Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Visit to The University of DePaul Church

The Kaio Community is an ecumenical, intentional-faith community. We try to share in one anothers different traditions to learn about our peers, to appreciate the larger Church and to grow. Sometimes that is intentional; we actually plan an outing together to a church. Sometimes it is informal as we share our faith life while sitting around the table. Sometimes it is coincidental.

In the beginning of the Kaio year Josh rushed in one Sunday night and announced he was going to DePaul University for Mass. Turns out they are the only church around with a 9:00 PM Mass on Sunday. We all decide to join him.

What we walked in one was fantastic. Now the church itself is glorious. The colors are bright, the vaulted ceiling demand that you look up. The shrines are wonderful and the windows sparkle. This is a destination church. This should come as no surprise. DePaul University is the largest Catholic University in the United States. It is often rated one of the happiest campuses in the country. With 25,000 students located in one of the most exciting areas of Chicago you would expect the church to be something special.

Outside of DePaul University Church

However, when we stepped inside the church we were blown away. It was the Convocation Mass celebrating the beginning of the academic year. The church was full of smiling, laughing students. The choir was loud and the music grand. The priest was motivating. It was a fun place to be.

DePaul University Church II

The service incorporated the entire university community. That meant students, staff and faculty. There was an emphasis on respecting and celebrating diversity, this was an inclusive celebration fitting a school with international ties and a commitment to social justice.

DePaul University Church

I found myself comparing the Convocation to our service. Ours also aims at including the entire university community. Our also includes beautiful music and a moving service. However ours is typically held in our gymnasium. Now I know God is everywhere. That does not mean my butt wants to be everywhere and it certainly does not want to be on bleachers during Mass. That aside, the acoustics are horrible up in the bleachers. Having said that, we have a drop dead gorgeous campus and the Convocation is one of my favorite times of the year. Still, I was a little bit jealous!

The music, the choir and orchestra sounded as loud and beautiful as the Midnight Mass at our Cathedral. The candles, lighting and again, all the smiles told us we were in a special place during a special time. So, DePaul University is rated one of the happiest campuses in the country? I believe it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Emmaus Ministries Going Out Into the World

The next number of weeks will be a time of great activity as our staff, interns and guys go out into the world. Al and Andi (Stories from the Streets) and Whitney (Kaio) will be going to Indiana. Stories from the Streets will be performing at Whitney’s church, Upper Deer Creek Church. Al and Andi will then head down to Kentucky as Whitney gets to spend some time with her family in the Kokomo area.

On their return trip Andi and Al will pick Nic (Kaio Arts) up in Indianapolis. They will then spend two and a half days at the University of Saint Francis. Stories from the Streets will perform in Gunderson Auditorium. Al and Andi will also meet with various classes. Nic will be introducing the art students to the Kaio Arts Internship program.

Bethany (Kaio) and I will be taking some of our guys down to Springfield Illinois to attend the 19th Annual HIV/STD Conference. The theme this year is Creative Strategies for Challenging Times. I look forward to the conference; there is a lot to learn. I look forward to spending time with our guys and Bethany. I really look forward to the opportunity of showing off Springfield to the guys. I have mixed feelings about the trip. The last time I was in Springfield was for my mother-in-laws memorial service. I know I will be spending time in conversation with Margaret while I am there.

Emily and Whitney will be attending the Conference of Faith and Community Based Organizations. That takes place November 3-5 in Oak Lawn Village in Illinois.

After I return I will be heading out to Indiana again. I will be home (Yeah!!) November 4-7. I will be speaking at the Day of Healing in Wabash Indiana.

On November 5th Emmaus, Kaio and volunteers will be participating in “Blue Emmaus.” This is an opportunity for folks to reminisce about some of the more challenging or powerful events in their Emmaus Ministries days. The next day is huge. It is the 20th Anniversary Banquet. Deacon John Green must be proud of the ministry he founded that has touched so many lives over the past two decades.

November 14th Kaio will be attending church at a Laborer’s For Christ Ministries church. This is a black, apostolic church. The following week, November 18-21, all of Kaio and a number of our guys will be attending the Laborer’s For Christ Sexual Relational Healing Retreat. This is an intense retreat that offers workshops and worship opportunities 24 hours a day. I am also interested because this is the product of a small church (65 members) who now offers their ministry to South Africa, Turkey and Greece. That is quite an impact.

On November 15th I will present a talk;”The Face of Discouragement: Homeless Youth in America” at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

By the time we all gather for Thanksgiving, we, the Emmaus Ministries staff, the Kaio community and our guys will all have a lot to be thankful for. We will also be ready for some turkey, football and rest!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Devon Avenue: The Sub Continent in Chicago

After I left Indian Boundary Park I drove over to Devon Avenue. Cathi use to live in this area. When Cathi was there it was a Jewish, Israeli neighborhood with some folks from the Middle East and southern Asia moving in. Well, it has been transformed. Today it is the home of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi. East of here in Rogers Park is a significant Nepali community. I love the diversity that is Chicago.

Devon Avenue

Devon is now home to restaurants, stores and businesses that reflect the Sub-Continent’s peoples. Saris, jewelry, and exotic food mart are everywhere. I went into an Islamic bookstore. I was warmly greeted and referred to as “brother.” The streets were busy with activity. Many intersections were crowded. I loved it, it felt like I had left not only Chicago but North America. However, it was the end of a very long weekend. It was time for me to go home and prepare for the coming week.

