The news this week that Rev. Alan Taylor will leave his post as senior pastor at Unity Temple after 18 years is important to members of that growing congregation. The testament to Taylor is that his plan to take time to discern next steps in his ministry resonates across the faith community in Oak Park, River Forest and the West Side.
Such was the leadership role he played in blowing open the doors of the Community of Congregations, a long stodgy network of Catholic and Protestant ministers and priests from Oak Park and River Forest. These days the Community of Congregations represents all manner of faith communities. More remarkably, Taylor and a few humble and brave local faith leaders and West Side ministers have begun to bridge the chasm between the near west suburbs and the Austin and Garfield Park neighborhoods of the city.
That effort began to flower six years ago when Taylor, Rabbi Max Weiss of Oak Park Temple and Rev. Sally Iberg, now retired from Pilgrim Congregational, accepted the invitation of Rev. Ira Acree and Rev. Marshall Hatch, two leading West Side pastors, to join a healing service at Hatch’s New Mount Pilgrim Church in the dizzying wake of the mass murder of congregants in a famed South Carolina church.
Those five faith leaders, and members of their congregations, gathered in the magnificent sanctuary of New Mount Pilgrim and found common cause that day, and the alliance has grown and deepened.
It was 18 months ago, that the Community of Congregations held its annual Multi-Faith Thanksgiving Service at New Mount Pilgrim. To a packed house, Taylor proclaimed, “We’re all West Siders. The transformative power of love [allows us to] build relationships across faiths, races, class and so much that divides us.”
That is a legacy. But only a beginning to the work ahead.