35 episodes

After a decade away, I recently had the opportunity to return to the city of my birth, and to the place where the foundation of my faith was formed.

I have been through a lot since I lived in Chicago. The city has been through a lot since I left.

I never left my faith, but I see it differently now. The communities of faith across the city's neighborhoods never left, but I look at them differently now.

I am a product of these faith communities. I am a product of the specific churches of my youth and early adulthood, and a product of the general Christian subculture formed by people of faith who live in this part of the country.

Having moved in and around communities of faith for over three decades, I am neither objective in my observations nor oblivious in my opinions about them.

I have intentionally chosen to share the stories about my year-long journey visiting 35 faith communities in Chicago in a manner that is stripped of the packaging and pageantry, labels and titles, and divisions and denominations that matter to fewer people now than they did when they were created.

Hopefully, this podcast will challenge the misperceptions about these spaces and celebrate the humanity of the people who gather in them.

This podcast was created in hopes that people who may be unfamiliar with these norms (and/or confused by the large swath of American society influenced by them) will find a bridge to walk with me as I consider the central questions of life, spirituality, and our beliefs about God.

I invite you to open yourself to whatever emotions and thoughts are inspired or provoked by this journey. If you like what you're hearing, please rate us, and leave a quick review! You won't believe how much that would help!

Thanks for listening!

An OverPond Media production.

God In Chicago OverPond Media

    • Christianity
    • 5.0, 1 Rating

After a decade away, I recently had the opportunity to return to the city of my birth, and to the place where the foundation of my faith was formed.

I have been through a lot since I lived in Chicago. The city has been through a lot since I left.

I never left my faith, but I see it differently now. The communities of faith across the city's neighborhoods never left, but I look at them differently now.

I am a product of these faith communities. I am a product of the specific churches of my youth and early adulthood, and a product of the general Christian subculture formed by people of faith who live in this part of the country.

Having moved in and around communities of faith for over three decades, I am neither objective in my observations nor oblivious in my opinions about them.

I have intentionally chosen to share the stories about my year-long journey visiting 35 faith communities in Chicago in a manner that is stripped of the packaging and pageantry, labels and titles, and divisions and denominations that matter to fewer people now than they did when they were created.

Hopefully, this podcast will challenge the misperceptions about these spaces and celebrate the humanity of the people who gather in them.

This podcast was created in hopes that people who may be unfamiliar with these norms (and/or confused by the large swath of American society influenced by them) will find a bridge to walk with me as I consider the central questions of life, spirituality, and our beliefs about God.

I invite you to open yourself to whatever emotions and thoughts are inspired or provoked by this journey. If you like what you're hearing, please rate us, and leave a quick review! You won't believe how much that would help!

Thanks for listening!

An OverPond Media production.

    Week 35 (Completion) - 56th and Woodlawn

    Week 35 (Completion) - 56th and Woodlawn

    My destination matches the stately brick mansions on this stretch of Woodlawn Avenue. Tan brick archways, adorned with Christmas lights and wreaths, form open hallways on either side of the hall.

    The walls rise to meet a series of large wooden beams, which run from left to right, and form the base of the hall’s A-frame ceiling. A traditional Christmas carol plays from the large organ pipes which hang over the front stage.

    Inside, a handful of people are scattered across the padded dark wood benches of the main hall. A man greets me, and two older people in light blue robes smile gently at me, and wish me Happy New Year. A few minutes later, a young woman in a dark robe introduced herself and welcomed me into this space.

    The event moves peacefully through a series of organ-backed hymns, poems read by the main speaker, and written meditations which were read aloud in unison by everyone in the hall. The eight-person, blue-robed choir provided musical interludes between the readings from the side of the front stage.

    This is the perfect way to end this year-long journey that began 364 days earlier just a few blocks south of this hall. There was no pomp and circumstance. No excessive celebration. It was neither sad and solemn or angry and bitter.

    It was calm. It was grounded. It was rooted in messages of love and peace, with tangible calls to action for all assembled. Reminders of what we can do, what we can control, and what we release to that which is greater than us.

    The main speaker came to the front stage and delivered a short talk. She drew inspiration for her words this morning from a verse in the Bible which states:

    “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

    The journey concludes in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the south side, at the corner of 56th Street and Woodlawn.

    Intro Theme Music: Victory Lap by QSTN ft. Mecca:83
    Background Music: www.bensound.com/

    Register to receive an advance copy of the companion book at https://godinchicago.com/

    Join the conversation! Follow us on Twitter: https://bit.ly/2Y94abI and on Instagram: https://bit.ly/2z6q5W4

    • 8 min
    Week 34 (Holidays) - 49th and King Drive

    Week 34 (Holidays) - 49th and King Drive

    47th Street has to be the most industrial side street in this city. To drive down this street is to pass through a living monument to the part of the city that manufactured and shipped food, equipment, and materials for the entire country.

