Why I Give

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Imagine a church community

By Greg Colombe | November 5

November 05, 2017

I’m Greg Colombe and I’m privileged to serve as a Lector, Prayer Leader, and Chalice Minister at the 11:15 service. I came to SPR four years ago at the behest of two invitations: a formal, personal invitation extended by my friend Philip Jones to attend his Confirmation, prompting me to check out the SPR website, which offered me a second, informal invitation of sorts with the words of our mission statement, which include the following:

We Stand for the Radical Hospitality of Jesus
We hold together a progressive outlook and a rootedness in the traditions we've received from Jesus' followers in all generations.
We are woven of different races, economic statuses, cultural backgrounds, faith backgrounds, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations.
We seek out and are strengthened by each person's story and voice.
We honor both faith and doubt, holding together our highest hopes and our deepest fears.

Imagine…..a worshipping community which celebrates differences and diversity, rather than vilifying them or using them to engender fear, suspicion and division;

Imagine…..a church community in which my personal voice and, indeed, all of our voices, are encouraged, heard, and respected;

Imagine…..a parish which recognizes the logical progression from belief to action concerning social justice issues;

Imagine…..a group of fellow travelers with whom I feel safe and emboldened to share my deepest concerns regarding faith and doubt, in a parish that embraces the struggle and which recognizes that there are many questions and few pat answers.

SPR has more than lived up to the promise. It has provided for me an extended parish family, a number of deepening friendships, and an ongoing experience of the spiritual fruits of faith leading to action. I would offer, however, one additional insight that could serve as another bullet point in the mission statement: “We seek to infuse our collective worship with a recognition of both the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty.” In particular, the work of Christian, the choristers, and our frequent guest musicians attest to this aspect of worship.

In conclusion, I’d simply like to thank everyone here at SPR for the warm and genuine welcome that you have extended to me and I encourage all of you to reflect upon your own personal SPR experiences as you ponder how to best contribute your time, talents, and financial support during our annual stewardship campaign.

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Making this better for us and the world

By Julia McMillan | November 12

I'm an 11:15er and I've been coming to SPR since I moved to Chicago 3 years ago. I also am a Chicago Firefighter. I'm not going to lie, it's a pretty cool job. If you've ever seen Chicago Fire or Backdraft, my life is exactly like that. Just Kidding. 

As cool as it is, the job also often leaves me feeling hopeless. I encounter lots of Chicago's problems on a regular basis. Segregation, shootings, drug addiction, unequal and inadequate access to healthcare, police officers who are failing to serve and protect everyone. But I also see lots of people trying to push back against those problems, trying to make this City a better place. A lot of those people are here, in this room, and at this church. 

SPR is a place to come to make things better. 

As an individual, coming to a Sunday service makes me personally feel better. The worship gives me a chance to reflect on what is going on in my life and process the previous week. Singing loudly (and in my case badly) to the wonderful music rejuvenates me and gives me energy. Listening to the sermons helps put in context what is going on in the world, and how we as Christians can respond. Also, all the friendships that I have made here definitely make my life better. 

SPR also makes this city and the world better. It provides a space for people who want to better themselves and the world to come together. This is a place for us to find the spiritual support as well as the tangible assistance to transcribe our desires into actions. The food pantry, the refugee program, the Haiti program, discussions about racism and privilege, helping community members in need. These are amazing opportunities for us to channel back to the world what we get from the services- rejuvenation and need to respond to the world in a loving way.  

When I've had a long week at work seeing lots of sad, unjust things- and I'm certain that I'm not the only one- it's so comforting knowing that SPR is here. It's here to help process these things, and here to assist in making things better- for ourselves and for the world. I give to SPR so that it will continue to be here and continue to be able to help us with these important missions.


