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Location Discernment Update – May 2020

June 21, 2020

An update from the St. Luke’s Council:

The council has had several meetings, and still more council sub-groups meetings, to continue discerning with both great care and bold vision, whether or not to renew our lease in our current space at 2837 W Armitage, which ends in November.  And, if not, what are the various feasible scenarios of a space-sharing partnership with Grace UMC? In recent weeks, the Council has consulted with the Generosity Network to gain new insight about the financial implications of different options.

At our May meeting, the Council voted to pursue a move to the building at Wrightwood and Kimball this fall, and not renew the lease at Armitage and California. In some ways, this decision was difficult because it will mean leaving a space that has been special to us and our ministry over the last five years. At the same time, this is a decision the council is excited about. We are committed to moving forward while keeping fiscal sustainability, ministry opportunities, and spatial hospitality in mind. We are still discerning what our relationship with Grace will be and what that will look like financially.

Please see the below FAQs for a review as well as updates on the decisions and known facts up until this point.

There will be opportunities coming up this summer to participate in the Location Discernment Process by sharing your questions, concerns, feelings, and hopes. In the meantime, please reach out to Erika Dornfeld, Council Chair (erika.dornfeld@gmail.com) or Pastor Erin Coleman Branchaud (pastorerin@stlukesls.org).

View/download the FAQs as a PDF: Location Discernment Process FAQ June 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

The Location Discernment Process has fallen off my radar. Catch me up on what’s going on? Since 2019, the St. Luke’s Council has been discerning the need to explore potential future spaces for our ministry. At the February 2, 2020 Congregational Meeting, Peter Wilhelm and Em Jacoby introduced to the congregation the possibility of entering into a partnership with Grace United Methodist Church to partially own the property at Wrightwood and Kimball. A series of small group discussions were planned to hear more in-depth from the rest of the congregation: What do we think about this plan? Of the three planned small group conversations, two were able to take place before the pandemic. Those who attended raised many important questions. Major takeaways from those conversations were 1) The congregation is generally open and curious about the possibility of a collaborative space-sharing relationship with Grace UMC, and 2) The council should seek more partners and creative funding opportunities to decrease the financial risk (as outlined at the annual meeting) of entering into a partnership in which St. Luke’s and Grace would be sole co-owners.

The Pandemic changed things. What has the council been doing since then? A Congregational Town Hall was planned for March 29, 2020 to share the results of the small group conversations. When the pandemic hit on the weekend of March 15, and in the weeks that followed, there was uncertainty about if and how this process would be able to continue. The Town Hall was cancelled and the Location Discernment Process was put on hold while the Council attended to urgent matters related to the pandemic. Finally in May, conversations about Location Discernment resumed, both within council and with representatives from Grace UMC. 

The economy and stock market have declined since the pandemic. How has this impacted our finances? Household giving has remained relatively steady despite the pandemic. Our InFaith fund (which represents the proceeds from the sale of St. Luke’s historic building) has not seen a significant decrease since the pandemic, remaining at about $1.2mil. We expected that it might decline and thus alter our projections of what was affordable, and thus extreme caution was exercised in how quickly to move forward.

So what’s happening now? In June 2020, the St. Luke’s Council was faced with a decision about our location, given that our lease at 2837 W Armitage ends October 31, 2020. Council made the decision to not renew our lease, and to pursue a move to the building at Wrightwood and Kimball in Fall 2020. Much remains to be discerned. And, each step we will seek to faithfully represent St. Lukes’ needs and values. The most pressing questions now are what space usage we will have and the nature of our financial relationship with Grace UMC (e.g. renting, owning, or renting-to-own). We hope at least a preliminary arrangement can be reached by the time our lease expires.

What if we, or Grace, change our minds down the road? It remains possible that the council could change its mind if it can’t agree on a proposal to make to Grace, or an agreed-upon arrangement with Grace can’t be found. However, the initial liaison team has been building trust with the Grace team, and a shared goal is to establish a partnership, not merely a contractual arrangement. Further,  we are paying close attention to how to account for the amount of risk in each possible scenario. This includes conversations with Grace about their financial viability and their capacity for the role of landlord or co-owner. 

What about other rental options besides Grace? Since the beginning of 2019, the council has regularly investigated the availability of properties that would be suitable to rent or purchase. The real estate market saw almost no change since the original property search committee was looking for options to rent or buy in 2016, when the historic St. Luke’s building was sold. Property values in Logan Square are very high, and the searches have yielded nothing that is 1) bigger, 2) more affordable, AND 3) still in Logan Square in a visible and accessible location. Partnering with another congregation allows for these criteria to be met that wouldn’t otherwise be open to us at market rates. Further, we are hopeful and attentive to renovations at the Grace space that allow us to form partnerships with a diverse array of groups that reflect all of Logan Square.

What is the property at Wrightwood and Kimball like? Will we have more room than our current space? The building at Wrightwood and Kimball has three large community areas that could eventually be used for worship or multiple purposes: the sanctuary, a gym, and a basement fellowship hall. All of the potential worship spaces are larger than the 2837 W Armitage space. There is also a kitchen and several smaller spaces like classrooms, offices, and a lounge. The building is structurally sound, but with a significant amount of deferred maintenance and not currently ADA accessible. Proposed renovations are being considered that would bring the entire building up to code, including updating the electrical wiring, replacing the drywall, and making the building ADA accessible.

What does Grace UMC think? Grace remains excited about the possibility of a multi-partner collaboration eventually, and partnership with St. Lukes in the more immediate future. 

Who are the current partners in this project? Grace UMC owns the building, and has been in conversation with the Logan Square Preservation Association for contributing funds ($250,000) to upgrade the exterior of the building. Alderman Rosa continues to express enthusiasm and willingness to contribute Open Access dollars which would fund renovations that support Unity Park’s programming in the building.

When would we move in? Our current lease at Armitage ends Oct 31st, 2020. The exact “when” of a move will depend on several factors–coming to an agreement with Grace, intentional leave-taking from 2837 W Armitage, and coordinating the logistics of a move. Meanwhile, the Reuniting St. Luke’s Task Force is working on recommendations for returning to worship safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. As this process continues, plans will also be made to create space for ritual leave-taking from 2837 W Armitage and ritual dedication of our space.

How will the congregation be able to provide input in this process? The Council is very eager for the congregation’s input, especially when it comes to imagining what we need and want out of our space. What do we hope it will look like, feel like? What concerns do we have? What will it look like to be good neighbors to one another? How to best use the space for the common good? What new possibilities do we imagine? We invite you to start thinking about those questions, and watch for future communications from Council, outlining our plans to listen. We also recognize that, in our current circumstances, true conversation is difficult to achieve. We ask for your patience and flexibility as we strive to solicit your feedback. 

I have more questions. Who should I talk to? Now that St. Lukes has made the decision to continue to pursue a move to Wrightwood and Kimball in Fall 2020, a working group has been formed to continue negotiations and draw up detailed possible scenarios. That team consists of members from the original space-sharing conversation liaisons, council members, and members from the Generosity Network. For further questions, please contact Erika Dornfeld, Council Chair (erika.dornfeld@gmail.com), Pastor Erin Coleman Branchaud (pastorerin@stlukesls.org), or other members of this team: Peter Wilhelm, Em Jacoby, Gretchen Burch, and Sara Spoonheim Amit.  

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