When I first moved to Chicago, I embraced the cliché of a small town girl moving to the big city. I rented an apartment downtown and fell asleep to the twinkling lights of the sears tower. I worked in an industry where the luxury lifestyle was praised and I started to emulate the materialism of my peers. I felt myself falling astray and sparkle of city quickly wore out.
When I walked into Grace Chicago Church for the first time two years ago, I immediately felt more grounded. I was comforted by the small community within a giant city. I saw families with beautiful children running up and down the halls. A tight knit group of people were conversing over coffee. My naïve heart felt that I would not fit in as a single woman. However, the Holy Spirit was at work that day. I walked into the room for the service and sat in the second row by myself. I enjoyed the liturgical style of worship and the inspirational, contemporary hymns. After the service, Sonja turned around and said hello. She then introduced me to Allison. We quickly bonded over similar interests and beliefs. That Sunday I also attend the New Comers lunch. I was thankful that Grace provided a meal for me and I had the opportunity to ask questions directly to pastor Bob and Caleb. I also met Lisa who welcomed me into her home for game night. It is safe to say that I felt accepted and loved on my first Sunday with Grace.
Over the next couple of months, I became more involved with the social activities of church. I attended the bread-making class, women’s meet ups, and the newly formed Lakeview community group. I began to get to know people in the church and felt inspired by the contributions of everyone on Sunday mornings. From the breakfast table to the communion table, to the printing of the bulletins, and the writing of the prayers of the people, to the liturgical message and readings, I could see that this community was collectively seeking the good of the city. I knew I wanted to be more involved.
One Sunday, Holly Demoray served on the Hospitality and Welcome Team and reached out to me. She found out I worked at the Merchandise Mart and connected me to Madeline Tuiller who also worked at the Mart. We started getting coffee on Fridays before work. Through simple conversations with another believer over coffee, I slowly felt my vocational life being redeemed and I could see God’s handiwork over every square inch of creation. I felt more connected to the body of the church and I wanted to help connect others too. Caleb recognized this desire within me and encouraged me to join the Hospitality and Welcome team. Speaking in front of church was not easy, but I was willing to do it knowing that I could bless newcomers in the same way that I was.
As time went on, I found myself naturally integrating with the children of grace. I attended the first church camping trip and had so much fun laughing, playing games, and singing in the beautiful outdoors of Michigan. That trip inspired me to teach Sunday school and to attend the camping trip the following year. Only the latter I regret. If you don’t know the story, I think William Lovell does the best retelling. That night after I had fractured my nose playing capture the flag, I was sitting around the campfire with tissues shoved up my nose and a strong headache. Considering the circumstances, I was in poor shape, but I realized there was no place I would rather be because I was surrounded by people that genuinely loved and cared for me.
I want to thank Grace Chicago Church for creating a home and family for this small town girl. I want to thank the church for helping me grow stronger in my faith and helping me recognize God’s goodness throughout this big city. I wish I could mention and thank everyone of by name. I encourage those new to the community to invest fully in the community of Grace Chicago Church. Please know that God’s hand is at work here with your interactions with one another. Keep sharing your stories. Blessings!