First United Methodist Church of Evanston, Evanston, IL

About the church
Historic First United Methodist Church, founded in 1854, has provided leadership for the anti-slavery, temperance, peach and educational movements.  In 1954, First Church hosted all worship services when the World Council of Churches met in Evanston.  Located on the southern edge of Northwestern University, First Church is a growing community of faith known for its vibrant worship.  The music and arts program boasts four choirs, handbell choir, jazz ensemble, dance ensemble, and a liturgical arts group.


Embracing Traditions
When is it time for a church to expand its musical and liturgical repertoire to meet and reach the increasingly diverse community that surrounds it?  Can this work be done so that it marks the sacred time of past traditions, while pointing the church toward a new day?  How does the church find a rhythm between the ancient, which grounds us, and the future, which beckons us?  How can a church embrace these transitions and use them as a springboard for mission and outreach?  Where can historic churches share their wisdom and experience for the common mission of the Church?  These are the questions that Embracing Transitions will seek to answer for First United Methodist Church and its community.
Building on the growth of the congregation in the past sixteen years and the selection of a new music director following a recent retirement, Embracing Transitions will support the next step in the First United Methodist’s growth and outreach to the community.  The two-year project will

  • Examine the demographic changes in and around Evanston to target communities that are underserved by area churches.
  • Engage local religious leaders and members of the underserved communities in conversations about community needs.
  • Study the musical and liturgical traditions of these underserved communities.
  • Plan and ‘test’ the use of these traditions in a series of worship services, some that will take place during our Sunday morning worship service and some that may happen in conjunction with our mission and outreach ministries.
  • Create surveys, listening sessions, and other feedback loops to remain connected with the church’s current    worshipping community.
  • Launch a blog for other historic congregations who are seeking to connect with the transitions in their communities.
  • Host a conference to share what we have learned through the Embracing Transitions project.


516 Church St.
Evanston, IL

Team Members: 
Dean Francis, Senior Pastor and Team Leader

David Gocher, Director of Music and Organist

Eric Pryzby, lay representative, musician