About Us

The purpose of the Chicago Urban Program is to raise up communities of faithful, hopeful leaders who recognize the Image of God in themselves and all people, and seek Shalom wherever they are called. Read about our values, history and community partners below!

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Core Values


​​Prayerful Activism

 as a paradigm for justice

We recognize the spiritual nature of all forms of oppression, exploitation, and injustice and engage in activism and organizing efforts rooted in worship of and dependence on God.

​Intelligent Love 

as a paradigm for compassion

We commit to loving people and communities privately through direct, interpersonal relief work and empowerment and publicly through persistent policy advocacy and systemic change.​

​Mutual Conversion

as a paradigm for witness

We pursue opportunities for all communities involved to experience conversions that deepen our understanding of and intimacy with God. ​

​Spiritual Resilience 

as a paradigm for lifelong discipleship

We develop healthy rhythms and disciplines of worship, prayer, praise, community, and health that root us in Christ, connect us to the Body and deepen our hope.


In 1981, InterVarsity staff, Jim Lundgren, moved to the South Side of Chicago (Morgan Park area) to serve as the first Area Director focused on Chicago and Northern Illinois. At that time, he invited Elward Ellis, InterVarsity’s first black BCM Director, to also serve as the Associate Area Director and they began traveling around the city of Chicago, meeting with black pastors in the hope of beginning chapters on several of the schools that serve a high percentage of black students. They formed a black pastor advisory council who helped them begin work on a few of these campuses. As they worked with the advisory council the pastors encouraged them to begin a summer project that would bring college students of all ethnicities to Chicago to serve alongside their churches and with Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) type ministries. Subsequently,  John Hochevar began the Chicago Urban Project, which began in partnership with Reverend John Porter who was the pastor of a south side United Methodist Church. John, who is endearingly known as “Hoch”, led the program for over a decade until the brilliant Reverend Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil became the director and expanded CUP’s effectiveness and impact, with John as her co-director.


Soon CUP began partnering with: Rock of Our Salvation Church and Circle Urban Ministries in the Austin Neighborhood, which were founded by CCDA legends Raleigh Washington and Glen Kehrein; Lawndale Community Church in the North Lawndale neighborhood, founded by CCDA legend Coach Wayne Gordon; and Grace and Peace Community Church in Humboldt Park/Hermosa Park led by Pastor John Zayas and Grace and Peace Community Center led by Pastora Iliana Zayas.

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