Parables Community is Suspending All Ministry Activities

With gratitude for the last four years and in light of current circumstances, Parables Community is suspending all ministry activities at this time. Please read the following letters from Pastor Jeanne and Board Chair Jonathan for more information. Thank you for your prayerful support both past and present.

Letter from Pastor Jeanne

June 26, 2020

Dear Parables Friends,

Over four years ago, we embarked on a dream to create a church community in which everyone felt welcome, in which everybody’s gifts were appreciated and their needs respected. We wanted to create a community in which everyone had an opportunity to belong and to serve.

In Paul’s vision of the Church in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, every part of the Body is valued. And the parts that are undervalued by the culture at large are appreciated as being particularly valuable, bringing gifts that are often unseen, unheard, and unused.

I believe we did succeed in creating a community of strong relationships of people with various gifts and impairments. I’m grateful for the leadership of those who have been with us from the beginning, particularly for Jonah Neher and Benjamin Shively, whose strong faith and clear hearts led and sustained us. Recognizing that each person is a gift, I am thankful for all who have been a part of our community. The thought of each one of you makes me smile.

We worked together on creating worship services that were accessible to all regardless of age or ability. We made some great friends who supported our ministry, including Eve and Levi K-9 Comfort Dogs, and the Unicorn Mime Troupe of Elgin. We also did good in the community, volunteering for other organizations and raising awareness of the importance of disability inclusion.

Church plants are delicate. Parables Community was at a turning point this year. We were beginning to grow in our new location in Dundee. We had a new board and were looking forward to a big fundraiser concert with Ken Medema this spring. We were excited about the future. But then the pandemic hit.

In order to care for everybody in our community, we stopped gathering in person. We cancelled our fundraiser concert. For a ministry whose purpose was to overcome the social distancing experienced by those who are disabled, the need to be physically distanced from one another was difficult. We struggled to find a way to meet online that engaged our intellectually disabled friends. Our families, including our board members, were stressed with additional burdens of reduced income, disrupted routines, eschooling their children, and many online meetings for work. By June it became clear that we would not be able to meet again in person for many months. It was also clear that an online community did not meet the needs of our families. It was a perfect storm.

And so, after four years, Parables Community is suspending operations indefinitely. We don’t know what the future holds. Perhaps somewhere down the line when we are able to meet in person again, we will begin again. Whatever happens, I will always be grateful for the last four years and those who helped create this community of friends who follow Jesus. I was blessed to serve as your pastor. I pray that God will use our efforts in a way that brings more good into the world, especially the recognition that each person has gifts that benefit communities. I will continue my work for disability advocacy and inclusion in my role as executive director for Anabaptist Disabilities Network.

Parables friends, may God bless you and keep you. You will always be close to my heart.

Pastor Jeanne Davies
Parables Community

Letter from Board Chair Jonathan

June 26, 2020

Parables Friends:

Pastor Jeanne eloquently and graciously has articulated the current reality for Parables Community. Our family, too, has been with Parables from the beginning, and this church family has been a blessing!

Parables, as most church plants, has been in a constant state of transformation. One dimension of those changes has been in the formal organization and leadership for the ministry. Within the last year we were recognized as a fellowship in the Illinois and Wisconsin District of the Church of the Brethren, successfully incorporated, and were approved for 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

As Pastor Jeanne indicated, we began this past January with a new board, whose energy, vision, and commitment promised to propel Parables’ growth in our new location in Dundee. While this new board has been finding its way, we have continued to rely heavily on Pastor Jeanne’s leadership, and without her presence we recognize that Parables cannot move forward with “business as usual” like a more established church might.

Throughout the rest of this year the board will continue to oversee the limited work which remains, including managing the finances on hand and ensuring any disposition of resources as may be necessary. We will take some time to digest the good that Parables has put into the world even as we discern what it means to move toward an end.

At this time we are ceasing all activities of Parables and are no longer receiving contributions. We encourage you to find another new church with a compelling vision of inclusion that you can support, or further encourage your own congregation toward a greater welcome.

Thank you, Pastor Jeanne, for the courage, skill, and passion which you brought to the life of Parables and those of us who called Parables “ours.” Thank you, too, for your steadfast witness to the wider church which will continue through your work with the Anabaptist Disabilities Network as their Executive Director. Thank you to Joel Davies for countless forms of support for his spouse and his own ministries of design, labor, and sound.

Thank you to each person who has contributed leadership to Parables over the years, from the launch team to several iterations of an advisory group and board, to all who have led us in worship and service, and those who have challenged us to re-imagine communities of faith-filled living.

