In the past, Grace has suffered painful pastoral transitions and conflicted relationships between and among clergy, vestry, and congregation. These finally boiled over in 2016 when the longtime rector resigned.
Since then, we, the people of Grace, have worked hard on healing the hurts dealt and suffered during those troubled times with services of forgiveness and reconciliation, facilitated Sacred Conversations, and much more. Among the resolutions that came out of these conversations was a commitment to more transparent communication between leadership and congregation, including very well received quarterly parish meetings.
A renewal of mutual respect, trust, kindness, optimism, joy, and engagement in the life of Grace Church is already evident. We are committed to continuing this holy work of healing and of learning and practicing healthier ways to be in community together.
Oak Park, an inner-ring suburb of Chicago, doesn’t feel like a suburb. With its lively and walkable downtown, easy public transit, vibrant dining scene, new high-rise apartment buildings, exciting arts community, and flourishing small businesses, Oak Park is more urban than many cities.
The treasures of Oak Park are well known – see the websites of the Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park Museum, Art League, Conservatory, and Park District for just a few examples. The village’s excellent public schools are another treasure – see the elementary schools and high school websites for details.
Oak Park nurtures and benefits from the diversity of its residents – but that didn’t just happen.
In the 1960s, Oak Park was challenged by a demographic shift in the neighboring West Side of Chicago. Driven by racial prejudice stoked by fearmongering profiteers, middle-class white homeowners on the West Side sold their homes to unscrupulous real estate speculators and moved away in waves – white flight. Many of the new residents were less wealthy African-American Chicagoans eager to leave overcrowded or deteriorating old neighborhoods. But racism, exploitation, crime, and official neglect followed them to their new homes.
Other inner-ring suburbs were also plagued by “blockbusting,” white flight, and resegregation. But the progressive leaders and residents of Oak Park were determined to ensure peaceful integration of the village’s neighborhoods, enacting a fair housing ordinance in 1968.
Has the goal of peaceful integration leading to racial equity and justice in Oak Park been achieved? No, not yet. The recent documentary series "America to Me" clearly shows that Oak Park’s progress has been and continues to be uneven. But the people of Oak Park – and of Grace Episcopal Church – have not given up and will not give up on the goal of racial harmony.
Of the 134 parishioners who completed the Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT) survey in the summer of 2018:
84% identify as white, 11% African American, 5% other
64% live within 2 miles
55% have earned a graduate degree; another 38% have at least a bachelor’s degree
50% claim Episcopal or Anglican religious background; 38% Roman Catholic; 33% other mainline Protestant (respondents could choose more than one)
Collectively, the people of Grace form one of the most theologically progressive parishes in the diocese.
In ten years, Grace Church will celebrate its 150th year. It’s our hope that our next rector will lead us in a joyful celebration of Grace’s long life and renewal then, but first, Grace and that wise and holy priest must find one another and then work together to bring that renewal to life.
The CAT survey of 2018 revealed these priorities for Grace’s immediate future:
Small-group conversations with Grace’s children and youth brought out a request: That our next rector be one who likes kids taking part in parish life.
We seek a rector who will:
Grace seeks a wise and holy priest who is
grounded, scholarly, prayerful, and inspiring
to serve as our next rector.
Might this be you?
Might you and Grace Church be meant for each other?
Might God be calling you to lead Grace Church into a bright future?
Might our next rector be you?
At first glance, Grace Episcopal Church of Oak Park, Illinois, appears to be yet another stately old downtown church, with its dignified Gothic revival stone building and elegant stained-glass windows. But there’s so much more to Grace Church than meets the eye!
Sunday worship at Grace Church is an experience of beauty, dignity, and reverence. Drawing from Enriching Our Worship and an expansive use of Rite II, the clergy, staff, and lay ministers prepare and carry out worship services with loving attention to detail. The thoughtful and progressive theology reflected in preaching and the prayers of the people inspires our minds as well as hearts and souls.
Grace’s stone building houses a resonant brick-lined worship space that has echoed with music every Sunday for more than a century. The repertoire of the three choirs comes from around the world and through the ages.
Grace Church loves music, and the most beloved music at Grace is congregational song. Drawing on the vast treasury of the Episcopal and Anglican tradition, including Hymnal 1982; Lift Every Voice and Sing II; Wonder, Love, and Praise; and more, we pray wholeheartedly in song.
The People of Grace
Theologically progressive, highly educated, and thoughtful, the people of Grace love to pray together, learn together, and celebrate together. We are a diverse group – in age, race and ethnicity, religious background, wealth, ability, gender and orientation, and household or family composition – and we are united in valuing the diversity and inclusivity of our parish community highly.
Stewardship and Support
Grace Church was established in 1879 and sustained through its early years by a handful of founding families. Now, 140 years later, the parish is blessed with a broad base of support, a solid endowment, no debt, no deficit, and a balanced 2019 budget.
Thanks to a renewed commitment to stewardship led by the wardens, co-treasurers, and vestry, we have already raised 98% of our 2019 pledge campaign goal of $325,000 – and we’re not done yet! We are also well on our way toward meeting the $125,000 goal of a special appeal to provide for our rector search process and to fund capital improvements to the parish house and rectory.
If you would like to be considered for this position, please submit your OTM, resume, and cover letter through the Clergy Information Form for Transitions at this link.
For further information, please contact the Rev. Andrea Mysen, Director of Ministries for the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, at 312-751-4203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace Church Oak Park is deeply grateful to the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, of which we are a member parish.
The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, led by the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, has 123 member congregations in northern Illinois, stretching from Lake Michigan on the east to the Mississippi River on the west.
The diocesan office is in downtown Chicago at 65 E. Huron Street, just east of St. James Cathedral, near the famous Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue.
The Diocese of Chicago is known for its leadership initiatives designed to support congregational vitality. To this end, the Diocese invests its energies in four key programs: the College for Congregational Development, Fierce Conversations, Project Resource, and Living Compass. The Nicholas Center in the diocesan office provides classroom space and accommodations for these programs and other leadership opportunities.
Grace Episcopal Church
924 Lake Street
Oak Park, Illinois 60301
A printable version of the Parish Summary is at this link.