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YOU are the reason

By Anna Mary Wallace | November 19

My husband David and I came to SPR on the Feast of St. Paul in January of 1973 at the suggestion of my boss who said, “You’ll like the music.” Our first visit coincided with that of the Bishop and I leave you to imagine the effect of the pomp and circumstance displayed on that occasion on a couple whose Chicago worship experiences had been in Rockefeller Chapel, the First Unitarian Church and Morton’s Arboretum! Our next inkling that this church was different came a few Sundays later as we were scuttling down the side aisles so as not to be noticed by the rector. (We weren’t very sure about all this.) We were interrupted by a tall, distinguished, African American man. “I’ve been watching you two. Tell me who you are.” We were caught, caught up in the mystery, beauty and welcoming diversity of this church.
Nearly 45 years later Lonnie Haynes and David Wallace have gone to their final resting places, side by side in the columbarium. At least five rectors have come and gone and now Peter is leaving. I remember vividly when David and I experienced our first change of rectors. We were distressed at losing the man who had gently guided us, with our doubts and hesitations, through the, to us, arcane process of confirmation. Favorite church programs were also under scrutiny. Sound familiar? Why would anyone subject themselves to this kind of disruption over a period of 40 years?
YOU are the reason. Look around you. See how interesting, diverse, warm, curious, supportive and energetic you all are. And accomplished! 
In 45 years, with the help of your rectors, you and your predecessors have added, to the holy mystery of the liturgy and the blessing of music, outreach programs to Shoesmith and Haiti, a Bible Study group, an open kitchen, a Food Pantry, a new organ, the St. Nicholas and Youth Choirs, the Godly Play program, elevators, a tradition of small group discussions, and SPR on Tap! The faces around the communion table now include many more young families, and much greater diversity, thanks to a policy of welcoming, “radical hospitality”, one we owe to the vision of rectors and congregation alike.
At each transition, members of this congregation supported one another, did the hard work of finding a new rector, moved on to exciting new visions. And made the continuation of the church and its work possible through their generous gifts of “time, talent and treasure” as the stewardship campaign leaders used to say.
I give to this church out of great gratitude, for having been enlightened, nurtured, supported, stimulated, challenged and having had my horizons expanded ever since, David and I entered these doors.
Thank you.


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Welcoming the real me

By Mindy Pugh | November 26

I thank the parish for this opportunity to introduce myself further and express my appreciation for your including me so fully in your community. I am Mindy Pugh, a transitioning transwoman who is incredibly fortunate to have the full support of my loving wife, Diane, whom several of you have met. Diane and I have a special needs child and the two of them are usually home on Sunday mornings.

Transitioning is a broad term that encompasses not only making physical changes but also changing one's official identity. In my case the physical changes have been going on for two and a half years, involving hormonal therapy, facial electrolysis, and the first surgical steps. Voice retraining exercises are obviously the next step-we'll get there! In almost all my public appearances-except here at SPR-I still present in male "drab." This is because I need the expensive process of physical transition to be behind me before I go "full time" and change my legal identity, including gender status-which almost assuredly will result in my losing some of my income as of course not all employers are supportive of transsexuality.

Without giving my age, I will just say that my fashion ideals are mainly mid-1960s woman!

As daunting as physical transition has been, that takes second place to the spiritual struggles I have faced. I was raised in a very conservative family and church and for many decades tried to fit into my assigned roles. God blessed my family and home church, but it was hard. I always knew I was female at core and some years ago began serious research on transitioning. I did so with much fear, however, as I had been so thoroughly socialized otherwise as a child. 

I studied the Bible for guidance on gender identity issues; I googled a prodigious amount. I was afraid of losing my salvation if I moved forward. I questioned my own motives. I struggled with the whole matter of personal identity: how much of it do we ourselves control, and now much of it do we "owe" to our parents, family, and society in general? 

At the end of that process I knew that I had to move forward-and would have to throw myself entirely on God's love and mercy. And then I realized: haven't I always been wholly dependent on God's love and mercy? What would have made me think that I had any sort of special status with God beforehand? This led to a final round of self-examination, and I had to admit that I had enjoyed and internalized the safety and opportunities afforded a native-born American white male. Sure, that had never really been a comfortable fit, given my true gender identity. But moving forward required an honest appraisal of where I had been-and where I was going. In the space of only a few months my politics shifted radically. I accepted with fear-but now also with joy-that I have common cause with all who are systemically disadvantaged and personally suffering, in a way that I had never really understood before.

After that, it was a simple matter of finding a church home that would welcome the real me-and SPR's radical hospitality was all I needed. Once inside, I found that I was truly home. How wonderful to have such excellent preaching; to hear so much Gospel music; to hear voices calling and working for social justice; to find assurance that our Lord is indeed God of the oppressed and weary. Thank you!



