Greendale Community Church is a church with an open mind and stands for freedom of thought and speech. We extend wholehearted fellowship to all people without regard to sect, class, nationality, or race. The object of this church shall be to help in creating a social order more in harmony with the manifest purpose of a just God and with the conscience and intelligence of sincere people. We believe that religion should bring all men and women into a common unity under God.
"No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."
Greendale Community Church was founded in 1940 by a group of women in Greendale who had the vision of starting a church community where "you are not told what to believe, but to discover God for yourself." These women and their spirit will always be with us. According to an article which appeared in The Greendale Times, our congregation was named "unique and different" because it was home to ten different denominations which gathered in unity to worship under one roof. Prompted by the urging of a local resident, in 1938 the Milwaukee County Council of Churches conducted a religious survey of the community. The survey revealed that a number of community members were searching for a congregation that could be compatible with a variety of Protestant traditions. Four established denominations, including Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian promised financial aid in establishing what would be called the Greendale Community Church. The original charter created in 1940 included 36 founding members.
A Tribute to Minnie Frew
It will be almost 24 years ago that I met the most incredible woman. At the time, she
was a spry 81 ½ year old. She moved like the wind, laughed often, and greeted every pe
rson she met. What struck me most about her was how incredibly accepting she was. I
remember sitting in Bible Study with her, and Larry and Lillian Phelan, and Frank Brey,
and Richard Singer. The discussions could get pretty heated . She would just smile, and
when she spoke, she provided another way – an accepting way – a love filled way to look at
the situation. Her comments had the power to simply disarm the conversation and br
ing it back to a sense of calm. If you haven’t figured out by now, the person I am speaking
of is Minnie Frew. Some stories about Minnie have become legendary, and since I was first
introduced to her when she was already in her 80’s, I must say that I am unable to separate
what is fact from what is fable, but at this point it doesn’t much matter. Because, e
ven if it is fable, in Minnie’s case it is truth.
Minnie was born in 1914. Her father was a bridge builder and travelled all over the country. She attended 14 different schools in twelve years. When it came time for graduation her family was living in West Allis (suburban Milwaukee) and here is where she stayed. She got married to James, and had two children. In 1938, Minnie and James moved to the Village of Greendale – a newly constructed housing development designed by Eleanor Roosevelt. She met others here in the village who would become life long friends – Helen Johnson, Dora Ariens, and Charlotte Bleistein to name a few. They were all cut from the same cloth. Minnie and Dora had children about the same age, and while pushing their prams through the new Village of Greendale, decided they would go to church together. The village had two – a Lutheran and a Catholic. When these friends attended worship, they felt one to be very doctrinal and the other dogmatic, and did not sense a place for free-thinking. Minnie sent off for a new Church School Curriculum that had just been developed by the Milwaukee Council of Churches. Minnie and Dora took turns hosting a new “Sunday School” in their living rooms . This group eventually became a worshipping community, and in July of 1940, Greendale Community Church was chartered. Minnie and Dora, and the group that chartered this congregation, always believed that the doors should be open to anyone, and that one of the purposes of our congregation was to bring out the best in everyone! Minnie and her accomplice Dora did this with aplomb!!!
This past summer, when the General Synod of The United Church of Christ was held in Milwaukee, Minnie was one of the light bearers at the opening service of worship. She was a spry 104 ½ at the time . She got to meet the General Minister and President of The United Church of Christ, and she was honored to be asked. Later in the summer, Minnie fell and broke her hip and was placed in the Muskego Care Center. She was visited by folks every day, the children of our Sunday School flooded her with cards and pictures, and the staff loved her. This past December about fifty folks from Greendale Community Church joined Minnie at the Muskego Care Center to sing “Happy Birthday” and to wish her well. She was so happy, and she shared incredible stories.
I will always remember Minnie as being the most accepting person I have ever met in my life. My colleague, Ann Utke, used to always ask the question on Confirmation retreats, “who makes you think of God when you meet them?” For me, the answer was and is “Minnie". No matter who you were or where you were on life’s journey, you were welcome in her presence. She would hold your hand, smile at you, and her eyes would glisten at the pleasure of meeting you. Minnie couldn’t help but leave huge impressions on all who met her.
This past Saturday, May 9, in the wee hours of the morning, when all was still and quiet, Minnie took her last breath and released her spirit into the world. I find myself sobbing in her absence . I don’t know if I will ever meet anyone as remarkable as her (or her cast of friends) again, but I will be on the look out. Until then, the only thing I can do is live her example. I can smile . I can be gracious. I can accept others . And who knows, maybe someday, someone will meet me and maybe they will think of God. I can try. Thank you, Minnie, for being an exemplary teacher, the embodiment of grace, and an incarnation of all that is good and Holy.
Due to COVID-19, a memorial service date has not been set. When the community is able to gather, we will convene to celebrate Minnie’s life. Until then, be love and light and grace in the world.
boards and committees
Official Board: Anne Frelka
Asst. Chair: Jim Berger
Member at Large: Maurine Prawdzik
Member at Large: JoAnn Richards
Treasurer: Vicki Wenke
Financial Secretary: Jerry Doran
Head Usher: Dick Frey
Community Life: Heidi Baudry
Decorating: Becky Litwaitis
Missions: John Bill
Music: Dawn Szczepkowski
Religious Education: Jackie Schultz
Staff Relations: Anne Frelka
Trustees: Brett Meyer
Trustees: Jason Rush
Senior Pastor: The Rev. David J. Gaeth 414.687.8755
Organist: Tom Reifenberg
Chancel Choir Director: Mike Jones
Bel Campana Director: Amy Meyer
Director of Religious Education: Nancy Krase
Youth Ministry Coordinator (SEARCH): Matt Wood
Church Secretary: Jan Cook
I have been the Pastor of this wonderful church for over 20 years now! That is a long time.
You may wonder what brought me to this community and what keeps me here. The answer is really quite simple: FAMILY.
Greendale Community Church is one big family. You see it in the way people greet one another. You hear it in the warm
conversation before and after worship. You can feel it in the warm spirit that pervades this place. Like every family we have
many members, but each member of this family is valued beyond measure. Why? Because each member of this family
is loved by God.
We try to show this love by how we treat each other, and we try to love this love so that we bring out the best in each other. We try to do this in our worship life, in our educational programs, in our music offerings, in our fellowship together, and in our outreach and mission programs. We love because we are loved. This is who we are. So, know that YOU are loved, and that YOU matter, and that YOU have a home.