More Devon Avenue

Pre-Columbus Day Celebration

I had a Monday of from school. It was Columbus Day, however, since I left Chicago the holiday has been changed to “Explorers Dat.” Never-the-less, the day is recognized by many for its original designation. That is true especially for Native Americans. So, during my last visit to the ANIWIM Center I was invited to attend their “Pre-Columbus Day Celebration” at Indian Boundary Park.

Cathi first introduced me to the park. It is a unique neighborhood park. Beside its lagoon it has a small zoo. Today the exotic animals have all been replaced with domestic/farm animals. The lagoon has had the biggest change. It had all non-native plants removed. It is now a bird sanctuary. While I was there families and elderly were constantly visiting the pond.

Indian Boundary Park Bird Sanctuary

I then went over to the celebration. They had drummers. There were booths and there was of course food. When I was there they were mainly giving the little kids an opportunity to practice their developing dance skills. I have been to big, impressive Pow Wows. This was not that. This was a very nice day for a community to celebrate its heritage and support the cultural growth of their children. I left with a smile on my face.

Pre-Columbus Day Celebration

An Evening in Chicago's Chinatown

After I left Ukrainian Village I took the “L” to Chinatown. What a contrast in places. Chinatown was bustling with people. People were talking, shopping, going to restaurants. Children were playing, teenagers were, well, acting just like teenagers. All this in the context of a neighborhood that looked different from the rest of Chicago. The smells, the sounds and the sites told you that you had just entered a different world.

Welcome to Chinatown

The streets signs were written in English and Chinese. The store windows exhibited exotic foods and inviting pastries. Buddha statues were everywhere.

The Streets of Chinatown

I loved walking down the main street. Besides the stores and restaurants the street had banks, schools, churches and community centers. To the south was the end of the neighborhood, to the west residential streets, to the east the expressway. However, to the north was the outline of downtown Chicago. It is so cool to see the streets of Chinatown and then the Sears Tower rising up in the background.

The Dragon Gate

The area is actually bigger than the first impression suggests. Further north is a park with shopping connected to it. In between is a wonderful Dragon Gate statue or wall that serves as an entrance to both sides.

Chinatown Park

The park has statues that symbolize the animals of the Chinese calendar. While children play on the playground equipment young couples went to restaurants to eat and tourists walked around sampling foods and taking photos of everything.

In front of the park was a large display of photos and posters. It was about the persecution of Falun Gong in China. The display was manned by a number of activists of which only one was able to communicate with me. She told me of the brutal repression of the followers of Falun Gong in China. She described the movement not as a religious movement but rather as a movement that focused on exercise, relaxation and health. She said she would not return to China until the persecutions had ended.

I made three videos on Falu Gong, none of them were satisfactory. My “guide” wanted to make sure I understood the situation and wanted me to get it right but would then become anxious when the camera was on her. Still, she was an effective spokesperson and now I need to learn more about Falun gong and what about it is a potential threat to the Chinese government.

Persecution of Falun Gong

Finally I went to St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church. The church has two Chinese stone lions guarding the entrance. Inside the church is distinctly Italian. Chinatown had once been Little Italy. The beautiful crucifix was a gift from Al Capone’s mother!

St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church

The ceiling of the church has Chinese writing. The world express the idea that only together in Christ’s love are we actually together. This is appropriate because the community is made up of sex Chinese ethic groups. They are united by their common faith. The front also hass an alter for venerating ancestors. This is not about ancestor worship but rather venerating which is what we as Catholic already do with the saints.,

St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church: the Saints

The saints, the relics and the windows all reflect the artistry, history and values of Italy. It is a great reminder that the city is always changing. It also reflects the many changes the members of the congregation have gone through.

I attend Mass and I am again reminded that this is a universal church and that I am home.

St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church: The Crucifix

The yard that ties the rectory to the church is also interesting. The statue of Mary has Asian features. She is beautiful. The garden is Chinese. In the yard is a statue of Buddha. This is to remind the members of the congregation of where they came from and to remind them to respect their neighbors who are Buddhists.

Yard of St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission Church

It was a wonderful day. I spent time with students from Indiana. I had a brief visit with the Vietnamese and Tibetan Buddhists. I went to churches in Little Poland. I walked all over Ukrainian Village and I interacted with people in Chinatown. It was a great day but a long day and it was time to go home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ukrainian Village in Chicago

After I left Holy Trinity Orthodox Church I walked. Boy did I walk. I was day dreaming and before I knew it I was in Humboldt Park. I turned around and found myself walking in a neighborhood full of outdoor cafes, art galleries, specialty shops and Ukrainian restaurants.

The first church I came up to was St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral. Unfortunately the church was closed.

St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral

So I walked until I came upon St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. This is a beautiful church with green onion domes. I looks like something from Russia. Again the doors were closed. I had been in the church before and looked forward to again praying in such an uplifting structure.

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral

A block and a half north of the church is a beautiful view. You can actually see two Ukrainian Catholic Cathedrals at one timed. It is a breath taking view to gaze upon two very different churches that were boot fantastic

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral and Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral

I then walked over to Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. The first church looked like it was from the set of Dr. Zavago. This one looked like it was from Constantinople.

Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral
I waited patiently to go in. There was a wedding going on and I did not want to disturb it. On the other hand I did want to see the inside of the church. I had been there before and I knew its deep blue color and fantastic icons made it a very special place.

