Reba Place Church (Evanston, Illinois, USA)

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The Reba Place Church, Evanston, Illinois, emerged from the Reba Place Fellowship (RPF), an intentional Christian community that began in 1957. The Fellowship's roots were in the Concern Pamphlets Movement engendered in 1952 by young North American Mennonite academics who were studying and working in Europe after World War II and into the 1950s. One of that group was John W. Miller, who returned to Indiana in 1954 to teach at Goshen Biblical Seminary. He helped provide leadership to a group interested in exploring intentional community which included community of goods in an urban context.

John and Louise Miller moved to Evanston, Illinois to 727 Reba Place in 1957, a house which was purchased by Mennonite Central Committee for use as a Voluntary Service (VS) base. By September 1957, the Millers were joined by John and Johanna Lehman and Ted Hartsough. Soon VSers arrived, providing a natural community of goods setting since VS salaries were paid to Mennonite Central Committee while community members received a minimal stipend for personal expenses. John Miller served as the unit leader "responsible for the development of a congregational Voluntary Service Unit and church mission under the joint supervision of MCC and the Elkhart Mission Board."[1]

By mid-1958, a core group at Reba Place considered itself a church community, though there were some connections to the newly forming Evanston Mennonite Church. John Miller, John Lehman, and Virgil Vogt (who arrived in 1962) served as early elders in the developing Reba Place group. Miller left in 1969 to teach at Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo, Ontario. Julius Belser became another long-time leader. Gradually the Fellowship added other buildings in the community to its holdings. As the group increased in size, it divided into house churches of a dozen or so persons and later added a "cluster" level.

In 1971 Fellowship members endorsed Virgil Vogt as a full-time pastor and leader at Reba Place Fellowship.

In 1973 the Fellowship needed a larger space for the whole community to use for worship; it began to hold services in a renovated storefront at Custer and Madison Streets. Across the intersection was a former warehouse and paint shop, which the Fellowship bought and renovated in 1975.

In 1976, Reba Place Fellowship affiliated with the Illinois Mennonite Conference of the Mennonite Church (MC) and the Illinois-Wisconsin District Conference of the Church of the Brethren.

By the end of the 1970s, the practical desirability of having a congregational identity distinct from Reba Place Fellowship led to the formation of Reba Place Church. After extensive discussion, in 1981 the Fellowship approved non-communal ways for persons to associate at Reba Place. Several leadership couples left RPF to spearhead the formation of the new "congregational" small groups and clusters in 1981.

By the early 1990s Reba Place Church had become a vigorous congregation with about 25 small groups and about 300 members. More participants were non-communal than were communal.

In 1995, Reba Place founded the Reba Place Church in Rogers Park, a multi-ethnic community in north Chicago. That congregation became the Living Water Community Church.

Reba Place Church has always been an activist congregation on social issues. One example has been prison ministries that the group launched in the 1970s and again in the 2000s. Reba Place has run a food co-operative and a thrift store. It was also innovative in worship style, introducing practices like liturgical dance.


  1. "Change of address." Gospel Herald (10 December 1957): 784.


"Evanston." Gospel Herald 50, no. 35 (27 August 1957): 757.

Jackson, Dave and Neta. Glimpses of Glory: Thirty Years of Community: the Story of Reba Place Fellowship. Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Press, 1987.

"Our history." Reba Place Church. 2007? Web. 8 February 2024.

Robinson, Laurie Oswald and Annette Brill Bergstresser. "Rebe Place Church establishes ministry to help former inmates." Missional Crossroads (December 2011): 3.

Schreiner, Sally. "Beyond ethnicity: the testimony of a 'convicted' Mennonite." Gospel Herald 80, no. 11 (17 March 1987): 177-179.

_____. "Reba Place near Chicago celebrates 30 years as unique 'house church.'" Gospel Herald 80, no. 47 (24 November 1987): 832-833.

Smith, Willard H. Mennonites in Illinois. Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History, 24. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1983: 216-217.

Vogt, Virgil. "When the church gets too big." Gospel Herald 77, no. 6 (7 February 1984): 89-91.

Yoder, John D. "Discipleship in different forms." Gospel Herald 77, no. 35 (28 August 1984): 597-599.

Additional Information

Address: 620 Madison Street, Evanston, Illinois 60202

Phone: 847-869-0660


Denominational Affiliations: Illinois Mennonite Conference

Mennonite Church USA

Pastoral Leaders at Reba Place Church

Name Years
of Service
Virgil Vogt (1934-2021) 1971-2002
Julius Belser (1931-2018) 1972-1997?
John E. Lehman 1972-1997?
Allan H. Howe (1942-2019) 1987-2000?
James Croegaert 1987-1997?
James C. Offutt 1991-1995?
Sally Schreiner 1992-1995
Robert W. Shuford 1992-1995?
George Providence (Assistant) 2000?-2002?
Ric Hudgens 2002-2009
Charlotte E. Lehman 2009-
Laura Kraybill 2022-

Reba Place Church Membership

Year Members
1975 110
1980 143
1990 210
2000 150
2009 135
2020 140

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published February 2024

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "Reba Place Church (Evanston, Illinois, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2024. Web. 17 Apr 2024.,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=178296.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (February 2024). Reba Place Church (Evanston, Illinois, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 April 2024, from,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=178296.

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