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Learning our heritage

By James Osborne | November 26

My wife Jen and I started coming to SPR with our two daughters around this time two years ago. It felt strange for us at first: we'd never been in a church congregation as adults. More than that, neither of us are particularly devout. I'm not an atheist or anything, it's just that God's not really part of my daily life when I'm outside of this building. And even while I'm here I don't exactly feel comfortable sharing about faith - no matter what calamity befalls me, I'll probably never speak up during the prayers of the people. 

So what is it, then that brings us through the doors nearly every week? At the start, it helped that we live only about 75 meters from here: without even needing to strap the kids into car seats, there literally was no excuse not to go to church. After a few months of enjoying it, but still not really speaking with anyone just in case they made us talk about God, we finally let our guard down and started getting to know the people in the pews. What I saw when that happened was a community of people who, besides being extremely friendly and welcoming, are also deeply engaged in learning about the world around us. 

I've always been a sucker for an opportunity to learn something, especially something historical, or about the cultural traditions of which I'm a part. I enjoy the readings, for example, less for their lessons and more because I love trying to figure out the thematic threads that tie them together so that I can understand the motivations behind them better. And this church is perfect for people like me. Personally, my favorite parts of the sermons are when Peter explains small parts of the liturgy that have always been a mystery to me, like why the readings are part of the Spirit, as opposed to the Father or Son, or why the clergy perform certain body motions at particular moments during communion. There's even a lecture nearly every week on something pertaining to our tradition at adult formation. For little ones like my daughter, she too is learning about our cultural legacy in Godly Play, and without even realizing she's doing so. A place that is committed to learning about our past heritage and applying those lessons to a progressive present is tremendously valuable, and more and more today, incredibly important. 

I like SPR because SPR helps me learn about who we are and what we're a part of. And to me that project will always be worthy of our collective support.

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I regret nothing

By Twila Jones | December 3

"Sacraments do not make true, sacraments make real. We do not baptize little babies (or anyone else for that matter) so that God will love them. God already loves them. We wash them to bring them into a community that begins to make God's infinite love real in their lives-touchable, tastable, experienceable."
These powerful words are from the sermon delivered by Bishop Jeff Lee at the ordination and consecration of Jennifer Baskerville Burrows.  They shook the core of my being, permanently dislodging the warped, traumatic, fundamentalist theology on which I had been reared.  Theology that left me profoundly crushed by the belief that I was inexorably wicked and unworthy in the eyes of God; exhausted by the futile attempt to somehow be less so.  When I finally left that inauthentic, performative Christianity I was convinced that there was simply no place for me in God's church. 

Jeff Lee also says that Jesus chooses us, not the other way around.  Maybe this explains why, after some wandering in the wilderness, I felt a call to re-examine faith in community that led me to SPR. In hindsight, Bishop Lee's words verbalized the reality I took a tentative step towards 5 years ago when, entering this sanctuary for the first time, I found myself irresistibly drawn to the altar.   I flung myself headlong into that reality less than a year later when our beloved rector, Peter Lane, turned to me after a diocesan Confirmation service.  Over cookies, punch, and a handsomely bound parish register he declared, "When the Bishop comes in December, you're next."  I said "OK," feeling no resistance in my spirit although knowing that in the eyes of my former church I had just excommunicated myself and signed my own spiritual death warrant.  


At SPR people well acquainted with my demons, failings, and idiosyncrasies hold me close nonetheless, surrounding me in honest and true affection that is not dependent on subterfuge.  SPR is the spiritual home that has allowed me to see a place for myself in God's church once again; helping me reconcile the paradox of a seemingly congenital hyper-awareness of divine presence with the indecent and disorderly story of my faith.  YOU are the community that has made God's infinite love real in my life.  Among YOU my restless soul delights in precious moments of peace.  

You teach me, challenge me, listen to me, and pray for me.   You amplify and help me interpret the purposes to which God calls me.  You allow me the honor of doing the same for you.  I am deeply grateful to SPR and knowing that no amount of money or time I give this place will ever begin to repay the gifts of grace this community has given me, it's all I can do to simply pay it forward as best I can.