The Mission of St. Augustine’s Church
We invite people into the midst of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. We connect with God and one another. We equip ourselves as disciples. We ask God to send us forth to share Christ’s mission of peace, service, and justice in the world.
At St. Augustine’s we strive to live into our mission with grace and generosity. Recognizing that we do not exist for ourselves alone, we support the ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and the broader Episcopal Church’s witness to the world.
The History of St. Augustine’s Church
As the community of Wilmette was incorporated following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, a few Episcopal families began worshiping in their homes, continuing the faith and practice they brought from their Chicago parishes. Twenty years later there were enough members to form a congregation. In 1892 they settled upon the name “St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church” in honor of Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. The life of the new parish, located in the heart of the business district of Wilmette, reflected the growth and development of the village.
One of the original leaders in the formation of St. Augustine’s was a layman, Thomas B. Morris. In 1872 he and his family moved to Wilmette from Chicago, where they had attended the Church of the Ascension. He was licensed as a lay leader by the bishop and conducted many of the early services for the emerging congregation.
Thus began one of the characteristics that has been present throughout our history – strong lay leadership. Ties with the village led parishioners to include records of Wilmette in the cornerstone of the new church when it was laid on April 3, 1898, along with, as an early history reports, “a copy of the prayer used by members of the mission daily for the erection of the new church.”
The formative years of the congregation saw a rapid turnover of clergy until the Rev. Charles Hubert Carleton became the sixth rector in April 1919. Carleton served the parish for thirty-two years and remains the longest tenured priest in parish history. He was a native of Canada and had strong ties to the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, which serves laymen in both the Anglican and Episcopal Churches. For several years, he edited the Brotherhood of St. Andrew newsletter which circulated in England, Canada and the United States. His ministry contributed to the healthy lay involvement that continues to characterize the congregation.
The ravages of time and fire led to the construction of the present nave in the late 1940s, followed by additions in the 1950s. A brief history written by a parishioner, Lesley D. Green, notes, “This was a period of new building. First came Puhlman Hall, the lounge, kitchen and church offices. Florence Puhlman was a generous donor for this construction. Then the rectory, the church school wing, the Lady Chapel and sacristy were built. In 1959 the sanctuary was remodeled and the altar placed in front of the choir. St. Augustine’s was the first church in the diocese to do this.”
Beginning in 1973 St. Augustine’s was fortunate to have two consecutive long term rectors, the Rev. Joseph Mazza, who served for eighteen years and the Rev. David Musgrave, who served for sixteen years. By providing consistent leadership and continuing to encourage and develop lay leadership, St. Augustine’s was among the leaders in the Diocese in diversifying clergy and in its involvement in the community.
Only a few years after the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women in 1976, St. Augustine’s sponsored one of the first female candidates in the diocese. The Rev. Janice Evalina Gordon from Great Britain was the first of several female priests who have served St. Augustine’s since the early 1980s. Over the years St Augustine’s has been fortunate to have had several female clergy on staff and in 2012, Kristin Uffelman White was called as our first female rector.
During the Rev. White’s six-year tenure, she helped grow the diversity of the parish by emphasizing welcome and inclusion. She also strengthened the congregation’s capacity for lay leadership and expanded the church’s role in the broader community on the North Shore and throughout the diocese. St. Augustine’s has called LGBTQ clergy and they have served our congregation in multiple capacities.
In terms of direct service to the community, St. Augustine’s has a long history of food ministry with local food pantries and soup kitchens. Starting in 2010, our congregational involvement expanded through becoming a host church for Family Promise, a ministry to homeless families who are in transition to becoming fully housed. Congregational involvement has also grown through additional outreach programs providing inter-generational opportunities for our congregation. Since 2012 St. Augustine’s has also taken a more active and visible role in the community promoting affordable housing, fair wages and benefits, and in being an active participant in the Chicago Diocese Peace and Justice Committee (particularly in addressing gun violence).
In the present transitional period, the vestry has called the Rev. Canon Suzann Holding as our Interim Rector. During Rev. Holding’s tenure, we have engaged in self-study and discernment in preparation of calling a new rector and have sought to continue building upon our traditions of being welcoming, open and affirming, empowering of lay leadership and striving to help build a more just and peaceful world.