There’s a place where sinners go to confess their sins; a sanctuary of sorts for those seeking guidance or forgiveness, and once they’re done they expect absolution. Nevertheless, not all confessions are worthy of such forgiveness.
Churches can be the landscape for many events, they provide a setting for anxious couples on their wedding day, and they can also serve as a memorial background to honor loved ones who have passed. The Lilydale Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, 10706 S. Michigan Ave., is not only seen as a place of worship and praise, instead its a church on the South Side that takes the next step by offering a non-profit program for struggling youth, recovering drug addicts and ex-cons in search of redemption.
“[One of] the organizations [we put forward] is a non-for-profit group that ministers to people who are ex-offenders or ex-drug users that are trying to better their lives,” said Kimberly McEwen, executive assistant to the church’s pastor, Romell Williams, Jr., and church administrator. “They are trying to get some skills and things to help them to enhance their living conditions, and also to make job ready in the area of construction.”
McEwen said that the men and women who come to the meetings at Lilydale Progressive Missionary Baptist Church are getting more than just worship. She mentioned one program where patrons are “getting foundational classes for carpentry,” she said there is about 10 people in the class.
There are a countless number of churches scattered throughout the community of Roseland. A majority of these establishments, which run along the 106-113 blocks of South Michigan Avenue, are somewhat old-fashioned, with metal security bars, like a jail cell, on each window to keep intruders at bay, gated perimeters with six foot tall fences and old-school pastors who like to keep their sermons on the more traditional side of the Bible.
“The pastor, [Romell Williams, Jr.], is a fairly young pastor,” McEwen said. “He’s about 31-years-old, and we have a lot of members who are older. They have been here at the church for years and years, some of them since its inception.”
According to McEwen, the goal of Lilydale Progressive is to bring together all age groups, and with Pastor Williams being so young and talented, he has brought in a lot of youth to the church.
“He’s doing a great job bringing together two different age ranges, at least with people 40 and under, and I think that’s unique,” McEwen said.
While school, friends, family and home can give support to many people, churches can be a safe haven as well for misguided teenagers and adult men and women trying to find their way and place in the world.
“I think that every kid and every adult needs [some type of] structure,” said Antonio Ashford, 34, a resident on the West Side. “No matter which community you’re from or what church you go to.”
Being one of the actual ten participants in the non-for-profit group held at Lilydale Progressive, Ashford believes that many religious organizations can benefit the Roseland community in more ways than one.
“They can give jobs, provide food, provide clothing and they can do a lot for people,” he said. “That’s what balances out the good and the bad. We need spiritual guides as far as spiritual structure, and church is valid for the community.”
McEwen said that religion used to play a big part in Roseland, but she doesn’t think it does as much anymore.
“I think that we could be a great source of help to the surrounding area,” she said. “Unfortunately Roseland has a lot of violence and drug issues, and I think that the church should be more instrumental in helping those who are trying to change their lives, and also to those who need assistance.”
Depending on the point of view, religion in a specific area can be observed as both positive and negative. McEwen said that the culture’s view on religion has changed over the years as far as Christianity is concerned since Lilydale Progressive M.B. Church is Christian-based.
“We’ve failed to reach out to [people] like we need to,” McEwen said. “The first thing taught in the Christian religion is that your love and how you treat people shows [someone] how much you care about them.”
At Lilydale Progressive, they are working towards being more loving to the community and reaching out more, McEwen said.
“Church is a place of prayer, and any in neighborhood it should be a beacon of hope.”