Boulevard Presbyterian Church the Austin-Oak Park community renewed socially, spiritually, and culturally by the grace of Christ Thu, 13 Aug 2020 01:52:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Boulevard Presbyterian Church 32 32 130309501 Reopening Update Fri, 17 Jul 2020 21:00:32 +0000 Dear church,

Back in March, as our communities became more aware of the importance of limiting physical contact for the sake of our society’s most vulnerable, our church quickly moved to Zoom for our worship services. I know that worshiping on Zoom has its limits and frustrations, so I want to express my deepest gratitude for your flexibility and your willingness to stick it out Sunday after Sunday. On Zoom, it’s been encouraging to see people’s faces, to welcome new people to Boulevard, and to keep up our weekly practice of prayer, confession, hearing God’s Word, and singing praise together. As a church, we’ve found creative ways to serve safely through delivering groceries and meals, working in community gardens, making masks, writing letters to seniors, giving of our mercy fund, praying for racial justice, and doing community clean ups. Book discussions, Bible studies, prayer, planning, and counseling meetings have continued to happen virtually. Thank you also for continued faithful financial giving during these months. In so many ways, Boulevard has continued to be the church during these unusual and challenging months – something we ought to give God thanks for.

During the past couple of months our Reopening Team has been working through how we should reopen. I’m so grateful to our team of health care experts, staff, and other representatives from the congregation for their care, wisdom, and patience in this work. At the end of June, as we entered Phase 4, we started supplementing our Zoom worship services with in-person outdoor communion services. Now, starting Sunday, Aug 2, we are planning to shift our Sunday morning worship to hybrid outdoor/virtual worship services.

I imagine that for some of you it feels like we are moving too quickly and that for others of you it feels like we are moving too slowly. We want to take seriously both physical health and spiritual, social, and psychological health, which makes decisions like these complex. We also want to make it possible for everyone to connect in worship and other ways, regardless of if you decide to be a part of in-person gatherings. The fact that different ones of us would think differently about this is something I see as a strength of our congregation. I pray that amidst our differences, we as a congregation would always be “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4.2-3)

Starting Aug 2, we will offer two in-person services on Sundays:

  • 8:45am (masks required throughout)

  • 10am (masks required at entry/exit and whenever social distancing is a challenge)

Many thanks to the Scholtens, who have graciously offered to host us in their yard! Each service will last around 35 min, and we will provide Zoom access to the 10am service. If you wish to attend an in-person service, you will need to sign up for it in advance. Attendance will be limited to 50 people at each service. Similarly to how we’ve done the communion services, cones will be spaced around 15’ from each other to indicate where households should sit. We will share more details and the link for signing up as we get closer to Aug 2.

At this point we are not yet planning any separate in-person nursery or children’s worship. We will evaluate that as we get closer to the opening of the school year. At that time, the Reopening Team will be reaching out for input regarding what our best course of action is as the weather starts to turn.

If you have any questions, concerns, or creative ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Pastor Jeff

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A Letter from Pastor Jeff on Outdoor Communion Services Tue, 23 Jun 2020 21:00:33 +0000 Dear church,

Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey from the Reopening Team and special thanks to Evan Nielsen for putting it together for us. As you might expect, the results show that our congregation falls across a spectrum of readiness for in-person meetings. We want to carefully start offering some options for in-person gatherings for those who are ready, while also maintaining virtual options for those who are not. Also, we want to be careful not to develop “two congregations” – an in-person one and a virtual one. God has called us to be a church family together and we want to find ways to keep us all connected to one another. The days ahead will be, I trust, another way God continues to teach us to love one another.

We are taking our reopening in steps. In this letter, I want to let you know about the first step: in-person, outdoor Communion Services. These are not replacements for Sunday morning worship, which we will continue on Zoom for now; these are supplementary to the Sunday morning worship. Having the Lord’s Supper together is a physical, in-person sign and seal of the communion Jesus has established between us and himself and also the communion he has established among us. [more details, including a sign-up, were included in the original letter]

In Christ,
Pastor Jeff, for the Reopening Team

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A Letter from Pastor Jeff on the Practice of Lament Fri, 05 Jun 2020 21:00:50 +0000

Dear church,

Our joint Service of Prayer and Lament with Lincoln Square and Covenant this week was personally very powerful for me, as I’ve heard it was also for many of you. I’m so grateful to the diverse representatives of each congregation who articulated their laments for us all to hear. They named with vulnerability, honesty, and courage the things that are not the way they are supposed to be. They said things that I need to hear and say, which are often hard for me to hear and say.

