Joy as Necessity (Dancing in Iran)

As much as the Puritans had an outsized influence on American culture, I think that one of the primary things they erred in, theologically, is the notion that joy – or maybe intentional happiness – is somehow frivolous, and therefore sinful.

Joy is a necessity of life, and while it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are experiencing “happiness” all the time, it’s a sustaining force that allows us to draw from happiness something greater, something that give us hope and perspective when times are rough. People are not mindless drones, although work is an important part of life, the soul needs more than constant work, constant busyness, to be satisfied.

This is part of what makes this story so disturbing. According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, the Education minister is cracking down on the school officials who allowed Iranian children to dance around to some music in school. https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2019/05/title-irans-education-minister-cracks-down-on-school-kids-dance-challenge/

From our perspective, it’s a sweet little video. Little kids bopping around, smiling and laughing, the way little kids do. They are experiencing one of the ways in which music touches the soul, that delight. Now, from what I can tell in the English translation, the song is far from profound, it’s meant to be more of a Eurostyle techno earworm to get people moving on the dance floor. “Shake it sexy” isn’t necessarily a phrase little kids ought to be familiar with, but that’s not what kids are doing here. It’s hardly the type of thing, with all the other serious problems Iran is dealing with right now, that needs officials up to the deputy speaker of Parliament considering a crisis worthy of investigation and punishment.

Official video of the song “Gentleman” by US-Iranian artist Sasy

The singer, Sasy, for his part, has not backed down either. It helps that he lives in California, but still, publicly standing up to Iranian officials on this matter is no little thing, and he ought to be commended.

God is Love, and in His love and in loving others, we find real, sustaining joy. Music is part of that expression, whether it be for love, for mourning, for silliness, for dance, and it is no coincidence that music is so often referenced in the Bible.

Hard-line Islam, on the other hand, shuns music. In some sense, like the Puritans, there’s kind of an idea that the soul doesn’t need joy, that one ought to operate, always, in a way that is contra to this. Yes, the Christian life, and in Orthodoxy, in particular, we are taught that we need to live in a manner that curbs the passions, but when we actually do this, it almost always brings to us a more joyful life. It is not a blanket prohibition on fun (which was a common criticism of Christians I heard as a kid).

We need joy. We need the times to be happy and the times to mourn. As the passage in Ecclesiastes says:

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Chapter 3:1-8 (King James Version)

Even this mentions dancing, because it’s so important to the human condition, an expression of joy. May we all pray that the time for dancing in Iran be near!

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Amid the ashes of despair, prayer taking wings as song

The morning reveals what has been destroyed and what remains in regard to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The Daily Mail, as is its custom, has lots of pictures. It was truly a devastating fire, and surely amazing that so much of the Cathedral remains. I wasn’t the only one to compare this fire to that at St. Sava in New York City; thankfully, it seems here that there was more left of the church once the fire was contained.

Churches are particularly vulnerable to fire, and, in many respects, the older the church is, the more vulnerable it may become. It seems as though some may have been cognizant of this, for it seems like a large amount of the treasures of Notre Dame may have been rescued. Reminiscent of the January 1966 fire that destroyed St. Michael Orthodox Cathedral in Sitka, it was a human chain to the burning Cathedral that apparently helped save many things. It may also be that since the Cathedral was under renovation, there were many things being housed elsewhere. As it is, many adornments, including statues nearly ten feet tall, which adorned the roof had been removed just last week. This was probably a miracle in itself, as had they still been on the roof, no doubt they would have come crashing down to earth in this inferno.

Still, one of the most haunting things about the scene last night was not the blaze rising up as it consumed this ancient cathedral, but rather with the crowds watching. Many reporters reported silence among the crowds until later, something peculiar happening.

Singing.

I did not immediately recognize the song, but it seemed to fit the moment perfectly, a chant, seemingly ancient, somber, but still holding on to hope. It is “Ave Maria“, in English, “Hail Mary”, in French, “Je vous salue Marie”.

” Je vous salue, Marie, comblée de grâce
Le Seigneur est avec vous …”

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee..”


