Honoring Ethnic Roots By Embracing Cultural Diversity
Christ Church of Chicago is more than a building, it is a community. Immediately following World War II, thousands of previously-interned Japanese-Americans moved across the country and many settled in Chicago. Serving these newcomers from its original location in Lakeview, this congregation was once made up of a majority of Issei (1st generation), Nisei (2nd generation), and Sansei (3rd generation) Japanese-Americans. Since moving to 6047 North Rockwell in 2000, the congregation describes itself as “an Open and Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ,” evolving into a more diversified community that still honors its Japanese roots.
The structure consists of an original church and parsonage from the 1920s and an addition from 1953 that is now the sanctuary. It was home to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, from 1926 until a membership decline in the 1990s forced the parish to close. In 2000, the property was sold to Christ Church of Chicago, whose members welcomed the opportunity to expand into a new home and neighborhood. while celebrating its Japanese-American heritage. Inside the sanctuary artwork and architecture of Northern European influence remains in place alongside elements of Japanese culture combined with Christian symbolism.
Coming from a history of racial hatred and discrimination, Christ Church of Chicago has faced issues including the Vietnam War, racial discrimination, and homophobia with activism and community outreach. Today, the congregation works with other organizations like the Heartland Alliance and A Just Harvest and participates in the larger Asian Pacific Islander community in Rogers Park and West Ridge. The church hosts Karate classes in the basement gym and participates in community fairs and food festivals serving Halal noodles, a new addition to show support for Muslim neighbors.
A Space Where All Are Welcome
In 2018, the Church furthered its commitment to creating community space by planting a prayer garden open to the public for respite and contemplation.
In the new garden area, next to the front steps is a Welcome Sign reading “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in English, Arabic, Japanese, and Hebrew.
On the north side of the building, a food pantry, book exchanges, and bike racks were an Eagle Scout project entirely self-funded and meant to be free and open to whoever passes by. There are non-perishables in the food pantry and books to loan in the book exchange boxes; one book exchange for children and another for adults.