New name, same people, renewed vision
The large colonial style church on Mayfield Road across from Severance Center has a new name. No longer is it called Euclid Avenue Christian Church. Nn overwhelming majority of the congregation voted to change the name to Disciples Christian Church. The church is part of the denomination Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The church also has a new pastor, the Reverend Kristine Eggert, who was called to the church almost a year and a half ago.
I sat down to talk with Pastor Kris (her preferred appellation) about the name change and the direction of the church's ministry. What I got was a lesson in personal philosophy, a feeling of excitement for the community of Cleveland Heights, and an impression of a vibrant, energetic, intelligent woman who engages a person in direct eye-contact.
I don't belong to a church so I was interested to find out about the church's mission. Pastor Kris began by explaining that her call is to communicate. She said that preaching is all about communicating the Gospel message and taking that message into your week. The work of the church is to be active in bringing Jesus' message into the community, by looking for ways to serve, to be relevant, to be creative in ministry, and to worship together to give honor and glory to God. For additional emphasis she cited the hymn, "We Call Ourselves Disciples." The last verse is: "So now the vision brightens, the light of Christ burns still in hearts of all disciples to be the church God wills. From quiet meditation, and joyous hymns of praise, we go to do God's mission, lead us all our days."
The church started on Euclid Avenue in the mid 1800s and moved to its current location on Mayfield Road in the early 1950s. Over a year ago a transformation team approached the topic of a name change. They took a full year of discussion, small meetings, and prayer before the vote came to the full congregation. Perhaps surprisingly, the vote did not necessarily fall according to age or length of time in the church. Some teenagers were especially sentimental about the former name.
Pastor Kris stresses that "we are the same church with a renewed vision." They still house the Heights Emergency Food Center, and they will still open their doors for the one-day adventure of the Journey to Bethlehem. Fifteen members of the church traveled to Slidel, LA in September of 2007, to assist in restoring homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
However, new plans are on the horizon. On Sunday September 14, the church will have worship service at 11:00 a.m. followed by an outdoor party with food and fun, open to the wider community. Soon they plan to institute a monthly free meal open to anyone, to build a sense of kinship. And, they are building a new playground to be completed this fall on the corner of Yellowstone and Mayfield roads that will be accessible to the neighborhood. Access to the church is off Yellowstone Road. Pastor Kris wants everyone to know that they are welcome to worship on any Sunday. To me, her sermons are arresting, consoling, and challenging, delivered in a well-modulated tempo and tone, sometimes inviting an "Amen" from the congregation.
I asked about her impressions of Cleveland after spending her lifetime in Indianapolis. Other than a longer, harsher winter, she said that Cleveland has a lot to offer: theater, sports, restaurants, and the Metroparks. Nevertheless, Pastor Kris and her husband, David, are diehard Colts fans—though you can often find them at Progressive Field enjoying an Indians game!
For more information call Disciples Christian Church, 3663 Mayfield Road, at 382-5344.
Claudia Vondriska is living her dream, writing and living in Cleveland Heights.