Churches like Resurrection Anglican, ministries like William Beasley’s Greenhouse and teaching from professors like Robert Weber, had been shaping lives for years through the Gospel as told through the lens of Anglicanism. One of these shaped lives was that of Aaron Damioni.
Aaron was mentored while in the Chicago area by then Rector, now Bishop, Stewart Ruch. In 2006 Stewart challenged Aaron to a process of discernment for ministry and church planting, but Aaron felt as though the time was not right. Schooling opportunities led him to Washington, DC where he connected with Dan Claire and the Renew DC movement. It was there that Aaron began to sense God’s call to planting in an urban setting take root in his soul. Aaron was ordained and began serving with Renew DC.
In 2012 Aaron and Stewart reconnected at a PEAR-USA gathering in Raleigh where they went for a run together as they used to do in Chicago. Stewart renewed his invitation from 6 years prior: Church of the Resurrection had 5 people ready and eager to begin a church in Chicago, but they needed a leader. After several long years of God’s cultivation, the time was right for Damiani to step into the work.
On Palm Sunday of 2012, Aaron and Laura traveled to Chicago to begin making relationships and to pray. It was through this time of praying and dreaming, that the group came away with a collective sense that it was at last time to plant in Chicago. With the support of Resurrection Church in Wheaton, RenewDC, and the Chicago Partnership for Church Planting, Immanuel Anglican had a strong foundation from which to begin.
Aaron and Laura moved into an apartment in Chicago September of 2012. Soon after, Aaron spent four weeks in NYC to receive training through Tim Keller’s Redeemer City to City. In January of 2013, Aaron began to build a launch team and a group of 70 people gathered to hear the vision of the church plant. Twice a month, the launch team met, from February to September, and Immanuel Church officially launched in October, 2013.
God is doing amazing things in their midst. Aaron recalls how in the summer of 2013, the plant was growing and had maxed out the space they were using: There were no prospective places in their area to move into. Though they felt confident in their call to Uptown, had no options on the horizon and were discouraged about the future. They committed to 40 days of fasting and prayer, feeling called to embrace dependency on Christ. As they fasted, they asked God to move in their weakness. During this time, there was a devastating shooting a block and a half from their meeting space.
The event, although terrifying, served to strengthened the community. Immanuel held services in the area of the shooting and another in the community most affected by it, and it was while there that they encountered a building that would profoundly suit their needs. An auditorium in a nearby high school, the space would allow the Eucharist table to be in the center–a fitting image for the posture into which the church felt their journey had guided them. A central, well-known institution, meeting at the high school would allow them to stay in the Uptown area and be accessible to a wider group of people in the city.
The vision of Immanuel is to seek God and put him on display through worship, mission, and discipleship. A regional church, the long-term goal is to plant additional churches in surrounding neighborhoods that are focused on the identity of each area. In faith, Immanuel is sowing and tending in Chicago, anticipating that God will continue to bring forth fruit as he has throughout the miraculous story of this church plant.