The song rose up as prayer, first with a couple solitary voices, and then with a hundred or more, a prayer, a dirge, a song most French people probably know, but, France being as secular as it is, one rarely heard in public. Yet all these people, witnessing the blaze at the Cathedral, not knowing if the morning would find it merely a heap of rubble, found their voices joining together, rising up to heaven, a counterpoint to the destruction being witnessed.

For as timeless and permanent as the Cathedral at Notre Dame may seem, as much as it is an icon of France, the French people, and the history of Christianity in Europe, as Christians, we understand that all this is temporal, that heaven and earth will pass away, and that our work here is not aimed at treasure in this life, but in the life to come. We will witness many things come to an end; we will witness destruction of those things considered impermeable, but we are not to despair, we are to hold on to our faith in the Everlasting One even tighter. If we can do this together, we’ve made getting through everything all the more bearable.

Der Spiegel: All the Lies Fit to Print

I’ve got way too much on my plate right now to want to write about this, but the whole case irks me to no end, and I don’t think I’ll have any peace until I get some of my thoughts out of my system.

The case of Claas Relotius has been in the news recently. He was a star investigative reporter for Germany’s premier news magazine, “Der Spiegel” (“The Mirror”). He has worked there for over a decade, winning numerous awards, including CNN’s “Journalist of the Year” award in 2014. It turns out that a lot of what he wrote was pure fabrication. He has been fired from “Der Spiegel”, and some are saying that the magazine is falling over itself to apologize. While this may seem to be the case, even their reaction to a “takedown” done by a writer in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, indicates that, for the most part, “Der Spiegel” remains as arrogant as ever. Mind you, Relotius wasn’t sacked because of this “takedown”, but it’s publication happily coincided with the discovery of his deception and his firing.

The reason this case affects me personally is because I have deep ties to Minnesota. Not only have I lived there (and actually been in Fergus Falls), but a good percentage of the Scandinavian side of my family settled in Minnesota, and a number of relatives still reside there. That being said, I’ve also spent years of my life living in Germany and I love the country dearly. Even years later, I’m still in contact with people over there on a daily basis, communicating in German.

The article, written on Medium.com, detailing the “Top 11” of Relotius’ lies can be found here: https://medium.com/@micheleanderson/der-spiegel-journalist-messed-with-the-wrong-small-town-d92f3e0e01a7. The article, by and large, is very good, despite a couple of slips by the author, Michele Anderson, who can’t seem to help herself in throwing a couple of her own digs to conservatives in the piece. However, that being said, she obviously loves the town, and comes to an amazing defense of it, including those with whom she does not agree politically.

This article got so much attention that “Der Spiegel” actually published a response, in German, to it. (Link: http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/gesellschaft/fall-claas-relotius-us-kleinstadt-fergus-falls-vom-betrug-beim-spiegel-betroffen-a-1244806.html) However, for as much as the magazine is publicly saying, “We’re sorry, we’re sorry, we’re sorry”, even this response demonstrates biases in Der Spiegel’s reporting, the first of which was that they had to issue a correction to a fact that was clearly stated in the rebuttal, which they then mangled (in Relotius’ favor) in the response. But let’s have a look at this…

Introduction: The first section that they translate – and mind you, translation is a tricky art – starts from the sentence “In 7,300 words he really only got our town’s population and average annual temperature correct, and a few other basic things, like the names of businesses and public figures, things that a child could figure out in a Google search.” The translation here isn’t bad, in my opinion, and despite the fact that if it were a passage written natively in German, it would be phrased somewhat differently, I think it is good enough that the feeling of the authors’ indignity at the situation still comes through.

Unfortunately, they were a lot less careful in many other places.

1) In the section where Anderson and Krohn talk about entering Fergus Falls, where Relotius says there’s a forest and that the sign reads “Welcome to Fergus Falls, home of damn good folks.” Anderson and Krohn write the following: “Fergus Falls is located on the prairie — which means our landscape mostly consists of tall grass and lakes. While we have trees, we do not have any distinct forests in our city limits, and definitely not in the route that the bus Relotius would have taken from the Twin Cities. And sadly, our welcome sign is quite mundane in its greeting.”

In Der Spiegel’s response, they translate it this way: ‘”Fergus Falls liegt in der Steppe”, schreiben Anderson und Krohn. Es gebe kaum Bäume. Und auf dem Schild am Stadteingang stehe lediglich “Willkommen in Fergus Falls”‘.

