Council Introductions: Audrey Downes

20161103_142554Audrey Downes is a lifelong member of Luther Memorial Church. She is currently an Assisting Minister, Healing Minister and Eucharistic Minister, a member of the Hand Bell Choir and WELCA and serves on the Investment Team. Audrey is also involved in the Drama Ministry program and helps with the Front Garden. She previously served many terms on the Church Council and was a Sunday School teacher. Audrey looks forward to serving again, engaging with our members and welcoming a new pastor to LMC.

Note: Audrey was elected as part of a slate of three at the October Congregational Meeting. She will serve on LMC’s Council for a two year term beginning in January. She will spend the next three months shadowing the current Council before her term begins.


Council Introductions: Toietta Dixon

14711616_10154173056778425_3189089082586526525_o-head-1Toietta and her husband, Michael, celebrated their 30th anniversary in August of this year. They have one child, Noah (18), who is a high school senior. Though she grew up in the Missionary Baptist church, Toietta converted to the ELCA when Noah was two, so that the Dixons could worship as a family. At other churches, she has been on the Council, headed the Worship & Music Committee, been a member of the Endowment Committee, taught the High School Sunday School class (along with Michael), and served as a Stephen Minister, as well as a variety of other volunteer services.

The Dixons began worshipping at Luther Memorial full time in September 2014, when they moved from northwest Connecticut to Chicago, and participated in the Great Conversation in the spring of 2015. At LMC, Toietta has facilitated a number of adult small groups, sings in the Chancel Choir, and is a Stephen Minister. She is eager to continue to serve in accordance with God’s calling.

Note: Toietta was elected as part of a slate of three at the October Congregational Meeting. She will serve on LMC’s Council for a two year term beginning in January. She will spend the next three months shadowing the current Council before her term begins.

Council Introductions: Nicole VanderDoes

nicole-vanderdoes-2Nicole VanderDoes grew up in a culturally Jewish, atheist family, and became a Christian in the spring of 1996 through the work of the Holy Spirit as she read the Bible. After having been involved in leadership at two United Methodist Churches in Ohio, Nicole moved to Chicago in March 2012 and began looking for a church where she could worship, build relationships, and serve. Nicole began attending LMC in December 2012, and continued attending because of LMC’s contemporary worship, strong Biblical foundation, diverse congregation, consistent member attendance—and, most importantly, because she saw great potential at LMC.

Since joining LMC, Nicole has facilitated small groups including the ongoing group that meets on Tuesday nights, helped lead the Spiritual Life Team for the Grace Overflowing capital campaign, oversaw the creation of two devotional booklets written by the congregation, performed in Embers, is working to help coordinate adult enrichment activities, and serves as an assisting minister. As a member of Council, Nicole will do her best to seek God’s wisdom and guidance, listen to others with respect and an open mind, and remember that all things must be done in love and for God’s glory. She will fail; she will often think she knows the best way, will struggle with delegation, and will sometimes become frustrated with inefficiency. But she will also engage in regular self-reflection and prayer to curtail the impact of those weaknesses on her ability to serve God and the people of LMC.

Nicole is an attorney who works to improve the American judicial system, is a Cleveland Indians, Ohio State basketball and football, and Blackhawks fan, and thinks everyone should love birthdays.

Note: Nicole was elected as part of a slate of three at the October Congregational Meeting. She will serve on LMC’s Council for a two year term beginning in January. She will spend the next three months shadowing the current Council before her term begins.

Council Introductions: Jeff Conway

I was raised FullSizeRender-2Catholic. As a child I attended mass every Sunday and went to CCD — the Catholic version of Sunday School — on Saturday mornings. I even served a three year stint as an alter boy.

When I went away to college, I stopped attending church on a regular basis. And, over time, became more distant and disillusioned with Catholicism. For the next 25 years or so, organized religion wasn’t a part of my life. That’s not to say that I lost my faith, I just didn’t see the need for attending church.

Fast forward to 2009, when my wife Tracy was pregnant with our daughter. We felt very lucky and prepared for her arrival. It was an exciting time! We lived in Lincoln Square, a relatively safe neighborhood with a good school across the street and a lot of parks nearby. It seemed like a perfect place to raise a child.