And finally, thank you to our supporters near and far: the York Center Church of the Brethren & the First Congregational Church of West Dundee; the Illinois and Wisconsin District, its churches, pastors, and leaders; the Wieand Trust Fund of the Church of the Brethren, Inc.; our regular donors and periodic supporters; the Parables Worship of the Wayzata Community Church; and all who have visited, prayed, encouraged, and celebrated the vision and ministry of Parables Community.

Our calling has always been to be faithful. We can humbly say that, by God’s grace, this we have remained.

In Christ’s peace,

Jonathan Shively
Board Chair

“The Welcome Table” – Pastor Jeanne’s sermon at the 2019 National Older Adult Conference

Pastor Jeanne preaching

Pastor Jeanne attended the 2019 National Older Adult Conference of the Church of the Brethren during the first week in September. On Wednesday evening, September 4, she preached on “The Welcome Table” with the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 as her scripture text. Here is a link to the worship service which also includes Ted Swartz and Ken Medema. (Pastor Jeanne’s sermon starts at 1:12:48).

The Oasis: Creating Spaces of Rest and Refreshment

Every four years the Church of the Brethren holds a National Youth Conference (NYC) on a state university campus in Colorado. It’s a mountaintop event literally and figuratively. Thousands of youth come from all over the country and the world to worship, learn, serve, and have fun together. Worship is held in an arena with a band, youth leaders, and amazing preachers. All youth participate in small groups and workshops. Everyone has an opportunity to go hiking in the mountains or work on a service project. The week is often life-changing.

NYC also can be a little overwhelming. The setting and activities are new and unfamiliar, the environment can be loud and the social demand is heavy. This year we created a new space at NYC called The Oasis for any youth stressed by the sensory and social load. We lit the room softly with floor lamps and twinkle lights. We had bean bag chairs, large pillows, and soft blankets thrown on the floor. We provided fidgets of all kinds. There were coloring pages and puzzle books along with prayer stations with reflective and encouraging hands-on activities. The Oasis was open at free times during the day and evening for anyone to come and rest for a while.

Some interesting things happened from the provision of this space. It was immediately sought out and used by some autistic youth. They found a safe, undemanding space to land from the very beginning of the conference. For one youth with an anxiety disorder, just knowing The Oasis was available gave her the ability to cope.

The Oasis became a place where disabled youth could find resources and support. It was a place of understanding and reassurance which enabled youth, advisors, and parents to express their concerns. At the request of one family, we created a sensory area in the worship arena where the sound was not quite so loud and noise-reducing headphones and fidgets were provided. Buddies were found for a disabled youth in need of companionship. Assistance was found for those needing help getting from one place to another on campus.

The sensory area in worship and the Oasis became launching pads for some youth to brave engaging the rest of NYC activities. Several youth who at first felt like they “just couldn’t do this” found that they could because they had a place to rest and re-group. As the week progressed, anxious youth relaxed enough to venture out into new territory such as going to their small group without a parent or joining the rest of their youth group on the main floor in worship. It was fun to see them gradually relax, smile, and enjoy being at NYC.

It wasn’t only disabled, autistic, or anxious youth who benefited from The Oasis. Many individual and small groups of youth came to color and relax for a while. Advisors took a rest with a puzzle book. Some people just quietly made their way through the prayer stations in the room and then left. Even staff occasionally came in, found a quiet corner and a pillow and took a brief nap before returning to their work.

One of the great learnings we have received from creating both The Oasis and Parables Community is that when we provide these supportive and gracious spaces for autistic and intellectually or developmentally disabled friends, we also create a space that is more welcoming for all. In a stressful, often inhospitable world, how can we create more of these oases of warmth and respite that accept everyone just the way that they are?

Neighborhood Block Party

On Saturday, September 30, Parables Community hosted a neighborhood block party along with York Center Church and God’s Congregation Worship Center. Here’s a video of Pastor Jeanne, Pastor Christy, and Pastor Carl at the party. We are blessed by our three congregations and our neighbors. It was a wonderful day.

Parables Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser on April 29

Mark your calendars for April 29!

We’ll have an evening of fellowship, light foods, and beverages in a coffee house atmosphere to raise money in support of Parables Community.

Parables musician and board member Jonathan Shively will perform original music througout the evening, and there will be some surprise musical guests as well.

Meet the Parables Community family, hear updates on the ministry, and celebrate what God is doing through this new church start.

Free-will donations will be collected. More details soon!