With few parishioners, historic Near [Chicago's] West Side Episcopal Church is closing

After nearly 130 years as one of the Near West Side’s richest landmarks, the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany is closing its doors.

The massive structure at 201 S. Ashland Ave. had a congregation that dwindled down to almost nothing. Only five to seven people were showing up every Sunday, and what few parishioners remained came to the decision in early November that it wasn’t sustainable to keep the building open.

With such a small group of parishioners, it was impossible to fill the coffers just to meet the basic needs of the church, according to one of the congregation’s leaders, Nikki Shields.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Parishes

14 comments on “With few parishioners, historic Near [Chicago's] West Side Episcopal Church is closing

  1. David Keller says:

    Another sad episode in TEC; one of many, many more yet to come I fear. The one thing about this article that is more disturbing than usual in these closings, is Jim Steen’s statement that the building will be easier to preserve without people in it. I had two thoughts: (1) preserve for what, if no people will use it? I guess it will make a great paper weight; (2) we had to destroy that village in order to save it.

  2. Ralph says:

    From their website http://www.epiphany-chicago.org/ :
    [blockquote]Epiphany is a vibrant, growing community of faith serving the Near West Side. We are a multi-faceted diversity of God’s People living and working in this crossroad of four very different Chicago neighborhoods. We worship, serve, and thrive in a broad cross section of economic status, race, ethnicity, national origin, education, sexual orientation, gender identification, and age in this rapidly changing urban intersection.[/blockquote]

    Perhaps a mosque or a nightclub. Heaven forbid that it be sold to ACNA.

  3. Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    I see on the parish website that they tried Liturgical Dance. When a parish is resorting to gimmicks of that magnitude, it’s time to turn out the lights…the party’s over.

  4. tjmcmahon says:

    I found a comment online from someone who visited a couple years ago, and said there was a congregation of 40. Chart for the parish is very strange:
    [url=http://pr.dfms.org/study/exports/1559-1787_20111201_08115342.pdf]link to stats[/url]

  5. Anastasios says:

    I knew this parish very well in the late 90’s. At the time there was an Epiphany Restoration Association that won city awards for its work and many ambitious projects were anticipated to make the place a focal point for the “New West Side”. The last vicar alienated all those involved in the restoration, ripped out the intricate wooden pews and advertised the sacred space for use for dances and parties. She tried to make the place over into the TEC image of “what really works” and when this failed miserably, locked the place up and mailed the keys to the bishop. I wish Epiphany a quiet rest until a loving and faithful congregation opens it again.

  6. NoVA Scout says:

    No. 2 – to my knowledge, the hesitation about properties being sold to ACNA has only arisen where a dissident Episcopalian group has seized or occupied property without compensation, excluded continuing Episcopalian worship, and has purported to join ACNA, CANA or some other new group. This is a vastly different situation. Here, the church appears to be vacant and wanting for worshippers. If there’s a thriving ACNA congregation nearby that needs space, I would hope that the Diocesan Bishop would consider a sale to another Anglican group that can make good use of the property.

  7. Cennydd13 says:

    He won’t, because your PB says he can’t, and it makes no difference [i]which[/i] Anglican group it is, either……the ACNA or any [i]other[/i] jurisdiction.

  8. New Reformation Advocate says:

    I’m beginning to think that empty buildings are going to become the most prominent symbol of TEC in the near future. Whether that is due to conservative congregations that have departed TEC losing lawsuits and being forced to abandon their former home, or simply due to the much larger number of churches where the congregation has dwindled down to almost nothing but a few elderly folks, the end result is the same: lots of empty or virtually empty buildings are piling up. I think that soon diocesan spokesmen won’t be able to claim that such church closings are rare.

    How sad. A lament is in order: “[i]How are the mighty fallen![/i]”

    The fact is that once you pass a certain point in the chronic decline of a congregation, you cease to have critical mass, and the downward slope tips so sharply that it starts to look more like a cliff.

