A crucial aspect for any community to thrive together is unity, and Sherman Church on Madison’s North Side is looking to provide that important tool through their Sherman Church Homecoming and Anniversary Celebration which will take place the weekend of October 8th and 9th. Sherman Church provides an opportunity for community worth celebrating, and Sherman Church Rev. David Hart feels this has mostly been accomplished through their dedication to inclusion, understanding, and fighting against marginalization.
“Sherman Church has really, in the last six or seven years, moved itself to be the progressive church on the North Side of Madison,” Rev. Hart tells Madison365. “We really believe in service, and we believe in the fullness of God. God is bigger than pronouns, bigger than hate, and bigger than -isms. We’re carving out a niche as that kind of church that serves and speaks truth to power that is holy in the community, and we help people find a home when they haven’t found a home in a spiritual setting.”
Sherman Church’s Homecoming and Anniversary Celebration will include a Day of Service on Saturday, Oct. 8, and a 69th anniversary Worship Service on Sunday, Oct. 9, 9:30 a.m., followed by Northside Unified — Sherman’s annual celebration of the richness and diversity of the Northside of Madison — at 3 p.m. Saturday’s events on the Day of Service will include a pumpkin patch outing for community youth from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and the 2nd Hand Chic Boutique. The pumpkin patch outing will take place at Schuster’s Playtime Farm and is open to all youth.
Reverend Hart’s work to guide Sherman Church in a direction that is open and accepting reflects the potential that empathy and care can bring. While the North Side of Madison is often characterized in more negative ways, Sherman Church stands as a counterpoint in showing that there is always more to be considered.
“I think the North Side of Madison is a beautiful place to live,” said Reverend Hart. “It has all kinds of walking paths, lakes, nature preserves, and neighbors in the community, but the North Side of Madison is other-ized in the calculus and discourse of Madison. It’s portrayed as a place of violence, or issues and problems when that’s not the case. It’s important for us to talk about the wonderful things that are going on, and the unity that we have on the North Side. We started Northside Unified and Homecoming Weekend years ago to speak to larger issues of unity.”
Along with challenging the perception of Madison’s North Side, Reverend Hart and the Sherman Church congregation also work to challenge the hateful and oppressive messages that can often stem from religious organizations. Messages that preach intolerance and exclusion are something that Reverend Hart was sure were not rooted in the same faith they believe in or practice.
“We’ve been trying to really reposition and re-characterize the voices and the issues that the Christian church speaks to,” Reverend Hart said. “Right now the loudest voices are speaking for all Christians and all spiritual people, and many of those voices are hateful voices. We say that if we read the scriptures fully, Jesus was always on the side of the oppressed, always on the side of the marginalized, always standing up for women, and always standing up for people who had a bad lot in society…So we try, as part of our mission, to dismantle that by being a counterpoint through our writings, through our actions, and through our positioning in the community.”
The 2nd Hand Chic Boutique at Sherman’s Church, which offers free gently used and new clothing for women, people who identify as women, and non-binary friends who feel most comfortable in spaces for women, will be hosting an event on Sunday, Oct. 9, 3-6 p.m. at Sherman Church. Sherman Church Minister Caitlin McGahan expressed just how important this opportunity to provide free clothing is for the community and congregation as high-quality women’s clothing across multiple sizes can be hard to find for an affordable price.
“The 2nd Hand Chic Boutique is something that’s near and dear to all our hearts at Sherman church,” said Minister McGahan. “It was created because, oftentimes, I feel like there’s a lot of shame or feeling bad about having to seek out free or low-cost clothing…We really tried to create a boutique experience when you come into the Fellowship Hall at Sherman Church. There’s clothing racks, and we offer sizes small through four-XL. I wanted to be able to offer plus-sized clothing, because it’s really hard, from what I’ve heard and observed, to find free plus-sized clothing in addition to finding free clothing. So we are really trying to provide gently-used clothing and also a lot of brand new clothing with the tags still on it.”
Providing clothing is just one way that Sherman Church looks to challenge marginalization and uplift the community. Taking a new perspective to faith and practice has also led Sherman Church to engage the community by highlighting the needs and experiences of people within the community.
“It’s really important that we bring attention to Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is in April,” Minister McGahan said. “Then in October, it’ll be Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Those are two really important things that I felt needed to have additional light shone on them. Also, I wanted to focus on women of color. I feel like there’s a lot of spaces that are created for white women, no matter what their economic situation is, so I just really wanted to make sure that we’re reaching out to the local communities here in town, and reaching out to nonprofits to make it easier for women of color specifically to have access to these clothes.”
The invitation to come be in community is one that looks to extend past the divisions often associated with religious organizations. Reaching out to multiple communities, including communities often excluded or alienated from religious practice, is a key component of Sherman Church’s mission, and Reverend Hart is sure that will be reflected at the Homecoming and Anniversary Celebration.
“We’re anticipating celebrating the fullness of the community with individuals who stop by, along with the music and robust conversations that we’ll have with some of the community leaders,” said Reverend Hart. “Individuals who are from different communities, queer populations, communities of color, and even younger people who have not felt at home … what comes across is the word of encouragement that we have provided for them because we’ve welcomed them in. I have found that quite a few people, particularly in the queer community and some communities of color, have not felt welcome in Christianity or in spirituality. Someone has made them feel marginalized or made them feel other-ized. We are just offering an encouraging word for them, and a nonjudgmental word that you don’t have to be this or you don’t have to do that. The creator accepts you just as you are.”
Minister McGahan shared the same sentiment of the celebration being a space for people to be themselves while seeking to be in faith and community. The long-term future of Sherman Church looks to include much of the same as they continue to collaborate within the community to provide welcoming, spiritual spaces.
“We always just have a wonderful time,” Minister McGahan said. “We’ve held this event before, and people will come and share their stories with us. It’s certainly not a requirement, and nobody has to share that they are a survivor, but it’s just such a wonderful time. When people do feel like they want to share their stories, we certainly welcome it. It can be really cathartic both physically with the new clothes that folks take home, and also just the ability to create new connections and be able to share their stories too…We really love working with the Northport Community Center and the surrounding elementary schools. We continue to have things around the holidays, too, and it’s been a really nice opportunity to have folks interested in helping, and then we’re able to execute. And so that’s what we’re going to continue to do for the future.”
This weekend’s Sherman Church Homecoming and Anniversary Celebration will also have music, a community meal, and some of Madison’s most dedicated leaders and community servants discussing the importance of unity in the northside community. Everyone is welcome. Sherman Church is located at 3705 N. Sherman Ave. in Madison.
“Right now, we have survived pandemics after pandemics. We’re still going through some things, and we still have a lot of issues to work on, but we’re blessed to be in this space and in this moment. That’s what I’m looking most forward to,” said Rev. Hart. “I think what we’re looking at for the future is the promise of not only the North Side, but also spiritual spaces. I think there are new products that we’re offering. The church has to speak to big issues, and not be afraid of speaking to issues.
“And not just speaking to those issues, but acting on those issues.”
To find out more about Sherman Church and keep up to date on events, check out their website here.