Inside Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral

Entering an Orthodox church is always a wonderful experience for me. I am reminded that I am leaving the darkness of the world and entering into god. The ceiling always speaks of the rulership of Jesus. The icons remind us of the saints. This is a place of meditation and a place of community prayer.

Inside Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral Part II

Finally the wedding ended and so did my time in Ukrainian Village. I love the two Ukrainian Catholic churches. I loved the museum where I briefly meet old friends. I love how dedicated the Hispanic folks are in worshipping and in transmitting their form of worship. It was a good day and now it was time to go to Chinatown.

Transformations at Emmaus Ministries

On Wednesday the Ministry Center becomes a bustling center of activity. We serve both lunch and dinner. Group is offered in the morning and afternoon. In the afternoon there is often a time of either group activities such as group art or a time of sitting together and watching movies.

Last week we watched The Gospel. It is not a film I was not familiar with. It tells the story of a local church and the minister’s two sons. It is a modern day telling of the Prodigal Son. The music is great. I may have been the only person in the room who did not know who all the Gospel singers were. The story line is predictable but not without impact.

So last week this guy who is not new to Emmaus but is new to me shows up at the ministry center. We will call him “Bob”. At lunch time one of the guys sitting next to me begins to serve someone else, putting food on their plate. I realize quickly that if this continues the poor guy will be the last to eat so I take over his job of serving up the food. “Bob” thinks I am dissing the guy and calls me on it in front of everyone. Once he realizes I am actually helping the guy Bob relaxes. It was clear right away that Bob has a strong sense of justice and fairness. It is also clear that he has my attention.

That afternoon I notice Bob sitting in front of the television watching The Gospel. He is not just relaxing and getting a break from “the life.” He is focused and becomes frustrated when other guys talk a little too loud around the television.

By the end of the film it is clear this movie is speaking to Bob and to a number of other guys. These are tough guys; they sleep on the streets, in gang ways, dumpsters and abandoned vehicles. The know violence and they have seen a lot. Still, at the end of the film when the Prodigal Son comes home they are completely silent and are wiping tears from their eyes. This movie is not about the actors it is about them. Perhaps nobody was more connected to the story line that Bob.

Bob does the readings before our meals. He knows his way around a Bible. He prays and he knows how to talk to God and how to listen. He spends more time with staff and spends 1:1 time with our Interim Ministry Director, Lennette. Bob comes out of his meetings with Lennette frustrated. He says she keeps telling him that God has His hand on Bob and has a plan for Bob. She tells Bob he can run from God, he can hide from God but in the end it is still going to be between Bob and God and Bob will have to decide who is going to be in charge of his life.

Last night Bob stayed until the end of the second shift. All of the other guys had left. It was simply staff and school interns. Bob joined us in worship and prayer. As usual he had opinions. He knew what songs he wanted us to sing. He knew what he needed to pray for.

Bob told us he usually stays at a ministry awhile and then disappears. He was getting close to that point. He said he knew God had plans for him and he wasn’t ready for that yet. However, Bob was acting different. He was telling us his escape plan. He was sabotaging his escape from decisions and responsibility. Adlerians would say he was “spitting in his soup” which is a technique that makes past behaviors no longer acceptable. Addictions counselors would say he was protecting himself from his own behaviors. I would say Lennette is a pretty smart person and that God had a plan for Bo b and Bob knew it was getting time for him to decide if he was going to submit.

Bob also believed this. He told us about his family which was composed of clergy. He told us of his own training and study of scripture. Just like in the movie Bob had a brother who followed the straight and narrow path, the good son. Then there was Bob. Just like the movie and more importantly just like the Gospel, Bob knows there will be a place for him at the table should he decide to go home, should he decide to say yes to God.

The Prodigal Son is one of the most powerful themes we have at Emmaus Ministries. Being welcomed home, sitting at the table, walking along side Jesus permeates the art of Emmaus. Still, it was one thing to see static painting on the wall. It is quite another thing to see the story unfolding before you. Bob is transforming and I suspect he is going take a number of us with him.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church of America in Chicago

Next I took the Division Street bus into Ukrainian Village. My first stop was not at one of the many large Ukrainian churches. Rather I stopped at one of my favorite churches in the city. This was the small Russian Orthodox Church

Holy Trinity is the Orthodox Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America.It was founded by Fr. John Kochurov of St. Petersurg Czar Nicholas actually made a $4,000 donation for the building of the church.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral

Chicago architect Louis Sullivan (the most famous American architect of the day) designed the church. It is modeled after the smaller rural Siberian churches. The church was officially opened in 1903. In the 1970s it was designated a national landmark.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral Part II

The church is filled with beautiful icons. My favorite is the one of the founder and Sullivan. I had never noticed an icon that represented people in modern clothing. The chandelier is stunning. The ceiling demands that you look up toward God.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral Part III

The rectory is next door and together there is a feel of being in Siberia. The church is across the street from an Hispanic church. Together they are a good representation of the neighborhood.

Outside of Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral
The church may be smaller than many of the Ukrainian Churches. Hoever, it is just as impressive. Now it was time to move on to Ukrainian Village proper.

Little Poland in Chicago

I did not continue with the retreat at the Buddhist Temple. While I loved the Vietnamese temple and the Tibetan practices there simply was not enough time to accomplish all I wanted to d. first, I was late. I meet students from Indiana Eslyian at church. By the time I said good bye to them I was late for the retreat. So instead I headed out for a day of travel that would take me to Polish, Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Catholic and Orthodox churches.

