My visit to DeerGrove Covenant Church

The very first thing I said as I stared at the staff home page for DeerGrove Covenant Church was, “Honey, this pastor is hot!”

Paul zipped right over to the computer and peered at the screen from over my shoulder. “Okay,” he said quickly, “You can go to church there.”

I actually had no idea where Palatine was when I first found the church’s web site. The Evangelical Covenant Church denomination is on the list of egalitarian churches at the Christians for Biblical Equality web site, so I visited their official homepage and was delighted to find a list of Covenant churches pastored by women. Why don’t more egalitarian denominations have these? (Probably because they know their lists would be embarrassingly short…) I think such a list is a great way to promote women in ministry. I began visiting the web sites of all of the Illinois churches on the list to see how far away they were from my home in Vernon Hills, and the church in Palatine was the last one on the list, so I was delighted to learn that Palatine is a mere twenty minute drive from my apartment.

I e-mailed Pastor Melissa and asked about visiting, and eventually I talked with her on the phone as well. She was pleasant to talk to, understanding of my interfaith family situation, and very good about answering all of my questions. I had never really studied the ECC before, and she says that the ECC is very good about promoting and encouraging women in ministry.

Here are the details about DeerGrove Covenant Church and the ECC which are relevant to my search:

  • The church has about 100 members. For comparison, my last church probably had 50-70 members, and having lived in Provo I’m quite used to churches with less than 100 in attendance on Sundays.
  • They currently meet in the auditorium of Palatine High School. Pastor Melissa says they will be getting their own building next year around Advent time. I like it better when a church has its own building, but my last church met in the basement of a bigger church and the church I attended in Provo met in a movie theater, so I’m used to attending churches which meet in non-traditional locations.
  • They have communion monthly, and sometimes more if it fits in with the theme of the service.
  • They don’t take a position on Arminianism v. Calvinism; they believe there is scriptural support for both and try to support believers from both traditions.
  • They practice both believer’s baptism and infant baptism. If a family wants an infant baptized, they’ll do it, and if a family wants to wait until a child is old enough to believe, they’ll let them wait.
  • They aren’t cessationist, but they aren’t the sort of church that regularly emphasizes and expects the practice of gifts of the Spirit, either.  (For example, the Pentecostal emphases on healing and tongues is not present there.)

So I dropped Paul and Harley off at Paul’s church this morning, then drove down to Palatine to visit DeerGrove. Pastor Melissa had given me a heads-up that the service this morning would be a little bit different because the youth group was running it. I said that was fine; I used to be a youth leader and had seriously considered becoming a youth pastor.

To give you an idea of what the service was like, I’m going to reproduce the program here, sans full names:


This morning in Corporate Worship:

Lord’s Prayer

Worship through Song

~ Your Love, O Lord

Welcome and Life of the Church


~ Lizzy M.


Worship through Song

~ I Have a River

Lord’s Prayer with response


~ Margo B.

Worship through Song

~ Come, Thou Fount of every Blessing

Lord’s Prayer with response

Worship through Song

~ We Are One in the Spirit

Prayer and Offering – Ben M.

~ Love


~ Breezy M.

Lord’s Prayer with response



The service opened with the junior high students reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and this was referred back to several times throughout the service, which gave the service just a touch of liturgy. Songs were led by a worship team consisting of people playing keyboards, guitars, and percussion, but the songs were announced in the program beforehand and interspersed throughout the meeting. All of the other churches I have attended have done a longer session of singing at the beginning of the service before switching to announcements and speaking, so this was different for me. Old favorites such as “Come Thou Fount1 were mixed with contemporary worship music such as Third Day’s “Your Love, O Lord,” which I thought was lovely. Towards the beginning of the service, one of the teens presented Pastor Melissa and her husband Frederic with a gift and invited the congregation to come up and lay hands on her and pray a blessing on her.

The junior high speakers were wonderful. They were passionate and energetic and completely prepared for the talks they gave; some of them were even better than some of the professional speakers I’ve heard. I can tell they have a great youth program at DeerGrove. Also, having attended a complementarian church for the last 14 months, I’d forgotten how great it is to have both men and women involved in directing, leading, and speaking at Sunday meetings. What a difference it makes! Complementarian churches really are missing out.

