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Greendale Community Church – Still Growing and Serving!

Week #36: Since 1940 the Greendale Community Church has continued to grow, expanding its facilities and its service to the greater community.

History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.

History and Folklore!

Greendale Community Church, United Church of Christ - 6015 Clover Lane, Greendale 53129

An Open House this past Sunday, Jan. 27, celebrated the completion of the Education Wing at the Greendale Community Church. This wing provides a new main entrance more accessible to parking, nine new classrooms, a new nursery, and accessible bathrooms. Starting in the spring of 2002 the congregation expressed a desire for higher quality space for programs and education. History has shown that when this congregation believes in something they make it happen. Now, slightly over a decade later, the new Education Wing is a reality.

I toured the Education Wing on Sunday and it is just wonderful. All the classrooms are on the same level as the other main areas of the church. There are windows with a view everywhere, making it a bright, friendly space. What I also learned from Reverend David Gaeth, Senior Pastor, was that the rooms are used by community and church groups alike. Sunday School programs utilize the new rooms, as well as youth and adult church groups. Then the various church committees and boards meet in the rooms. And finally, community groups like the Greendale Quilters, Slo Flow Yoga, and TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) to name of few utilize the new space. I’m not sure where everyone met before. Already it looks like all the new space is being used. Maybe more space is needed?

When I sat down recently to learn more about the Greendale Community Church, the Pastor and a dozen of the parishioners had just returned from a trip to Staten Island. I was impressed that the congregation had responded so quickly to help an area devastated by Hurricane Sandy. I learned that the congregation has been taking mission trips to Staten Island for some time already. Working with Project Hospitality (an organization serving the homeless, chemically dependent and sick) there were Youth Mission trips in 2008 and 2010, and Adult Mission trips in 2011 and 2013. On this most recent trip half of the group worked in the soup kitchen and food pantry. The other half worked on behalf of the Steven Siller Foundation cleaning out a damaged house so it could be made habitable again.

But serving the community is nothing new to this congregation. There have been numerous mission trips to southwest Texas over the years, where an orphanage was rebuilt just over the U.S. border in Mexico. Working with the Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries, an addition was put on a house for family with a young disabled child. Also, the church is a sponsor of Open Arms Orphanage in South Africa. Closer to home, the congregation supports Guest House in Milwaukee throughout the year. Guest House helps men who are homeless and typically drug dependent become self-reliant, fully employed, and productive members of society. Pastor Gaeth believes that serving these men is great for the congregation and seeing the transformation they make is especially important for the youth of the parish to witness.  

The Greendale Community Church got its start as a Sunday School in the living rooms of Dora Ariens and Minnie Frew. The Sunday School grew into a worshipping group, and by the summer of 1940, 36 founding members signed the charter forming this new church. The members were searching for a congregation that could be compatible with a variety of Protestant traditions. In 1948 the Greendale Community Church affiliated with the Wisconsin Conference of Congregational Churches. The church property on Clover Lane was purchased in 1948 and the first sanctuary was dedicated in 1954. The church is now affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

Now for the rest of the story. The three wooden arches that are the focal point of the sanctuary were constructed (laminated) by the congregation in the Village construction shops (near Grange Avenue). On Christmas Eve 1953 the congregation gathered under those arches where the church was being built on Clover Lane, with traps as a ceiling, and worshipped in candlelight. In the 16 months of the building project, the members of the parish contributed more than 10,000 hours of labor. The first Education Wing was built in 1958, and expanded in 1963. The fellowship room was added along with major renovations in 1980. This year, the new Education Wing is open for the business of serving the community. And I doubt that the growth will stop here.

Greendale Playschool - 6015 Clover Lane, Greendale, WI  53129

One of the community organizations benefiting from the new ‘digs’ at the Greendale Community Church is the Greendale Playschool. Several of the rooms in the Education wing have been newly decorated by the school for their use as classrooms. I’ve seen them and they look awesome; bright and cheery. To me they look like a fun place to play, but the staff would like me to say they are also a great place to ‘learn’.

Greendale Playschool Inc. is an independent organization located in the Greendale Community Church building. It is a non-profit, nonsectarian preschool established in 1960 by a group of Greendale Community Church mothers. Playschool provides a preschool education in a nurturing environment, making the transition from home to school a rewarding experience for children and families. The college degreed teachers bring years of commitment and a wide range of experience to its Pre-3, 3-year-old, and 4K programs.

The Greendale Playschool prides itself with providing “Learning Through Academics & Play”. They have been serving the children of Southeastern Wisconsin for over 50 years, starting them on the path to academic and social success. Their fancy new classrooms haven’t changed that, but they sure are worth seeing.

But did you know?

“What is the most important thing someone should know who is not a member of the Greendale Community Church?” That’s the question I posed to Pastor David Gaeth. His answer, “The doors are always open at the Greendale Community Church. This has always been a socially minded church”. He went on to say that the church was “not here to serve ourselves, but to serve the greater community”. One of the church’s mission statements sums it up perfectly:

“No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here."

People, Past & Present!

Pastor Gaeth told me he is constantly amazed at the creativity and talents of the GCC congregation. I met one of those talents at the Open House on Sunday by the name of Chuck Foulke. Since 2002 Chuck was part of the team working on the planning for the education wing. In early 2011 Chuck
retired from a position as IT Facilities Coordinator at Northwestern Mutual. Then instead of settling into a lazy retirement he committed himself even more to the building expansion.

Chuck told me that once construction began April 16, 2012 he was on site every single day. He spent so much time wearing a hard hat that his family and friends thought that his head was shaped that way .…just kidding Chuck. His responsibilities were to coordinate the work of the architects, builders, bank, and congregation. To look at the final result I’d say he did an excellent job. Every project is a team effort, but even on a team there are champions who lead the way. Chuck was one of the true ‘champions’ for the Greendale Community Church’s Education Wing expansion.

As a follow up I asked Chuck if his projects at home had suffered during the construction, and would he be devoting himself to them now. He said he has plenty of unfinished and un-started projects at home, but during construction he identified so many more little projects that really, really needed to be done at the Church. His home projects will get done eventually. Yea, sure Chuck!

Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:

Week#37 Answer – Due to unplanned circumstances, nine presidents have taken the oath of office on dates other than the normal date of March 4th (prior to 1936) or January 20th:

  • John Tyler - April 6, 1841  (Death of William Henry Harrison)
  • Millard Fillmore - July 10, 1850 (Death of Zachary Taylor)
  • Andrew Johnson - April 15, 1865 (Assassination of Abraham Lincoln)
  • Chester A. Arthur - Sept. 20, 1881 (Death of James Garfield)
  • Theodore Roosevelt - Sept. 14, 1901  (Assassination of William McKinley)
  • Calvin Coolidge - Aug. 3, 1923 (Death of Warren G. Harding)
  • Harry S. Truman - April 12, 1945 (Death of Franklin Roosevelt)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson - Nov. 22, 1963 (Assassination of John F. Kennedy)
  • Gerald Ford - Aug. 9, 1974 (Resignation of Richard Nixon)


Week #36 Question – What year was St. Stephen the Martyr Lutheran Church dedicated? It is located on 51st Street near the corner of College Avenue.

** Week #36 contributors Sally Chadwick, Greendale Historical Society, Rev. David J. Gaeth, Chuck Foulke, Wikipedia.

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