Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another one bites the dust

Chicago’s downtown Lutheran church, Christ the King, is closing after more than a half-century of existence. CTK was never large and has been housed in a variety of locations over the years. The irony is that just as the Loop and surrounding neighborhoods became a viable residential area, the ELCA’s one church there dies.

The story of Christ the King is long and convoluted and I certainly don’t know all its details. Let’s just say, “Mistakes were made.” Nonetheless, as with the announced closing last spring of Wilmette Lutheran Church in Chicago's wealthy north suburban lakefront, here is another congregation in a healthy and thriving community that couldn’t make it. Whatever the explanations or excuses, that simple fact can’t be denied and it is yet another sign of the church's anemic state.


jan erickson said...

We are grieving all around the world, and feeling grateful for our time there,as we hear and grapple with this news. There was another vital period in CTK's more recent history, in the mid-80's to the early 90's, when the Loop first sprang to life as a residential setting.We 'lived' at Grace Place with Grace Episcopal Church and had a lively ecumenical relationship, including a ground-breaking Covenant. We hosted a liturgy in solidarity with the ordinations in San Francisco on that evening and joyfully welcomed GLBT folks, including in partnerships. I (as pastor) had weddings every week and we had a sweet little Sunday School. The Chicago Jazz Mass, the Center for Ethics and Corporate Policy, social ministries, refugee ministry, public ministry, and great worship all thrived.

Best of all, CTK was an important haven and base for all the funky folks who find themselves in the city, away from family -- often not exactly welcome among family or traditional communities -- and those in transition. It was the most welcoming and accepting place I'd ever encountered. Even before we became officially RIC, CTK had been a safe home. And it was a fabulous mix of all kinds of people, from bank presidents and CEO's and lawyers and bag ladies and residents of the local SRO and students and laborers and clerks. There were no distinctions, no cliques, no status divisions. It was a wonderful community and now the most of us from that time are scattered to the four winds and the ends of the earth. But we still remember. And give thanks! Thanks for posting this, Doug.

Doug said...

Thanks for sharing this part of CTK's story. All-in-all I don't see how this can be seen as anything other than a huge missed opportunity and simple ineptness.

I have never understood our synod's reluctance to commit to vital parish ministry in the central city. Yet we will plunk a new church in a corn field at the drop of a hat (or used to. I suspect that's going to be changing now). Whenever I brought it up all I heard was that it was too expensive. To me it was just further testimony to our inability to think outside the box.

Now the ELCA is without a congregation from Bronzeville/IIT to Belmont (except for the mission in soon-to-be-gone Cabrini) and west to Wicker Park. Yet this is arguably the most vibrant area of the whole metropolitan region. Just amazing.