I got off the bus at Division and Noble and walked one block south. There was this tall church with imposing bell towers. The parking lot was full and on the steps were men in traditional Polish customs. I had arrived at Holy Trinity Polish Catholic Church. It is huge, well attended and has a long proud history. Robert Kennedy attended mass here during a Polish Day Celebration.

The church is a Romanesque-Gothic style of architecture. The walls and ceilings are painted with numerous murals. The north and side walls have two large shrines. Each is so large it requires a double staircase up to the shrine.

Outside of Holy Trinity Polish Church

The church is also famous for its catacombs. I have been here four times and I have yet to visit the catacombs.

Inside Holy Trinity Polish Church

There was a wedding going on when I visited. I simply asked if I could observe and explained I would be taking video of the building. I was warmly greeted. The sound of Polish with first generation accents could be heard everywhere.

Afterwards I walked north a couple of blocks. There I entered Saint Stanislaus Kosta Parish. This was the first Polish church in Chicago. It is currently predominately Hispanic. Its unique bell tower can been seen from the expressway. The church is also the home to the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy.
The sanctuary was designated a shrine by Cardinal George. The Iconic Monstrance was unveiled May 2008. The doors of the church have remained open since then welcoming vistors and pilgrims from around the world.

Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, Saint Stanislaus Kosta Church

Mary is represented in red garb as opposed to the traditional blue. This is in compliance with Byzantine icon tradition. The shrine aims to integrate Latin and Byzantine traditions in the design of the shrine and in drawing spiritual nourishment. In the byzantine tradition the outer red robe symbolizes Mary’s humanity. The shrine also highlights Mary’s position as Co-Redemptrix. This is emphasized with the union of the heart of Jesus and Mary.

Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, Saint Stanislaus Kosta Church: Praying

While I was visiting there was a constant stream of people coming to pray in silence and to attend mass. It was clear I was at a very special place. Now it was time to move on to Ukrainian Village.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Some More Murals

OK, this is just an entry about some random, unconnected murals. The murals are all over the city. They represent many different styles of art. They represent different activities, values and/or groups.

The first mural is on a building facing a parking lot across the street from The Institute of Cultural Affairs.It is an example of how major institutions in Chicago try to mark their territory and highlight their influence.

Institute of Cultural Affairs Mural

The second is simply a building that by itself would be nondescript. However, a three dimensional mural is painted on it. There are a number of buildings in the city utilizing this technique. They all demand your attention.

Muraled Outside of Building on Division Street

The next one is a more traditional mural. It is found near Ukrainian Village on Division Street. It is a large mural celebrating the Birds of Latin America. At the same time it is really celebrating the peoples of Latin America. It was painted by a Latin artist and a team of youth. The colors are sticking

The Birds of Latin America

Bikes, Buddhist Temples and Journeys

Two Fridays ago I decided to go for a bike ride along the lake. It never happened; there was no air in my tires. That turned out to be a good thing. I went for a walk and came up to the Truc Lam Vietnamese Buddhist Temple at Ashland and Wilson Avenue.

I had tried to get into the temple a number of times. It is a beautiful building complete with a huge Buddha in the front yard and smaller statuary and graceful gates. It is in a great location. A half a block north is Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Just south is a Franciscan House and a Augustinian House. A block west is the American Indian Center and a half block further is the All Saints Episcopal Church. It is a fun neighborhood. I was in luck, this time the gate was open and when I knocked on the door a young monk answered, that began a day of adventure.

He introduced me to the abbot, the Venerable Thich Hahn Tuan. He was very gracious. He told me how the building had been a Masonic Temple. That allowed for some large open rooms, a sturdy building and rooms with grace. The building needed a lot of work which they gladly did. The result is a magnificent temple in the middle of a Chicago neighborhood.

Vietnamese Buddhist Temple

The first floor had a large room of gathering and registration should there be a training event. There are offices. The main room is a beautiful room with carved tables from Viet Nam and statutes of Buddha. This is a class room. All the floors have been redone and the place sparkles with polished floors and woodwork.
The second floor is magnificent. This is where the altar is. Along the outside walls are statues of Buddha. Behind the altar is a shrine for the veneration of Monks, men and women of the temple community. At the back of the room is a smaller shrine. It would be easy to meditate in this room.

More of the Buddhist Temple

Venerable Thich Hanh Tuan then invited me to come back in the evening. It turns out that this is a Vietnamese temple that is a center of learning and culture for the residents of Little Viet Nam. However, it also works with the larger Buddhist community of Chicago. He then told me a a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat that was taking place in their temple Friday night and all day Saturday. He invited me to attend the retreat.

Before I left to go to work I walked around the grounds. The temple is getting ready for a special exhibit next spring.They will be host to the largest jade Buddha in the world. The sign in the yard tells the larger community about the exhibit.
The yard has open areas, flowering plants and statues of Buddha’s. The center piece however is a large state of a Bodhisattva. The porch reflects the dedication to architecture representative of the Masons while telling the city they are approaching the Truc Lam Temple. It is a great yard.

Outside the Buddhist Temple

I then went to work. However, I was excited because I was returning in the evening. That night I signed up to attend the retreat sponsored by Padmasambhava Buddhist Center of Chicago. This was a special retreat on “The Wisdom and Compassion of the Buddha.” The teacher was Lama Pema Dragpa.

