BY ELIZABETH RICHTER
125 years ago Chicago burst upon the world scene. Visitors from around the country and abroad flocked to the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the first World Parliament of Religions. A Hindu spiritual leader, Swami Vivekananda, came to the Parliament but became lost on Chicago’s North Side. Newspapers reported that Mrs. George Hale noticed him sitting on the curb at 1424 North Dearborn, wearing an orange turban. She “rescued” him and connected him to the Parliament. His story is fondly remembered by members of St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church, whose founders would break ground for their new church at that very address the same year.
Celebrating its own 125th anniversary this year, St. Chrysostom’s heralded decades of worship and community service at a gala at the Chicago History Museum on May 4.
200 parishioners and parents of its Day School students dined, danced, and bid on silent auction items in support of its outreach activities.
Marc Schulman, President of Eli’s Cheesecake, generously donated the birthday cake. His children had attended St. Chrysostom’s Day School.
Attracting as many bidders as the highly desirable Cubs jersey signed by Mark Rizzo, the highlight of the silent auction was a series of watercolors of the church painted by parishioner and architect Jonathan Boyer.
He is working on a book on the anniversary year, which will feature his watercolors, noting, “I’m struck by how beautifully light passes across the façade of our church. The combination of ornament and form is rarely seen in buildings today.”
The historic building is currently going through a series of renovations to upgrade its infrastructure and better serve its many community outreach ministries, the focus of the slideshow that ran during dinner. Church volunteers provide meals for the homeless and hungry at its monthly Neighbors in Need Program and also cook for Deborah’s Place, a women’s shelter.
Among the largest parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, the church also nourishes partnerships with churches and schools in Haiti and Mexico sending volunteers who support the children with school supplies and helping hands during annual mission trips.
This past year, St. Chrysostom’s has sponsored a series of lectures and panel discussions on the issue of criminal justice and incarceration featuring key officials and community leaders. The parish has long been actively engaged in the community, running a men’s service center during World War II and even offering respite to protesters in Lincoln Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention.
The church will welcome the public on Saturday, June 2 and Sunday, June 3 for its spring Guild Festival. Visitors will see special flower arrangements and exhibits along with tours of the sanctuary, featuring stained glass windows by renowned stained glass master Charles Connick. If you miss the June event, St. Chrysostom’s will be part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago (October 13-14), another opportunity to learn about this special church.
Post script: Swami Vivekananda was welcomed by the World Parliament of Religions and gave acclaimed speeches at the conference on the importance of collaboration among religious groups. He would go on to speak throughout the United States. He used the street address of the woman who had befriended him on Dearborn in 1893 as his American mailing address. To this day, monks who are followers of his movement still come to North Dearborn Street to pay homage to his legacy.