A Downtown Priest

The Vicar of Bolingbrook has become The Vicar of… Downtown!

So, go downtown!
Things will be great when you’re – downtown!
No finer place for sure – downtown!
Everything’s waiting for you!  (Petula Clark)

In the suburbs, when people say “downtown” they mean “the city.” As in: ALL of it. I used to get confused when people would tell me, “My daughter lives downtown.” “Oh?” “Yes, in Rogers Park. She loves it.”

When you live in the city, “downtown” means “where the skyscrapers are” or “where there are more hotels than condos.”  We don’t live next to any skyscrapers (just highrises), but we’re only a few blocks north of Oak Street, which I consider the northern border of downtown.

Still, “downtown” also means urban, fancy, and near a city’s center. And that’s where I live now.

More accurately, I’ve become Senior Associate Rector of St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church, which is located on the Gold Coast, a small, mostly residential neighborhood along the lake, just north of the heart of downtown. Our neighbors are old grey stone mansions, turn-of-the-century townhomes, and luxury highrises.

We live in one of four apartments that are part of the church campus. The photo shows the view from our kitchen window – the stone-and-slate-roof church building and two boxey highrises built in the late 1960s. The church was built in 1894, then expanded and renovated in the 1920s.

There are many, similar contrasts here. Victorian mansions and modern glass and concrete apartment buildings. Beautiful, athletic, young professionals running or walking their dogs in the park down the street. Homeless men sleeping on benches or under trees in the park down the street. A postage stamp front yard with a fountain, gaslight lanterns, and impeccable landscaping. A postage stamp front yard with overgrown bushes and exposed dirt. A Lamborghini parked, almost on display, in front of a local restaurant. Dozens of parasols on display, hand-painted with sloppy flowers and glitter, for sale at the park by a man with a shopping cart.

My husband and I live in the midst of it, on the third floor of a former townhouse, now part of this neo-Gothic church building with a courtyard, a carillon (or bell tower), and a cloister.

This blog will be a diary of life in these places: the church, the neighborhood, the city, and even our apartment. It will be a geographical diary but also a theological diary; I want to write about God, ethics, happiness, Christian life, and other issues of life and meaning. (I can’t promise I’ll come to any firm conclusions, though.) I’ll also post lots of photos.

The title is inspired by the famous books The Country Parson by George Herbert and The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos (also a movie).

If you’ve followed me here from The Vicar, it will be different here in many ways, but in other ways, probably also very much the same. Thanks for staying in touch!