The History of PRCC

Park Ridge Community Church has a long and rich history. Celebrating its 175th year in 2018, it was the first church established in Park Ridge and is the oldest Congregational Church in Cook County.


In 1843, a small group of early settlers along the Des Plaines/Chicago River portage decided to join together in worship. They set aside their denominational differences, and meet at the local schoolhouse for Sunday worship and church school.  

By 1848, the group had built a meeting house near Dee and Talcott roads. In 1868, Rev. J.H. Laird was hired as the first permanent minister, and the church became formally affiliated with the Congregational Church.

In 1873, thanks to a gift of land from Leonard Hodges, a land developer and the namesake of nearby Hodges Park, planning began for a new church on the triangle of land where our current church stands today.

When construction on this Gothic style church began in 1874, Park Ridge had a population of just over 400. When completed in 1877, the church seated 190. It was built with donated labor and bricks from the local community.


The church continued to grow and change with the local community. In 1913, the church established an affiliation with the Methodist Church and met as a federated Methodist Church for four years.  In 1917 the congregation voted to end that affiliation and again reorganized as a community church. The members of the congregation adopted a new constitution which included the election of Deaconesses.​

The 1920’s brought stability and growth with the hiring of the first associate minister and the leadership of Senior Minister Charles Clayton Morrison, the editor of the Christian Century.

In 1922, with the congregation numbering 200, Orvis Fairlee Jordan began what was to be a 35-year pastorate. Dr. Jordan oversaw many changes in the church: The Community House (Great Hall) was added in 1925; utilized for far reaching educational, service and social programs in the greater community.

This 1926 photo of the PRCC congregation depicts the original Gothic style church and the then 1 year old Community House in the background. The old Gothic Sanctuary was replaced in 1951 with the current Georgian structure.

Dr. Jordan was followed by ministers who continued the tradition of long pastorates. In 1957, Rev. Tom Maurer became Senior Minister and served until 1969. During Rev. Maurer’s tenure, the intellectual life of the congregation was deepened through his preaching as was the fellowship of the church through his implementation of numerous small “community” groups. He was succeeded by Jack Irwin who served until 1977 when Douglas C. Runnels began his 12-year ministry. During Dr. Runnels’ tenure, the church emphasized its ecumenical roots and individual spiritual growth. 

Paris Donehoo served as Senior Minister from 1991 to 2000. During his tenure, he encouraged growth of the Stephen Ministry program. 

He expanded the Adult Education Program and re-established Senior High Sunday School. 

It was during this time that the church strengthened its ties with the United Church of Christ.


The Reverend Brett W. McCleneghan, PhD, served from June 2001 through his August 2017 retirement. Brett was ordained by the Northern Illinois Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. From 2001, he worked to create a welcoming and inclusive place to worship, learn, serve, and grow in faith. He has sought to accomplish this in several significant areas of church life, beginning with the development of a holistic approach to worship that includes a wide range of music and worship elements. A commitment to developing adult education is reflected in the variety of classes he led as well as shepherding in a program to involve seminary interns each year from Garrett Theological Seminary. In these settings, Brett encouraged individuals of diverse experiences and viewpoints to join in conversation

After Pastor Brett's retirement, the Reverend Carol Hill was called as Senior Pastor in 2018.

Church Artwork

Artwork of Eugene Romeo

Long term Park Ridge resident and PRCC member, Eugen Romeo was a highly recognized sculptor in the first half of the 20th century. Working from his studio on South Courtland Avenue, Romeo using a variety of materials: bronze, marble, iron, and plaster.

Mr. Romeo’s work can be seen at the Park Ridge Public Library along with the Board of Trade, Shedd Aquarium, Soldier Field, Civic Opera House, Merchandise Mart, Blackstone Theatre, and the Wrigley Building. In the early 1950's he generously created several beautiful works of art for installation during the construction of the current church structure.
The largest piece, a bas-relief of Christ, with arms outstretched is installed in the Crego Chapel. An interesting and unexpected aspect of the bas-relief appeared after installation. The lighting illuminating the sculpture casts a distinct shadow to the left of the face that clearly resembles the profile of a child. Because of that, the Crego Chapel is often requested for baptisms.

The Reformers

Outside the church office there is a bas-relief titled, "The Reformers" combining 6 admirable figures in Church history. Below each figure is a quotation from the portrayed reformer: 

Baptismal Cross

There is a Baptismal Cross inlaid into the floor in the narthex. The symbol is actually two crosses, making eight ‘arms’. The number eight is the symbol of new life; the sacrament of baptism represents the new life of a believer in Christ. It also marks the eight day interval between Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and his resurrection. 


Upon entering the sanctuary, we are reminded of our baptism - our welcome into the beloved community by God's grace through the waters of baptism. The eight 'arms' also remind us that we come to this church from a wide variety of religious backgrounds and experiences.


When leaving the sanctuary, those same eight 'arms' send us outward to all points of the compass, to live out our faith in service to God's people wherever we may go.

Stained Glass Altarpiece

The focal point of the altarpiece in the Sanctuary is the Tiffany-style stained glass panel that depicts the baptism of Christ. This antique piece, circa 1909, was originally installed in the former First Christian Church of South Bend, Indiana. 


Two family gifts contributed to its' placement. The Tiffany panel was renewed and restored by Jan Steiner’s family in memory of her mother.


The stained glass window was gifted by the Steiner family to the church. Nancy Ady provide the gift of installation, commemorating the memory of her late husband, Bob Ady.​