#544: The Pastor’s Grill

October 19th, 2015

You don’t often see stained glass with airplanes.

You don’t see carved Jesuses (Jesi?) overviewing Wacker Drive on altarpieces or city and state logos etched in the windows of a “Sky Chapel.”

But of all the sights in the thin stone tower of the Methodist Church parked across the way from the fountain, flame and Picasso of Daley Plaza, the one that will stay with me the most is the pastor’s grill.

It’s true to the point of truism that most of the doors in the world are closed to us.

We can’t peer into others’ homes, stroll in nonchalance into penthouse suites, underground paths, churches we don’t attend or government buildings where armed guards might have questions about why we’re there and what exactly that camera is for.

In the yearly Chicago Architecture Foundation “Open House Chicago,” 200 churches, office spaces, skyscrapers, theaters, clubs, hotels and mansions — from the Columbia Yacht Club’s icebreaker dining club in the harbor to that Airstream trailer hoisted atop a loft space by the Brown Line — throw wide those doors to let the camera-snapping curious finally peek inside.

We saw the view from the Aon Center’s 71st story, in a blank space with fireproofed girders visible overhead while they wait for a ketchup company’s offices to move in. We wandered the sunlit auditorium of the Harry Weese-designed Seventeenth Church of Christ Scientist, letting the joyous sound of a 3,316-pipe organ sweep over us in a room where Mary Baker Eddy’s remaining acolytes pray the sick to death.

We caught that Airstream, too, and meandered about the opera house as techies on the stage ran drills on lights and scene changes.

And we climbed up the steps of the Chicago Temple, a castle of Jesus across from the city and county seats of power.

A skyscraper church.

The 23-story church is mostly office space for the lawyers circling by the nearby courthouse. Only one person besides God lives in the place. That would be the pastor, whose private residence takes up the three stories beneath the Sky Chapel.

The path of elevator and stair up to the top chapel took us past another stop on the tour. The pastor’s balcony.

Among pirouetting stone spires and a skyline that would cost in the millions if churches weren’t tax-free, there was a propane grill. Tucked among ornate Holabird & Roche carvings dedicated to the glory of the Almighty, a gas grill wrapped in a gray tarp that said “Brinkmann.”

It struck me. The Seventeenth Church, the Methodist temple, even the blank Aon Center office with the view I’ve never seen, these are all real, living human places.

And that means someone will be bored there.

This is where a child squirms, tired of organ music and tales of Mary Baker Eddy. This is where a preacher mulls whether to grill out or nuke a Lean Cuisine. This is where a ketchup company office worker will gripe about Perkins getting on her case and moan that the vending machine only has cookies with raisins.

I’m not saying people should wander about appreciating the world in which they live. Nothing would get done. As soon as anyone realized the scope of the galaxy or even of the city’s plumbing network, they would be lost in a panic-hole for days.

I am saying it was touching to realize someone can open those doors that are closed to the rest of us.

It made me wonder how beautiful the doors I walk through each day might be to someone else.

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