Lake Street Church of Evanston Calls a New Senior Minister
Lake Street Church Announces New Senior Minister, Advocate and Scholar of Church Social Justice Initiatives
Rev. Michael Woolf, Master of Divinity and candidate for Doctor of Theology at Harvard University, brings youthful energy and dynamic pastoral presence starting April 28, 2019
Evanston, IL — After an extensive national search process, the progressive Lake Street Church is thrilled to be welcoming Michael Woolf as its senior minister. Woolf, 28, conducts research on church sanctuary movements and campaigns for the Living Wage. He is also deeply committed to living out those values in the life of congregations which he serves, saying “I believe that the church should play a vital role in the communities that it inhabits.”
Reverend Woolf will first assume the pulpit at Lake Street Church on April 28th.
During his candidacy, Michael stood apart as a perfect fit with Lake Street’s dual commitments to social justice and inter-faith dialogue. Woolf writes, “I earned my MDiv at Harvard University School, an interfaith divinity school, where I trained with Buddhist monks, would-be rabbis and imams, spiritualists, mainline Protestants, and evangelicals. What I learned there was a deep respect for the Holy in all its forms.”
As an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA (a separate denomination from the fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention), Michael is a whole-hearted advocate of theological diversity. In his words, “In embracing a non-creedal faith and soul liberty, American Baptists have put together a post-modern toolkit where a community can read scripture and individuals can respect different interpretations of the text.”
Michael was born and raised in Alabama and earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Tennessee. Moving to the Boston area, he was awarded a Master of Divinity from Harvard in 2014, and is now completing his Th.D. dissertation there. Professionally, Michael has served as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Swansea and most recently as the Pastor of Green Street Baptist Church of Melrose, Massachusetts. In Melrose, he led the congregation to work with food pantries, cooperate with community leaders to combat the heroin epidemic in Massachusetts, and protest recent U.S. immigration policies. Where before, the congregation was more inward focused, it is now seen as an important community partner, a shift which led to new faces in worship, spiritual growth among current members, and increased opportunities for congregational involvement in peace and justice initiatives, civic decision making, and interfaith efforts.
When he is not involved with church activities, Michael likes to garden (“my hands are often buried in the soil”), listen to bluegrass music, and share laughter with his friends.
Michael will be moving to Evanston with his wife, Anna Piela, and daughter, Zofia, age 1. Anna, a native of Poland, holds a doctorate in Women’s Studies and writes about modesty and feminism in Islam.
Reverend Beth Dickerson has served as Interim Pastor at Lake Street Church for the last year and a half. The congregation is deeply grateful for her service.
Lake Street Church, which is guided by elected lay leaders, is a vibrant community of independent thinkers and learners with wide interests. Founded in 1858, the church is welcoming and affirming and includes members from sixteen spiritual traditions. Over the past two decades, Lake Street has embarked on a mission of spiritual and social reconciliation with the Second Baptist Church of Evanston. These efforts resulted last Fall in a Declaration of Sisterhood between Lake Street and Second Baptist, with additional steps being planned by a joint collaboration committee.
The current church building, which opened its doors in 1875, is Evanston’s oldest public building and hosts Connections for the Homeless. The Lake Street Church offers weekly services on Sundays at 10:30 AM and is located at 607 Lake Street in Evanston, Illinois.