St James’ Cathedral Chicago

St James’ Cathedral Chicago

Woken early by the extraordinary amount of rain falling from the sky – and three hours later it is still coming down. I thought it was supposed to be wind on Pentecost Sunday ? I pop upto Starbucks for my morning coffee and look out over the wide roads and cars struggling with the water. The drains seem unable to cope with the water and the sideawalks are flooding.

Today is the great Feast of Pentecost and I decide to go to the Cathedral in Chicago for the 10.30am Sung Eucharist. The building is old by US standards – it is one of the oldest in the city built in 1834. St James’ has a long tradition of engagement with the city and community. It is a place that is full of life and a very wide collection of people. I arrive early and the Cathedral ornately decorated after the style of William Morris quickly fills up. There is a wonderful smell of red roses – and I soon discover that today is American Mothers Day too!

I am particularly keen to see the Keiskamma Altar piece which is on loan from Hamburg South Africa and leaves today. It is a stunning, monumental piece of art created by 140 women from Eastern Cape Province as a hopeful response to the AIDS pandemic in their community. It has been made on a huge scale (13 feet by 22 feet) and the embroidery tells of celebration, solace and strength that can come from our faith. It is a wonderfully rich and colourful piece that sings of hope!


  This picture gives a small impression of how art and the participation in art can uplift and deepen solidarity.

There is a large congregation and I find an spot where I can settle down to pray. Of course the congregation and community of Temple Balsall are very much in my love and prayers – at 10.20am here – it is after 4pm in England so Church must seem a distant experience for some. I expect there are many making their for tea and cakes. (See  for some insights into my community back in the UK).

The worship is led by the Dean, Joy Rogers, who is a small woman with a big presence. I love the bright red vestments and the incense. Joy has the wonderful finishing touch of a splendid pair of red shoes. I wonder if Kathy (Lloyd Roberts – assistant curate at St Mary’s Temple Balsall) has followed this fashion?

I am deeply moved by the power and wonder of the worship – in a way that simply is not possible when you are presiding at Baslall worship. I do not ever want religion not to touch the heart and stir us up to feel the sheer goodness and danger at the centre of our faith. Joy Rogers peaches a brilliant sermon about the story of the Spirit and how we should become activists for hope. The visual image of the the pain and struggle within the Keiskamma altar piece where women have been drawn together to sew , teach and inspire is used to ask us what we are doing for the common good in our communities. As she ends the choir sing ‘ Come Holy Spirit’ softly as a backcloth to the climax of the sermon.

I feel the power and wonder of the words and their challenge for ministry and mission wherever we belong. How do we incarnate the message of love and God’s saving power within the world? How do we become salt and light and yeast?  

The service over I join Sam and Chris for lunch – and the rain keeps pouring and the wind blows off the lake with a force that makes it difficult to stand!  A good thick beef stew and chocolate pudding help. Now back to getting ready for a busy week in the windy city.

Hope yours is a good week too. Whatever or Wherever!




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