Excuse me, but that’s bad. First they start it out with something that is supposed to be a quote “Fergus Falls lies on the steppe…” Yes, I know there are plenty of Russia conspiracy theories flying around today, but Fergus Falls is hardly a locale in Siberia. There may be similarities between prairie and steppes, but they aren’t the same. Then, tellingly, they go from quote to their own paraphrase. “There are hardly any trees. And on the sign at the entrance to the city simply states “Welcome to Fergus Falls”. For anyone who has been in the area, this again is a very large mischaracterization of the area. There are no shortage of trees in the Fergus Falls area. However, the point was that there is no *forest*. Although certain parts of the prairie, certainly places like Kansas, for example, had very few trees when white settlers first came to the area, it is not impossible for trees to grow here, and in fact, they grow quite well. However, if one is to notice, one can see even now that a large percentage were planted intentionally, in lines to mark property lines as well as to protect people and homes from the mighty winds which, without the trees, would be buffeted mercilessly in all seasons. The trees may be a small thing, but it was something.

2) Total fabrication. But how does it pass the editorial board of “Der Spiegel”, that not only did Relotius lie about the city administrator, but he felt it necessary to lie about his sexual activity. How does whether or not he has a girlfriend have ANYTHING to do with anything? It makes it seem like Der Spiegel is trying to be “Das Bild” for the wanna-be intellectual crowd.

3) UPS cannot deliver mail, it has nothing to do with the United States Post Office, therefore “Paketdienst” is much more appropriate than “Postdienst”.

8)Relotius’ report: ‘“Anyone who enters it [the high school] must pass through a security line, through three armored glass doors, and a weapon scanner.”

Rebuttal: Although we haven’t tested the strength of the doors fronting our high school, we are quite sure that “armored” is an exaggeration, and there are two, not three, sets of doors; their real purpose is to keep the cold January air out of the school more than automatic weapons. That is not to say our grounds are not secure — all doors are locked during the school day and visitors must pass through the school office to receive a visitor’s pass before entering. While this picture of a hardened school is undoubtedly true elsewhere in the U.S., it’s simply not the case in Fergus Falls.

“Der Spiegel” paraphrase: In fact, the school has two entrance doors, not three. Whether they are really made of armored glass, Anderson and Krohn wrote that they don’t know.

Umm.. The rebuttal has a certain amount of humor and sarcasm that I believe was lost on the German trying to go through this. They didn’t simply say that they “weren’t sure”. They said that they could, with pretty good confidence, say that the glass is not armored glass, though they haven’t been “thorough enough” in their journalistic pursuits to actually test them themselves. After all, they’re just a couple of hicks living in Fergus Falls, not a WORLD CLASS REPORTER FROM DER SPIEGEL! Relotius was the one getting paid for the journalism, not Anderson or Krohn.

——

Now, these may seem to be little things, but they really are indicative of a larger problem with the attitude of a lot of journalists, and not only in Der Spiegel, or in Germany, or in general. However, as an American who has lived in Germany, who speaks German, and who has interacted with a lot of Germans in their own language, I cannot tell you the number of times I have been asked to explain things about the United States. That’s all well and good, and to be expected. However, what really annoyed me was when someone would ask me something about something in the United States, and I would give my opinion based on actually living in the United States and having these issues affect me in my life, just to have someone come back at me, “Well, that’s not what Der Spiegel says, and so you must be wrong about your opinion.” Der Spiegel enjoyed such a place of trust among Germans that if it was printed here, it was taken as gospel, at least by a certain percentage of people who considered themselves intellectually superior not only to a good number of their countrymen, but most especially to crazy “cowboy” Americans like me.

