A Place of Grace and Gladness: The Campaign for St. James Commons

Places of Grace and Gladness: A Campaign for the Diocese

In 2011, we launched Places of Graces and Gladness:  The Campaign for St. James Commons to undertake significant and essential renovations to the diocesan center, a $12 million project. Our feasibility study told us we could raise $8 million. In an act of faithful stewardship, the trustees of the diocese got the project going by financing the balance of the renovation costs from diocesan assets.

We were surprised and overwhelmed by the generosity of Episcopalians from across the diocese and beyond. In January 2013, we met our $8 million campaign goal ahead of schedule.

During 2013 and 2014, the campaign was devoted to replenishing the resources that enable vitality grants for dozens of ministries and congregations across northern and west central Illinois. These efforts make it possible for Bishop Lee and his staff to continue identifying congregations that are hearing God’s call to new ministry and responding with faithful, sustainable plans that need support to succeed. 

In 2014, more than 100 congregations committed to the capital campaign. Across the diocese, people held auctions, put on picnics, made music, and found ways to make fun in support of our common mission. See the photos in the Fall 2014 issue of our diocesan magazine, Thrive!.

Thrivefest! 2013

On September 15, 2013, more than 600 Episcopalians and friends gathered at a slightly soggy St. James Commons to celebrate the newly renovated diocesan center and the ministry it makes possible throughout the diocese.

In early 2014, the diocese will begin the third and final phase of the Campaign for Grace and Gladness that made the St. James Commons renovations possible. Thanks to many generous donors, the effort has already raised more than its initial $8 million goal. In 2014, the campaign will raise funds to replenish the diocesan assets that were used to finance the early stages of the construction project. The money raised will support creative and critical ministry across the Diocese of Chicago through grants from the Bishop and Trustees and other forms of diocesan support.

To find out more about how individuals and congregations can support the final stage of the Campaign for St. James Commons, talk with Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows via email or at 312.751.3577.

The Dedication of St. James Commons
April 25, 2013

Meet Some of Our Lead Donors

Mimi murley - reaching beyond the walls

Sometimes what moves a donor is a cause. Sometimes it’s a project. For Mimi Murley and her husband Bob, it was a leader.

“One of the beautiful things that the diocese is doing right now is really reaching beyond their immediate walls and realizing that there is partnership and possibility with other institutions,” says Mimi, a lead donor to the Campaign for St. James Commons and a former senior warden at Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest.

“Bishop [Jeff] Lee has really demonstrated a commitment to that across denominations and across institutions, and I was thinking today that one of the things that is most meaningful to me is that you can see the Lord leading and guiding and teaching us through the work of Bishop Lee and the diocese. I believe he has really channeled that effort in a very humble and compelling way,” she adds. Read more.


Clearly something big is happening at Chicago's 65 East Huron Street, and it involves much more than steel frames and cranes and concrete. The massive, ongoing renovation exemplifies people of faith's abiding belief in the importance of presence for the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Chicago.

"This is a high impact project for the diocese," said Nick Chabraja who, along with his wife Eleanor, is a lead donor for the renovations at St. James Commons, a property that includes the Episcopal Church Center, St. James Cathedral and the plaza.

"In my view, as Episcopalians, it is our responsibility to take care of the episcopacy," Chabraja said. "I think this project, if properly executed, may very well energize the diocese. And that is what you hope for." Read more.

Kitty and David Beecken - Kyle's Place at St. James Common

Sometimes the veil between heaven and earth seems particularly thin. The line between the inside and the outside dissolves, and there is no other, only us.

That’s the feeling and the spirit called forth by Kyle’s Place, the affectionate name for the D. Kyle Beecken Memorial Gallery that is planned for St. James Commons on Huron Street, Chicago.

With wide doors and an abundance of clear glass, Kyle’s Place will serve as an inviting, visible place where the Episcopal Church meets and mingles with the city of Chicago. Offering free Wi-Fi and state of the art technology, it will create a friendly environment for casual visitors checking email, home office workers meeting clients, or formal presentations by St. James ministry groups. Read more.

St. James Commons


The first floor of the Diocesan Center will become a technologically equipped space for receptions, classes, or presentations. It will also house a cafe and provide wireless Internet access.


A new labyrinth and landscaped gardens will offer visitors an oasis for contemplation in the midst of the city.


The newly renovated plaza will extend the Episcopal Church’s hospitality to the thousands of Chicagoans who walk by it every day.


This new “front door” will connect the Diocesan Center and St. James Cathedral and eliminate significant physical barriers for people with disabilities.