Going Upstream by Craig Howard

Presbytery of Chicago Mission Statement 2023:

Pursuing worship, service, and communities of justice, we are the Presbytery of Chicago, flourishing together by relating people, neighbors, and churches to one another in Christ Jesus.

The Presbytery of Chicago is committed to being a Matthew 25 presbytery and supports the three focuses:

Focus #1: Building congregational vitality.

Focus #2: Dismantling structural racism.

Focus #3: Eradicating systemic poverty.

The legendary community activist, Saul Alinsky, tells the following story.

Imagine a large river with a high waterfall. At the bottom of this waterfall hundreds of people are working frantically trying to save those who have fallen into the river and have fallen down the waterfall, many of them drowning. As the people along the shore are trying to rescue as many as possible one individual looks up and sees a seemingly never-ending stream of people falling down the waterfall and begins to run upstream. One of other rescuers hollers, Where are you going? There are so many people that need help here. To which the man replied, I’m going upstream to find out why so many people are falling into the river.

(Saul Alinsky, in Shelden & Macallair)

While it is important for congregations to continue doing the difficult and needed work of operating food pantries, standing up to racial discrimination, and making disciples, we need to go upstream. Matthew 25 initiative uses the words structural and systemic. These words emphasize finding the source (or sources) of hunger, poverty, and racism and addressing the issue upriver. An example is the response of the Highland Park community to the July Fourth killing. They went beyond protesting or even weapons collections, which are also very important. Instead, they attacked the problem at one of the sources. They used their privilege and clout to bring legislative pressure to pass anti-gun laws. The story isn’t over yet, as anticipated push-back and lawsuits have followed. But the strategy of going upstream to the source of the problem is the type of solution Matthew 25 initiative is calling for.

Would your congregation like to be a Matthew 25 congregation? We currently have 13 congregations committed to the Matthew 25 initiatives. They are listed below. We should be able to double this number of congregations this calendar year. If your congregation would like to join the list, send me a note at my email and let’s have a conversation! And let’s all create strategies to provide help for those in poverty, support anti-racism, and strengthen our congregations, making them vital and relevant.

Rev. Craig Howard

Matthew 25 congregations: 

Christ Presbyterian Church

Elmhurst Presbyterian Church

Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian Church of Chicago Heights

First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville

First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton

Highlands Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church in Orland Park

Presbyterian Church of Palatine

Ravenswood Presbyterian Church

River Glen Church

Riverside Presbyterian Church

Winnetka Presbyterian Church