Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Crystal Beach Community Church & Me

On Sunday, Mom and I went to church at Crystal Beach Community Church. I don't attend church often and have many conflicts over what I believe religiously. For this reason, I haven't been a member of any church since I was in high school and had been confirmed at the First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights.

That said, I hate missing an opportunity to attend services at Crystal Beach Community Church. It just feels like home to me.

When I sit within its walls, I can feel the weight of the history of the church and my family.

My step-grandfather, Rev. C.W.A. Bredemeier was the founding minister and the first member.

My late Nana was the second member, taught Sunday School, and was the church secretary and treasurer. Nana also helped found the first CBCC Youth Fellowship, which met on Sunday nights for Bible Study at the church and every Saturday night down at former Seaside Hall for recreation and Christian fellowship. Obviously, Nana's Celebration of Life service was held at CBCC last month.

At Nana's Celebration of Life Service last month, a dozen people came up to me with the same story. "I'm a member of this church because of how your Nana greeted me and my husband 20 years ago when we first walked through the door. She invited us to sit with her and made us feel like we'd always been members." Wow. What a legacy. She will certainly live on for years and years. I felt her beside me on Sunday and as we sang her favorite hymn, "What A Friend We Have in Jesus," coincidentally one of the three hymns we sang.

Before he died in 1961, my grandfather, Jesse Paulk, also a member, taught Adult Sunday School, and sang in the choir. When he died in 1961, Nana brought all the money to the church that was donated to the family, saying "Jesse had been wanting us to start a Pew Fund so that we would have pews instead of the wooden folding Army chairs to sit on. Here is the money to buy the first pew." From that beginning, the church raised enough money to buy pews for the entire church and both choir lofts. Plus, there was enough money left over to have the church walls & concrete floor re-painted, as well as to build the current alter and lecterns, communion table and the tall wooden candle holders, all of which were designed by my step-grandfather and founding pastor, Rev. C.W.A. Bredemeier.

My mom sang in the choir, attended Sunday School and the Youth Fellowship Group, and was even married at CBCC to my dad in 1970 by Rev. Bredemeier.

I was baptized at CBCC by my step-grandfather Rev. Bredemeier on September 12, 1971, my mom's birthday, the anniversary of my grandfather's death, and just weeks after Rev. Bredemeier and Nana were married in the church . When I was a kid, I used to go over to the church and sit with the woman who was responsible for the chimes being played every night at 5:45 and could be heard all up and down the beach. Each night, she'd let me play the organ and let me believe that my playing was being heard throughout Crystal Beach, What I only learned last month is that the chimes had been automated since long before my days of playing them, so only the organist and I heard my "music."

No matter where I go, what I do, or even what my current internal struggle with religion, CBCC always feels like home and when I'm in Crystal Beach I have to go to church.


  1. Sounds like it is a "healing" place for you. A lot of your childhood and happy memories exist there... so what if it's a church. To you, it's not just that, but your Nana's second home.

    This was a beautiful piece on reminiscing.

  2. What a lovely post and remembrance... I must have missed this back when you posted it and am grateful that my link caused you to post *this* link.

    It is a reminder that church is not buildings and church is not an organization, but rather that church is ekklesia, the assembly, the people. And in this case, the church is very close to you because of your Nana, your step grandfather and of your experiences at that special place.


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