llah, the prophet of the Baha'i faith. The congregation meets in members' homes.

"It bears the same relation to Islam as Christianity does to Judaism," assembly member Robert Blum said.

©Copyright 2002, Chicago Daily Herald

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