If Indianapolis is my hometown, Chicago is definitely my sceond hometown. Katy, my wife, can say the same thing. But, she has a huge Catholic extended family that has deep roots up there. For me, Chicago was a lifechanger.
I was born in Indy but married in Chicago. I went to college in Indiana but was schooled in the streets of Chicago (ie. learned to be a community organizer.) I grew up on Indiana Republican politics (yikes!) but knew about Obama before he was way cool. (I blogged about this experience before the election).
The fam and I are making the 180 mile trip to Chicago tommorow morning. Lorelei will get to see her great-grandmother and we get to stay in a comped downtown hotel and the next day I will be part of a discussion at First United Methodist. (They are a church that owns a skyscraper, and their sanctuary is like on the 5th floor!)
I was aked to participate in the discussion because of my involvement in the Earth House Collective, It seems that Garrett Seminary and First UMC are interested in starting a third space/missional coffee shop and want to hear about my (well, our) experience in trying to do it here in Indianapolis. Our downtown United Methodist church–we don’t own a skyscraper–started a coffee shop ministry three years ago and they want to hear about our experience.
The funny thing is is that what we do at Earth House was in part inspired by the most exciting and beautiful parts of Chicago. It were these parts that we wanted to try and harness in our 8,000 square foot building in downtown Indianapolis.
1. Community Organizing: Indianapolis has no community organizing ethic. There is not a single grassroots organization that can speak truth to power in this city. And win. Chicago has many of them. It was where Saul Alinksy got started, where ACORN has one of its strongest chapters, and is home to the Gamaliel Foundation
2. Film: I am in love with the Gene Siskel Film Center. It is a great place to watch cutting edge films–new or old–and interact with filmmakers. It is sort of why we started the Earth House Film Forum–though on a much smaller scale!
3. Music: Though I am a musical idiot, one of the other leaders at Earth House got us thinking about music program in terms of The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chciago. This is what he was talkin about and this is what the Old Town School says:
…the School presents performances by internationally known touring artists, the best of Chicago’s local artists and its staff and students virtually every weekend.
Throughout our 50 year history, what has set the Old Town School of Folk Music apart from other music teaching programs has been the philosophy that music is for everyone. The founders wanted the School to be a place where, as founder Frank Hamilton said, “teacher and student would be partners in learning.”
4. Church: When we were imagining what type of church that we wanted Lockerbie Central UMC , home to and founding partner of Earth House, to be there were two Chicago churches that came to mind. Wicker Park Grace is like Lockerbie…small and meeting in an art space; doing amazing things for its size. Lawndale Community Church is an amazing place on the Southwest side that virtually rebuilt a neighborhood (affordable and safe housing, free health clinic, a locally owned restaurant, afterschool programs, etc.). Wicker Park Grace is what we could be in the short term and Lawndale Community Church was where we wanted to go.