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Chicago Day 4. Today is 02/24/10 in Chicago IL

Awake early and start work.

Today is an easy shoot list.

Rockefeller Chapel http://rockefeller.uchicago.edu/

Bond Chapel http://maps.uchicago.edu/mainquad/bond.html

Old St. Pats  http://www.oldstpats.org/index.html

St. John Cantius http://www.cantius.org/home

I am getting a late start  from writing the blog, editing photos,  planning transportation for today’s shoot – I want to get to Rockefeller by noon to hear their bells ring.

Hurried, I dash out of the apartment and head to Bryn Mawr Station a few blocks away.

Aboard the Red Line South I am standing by one of the doors, my camera pack strapped to my back. I note that there is a big church near the Fullerton stop and make a note to include that to my list; for the end of the day.

At one stop the door opens and in walks a family who I had given directions to two days prior when I was staying at the Blake. I was actually walking to a church at the time and they were looking for Lou Malnati’s Pizza. They are from China. The core family lives in Boston. That was a fine day as the father and I walked with my map book a few blocks together talking until they headed to Pizza and I to church. NOW here they are entering the very car I am on at the same door aI am standing in front of on the Red Line going south. The father steps in and although I see them first, he takes a second before I register to him and says, “Of all the people, what are the chances in 9 million?” I ask him how the pizza was and he asks me how the church documentation is going. We talk a bit about his days since we met. We all move over to some seats and the talk shifts to the Bible as he was raised Catholic shifted to Protestant, believes in God but has stopped going to church. This is usual. We talked about the tithe and other things that have been his issues among the churches he has attended. Great conversation. We reach their destination and they depart. He asks if I would ever shoot in China – I say I would love to if I had a sponsor…

A fellow is sitting in the corner and comments on the chances and the conversation. We talk a bit and I ask directions about the line back, transfer for brown line etc… then another fellow suggests Jackson. They both. The one fellow moves closer and now I am sitting between them and we are talking about the times, the church as a central and active nucleus to a local community, and the talk deepens to why the churches help other countries and not it’s own local family. This fellow was just laid off from the CTA where he had worked for some time (CTA is cutting employees, Illinois is in deep financial toruble): another great conversation. The three of us are so deep in conversation that I almost miss my stop. I bid them a rushed farewell and jump through the doors at the Garfield station – catch the 55 bus.

Arriving at Chicago University, every building looks like a church, and the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel suggests an amazing creation until I enter. Inside it is plain, more like a concert hall than anything. I take three photos. It is not church. It just boasts a stellar Organ that isn’t being played and so I move on to Bond Chapel

Bond is small, and quiet, and feels contemplative though not much to shoot other than to note the stained glass. I make a mental note for future conversations with churches and architects.

All in all I could have avoided this journey but then I reflect on the stream of events on the Red Line – and pray for the folks I talked with and consider, actually wonder, what, if any, the effect of the meetings, especially the last two men…Although it is not the day I was hoping for, I thnak God for the Chinese family and the two men on the L car.

I work my way back to Old Saint Pats. But it is locked. I go to the rectory and no one is there. I call a number on a sign and talk to Karla (?). After a long explanation, I am told their needs to be a photo request form filled out – I haven’t the time, and she can’t get anyone to St. Pats in the amount of time I can wait. So Old St. Pats is skipped. I am disappointed and move on to St John Cantius.

St. John Cantius is farther from the Brown Line station at Chicago than I was told and I am crossing the river when I decide to call and see if they are open. It tuns out they are but not until 4pm (it is 3pm). That gives me time to eat. I see it in the distance and keep walking noting that there is a buss that runs Chicago Street and to take it bac to the Brown Line would be a better idea than walking since the light is waning and I want to find that big church I saw from the Red Line earlier today.

I smell a bakery and find a large commercial bakery – hoping to buy some fresh baked bread, but can’t find a door. I keep walking – I see a subway in the distance (this is the only place I have seen for these miles of walking… where are all the places to eat? I am craving fried chicken). As I near the Subway I see a pizza place next door and opt for it instead. Inside, there is one guy at the bar and a blond girl working (turns out she used to live in Oceanside CA – not far from Laguna Beach). We talk a bit, there is a special large pizza for half price (making it the same price as other things on the menu – sandwiches, burgers). Despite her persuasion, I just can’t carry left over pizza with my gear to the churches I still plan to shoot, and I order a sandwich. The guy at the bar asks me a question and he and I begin a long and fruitful conversation. Mark Fisher lives in Chicago, married, 5 boys, an architect, a Buddhist and friends with a well known psychic, Lan Vo.

We talk a long time, about the spiritual path of the Buddha and boddisatva and the gift of receiving. I tlak about what my mission is about. Again, the timing and the circumstance – it is an interesting day. I have to leave for the church and Mark picks up my tab. A lesson for me to receive gladly, and a gift to Mark that he may be blessed in giving. He says it is the way of a Buddhist monk to say thank you when others offer to help, for both are receivers of gifts in the action. I flash back to Mike T. who always says to me not to deny him the blessing of his giving to me. This seems to be my lesson in life these days. I thank Mark and part with his email, promising to email him later with links to my websites.

At St. John Cantius, the lights are off, but I take what is given and shoot what I can. A monk comes in and asks what am I doing… I tell him I am taking photographs, and sadly, the lights are off. But vespers is about to start and some lights come on, just as I have packed to leave. I ask father if my shooting would disturb vespers, and he says to go ahead and photograph. I do. Pack-up. Leave.

I catch a bus, the brown line, get off at Fullerton. It is getting dark. Walk four and a half blocks and there is the church on de Paul’s campus: St. Vincent. It is locked. I ring the rectory bell and they let me in. Take a few photos before the light outside no longer illuminates the stain glass windows.

I have dinner with J.D. and Gary at Charlies (a local restaurant in Edgewater). I have Chicken Pot Pie. They treat me again to dinner and I remember to say “thank you” in the way of the Buddhist Monk. I know, but sometimes I would like to be the giver (now that is ego talking…I have much to learn). They have been such gracious hosts, I am learning from watching: hospitality.

So today was less about shooting churches – in that regard, compared to yesterday, today was a failure – today was about people encounters at the soul level, in community.

I note an interesting observation about my shooting in my three one month outings: The Czech Republic was about the sense that the visual art lends a consecrated space, it’s environmental contribution to the worship and for the worshiper; Jerusalem tended more toward the active worship as the people encounter the art and particularly icons, the Wall, God’s presence, the act of worshiping itself in consecrated spaces that are active and functioning; this domestic tour is tending to be about the clergy in some regards, behind the scenes and the life given to God in ministry.

I will not see Gary in the morning so we bid farewell. He gives me a standing invitation to make this my home anytime in Chicago, telling me to visit again. A blessing.

I shut down the computer, and head off to sleep.

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