WHO WE ARE

We are a progressive Christian community that seeks to align our personal worship of God

with the collective work of restorative justice and transformational healing in the world. 

 

OUR VALUES

We believe in God

At the center of our faith is the surprising, unsettling, and deeply personal God found in the Bible, most profoundly revealed in the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are not interested in merely talking about God, but in encountering the Mysterious Force at the heart of the universe. This is a God who comforts us where we need to be comforted and challenges us where we've become complacent. This is a God who will not be confined to dogmatic teachings, nor even to the Bible. We believe that we encounter this God in nature, science, one another, and in other religious traditions as well. 

Each person is on a unique spritual journey

In this family of faith, we value faith as a journey rather than a destination. As such, we recognize that each person is at a different place on their journey. Here, you are welcome to belong, question, explore and lead whether you grew up in church and loved it, or you've had a painful relationship with Christians and church; you are welcome whether you feel your faith is unshakeable or you're not sure if you believe in God at all. You are welcome to join a community of people "on the way": encouraging and caring for one another, learning and growing together, and serving alongside each other as we change the world.

Building authentic community across our differences

We are an "Open and Affirming" congregation, which is our way of saying that we value diversity. In a time of deep division, we believe it is paramount to gather people from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and identities in order to build authentic relationships and community. We believe that the simple but courageous work of showing up and being together in this way is one necessary element in healing our nation and world's deep divisions.  

We believe in peace & justice

In this congregation, conversations regarding racism, sexism, poverty, war, immigration, homophobia, hunger, abuse, and a host of other issues are commonplace, both from the pulpit and around the table. We know that the Realm of God is not being experienced on earth so long as people are being hurt. With Martin Luther King Jr., we believe that we are all "caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny," and that "none of us can be free until all are free." Which means that, as a community, we have a God-given responsibility and mission to work for justice and healing in our neighborhood and beyond.

OUR STORY


The year was 1844. As the American economyfueled by the slave production of cottoncontinued to grow at a staggering pace, so too the United States barreled toward civil war. Many religious and political leaders turned to scripture to justify slavery and its expansion; but many others resisted.


In 1844, the First Congregational Church of Sycamoreour forefathers and foremotherswas four years old. That year, a man named David West and his wife Sarah moved to this frontier town and joined the church. With other members like Horatio Page, Jesse Kellogg and Henry West, they quickly became the vanguard in the local Abolitionist movement.


At a time of deep polarization in which many churches either supported or remained silent on the issue of slavery and the dignity of people of African descent, this church chose risky acts of generosity, compassion, and justice over fear and self-preservation.


In 1844, with no building of their own, First Congregational gathered for worship in the DeKalb County Courthouse. That summer, however, would be their last; their bold and public abolitionism, well-known throughout the county, got them kicked out and banned from meeting there in any form.


But that didn’t diminish their faith or derail their mission.


With no building and a future that was not at all guaranteed, this church and its leaders refused to cower in fear; instead, convicted and compelled by their faith, they became stations on the Underground Railroad. Even more, Deacon David West and others quickly became Conductors, transporting numerous escaped slaves through the end of the Civil War down Old State Road from Sycamore to St. Charles on their way to Chicago and freedom in Canada.


The question of slavery’s expansion or abolition continued to shape every realm of life throughout the nation, including churches.


In 1848, Illinois voters approved a new state constitution, which prohibited "free persons of color" from immigrating there and declared that slaves could no longer be brought into the state in order to be set free. Even as the stakes and risks rose, First Congregational Church continued to embrace the call of their faith to love their neighbor as themselves. Defying unjust laws, they continued to provide sanctuary to these so-called "fugitives"—these "illegals" whom they knew to be their sisters and brothers—and transported them to freedom.


But it didn’t stop there either.


In 1850, when the federal government passed the "Fugitive Slave Act" declaring it a federal offense to aid a runaway slave, Deacon David West and this church still chose to act boldly, to seek the welfare of this nation beginning with those who had been rendered least and last. Indeed, they chose to act even though it meant the possibility of not only fines or imprisonment, but also being attacked by pro-slavery vigilantes.


At this crucial moment in history, this church did not choose the easy path of turning its focus inward in order to take care of itself and focus on numerical growth. Rather, it chose to be a church freed from concerns of power and status in order to be freed for the work of liberty and justice for all.


In 1927, members of First Congregational Church of Sycamore and the Sycamore Unitarian Universalist Church voted to join forces. Merging and strengthening each congregation's anti-slavery commitment, they became The Federated Church of Sycamore.


This story of our founding represents the kind of faith we seek to embody today.


We continue to gather to worship a God who comforts us where we need to be comforted, and who convicts us where we’ve become complacent. In a world of deep polarization and hostile divisions, we seek to bear witness to a faith that doesn’t cower in the face of fear and is willing to take risks to live out Jesus’ call to “love your neighbor as yourself.”


At Federated, you will not find easy answers to life’s complex questions. Instead, you will find a community asking hard questions and striving to live out this kind of bold faith in our world today.


Like our world, we are not even close to perfect. Thankfully, we worship a God who loves to create beautiful mosaics out of broken people and a broken world; a God who claims us in our imperfections and transforms us into something new. We'd love for you to be a part of what God is doing here in and through us!


Feel free to contact our Pastor, Rev. Eric Ogi, with any questions or to learn more. He'd love to take you out for coffee or tea or grab a beer and talk more!

OUR TEAM

Rev. Eric Ogi, Pastor

Eric has served as our Pastor since August of 2019. His ministry focuses on connecting faith with issues of social justice, whether through passionate preaching, facilitating lively and thought-provoking conversations, or organizing communities of faith to advocate for issues affecting vulnerable people in our communities. 

Having experienced the pain of exclusionary religion first-hand, Eric works to create a truly inclusive environment.

In his spare time, Eric likes to play the guitar and write music, cook, travel, read, play with his nieces and nephews, listen to live music, spend time with his wife and best friend, Shrestha Singh, and play with their fun-loving rescue dog, Clooney.

 

For more about Pastor Eric, you can visit his website: ericjogi.com

To contact him, you can email him here.

Laura Wellendorf

Office & Communications Administrator

Laura joined the Federated staff team in March 2021 as our Administrator extraordinaire! In her “free” time, Laura enjoys spending her evenings making pizza with her husband at their family restaurant, Village Pizza in Malta. In her actual free time, she enjoys creating and listening to music, drinking coffee and keeping up with her friends and family.

Gary Mattin

Director of Music

Gary has been choir director at Federated Church since the fall of 1989, and in 2004 became the Director of Music. In addition to directing the choir, Gary is our organist and rings bells with the Handbell Choir. Outside of church, Gary serves as an accompanist for the Sycamore School District as well as Kishwaukee College.

Marilyn Montzka

Handbell Choir Director

Marilyn is the long-time director of Federated's handbell choir. Outside of church, she is also widely regarded as a piano teacher and viola player. She is a founding mother of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and of the Sycamore Private Lesson program, which evolved into the Sycamore Suzuki Strings.