While it doesn’t look like much of anything is going on at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Washington Avenue – the vacant pie-shaped plot of land that forms one of Brookfield’s Eight Corners – a congregation is forming.
On land still eyed as the future home of a Methodist church and community center, Pastor Karl Sokol is inviting members of his own fledgling flock and anyone who might be interested to participate in Sunday Night Games.
It’ll be one of the more visible manifestations of Brookfield’s newest church congregation, which got its start in July 2011.
The games will be the usual lawn affairs – croquet, badminton, bocce. Anyone’s welcome to join in.
“If it works, as it gets warmer we’ll put up a sign and see if people show up,” said Sokol, whose mother, Linda Sokol Francis, donated the land to the Methodist Church in 2010 and 2011.
A more permanent presence on the property, set back a bit from the corner itself, will be a community garden that Sokol has planned to start up this spring. According to Sokol the cedar planks for the 4-by-4-foot raised garden beds have been ordered and should begin popping up in a couple of weeks.
In all there will be 20 garden plots on the property, which was cleared after Linda Sokol Francis purchased 14 separate zoning parcels along the west side of 3400 block of Grand Boulevard in 2009 and 2010. The properties once included two homes and two commercial buildings.
After assembling the properties, Sokol Francis and the congregation at the Brookfield United Methodist Church, located just down the street at 3541 Park Ave., hired an architect to design a community center/church building for that parcel.
But the village’s Plan Commission in 2010 gave it thumbs down, and the village board followed suit, dashing hopes both for the new church building and the existing congregation.
The congregation’s pastor was reassigned in June 2011 and the church on Park Avenue effectively ceased functioning at that time, when it was put up for sale. The Brookfield Public Library now has a contract to purchase the property (see story on page 1).
In July 2011, Karl Sokol was assigned to begin anew in Brookfield.
“The bishop appointed me July 1 to start from scratch,” said Sokol.
After spending seven years growing a congregation in Franklin Grove, a town of about 1,000 people out in rural Lee County, he came back to Brookfield to lead what is being called Compassion United Methodist Church.
It’s not an official congregation at this point. The congregation’s website calls it a “church plant” and the congregation has met at various places in the past nine months, including the Salt Creek Wine Bar in Brookfield and a LaGrange Park District building on East Avenue.
For Easter, the congregation is holding its own 5K run/bike/walk on the Salt Creek Trail and will meet for a 9 a.m. service afterward in the Brookfield Woods forest preserve grove along 31st Street.
The strategy has been for the 34-year-old Sokol to attract a younger demographic to the new congregation.
“We’re looking for people who have an affinity for me,” said Sokol. “It’s been going particularly well, and since July we’ve been slowly aggregating people.”
Sokol said about 30 people are “directly affiliated” with the group and participate in weekly worship services. The goal is to steadily grow a congregation that can sustain and maintain a building of its own.
And when that begins to take shape – maybe five years down the road, says Sokol – they’ll have another go at the Brookfield Village Board to try to convince them of their plan for the church/community center at Eight Corners.
“If this keeps plugging along, we hope to have a viable, thriving congregation,” Sokol said.