Meet Rev. Catherine Erwin

 Meet one of our Pastoral Care Providers

The Board is happy to announce that Rev. Catherine Erwin, pastor at Faith Community United Church of Christ in Prairie Grove has agreed to provide pastoral care to our congregation as needed.  She will come to TOL on March 11th toward the end of our service so that you can meet her.  Rev. Catherine was ordained by The Fox Valley Association of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ UCC in 2010.  She is a 2008 graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary, Hyde Park, Chicago with a Masters of Divinity degree.  She graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts/Literature from Columbia College, Columbia, Missouri in 2004.  The Board is very excited to have Rev. Catherine available to you should you have any pastoral needs.  Please come meet her on March 11!

A few words from Rev. Catherine

” While you are on this exciting walk to define your future as a people of faith, I am honored to be walking with the Tree of Life Community as a Pastoral Care provider.  This is a unique situation, and the following, while not a classical Biography, may offer you some helpful insight into who I am and how I might be able to walk with you in this special time.

I come from a predominately non-churched family. Following the cultural norms of the time, my siblings and I were all baptized, eventually … (I was five years old), but in retrospect our family made it clear to me that “church” the institution, and God, the Creating Force of the Universe, were not one and the same.  My parents moved across town the summer between my 5th and 6th grade years. To help me stay in touch with my best friend from our old neighborhood, I asked my parents to take me to my friend’s church on Sunday Mornings.  They had a great children’s choir, and my friend and I had been singing together at school, making it a great way to stay connected during this transition.

The friendship faded, as young friendships can, but my love of church remained.  With my parents help, I continued to attend, and I voluntarily added 2 years of Confirmation classes with my peers to my schedule.  My parents produced the required proof of Baptism, but cautioned me that this Missouri Synod Lutheran church probably would not understand or approve of the fact that my Godmother was Catholic and my Godfather was Jewish.  As I knew my Godparents had taken their vows to care for me seriously, and both had exposed my siblings and I to the ideas and customs of their individual faith traditions, and I knew them to be kind, loving people, I did not share this additional information.  I learned early that there are many pathways to God, and I decided that, while all of them had some to much validity,  I was sure that none of them had it “quite right”. This is God we’re talking about. I don’t think we humans do, nor perhaps are supposed to, fully understand this core Mystery of the Universe, but that we are all called to try.  In voicing this, my reality, Lightening did not strike, and my walk with God continued, in my still unchurch family of origin, and with my loving mixed religious influences, all strongly underpinned by the beauty of the music of the church.

Music continued to be my linchpin to the church, and through music I stumbled into the UCC.  It was magical to find this denomination that ordained Women and Gays.  One that had the most liberal and open official theology and policies I had ever encountered.  Open and Affirming, the UCC’s program and policies of full, open declaration of the member churches embracing of all of God’s children regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification was an additional huge step in what I saw as the just and Godly direction. I got even more involved. Due to my increasing level of participation, I engaged in the denominations advanced Lay Leadership education programs. This eventually led to my call to seminary and Ordained Ministry.  I was excited to be on staff when First Congregational Geneva went through the discernment process of declaring themselves as Open and Affirming.

I love to read, especially Science Fiction/Fantasy and Mysteries. I confess to watching too much TV when time permits. In juxtaposition, my favorite exercise is walking. A mile plus daily, weather permitting. Music is a huge part of my life, and I have recently taken up the piano.  I will admit to missing being at school, in the educational forum, having spent many of my adult years back at school while working, and I continue to look for learning opportunities.  I feel it is imperative to continue to grow and challenge ourselves.

I have a professional background in Sales and Manufacturing (General Binding Corporation, Northbrook, Il), Commercial Lines Insurance (RHI Insurance, Lake Zurich, Ill) and worked as a Church administrator (First United Methodist, McHenry) and as an Instructional Aide and Substitute teacher (McHenry High School District) while obtaining my undergraduate and seminary degrees.”


What Are Your Hopes for Tree of Life?

Sunday, December 3, 2017, 10:45 am

What are your hopes for TOL? We’re focusing on HOPE for the month of December, and the Board will kick off the month with a service designed to bring us all into closer community through transparency and discuss our vision for the church’s future. Please join us as the TOL Board reviews our year and looks toward TOL’s future with HOPE and how everyone can contribute to our vision.

Office Administrator Job Opening

Office Administrator

We are a medium size, welcoming, liberal church located in McHenry, IL. We are looking for an Office Administrator to work with our minister, staff, and volunteers to ensure our congregation functions smoothly and efficiently.

Part time

Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Paid holidays and vacation

Key responsibilities:

  • Maintain administrative and financial records in PowerChurch system.
  • Perform accounting tasks, including payroll, payables, receivables, and reports
  • Perform clerical tasks related to communications, calendar, purchasing, and correspondence.

Candidates should demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills, experience in accounting practices,   computer proficiency, attention to detail, and an ability to meet deadlines.

Our working environment is casual, relaxed, and friendly.


Email resume to:

A Message from Carol Alfus

“There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”
~Margaret Wheatley

Dear Friends,
You are invited to join in a Congregational Conversation on Sunday, January 18, right after church. This is an opportunity for you to engage in discussion with Board members on various issues. This month we will be talking about our upcoming Pledge Campaign, and sharing what we learned from the Ministries Feedback survey. So grab a cup of coffee and join us in the sanctuary!