To me, it’s like water off a duck’s back. I understand people will be people in all their foibles and rough edges. As long as it’s not meant in ill will, I don’t take it personally. Germans, for all their consumption of American media, do not understand America well, and we don’t exactly do a good job being ambassadors for our own country. However, the German media is even worse; for all the horrible media President Trump has received, the only place where he’s had even more negative coverage is in Germany. However, for all the articles about the United States in “Der Spiegel”, for all the Germans who trumpet about how much better everything is in Germany, how better read and better travelled the average German is, I share the following: I have been asked by a Gymnasium student how it is we can even have American History as a subject in school, considering how short the span of time “American History” is. I have been asked by a student at one of Germany’s most prestigious Universities, a well-to-do young woman in her early twenties, if all Americans live in skyscrapers. I was asked, over and over, how it is that America voted George W. Bush in as President. One time, when it seemed like a bunch of people were kind of ganging up on me, one of my acquaintances came to my defense, telling the people at the table, “Lay off of her, after all, Bush is from Texas and she is not, and Texas isn’t really America.” Now, I knew that he knew that Texas really is part of the United States, especially as he had spent a couple of months there, but even with that experience, he still could not fathom a lot of what is America.

I know that as I have gotten older, I have probably become more conservative politically, though, like most of the people in Fergus Falls, I’d imagine, I try not to let political disagreements hurt relationships between friends and family, though this hasn’t always been possible. My friends in Germany knew that I didn’t vote for Barack Obama in 2008, and I think at the time, this was mystifying, that I couldn’t bring myself to vote for the “New Messiah”, the One who was going to bring peace to the world, lower the sea levels, end all wars, etc. (Gentle sarcasm here, folks, gentle sarcasm.) However, I found it interesting that speaking with them just a couple of years later, I was hearing voices, whispering doubts that maybe the Obama phenomenon was overblown, that perhaps he was a charlatan of sorts, more style than substance. But these things were only said in quiet conversation in a private home; to utter these things publicly would surely lead to repercussions.

German media has demonized President Trump to an incredible degree, yet my feeling is that they are upset that the German public is probably less likely to demonize him than President George W. Bush. If my friends are any indication, they respect the man, and they respect that he seems to stand for the “everyman” in a way that the elitist in politics, academia, and media do not. They won’t express it in public, but even with knowing as little as I do about the AfD, it’s no surprise to me, as a complete outsider, where they are finding support. Sure, there may be some fringe lunatics who have attached themselves to the party, but their popularity is an indication that many, many people there think Germany is on the wrong path and that their voices are not just not being heard, but are being actively shut out. As far as I know, none of my friends support the AfD, but they certainly do feel alienated by the “elites” of Germany; I can’t say that any of them, had they had the chance, would have voted for Trump, but I know that there are people there who are hoping against hope that there will be someone who can lead Germany in a better direction.

The Germans have the term Lügenpresse, a pejorative, to be sure, to describe the press who lie on purpose. Of course, when it comes to government-run press, this is the norm, but among the “elite’ of world reporting, there is more and more of a push to not just report the news, but to shape opinion in one direction. Spending years in Germany, I perceived that although Germans are famous for law-making and being law-abiding citizens, there is a subcurrent where people enjoy cheating the system, and they are looked up to for it – until the moment they get caught. Sure, a lot of what I heard was in the context of “Schwarzfahren” – riding public transit without paying – but it certainly explains a lot when you consider things like the VW/Audi diesel scandal and this story here. On one hand, German law goes down to such minute detail, it seem like it’s hard not to be flouting some sort of law or regulation regardless of what one does. On the other, “hurrah” if you can get away with it!

This scandal will probably do little to Der Spiegel. They’ll do the requisite grovelling, and in a couple of weeks, or months, when the world has latched on to some other “outrage”, all will be as it once was. Sure, they’ll send their new reporter out to Fergus Falls to test the strength of the glass at the high school, but chances are they will come back with no better understanding of Fergus Falls or the US than they did before. That would take humility. That would be coming before these crazy “cowboy” Americans and really trying to see the world from a different point of view. Call me a cynic; it hasn’t happened with similar scandals in the American press, and I doubt it’ll happen here either. It’s a shame, too, because when one can be humble, the whole world really does open up incredibly.

When you treat a church as a financial instrument…

…don’t expect that the bank will treat it any other way.

Holy Trinity Hellenic Orthodox Church (http://holytrinitygocchicago.com/) is a parish of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Metropolis of Chicago. The parish was organized over 120 years ago, and for many, many years, the church has been found at 6041 W Diversey Avenue in Chicago.