I was very welcomed. I was made aware that I would be learning about Tibetan Buddhism which is different than the other two main branches of Buddhism. The evening began with meditation and readings. Then the lama spoke. He was young and a Westerner. He was also highly approachable, very learned and spoke with authority and warmth. I had a great time at the retreat. I left feeling very calm and happy to be introduced to both Vietnamese and Tibetan Buddhism in one day. I would not be able to make it back for the following day of training. Still, I was happy the day started with a bicycle that could not be used!

Tibetan Buddhist Worship in Vietnamese Temple

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Alternatives INC, Bricolage and Serving Youth

I walk down Sheridan Road fairly often. I walk Sheridan to go to ANAWIM, the Catholic, Native American worship group. I walk it to go our favorite Thai restaurant. I walk it to go the Cultural Institute of Chicago and finally to go to Little Viet Nam. As I walk I pass Alternative, INC which is a counseling service for youth and families. Outside the building is this big, bright and impressive mural. I wanted to video the mural but I also wanted a little history about it. So I went in and asked. Boy was I in for a surprise!

Alternatives provide counseling for a diverse group of kids. They serve predominately Hispanic and African American youth. They also serve white and Middle Eastern kids. Many of the clients are from single parent families, a substantial amount have had some type of legal problems. Some are having adjustment issues or educational challenges. Still others struggle with identify and orientation issues. All are welcomed at Alternatives.

Alternatives, a Safe Zone

The staff was friendly and helped me understand their commitment to working with clients’ assets. This was not a place that focused only on problems, they were not pathologists, and they were problem-solvers and teachers. Andy Tonachel, the Youth Development Director gave me a tour of the facilities. Alternatives was far bigger and the programs more varied than I could have imagined.

Andy told me that the current building had been a movie theater. That meant there was a large open room behind all the traditional looking offices. First we walked though the theater to an outside corridor. There was no way of know this area existed from Sheridan Road. Once outside the view was vibrant and of course youthful. What I saw was graffiti everywhere. This was their graffiti therapy which included friendly competition or smack downs. It was very cool and it was easy to see how this would engage the clients.

Alternative's Graffiti Art Program

We then entered the large theater room. On one side was the Youth Circus program. Talk about a program that would demand discipline, team work and perseverance. On the other side of the room was the Hip Hop art program. This was not cop berating anti woman hip hop. Rather, this was hip hop, the use of intense verbal skills, in the service of social justice. It was pretty cool.

Alternative's Circus Arts Program

Just outside the large room is a curved wall. On the wall was an incredible piece of art. Alternatives had sent an art educator to Pennsylvania to learn a technique known as Bricolage. This is a process of taking artifacts and tiles and combing them with color to make a public sculpture. The art may have a theme or may be more abstract. This technique was then used and modified by Alternative to create some unique pieces of art. In each case the process of team building, affirming and teaching skills and confidence was at least as important as the art itself.

So along the wall were large self portraits. This was the first Bricolage project of Alternatives. It was created by youth involved in the criminal justice system. I can’t imagine anything more powerful than to take youth who are disenfranchised, who may feel investable or judged by others and have them created large, permanent self-portraits. Talk about teaching “I am Somebody!”

Alternative's Self Portraits

In the lobby was a single silhouette of a pregnant female. This was another unique application of the procedure. Alternatives had worked with Night Ministries which runs a residential program for homeless, pregnant females. Instead of making large murals this project made life size free standing murals/statues of pregnant youth. 29 were made. They are now all over the city, the one in the lobby is a reminder of that project. The folks at Night Ministries tell me it was a popular project for the residents and emphasized the wonder of pregnancy and the hope of motherhood.

Alternative's Art Project for Homeless Teen Mothers

I was told that Alternatives continues to modify Bricolage to fit its themes and needs. This included two very large public murals, the underpasses of Foster Avenue and Bryn Mawr Street. I will have to go see them in the coming weeks.

Alternative's Outside Mural

Finally I went back outside to look at the original reason for my wanting to film Alternative. The mural now looked different. I could imagine the learning that took place, the team becoming cohesive, the planning and agreement of a theme and deciding what materials would be incorporated. Alternatives is a agency that is positive and creative. It is an agency that collaborates with other agencies in the service of the clients. It uses art therapist interns and art interns when they are available. They are an impressive community asset. I am glad I stopped by and inquired about the mural!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Morning Walks in Uptown: Part II

As I left the lake and continued down Wilson Avenue I was thinking about work. However, my time of discovery was not over just yet. I walked past the high school that we can see from our Kaio Community window. The school has a large and colorful mural on the side of it. It was time to see the mural up close. I was not disappointed!

Wilson Ave. High School Mural

The mural covered two walls. It addressed social issues, it was inspirational and it of course spoke of the importance of education. Man I like public murals.
The school is next to Jesus People USA (JPUSA). So I took the opportunity to go inside JPUSA and with their permission film the inside of the chapel. The windows are beautiful. However it is not unusual for Christian houses of worship to have great stain glass windows. And that is the trick. These are not stained glass. Rather, these windows are decorated using colored tape on the window. I had all I could do to not touch the tape.

Jesus People USA Chapel

And that was my morning: Mass, the lakefront, a mural, a chapel and then on to work. It really is a very special way to begin the day.

Morning Walks in Uptown: Part I

One of the really pluses about living in the Kaio Community is that we are only a short walk from Lake Michigan. We can go there when it is bustling with activity, when it is cold and no one is around, we can go there almost any time of day. O, we do!

I particularly like going to the lake after morning Mass and before work begins. It is just a reminder of how lucky I am to be working in this city. Last week I went to Mass at St. Mary of the Lake Parish and then spent two hours walking along the lake. It was a wonderful way to begin the day.

