Faith to Table - Feast Worship at Bethany in July

You don’t want to miss worship this July! We’re introducing a new worship theme for the summer called, “Feast.” This is the season of picnics and cookouts, the time of year when fresh produce is in abundant supply, and every weekend holds three more neighborhood festivals. Feasting is a Christian tradition, the opposite of fasting; it’s part of our faith to throw parties and eat great food! So we’ll be throwing a party every Sunday morning, July 9-30, complete with special decorations and festive coffee hours. We’ll explore the stories of great meals in the bible and ask what it means to be people of the feast. Mark your calendars! Cancel your vacations! Come party with us at Bethany this July.

Bethany Has Pride

At Bethany Church we are proud to be an Open and Affirming congregation, welcoming people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions into the full life of our church. We want to show and share our Pride this June with a Pride worship service on June 25th after which we will march together in the Chicago Pride Parade! We’ve already got our spot in the parade with the other congregations from the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches, and t-shirts are in the works, all we need is your feet in comfortable shoes! Sign-up in church this month or by contacting Vince.
The Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches is also sponsoring a Pride Brunch and Reception on Saturday June 17th, from 10am-12pm at the Unitarian Church of Evanston. RSVP to by Wednesday, June 14th.

Bethany Grows

After storms delayed our first attempt, the raised garden beds are IN! On Thursday, May 25th, about 8 folks worked to construct the beds and haul 2 cubic yards of soil to fill them. The hardest work was digging up the sod.  As of this writing, my legs are still killing me.

What’s next: We’ll plant seeds before June 1 and work to get some rabbit-proof fencing (if it exists) up around each bed before the seeds pop, and before we add any seedlings.  Then, there’ll be weeding (although not much this year, with that clean new soil), watering, and harvesting.  Want to take some basil home with you after worship? Do it!  Want to make some zucchini bread with the monster squash we let get too big? Fantastic.  These gardens, this year, at this scale, are for the joy of growing and sharing food here at Bethany and with our neighbors.  See some dad showing his kids how to pull a carrot out of our garden?  Awesome.  They’re welcome to it.

I’ll be in the gardens on Thursday afternoons (join me?) and more briefly on Mondays but keep your eyes peeled for additional work days and times.

Rev. Rebecca Anderson

Council President's Annual Report

With the 2016-17 year at and end, I am realizing just how much Bethany has accomplished in this past year.
We began the year by welcoming Ann Ridge to the Church Council to replace Georgette Tarnow.  Other continuing members were Dean Arnold, David Digel, Kathy Rodriguez, Sara Haas, Linda Zawada, Alicia Ervin and Judy Beaupre.  Sadly, Linda had to step down mid-year due to health issues, and was replaced by Adam Franklin.

The highlight of the year—and a primary reason why we have accomplished so much—was the hiring of a new team of pastors, Vince Amlin and Rebecca Anderson. In the eight months they have been here, they have brought energy, enthusiasm and a renewed sense of community to our congregation. They have infused our worship services with sermons that have been meaningful, timely and relevant.  Although we were sorry to say goodbye to Beth Dickerson, who had served as our interim pastor for almost two years, we are happy to be embarking on a new phase in the life of Bethany. In recent months, we have welcomed 11 new members to the church, as well as a growing number of visitors to our Sunday worship services.

We continued to rent space to a number of outside groups, We renegotiated our agreement with Pilgrim Lutheran School, which uses our gym for basketball and volleyball practices, to more effectively cover the costs of maintenance that we envision in the future. The Chicago Montessori School continues to be our primary renter; this partnership is currently critical our financial stability.

During the year, we undertook initiatives designed to spruce up the church building and reclaim areas that had fallen into disrepair. Under Kathy Rodriguez’ leadership, the nursery was cleaned, painted and recarpeted, and Scott Beaderstadt used his artistic talents to paint colorful animals on the walls. We also devoted two weekend days to cleaning out the rec room and disposing of many years’ worth of collected items and unusable furniture that had accumulated (Thank you, Adam Franklin, for using Craigslist to help with this).  The project is not totally complete, but now have one outside group using the space on a regular basis.

Our annual stewardship campaign brought in pledges of $47,540 for the year.  Once again, we offered the option of online giving, but the majority of gifts still come in the form Sunday envelopes.

In addition to continuing our traditional mission projects—working with Night Ministry to provide meals, both on the street and at the Crib, a shelter for homeless youth—we partnered with Pilgrim Lutheran Church and School to cosponsor a refugee family.  Many members of the Council and congregation have been involved in this project as mentors, tutors, donors and worker bees. We work with our family, a single Rohingya Muslim mother from Burma and three daughters, twice a week. Helping them learn English and find a new apartment closer to other Rohingya immigrants are our biggest challenges at the moment. In April, we held a successful chili and dessert cook-off to raise money for the project, making more than $2,500.

