Trinity Galewood is in a typical urban community, but it may not be typical to where you grew up. What do your eyes see when you look at the neighborhood around this church on the west side of Chicago? Maybe it’s the struggle for decent employment, or the occasional gun violence, or the more than a quarter of adults with no secondary schooling. Maybe it’s the single parents, or domestic abuse, or the urban health issues. How about institutional prejudice and red lining in the past that bequeathed a legacy of distrust still living today. Are you comfortable in these circumstances?
Transform – that’s what we’re about. The difference between Trinity Galewood and perhaps other churches working in Chicago, however, is that we’re actually not focused on transforming the community. The transformation we aim for is in us – in our own hearts and minds as we gather and serve from this corner on Narragansett and Wabansia.
(Though, let’s be clear. Anytime God works transformation, which is the gift of forgiveness paid for us by Jesus through his death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit is at work to transform not just our place in the hereafter but our daily living in the here and now. As we live as transformed people that can’t help but result in transformed families, communities and nations as well.)
But back to us; Trinity Galewood aims to be a family of people transformed for the sake of the community where we are located. From everyday people who are broken, restless, insecure and separated from God, through Jesus we become confident, secure children of God who discover beauty in the diversity around us. That means crossing boundaries, embracing something new and stepping beyond what is our personal “typical.” That can make us uncomfortable. In those moments, we have two big options: flee or lean in. Transformed people don’t run away; they lean in.
Transformed is an identity God gives us. It’s not an identity about us, however. It’s an identity to involve us, draw us in, give us a mandate, call us to action. The city is an environment where trust is broken; as transformed people we want our actions to rebuild that trust in the community.
Here’s an example. Trinity Galewood does “Dream Outside the Box” with some of our college students in cooperation with our nearby Amundsen Park District’s after-school kids. The first Wednesday afternoon the team was there, the kids were blown away by the fun look they got at possible careers that could be open to them―things they’d not had a chance to be exposed to previously. But it was the team itself that was blown away the second week they showed up. Kids were waiting and watching with noses pressed to the window in the door. When they saw our team approach, several ran out and hugged them, exclaiming to each other, “They came back!” Those kids wondered whether they could count on us to be there for them again.
The story of the woman at the well is familiar in outreach work (John 4). Jesus goes to a place that was uncomfortable for Jews and crossed a number of boundaries to have a conversation with an outcast woman, and it transformed her life. It’s important when we consider ourselves in this story that we remember we’re not Jesus; we’re the woman. If we try to be Jesus, we’ll burn out; we can’t do what he did! No, what has really happened is that Jesus came to us at our own well and transformed us. Now, he invites us to come with him as he goes around to the people in our community.
For sure, the city is complex with complex issues, but God has not left the city. We need have no fear when Jesus works with us and through us in uncomfortable places. After all, he transformed us in the uncomfortableness of his suffering and death on the cross and then went on to vanquish the uncomfortable in his resurrection.
No, God has not left the city and certainly not this community. I know he’s still here because I see him bringing people to Trinity Galewood, each from their own well. I see him inviting you to go with him as he works with all kinds of people in each neighborhood. So, lean in. There’s great joy to be found in embracing the diversity we see around us.