Montrose Harbor

I started at Montrose Harbor. This has always been a favorite spot of mine. I use to get up early and fish here as a teenager. You can see the downtown skyline, lakeshore drive and the pumping stations from the harbor. It is now next to the Montrose Pointe bird Sanctuary. In front of it are restored wetlands. The paths are full of in-line skaters, cyclists, runners, parents and children, people in love and people in love with the lakefront.

Montrose Pointe Bird Sanctuary

The bird sanctuary is extensive. The plants are now all native to the area. The birds have responded. This is a major stop for migratory birds going back and forth from the Americas. It is not unusual to find professional photographers in the sanctuary taking photos not only of the wild life but also of the plants. When you are in the sanctuary you have to remind yourself that there is a big, bustling city right outside the borders.

Restored Dunes, Montrose Beach

Beyond the sanctuary are the restored dunes. The combination of wetlands, plains and dunes reflects the natural lakefront area of 100 years ago. It is inviting to wildlife. It is also inviting to Chicagoans!

Chicago Lakefront

I walked along the lake. As I went south I saw the skyline of downtown. When I turned north I was pleasantly surprised to have the company of birds join me. The gulls were particularly brave and did not fly away as I approached them.


I walked over to Montrose Beach. That was another nice surprise. The birds played at the shore and dogs played on the beach. It was as if they gathered there just to entertain me!

Birds at Montrose Avenue Beach

Finally it was time to get back to Emmaus Ministries and work. As I walked down Wilson Ave I and two more stops. These were about art not nature but like nature, they were beautiful and they also made me smile.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jesus People USA and a Kyrgyzstani Concert

So I was getting a tour of Cornerstone a shelter created by Jesus People USA (JPUSA). Members of JPUSA live across the street from Emmuas in the Friendly Towers. 500 non-traditional Christians living together, working toeghert and sharing their income and more importantly, their faith. While I was touring the shelter I was told of a concert that night at JPUA. It was free and it was interesting. I was told there would be a Kirgizstani concert.

Kyrgyzstani Group

I was excited. I was told there would be throat singing. That was not accurate. There was a specific type of vocal music that was similar to throat music but they are not the same thing. Still, I was excited and determined to go to this unusual concert.

Kyrgyzstani Fancy pickin and a playin

The music of Kirgizstan reflected the influences of their neighbors the Kazaks and Turkmens. Russian influence can also be noticed. However, this is the music of a pastoral-warrior people. Music became a way for a pastoral people to pass the time and share a national history.

Kyrgyzstani Full Group

The music is played with some unusual instruments. There is the Timur komuz, iron instrument we often refer to as the Jews Harp. I had never before heard a song seriously played by this instrument. I now view it as a serious instrument and not just a gimmick.

Kyrgyzstani woman solo

Kyrgastani music is divided into instrumental music and vocal music. I like both.

Kyrgyzstani male solo

Some of the signing was the telling of stories, some love ballads and others epic national poems.

Kyrgyzstani variation of throat singing

The instruments were great just to look at and to hear them was even better. There was the Komuz This three-stringed plucked fretless lute. There was the Kyl Kiak This two-stringed bowed instrument had strings made of horse hair. What really grabbed my attention, just because they seemed so different to me, were the Choor wind instrument and the Jigatch It may sound something like a digeredoo,

Kyrgyzstani group with some interesting instruments

I loved the concert. I loved the customs. I love the posturing, how when a musician was not singing he or she did not display any emotion. It was very stylistic. And reminded me of how big and divers the world it.

kyrgyzstani guitar and song solo, female

Finally, I liked the concert because of the setting and the hosts. We were in the Friendly towers with the Jesus People. They are a unique people. Shaved heads, green and yellow hair, tattoos, piercings on men and/or women are common place. Ear plugs, wholly jeans or folks looking like vampires are common. So here we were with our hosts, in a room filled with beautiful windows and painting proclaiming the glory of Christ while listening to Kyrgyzstani music. This was indeed a wonderful night, Outside were the homeless, Africans, Muslims and Buddhists. Walking the streets were also Thais and Vietnamese and folks from the Caribbean. Inside the people of Central Asia and JPUSA. What a night!

Kyrgyzstani very fancy playing

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Acting, Gardens, the Zoo and Work: Part II

After the Botanical conservatory I walked through Lincoln Park Zoo. As a child this was a horrible zoo. The animals were crowded, the cages were small. However, by the time I was in college the zoo had been transformed into something wonderful. There were less species but larger and more natural settings. I became a LPZ Docent, something I have always been proud of.

Many of the larger mammals were in shaded areas. My pictures were limited but my personal viewing was a joy. I loved the polar bears, elephants, hippos and wolves.

Curious Puffin: LPZ

I was excited when I saw the arctic bird house. That was completed when I was a docent. It is small and the species are limited. However, the animals are very happy and that makes for great viewing.

Puffin Swimming: LPZ

Friendly, happy, aquatic birds, LPZ

The treatment of primates and monkeys had greatly improved over the years. The monkey house had been an over-crowded, minimally stimulating building. Today it has natural habitats and it shows. The monkey communities are always active.

Monkeys Playing: LPZ

Zebra: LPZ

I had always enjoyed watching the larger herding mammals. The building was completed when I was a docent. I remember being behind the scene after it was built and also giving inaugural tours there.

Camels: LPZ

Finally I walked over to the Reptile House. The original was a large building with many tiny tanks. The building had to be hosed down on hot days. This building is beautiful and the animal environments look real.