I was especially struck by the feeling that the structure of the service was rather LDS-esque, with the songs interspersed throughout the meeting and lay members being asked to run the service. My husband said the same thing when I first told him about it. He joked that they must be copying the Mormons, but I think there’s a better explanation for it. Take a look at this tree showing how traditional Christian denominations have branched out:

(Source: ECC web site)

(Source: ECC web site)

Covenant is an offshoot of the Pietist and Lutheran branches, and Mormonism has long taken its Sunday meeting cues from 19th century Protestant pietists. So it’s not that the Covenant denomination copies Mormonism; Mormonism copied the ancestors of the Covenant. As far as structure of worship is concerned, they’re distant cousins. Personally, I think that’s kind of cool, and could work very well for my interfaith family.

The last thing I noticed was that children ages 3+ stay for the first part of the service and depart for the children’s classes at the * in the program. That’s probably a good arrangement in that it lets the children and children’s workers participate in at least part of the main service, but it could be problematic for me since my daughter is so rambunctious. However, she already sits through her father’s entire service on his Sunday mornings, so we could theoretically work with it on the two Sundays she comes to mine.

Last bonus about the ECC: two members of The Fray are members of the ECC (lead guitarist Dave Welsh and drummer Ben Wysocki). That’s got to count for something.

Overall, I really enjoyed the service at DGCC and I think it could be a good fit for my family. If none of the other churches I’m exploring work out better, they’ll definitely be hearing back from me. Who knows, maybe I’d make a better covenant pietist than a broken Pentecostal.

Next Sunday, it’s time to visit Willow Creek North Shore!

UPDATE: You can hear the sermonette that was preached by Margo B. here.

[1] The version of the song I’m linking to is by LDS a capella group Inside Out and it’s my favorite version of the song, so check it out.


My visit to DeerGrove Covenant Church — 20 Comments

  1. Welcome to Illinois, Jack!

    Palatine isn’t far from where I live (it used to be in my ward before the boundaries were changed), so if you end up going back there and you want some company some Sunday I’d be willing to attend a service.

    I’ve been to the main Willow Creek. I enjoyed it quite a bit. A possible issue, however, is that they’re pretty anti-Mormon. I don’t understand why; Mormonism is like a mosquito to them being an elephant around here. But maybe this isn’t something the north shore branch emphasizes.

  2. I think you’re right about Mormon meeting formats stemming from older Protestant traditions, but it occurs to me to remark that the bulk of the early LDS converts came from English shores; not that many Lutheran or Pietist dropouts among them as I recall.

    Those British Saints are also responsible for Mormonism’s allegiance to Christmas celebrations.

    I could be wrong about the pedigree, but I’d have thought that early LDS Saints would have been more Anglican and Episcopalian in traditions, than Pietist. Am I wrong?

  3. What, no shout out to Methodist-style services? You know Joseph Smith dug Methodists.

    Jack, I’m excited that this church was so great. Looking forward to your next shopping spree :).

  4. Oh Sorry:

    Hey, how about them Methody Methodists? They sure knew how to throw a Sunday party worth copying!

    That good? ;-)

    (Yes, J.S. is on record as having been attracted to Methodism.)

  5. I’m so glad you enjoyed this church! It sounds like it might be a really good fit for you. I hope your next church visit is as successful. Oh, and fwiw, the two members of the Fray who you mentioned went to Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Adam’s hometown. :)

  6. #1 Kevin ~ Which ward building do you attend? The one in Schaumburg?

    What sort of anti-Mormon activity did you see at Willow Creek? I did talk to a North Shore area pastor on the phone about having a Mormon husband and needing a congregation where he can feel welcome and she assured me that they have people from all kinds of different religions who visit and they do their best to make them all feel welcome. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a huge mega-church like Willow Creek had dipped its toes into anti-Mormonism at some point though.

