This past weekend, celebrated 10 years in Montgomery with a trio of services, dedicated to looking back and looking forward.
And had you gone to any one of those services, you would have seen Glenn Bieritz. At 83 years old, he’s a committed member of Community Christian, but his perspective on the church’s place in the village of Montgomery spans decades. Bieritz was there at the beginning—and for more than 30 years before the beginning.
Back in 1969, Bieritz was a member of First Congregational Church in Aurora. It was established in 1838, across the street from McCarty Park, and according to Bieritz, it was the city’s second-ever church. But in ’69, the church moved to 131 Montgomery Road in Montgomery, in search of new blood, and new people to serve.
“Every church has some kind of mission or vision of what it wants to do,” Bieritz said. “Our vision was to reach out to the community, and help people know who God and Jesus are.”
And so First Congregational bought 12 acres of land, and constructed a church on them. Over time, they changed the name—in the ‘90s, it became Pathway Community Church. At the beginning, Bieritz said, they had 150 people attending regularly. But as the years went on, the congregation grew older, and didn’t bring in the new people it would need to survive.
By the early 2000s, Bieritz said, the church was down to about 25 members, and spending all of the meager money coming in on repairing and maintaining the building. The mission of reaching out to the community was put on the back burner. And he said it was clear that something needed to change.
So in 2002, the congregation of Pathway voted to give the building to Community Christian, at that time a small organization with churches in Naperville and Romeoville. Bieritz said he visited Community Christian when they had no space of their own—they were meeting in a high school in Naperville. And their vision spoke to him.
“We had to decide whether to let things go to pot, or see that facility and resources used for the purpose we came out here for,” he said.
Pathway considered other options, but Community Christian simply felt right, Bieritz said. That’s not to say he wasn’t sad to see some elements of the old church go, like the old pipe organ, and the old pews.
“There’s a lot of emotions wrapped up in that,” he said. “My wife’s been a member since she was a child. I joined when we got married in 1958. It’s like giving up your favorite car.”
Community Christian’s impact in its new home was immediate. According to Pastor Carter Moss, the church saw 600 people attend its first services, and though many of those were visitors from other Community Christian sites, attendance has settled at around 400 each weekend.
And Glenn Bieritz remains one of them. He said there’s no such thing as a perfect church, but Community Christian “is doing better than most.”
Bieritz has a lot of emotions wrapped up in the church's 10th anniversary. His wife died two years after Community Christian opened its doors, and her ashes are spread beneath a patio out back that bears her name. And his grandson now plays drums for the worship team.
Community Christian now sports a dozen sites, as far north as Edgewater and as far south as Shorewood. The Montgomery campus has been instrumental in launching several other churches, including Community Christian sites in Yorkville and East Aurora, and a church in Boston.
That vision of reaching out to the community is important to Moss, who said the church has been celebrating its anniversary by challenging its members to reach out and serve. Members have partnered with the Kendall County Food Pantry, Hesed House, Triple Threat Mentoring, and local school districts, among others, he said.
And that will continue as the year goes on. They’ve already partnered with the village of Montgomery to host the village’s first ever Easter egg hunt in Montgomery Park on March 31, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. And in May, in lieu of church services, Community Christian members will head out into the neighborhoods to do some good, which will include a Fox River cleanup.
“We are just a community of broken people finding our way back to God, and trying to do all we can to help others find their way as well,” Moss said. “And I can't wait to see what God has in store for us over the next 10 years."
For more on Community Christian, click here.
Correction: An earlier version of this story included the wrong name for First Congregational Church.