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Trinity (Downtown), Chicago, Illinois, USA
(Downtown), Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Holy Trinity's downtown venue is the American College of Surgeons
Auditorium, located in the Murphy Memorial Building. Designed
by the Chicago firm of Marshall & Fox, known for their lavish
hotels, apartment buildings, banks, and other grand works, the
Murphy Building represents the Beaux-Arts style at its most
opulent. Built between 1923 and 1926, it was modeled on the
Chapelle de Notre-Dame de Consolation in Paris and was intended
as a memorial to Dr John B. Murphy, one of the founders of the
American College of Surgeons. Bronze doors feature panels depicting
notable figures in the history of medicine, e.g. Louis Pasteur,
Joseph Lister, etc. Inside, the domed auditorium is dominated
by a tall backlit multicolored stained-glass window and is replete
with medical and scientific decorative motifs, whereas churches
would employ biblical themes. The building and the auditorium
underwent an extensive renovation, completed in 2006, that restored
or replicated every last detail of the original design. Today
the auditorium is available for rental as one of Chicago's premiere
They see themselves as ministering in five spheres: the world,
the city, the neighborhood, the university, and the poor. They
are very much a free church based on the concept of church planting.
They currently meet in four locations throughout the city, and
in addition to their Sunday services they hold group meetings
and one-on-one counseling. They also partner with several like-minded
ministries in Africa, Europe and Asia.
This is Chicago's River North district, known for its art galleries,
bars, dance clubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The
Murphy Building is just off that stretch of Michigan Avenue
known as the Magnificent Mile for its prestigious residential
and commercial trappings. All around are hi-rise condominium
towers and luxury hotels. Next door is the Nickerson Mansion
(now the Dreihaus Museum), another grand example of architectural
opulence. They share a block with St James Episcopal Cathedral.
The Roman Catholic cathedral as well as a prominent Presbyterian
church are also nearby.
Worship was led by Chris Long. The preacher was Joseph Kim,
associate pastor with a focus on the downtown congregation and
director of missional ministry preaching. Jonathan Gilley was
in charge of the music. Congregational prayers were led by Barb
The date & time:
Sunday, June 24, 2012, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The main floor was about half full, with maybe 120 chairs set
up and 60 or so people attending. The wrap-around balcony was
not used. There were many young couples with children.
Did anyone welcome you
I wandered in. Someone passing by (who I later learned was Pastor
Kim) said "Hi." I said "Hi" and asked if
there was a service sheet. He led me to an usher, who was greeting
Was your pew comfortable?
Very nice upholstered chairs, generously spaced.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
It was very animated, with people chatting and greeting each
other. The praise band musicians were either practicing or playing
pre-service music, not sure which. I was engaged quite enthusiastically
by a young woman sitting near me who sipped latte from a cup.
She was downright perky and drew out my whole biography.
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
The first words were "Hi. I'm (I thought he said) Paul," after
which followed some announcements. The service shortly opened
with "Good morning. It's not a 'why' we are gathered here, but
a 'who': Jesus Christ."
What books did the congregation use during the
No books. There were a few Bibles scattered around the seats,
but everything spoken out loud by the congregation was projected
onto a screen. There was a small service sheet containing many
announcements of upcoming events. Their free WiFi enabled me
to download a full King James Bible onto my Kindle in the minutes
before the service.
What musical instruments were played?
Violin, guitar, bass, and drum trap set, with Mr Gilley and
some back-up singers on mikes.
Did anything distract you?
Though there were some young children present, they were pretty
mellow. A cell phone did go off loudly during a prayer. My main
annoyance was that people speaking into microphones need to
be aware of the reverberation of the space and not speak too
fast or conversationally. Sometimes words ran together in prayers
and in the sermon. Barb Uniejewski was the best public speaker.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Very loose and casual. My nearest neighbor sipped on her latte
at intervals. On a warm summer day, flip-flops were quite acceptable
footwear. The space was beautifully air-conditioned.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 I give Pastor Kim only a six because although he was
well prepared and organized, I thought the theme of the sermon
was a bit dull. I'm not sure how the message should pertain
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
We started out reading together the fourth chapter of Judges,
which is the story of Deborah and Barak and the defeat of the
Canaanites, a well equipped army. It includes a vivid account
of Heber's wife killing Sisera by driving a tent stake into
his head while he slept. Pastor Kim emphasized the notion of
how justice and grace work in balance. I guess his point was
that we will be judged for our sins, but this point was quite
Which part of the service was like being in
The mellow, friendly atmosphere was welcome on a hot June day,
and the sense of easy fellowship, especially in such a fabulous
room, was sort of heavenly, I guess.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Old Testament stories of violence and mayhem are interesting,
but their lesson for us in our 21st century lives is a difficult
connection that I'm not sure was made. The other thing I hate
is projecting the words of a song (hymn) onto a screen, assuming
we don't read music, but assuming we must know the tune. It
is a dumbing-down of worship. I am a fan of printed hymnals.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not much. No one approached me. People were catching up with
friends in animated groups.
How would you describe the after-service
Eventually I went over to the coffee setup in the lobby. I tried
out the coffee urn, but only a few drops of coffee leaked onto
the powdered creamer in my cup. I carried it outside and disposed
of it at the bin in front of a pizzeria in the next block.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 This was an overall good experience, but I am familiar
with at least three other churches within two blocks, and can't
see a good reason for another one. I went partly to see the
interior of the College of Surgeons Auditorium. I was in no
way disappointed, but now feel I have seen it on all
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Sure. Glad and thoughtful.
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
Three things: The enthusiastic chat-up by the young woman with
the latte; the death-by-tentpeg scripture; and downloading a
Bible onto my e-reader (thanks to their WiFi) minutes before
the service. A little hi-tech fun!
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