Eden United raising funds to replace sanctuary roof, fix organ
by BRIAN NADIG
The Eden United Church of Christ at 5051 W. Gunnison St. in Jefferson Park launched a fund-raising campaign to replace the roof over its 600-seat sanctuary since the church was built 92 years ago.
Called "Raising the Roof," the campaign calls for $250,000 to be raised for the roof replacement and repairs to its original pipe organ, with goal of completing the work next year.
Donations can be made at www.edenroofandorgan.org. So far about $85,000 has been raised.
Eden pastor the Reverend Jacki Belile said that the entire church, which features a bell tower and stained glass windows by artist Hans Muench, was built with great care. A contractor who examined the sanctuary roof noted the copper flashings and gutters and said that the craftsmanship – considered unusual by today’s standards – is "why it’s lasted so long," according to Belile.
Since 2010, Eden has replaced the roof over the educational and fellowship wing of its campus, installed a new gym floor and replaced numerous appliances and windows, but over the years the church has relied on patchwork repairs to the sanctuary roof.
"We’ve dealt with it on a piecemeal basis," church trustee Daryl Dahmer said.
"There has to be an abatement process to remove the asbestos tiles," he said.
In the summer a large section of plaster fell from the ceiling due to the roof’s condition, damaging the Moller Opus 5426 organ that has been played at Eden since the church was built in 1928, Dahmer said. The organ’s pipes have been boxed up and placed in storage, waiting for a cleaning and restoration process by the Berghaus Pipe and Organ company.
The Jefferson Park church was founded in 1914 by Volga Germans from Russia and has been located at the Gunnison-Leclaire intersection throughout the congregation’s history. After the original church was demolished, Sunday services were held at the former John V. May Home near Milwaukee and Wilson avenues while the current building was being constructed.
"I was born and raised a member of Eden United," Dahmer said. "It was my parents’ and my grandparents’ church."
Dahmer said that under Belile’s leadership the church in recent years has increased its outreach, partnering with community and business groups, and has been sharing its building with Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and other entities.
Eden spearheaded the creation of "Bridging Jeff Park," which is a coalition of local groups that have been exploring the area’s heritage and bringing together an array of community-building assets.
It also is a member of a new working group of residents, local officials and merchants who are addressing homeless issues at the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., and is planning to help organize "Racial Healing Circles."
Belile said that she hopes the outreach efforts will assist with the fund-raising.
"I believe people are noticing we are being good neighbors," she said.
Belile said that the capital project demonstrates the commitment by church leaders to preserve Eden’s history and to ensure that the church is part of the community for decades.
About 75 families belong to the church. "It’ a small group, but we have been growing even during the pandemic," Belile said, adding that a half-dozen new members have joined in recent months.
Efforts are being made to have the church placed on the National Register of Historic Places.