‘He Has a Vision,’ by Samantha Malone

Suburban Life Downers Grove, January 6, 2022 (Article repost)

Downers Grove pastor Lou Bury leads several missionary projects

Pastor Lou Bury gets something from the food pantry while preparing meals as part of the Downers Grove Community Church Manna Ministry to feed the hungry. (Photo by Sandy Bressner, Shaw Media)

Once a congregation member and now a pastor, Lou Bury felt called to reorient the church to what he says is its proper mission – to be the hands and feet of Jesus and provide help to those in need.

Bury, who previously worked in the business sector, was a member of the Downers Grove Community Church for 35 years before he felt called to the seminary and began serving as associate pastor in 2018. At the height of the pandemic, he became the church’s lead pastor.

“The church as a whole gets a black eye because we have not always been authentic to the mission of Jesus Christ,” Bury said. “But the church is even more relevant right now because it needs to step up and fill the gaps.”

Bury largely has focused on mobilizing his small congregation and connecting the community to the needs he sees. He said partnership is of the utmost importance in creating an impact both locally and statewide.

The Downers Grove Community Church is engaged in a number of missionary projects and partnerships, including ones with Hope’s Front Door, Alex’s Mission and the Multi Ethnic Church of Mount Greenwood, 3509 W. 111th St., Chicago.

Pastor Lou Bury puts one of four turkeys in the oven as part of the Downers Grove Community Church Manna Ministry to feed the hungry. (Photo by Sandy Bressner, Shaw Media)

“We take our work very seriously. People say you can’t stop homelessness, for example, but you know, you can focus on the power of one and changing one person’s life,” Bury said. “God intends basic human decency, and I believe people are sick of the negative and want to experience God in some way.”

The church, 6600 Fairview Ave., had to pivot some of its mission work when the pandemic hit to continuing serving the community, such as its Caring Community Kitchen ministry. The ministry used to provide in-person dinners once a week, but now, with the help of some partnerships, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every Thursday, said Joan Fries, a congregation member who helps run the meal ministry.

Shawna Reidy, who has attended the church for 17 years, also runs the meal ministry. The meal ministry prep work begins as early as 6:30 a.m. some weeks so that the volunteers can serve breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m. and hot meals from 9:15 a.m. to noon. The day for volunteers is much longer though, and can last up to 12 hours, with volunteers delivering meals and ensuring excess food gets to local pantries such as FISH.

“Pastor Lou is looking for the right partners to help our church expand its ministry,” Reidy said. “His preaching is very real, and he gives us what we need to make practical applications and get out in the community to serve.”

Fries said Bury is constantly connecting the church with new partners to help reach those in need and expand its efforts. She said her favorite phrase of Bury’s is that the church is not just a building” and that the congregation must promote its love to others.

For organizations with whom the church has partnered, the relationship is invaluable, said Janell Robinson, executive director of Hope’s Front Door, which describes itself as a “first responder to neighbors who are facing financial and/or medical crises.” Robinson said without partners such as the Downers Grove Community Church, Hope’s Front Door could not provide the services it does to the community.

“They’re incredible responsive, and one of [Bury’s] strengths is getting the community involved and mobilized,” Robinson said. “He has a vision…and he really understands what community means and how the different entities in a community support each other.”

With congregation members such as Fries and Reidy taking on leadership roles in ministries, Bury said he is able to focus on the growth of partnerships and new ways the church can serve. He said he hopes to one day start a shower or laundry ministry and is only able to focus his attention on that because of dedicated disciples in his congregation such as Fries and Reidy.

Bury said his role is simply to cast a vision and articulate the “hows and whys” of the vision to the congregation. Then, he prays.

“We have a small congregation, but no one ever says no.” Bury said. They’re such wonderful people. I couldn’t do any of this without them because we are a team. People are so excited about serving in this way that now I can focus on starting new ministries and we can continue making disciples.”

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