Thursday, June 22, 2006

A sad fate for a parish church

The Right Reverend Philander Chase was the first Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Illinois, having been elected (without his knowledge) in 1835 by the parishes that had gathered in that state. One of those historic parishes was Christ Church in Joliet, 30 miles southwest of the city of Chicago. The same year of Bishop Chase’s election, Christ Church was begun by a celebration of the Holy Eucharist where the church still stands. An original structure burned down, but the church was rebuilt using Illinois limestone. The interior was a classic example of high church Gothic architecture, as can be seen in the accompanying photographs. The nave was flanked by beautiful stained glass windows, all dedicated to the memories of loved ones. Behind the altar in the side chapel the remains of church members were interred. The church closed its doors for worship in 2004, after 169 years as an Episcopal Church. A private developer has purchased the church and plans on turning it into a center for live entertainment: the sanctuary will be used as a stage (after the “holy, holy, holy” is scraped from the towering wooden reredos still within the sanctuary), the nave—now stripped of pews—will be used as a dance floor, and the parish hall will be a bar. The stained glass remains. In the meantime, the gutted church was used for a celebrity wedding. I know that the church is not the bricks, stone, and wood of a building, but it is hard not to feel sorrow for a space hallowed by years and years of Christian worship come to this sad end. One can only pray that the remains of the faithful parishioners are no longer housed in the side chapel adjacent to the main sanctuary.


J. Gordon Anderson said...

Love your blog, Father, and enjoyed meeting you at synod.

The same thing happened to a big Episcopal Church (Christ Church) here in Baltimore. It was once a gorgeous, historic church with awesome stained glass, intricate carvings, and such. Now it is a crazy non-denominational church called the "New Refuge Deliverance Cathderal", and serves as the seat of "Her Eminence, Naomi DuRant, Archbishop". It is so sad. They letting the building go completely to pot.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

Good to meet you as well. God bless in your new ministry as curate at St. Mark's.

Continuing Home said...

That is sad, but it sometimes can be reversed.

St. Augustine's, Chico CA, is a historic old (by California standards) church put on the block the Episcopal church in the mid to late 80s. The buyer turned the nave into an upscale Chinese restaurant, the sanctuary a bar, the hall downstairs a nightclub. Five years later the business went bankrupt and through a series of twists and turns wound up being bought by an APCK parish.

(Aside: During the restoration, as they removed the restaurant facades to restore the building's original appearance, they kept finding little crosses secreted here and there behind the facades, apparently by the unknown workmen who erected the facades.)