Making it up as we go.

A few years ago, my teaching pastor took an improv class, not with the intention of ever really performing, but for, like, personal growth. "You couldn't pay me to do it," I said.

But you've done stand-up, he said!

Um, right. In stand-up, you're alone, you're in control, you don't have to trust some bozo who might eff up the thing with a stupid idea, and no one is relying on me to not eff it up.

When I put it like that, I could see how improv might, after all, provide an opportunity for personal growth.

Quick and dirty definition (that you probably already know): "yes, and..." is the idea in improv that you accept what someone else has brought to the scene, and expand on it. It's a collaborative move, that trusts self and others. It's relational, moving toward others instead of isolating. It's playful, and creates unknown possibilities. It asks, "If this is true, what else is true — or could be?"

This month, we want all of that and more. Playfulness. Collaboration. Risk. Trust. Humor (maybe). Relationship. Surrender. Possibilities. The chance to make something new together every. single. time. we get together.

We've got improv teams coming most Sundays but this week, we've got shorty, improvised sermons. (Is that a good idea?) Don't worry: no one's gonna make you do anything you don't wanna do; just come to church, say yes, and we'll make up this new thing we're doing, again, together.

Read the rest of the July 3, 2019 newsletter here.

Weekly Worship

Weekly Worship

We meet Sundays at 5 pm, for stories, music, food, Communion, community, and whatever else you show up with.

Through at least September 2019, we’re at the Laugh Out Loud Theater (3851 N Lincoln). There’s a free city lot across the street, good street parking, and it’s walking distance from the Irving Park Brown Line stop. There’s a beautiful little bar where we’re welcome to hang out until 7:30 after church. Soft drinks are on us; booze is on you. Kids are welcome and so is anyone else you want to bring with you.

What to expect/know:  You're welcome to come as you are. Fresh from the beach, and still wearing your bathing suit? A-ok! Is your kid prone to fussy outbursts? Us, too! In junior high and more interested in folding origami (or whatever) during worship?  We've got a place for that!

Dress is casual (or whatever you're comfortable in). The welcome is wide and real. We sing almost exclusively pop songs, chosen for that night’s theme, with drums and keyboard. Service is about an hour and fifteen minutes. If you want to know a bit more about what it feels like, here are some reports from people who aren't pastors here:

Ruth, 7th grader (Chicago).  "I am glad I went to a service that wasn’t boring. I would have had a much blander experience if I had gone to any other church. Gilead was unique and endearing and I am glad that I went. I would definitely consider returning."     Read Ruth's whole reflection here.  

Chad the Bird, Chicago's avian op-ed columnist. "'...real butter Christians. It's delicious. They sound delicious. And they were. Lovely room. Um, first of all, they meet at a bar, which I was, like, 'K.' ...So I walk in there and they're like, 'Hey, what do you wanna drink?' And I was, like, 'I dunno. What're you drinking?' And they were like, 'We've got PBR and shots of Malort for $5.' I was like, 'C'monnnn.'  So yeah, they just get drunk on happiness — and also beer." Listen to all of Chad's story and his take on bar-church here. (He calls us "stupendous, and super huggy.") 

Maria Vorhis, writer/performer, filmmaker, and teaching artist (Chicago). "I was not wondering about an escape route this time because I was listening. I was listening to my friend preach about creativity, how we are all created and therefore creative. How it is our job to live our most creative lives as a way of fulfilling our potential and serving others. After the service I met people. Lovely, inviting, kind people who were curious and smart and inclusive. I hugged some of them. I even held one of their babies. And when I left, I was confused because I had just been to church and I was not religious..."    Read the rest of Maria's piece here.

Choose your own adventure

Choose your own adventure

[For posterity! February 2019’s magnificent theme, suggested by music director Adam Motz.]

This church is different from other churches.

YOU and YOU ALONE are in charge of what happens in this church.

There are dangers, choices, adventures, and consequences. You may laugh — or ugly cry. You may sing a song you thought you knew but realize you only know the chorus of. You may make friends. You may be asked out to coffee by someone you find irritating.*

To make this church, YOU must use all of your not insignificant talents and emotional intelligence and love. The wrong decision could end in disaster** — even death. But don't despair. At any time, you can go back and make another choice, alter the path of your story, and change its results.

Or can you?

February 10, 17, and 24, we're at Mary's Attic for Choose-your-own-adventure church, with stories of forks in the road and paths not taken, what to do when you hit a dead end, and how to have a happy ending.

* It's Rebecca. She'll be ok if you say "no."
** Probably not. It's church.

Read the rest of the first choose-your-own-adventure newsletter here.

Welcome to Gilead

Welcome to Gilead

From this week’s newsletter:

Gilead is a queer, storytelling, bar church that meets...in a theater (not a bar). For now. Starting February 10 (no church Feb 3!), we'll be a queer, storytelling, bar church that meets at Mary's Attic (5400 N. Clark) — a Rogers Park church meeting in an Andersonville karaoke joint. It can all be a little...disorienting, even for you, and you've been there at least once (otherwise...how do we have your email address?).