    My destination matches the architectural mood of the confident buildings on this boulevard. The front entrance has the look of an athletic fieldhouse. Its large stone base supports the swooping arched roof which frames the frosted glass windows of the structure’s front entrance.

    An elderly lady in stiletto heels accidentally drops a bracelet. We exchange good morning greetings as I pick it up and hand it to her. Inside the lobby, two ushers are discussing whether a chair should be placed in front of the auditorium door entrance. I pass them and walk inside the auditorium. The building’s arched roof is even more impressive on the inside.

    Small groups of people are scattered around the padded seats of this hall, waiting for the event to begin. Most of the people assembled so far are older, many of the women are wearing colorful Sunday hats, many of the men are in suits. An elderly gentleman in a two-piece suit greets me with an extended hand:

    “Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, brother. Glad to see you. Happy New Year!”

    The journey continues in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the south side, at the corner of 49th Street and King Drive.

    Intro Theme Music: Victory Lap by QSTN ft. Mecca:83
    Background Music: www.bensound.com/

    Register to receive an advance copy of the companion book at https://godinchicago.com/

    Join the conversation! Follow us on Twitter: https://bit.ly/2Y94abI and on Instagram: https://bit.ly/2z6q5W4

    • 9 min
    Week 33 (Obey) - Armitage and Orchard

    Week 33 (Obey) - Armitage and Orchard

    This morning, as I drive by the sleek glass windows of international schools, boutique clothing stores, upscale movie theaters, bike lanes, and restaurants I can’t help but flashback to a time when these blocks were anything but sunny, open, brightly-colored, and inviting.

    I thought about the people and families who lived near this stretch of Halsted Street just one generation ago. I wondered if they could have ever known now valuable their neighborhood would become...once they left.

    I cross North Avenue into the theater district, passed the Royal George and Steppenwolf. My destination - a large city high school - sit quietly, with a handful of cars parked in its parking lot.

    Four stone Greek columns frame the facade of the building’s front entrance. Colorful banners touting the school’s academic programs hand on the outside of the two-story brick structure.

    Inside, I pass by a dormant metal detector and I am greeted by a friendly lady who directs me down the hallway towards the auditorium. Tall gray lockers are offset by flags of countries around the world that are hanging close to the ceiling.

    There were only a few people in this section of the auditorium at this point, a few sound and video guys were working on the projection screen. A young man greets me, and introduces himself. I wound up having extended conversations with multiple people during my visit.

    The journey continues in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on the north side, at the corner of Armitage Avenue and Orchard.

    Intro Theme Music: Victory Lap by QSTN ft. Mecca:83
    Background Music: www.bensound.com/

    Register to receive an advance copy of the companion book at https://godinchicago.com/

    Join the conversation! Follow us on Twitter: https://bit.ly/2Y94abI and on Instagram: https://bit.ly/2z6q5W4

    • 8 min
    Week 32 (Tears) - 79th and Coles

    Week 32 (Tears) - 79th and Coles

    There was very light traffic as I passed McCormick Place onto South Lake Shore Drive. On the right side of the road, I noticed a newly-erected, simple square stone sculpture with the words "You Are Beautiful" engraved large enough for all passersby to read, even at 45-50 miles per hour.

    As the lake gleamed in the sunlight to my left, I passed the Museum of Science and Industry, the Jackson Park marina, and the 63rd Street beach house. I continued on, down the stately brick three-story townhouses along Jeffrey Boulevard.

    As I arrived at 79th Street, the streets were quiet, the shops were closed, many stores were boarded up, and many buildings looked like it had been a while since a store operated there.

    A short walk from the lakefront, the polygon-shaped brick structure which was my destination emerged on my left. A handful of people were scattered around this deceptively spacious auditorium when I walked in. On stage, six singers were running through their final rehearsals and sound checks.

    Midway through the event, the singers began a rendition of a song called “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood. It is a song I have known for over 20 years, and it has been therapeutic for me at pivotal moments throughout my adult life.

    So it was fitting that on this Sunday morning, one day after I attended a memorial service for a close friend, concluding a week of grieving and reflection, that I found myself tearing up as the singers sang the song’s chorus:

    As the choir ran through the series of melodic Amens in the song’s bridge, I did not have it in me to lift my hands. I allowed tears to flow, and as the sun moved directly into the window over my head, I allowed myself to feel, and to heal.

    A few minutes later, an upbeat jazz saxophone solo completed my move from sadness to joy, in remembrance of my friend.

