In 1991 John Bedford, a charismatic Baptist leader from England, visited Reba and among other things lifted up Isaiah 54 as God’s prophetic word for Reba: Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. This word was received and over time became a shaping vision for what God wanted to do in reshaping Reba to become a center of evangelistic outreach.
At a cluster retreat in 1991 Anne Stewart and Julius Belser expressed their deep conviction that God wanted Reba Place Church to reflect in its life the mix of African-Americans and European-Americans in the neighborhood. The cluster, then the church leaders, then the congregation as a whole responded to this call, eventually hiring an experienced African-American pastor to take leadership. Developing common perspectives among blacks and whites proved to be far more challenging than anyone realized.
By 1997 what was most clear was that Reba had embarked on a course which involved profound changes and an uncertain outcome. The changes were coming in response to two major developments: the accumulation of some unresolved stresses from internal developments over the years, and the sweeping consequences of the commitment to become an evangelistic and an anti-racist congregation.
All of this led to the need for the widespread review undertaken by the Transitional Leadership Council in 1997. The TLC process was an explicit attempt to address some of those needed changes in the church’s life and to invent a new congregational structure that would facilitate them. But the underlying dynamics proved to be much stronger than the process created to manage them. TLC proved to be cumbersome and unable to cope with the continuing stresses upon the congregation’s life and ministry. By 1998 the process had reached an impasse.
In 1999 RPC decided to begin another attempt at reorganization and renewal. A Church Council of seven RPC members was elected and was given a mandate to write a new set of by-laws and appoint new pastoral leadership. In subsequent years the issues of leadership and mission continued to be a challenge. With the retirement of Virgil Vogt in 2002 and the appointment of Ric Hudgens as new Lead
Pastor, Reba Place Church entered a new chapter in the ongoing process of embracing of a strong heritage even while hungering and thirsting for God’s new day.
Reba Place Fellowship also went through extensive changes from 1997 to 2004. Two separate “clusters” were re-united after functioning quite separately since the 1980 launching of Reba Place Church. Greg Clark, professor of philosophy at North Park University, was selected as spiritual leader of the Fellowship. Cana Household formed in the large house at 727 Reba where the Fellowship had had its origins. Patterns of weekly and monthly life were established (Monday evening potlucks and seminars, monthly all-member meetings and potlucks). An intern program was initiated under the leadership of David Janzen and plans were underway for a partnership with The Ekklesia Project to establish a new Ekklesia House for area seminary students. In 2003 Allan Howe was selected to serve as leader of RPF. The Fellowship business office was relocated from 735 Monroe to 737 Reba Place. The Fellowship and the Church developed separate leadership circles and organizational patterns, even while maintaining very close and mutually supportive ties.