Immanuel United Church of Christ

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About Us

Who We Are

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We confess the authority of one God. We affirm the primacy of the Scriptures, the doctrine of justification by faith, the priesthood of all believers and the principle of Christian freedom. We celebrate two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion.

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"We are an intergenerational family of faith committed to living the Gospel message of love. Like Jesus, we welcome all people unconditionally, and we believe in serving God by serving others as we strive to create a just world."

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Open and Affirming

We declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming congregation welcoming into the full life and ministry of the church persons of every ability, race, culture, age, gender identity, gender expression, and economic status. We are committed to modeling a community of faith and spirit that works toward openness and understanding, offering justice, healing, and wholeness to the life of all people. We believe that through our diversity, all can grow and practice a unity of faith that transcends our differences. Therefore, in faithfulness to the gospel and our United Church of Christ identity, and to the best of our ability, we promise to provide programs, ministries, and pastoral care to all who seek God in this place. We work to ensure all persons are welcome and that the church is accessible to all. Immanuel United Church of Christ boldly proclaims, "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

(Adopted September 11, 2016 by Immanuel United Church of Christ.)

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Founded in 1890 in Hammond, Indiana, this is the original church bell which called its founding patrons to worship. It calls us to worship today, giving us a rich history of more than 128 years. Immanuel moved to its present location in 1974 to better serve its growing and transient membership. The church has a long and storied history starting with German immigrants who formed the Immanuel Evangelical and Reformed Church. The United Church of Christ was formed in 1957 with the union of two Protestant denominations, namely the Evangelical and Reformed Churches and the Congregational Christian Churches. Immanuel is part of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the UCC. The church has evolved into a diverse congregation that believes "God is still speaking" to us today.

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Senior Minister: Rev. Merlyn Lawrence, M. Div., M. Soc. Sc.

Rev. Merlyn Lawrence is originally from South Africa where she grew up under the racist apartheid regime. Early in her life, she made a commitment to serve Jesus Christ and unashamedly witnessed to the presence of God in her life. The mid 1960s and 1970s was a time of political upheaval where hundreds of children were killed by the apartheid government bringing waves of protest across the country. Within this climate she got involved in grassroots community activism against apartheid with her faith a pivotal core underlining her work and ministry. She feels propelled to challenge the church to preach the gospel message of liberation.

Merlyn has served the church and denomination in a variety of capacities at local, association, conference, national and international levels. For two years she served as Moderator of the United Church of Christ's historic 26th General Synod presiding as moderator at that Synod, also the 50th anniversary in Hartford, Connecticut in 2007.

Merlyn holds a Bachelor's degree in Social Work from the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa, a Masters of Social Science degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and obtained her Master of Divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with decades of experience working with abused women and children. Merlyn has a deep passion for social justice, truth and reconciliation.

Merlyn is married to her husband, Dr. Oliver Lawrence, a university professor. They have three children and she is a very proud grandmother. She enjoys photography, photo-journaling, traveling, knitting, quilting and gardening and loves serving as a pastor.

Administrative Assistant.

Sandy Rusnack: Financial Analyst.

Judy Walker: Choir Director

Judy Walker is a Professor Emerita in music from Purdue University Northwest. In addition to directing the Upper Room Voices at Immanuel UCC, she is the Director of Music for the First United Methodist Church of Griffith. She has two degrees in music from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, which focused on choral directing, voice, and organ. Through Rotary International Judy has directed the Rotary World Choir at the Rotary annual conventions all over the world.

Judy resides in Munster, Indiana. She has five grown children and eleven grandchildren.

Organist: Joyce Harris

Hello! My name is Joyce Harris. I've been a pastoral musician for a lot of years now! Pianist, organist, and an accompanist for all manner of Families of Faith. San Damiano Franciscans, St. Matthias Catholic Community, St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church, and most recently, and currently, with First United Methodist Church, in Griffith, Indiana, are joyful moments for musical offerings! Valparaiso University and concert pianists in the City of Chicago mostly inform my musical interpretation. I have played professionally for years. From five year-olds to 95-year-olds, literally, in community theatre, live! I have performed from 1990 through 2020 for solo and ensemble elementary, middle, and high school students -orchestra and choral students - truly remarkable conductors and students, all. Lover God centers my life. I am also a Senior at DePaul University, a mom, a wife, (and, alas, a recent widow) and a lover of transformational change as the Holy Spirit leads me!

Custodian: Tom Wilborn

Tom Wilborn and Bill Petrites

When my (now) husband and I first started attending Immanuel UCC - I never thought we would be the first same sex couple to marry there. We have always felt welcomed. Also there are various giving opportunities ongoing all the time.

Council Members

President: Nelda Heller
Vice President: Jackie Koss
Treasurer: Lane Cornforth
Secretary: Cassie Browning

Christian Education: Linda Mangnall
Deacons: Alexis Ross
Elders: Bill Howarth
Trustees: Jon Hinman

Members at Large
Juanita Granthem
Pat Daniel
Debbie Howarth

Rev. Merlyn Lawrence: Ex Officio

With Gratitude

We would like to express our gratitude to Joan Chasanov who retired on June 7, 2020 from being our organist for 43 years. We wish you well as you move across the country and venture into new beginnings

We owe deep gratitude to Jeff Behling as well, who retired from his position as music director on June 7, 2020 directing the Upper Room Voices Choir and the Bell Choirs for the past 23 years.

We are grateful for your dedication and excellence with which you facilitated our congregational singing to bring honor and praise to God in our worship.

Many Blessings!

Highland Immanuel UCC 2201 Azalea Drive Highland, Indiana 46322. (219) 924-2100