It all began as a dream some forty-five (45) or more years ago; a dream we continue to reach for today.
The dream began to take shape even before there was a congregation, much less a building to call home. In 1974, we were just a few families in the Orland Park area talking among ourselves about the need for a Presbyterian congregation in our community. Some families commuted back to Roseland for years! The more we talked, and the more we studied the future of this area, the more we were convinced that the time was right to begin reaching for the dream. But dreams are not reached overnight.
The process of starting a new church was a time-consuming one. There were surveys to be taken statistics to be analyzed, and growth potential to be charted; all very important considerations, to be sure, but frustrating when the need was immediate. The Chicago Presbytery responded to the idea by approving the need, but only with people-to-people resources. Their budget was planned two years out! They could supply preachers, and recommended that we contact the Mission Council 8 churches to ask them to include us in their budgets for two years. Many did! Some even beyond the two years!
January 5, 1975
Sunday worship and Sunday School began in a municipal building used for meetings. Ron Noteboom stored worship aids in his barn and hauled them to church every Sunday in an open trailer! We were on our way. It soon became obvious we could not rent other places for programs. A part-time organizing pastor, the Reverend William Kramp was hired in 1975.
We collectively had many years of experience in a large congregation at the Roseland Presbyterian Church, 112th & State Street. There, we had severed as session members, committee members, pastoral search committees, youth leaders, mid-week children’s group leaders, Saugatuck camp directors, youth mission trips (similar to ASP), singers, bell ringers, financial leaders, and family retreats. We left a church we loved to bring these things to a young new church.
With the winds of the Spirit at our backs, one winter evening a car full of us pulled up to a stop sign on West Avenue & 143rd Street. There sat a 100-year-old boarded up white framed steepled church. Someone in the car said, “Maybe we could buy this church.” Orland State Bank said, “Yes,” if we could come up with a cash down payment of $2,500 and the Presbytery would sign for the loan. Presbytery said, “Yes.” Five families pooled their resources and came up with a down payment.
The sanctuary inside had been vandalized, but the Lutherans had left behind a pulpit and communion table, sturdy pews, and a nice balcony. The site came with two other 100-year-old buildings, a paint store, a two-story manse, facing 143rd Street, and a very usable school building complete with a very nice kitchen and one bathroom.
The sanctuary had no bathroom, and Rev. Kramp’s office was in the furnace room. Decades of paint had to go. The pigeons in the belfry had to relocate. The Village of Orland Park had to do some sewer work under the basement. But, School District 135 had a “Lighted Schoolhouse” policy that allowed community groups to use its buildings after hours. The gymnasium, right across the street was perfect for midweek youth activities. Does anyone remember the dolly races? Help poured from everywhere. Members of Palos Presbyterian regularly helped with renovation…faithful to Palos, they believed there should be a Presbyterian presence in Orland. Every week or so, another huge box of gently used worship supplies would be delivered – hymnals, choir robes of many colors, stuff from Mission Council 8 churches, and even a bell for the belfry was donated by a family friend.
Names such as Crabbe, Zinkle, McGowan, Schultz, Kollath, Carlson, Kapp, Zander, Allison, Grajewski, Hajek, Jozwik, Langan, Razmus, Smith, Saxton, DeMent, Sieg, Bertucci, and more came into membership. With the vision and hard work of these few, we were chartered within a year and became The Presbyterian Church in Orland Park.
We are a church because God first loved us, and in response, we felt moved to share that love with people around us. We were and still are ordinary people – men, women, and children – brought together for a special purpose.