Next Sunday will mark the closing of Greater Chicago Church. It has been a slowly fading candle since coming out of the pandemic and the wax is nearly gone.
“It has fought the good fight, it has finished the course, it has kept the faith; in the future there is reserved for us the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to all of us on that day; and not only to us, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Tim 4:7-8 NASB.
As humans, we often find ourselves in situations where our minds demand a concrete answer. There is a tendency to want the loop closed, to have a crystal clear reason, and to understand what went wrong. This will be challenging for those of us that hold to that principle. The reality is that it wasn’t COVID’s fault, it wasn’t the shift to Sunday evenings, nor was it the expansion towards a more inclusive faith. Furthermore, I refuse to blame those who left without notice, the leaders that silently stopped showing up or the givers that were exhausted. The reasons lie somewhere in between all of that and within the margins of us all. The flame is flickering and it is time to close it down.
Faith is complicated and tricky. It demands belief and forces you to wrestle with doubt. It stings you when you least expect it and bestows blessing that can only be seen in hindsight. Faith challenges you to hold the tension of the ‘here but not yet’ even when our senses scream that there is nothing there. Faith is elusive and can be held for a moment or a lifetime and suddenly change without notice. Yet, I choose to believe that even in the closing of this community that I so greatly love, goodness and mercy will follow this decision even though it feels like walking through the valley of shadow.
Countless times I’ve been asked how I feel about the loss of something so precious to me. Truthfully, I have no words that haven’t already been said before you. I’ve known this day was coming for 10 months and I’ve seen the distance growing between the cracks in the foundation. We have been held together by our love of community and belief that the communion table is for everyone. Church as a business doesn’t excite me. It has become too binary for my comfort and understanding of what Christ asks of us. This business requires full buildings, vibrant programs, engaged staff, and motivated givers. It feeds on the coercion of volunteers and the pressure of manufactured hype. Demanding that the leader cast a vision worthy of paying their salary. None of those things command my attention anymore and all that remains is my faith.
Greater Chicago Church put the building up for sale nearly 3 years ago and this beautiful old space at 705 Jackson Boulevard has found another lease on life with a vibrant community from the west side. The Movement Church has been leasing the space since the start of the year and signed the bill of sale on September 20, 2023 to become the new legal owners. I am overjoyed that a faith community will continue to meet under its stained glass and open heaven, just as it has for 100 consecutive years.
It’s important to Jen and I that we close this chapter down entirely. In order to complete the transition to something new the old must be shuttered so that whatever grows next is unencumbered by walls and limitations of what previously supported the church. We have spent weeks and months dialoguing about what that might be and how we might best serve those of us who still remain. This is another question we haven’t solved at this time. It will take the shouldering of that community who is with us still and has hopeful eyes for what’s next, of which we will be a part. And I believe we’ll find an answer because those who knock on enough doors always find the open ones. It will probably take a bit of time to seek it and see it take shape and we appreciate your patience as we figure it out.
October 22nd, 2023 will be our final service as Greater Chicago Church. We will gather at 6p to share stories, reminisce on the old days, and display ancient photos from the archives while we laugh in our building one last time. If you are planning to attend, please RSVP to Mari at office@greaterchicagochurch.
“I admit that I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose for which Christ Jesus laid hold of me to make me his own. I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. I run straight for the divine invitation of reaching the heavenly goal and gaining the victory-prize through the anointing of Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 TPT