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Community Renewal Society records, 1881-1978.

 Collection
Identifier: RG5061

Scope and Contents

The Community Renewal Society records document the history of the organization, originally known as the Chicago City Missionary Society, including management, finances, mission work, outreach programs, minutes, reports, and surveys from 1881 to 1978. Included in the records are correspondence, ledgers, reports, minutes, directories, newsletters bulletins, photographs, negatives, engraved print blocks, slides, and a compact disc. These records highlight the organization's missionary work in Chicago, Illinois in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries as it served the city's underserved populations. This mission evolved from providing services to predominately European immigrants in the 19th century to being deeply involved in issues surrounding racial, economic, and social justice in Chicago during the 1960s. Gaps of information exist in this collection as well as missing records.

Dates

  • 1881-1978

Creator

Restrictions on Access

Access to this collection is unrestricted and open to the public.

Restrictions on Use

Items in this collection are subject to U.S. Copyright Law. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine the copyright status of collection items and to secure any permissions necessary for their reproduction and publication. Requests for permission to publish material must be discussed with the archivist or librarian.

Biographical / Historical

Incorporated on December 31, 1882, the Chicago City Missionary Society (CCMS) was created to promote religion and morality through Congregational Churches in Chicago and its vicinity. The Society was established to tackle questions surrounding the influx of European immigrants to Chicago in the late 19th century. The original Executive Committee comprised three ministers, three laymen, and a professor from the Chicago Theological Seminary. Caleb Foote Gates was elected first President and Dr. Julius C. Armstrong first Superintendent of CCMS. Caleb Gates wrote of the Society's creation, "It will be seen... that the Society was brought into existence to meet a felt want, and for the discharge of a sacred duty that burdened the hearts of the churches."

At the CCMS's founding, there were thirteen Congregational Churches in Chicago. (Congregational Churches came belatedly to Chicago due to the Plan of Union between the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches.) The CCMS held strong early ties with the Chicago Congregational Club and the Illinois Home Missionary Society. The Society was interdenominational in the sense that it partnered with other Protestant denominations at times when there was a need and opportunity to provide service together. As Chicago's population grew and diversified, The Chicago City Missionary Society too grew to meet the need of the city's underserved and neglected.

The Society's core mission, serving the city's underserved populations, never changed though the way in which the Society accomplished it changed with the times and the needs of different groups served. The Society's various name changes throughout its history highlight this evolution as well as its own sense of self-identity. In 1919 the Chicago City Mission Society was renamed the Chicago Congregational Missionary and Extension Society (CCMES), in 1930 it was renamed the Chicago Congregational Union (CCU), and in 1967 it became the Community Renewal Society (CRS).

CCMS's early success led to an era of expansion during which it founded additional churches, Sunday schools, neighborhood centers and missions, kindergartens and industrial schools. Some early missions included: Bohemian Mission, Clinton Street Mission, Harrison Street Mission, Twelfth Street Mission, Ewing Street Mission and Church, Bethesda Mission and Church, and the Doremus Mission (organized by members of the Plymouth Congregational Church).

The Chicago Congregational Missionary and Extension Society's focus was more denominational though it was still ecumenically involved in the 1920s. During this time additional missions were established as well as the Onward Neighborhood House. CCMES opened the Tower Hill Summer Camp for Chicago city youth in Sawyer, Michigan and also began providing services to Chicago's growing Mexican population. In 1925 Victor F. Lawson, proprietor and publisher of the Chicago Daily News, died bequeathing the Society $4 million dollars. The Society created The Lawson Trust which allowed the Society to extend its services to all Congregational Churches in Chicago and the vicinity. In the early 1930s, the Chicago Congregational Association proposed a merger with the CCMES, but it was initially rejected. Instead, the CCMES constitution was revised to define the Society as a service based agency available also for churches within the Association, ushering in the name change to the Chicago Congregational Union (CCU) in 1930.

The CCU carried on its mission during the Great Depression and World War II when it assisted approximately 2,000 Japanese Americans relocated from the West Coast to Chicago after the attack on Pearl Harbor and hired a part-time Japanese minister to attend them. This ministry grew into the Issei-Nisei Congregational Church in 1948 which later changed its name to Christ Congregational Church located on the North Side of Chicago.