On December 14th, barring a miracle, the title of the church is to be turned over to a bank, for the church has gone into foreclosure. It’s a terrible tale of mismanagement on the church’s part, but to make a long story shorter, Holy Trinity Church was also the home of Socrates school, one of the few (less than 100) Orthodox Christian schools in the country. As demographics of the city have changed, Holy Trinity purchased a piece of land in Deerfield, a ritzy suburb, in order to move the school there, with the idea that eventually the parish itself might follow. With the move, Holy Trinity would also be handing over its direct control of the school. Although there are some complicating factors (and, now, accompanying lawsuits), the church itself was put up as collateral for a massive bank loan.

Fast forward a number of years, and the church and school cannot make payments on the loan. A lot of people have known for years that the situation of this church has been dire, and the “day of reckoning” was nearing, but no other solution could be found.

Certainly, it’s a sad story, and one that has befallen too many churches over the years.

The part that bothers me, though, can be found in this November 28 article from the Pappas Post (a newspaper catering to Greek Americans). In it, the priest of the church, Fr. Nicholas Jonas, is quoted from a Facebook post, blasting either the bank, or “the powers that be” that the property “will unjustly go into the hands of the bank.”

This is what bothers me. Truly, the situation is horrible for the church and its parishioners. However, when you, yourself, turn a historic church that earlier generations have built and paid for, and turn it into a financial instrument, why do you expect the bank to let you off the hook because it’s a church? Just as we live in two realms, the empirical and the spiritual, so, too, exists a church. The bank only deals with such matters on the empirical level; their interest is to keep the bank running. The congregation’s leadership decided to go to the bank with this proposition, and the bank accepted it with certain terms. That’s what banks do. It is absurd to think that the bank should now consider the property’s importance as a spiritual center as a consideration to delay foreclosure. Furthermore, I should think, the bank being a medium-sized one that caters heavily to ethnic communities throughout the city, that it would be a relief to them if they wouldn’t have to proceed with foreclosure – but a bank can hardly be expected to write off such a large debt!

Again, this is not a situation that is any surprise; it has been looming over the parish now for years. It certainly is true that so many congregations these days, even in grand buildings, survive on shoestring budgets. That being said, many churches do go under due to financial mistakes, and I don’t know that, without the church building, what will become of the Holy Trinity parish. Yet it doesn’t seem like anyone within the Greek community came to swoop in to save the parish from this fate. This is another point altogether, but maybe it’s better so; that if this church does cease to exist, others in such leadership roles in their own parishes will take heed and not tread the same path.

A Girl in Iowa

Let me tell you a little bit the Iowa I remember. A large part of my family settled in the area between the 1850s and 1890, and a good number have stayed. Of course, you have those who wandered off to the big city of Chicago, and a few who have made their way up to Minnesota. A few even made it to Colorado, California, and Oregon. The grave of a distant relative buried in California sticks out for me, for upon it is the shape of the state of Iowa to be found, undoubtedly because even though he left it decades before he died, part of it stays with a person always.

The area was heavily settled by Germans and many of them still spoke German until the World Wars put an end to that in this country. A lot of farmers, people who took care of the land and the animals, also knowing hunger and hardship. I’ll wager that the area of Iowa Mollie Tibbetts came from was similar, being in the same “local media market” and all. You had hard work, you had your community, and you had your faith to get you through. Not all things were going to be solved in this life, but there was a steadfast hope in the next. It’s the type of place that produced “farm boy” Norman Borlaug, whose work quietly has probably saved a billion people from starvation.

Of course, there were problems even back in the good old days. There were people and families that people knew, more or less, to stay away from. My great-grandmother lived her entire 96 years of life bearing a shame over which she had no control. Sometimes that’s life, and sometimes life is very hard.

Iowa. A place rarely mentioned in the national news, save for that time every four years when politicians race to the state to try to make Iowans like them. In general, Iowans are dismissive of the New York-East Coast-Los Angeles lifestyle. On the flip side, Iowa is rarely portrayed as anything but dim-witted, hick farmers raising corn and pigs. Of course, agriculture is hugely important to Iowa, even as the number of family farms fade. However, I don’t know what it’s like now, but for years and years Iowa led the nation in educational standings; a result of both the local culture and well-trained teachers. My grandmother, already, graduated college in the 1940s and became one of them. (Her mother, too, had been a teacher, back in the day when a teacher’s certification could be had finishing a three-week training course! To the day she died, she could still recite off the 99 counties of Iowa!) Hardly dumb people, to be sure!

