A Place of Grace and Gladness

March 01, 2012

On Ash Wednesday 2011, Bishop Jeff Lee stood on the corner at 65 East Huron administering ashes to passersby. One woman looked up at him and said, with tears in her eyes, “I pass by here every day. It’s amazing the church would come out here to us.”

Bishop Lee and the Diocese of Chicago touch and transform people’s lives, and we are poised to do so in ever-deeper ways. By transforming our diocesan center into a place of grace and gladness, we can bring the church “out” into the downtown streetscape, even as we invite people “in” to newly accessible, attractive and comfortable gathering spaces beneath our roof.

A garden and labyrinth will grace the corner of Wasbash and East Huron, leading passersby, office workers who eat lunch on the plaza, Rush Hour Concert goers, and other visitors toward a newly-constructed entrance that will make diocesan headquarters and St. James Cathedral accessible to all. Beneath this urban oasis, a restored water barrier will safeguard the structural integrity of the plaza for decades to come.

Inside, visitors will pass through a new Welcome Center, a wheelchair-accessible and weather-tight space that will connect diocesan offices with the cathedral in a way that models open hospitality for the larger church. The first floor will be transformed into a bright, art-filled, technologically sophisticated gallery, made comfortable year-round by new HVAC systems and suitable for receptions, classes and other events.

Burrill Hall will be given new life, a new name, and new sense of purpose and excitement. The Great Hall—as it will now be known—will be outfitted with new bathrooms, a new kitchen, a new elevator, and the up-to-date technology and HVAC systems that will be standard in our new public space. Here, the people of St. James Cathedral will welcome and feed hungry people and diocesan leaders, parish administrators, visiting dignitaries and people in need will find comfortable space in which to hold their meetings.

The diocesan center and its next-door neighbor St. James Cathedral have been rechristened as St. James Commons, a more vital, more appealing, more useful and more joyful place. Environmentally sustainable renovation practices, consistent with silver LEED standards, will ensure that we steward the earth’s resources responsibly. Accessible entrances, passage ways and meeting spaces will make it possible for all people, regardless of physical ability, to participate fully in the life of the diocese, and in community events. The newly renovated complex will provide flexible program space for the Cathedral’s growing congregation and a more accessible home for the outreach work of Episcopal Charities and Community Services. More important, it will stand as a witness to the vitality of the Diocese of Chicago and the grace of God that sustains us all.

The goal of the Campaign for St. James Commons is $8 million. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have raised nearly $5 million. In the weeks ahead, you and your congregation will be able to learn more about opportunities to help create A Place of Grace and Gladness. To learn more now, please talk with Crystal Plummer at 312.751.4206 or via email.

Category: St. James Commons
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