Church Planting In ChicagoJuly 27, 2020
Krista Dutt is a pastor at the church plant, The Dwelling Place, in Chicago. She is licensed in the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ Church.
Psalm 84 declares that God is truly a lovely dwelling place, that all creation can find a place to rest within God. Serving a congregation that hosts families that have disrupted homes because loved ones are in an incarcerated “home” brings new life to this psalm. The Dwelling Place provide rides for families to see their loved ones who are incarcerated as the ministry of the church.
When God called me to consider planng a church in my neighborhood, it was clear that in order to be church on the west side of Chicago, we would need to lean into fighting mass incarceration. My neighborhood has the highest incarceration rate in the city as well as the highest returning citizen rate. While gathering information, I learned that if healthy relationships can continue through a time of incarceration, that rates of return to prison is reduced even in unjust imprisonment. Churches are good at taking care of families, and I as I asked neighborhood experts, I found out transportaon for visits was limited. When many in my neighborhood don’t have access to a car and all but one of the prisons are out of reach from public transportaon, people lack access but not desire to visit loved ones.
So, in partnership with a local non-profit, we started offering rides to the Youth Center a little over an hour away from the city. I had my sights set on the rides being the primary aspect of the ministry but also having a monthly service that riders and their loved ones could also use. But it didn’t take long to realize that church was happening in the van. Sharing time is rather extended, yes, but many take the time to confess while other riders offer words of assurance. We sing the praises of God as well as sit in lament around the circumstances of the day. We wail out to God and wait in silence for God’s generous answer that is only somemes audible. We bring what we have to each other and to God. Sometimes the gift is financial and other times it is a prayer from one family to another about navigating the legal system. We share a meal that feels like communion – remembering the sacrifice and love not only of Jesus but of separated families.
God can be our home wherever we are, and not unlike that famous Emmaus road trip, Jesus is near enough that when we settle down to commune with each other revelation happens.