As a young teenager, I remember being out on my bicycle riding down the gravel roads and narrow highways out there. Apart from the people in the occasional passing car, there was nary a soul to be seen. Even those seeing me, a girl on a bicycle riding down the country roads probably thought nothing unusual about it. After all, it’s an area that is generally extraordinarily safe. If I were to have fallen off the bike and injured myself, it’s the type of place where the next person passing by probably would have either taken me home or to the hospital. I remember sunshine across the fields of corn and soybeans, interrupted here and there by a house and farm buildings; barns and sheds and silos, as often as not ramshackle and dilapidated, a silent indicator that the days of these homes being full of children and teenagers were long past. On my grandmother’s square mile, a little church and cemetery. The church has been kept up, but long ago has ceased to have regular services, but my youngest uncle, my grandparents, great-grandparents, and various other relatives were laid to rest here. I expect that my mom will be buried here too, though I don’t expect I will be.

As sheltered as the rural life may seem, it’s not like it’s untouched by larger issues. The opiod epidemic has hit hard, the small city of Oelwein became the poster child for the plight of small-town Midwestern America. Terrible as it is, it’s also a place where the stores that have parking lots have hitching-posts to accommodate the nearby Amish community when they come into town to shop.

Family farms have shuttered, with larger-scale farms have coming in. It’s an open secret that many of them employ illegal aliens, whether knowingly or unknowingly. In 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security together with other agencies, executed the largest single raid of a workplace in U.S. history until then at a kosher slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant. In my grandmother’s opinion, the reason that they had become a target when so many farms do pretty much the same thing was that a) the company was a Jewish enterprise and b) most of the illegal immigrants were not Mexican, muting any immigration raid outcry. Because even from Iowa, a lot of Washington D.C.’s political games are ridiculously clear.

Mollie Tibbets’ body was found in a cornfield, and an illegal alien Mexican national is under arrest for her murder. The pictures of Mollie show a beautiful young woman, vibrant and full of life. After disappearing, her parents have stopped at nothing to try to find her, undoubtedly hoping for the best, but fearing for the worst. They have found out that their daughter is dead, killed by somebody who wasn’t supposed to be in the United States, somebody who couldn’t leave a 20-year-old woman go jogging through the beauty that is Iowa without thoughtlessly and callously taking her life. Her needless death is a tragedy which will be felt keenly by her family and friends, to be sure. However, it also is indicative of a larger issues, illegal immigration, to be sure, but also the utter disdain that “Iowa folks” are held by this country’s elite. When asked by CNN about the turn of events, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA, elite +++) proclaimed that although this would be “hard” for her parents and her community, it was important to focus on “real” issues, such as separation of illegal immigrant minors from their parents at the border. She couldn’t have come off colder if she had tried. Seriously, she says she’s not running for President of the United States in 2020, and I guess she must mean it; Iowa caucuses are the earliest in the race, and… the attack ads write themselves here! She’s insulted the entire state, as if the love for our own children is inconsequential to her political goals.

Furthermore, on MSNBC, a guest or commentator brings up this case and dismisses it quickly, referring to Mollie as “girl in Iowa”, whose story doesn’t deserve the attention of the President. Mollie Tibbetts was the bearer of a soul, deserving of the attention of God, so certainly also the attention of the President. However, with so many people in the world, it is impossible for a person to know all of them. Even if she would have lived to be 90 and stayed in Iowa her whole life, that doesn’t make her life of any less value than the “elite” of NYC, LA, and DC. Ironically, it’s our President, the king of the New York elite and fast-talkers who seems to be the person who actually gets this, who understands that most of us do not aspire to be him in this life, but that we strive to live our lives in a way consistent with our values and laws. The disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts was a HUGE story in the media up until yesterday, when she was found, and it was discovered that she was a victim of the kind of problem President Trump has harped about since the beginning of the campaign. This is what affects real people in real ways. President Trump appears to ‘get it’, which is why he has earned the Presidency and the admiration and support of tens of millions of Americans. This is how Donald Trump got elected. The media would now like to make the story of Mollie Tibbetts disappear. What the ‘elite’ don’t understand, though, is that we normal people, sitting out here in flyover country, love our children more than a party’s ambition, and we do not forget. We mourn with the family, but understand that today, tomorrow, next week, it could be us or our children. Once upon a time, I was a “girl in Iowa” as well.