Yet there was one thing missing … we were both raised in a spiritual community, and we wanted the same for our daughter. For years, we lived just a few doors down the street from Luther Memorial Church. One Sunday, we decided to take a leap of faith of sorts, and stopped in to check out the 9:00am service. We were immediately impressed with Pastor Tim and the welcoming and inclusive nature of the community of parishioners. It felt like home. Thus we began our journey with LMC. We started attending regularly and eventually became members. Our daughter baptized on Holy Saturday in 2011.

Over the years as members of LMC, Tracy and I volunteered in the nursery and currently host Happier Hour. Most recently, I’ve been involved with the capital campaign and serve as a member of the communications committee.

Council Introductions: Justin Shimko

Wedding PhotoMy story is typical of many others. I was born into a Lutheran family, specifically the Missouri Synod, and did not question that aspect of it for many years. It was after my time in college and moving away from Oklahoma to Washington, DC, that my identity and my spiritual journey veered off course. However, these last few years have explained why that happened: having a community.

When Heidi and I started looking for a church to call home, we branched out of our comfort zones: LCMS for me and the Catholic Church for her. We found Luther Memorial and almost immediately recognized how unique this place was in the city. We really felt welcome here and challenged. Challenged in a way to make us think harder about our faith lives and how we were using it to help the world around us.

Today, Heidi has been working to build and grow the Wellness Initiative, providing alternative medical care to those who normally could not afford it, while I take time away from my career in political communications to give my time and talent in any way I can find it, especially when I am able to play my violin for the congregation during the Christmas and Easter holidays.

We have found the missing piece in our lives through Luther Memorial and could not be happier to be a part of this special and growing community.

Council Introductions: Meet Ben Dieterich!

1538839_10152767624597150_2275813049800351908_nI think like so many at Luther Memorial, I struggled for a very long time to find a church home. Growing up church was always a big part of my family’s life, from attending service every Sunday, to regular attendance and participation in just about every activity the church had, to (seemingly) endless hours of religious teaching. But as I grew older I grew less and less comfortable with my church. I found the answers I was given to my deepest questions at best unfulfilling, and at worst, knew in my heart that these answers couldn’t be right.

Further, I found my church to be very inward focused, looking to help members in need, sure, but with very little apparent activity looking outward to the greater community. By the time I reached my junior year in college I realized that I would never have the kind of blind faith that it seemed my church valued, and chose to take a break from church.

But cutting church out wasn’t fulfilling either. I would occasionally make an effort to reconnect, but every time I decided to give a new church a try, I would sit through one or two sermons and leave disappointed. This was how I spent my 20s.

As I entered my 30s I was at a new point in my life. My wife, Amanda, and I started looking for a church we could connect with. Many of the places we tried were disappointing, but helped figure out exactly what we were looking for. We need a church that at the bare minimum met two criteria. First, it had to be a place that respected diversity, not only in culture and lifestyle, but also that diversity must extend to religious beliefs. We needed a church that respected our questions, and one that didn’t demand that we conform to a specific set of answers.

Second, we needed a church with an outward focus; that spent as much or more time building a healthy greater community as it was focused on a healthy spiritual community. We needed a church trying to do good in the world, and not just waiting for the next.

Thanks to my cousin and her husband, we found Luther Memorial and Pastor Tim. In this church and this pastor, we found what was missing in so many of the places we tried before. We found a community that welcomed our diversity and we found a pastor that didn’t try to answer our questions but helped frame ways to think about them. And we found a church active in the world around it, making the world a better place to be for the broader community. We found a church that exemplified the values we want to impress on our sons, Lawrence and Odin.

I am, with the consent of the congregation, about to enter my third year as treasurer at Luther Memorial, and I am so happy to be a part of the exciting growth and change taking place here. I love that Council is discussing the big ideas about what our church community needs, and how we can get there. And I look forward to continuing to engage with the congregation as we go through this transition.

Council Introductions: Dave Byerly

Dave Byerly picDavid John-Frederick Byerly…I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on January 24th, 1974 to Kenneth and DeAnne Byerly.  I have two older brothers, Doug & Kent, one older sister, Karen, and six nieces & nephews.
Something you may not know about me, besides that I am your Council president — I’m about to become a great uncle.  At the ripe age of 40.  Ouch.
The beautiful Sara Aksamit Byerly has been by my side for nearly 14 years, married 11 of those years.  I’m lucky.
We are blessed with two children; Jacob, six, and Nathan, three.
If we’ve not met, stop me, say hello.  I’d like to talk with you.  And I’m always available for chat over a coffee or beer.