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Open Table UCC's community series continues

Published: Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017 8:27 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 6:54 a.m. CST

OTTAWA -Tom Gaulke is the second speaker in Open Table UCC’s community series on Peace and Justice. He speaks Thursday January 12 at 7:00 p.m. on the ground floor of Open Table Church at 910 Columbus, corner of Columbus and Jackson, Ottawa.

Tom Gaulke is in his 9th year as pastor of a small church, First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago at 31st and Lowe. First Lutheran has been an anchor in that community for 50 years.

He is navigating the now tiny Lutheran Church of America on a path toward relevancy and revival. His aims is to help reinvent how people interpret “church” and to welcome people from all backgrounds through Trinity’s doors.

“Much that I imagined ministry might look like has radically changed, but the message of grace remains central and increasingly important in a world filled with guilt, crushing expectations, and alienation,” Pastor Gaulke said recently.

From the star,t Gaulke got his hands dirty by working with long-time church leaders to respond to the needs of not only First Trinity but the Bridgeport community, which was diversifying racially, socially and economically and was on the cusp of growth. As pastor he helped usher the church into a new era by trying to make the lives of community residents a little easier.

He and partner organizations in Bridgeport formed Bridgeport Alliance, a grassroots group that promotes responsive government and an improved quality of life for Bridgeport residents. It currently advocates restoration of the 31st Street bus line. He’s the board president for Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, and serves on the board of IIRON, which trains people to participate in civic life through collective action. He, along with other religious and community leaders throughout Chicago, has been active in the Moral Mondays campaign that has organized demonstrations against Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts, which many believe will severely damage the lives of the working class and the poor.

“I am here,” he once blogged, “to create a world where those oppressed by abuse or other injustice are freed to speak out against injustice, and find others to join them in speaking out, giving them power - and a world where they can do this in the name of God.”

Doors to the church, on Jackson and Columbus, will open at 6:30. Admission is free and refreshments will be served following the presentation.

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