And the church came crashing down

The Chicago Tribune posted the following story: No injuries reported when church building collapses in Wicker Park. Although the church was called the Mision Cristiana Church, as soon as I saw the address of 1905 W. Schiller (which also appeared in the preview to the story), I knew exactly which church this was – it was the church that served as the original home to Holy Resurrection Cathedral, one of Chicago’s earliest Orthodox Christian Churches.

In the late 1800s, efforts were being made to establish an Orthodox Church in Chicago. Of course, being Orthodox, there were plenty of jurisdictional issues. However, out of a shared rental space, three Orthodox Christian cathedrals would be established – Annunciation (Greek), Holy Trinity (Russian/Orthodox Church in America), and Holy Resurrection, under the auspices of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

According to Holy Resurrection’s timeline on their website, California-born Fr. Sebastian Dabovich (now St. Sebastian of Jackson and San Francisco), made a number of visits to Chicago between 1893 and 1905, with the express purpose of helping organize and establish the parish there. The property at 8 Fowler Street (later changed to 1905 W Schiller) was purchased, and the first Liturgy served in its chapel on July 4, 1905. Two months later, Fr. Sebastian was raised to the rank of archimandrite here, and from Chicago he was put in charge of the “Serbian Mission”, whose territory encompassed the entirety of the United States.

The parish continued to operate using the chapel of the existing building at 1905 W. Schiller until the 1930s, at which point the parish won a suit to purchase the lot next to the house that they owned and erect a church on the parcel of land. With the Great Depression in full swing, the Chicago Tribune reported that at this time (1932) that this church and the Post Office are the only buildings being built in the city.

Holy Resurrection continued to call this church home until 1971, at which time they sold the building and broke ground on a bigger temple located further northwest in Chicago. The building was sold to a church called ‘Mision Cristiana’. When the Wicker Park district was being considered for landmark district status in 1991, this church declined to be part of that. Mision Cristiana Church sold the property in 2015 for an undisclosed amount, to developers who were hoping to create two single-family homes from the original buildings, and transform the church itself into a two-unit townhome. (This article here demonstrates the layout of the property fairly well.) However, at about 6am this past Monday morning (24 October 2016), much of what remained of the buildings came crashing down, not only on the property, but on the sidewalk, and into the street, severely damaging cars parked there.

According to the site DNAinfo.com, although several permits had been obtained and work was being done, a stop-work order had been issued in July, citing work beyond what the permits allowed. (Do note that in that same article, there is an interview with “one of a team of 15” who were working on the interior demolition of the church structure.) DNAinfo.com also reported that the city immediately ordered the demolition of the entire site and that the developers will need to start from scratch as far as plans and permits for the site. (More pictures can be found here: http://abc7chicago.com/news/part-of-wicker-park-church-collapses-several-cars-damaged/1570076/.)

It’s sad that the church is gone, even if it hasn’t been the home to Holy Resurrection for many years. However, that being said, I have very ambivalent feelings towards converting churches into townhomes, condos, and the like. It certainly is a trend, not just in Chicago, but in other expensive property markets where congregations cannot support the upkeep of the property anymore. The developers often talk about wanting to “respect” the history of the place, but I don’t know that there’s necessarily a “respectful” way of converting a sacred space to the mundane. (The developers for condos that were created from Our Lady of Good Counsel Church – not far away, at Western Ave. – were given permission to retain the Catholic Charities star in the design of the condos, for example. Artist rendering here) In that sense, and in particular because of St. Sebastian’s influence at Holy Resurrection, maybe it’s for the best that this place, if not retained for something sacred, is a place that needs to be rebuilt anew, rather than ‘converted’.

(H/T to the General Mihailovich blog for info.)