I want to extend my thanks to Bethany’s members, and particularly to those who served on Council, for making this year a successful one.

Judy Beaupre, President BUCC Council

Music Director's Annual Report

This past year was a very active year at Bethany United Church of Christ.  Most recently, we had a wonderful Easter service where my long time good friend Keven Keys shared his beautiful operatic voice with the congregation.  He was accompanied by a fine string quartet comprised of members of four-time Grammy award winning group Eighth Blackbird along with Adam Davidowitz who teaches violin at the church.  Listening to the string quartet, I was reminded of all the places Yvonne Lam, the violinist and Nick Photinos, the cellist have played (as in Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center to name a few) and I was so moved to hear such first rate music making take place at our church.

 Keven Keys and I have been friends for many years, and I have always been in awe of his magnificent voice.  He enjoyed singing in our beautiful church and I loved hearing his voice fill the space.  

It has been a very rewarding experience to share music with Bethany every Sunday.  All of my friends who regularly play for us enjoy the experience as well.  It means so much to me to have congregation members come up to us and thank us for sharing our gifts.  But what people may not realize is that it is such a gift for us to perform at Bethany.  Playing music at a high level can be quite stressful, and it is so nice to be reminded that the reason we play music is to share and to touch people.  I have been saved many times by the experience of sharing music at Bethany on Sundays and I thank you all for the opportunity.  I hope we can continue to make music together and be an integral part of this community.

Yasuko Oura, Music Director

Pastor's Annual Report - Rev. Rebecca Anderson

What a year it has been for us all.
When we met you, we knew that hiring two pastors was not what you had imagined. In some ways, the decision to do so represented risk for the congregation.  I am grateful, and know Vince is too, that you took the risk. Already, it’s abundantly clear to me that the risk – to hire two pastors, to configure our pastoral work in the ways we have – was worth it. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been church together only since the end of September.  In those 8 months, we’ve seen not only growth but also signs of potential for yet more new life. 

For me, the great pleasure of our life together is Sunday worship. (Of course, worship is the beating heart of any Christian community.) While staying true to the “DNA” of worship at Bethany — including the beautiful music led by Yasuko — we have stretched ourselves in joyful ways. We’ve reintroduced or added poetry, children’s sermons, new forms of music (sung by pick-up choirs, but also by you in call-and-response, learning new pieces from around the world) and, a particular favorite of mine, bells on Easter! To me, our worship feels traditional in the best ways and at the same time, fresh. 

I am grateful to be in this work with you, expanding our presence here on Paulina and Cullom, in Chicago at large, and in the world. There is imagination for how better to welcome our neighbors, through a perhaps updated iteration of the Living Nativity, and: will we start holding summer evening events on the lawn again? There is imagination for how better to speak out for justice in Chicago, as Melissa and Ryan Andrews, among others, have been bitten by the Community Renewal Society bug: how can we use community organizing to strengthen our church and advocate for others? There is imagination for how to be the body of Christ in the world in this particular moment: with Judy’s leadership we have had the chance to welcome refugees in very real ways.  And the historic work of the church continues as well, held by many hands.  I look forward to inviting even more Bethany friends and members into that work.

Entering in any relationship is a kind of gamble on the future, a promise built on possibility, hope, and trust. In so many ways, you have welcomed us into relationship as your pastors. I am grateful for the welcome and grateful to be church with you.

Pastor Rebecca Anderson

Pastor's Annual Report - Rev. Vince Amlin

An unofficial theme that Rebecca and I have had for our nearly 8 months of ministry at Bethany is “People live here!” What that means to me is finding ways to reveal to neighbors, renters, and to ourselves the small but dynamic community which is living and growing here. We have a big, beautiful building which can nevertheless serve to hide the liveliness inside. Likewise, there are parts of our building that haven’t been needed in a while and require attention to be attractive and welcoming. We’ve tried to look at things with an outsider’s eyes and ask how we can make the many special things about Bethany more visible.

To this end, with the staff and members of Bethany, we’ve prioritized restoring and beautifying our spaces. We’ve done little things like replacing the deteriorated cork boards outside fellowship hall and big things like cleaning out the entire Rec Room! We’ve still got lots to do, but as we’ve done this work, we’ve made room for new uses of these spaces. We’ve invited renters into rooms we weren’t using, and we’ve started using redone rooms for our own programming. Rebecca has used the analogy of stretching out back into our building. We now use our Sunday School room twice a month, for instance, and this month we’re holding a small group on prayer in the redesigned pastors’ office.

