The Church of the Good Shepherd began in 1957, the same year in which the United Church of Christ was formed by the merger of two denominations, the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The first church services were held in a nearby school gymnasium. The church’s current building was completed in 1960.
Under the church’s second pastor, Rev. Roy Griebel, a social action committee was formed, but it was during the 19-year tenure of Rev. Ted Braun that the church developed its strong focus on justice issues. Prison ministry and the partnership with Cuba were two of his special interests. Under his leadership, the church adopted its three covenants: Just Peace, Open and Affirming and Whole Earth. The Just Peace Covenant declares our commitment to establishing peace with justice in the world; our Open and Affirming Covenant states our openness to people of all sexual orientations; and our Whole Earth Covenant focuses on environmental awareness and the stewardship of God’s creation. When we adopted our Open and Affirming Covenant in 1989, we became only the 24th church in our denomination to do so.
Ted retired in 1992 to become Pastor Emeritus, but Good Shepherd has continued its tradition of social activism since then. We are committed to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, through such organizations as the Carbondale Interfaith Council and the University Christian Ministries on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC). Due to our belief in gender equality, the church elected our first female council president in 1981, and called our first female pastor in 1993. Three church members graduated from seminary in the 1980s and another just recently entered.
As part of our ongoing effort to make our building more accessible to the handicapped, a ramp was built from the narthex to the sanctuary in 1997, a chair lift to the downstairs fellowship hall was installed in 2000, and in 2003 an outdoor wheelchair ramp was completed to allow access to the basement and fellowship hall. We have created a peace memorial garden on the lawn in the front of the church and a community meditation labyrinth in the yard behind it. A peace pole was donated by our seventh pastor, Rev. Kim Magwire.
Good Shepherd has participated in fundraising for hunger projects, UNICEF, and the local homeless shelter. We co-sponsor the Rainbow Cafe, a social support group for gay and questioning teens and their friends; the Day of the Dead seminars about hospice care for the terminally ill; and Cousin Andy’s Coffee House, a cafe for folk musicians. Over the years individual church members have helped found or supported community activities such as Stop The Hate Vigils, the AIDS Walk fundraiser, the Good Samaritan Food Pantry, and the Jewish-Christian-Muslim Conversation series. We are not a very large church, but we are a very active one.
Written in June 2004.