During the 1950s, Chicago's suburban population grew by 72% creating a massive turnover in the city and marking the age of white flight in Chicago. While the Society provided limited assistance to Chicago's historically black Congregational Churches and neighborhoods in the past, it became the Society's focal point during this era. The Society identified five areas it felt needed city-wide attention: juvenile delinquency, racial tension and conflict, housing and living conditions, schools, and crime and politics. In 1953 the Society developed a new facility for Outdoor Programs at Pleasant Valley Farm, in Woodstock, Illinois. In 1956 the Society began the Casa Central program to serve the growing Spanish speaking population of Chicago. Both of these programs would become major initiatives marking an increasing focus on social programs developed during this era.

During the 1960s, as the Society continued its commitment to the poor and neglected of Chicago it became deeply involved in issues of racial equality, poverty, and civil rights in Chicago. Reverend Donald L. Benedict directed the Society during turbulent years between 1960-1982 and oversaw the Society's name change to the Community Renewal Society (CRS) in 1967. This final name change represented a new philosophy of providing capital, technical, and consulting assistance to local neighborhoods and programs where the assistance would be applied to problems and issues locally. The Model Cities Project was a major initiative during this time and the CRS became deeply involved in issues of fair housing for all. The Community Renewal Society continues its mission today.

Extent

16.95 Cubic Feet (24 cases)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Incorporated on December 31, 1882, the Chicago City Missionary Society (CCMS) was created to promote religion and morality through Congregational Churches in Chicago and its vicinity. The Society was established to tackle questions surrounding the influx of European immigrants to Chicago in the late 19th century. The Community Renewal Society records document the history of the organization, originally known as the Chicago City Missionary Society, including management, finances, mission work, outreach programs, minutes, reports, and surveys from 1881 to 1978.

Arrangement

The Community Renewal Society records are arranged in five series. These series highlight organizational records, committees, subject files, vertical files, and other media. The records are arranged chronologically and alphabetically, where possible. Where not possible, due to custodial history, records retain their original numbering and order received at transfer to the Congregational Library. The slides and engraving print blocks were received in no order and have been arranged to best fit archival boxes.
Series 1: Vertical Files, 1881-1978
Series 2: Organizational Records, 1882-1978
Series 3: Subject Files, 1919-1962
Series 4: Committees, 1921-1976
Series 5: Other Media, 1954

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Patrons must wear cotton gloves when using photographs and negatives. Slides require the use of a light table and CD's require an optical disk drive to view files. Boxes 22 and 23 are heavy and contain engraving print blocks and slides, some of which are glass.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Original deposit from Chicago Theological Seminary arrived in 2011 and does not have an accession number. Additional accrual in 2014 was given accession number 2013-35. Research, Survey Department, and survey related information deaccessioned from collection and sent back to Chicago Theological Seminary in 10/2014.

Accruals

Additional accrual in 2014 was given accession number 2013-35. Research, Survey Department, and survey related information deaccessioned from collection and sent back to Chicago Theological Seminary in 10/2014.

Separated Materials

Research, Survey Department, and survey related information deaccessioned from collection and sent back to Chicago Theological Seminary in 10/2014.

Bibliography

"Our Mission and History." Community Renewal Society. 2017, http://www.communityrenewalsociety.org/our-mission-and-history

Smith, David Lee. Community Renewal Society: 1882-1982 One Hundred Years of Service. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1982; page 67.

Processing Information

Minimally processed in 2011 by Jessica Steytler and fully processed in Crisitna Prochilo in 2013 in 2014 after additional accruals. Minimally re-processed and updated for ArchiveSpace by William McCarthy, January 2018, using DACS Second Edition.
Title
Community Renewal Society Records, 1881-1978.
Status
Completed
Author
Jessica Steytler, Cristina Prochilo, William McCarthy
Date
2018-1-16
Description rules
Dacs2 2013
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English
Edition statement
Original Finding Aid created by Jessica Steytler and updated by Cristina Prochilo in 2014. ArchivesSpace finding aid created in January 2018 by William McCarthy

Repository Details

Part of the Congregational Library & Archives Repository

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