Even when we're in one place for a while (#RIP Red Line Tap), there's a lot to get used to at a Gilead service, especially for someone coming for the first time. What even is Gilead? Where are the bathrooms? A name tag and a bulletin and a prompt? What's a prompt? (Shit. I grabbed a name tag with pronouns that aren't mine.) Every single week people we've never met go out on a limb to try a new thing and come check us out. Sometimes, first-time folks are as much as a third of the congregation.

And then there's you! You, too, left your house and came out to be in community. Maybe you weren't sure you wanted to be around this many people. Maybe you felt like staying on the couch. But here you are. 

The folks standing at the front door — the front door of wherever we are — are the face of Gilead, the welcome, the bridge from out there to in here. The friendly face between "I kinda wanna stay home" and "I'm glad I came." The path from "I haven't been to church in years" to "I went to this, I guess, queer storytelling bar church last night?"

Greeters help orient and re-orient everybody who comes to Gilead. Greeters help build the community and strengthen the congregation. Seriously. (Ever been to a party where you only know the host and, from the front door, you can't see them anywhere? Are you even in the right place?)

Lizzy and Pedro Bortoto are pulling together a crew of regular greeters. They'd love to have 8 - 10 people a month, so we can have at least two folks at each service doing this work. They created a form where you can let them know when you're available and they'll take it from there. 

Read the rest of the week’s news here.

Origin Stories

Origin Stories

Maybe you were bitten by a radioactive spider on a school field trip. Maybe you had a sled called Rosebud. Maybe you discovered Nirvana's "In Utero" on a choir trip to New York and it changed your life.

What's your origin story? What are the moments that made you who you are? 

The fork in the road where you made a choice that has come to define you. The accident that altered the course you were on forever. The night when it might have all turned out differently.

What made you so spunky, so friendly, so cautious?

Come share the story of how you became particularly...you.

And we'll share some of the stories of how Gilead became such a particular community. Hear the moments private and public that have defined our first two years as a church. (And celebrate that anniversary on January 20th!)

Let's go back to where it all started - for you, for us - and see where it's gonna go.

But, like, what do you need?

But, like, what do you need?

Gilead G3* Team

*We’re good, giving, and game for caring for our community.  

Gilead is more than just a church that meets at a bar (or theater). We are a growing community of friends who need support and provide support for one another. These gifts and needs come in a wide array that are as diverse as we are! You can request resume help, moving assistance, or even just a cup of coffee after a difficult week. We are still discovering all of the ways that we can help each other. We crave your creative gift ideas!

So how do you share your gifts or a need you have? Your gateway into the Gilead support community is here - where you can electronically bring your needs or gifts that you have to share! Although we know we can’t meet every need (ahem, finding you a spouse is one of the more difficult ones) but we do our best to match your need with someone who can help. We promise to respond to all requests within a week, even if it’s just to let you know that we are working on it! Help us build intentional, caring community. Let us know what you have to offer, and how we can help.

Just let us know!

New Digs - TBA

New Digs - TBA

As you may have heard, the Heartland Cafe is selling the building where we meet.*

Good news: Gilead has never been a building (literally because we don’t have one). Gilead is the people, and energy that fill the space, but it's true that this place has felt like Gilead to us for the past year or so. Twinkling lights, rainbow stars, glitter high tops, and leaky toilets, we made the space as ours as it could be.

Harder news: we'll be leaving Red Line Tap at the end of the month. Although we’re definitely sad, we’re so glad that we get to continue to be church together wherever we end up. We’ll let you know where we’re headed next as soon as we know. But for now, keep showing up on Sunday nights. Llt’s make our last few weeks here something special.

Come be church in December at Red Line Tap (7006 N Glenwood). As usual, kids are always welcome as is anyone you want to bring with you. Soft drinks are on us, booze is on you.

*Is it our fault? When we made this calendar entry, we completely arbitrarily set Dec 30, 2018 as the end date. We’re planning to put another date on the calendar for Heartland’s grand re-opening, and hope that works too.

Friends, with Benefits

Friends, with Benefits

Hey you,

Yeah, you. I love you, you know that? I really do. You’re like, my best friend. And well…we’re always together, and we’re not seeing anyone else. So, I guess what I’m asking is: do you wanna be friends with benefits?

Just to be clear, this is a pledge letter, and I’m hoping you’ll give in an ongoing way to support the community we share and love. But what I really wanna know is: are you DTF?

That’s “Down to Fund” the work of making beautiful, inclusive, creative church at Gilead Chicago. Yeah, maybe that is kind of a dad joke. I see that now. Imagine what we could pass on to our children, tho.

Whoa, OK. Maybe that’s moving too fast. We don’t need to mess with labels right now. Why don’t you just fill out a pledge card, set up recurring giving, and let’s see where this thing goes?

I’m not asking for forever. But we’ve got something good here. Something we’re both enjoying. I get a lot out of being with you. And I think you feel the same way. So why not make it just a little official? You don’t have to call me your significant other, we can just fund this 2019 budget and watch Netflix like we always do.

It’s not awkward unless we make it awkward.

