“We’re at a point where we’re needing to reestablish our congregation since it’s aging out,” said John Carter, treasurer for St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. The 161-year-old church’s interior is designated as a historic landmark in the city, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany of Tiffany and Co.
“There’s an opportunity to learn from Dreams and Visions and an opportunity to realize the gifts that we really have as a congregation,” he said.
The differences between the communities are distinct.
St. Mark’s congregants, numbers of whom are split evenly between heterosexual and gay/lesbian members, engage in more traditional worship. Seated in pews, they sing hymns accompanied by organ music and hear liturgical readings while a chasuble-clad pastor lights incense and delivers a sermon.
“Most of our hymns or liturgies are taken from composers like [Robert Schumann] and things like that really helped me feel really at home in the service,” Carter said.
Dreams and Visions is more “free form,” Anderson said. The church incorporates arts and crafts as a way to reflect on readings from the particular service. And there’s a focus on trauma-informed worship, Scott said, recognizing that many congregants have faced rejection in former religious communities.
That’s something the two congregations have in common, Carter said. He joined the ELCA when he moved to Chicago in his 20s, leaving his Baptist faith behind after the discriminatory comments from fellow worshippers left him feeling unwelcome.
“I felt really unwanted — and that stayed with me for quite a bit of time,” the 71-year-old said.
“The thing that is most impressive to me is the fact that people” who joined either congregation “really thought they had no place in any church at some point,” he said.
The congregations (both under 50-strong) are not merging, Scott says. They worship separately, and differently, but they are united in the same mission: to extend their reach into the surrounding neighborhoods and build an inclusive community hub for Station North, south Charles Village and Greenmount, where Carter said the church seeks a wider footprint.
“We’ve got a lot of young members — we’re really excited to learn from the St. Mark’s elders,” Anderson said. “It represents a true togetherness and kind of an intergenerational sort of bonding in a way.”
The founding quote of Dreams and Visions, taken from the Book of Joel, signifies that, Scott acknowledged: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your elders shall dream dreams, and your youth shall see visions.”
The covenant, signed by representatives of both congregations Sunday evening, signifies that “we believe we can do more together than we can apart,” Scott said.
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