Established: November 2002
A developing non-traditional faith community which is centered in a dynamic and generous Christianity. We seek to build a faith community based on the grace of God and the compassion of Jesus Christ, in active and loving relationship with a pluralistic world. Participants (in lieu of "members") are largely in their 20s and 30s, many of them being "de"churched, having left the church of their childhood.
This project is sponsored by the Presbytery of Chicago and supported by sister/partner churches: First United Church of Oak Park, Presbyterian Church of Western Springs, and McCormick Seminary (our "agency" partner.) We also partner with From the Ground Up, in Logan Square, a project of Faith in Place (www.faithinplace.org ) around issues of environmental sustainability. (See www.wickerparkgrace.net)
- A grace-based theology, as opposed to a shame-based theology
- An open and welcoming community
- A commitment to intellectually sound education
- Sharing spiritual journeys, creating spiritual friendships
- Being a good neighbor to friends of other faiths
- Understanding the eclectic and dynamic nature of Christianity
- Bringing the church outside "the building"
We currently have a core group of about 20 participants. Activities include Spirituality Discussions and educational forums in public settings, like tea houses/coffeeshops, service projects (tutoring), fellowship events, and creative, informal worship.
We seek to create a vibrant, self-sustaining faith community which worships, learns, grows and serves the world in authentic and culturally relevant ways.
General geographic, population, racial ethnic make-up
- 70% of residents in this city neighborhood are either Millenials ('82-'01) or Survivors ('61-'81)
- 42% Hispanic/Latino; 42% Anglo; 10% African-American
- Average age is 33 (25-44 age profile forms the core of this area)
- 44% single parent households; 35% college graduates (almost twice the national average)
- almost half of the community belongs to the "creative class," which includes artists as well as professionals, educators, lawyers, engineers and accountants.
This setting provides the opportunity for bi-lingual work, given the large percentage of Hispanic/Latino residents. The large Hispanic population is made up primarily of first and second generation Mexican immigrants and Puerto Rican families who are more established. The bilingual aspects would be developed by the student, with the support of the supervisor.
This is an opportunity to be on-the-ground in an exciting, cutting-edge urban ministry, appealing to young adults. We are continually trying new things, while also drawing from tradition. It is a rare opportunity to think evangelically (how to share "good news") from a theologically progressive angle, i.e., open, welcoming, and no proselytizing. The Holy Spirit does the work.
Neighborhood activities include teaching in a interactive style, leading bible discussions, topical discussions, organizing community events, planning and participating in non-traditional worship with some traditional elements, "interpreting" the ministry through use of the website and electronic newsletters, developing "spiritual friendships" in order to strengthen community experience.
Organizing and networking activities include working with established sister/partner churches, neighborhood partner organizations, McCormick seminary, and developing new partnerships, to solicit active participation in this experimental ministry. Community organizing activities will also channel Wicker Park Grace participants into neighborhood activities and service projects.
Skills and passions in the arts, music, Spanish, will be useful. An open heart and sincere acceptance of persons on many stages of their spiritual journey will be essential.
From Hyde Park via car and/or public transportation:
Events happen at various locations in Wicker Park. Here are sample directions to a common meeting place on Division Street, Aion Tea House, 2135 W. Division St.
By Public Transportation: From 55TH & UNIVERSITY Take CTA BUS # 55 GARFIELD WESTBOUND. Transfer to CTA RED LINE TRAIN (TO HOWARD) to CLARK/DIVISION stop.
Take CTA BUS # 70 DIVISION WESTBOUND to 2135 W DIVISION ST  (two or three blocks west of Damen). Normally this trip would take about an hour.
By Car: Lakeshore Drive North to I-90/94 (via I-55). [Or 55th St. West to I-90/94] From I-90/94, take exit 49A, DIVISION ST/1200 NORTH. Turn left (west) on Division Street. Normally this trip would take about 20 minutes, if it's not rush hour!
Rev. Nanette Sawyer is a McCormick graduate (M. Div., class of 2002), and a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, where she studied Comparative World Religions and received a Masters of Theological Studies (equivalent of MATS).
Her supervisory style is collaborative and supportive. A lifelong student of theology, she works to apply it to the real world. She is committed to articulating and advocating an inclusive theology in a world intent on defining who is acceptable and who is not.
Committed to spiritual depth as well as social justice, she strives to create a sustainable ministry. She would support a student in exploring issues of balance and self-care, along with risk-taking and striving for excellence.