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Windy City Holistic Ministry

Chicago City Life Center reaches out to meet needs of South Side residents.

Chicago City Life Center is a beacon of hope on the Windy City’s South Side. Located in Englewood, one of Chicago’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, CCLC is home to several ministries that are an invaluable resource to the surrounding community.

“Our church is distinct because we serve people that churches don’t typically go after,” says E. Charles Moodie, who became CCLC’s lead pastor in 2016.

Chicago City Life Center was established in 1991 as an outreach to the nearby Robert Taylor Homes, where 20,000 people lived. Demolition of the housing project in 2007 displaced its predominantly African American residents.

“Our mission has always been to reach people outside of the church, whether that’s at-risk teens, people in gangs, those on drugs and alcohol, or the homeless,” says Moodie, 43. Moodie is with Intercultural Ministries.

Almost half of Englewood residents live below the poverty line, and the neighborhood’s median household income of $24,912 is considerably below Chicago’s median household income of $65,781. As a result, most of Chicago City Life Center’s ministries are geared toward meeting community members’ basic needs, in addition to preaching the gospel and discipleship.

“Jesus called us to do holistic ministry that cares for people, provides for them, and sees them for who they are,” says Mark C. Steven, CCLC’s outreach pastor.

The church offers a broad range of ministries and outreaches that are aimed at providing support and enrichment. CCLC opens its gym facility to the community to play basketball for free twice a week. The church’s preschool provides instruction and care for children from ages 6 weeks to 6 years.

A weekly youth service provides a safe place for local teens, who also can receive help with their homework and guidance from tutors who help prepare them for college. A team of volunteers from the church serve the surrounding public schools weekly by offering tutoring and a positive presence.

Every Tuesday evening, Chicago City Life Church hosts a community dinner that feeds over 70 people, most of whom are homeless. Participants gather to eat a meal while worshipping and listening to an encouraging message.

Outreach teams also take to the streets twice a week to give out food and other essential items. The outreaches offer the opportunity for the church to build relationships with people who receive meals each week. “We try to interact with the community we serve,” says Steven, 54.

The church also hosts several annual events, including Chicago Outreach, a weeklong summertime evangelistic experience organized in partnership with Reach the Heart, a Fargo, North Dakota-based ministry that sends teams.

Chicago City Life Center and Reach the Heart have worked together for over 30 years to sponsor the annual event that features food, music, and block parties. The 2022 outreach ended with more than 100 faith confessions and over 60 baptisms.

Leading an inner-city church isn’t without its challenges. The demands of this type of ministry means that Moodie, who is an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary, works at CCLC full time. Support-raising is crucial to sustaining a ministry like CCLC. “The church at large doesn’t always understand that we need missionaries in the U.S.,” says Moodie.

The nature of inner-city ministry can also camouflage its impact.

“People don’t always see the fruitfulness of inner-city ministry because it is often transitional,” Moodie says. “Once people get saved and cleaned up, they often leave the community. What changes minds is when people come and see what we’re doing, and they realize that we are making a difference.”

Despite the challenges of inner-city ministry, Moodie is determined to bring hope to Englewood.

“We minister from the cradle to the grave,” Moodie says. “We want to help the whole person and help them live the abundant life.”

Ally Henny

Chicago-based Ally Henny is a writer, speaker, minister, and vice president of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, an organization committed to encouraging, engaging, and empowering Black Christians. She has her Master of Divinity from Fuller Seminary with an emphasis in race, cultural identity, and reconciliation,