Parish History

Dove: The Holy SpiritChurch of the Holy Comforter traces its founding back to the final year of the nineteenth century when services first began in the homes of 17 Episcopalian families in Kenilworth.  The Rev. Henry Gratton Moore, Rector of Christ Church in Winnetka walked to Kenilworth on Sunday afternoons to lead worship.  By 1902, the worshipers gathered with Moore were officially recognized by the Diocese of Chicago as a mission parish, with the Rev. Freeborn Garrettson Jewett as Priest-in-Charge.  The name of the mission was The Church of the Holy Comforter and the membership consisted of 28 families totaling 126 souls.

In its mission years the services had been held first in parishioners homes and later in the basement of the Kenilworth Union Church.  As the mission grew and moved towards becoming an official parish, the leaders looked to a permanent church building.  In 1903 the parish bought the site on the corner of Warwick and Kenilworth Avenue for $6,000.  The new church was dedicated on February 4, 1904, and in that same year the mission was made a parish and Father Jewett was elected its first Rector.  In 1906, he resigned due to poor health and was succeeded by the Rev. E. Reginald Williams.  Father Williams quickly faced his first test when a fire gutted the church and services had to once again be held in the Union Church.  Fortunately, through the hard work and generosity of parishioners the church was soon returned to its original condition.

The parish grew and prospered until the onset of World War I.  In 1913, Father Williams was succeeded by the Rev. Edward L. Eustis whose short rectorate was followed by the Rev. Herbert G. Gwyn.  From mid 1919 until 1923, Church of the Holy Comforter was led by a succession of Priests-in-Charge, and it was only through the efforts of the wardens and vestry that the parish stayed alive during these difficult years.

In March 1923, the parish welcomed the arrival of the Rev. Leland Hobart Danforth as the new rector.  For the next 33 years, Father Danforth led the parish through a period of growth both in the number of parishioners and the size of the physical plant.  The rectory and the connecting cloister were built in 1926.  To increase the visibility of the parish, Father Danforth moved the body of the "Children's Poet," Eugene Field from a cemetery in Chicago to the cloister garden where it remains today.  Later chimes were installed in the bell tower to ring out hymns to the neighborhood.  In 1948 a fund raising drive led to the construction of the parish hall building known as Danforth Hall.  By the time Father Danforth retired in 1956 the parish had grown almost ten fold.

The Rev. William Osborne Hanner succeeded as the sixth Rector of Holy Comforter on July 1, 1956.  During his fifteen years of leadership the church continued to expand.  The "Czech House" just east of the church was purchased and attached to the existing buildings through an educational wing known as Drake Hall.  The music so important to the worship service was also enhanced during this time when the long serving organ was replaced by a new donated Aeolian Skinner pipe organ installed in the sanctuary.

The seventh rector of Holy Comforter was the Rev. Wayne L. Johnson who arrived in 1971.  During Father Johnson's tenure the parish family grew and the buildings were renovated.  Major work was done in the rectory garden including the installation of a Columbarium on the south wall of the church.  A major project inside the church included refurbishing the parlor and restoring the sanctuary and the pews.  The most important change was moving the altar from the wall to a free-standing position so that the priest could celebrate the Eucharist facing the congregation. 

The eighth rector of Holy Comforter, The Rev. Robert K. Myers, first came to Holy Comforter as a Curate in 1975.  When Father Johnson announced his retirement in 1986, Father Myers was quickly selected as the new Rector.  Over twenty-five years, he led the church through a period of prosperity and change.  The Vestry was restructured to focus on the strategic goals outlined in a parish mission statement.  Major projects have reshaped the church buildings leading to an expansion of the nave, new office space and church school classrooms as well as a spacious new fellowship hall.  Most importantly, under Father Myers leadership, the church grew spiritually confronting the issues of the day with a spirit of fellowship and understanding that has allowed Holy Comforter to continue to be a central force in the lives of its parishioners. Father Myers' ministry focused chiefly in pastoral care and counseling. Holy Comforter remains open twenty four hours a day, a place of worship and of peace for its parishioners and the community.  

The Rev. Dr. Jason Lloyd Parkin became the ninth Rector of Church of the Holy Comforter on March 1, 2011.