Outside the Reptile House is the lagoon. I has flamingos, ducks and swans. The setting is breath-taking.

Swan on lagoon at LPZ

So, after the audition, the Botanical Conservatory and the zoo I had to rush back to Emmaus Ministries. I worked the Ministry Center that evening. I then worked outreach. Yep, it was a full day and I loved it!

Acting, Gardens, the Zoo and Work: Part I

A couple of Saturdays ago I had a full day. I mean a FULL Day. First, Cathi called me and told me a Matt Damn movie was being filmed in Chicago and they needed extras. So I stood in line with hundreds of hopeful actors. We were “auditioning”. Actually they were taking our height, shape, age and looks and comparing them with their story line. I should find out soon if I will be an extra.

The movie is Contagion. It is directed by Steven Soderbergh. It has so many stars in it. Matt Damon, Winslet, Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, jude Law and Fishburne are in it. It is about a deadly disease that is spreading around the world. As we were auditioning the stars were filming in Hong Kong. However, the disease was going to break out in Chicago.

I doubt I will be chosen but that is OK. It was so much fun to be with so many interesting folks. I loved talking with the folks in line. I felt connected talking to the audition folks as they told what the actors were doing. They showed up the de-contamination suits we would be fitted for. They told us the story would take place all over the city. It was fun being there.

LPZ Outside of the Botanical Conservatory

Afterward I walked to the Botanical Conservatory. This is found in Lincoln Park next to the zoo. It is this wonderful glass dome full of tropical plants. I have been going there since I was a child. The entrance way sets the tone. The sounds change, the lighting changes and the humidity greets you. You are entering a new world.

Entrance of Botanical Conservatory LPZ

The garden has a number of rooms. Each has a different focus or theme. Whle most of the conservatory is tropical one room is dedicated to palms.

Botanical Conservatory: Tropical

My favorite room is the room with the pond. I like the fish but I also like the sound of falling water and the bouncing of light in the room.

Botanical Conservatory: Koi Pond

The next room is a show room. It usually has flowering plants that represent a seasonal theme. I got that as fall was starting. It was nice but it was not the spectacular show that represents this room.

Botanical Conservatory: flowering plants

Finally I completed my tour. As I stepped out of the Botanical Conservatory I appreciated anew the neighborhood, the zoo and the Chicago skyline that was the background for the gardens.

Outside of the Botanical Conservatory Looking Toward Downtown

The next part of this long but interesting day was to walk through Lincoln Park Zoo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Caring for Our Brothers

Today was one of those days where the ministry of Emmaus could really be felt. The day began early. Whitney and I were driving one of our guys to court. The hearing was in another county, the drive was two hours. Our guy was anxious. He was looking at continuance but he knew that was not a given.

Our job was simply to travel with him, to be a supportive, caring presence. We were not there to minimize his past behaviors or to provide legal counsel or psychological counseling. We were traveling as brothers and sister sharing a burden and caring.

Now this guy was easy to care about. He was the kind of guy any counselor would want to work with or any clergy member would love to provide pastoral care to. This guy was ready for change and transformation. So he worked his program. I don’t mean he just worked on his goals at Emmaus Ministries. I mean he worked his steps pertaining to his addictions. He worked on his spiritual growth. He worked on caring less about his wants and more about the needs of others. In short he is what every parent with a broken heart and a cry for a do again prays for. He is a prodigal son. He got his continuance and we drove back into the city.

On Wednesdays two meals are cooked. By lunch time the ministry center was packed. Sometimes that can be a tense time, not today. Today folks were happy to do their chores. Today the food tasted better and the conversation was more interesting and the prayers more pious. Today I heard guys helping other guys look for work. I heard guys give useful advice and accurate feedback to their peers. Today case management went smoothly and group was well received. All of this was true, until dinner time.

One of our guys was anxious about getting housing before it became cold out. Another was ill. A third was having problems with the paperwork related to getting housing. Still, all of the guys problem-solved.

Then, right before a wonderful meal and a table surrounded by our guys, staff and student interns one of our guys had a meltdown. He was struggling with his addiction. He wanted to use. That made his behavior erratic. He did a dance of berating staff and then feeling guilty because he really does care about staff. Some of our guys became defensive, about Emmaus. However, with encouragement they did allow us to handle the situation.

This was the second time today that I saw caring be the change agent. We provided limits and structure. We let him know what we would not tolerate while being clear we would find ways to care for him and ways that protected the community from his outbursts. He got it. He felt heard and cared for.

This is Emmaus Ministries. It is a place where we care about people unconditionally. For those that end up in prison, sometimes for years, we are there for them. We will stay involved in their lives as long as they want us to. Today we cared for a guy who was easy to care for. We also cared for a guy who was trying to push us away. We are called upon to make Jesus know on the street. We do that not by handing out pamphlets or preaching. Many of our guys know the Bible better than we do. We make Jesus know by recognizing him in our brothers. We make him know by being servants. We make him known by being humble. It is not always easy to see the miracles that are taking place at Emmaus Ministries. It is not often easy to see Jesus in our guys or one another. It is not always easy to love unconditionally. Tday was not one of those days!

Give Me Your Eyes: Brandon Heath

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Homeless: So Much Need

I am continually stunned by the number of social service agencies in Uptown. There are youth services and services for specific ethnic groups and services for specific problems. However what affects me and our guys directly are the services for the homeless and the poor. Our neighborhood has many agencies addressing the related issues and yet every agency is overwhelmed by how big the demand for services is and how limited their resources are.

