Monday, January 19, 2009

Church in the City

I stayed at my parents' house this weekend because the heat in my apartment could not keep up with the windchills downtown, and also so I could use my car on Saturday. Parking in the Chicago Loop is so expensive that my car has to live in the suburbs this year. It's not as frustrating as I thought it would be, and I've really embraced public transportation, but that's a story for another day.

The point of that intro is that on Sunday morning, I was getting ready to go to church with my parents, and an idea struck me. I asked my mom if she was completely committed to going to the church that we've attended since I was 3 that morning, and it turned out that she had the same idea as me. We finished getting ready, packed my bags into her car, and drove into the city to go to the service at the church I've attended a couple of times in the past month.

I'm so glad that we did. I hadn't made it to Park Community Church in the River North neighbourhood of Chicago since before Christmas, so I had no idea that the service would be the final week of a three-week series on racial reconciliation. In the times that I've attended Park before, I've absorbed that they are committed to playing an active role in their interesting community.

For those not familiar with Park, their main campus is now located in a renovated warehouse that's directly across from what used to be the Cabrini Green housing project, which was mostly torn down a few years ago. The neighbourhood is now quite diverse, with some low-income housing remaining, but there are also high-rise condominiums and townhouses.

So this year, timing their series with Martin Luther King Day and the inauguration of American's first African-American president, Park put together a series that implored its members to chip away at the prejudices that lie deep within the hearts of Americans. The message was real and raw, featuring testimonies from people who have seen prejudice at work in the church, and video clips from the fight for Civil Rights in the '60s set to clips from King's most famous speech.

The pastor mentioned all kinds of prejudice—not just racial prejudice, which is something that people do not always address. He talked about having prejudice against people who are poor, people with different sexualities, people from social backgrounds, etc. Another pastor took over the second half a message and actually read portions of one of Dr. King's sermons, offering explanations and tie-ins to today's Chicago.

Overall, I was just so impressed that this church was tackling a real issue that many other churches ignore. The second pastor even pointed out that the 11 o'clock hour on Sunday mornings is the most openly segregated hour that remains in America, with most church congregations being almost completely comprised of one race or another. He asked us to look around to verify—yes, Park Community Church was targeting racial reconciliation in a series of messages, but not because it was a battle that they had already won. Over 90% of the people in the auditorium yesterday were white, which is not at all representative of the neighbourhood or the city in general.

Perhaps it is mainly because of the church's location that the pastoral staff decided to bring this issue to light, but my mom and I were talking as we left about how that was never a message that we would have heard at our suburban church. I'm so glad to find a church in the city that appears to exist above the stereotypes that pervade so many evangelical churches. I think I'd like to attend regularly and take advantage of the opportunities to get involved in the community.

1 comment:

  1. "Help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen."