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Chicago Day 3. Today is 02/23/10 in Chicago IL

John David knocked on my bedroom door so I could be up in time for 7:30 mass.

After a good night’s sleep, I have my fill of coffee and cereal (sans-milk, granola style) and grapefruit in a cup.

I clean up, dress, get my gear and descend the stairs from the 4th floor of the rectory to the icy sidewalk, slipping a bit and realizing a fall would not be expedient to my day. The Episcopal Church of the Atonement is next door.

I take mass and afterward have coffee and cakes with the small group of folks who had gathered at early mass. I am given a myriad of ways to reach Hyde Park where I am planning to see the Rockefeller church.

I begin my photo exploration of The Atonement Church finishing with a touching discussion with John, the Sexton, who talks about his testimony and how he came to Atonement from jail (gangs) and how John David blessed him and brought him in. God is amazing. There is much to say about the religious life, and who teaches Love if not religion? It IS the function of the church, though many have gone astray.

Anna has brought me maps, and helpful hints. In a twist of plans, and because she has opted her day to help me, I stay in the North-side with my guide, Saint Anna, who opens the doors to 5 closed churches by ringing the bell of the rectories and talking our way in. I roll with the day or as I like to say, “give God the reins to my day”.

All total, it is a long day, photographing eight churches. In most it is only Anna and I. I have full access even to the back rooms and the altars of four of the churches and at St Jerome, which was locked, I went to the office and introduced myself: I was given the key to the gate and the church door…! That is a first. Although the lights were off, it was a keen and intimate experience to be alone in Chicago’s longest nave in the dark.

Here is the list of churches for today.

Atonement, Episcopal (John David‘s church)

St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox, North Side Chicago

St. Ita, Neo Gothic (Father Dan let’s us in)

Holy Nativity, Romanian Eastern Orthodox

St. Gertrude

St. Ignatius

St. Jerome

Madonna della Strada Chapel, at Loyola University on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Added to my 12 count from the previous two days and I am at 20 churches already in Chicago alone!

In Chicago, the people have been extraordinarily helpful and welcoming. Several pastors have welcomed me into their parish and and also the Episcopal Cathedral of St. James, and allowed me full access. St. Anna tells me it is because of an anointing from the Holy-land. (I don’t know about that, but it has been remarkable since returning from Jerusalem, which is in my heart).

I note the Stations of the Cross in all these churches and reflect on their depiction of the Crucifixion event, aware that all these churches are mere reflections of that time in the Holy land. It dons on me that churches are remote satellites orbiting in the distance transmitting the event… Jerusalem is ground zero to which all churches mirror. This again is a profound moment for me.

I also realize I will have to make another trip to Chicago as there is too much here to see and do. I will have to forgo my visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Back at the rectory, Gary and John David have ordered Thai food; Gary makes me a Manhattan, followed by a glass of wine with dinner and a White Russian for desert! J.D. has given up drink for Lent. We all work at the dining room table until retiring for the evening. Tomorrow is my last day in Chicago.

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