Working towards becoming beloved community

Our Christian faith in its simplest forms, such as the Lord’s Prayer, directs us towards an audacious dream that God’s Kingdom might come to Earth. Wondering at the chasm between that dream and our reality, this ministry embodies the commitment of St. Chrysostom’s Church to join prophetically and practically in of the work of Becoming Beloved Community (https://www.episcopalchurch.org/beloved-community), through understanding and addressing the injustices of our world, especially systemic racism. We are inspired by the promises we make in our Baptismal Covenant to “…strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” and “…loving your neighbor as yourself”.

We aspire for these to be more than just words, even as we struggle to fulfill them. There is a real cost of injustice in our institutions, in our church, and in ourselves. Our faith leads us to dig deep within our own stories and to wonder meaningfully and faithfully about how we can contribute to God’s dream of Beloved Community in our daily lives and in the work we do collectively to address injustice.

As we continue to grow into this commitment, we encourage every member of our community to bring their insights and passions into this work, both within our parish and in the broader community. The way of this work is the way of life. Please join us on this journey.

Current and Ongoing Programs and Parish Initiatives:

2023 Lenten Small Group Discussion Series discussing the book Jesus and the Disinherited  by Howard Thurman:   Click here to access study guides for the weekly sessions of that series and the YouTube links to recordings of discussions between Michelle Harrington and Rev. Will Bouvel that provided the basis for the weekly small group discussions.

One Book, One Diocese In 2023 the parish participated in the One Book, One Diocese project initiated by the Peace and Justice Committee, reading and discussing Resurrection Hope: A Future where Black Lives Matter, a book by The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, African-American Episcopal priest, womanist theologian, the inaugural Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, and the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral.

Tell Me The Truth About Racism: https://www.tellmethetruthaboutracism.org/home
This set of stories, framing racism through the lens of Christian faith for children aged 5-12, has also provided the space for discussion and wondering by adult participants. This program was developed jointly with families of St. Chrysostom’s Church and St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Oak Park in 2021 and is being implemented widely around the country in 50 communities and growing. 

Programs of St. Chrysostom’s Day School –  In serving children between the ages of eight months and five years old, we welcome all students and their families and celebrate the diverse culture and beliefs they bring to our school.  By doing so we celebrate the uniqueness of each child and create a welcoming environment that highlights the diversity among our students and cultivates appreciation of the wider diversity in the world around them.  The ethical component of our curriculum focuses on being kind and mindful in interacting with others, including discussion and play in class and worship settings that begin to build the children’s awareness of the special need to deal comfortably and kindly with children of other races and ethnic groups.

The Racial Justice Action Group Please join in the work of this group of Church and Day School members, which spearheads the work of the parish in our ministry of promoting justice and dismantling racism.  The group was commissioned in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and expanded to include other members of the parish.  It meets regularly to share a light meal and to wonder together how our parish can work to dismantle racism in becoming beloved community.  In 2022 the Racial Justice Action Group took an active role in supporting the development of Tell Me the Truth About Racism, in promoting programs of the Peace and Justice Committee of the Diocese, and in recognizing the contribution of the feeding ministry of the parish to our ministry of promoting justice and dismantling racism. 

How we engage in the broader conversation in our church and the world

Diocesan Peace and Justice Committee – those wishing to join other parishioners in participating in the meetings and activities of the Peace and Justice Committee of the Chicago Diocese, please contact committee chair Ellen Lindeen at [email protected]

Interfaith Coalition Against Racism – St. Chrysostom’s Church is a founding member of this city-wide interfaith initiative and an active participant in the steering committee of the group, which sponsored a number of events focused on dismantling racism prior to the onset of the COVID pandemic.  Anyone interested in representing St. Chrysostom’s on the steering committee of the Coalition, should contact Rev. Will.