I’d like to share with you some of their laments in written form. The authors have given permission for them to be shared. Please take the time to read them prayerfully and slowly. As you read them, there will be times when the lament puts to words exactly what you feel. There will probably also be times when that doesn’t happen. Both experiences are important. Paul tells us in Romans 12 that for love to be genuine it looks like rejoicing when the other rejoices and mourning when the other mourns. The Christian practice of lament involves not only us articulating our own laments to God but also us standing in solidarity with others, bringing also their lament before God.

I hope you find these laments helpful. One thing the church has to offer the world is genuine lament that tells the truth about ourselves and our world and about the God who hears and saves. Taking the time to lament guards against simplistic, rushed solutions as well as thin notions of God’s salvation. I talk about its impotence in this week’s episode of our new podcast.

Also, I’m sharing with permission a litany of lament that our youth group wrote together on 5/31/20. I’m so grateful for the heart, words, and prayers of our next generation.

Pastor Jeff

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A Letter from Pastor Jeff Thu, 07 May 2020 21:00:12 +0000 Dear church,
This week, I’ve been reading some essays English playwright Dorothy Sayers wrote during World War II. One line I’ve been meditating on is such good news for sinner and sufferer (me and you). She’s describing Jesus’ followers after his resurrection (also me and you): “They had seen the strong hands of God twist the crown of thorns into a crown of glory, and in hands as strong as that they knew themselves safe.”
We continue to monitor what Illinois, Oak Park, and Chicago are mandating and advising for church gatherings. As talk has begun about reopening phases and possible timelines, we will stay in touch with you. One real possibility is that we will have a gradual transition from (a) our current status of only zoom meetings to (b) a combination of zoom and limited size in-person meetings to (c) the freedom of unlimited size in-person meetings. The when, what, and how are things we will figure out together in the weeks and months ahead.
However it is that we do meet, the fundamental truths remain: we are Christ’s church; His Spirit is with us; in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, his grace is sufficient and He opens for us ways to rest in Him and to love Him and neighbor. I’m excited for us to keep reminding each other of these truths and to keep helping each other live in light of them. After all, His hands are strong!
In Christ,
Pastor Jeff
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A Letter from Pastor Jeff Wed, 08 Apr 2020 21:00:08 +0000 Dear church,

Many of the conditions in which we live and work have changed in the past month. Those changes might have us feeling disconnected, vulnerable, and lost from normal life, including from seasonal celebrations like Easter. Yet, amidst it all, the good news for us is that the story of Holy Week is the story of God coming to us in precisely the conditions of our lostness, frailty, and sin. Christianity is not that we find our way to Christ and his condition; it’s that Christ found his way to us and our condition. Our current trials make the Easter song even more poignant: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15)

I’m looking forward to journeying through the Holy Week story with you this week.

In the Hope of Christ,
Pastor Jeff

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A Letter from Pastor Jeff Mon, 30 Mar 2020 21:00:14 +0000 Dear church,

It was wonderful to see so many of you on the Zoom call for worship yesterday; you can find a recording of most of the service here. Given that social distancing guidelines have now been extended through April on a national level, we are now planning to worship by zoom on Sundays at 9am through April 26. The link and telephone number to join each Sunday should remain the same: click here or dial 312-626-6799 (ID: 382-089-960).

For next Sunday, which is Palm Sunday, we plan to share another home worship guide at the end of the week as well as ideas for kids to make their own ‘palm branches’ to wave during the service. Please let me know any ideas you have for how we can support each other in worship, community, and otherwise. We are trying to post all these resources at

There are times when I as a preacher am not sufficiently thoughtful in what I say, and an illustration in yesterday’s sermon is unfortunately an example of this. I spoke about our kids using a neighbor’s trampoline and didn’t give any context for how this fits with current social distancing requirements, which was potentially confusing. The context I should have mentioned is that our kids are, as far as we know, the only ones using the trampoline, and our neighbors stay in their home when we come to their backyard. Please accept my apology.

I’m excited for our church to pray and fast together tomorrow!