Notes from the President

From The President, Carol Alfus

For those of you curious about what was discussed at the most recent Board meeting, you’ll find “Items of Note” in two places: on the Board Board in the Social Room, and on our website. In these notes I do my best to summarize the discussions from our Board meetings. If you have questions about anything you read, don’t hesitate to ask me or any other Board member (And if you can’t remember who they are, you’ll find their pictures are on the Board Board, too!)

Also, I want to let you know that directly after the service on Sunday, January 18, we will resume our Congregational Conversations. Grab a cup of coffee and join us in the sanctuary. We’ll be sharing what we learned from the recent Ministries Feedback survey, and talking about the upcoming pledge campaign.

Items of Note
Tree Of Life UUC Board Meeting, December 16, 2014

Shopping card sales                                                                   

Paula Yensen presented her thoughts and a document she prepared entitled “Ethics in Fundraising.” Paula spoke to the Board to voice her objection to the inclusion of Walmart shopping cards in the fundraising cards we offer. Paula expressed her view that Walmart business practices are not aligned at all with the value we as UU’s aspire to and say that we are committed to following. The board had a very short discussion after Paula’s presentation and will engage the stewardship to consider how to move forward on this request.

Architect contract                                                                     

Randy Rapp and Annette Jasiota have been in communication with the architect regarding our current contract. While there has not been progress to moving forward with the building, the church has spent a lot of time and money, and Randy recommend we keep the contact open. Randy also recommends we keep Annette as our point person with the architect to remain in contact 2 or 3 times annually.

TOL Hiring Policy

Randy Rapp, on behalf of the personnel committee presented TOLUUC hiring policy. Some changes to the language were made, and the policy was approved.

Ministries Feedback responses

There were 26 responses. Many people said they valued Sean’s sermons, his leadership, vision and creativity. The work of our committees, especially the Community Care Committee was widely praised, and people were pleased with the variety of activities available at TOL. The area of growth for Sean that was most frequently expressed was increased interaction with members on a more personal level. For the congregation as a whole, the two areas of growth that were most frequently mentioned were more financial support, and wider participation in the work of the church from more of the membership.

Pledge campaign

The Board will provide direct support and be the voice for the 2015 pledge campaign. The idea is that Board members will include testimonials during worship announcements and guest appearances at pledge socials.

Staff bonuses

Rev. Sean reported that the staff bonuses were much appreciated. Sam Jones sent a thank you card to the Board.

A Letter from the President

November 5, 2014

Dear Friends,

Every organization, be it religious, educational, civic or business, needs to step back every now and then and ask, “How are we doing? Are we headed in the right direction?” It has been some time since the church has engaged in such a process. A full assessment of the life and ministries of a church is a multi-year task that requires a lot of planning and coordination. It is my hope that the Board will begin laying the groundwork for that process this year.

Until that time, however, we are asking you to share your feedback about all of the ministries of our church. This means all the activities that contribute to the work of the congregation, including, but not limited to the work of our minister. The work of the church is a shared ministry that includes so much–religious education, the running of the office, the music program, the Board, our committees (Building & Grounds, Community Care, Endowment, Fellowship, Green Sanctuary, Membership Development, Social Justice, Stewardship, Worship Arts) as well as all the various groups and classes that are offered here.

We understand that everyone doesn’t have knowledge of or an opinion on every aspect of ministry in of the church; please speak to those areas which you feel you can. Also, we are asking that responses be respectful and constructive, and that you include your name. Anonymous responses will not be considered. You may respond by filling out the form that will be included in the order of worship November 9, 16, 23 and 30, or via Survey Monkey:

All responses should be submitted by November 30, 2015.

We thank you in advance for your thoughtful responses and for providing us with information that will help us move forward together.

In spirit,

Carol Alfus ,President, Tree of Life Board of Trustees

From the Board: Results of Our Congregational Meeting

On June 1st, 2014 we held our annual congregational meeting. It was well-attended and lively. The congregation voted to elect our 2014 – 2015 Officers and Board members:

  • President: Carol Alfus(returning)
  • Vice President: Judy Stettner (newly elected)
  • Treasurer: Sandra Lott (returning)
  • Secretary: Scott Brix (returning)
  • Greg Dionne (newly elected)
  • Gale Harris (returning)
  • George (“Kaz”) Kazlusky (newly elected)
  • Sue McCowin (returning)
  • Ron Relic (returning)

We also elected our Nominating/Leadership Development committee:

  • Marcia Johnson
  • Lily Bailey
  • Kathe Lacey-Anderson

And a new Endowment Committee:

  • Ed Robbins (chair)
  • Whit Sears
  • Sandy Light

After much discussion, including a commitment from the board to solicit additional funds from every member to cover Fair Share costs ($88 per year,) the congregation adopted the budget recommended by the Board.    This budget projects a deficit of over $8000 and cuts all program budgets (and the minister’s professional expenses) by 15%. It was noted several times at the meeting that this is not sustainable and the congregation recommended that the Board lead a process for congregational reflection on and commitment to our mission and vision and  a strategic plan for going forward.

It was also noted that though we projected a similar deficit last year, (over $6000) if pledges are honored and paid on time, we will end this year with a surplus. We are currently about 11% behind on pledge payments. If that continues, we will not have a surplus, but will likely end the year slightly in the red.

If you’d like to make sure your pledge is paid up-to-date, please call the church office at 815-322-2464