The Community Renewal Society records are now processed and available for research. Donated by the Chicago Theological Seminary in 2011, this collection documents the history of the Community Renewal Society, originally known as the Chicago City Missionary Society, between 1881 and 1978.
Incorporated on December 31, 1882, the Chicago City Missionary Society (CCMS) was created to promote religion and morality through Congregational Churches in Chicago and its vicinity. The original Executive Committee comprised three ministers, three laymen, and a professor from the Chicago Theological Seminary. Caleb Foote Gates was elected first President and Dr. Julius C. Armstrong first Superintendent of CCMS. Caleb Gates wrote of the Society's creation, "It will be seen... that the Society was brought into existence to meet a felt want, and for the discharge of a sacred duty that burdened the hearts of the churches."
The Society's core mission, serving the city's underserved populations, never changed though the way in which the Society accomplished it changed with the times and the needs of different groups served. The Society's various name changes throughout its history highlight this evolution as well as its own sense of self-identity. In 1919 the Chicago City Mission Society was renamed the Chicago Congregational Missionary and Extension Society (CCMES), in 1930 it was renamed the Chicago Congregational Union (CCU), and in 1967 it became the Community Renewal Society (CRS).
These records highlight the organization's missionary work in Chicago, Illinois in the late 19th and 20th centuries as it worked to provide services to the city's underserved populations. Their mission evolved from providing services to predominately European immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to being deeply involved in issues surrounding racial, economic, and social justice in Chicago by the 1960s. Included in the records are correspondence, ledgers, reports, minutes, directories, newsletters bulletins, photographs, negatives, engraved print blocks, slides, and a compact disc.
In total, the records illustrate a changing city and highlight the ways in which the CRS helped Chicago's growing population via missions, outreach programs, and consultation. Beyond the wealth of early 20th century documentation, this collection is rich in recent records particularly from the 1950s and 1960s highlighting the struggle for racial, economic, and social equality in Chicago. The Community Renewal Society continues its mission today. For more information about its work, see the CRS website.
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