Jesus People USA has a number of shelters. I had an opportunity to tour their facilities. The shelters are in what was once referred to as “Blood Alley.” It was one of the most dangerous areas in the city. Today it is an area where people come together to begin to turn their lives around.

The shelters, collectively known as Cornerstone Community Outreach provides emergency housing for homeless men, women, families and single parents and their kids. One of the two buildings is enormous. It is five stories tall and each floor is 11,000square feet. They provide housing for over 400 people.

Cornerstone Community Outreach Commercial

A couple of doors down from Emmaus Ministries is Ezra café sponsored by Jewish United Fund. While Ezra is primarily focused on helping poor and homeless Jews in the area they provide assistance to many people in Uptown. They also provide services for a large Russian Jewish community. The café provides hot meals for members of the neighborhood.

Just to the west of us is Uptown Baptist church. This is one of the most active churches in the area. It has a long history working with diverse peoples. A few blocks north is The Peoples Church. This is a very different church with a strong liberal history. Both churches share one thing in common. They both provide facilities for R.E.S.T. shelters. The shelter provides emergency housing for men (the Peoples church) and women (Uptown Baptist church.) Neither facility is elegant but both get folks off the streets. I have seen both shelters. They are not pretty but they are so necessary. Additionally, on Monday evening the Uptown Baptist church provides meals for the neighborhood.

There are also feeding stations, vans with hot meals. They are provided by Night Ministries. Night Ministries provides food, guidance and health checks.

Further down Wilson Ave, in the Ravenswood neighborhood is the All Saints Episcopal Church. The church started a food pantry. The pantry became too successful because the need is so great. So the pantry became an independent not-for-profit corporation, the Ravenswood Community Services. The provide bags of food every Tuesday as well as sit down meals. They also provide tutoring for youth.

Further north on Sheridan Drive is Inspiration Café and Café Too. They are a vocational training program for the homeless. They are set in elegant cafes. The “students” learn how to serve food and customers. By the end of the training the clients have earned food service licenses.

Inspiration Corporation Video

Emmaus works with all of these agencies and more. REST shares food with us. In return we give them baked goods. JPSUA and Emmaus share foods and support. Our clients are referred to all of the mentioned services

There is a large Salvation Army shelter for families. It is always busy. The housing does not service Uptown. Rather, it provides services for homeless families for the entire Chicagoland area.

Notice I never mentioned agencies for AIDS/HIV or substance abuse or mental health counseling. They all exist here but that will be another entry.

I have toured Ezra, Conrnerstones, REST, JPUSA and Ravenswood Community Services. I will be attending training with Inspiration Café and Night Ministries. The goal is to become acquainted with the breadth of services provided in Uptown and to assess the strengths and limitations of each program.

I am impressed with how many dedicated servants there are in Uptown. However, with the demands far exceeding the resources I am concerned that burnout for many cannot be far behind.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tony, Disco Balls, Boystown, and Jesus

Well tonight was kind of different. Monday nights I am in Boystown doing outreach. I walk the streets meeting with guys who are participating in prostitution. They do this to live, to support themselves, their families and/or their habits. I talk with hustlers, trannies, dealers and just folks who want to talk. My goal is simple, to let them know Emmaus Ministries is available if they need the services. I let them know it is a safe, welcoming place to get a good home cooked meal, do their laundry, take a shower, pray, use the phone, or get mail. It is not home but it is close. What I don’t do is go into the bars. This is ministry for men who participate in prostitution, it is not aimed at gays, the two are not the same thing.

However, tonight we went to Roscoe’s. I had never been there before. I walk past it all the time. I know it is always busy. Still, I was surprised at how large it was. It was also attractive and the staff was friendly. I really did not know what to expect. We were there to see Tony Campolo. He is an Italian-American Baptist who is a sociology professor at Eastern University. He talks about Christianity and homosexuality.

Tony’s talk was sponsored by the Marin Foundation. This is a ministry that strives to bridge the divide between the faith communities and the GLBT community. Andrew Marin is the author of “Love is an Orientation.” This is part of a series of talks that Roscoe sponsors.

Andrew Marin discusses his book, "Love is an Orientation"

So there we were sitting in a room with a large disco ball hanging from the ceiling talking about Jesus. The crowd consisted of folks from the GLBT community and church folks who had been invited. The conversation was honest and respectful. The speaker was dynamic.

So Tony spoke on the churches use of power. He spoke of the emphasis on one sin while ignoring so many others. He stated we are called upon to love our neighbor, we are called upon to love the sinner (who by the way is everyone) and called upon to take care of our own sins. He didn’t attempt to match theological point with theological point. Rather he challenged everyone to enter conversations with the attitude that they might be wrong. He believed it was an attitude that was conducive to dialogue and not just talking at one another.

The talk comes at an important time. Yes, today is Coming Out Day but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the increase in hate crimes, the use of the “homosexual issue’ in elections, the increase in bullying and related suicides. Tony pointed out that the rate of attempted suicides among young gay men was 18%. The talk was important.

Gay Bash By Mélange Lavonne

The talk was also hopeful. He acknowledged the challenges but also the progress. The fact that the audience reflected multiple perspectives attested to that hope. He spoke of the challenge of churches finding ways to find a place at the table for all of their members. He spoke of the challenge of not seeing people one dimensionally. He spoke again and again of love. It was a great way to spend a Monday evening.