Did I make it awkward? My bad. While we’re in that uncomfortable space, let me just say, our goal for 2019 pledges is $35,000. That’s a lot of money, but together, we can do it. That’s all I’m trying to say: let’s do it. Together.

And if neither of us is married by the time we’re 40, we can meet at the top of the John Hancock building and you can sent up some kind of memorial endowment. Baby.



Serious Shit, Funny People

Serious Shit, Funny People

Laughing matters.

There's nothing funny about so much of what's happening. That's probably true more of the time than we know, or attend to, but it's palpable these days.

So...a comedy series? At church? Kicking off on...All Saints Day?

If you're not a stand-up comedy fan, it may seem like bad timing. But this is what comedy's made for — it pokes holes in the bullshit of the powerful and lets all the air out. It looks around with eyes wide open and tells it like it is. It speaks truth in a way that makes you say "I never thought of it that way!" at the same time as "That's so true!" It's revelatory. 

It's also, y'know, not to belabor it, funny. And we could use some laughter. Not the brutal, mocking laughter coming from lots of corners these days, but laughter that feels like relief, that's a reminder of what it feels like to feel good. #GoodNewsThatFeelsLikeGoodNews

We've got some excellent comics coming over the next few weeks to take on some of the hardest shit: death, mental health & illness, family, and race. And on November 18th, funny-pants and political bad-asses Myq KaplanAlex Kumin, and Shannon Noll are coming to Gilead for a fundraiser after church. Get ready for whatever's waiting for you at the Thanksgiving table with a fat dose of comedy. (You can get tickets here.)

And: if you're looking for a place to grieve and stand in solidarity with others (in response to the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh), head downtown on Thursday at noon. We got word of this interfaith vigil from our friends at Mishkan.

This Sunday, we're kicking off Serious Shit, Funny People and, yes, it is All Saints Day. Masood Haque will be with us and you should (if you want) bring photos of people you love who have died, and we'll fill the room with images of those we often carry with us, unseen.

Gilead goes to the Moth

Gilead goes to the Moth

In June of 2018, pastor Rebecca Anderson went to The Moth Grand Slam with a story about that time we had karaoke church. You can watch that story here.

Tips on Preparing a Story

Tips on Preparing a Story

Here are the tips we share with everybody who tells a story at Gilead. With thanks to the many organizations and people we've learned from, like 2nd Story, The Moth, and folks including Scott Whitehair, Maria Vorhis, and so many others. 

These are just a few basic rules of thumb (and there are always good reasons to break rules, so feel free). Especially if this is your first story, think about how these might help give shape and stakes to your story, take what's helpful, and ignore the rest.

Tips/things to consider as you prepare:

  • We’re looking for 3 - 5 minute stories. Usually 650 words is about 5 minutes but the only way to know is to time yourself, and be honest.

  • Think in terms of scenes: distinct locations where something happens. Scenes distinguish a story from an essay, or op-ed, or sermon. Let your audience do the meaning-making. Guide them to it, with your edits and presentation, but don't unpack it for them too much.

  • Write/craft your story to be delivered, not just read.

  • Start in the action and set up the stakes:

    • Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild, about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, begins not with her buying a map, or all the events that led up to the hike, but instead, 38 days into the hike, just after one of her hiking boots has fallen irretrievably down a ridge.

  • Use dialogue as much as possible, especially to tell the audience things that would otherwise be exposition.

  • Count on your voice and delivery to do the adjectival heavy-lifting. No need to say, "he stammered..." if you can deliver it, "H-he-hello!" And you don’t need adverbs! Really! Basically none!

  • Make you the main character. This is about you: a true story as you experienced it. And you can leave out anything you don't want to share or that doesn’t serve your story. No one is going to fact-check you.

  • Think about what your story is about (themes), beyond what happens (plot, facts). This helps keep you stream lined and edit out the stuff that may be good, but isn't necessary.

A Few of Our Favorite Things

A Few of Our Favorite Things

We're geeking out! Calling all former (and current) band geeks, theatre kids, Harry Potter fans, LARPers, and all you other kinda geeks: the ones who get SUPER excited about birds (ehem), or Little House on the Prairie (ehem), or Hebrew Bible (ehem! You know who you are). Whatever super specific thing floats your boat, and/or gets you to put on a costume, and/or leads you to accidentally give a little bit of a lecture at a party when someone casually asks you a question...that’s what we’re talking about this month.

 Why? Because it’s fun.
Why else? Because in a world that suggests we say “YES! to everything, geeking out requires a certain amount of saying NO. No to those other options, because the thing you really want to focus on is right here. No to going shallow and broad, and yes to going narrow and deep. (Also, maybe, maybe, there are some analogies to be drawn between all this and, say, feeling drawn to one faith tradition in a world of interesting, beautiful, meaningful traditions.)
We’re hearing and telling stories about the vulnerability of loving something deeply, and the possibility of being uncool. Stories about finding our people and being given permission to go way, way overboard. (Shark Week-themed snacks, anyone? Oh, yes.) Stories about the ways enthusiasm is contagious, and how we got “converted” to the stuff we now can’t imagine living without. (How did you get into dulcimer?)

Read the rest of this newsletter here