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Program Archives


Linking Spirituality and Public Life


(click on each project listed below to learn more)

God's Imagination for the City (1993) 

Sacred Spaces, Public Places (1996)

Faith in the City (2000)

Faith in the City (detailed description)

God's Imagination for the City (1993) 

In 1993, Imagine Chicago conducted a series of eight public forums for six downtown churches on Chicago as a context for God’s imagination.  Each evening included dinner, a presentation on some aspect of city life (economic, political, social, artistic, etc.) and an interactive community conversation on the topic. As part of the series, eight local artists were invited to ”re-member Chicago’s body”, that is to represent visually their conceptual understanding of the city as a single section of a to-be-united body. As the conversation progressed week by week, another section of the body was connected and discussed.  This ”Exquisite Corpus of Chicago” sought to capture Chicago’s beauty, diversity and vitality in visual form and to draw attention to the importance of imagination in thinking about Chicago. It raised the question of what it might it mean for Chicago to see itself as a whole, value healthy civic connections and encourage a vital public imagination?


Sacred Spaces, Public Spaces (1996)


Imagine Chicago, in collaboration with religious and community groups, and cultural institutions, has been interested in creating ways to help urban dwellers share stories of their sacred places and find those they have in common.  Throughout the spring and summer of 1996, through events, conversations and their products (exhibits, lectures, poetry readings, tours, writing workshops, public rituals) participants clarified and shared how they thought about “sacred space’ and went public with the understanding.  The program explored important linkages between spirituality and public life and the community-creating power of “sacred places’ in the life of a city. This exploration included those who begin with “sacred” but for whom “public” is faint; those for whom “public” is rich but for whom “sacred” is foreign; and those who know that “place” matters but are wrestling with how it is hallowed and held in common.  All constituencies benefitted from being in conversation—wrestling together with how to connect sacred, public and place, and how to identify places that evoke mystery, fascination, and function as life-giving community symbols. The program, organized in partnership with local museums and churches, evoked broad-based conversation about place as a community symbol of the sacred in ordinary life. 

Faith in the City (2000)


For centuries, religious congregations played an important role in organizing the patterns of city life just as the city contributed to a social understanding of faith. What is the faith-city connection today? Do individuals and communities still view the city with “eyes of faith” or has faith become a lens that only illuminates people’s private lives? What helps people to make the connection between faith and public life? And what actually happens to faith when it moves into the public square?


This joint venture between Imagine Chicago, Loyola University and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange involved six public lecture/discussion forums in 2000 on the dynamic interplay of faith and the city. A primary goal was to better understand how faith contributes to the creation and transformation of a city and how the city is a privileged place for an enlarged understanding of faith. A second goal was to foster urban theological reflection that renews and sustains social practice: to develop questions, skills and arts that enable the participants to continue this conversation on faith and city within their neighborhoods, organizations and working groups. Dance was integrated so participants learned to use the arts to relate faith to social action and activism,moving from faith to engagement. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation funded the series. A detailed program description is available here




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