Disciples Church Extension Fund

Rev. April McClure Stewart

When the new pastor of Memorial Christian Church walked by the “for sale” sign in the front yard in 2020, she expected a short, sad tenure with this small church in Peoria, Ill. Of course, that was before there were bouncy castles in the sanctuary.

Started in 1963, Memorial CC initially thrived in a transitional neighborhood filled with young families. Over the years, the neighborhood – and the congregation – aged.  Church participation and giving declined, along with building maintenance. At the start of Rev. April McClure Stewart’s leadership, the building had been on the market for three years.

Although the congregation anticipated losing their building, they were also open to exploring new ideas about how to use the space. When local groups approached MCC staff about renting their space, church leaders agreed – a decision that not only offset their building costs but also spurred them into creating local partnerships. And when the time came to renew the contract with the realtor, they instead turned to resources offered by Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF), beginning a transformation process of not only the church itself but also the surrounding community.

MCC’s Sweet Summertime party in 2023, where OSF Healthcare provided school physicals and dental exams.

In 2021, MCC engaged in DCEF’s New Beginnings service, which helps struggling congregations find clarity and envision change. At the same time, they created the Parish Nurse Ministry under the leadership of Cara Fetterolf, a registered nurse and MCC member. She arranged for the Illinois Department of Public Health to provide free walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinics in their building. Cara also worked with OSF Saint Francis Medical Center on a mobile clinic that provides various screenings from the church parking lot and fellowship hall.

As the New Beginnings process proceeded, the congregation discovered that their parish nurse program was both an outreach ministry and a central component of a new vision: to provide healthcare to the neighborhood, one of the most underserved in the city.

Common Grounds community garden



With a new mission guiding their ministry, MCC applied for and received a Mission and Ministry Grant from the National Benevolent Association for their WHOLE Initiative in February 2022, which enabled them to serve local children with free school physicals through the mobile clinic, host classes on aging, and eventually plant a community garden.

Even with the renewal of mission, the problem of the aging building remained. Rev. April again reached out to DCEF after learning from former Illinois-Wisconsin Regional Minister Rev. Dr. Teresa Dulyea-Parker that the ministry provides building planning services.

In August 2022, Advisors Jim Michel and Brock McCracken visited MCC as part of an Initial Consultation. They assessed the facilities and recommended a capital campaign to replace the roof.

“Brock and Jim had an investment in the church – they didn’t just point out what was wrong,” says Rev. April. “They inspired us to continue claiming the mission.”

And MCC realized – the building was key to the mission. The congregation had already made cosmetic improvements to the worship space, but the impetus for lasting change occurred when the Parish Nurse’s health ministry hosted a carnival to accompany free physicals for school children. On the day of the event, heavy rain poured down, but instead of canceling, MCC moved pews to the edge of the sanctuary and dragged the bouncy castles indoors. As children’s laughter filled the space, MCC’s members were reminded that their beloved sanctuary had been designed to be adaptable when it began.

“Removing the pews reminded everyone what had brought them to MCC in the first place,” remembers Rev. April. “Which was an openness to whatever came next.”

Memorial went from a congregation hampered by its place of worship to one with an asset that could leverage vital ministry in the community. This past spring, MCC raised $75,000 – meeting its capital campaign goal. Contributions have not only come from members but also from local organizations, who were inspired to give because of the church’s ministries.

MCC’s sanctuary before and after removing the pews.

“In 2018, the congregation borrowed money from members to replace their furnace,” shares Rev. April. “As of our last board meeting, giving has exceeded expenses by 105 percent.”

With a new calling in their hearts, the people of MCC voted in August to change their church’s name to Mosaic Christian Church, to honor the work they would be doing with their congregation, community – and God – to create something beautiful in Peoria.

“The congregation has made all the difference,” remarks Rev. April. “When you’re given another shot at life, the way to live into that is not to cling on to what has been.”

Like bouncy castles in the sanctuary…


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