Restarting Sunday School and continuing the offering of adult education here are some of the ways we signal to visitors and neighbors that this is a healthy and worthwhile community. Likewise, our work of outreach and service in the world are vitally important. I am so proud of our congregation for jumping into the work of sponsoring a refugee family with Refugee One while continuing our regular outreach work with The Night Ministry and The Crib. I am especially glad to have had such excellent congregational partners in this work as Ravenswood UCC and Pilgrim Lutheran. Their generosity and steadfastness have been good examples for us.

Rebecca and I have tried to find lots of ways to make Bethany present in the community and invite folks into our life here. At Advent and Lent we used worship themes both to create cohesive and beautiful worship experiences for those already present and to attract new visitors. As part of these themes we brought in accomplished outside storytellers and increased the visibility of Bethany’s already outstanding music; we opened up our worship space to the community with “Ashes on the Go” in before and after school hours; and we got out in the community as a congregation with events like “Beer and Bible.”
I believe that as visitors have come in they’ve experienced worship that is consistently powerful, thought-provoking, and inspirational. I hope you feel the same way. I’m grateful to have welcomed 11 new members to Bethany over these first 8 months, many of whom had already been attracted to this congregation while Pastor Beth was here. I’m grateful for her work here, for Yasuko’s excellent programming and performing of music each week, for Shaun’s work of administration and design, and Jurek’s expert maintenance. I want to say a special thanks to the Church Council and to our moderator, Judy Beaupre for their excellent work on your behalf this year and for their assistance to me as I learn the ropes in this first year. 

I have loved working at Bethany this year. I could thank each of you by name for your warm welcome of me and of my family and for your support of my ministry. Thanks for signing up for things, showing up for things, and being willing to try new things. There is great life in this community indeed, and I am excited to be a part of showing that life to our community and continuing to watch Bethany grow!

Pastor Vince Amlin

Soup's On!


Each year we gather during Holy Week to celebrate Maundy Thursday. "Maundy" comes from the Latin for "commandment," as in the new commandment Jesus gave his friends and disciples at that last supper before his death: "Love one another, as I have loved you."

At Bethany, we meet in Fellowship Hall for a meal, a liturgy of prayer and communion, and depart in silence.  This year, new member Rachael Huttner and Pastor Rebecca made vegetarian soup and bread and some folks wanted the recipes, so here they are:

Lentil Soup

3 C lentils
7 cups water/stock
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
1 C+ chopped onion
1 C+ minced celery
1 C+ chopped carrot
black pepper
1 ½ C tomatoes/15 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 T red wine (optional; I skipped at Bethany)
2 T lemon juice
2 T molasses
1 T red wine vinegar

  • Put lentils in water with salt to simmer.
  • Chop vegetables. Saute in oil. Add to lentils once lentils have cooked anywhere from 1 – 3 hours (the original recipe says 3 but as long as they’re cooked; 3 definitely makes for a stewier soup).
  • Add tomatoes, spices, liquids a half-hour before serving.


Yeasted Bread
makes 2 loaves

3 C warm water
1 ½ T yeast
¼ C sweetener
4 C flour (I often use bread flour, IF I have it. Otherwise: white flour)

  • Dissolve yeast in water
  • Stir in sweetener
  • Stir in flour to form thick batter.
  • Beat well, 100 strokes. Cover, leave 30 – 60 minutes

4 tsp salt
1/3 C oil
3 C flour (white whole wheat, or whole wheat)

  • Fold in salt and oil.
  • Fold in additional flour (err on the side of too little) until dough comes away from sides of bowl.
  • Knead dough on floured board 10 minutes/as long as you can stand it.
  • In oiled, covered bowls, let rise 50 – 60 minutes.
  • Punch down. Cover. Let rise 40 – 50 minutes.
  • Shape into two loaves. Place in oiled pans. Cover. Let rise 20 – 25 minutes.
  • Bake at 350* for one hour.
  • Remove from pans to cool


Please enjoy Pastor Vince Amlin's sermon from Sunday, March 26th. The Scripture from the service is below.

SCRIPTURE – 1 Samuel 16:1-13

The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

SERMON: I Thirst

Please enjoy Pastor Vince Amlin's sermon from Sunday, March 19th. The scripture from the service is below.

SCRIPTURE – Exodus 17: 1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

SCRIPTURE – John 4:3-29

he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

 Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he,the one who is speaking to you.’

 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’