Central Congregational will be using various pulpit supply pastors, including Knox staff members and students, after their current pastor leaves for another job in March.
Director of Spiritual Life Monica Corsaro will be one of the main people preaching on Sundays at the church, along with Collections Acquisitions and Access Manager Thomas Colclasure who is a seminary student and worship director at Central.
“[One week a month] we’re going to have Knox religious clubs come and present,” Corsaro said. “… As I’ve been doing more research on this long, long time connection that Central Congregational has had with Knox I thought what a great idea to honor that history but also to expose our students or give experience to our students.”
Colclasure pointed out that the church already has eclectic services, which have often drawn from the Knox community. Last Sunday, Professor of Biology and Conservation Stuart Allison talked about walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain this summer.
Seniors Gus Martini and Lindsay Smith have also been providing music, including some unexpected songs for Christian services. Last Sunday they played the Proclaimers’ “500 Miles” to go along with Allison’s description of the pilgrimage route. Steve Earle’s “Pilgrimage” was also included in the service.
The church has flexibility in their service styles because they are a congregational church, where the church members are the governing body.
“So we can do whatever we want,” Colclasure said. “… How we see fit to run our services, or to worship or to celebrate, it’s all what the congregation wants to do.”
The plans aim to make sure the church is remaining relevant with society. Colclasure said that the interfaith connections were only part of what they hoped the church would do to maintain its historic ties to social justice.
One project the church currently has towards these goals is events on Mondays at 10 a.m. where they invite people who are learning English to come in and have conversations with volunteers. They aim the events towards the large Congolese and Angolan immigrant communities in Galesburg, but they are open to everyone.
The church is descended from the original church established by Reverend George Washington Gale as part of the founding of Galesburg. While the church building is not the original building, it is 120 years old. Central formed from the merger of First Church and the Beecher Chapel and used to serve as the location of Knox’s graduations and convocations.
“Gale brought the abolitionist church, the abolitionist town and the labor college,” Central’s moderator Ann Ehler said. “Those are the three prongs of his vision in coming in the early 1800s.”
The church has declined in membership in recent years, like many other mainline churches. Ehler said the average Sunday attendance was around 30 but that could double for special Sundays.
Additionally, the building is showing wear and tear after 120 years. Not only does it bear the marks of 120 years, but many of its features speak to the city at the time. There are 75 stained glass windows, 26 of which are commemorative to founders of the city.
“Our windows tell the story of the founding of Galesburg,” Ehler said.
As a seminary student, Colclasure someday hopes to have his own church, or an interfaith center. He said that interfaith work is important to him and that some of his favorite religious texts are not Christian, such as the Bhagavad Gita. Ehler too said that having interfaith services has been valuable to the church.
The pulpit supply is only a temporary measure. The former pastor will be providing the first two Sundays before Corsaro and Colclasure start. Finding a new permanent pastor will probably not happen quickly.
“There is a shortage of church organists and there is a shortage of ministers, and so we will hope to entice someone to come to this area as soon as possible,” Ehler said.