    We’ll see how it goes with them. If I do wind up going to Palatine, I would love to have you come visit. :)

    #2 Rob ~ I forget where I learned that Mormon worship is descended from Pietism. It would be an interesting question to answer, wouldn’t it? Off the top of my head, I think that Anglican and Episcopalian services are a lot more high-church than Mormon services are.

    #3 Whitney ~ I confess: I have never attended an actual Methodist service. Read a ton about them, had a Methodist high school teacher whom I adored, stayed overnight in a Methodist church once, but haven’t actually attended a service. Are they structured like this at all?

    Please don’t hate me, I’ll likely visit a Methodist church of some sort on my hunt…

    #6 Alisha ~ That is awesome! I had forgotten that Adam was from Colorado.

    #7 BrianJ ~ Glad you’re liking the series so far. I am trying to note things that my LDS readers might appreciate.

    If I wind up going to DGCC, maybe you can visit an ECC in Seattle for your Easter visit next year.

  7. I could be wrong about the pedigree, but I’d have thought that early LDS Saints would have been more Anglican and Episcopalian in traditions, than Pietist. Am I wrong?

    Yes, you most definitely are wrong. I think Mormonism has roots in Methodism (maybe more in theology than sunday worship format), and Methodism is an offshoot of Anglicanism, but much of Methodism is a reaction to Anglicanism rather than an adaptation of it.

  8. The family tree of Christianity is interesting. My eyes where drawn to the Armenian/Coptic branch of the tree. I am guessing it does not have much to do with Arminianism from Jacobus Arminius. It seems that Arminianism is on the Reformed branch of the Christian tree. It also seems like Calvinism is also on the reformed branch. Is that correct?

    I found a brief comparison of Arminianism and Calvinism here. Is this accurate?

  9. Yes, I attend at the building in Schaumburg.

    I think Willow Creek holds anti-cult classes or something. But on the plus side, one of their ministries invited the missionaries (who asked me to come) to talk about the church. It was sort of like an adult early morning seminary with about two dozen people in attendance, and lasted two hours early one Wednesday morning (they only meet once a week). One of the elders gave an hour presentation on the Articles of Faith, and then I answered questions for an hour. I had a good experience doing that.

    But I don’t really see you as a megachurch kinda gal…

  10. Sounds like this might be a good fit for you, Jack! How fun! Church shopping must be exciting.

    I confess: I have never attended an actual Methodist service.

    Geez, even I’ve attended a Methodist service. There was a female pastor and I really enjoyed it. :) Methodists are cool.

  11. I grew up in an evangelical denomination that was an offshoot of Methodism. Some of the similarities in both worship styles and theology with Mormonism are striking. Among them are that the church frequently (maybe once every couple months) had testimony meetings, and the LDS testimony meetings I now attend aren’t all that much different in style than those I attended as a child.

    Also, FWIW, the last evangelical church I attended during my lengthy conversion process to LDS Christianity was of the same denomination as the Deer Grove church. There were a lot of things about the denomination I liked. My guess is that the denomination would be a good fit for you — while it’s clearly evangelical, it doesn’t expect its members to adhere to any rigid statement of faith and you’re free to come to your own conclusions on a wide variety of issues.

  12. Pingback: Hitchens on the conundrum of female religiosity | Times & Seasons, An Onymous Mormon Blog

  13. A good friend of mine lives in Palatine. I should ask her what church she and her husband attend. Also had a good friend who lived in Palatine and attended the ward that met in Schaumburg, but he and his wife live in Chicago now.

    Completely unrelated, I noted that the tree diagram shows Unitarianism and Universalism as separate, but I’ve always known them to be linked. We did business with the local Unitarian Universalist Church here. Can anyone enlighten me in 100 words or less?

  14. #13 Eric ~ Your recommendation means a lot to me. Thanks for your input.

    #15 Mike H. ~ Huh? I totally don’t get it. But they did not have hymnbooks. Only songs projected on a screen.

    BTW, I’m updating the post to point out that the sermonette preached by Margo B. is available online here.

  15. ECC is liberal and often tied to the emerging church so… They are also restorationist which I think is great and of course the LDS is restorationist. So sounds good to me.

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