In Christ,
Pastor Jeff

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Biola’s The Lent Project Sat, 28 Mar 2020 15:36:43 +0000 Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture, and Arts has curated a collection of prayers, essays, music, visual art, and poems for each day of Lent. You can find it here.

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A Letter from Pastor Jeff Wed, 25 Mar 2020 21:00:54 +0000 Dear church,

A number of you have had ideas for how we can be helping one another and our broader community during the pandemic. We’ve decided to start highlighting particular opportunities we become aware of on our website (page coming soon). You can also see some below in this email. Please let us know if you have other suggestions.

Given the state’s ‘shelter at home’ order, we will be continuing Sunday worship from homes for at least the next two Sundays. This Sunday we are going to try a live service, starting at 9am and lasting about 45 min. As we have done the past two Sundays, there will be an order of worship at for you to use during the worship. However, various people will be leading various elements of the service live by a zoom call. Because of time lag, for most parts of the service everyone’s mic needs to be mute except the speaker’s. To join, download the free zoom app on a device and click on this link. Alternatively, you can dial 312-626-6799 by phone and enter Meeting ID 382 089 960. If there are technical difficulties and for those not able to join us live, we will make a recording of at least the sermon available on our website.

Please let me or a staff member know of any ways we can be praying for you or supporting you in other ways. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124)

Pastor Jeff

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A Prayer for Those Who Must Worship Alone Tue, 24 Mar 2020 16:44:35 +0000 Adapted by our own Evan Nielsen from “A liturgy before a meal eaten alone,” in Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey

You created us for companionship,
O God, for the sharing of burdens,
for the joining of celebrations,
for gathering in fellowship,
and so it is not unnatural
that we should feel a particular sorrow
when worshiping alone.

Sit with me and linger
in this solitary place, O Lord.
Sit with me as my father.
Sit with me as my brother.
Sit with me as my shepherd.
Sit with me as my friend.

In the absence of my church family,
may I know more fully your presence.
In this silence where there is no conversation,
may I more clearly hear your voice.

Use my own temporary loneliness
to work in me a more effectual sympathy
for others who are often alone,
and who long for the companionship
of their God and of his people.

When the quarantine ends,
let me be more intentional
in the practice of hospitality.
Let me sometimes be the reason
the loneliness of another is relieved.
Meet me now in my own loneliness, O Lord.
Meet me here in worship. I need your
provision for my life in this hour.


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A Letter from Pastor Jeff Thu, 19 Mar 2020 03:57:15 +0000 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
So the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
– from Psalm 103

Dear church,

Psalm 103 is a poem of thanksgiving. In times of fear, uncertainty, and change, we need the discipline of Thanksgiving to remind us of the bigger picture: God’s steadfast love reaches to the heavens. I encourage us all with friends and family to be telling God what we are grateful for every day.

As you are undoubtedly doing, our staff in consultation with our health care professionals continues to monitor the recommendations of social distancing. It’s odd that “social distancing” would be a way of loving our neighbors, but it is indeed a way for us to protect our most vulnerable. That said, we also need to remain connected to one another as a church and to remain connected to our literal neighbors, albeit in different ways.

We are continuing to suspend our regular Sunday worship services for the next two Sundays, March 22 and 29. We will assess at that point what we do next. We will continue to provide guides for worshiping at home or in small groups; we will provide a link to those on our site.

See below for other opportunities to connect virtually in the coming week.

Again, if you are struggling in any way – spiritually, emotionally, physically – please reach out to me, a staff member, or anyone at Boulevard. If these days bring financial hardship to you, please reach out to our mercy fund team. Also, this would be a great time to consider giving to the mercy fund (give to Boulevard by check or Zelle, noting ‘mercy’). Please let me know if you have any concerns or considerations.

In Christ,

Pastor Jeff

Zoom Meetings

Wed, Mar 18, 7-7:30pmPrayer Meeting (

Thur, March 19, 6:30-7:30amMen’s Scripture Reflection (

Thur, Mar 19, 7:30pmWomen’s Check-In and Prayer (

Fri, Mar 20, 12 noonTen Commandments Discussion (Rest;

Sun, Mar 22, 11am-noonTen Commandments Discussion (Honor Parents;

Sun, Mar 22, 4pmPrayer Meeting (

Sun, Mar 22 – Youth City Group (more info coming from

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