Our History

Our story starts with this statement: “A House of Worship For All People”

If one phrase can best capture who we are, and who we’re always seeking to become, it’s the phrase over our front doors: “A house of worship for all people.” That commitment has been there from the beginning. We’re so grateful to the 22 people who founded this church on August 18, 1874 who spelled that out, and for the folks who chose to etch it in stone. It’s our humble hope to be that kind of church. For us, it’s as deep as DNA.

These days, we think it couldn’t be more timely or important. Right now, when too many lines are being drawn about who’s in and who’s out and people are excluded from churches (sometimes explicitly and sometimes in more subtle but painful ways) because of what they believe or don’t believe, what they look like, who they love, how they identify, for the color of their skin, for where they’re from, for their abilities, for their marital status; we can point to that sign and say with conviction: “This is a house of worship for all people. You belong here. We all belong here. And together we seek to stand for all our fellow children of God.”

We have always been inspired by Christ’s command to “Love your God with all your heart and all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Following that call has led us, through the years, to start the Winnetka Community House, the “Winnetka Talk” community newspaper, the Winnetka Library, Harkness House for Children, The Women’s Exchange forum, The Woman’s Society, the North Shore Art League and, most recently, it’s led to a spirit-led partnership with Bethel Baptist Church in Chicago Heights. And it led a group of determined and forward-thinking women from this congregation over 80 years ago to start our famous WCC Rummage. The proceeds of this sale, in addition to 10% of the church’s annual revenue, is used to support over 70 area social service agencies.

You can read a more detailed historical timeline compiled by church historian, George Brodsky.

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The words ‘A House of Worship For All People’ speak as much to who we want to become as to who we’ve been.

Patti, third-generation member

We’re an open-hearted, open-minded, non-denominational Christian church.

While we’re not big fans of labels, if we had to label ourselves, that’s what we’d say. In practice, we’re trying to make this a place where people from all kinds of church backgrounds can feel welcome.  And people who don’t have any church background can too.  And people who’ve just about given up on church can discover they might not have to. 

The “Congregational”  part of our name just means we are run independently by the congregation – a true “people’s church.”  We come from a long line of independent Protestant Congregational churches. They are some of the oldest churches in America, founded in the 1630’s in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Historically, Congregational churches have been involved in many important social reform movements, including Abolition and Women’s Suffrage.

While we have cooperative ties with various progressive Christian denominations, such as Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ, Winnetka Congregational Church is not formally affiliated with any denomination. We’re independent. You could almost call us “multi-denominational” because our members and regulars include people who have migrated to us from various denominations – Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, AME, Presbyterian, UCC, Disciples of Christ. We also have folks here who have never set foot in a church before coming here. And some who had pretty much decided they’d never set foot in one again.

The good news is, we’re not all alike, but we’re all together.

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