    On another thread recently, Statmann noted that in the entire Diocese of W. MO. (headquartered in Kansas City), during the whole year of 2009, the 48 churches in that diocese reported only 51 infant baptisms. That was the total for the whole year for the whole diocese, barely more than one such baptism per congregation. And it’s likely that some of those few infant baptisms were of kids in families that don’t attend church much, which makes the future prospects of that diocese even worse. That grim stat dramatically illustrates the graying of TEC, and how pathetic most TEC congregations are at passing on the faith to new generations. Alas, in general, young families with children are strikingly absent from most TEC congregations.

    Yeah, empty buildings, the new symbol of TEC. I think that soon there will be LOTS of closed, empty Episcopal churches around the country, and not just due to demographic shifts in urban areas.

    Then again, the multiplication of beautiful but empty buildings is actually quite an apt symbol of TEC these days. For the dreary emptiness of its formerly occupied, well-maintained, and busy buildings appropriately expresses the emptiness of the false gospel being preached in so many places.

    David Handy+

  9. Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    Well, there is hope. I am a priest in TEC, and we have several new families with several toddlers running around our parish.

    It is not all doom and gloom.

  10. Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    What this article does not report is that the Diocese of Chicago has a policy of sending in a priest (usually a priest that can’t find a job anywhere else because of personal issues) long enough to keep the doors open so the Diocese can bleed off whatever endowment money the parish has. And then once the parish has no more assets that the Diocese can suck dry, they close the parish. I saw this happen a number of times when I was at Seabury. I am virtually certain from my sources in Chicago that this is what has happened to this parish.

  11. NoVA Scout says:

    Actually, No. 7, I do not believe there is any policy such as the one you describe. My previous comment, I believe, is accurate. If departing groups around the country had done the traditional, obvious thing – simply left and found other quarters – I don’t think there would be any strong aversion to ultimately negotiating for sale or lease of properties and some of them would have transferred by now. The kinds of positions you are referring to have arisen in the context of seizures or occupations by departing group and exclusions of continuing Episcopalians. I think the reaction of Diocesan and national officials to that fact situation has been rational. One doesn’t do anything to encourage that sort of radical behaviour. The situation described in the post, however, appears to be one in which there was no schism or factionalism within the parish – the place just died. In such a situation, I would hope that the Diocese would see fit as part of their stewardship obligations to consider any reasonable proposal from any Christian group that can put the building to good use. I guess I should disclaim any particular knowledge about this parish beyond what I read in the post. I don’t know whether there is another Anglican group in the area. But if there were, and they had nothing to do with the failure of this parish to thrive, my guess is that there would be no objection to a fair value sale or lease to them.

  12. wyclif says:

    #10. I call what you describe the “I Drink Your Milkshake” strategy, possibly inspired by the film [i]There Will Be Blood.[/i]

  13. Sarah says:

    RE: “Actually, No. 7, I do not believe there is any policy such as the one you describe.”

    Of course there is, and our Dear Leader is on record stating it in a deposition.

    But then, everyone already knew that and it’s all been quoted repeatedly right here on multiple T19 threads.

    I’m just pointing this out to note the standard rhetoric emanating from some.

  14. NoVA Scout says:

    You may want to read the deposition transcript slowly, No. 13. The exchange, as defined by the CANA lawyers, was clearly directed at a situation in which a departing group had occupied a heretofore Episcopal property. The Presiding Bishop said what any sane person with fiduciary responsibilities would have said: we won’t reward that kind of behaviour. The response was directed at the behaviour, not the affiliation. I’m sure the answer would have been the same if a bunch of parishioners were leaving to become Buddhists and laying claim to the buildings on the way out.

    In this post, there is no indication that there is an occupying Anglican group. It seems on its face to be outside the situation described by the person you refer to as the “Dear Leader.” (I am so anti-authoritarian that I hate these hyper-socialist terms, but suit yourself). I think my comment to Cennydd13 holds up rather well in the context of this post, this thread.