Why I Give
Babies Fussed, Kids Darted
By Alicia & Andrew Chipman | November 20
When we were first married, we were members of a different church in Chicago. It was a wonderful church. The building was breath-taking and the sermons left us thinking and talking every week. It was large, and after service we usually just ended up talking to each other as we ate our snacks, but we were satisfied with the ways it enriched our lives spiritually and intellectually. Then our son was born. At his pre-baptism orientation, we were told, “While your child is being baptized and that is incredibly special, the service is for everyone, and not everyone is there to see your child. If your child makes noises at any other point during the service, we ask that you step out until you have quieted them.”
Now fast-forward a year. We had stopped attending this other church because we found we spent most of our time not in service—especially as our son got louder and more active. But we wanted a spiritual home. One Sunday, we decided to give St. Paul and the Redeemer a try. It was a baptism day. Throughout the service, babies fussed and kids darted up and down the aisle, and everyone smiled at them. As the congregation moved as one toward the baptismal font, led by the children, singing “We went down to the river to pray…”, we looked at each other, placed our hands on my (Alicia’s) pregnant belly, and our hearts swelled.
An hour and a half later, after the service was done, and we had sat on the steps of the church being actively welcomed and engaged in meaningful conversations, we followed our 18-month old home as he toddled along in a diaper laden with water from playing in the sprinkler in the church yard with friends he did not know. We were still thinking about and discussing the sermon that had moved our hearts and opened our minds, and we felt more than satisfied. We felt full.
We give to SPR because it is our community in the truest sense of the world. It is a place that has genuinely blessed each of our children, and that lets them play hide and seek in the altar. It is a place that comes together in love around life in all its forms, and then sends that amplified love out into the world.
By Hannah & Adetayo Adegoke | November 13
Tayo and I share many things. We both have a background steeped in English Anglican tradition. Newly wedded and having moved back to Chicago into our home, we immediately started looking for our spiritual place of refuge. We wanted a place where we could immerse ourselves as part of a community that had the comfortable background of norms we knew by heart, while stretching us to grow spiritually, and connecting us in a tangible way with our neighbors.
We looked near and far (well, really just as far as the borders of Hyde Park, so not that far at all), and we were blessed when we spotted this church. We did not know what to expect, and I am particularly glad that we walked in blind to what this church now means to us today, because, we were in for one of life’s rare treats.
That first Sunday in the summer of 2011, we came in and sat down at the back, to a packed church filled with energy and spirit.
The music was phenomenal, and the sermon was inspiring and thoughtful. But what really struck us was the deep diversity of people sitting next to us, in front of us and behind us. Hannah and I have developed friendships with people of many varying backgrounds, and seeing that part of our lives extended into the sanctuary of worship was strangely comforting and familiar. It didn’t hurt that this particular Sunday was when Agnes’ baptism took place, and being greeted with a smile and a handshake during the Peace brought joy to our hearts.
I remember Hannah and I looking at each other quietly at some point during the service, knowing that we have found another home.
For us, with our respective families several thousand miles away, an inclusive spiritual community is an important of our lives, to anchor us as we move on to the next chapter and beyond.
Why do we give to the church?
We give because we have received so much.
Our lives are that much richer and fuller with the meaningful friendships we have made here. It is through this church that we were adopted by people our parents now call Hannah and Tayo’s parents in Chicago.
It is through this church that we have worked for spiritual peace and tranquility through service to God.
And it is through this Church we experience, all the time, the radical hospitality practiced by Jesus.
Hannah and I invite you to keep this uniquely wonderful community inclusive, alive and thriving, next year and beyond. Thank you and God bless you.
Support, Inspire, Challenge
By Sem Sutter and John Easton | November 6
Hello. We are John Easton and Sem Sutter. Except for a five-year hiatus when we lived in Washington D.C., we have been members and supporters of the Church of St. Paul & the Redeemer since the early 1980’s. We give to SPR for two main reasons.
First, we believe in community. We believe that strong communities can engender much good. Our community here at SPR brings us together to support, care for, and learn from each other. We learn to tolerate our differences, we learn how to trust people who are different from ourselves, and to borrow a phrase from Peter Lane, we “create space for our dissonances.”
It’s especially heartening for us to see successive generations of children here at SPR. This community provides them the opportunity to interact with responsible adults -- in choirs, Sunday School, and summer camp -- who help raise them into caring and concerned young people and adults. We hope that someday they will bring our belief in community back to this or other church communities.
The second reason that we support SPR is because this parish, through its liturgy, preaching, and music, reminds us of the people that we all want to be: people who are kind and fair, people who care for others, people who love justice and seek mercy. We all can be consumed so easily by our own lives, our own problems, and our own perspectives. This community reminds us of our broader obligations and our responsibilities to our neighbors.
The excellent sermons help us interpret the lessons and prayers we hear and help us to understand how to apply those ideas in our daily lives. Our beautiful music adds a layer of expression and emotional impact to the prayers, readings, and thoughtful sermons of our worship.
We give to SPR because this community supports, inspires, and challenges us. It reminds us of who we want to be and how we can live meaningful and connected lives, loving and serving our neighbors, no matter how different from us they may be. We encourage you to join us in giving to sustain this community.
I Was Dumbfounded
By Maureen Jesuthasan | October 30
Before I was Maureen Jesuthasan, I was Maureen O’Dowd.
On a beautiful, fall Sunday morning, Maureen O’Dowd attended her first Service at St. Paul & the Redeemer with her boyfriend, Ravin Jesuthasan.
Attending Sunday Service was a huge step in my relationship with Ravin and I was excited yet very anxious about attending Service at an Episcopal Church. The reason for the anxiety was due to the fact that I was a cradle Irish Catholic and was guilt ridden about attending a non-Catholic religious service. Despite my anxiety, I eagerly accepted Ravin’s invitation.
As we sat, holding hands, I felt somewhat at ease, if not a bit shocked to discover that “Service” compared to “Mass” was nearly identical but, then “it” happened ... the sign of peace.
For several minutes, I watched the entire Congregation, Choir, Deacon, and Priests stand up walk around the entire Church for the purpose of embracing one another. The atmosphere was alive with loud conversation and laughter, all compounded by the excitement of children who eagerly ran to their parents upon their leave from Children’s Chapel.
As I stood there, I was dumbfounded.
Compared to my life long experience, the sign of peace was typically a moment of cold handshakes, with people who did not give you eye contact and quickly wished you peace from the corners of their mouth.
Now, that is how it was done!
The idea of embracing strangers and wishing them peace was a completely foreign concept to me. Despite my discomfort with my first visit, when Ravin asked me to return to SPR, I accepted.
Over the course of my continued visits, the proud declaration of, “…at SPR, we practice the radical hospitality of Jesus Christ” began to sink into my consciousness. What exactly did that mean? As the years past, I slowly figured out.
This hospitality is demonstrated in
- a Food Garden that feeds the hungry
- the Maundy Thursday services
- small groups
- Youth Group-sponsored pancake breakfasts
- our relationship with St. Patrick’s Church in Tom Gateau, Haiti
- the beautiful music that is given to us as a gift by the Choir in celebration of All Saints
- standing by a beloved SPR member as she struggled with her health
- and, last but not least, in walking to someone that we care about and sincerely wishing them "peace."
These are the personal experiences that have helped me to break away from my innate fear of “difference” and embrace what I believe "Church" truly should be.