By Kristin Boza
Bethany Union Church, 1750 W. 103rd St., is celebrating its 150th anniversary this month with the launch of the Legacy Lecture Series, which will become an annual forum dedicated to discussing important contemporary issues.
Everyone is invited to listen and engage with keynote speaker Rev. Starlette Thomas on Sat., May 14. Arrive by 6 p.m. to hear a musical performance under the direction of Minister of Music David Zizic, and stay for the keynote lecture at 6:30 p.m. Rev. Thomas will also preach at the 10:30 a.m. Anniversary Worship Service on Sun., May 15. The celebrations will take place in the church sanctuary and Fellowship Hall, hosted by Rev. Dr. Lawrence Cameron, 12th Seated Pastor, and the Bethany Union community.
Rev. Thomas is an author, activist, visual artist, and race abolitionist; her keynote speech is titled “The Raceless Gospel” and will take participants on a journey through race, religion, and politics. Rev. Thomas also hosts a podcast by the same name and the second season is focused on “bodywork,” which addresses the damage the church in North America has done to itself.
“It has been a joy and a challenge pastoring Bethany Union Church, which reaches out into its immediate location and serves the Beverly/Morgan Park community,” said Rev. Cameron. “The mission of Bethany Union Church is to cultivate compassion by offering up the community opportunities to explore, learn, and experience the religious knowledge of the Christian faith and grow into the faith maturity of our calling. During my nine years here, I have enjoyed the many worship services and experiences, witnessing lives recovered, and the new entrepreneurs rise and shine with our help.”
During its time in the neighborhood, Bethany Union Church has hosted to numerous organizations. “The building is actively used for all kinds of community services, including being the home for several starting churches who have grown and are now in their own buildings,” Rev. Cameron said.
Bethany Union is integral to local recovery programs, and offers space for recovery groups, programs, and meetings. The church also houses an after-school program for kids; a private music school; arts, crafts, and sewing classes; K-9 training; scout troops for both boys and girls; an international counseling center; three voting precincts; and numerous other community programs.
When the church began 150 years ago, it was founded by 14 people representing seven different denominations as a place where Christian education could serve the communities. The Norman Gothic church, completed in 1926, was designed by Raymond M. Hood, who later designed the Chicago Tribune Tower, the Rockefeller Plaza and the Daily News Building in New York City. Among the church’s details are its slate roof, granite exterior walls with Bedford limestone trim, a Romanesque bell tower capped with a steeple, and a cloister garth paved with Hudson blue river stone.
Two 18-panelled mosaics grace the social hall and feature depictions from the Old and New Testaments. Each panel has about 500 pieces per square foot and took about seven weeks to research, design, and create. The church is an important historic site in our community and plays an important part in Beverly/Morgan Park’s history.
To find out more about Bethany Union Church and its 150th anniversary celebrations, contact the church office, 773-779-0123, firstname.lastname@example.org, and bethanyunion.com.