Sunday, October 25, 2015

Being Church in Logan Square, Chicago: An Ecclesiophilic Reflection

The procession to St. Luke's new location begins. (More photos.)

We said goodbye to our old church building in Logan Square today. Starting next Sunday, the St. Luke's Logan Square congregation will be begin worshiping in interim space (2837 W Armitage) as we figure out our long-term facility needs. (Another congregation, New Community, will begin worshiping in the building we've just vacated at 2649 N Francisco.)

The move has been the work of quite a few years, as the congregation has worked to figure out what's best for its mission in this place.

Through this transition, I keep thinking back to an explanation I heard a few years ago of what "church" means.  We were encouraged to look at the word ecclesia, which we now use as a fancy way of indicating "church" -- ecclesiastical, ecclesiology -- and notice that its original meaning was "to be called out" (from our comfortable dwellings) to a public place in order to do the work of the people. (The presentation was by Bob Sitze, at an ELCA gathering on community organizing directed by Susan Engh. For much more on the etymology of ecclesia, see "Ekklesia: A Word Study." )

Ever since I heard that, I have felt we have needed an ecclesiology -- an idea of what it means to be church together -- that lays stress on getting to where the people are, and on being wary of the ways in which we can become so cozy with the way things are that we forget about enabling everybody to take part.

Palm Sunday 2015 in Chicago: "We Who Are Many
Are One: From the Lord's Table to Every Table"
For me, some of the most important "church" experiences of the past five years have taken place not inside the church building at 2649 N Francisco, but on the grass along Logan Boulevard, or under the eagle monument in the center of Logan Square, or on the sidewalks of Lathrop Homes, or along Milwaukee Avenue. And they've included many people beyond the membership roles of our one congregation -- or of any specific congregation, for that matter.

I hope the months ahead will see us filled with inspiration about how to "be church" in away that emphasizes getting to where the people are . . . even if the result doesn't necessarily look exactly what people traditionally think of as "church." The question, I think, is welcoming the participation of more people.

In our service today, one of the points of continuity between past and future came right after the passing of the peace, when we made the announcement about "visitor cards." This week, it fell to me to make the announcement, and I said, "The theme of the day is change . . . but some things always remain the same! Just like every other Sunday, we want to encourage you to fill out a visitor card! Maybe today would be an appropriate day for everyone to fill one in, so we can be sure to stay in touch with you. And . . .  if you don't do it today, that's okay, too, because there will be plenty more chances to do it, starting next week, when we begin worship in our new space."

St. Luke's Logan Square: participants wanted . . . .
As I walked home from today's service, I replayed the service in my mind. "The part about the visitor card was pretty good . . . " I thought, "and yet . . . visitor card . . . ? Maybe it's not really a visitor card . . . . Maybe what we should be calling them is participant cards."

Yes: participant cards.

So: here's to a new era of participation in church in Logan Square in Chicago.  At a place called "St. Luke's" . . . and at many, many others, as well!

Related posts

Chicago, March 29, 2012 -- Members of congregations from across Logan Square and Humboldt Park streamed from their respective houses of worship to the Logan Square monument at the end of services on April 1 to Occupy Palm Sunday! Participants sang and chanted songs of protest and praise as they occupied the green space at Kedzie, Milwaukee and Logan Boulevard . . . .

(See Occupy Palm Sunday! in Logan Square)

Members of Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance (LSEA) gathered at the eagle monument in Logan Square on the evening of September 11, 2013, for a prayer vigil for peace in Syria.

(See Logan Square Laments With Syria )

We busted out of our big Neo-Gothic church building on Sunday and gathered for worship on the Boulevard. (Or, to be more precise, beneath the trees on the median alongside Logan Boulevard in Chicago, during the weekend-long "Boulevard Fest" sponsored by our congregation.) I've decided to embrace this new feeling of exposure and try to learn some lessons. I put them under the rubric "Congregations that worship in glass houses . . . (complete the sentence) . . . . "

(See Congregations That Worship in Glass Houses . . . )

¡Entren santos peregrinos!
¡Reciban éste rincón!
Que aunque es pobre la morada
¡Se las doy de corazón!

(Come in, holy pilgrims!)
(Receive this corner!)
(Because, even though the place is poor)
(I offer it to you from my heart!)

(See "Is there room at the inn at the CHA’s Lathrop Homes?" - Las Posadas 2013 )

I believe that once the Church comes out of the closet -- that is, once we start speaking quite openly about the difference between the world as we find it and the world as we believe God wishes it to be -- there is no way this old world will be able to stay the same.

(See Let the Church Out of the Closet )

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