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The Rev. Delmar Meester, the Heights' Piano-Playing Preacher

His church, First Presbyterian, has stood longer than any other church in Chicago Heights, and it is deeply involved in outreach causes.

If the choir didn’t show up at First Presbyterian Church of Chicago Heights, there’s a pretty good potential backup plan.

The Rev. Delmar Meester is a concert pianist. 

Rev. Meester received his master's degree in piano performance from Southern Illinois University. He delivers Beethoven's "Piano Sonata No. 14" or Bach’s "Prelude in E-flat Major" as sweetly as his sermons. 

Rev. Meester fits like a glove at the first church founded in Chicago Heights. According to the church history, First Presbyterian was first organized Dec. 4, 1843. The founding of the church took place in a log cabin north of Sauk Trail. Several descendents of the charter members are in the congregation today.  

The first Boy Scout troop in Chicago Heights was founded by First Presbyterian and residents. Church members also were instrumental in establishing in 1907. 

The congregation still has a heart of service to the community today and continues to support the Jones Center and .

Patch sat down with the Rev. Delmar Meester to find out about the soul of the church.

Patch: How long have you been in Chicago Heights?  

Rev. Meester: Myself, I have been here 10 years. I started out as a music major in college with a piano major. I have a degree in piano from the University of Northern Iowa. Then I went to seminary at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. I served as associate pastor in Springfield about eight years. I then went to back to graduate school at Southern Illinois University, where I received a master's degree in piano performance. After that I served in a little Presbyterian Church in Michigan, worked for a small music magazine, served as interim pastor in Oak Park, served for four years in Florida, then 10 years here.

The church was founded in 1843. It was originally on Chicago Road. It came here in 1965, on Thomas Avenue.

What has been your most important contribution?

I think we’re known for the mission outreach stuff we do. We are active in the Jones Community Center. We support Respond Now. We have cooking teams that cook for the PADS organization once a month. The church is also is known for its music program, we have a wonderful choir. They do special cantatas in the Christmas season and in the Easter season. Every Maundy Thursday they do a choir presentation of some sort.

Who are some notable members of your congregation?  

One of the most well-known in the community was Gene Sigler, who recently passed away. He used to be the director at the Jones Center. He was also very active here.

We have lots of people who do many things. I can’t say one name because we have a lot of people who are active and committed to a life in this church. We are involved in many missions, both local and overseas.

Tell us a story about your congregation or church.

The interesting thing about this church is we have a number of Cameroonian members. So, we support Cameroonian missions. There is a growing number of Cameroonian members, about 25 or so from Cameroon that live in this area.

On Tuesday of next week, we are hosting the meeting of the Chicago Presbyters. In our denomination we have regional organizations. Chicago Presbyters encompasses the whole Chicago metropolitan area. We will have the moderator of the general assembly, who is Cynthia Bolbach. She will be here Tuesday and preaching at a 4 p.m. worship service, which is also open to the public. We are excited about that! This will be her first time here. There will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 clergy. Volunteers and myself will be cooking. We will have a dinner for those who attend. There will also be some Cameroonian dishes included. The congregation were trying to get an international flavor for dinner.

What are the plans for this church in the future? 

We’re in the process to help people in the congregation become very caring for one another. A kind of transformational ministry, small groups and prayer groups that become more intimate with each other. We recently did what we called a 90-day prayer adventure. We divided people into groups and encouraged them to connect and pray with one another. We had a kickoff Sunday for that. We’re trying to keep that going. I think that’s important, especially in the current time in our society. As people, we are separated. Getting them to connect with one another and keep in touch is a good thing. I’m proud of their mission. The congregation has come a long way.

Some of the ministries First Presbyterian Church of Chicago Heights include:

Holy Grounds: A space in which congregants and visitors may relax while enjoying fellowship. Every Sunday morning coffee, tea and juice are available beginning at 9:15 a.m.

Prayer Shawl Ministry: Meetings are at the church the second and fourth Wednesdays.

Presbyterian Women: The women in the church collect various items and pass them on for charity. Some of the items collected are: Box Tops for Education,  eyeglasses, stamps, pop tabs, ink cartridges and paper recycling.

Vacation Bible School: VBS will be held the week of July 18, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Neighbor to Neighbor Yard Sale: The sale will be held Saturday, July 16. People from the neighborhood are welcome to set up a table and sell items. A cost of a penny per dollar is asked for a donation to missions.

Outdoor Worship Service: Sunday, July 17, 10 a.m.  All are welcome!

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