    The journey continues in the Chatham neighborhood on the south side, at the corner of 79th Street and Coles.

    Intro Theme Music: Victory Lap by QSTN ft. Mecca:83
    Background Music: www.bensound.com/

    Register to receive an advance copy of the companion book at https://godinchicago.com/

    Join the conversation! Follow us on Twitter: https://bit.ly/2Y94abI and on Instagram: https://bit.ly/2z6q5W4

    • 7 min
    Week 31 (Rejoice) - Cermak Rd and Canalport

    Week 31 (Rejoice) - Cermak Rd and Canalport

    A lot is happening on the streets surrounding my destination. A beautiful mural brightens up the exterior wall of a small warehouse as two men tend to a community garden. Next to the street, trolley train tracks end abruptly at the building I am about to enter.

    A train car has been permanently parked in the parking lot. It looks like it could be a small breakfast-and-coffee spot, but I can’t tell. There’s an electric generator line running into it, so something cool is happening in there.

    My destination is unique building, on a unique intersection, in a unique section of the city. It is a large four-story polygon structure, formed by a diagonal street, which makes the building appear larger. Its brick exterior is suddenly interrupted on one side by another building covered in black-and-white sketch illustrations.

    I walk into the single door entrance, into a dimly lit loft like space. Murals and artistic illustrations line the exposed brick walls of the main staircase. A few neon signs shine patiently from the interior windows of a closed craft brewery bar.

    For the first time in my journey, I almost got lost trying to get to the auditorium. However, there were people positioned at each landing of the main staircase to greet and guide visitors to the auditorium entrance.

    “We’re huggers here.”

    The young lady standing at the entrance of the auditorium told me as I approached. True to her word, I was greeted with a friendly hug and cheerful welcome. In fact, I was greeted by at least a dozen people as I waited in my seat for the event to begin.

    I was reminded that making strangers feel welcome in an unfamiliar space is both an art and a science. It requires strategic forethought and planning, yet can only be executed by humans who chose to engage others in a life-affirming and respectful manner. When a group of people do it well, the effect is powerful. I was glad I found my way here this morning.

    The journey continues in the Pilsen neighborhood on the near southwest side, at the corner of Cermak Road and Canalport.

    Intro Theme Music: Victory Lap by QSTN ft. Mecca:83
    Background Music: www.bensound.com/

    Register to receive an advance copy of the companion book at https://godinchicago.com/

    Join the conversation! Follow us on Twitter: https://bit.ly/2Y94abI and on Instagram: https://bit.ly/2z6q5W4

    • 8 min
    Week 30 (Thanks) - 62nd St and Throop

    Week 30 (Thanks) - 62nd St and Throop

    I drive down Garfield Blvd. into a part of the city which has come to acquire a reputation for being dark and dangerous. On this morning the streets are peaceful, and bright with sunlight. A viaduct stands over the street a few blocks in the distance, underneath a few CTA ‘L’ trains parked on the tracks above.

    This is a space that looks like it holds many stories and many histories.
    A short flight of stairs opens into the auditorium. The red carpet on the center aisle divides the two sections of padded dark wood benches and hardwood floors.

    Sets of frosted stained glass windows - shaped like a baseball home plate - line the walls. Dark wood chairs, podiums, and tables form the front stage. A glance at the front of the brochure I received when I entered stated:

    Founded 1887 - Present Edifice Erected - 1923

    I thought about the people who constructed this building, and who formed the first community that assembled in this space on a regular basis. This city was a very different place 94 years ago. I wondered what they hoped for this space, and for the streets that surround it.

    As the event began, a 10-person choir in white robes started to sing. They were mainly elderly folks, and although there were less than 20 people in the audience this morning, the choir members sang with enthusiasm, dedication, and joy.

    About halfway through the event, time was set aside for audience members to pray. And then, nearly all of the now 40 people in the audience stood up and proceeded to the front stage; where they knelt side by side and began to pray silently, individually.

    This was one of the most powerful demonstrations of solidarity and support I’ve seen all year. Each person, talking to God about their own concerns and challenges, pains and pressures...but doing so while kneeling alongside someone else who has come to talk to God about their own stuff.

    The journey continues in the Englewood neighborhood on the south side, at the corner of 62nd Street and Throop.

    Intro Theme Music: Victory Lap by QSTN ft. Mecca:83
    Background Music: www.bensound.com/

    Register to receive an advance copy of the companion book at https://godinchicago.com/

    Join the conversation! Follow us on Twitter: https://bit.ly/2Y94abI and on Instagram: https://bit.ly/2z6q5W4

    • 6 min

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