The ministry of Rev. Nicholas Pearce – We have been blessed by his sermons and our discussions with him in his visits to our parish

Resources of the Episcopal Church Our work is inspired and driven by the commitment of the Episcopal Church to Becoming Beloved Community, and nurtured by the initiatives and resources that the Church provides, including:

The Racial Justice Action Committee has benefited from working through some of these resources, including:      

  • Sacred Ground, https://www.episcopalchurch.org/sacred-ground/, the film-and-readings-based dialogue series of the Episcopal Church on race, grounded in faith and intended to develop antiracism as a spiritual practice for those who experience it, and
  • The Church Cracked Open – Disruption, Decline, and New Hope for the Beloved Community: https://churchcrackedopen.com/, a 2021 book by Rev. Cannon Stephanie Spellers.

Resources from St. Chrysostom’s Church for Further Reflection and Discernment, Available Through Recordings Online:

Christian Discipleship and the Problem of Racism – a series of four programs organized by St. Chrysostom’s Church in 2020 in collaboration with Bexley Seabury Seminary, focused on the role of race in distorting the message of the Gospel:

  1. Breaking Free from Ideologies that Hinder Our Christian Discipleship with Dr. Reggie Williams, Professor of Christian Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago –  https://www.facebook.com/330717800937/posts/10156972575125938/
  2. The History and Sin of Racism with Dr. Jason Fout, Associate Professor of Anglican Theology at Bexley Seabury, presenting and in conversation with Dr. Williams –  https://www.facebook.com/330717800937/videos/1442323575953448
  3. Panel discussion with Dr. Reggie Williams and faculty members from Bexley Seabury Seminary, moderated by Rev. Wes Smedley –  https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=347005703311943
  4. Next Steps with  Dr. Reggie Williams – Recording at: : https://www.facebook.com/StChrysChicago/videos/660234881547786/

Confronting Israel’s Apartheid – a January 2023 webinar developed at St. Chrysostom’s and presented by the Peace and Justice Committee of the Chicago Diocese, with speakers: Rabbi Brant Rosen, of Tzedek Congregation in Chicago, Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, and Mai Kakish Khader, a local Palestinian-American from East Jerusalem, moderated by Harry Gunkel, a member of the Steering Committee of Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestinian Israel Network.  A recording of the webinar is available here:

Seeking Truth and Justice in Palestine / Israel – a series of four programs organized and presented by St. Chrysostom’s Church in 2021 (recordings at: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs2HR3v-BRLVmTjgnzM8G7S4lcSqx4jfh), which focused on:
      Current Conditions in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, with testimony
            on the situation in East Jerusalem and Gaza from Mai Kadish Khader and
            Jehad Abusalim,
      A Brief History of Palestine/Israel, presented by Professor Iymen Chehade
      A Jewish Perspective on Palestine/Israel and Zionism, with Rabbi Brant Rosen,
            of Tzedek Congregation in Chicago, in conversation with Rev. Wes
            Smedley, and
      How Christians Can Contribute to the Search for Peace with Justice, with Cannon
            Naim Ateek of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem

Confronting the Moral Crisis of Mass Incarceration – a series of four programs organized and presented at St. Chrysostom’s Church in 2018, followed by a daylong open house for the public featuring opportunities for getting involved in justice reform (recordings available on the home page of http://incarcerationreform.com), focusing on:

  1. The Origins and Impact of Mass Incarceration, with presentations by Sharone Mitchellof the Illinois Justice Project (now the Cook County Public Devender), David Olson of Loyola University Chicago and  Al Sharp of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, moderated by Rob Wildeboer of WBEZ
  2. Imprisonment, Release and Rentry: How They Work and What Must Change, with presentations by John Baldwinof the Illinois Department of Corrections, Victor Dickson of the Safer Foundation, Erwin Mayer of St. Leonard’s Ministries, and Jennifer Vollen-Katz of the John Howard Association of Illinois, moderated by John Bouman of the Shriver Center for Poverty Law
  3. Diversion – Alternatives to Incarceration, with presentations by Mark Heyrmanof the University of Chicago Law School,
    Mark Ishaug of Thresholds and Pam Rodriguez of Treatment Alternatives for
    Safe Communities (TASC), moderated by Carroll Bogart of The Marshall Project.
  4. What’s Changing, What More Needs To Be Done, and What We Can Do,with presentations byAmy Campanelli, Cook County Public Defender, Kim Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney, John Maki of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, and Ben Ruddell of ACLU of Illinois