'Sacred Spaces' tour is back with worshipful places in Oak Park and River Forest

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By Community Editor

The second Sacred Spaces House of Worship Walk, co-sponsored by the Oak Park-River Forest Community of Congregations and the Historical Society of Oak Park-River Forest, offers tours of seven churches, temples and chapels in north Oak Park and River Forest on Sunday, June 23, from 2 to 5 p.m.

The seven buildings, all located within walking distance of the corner of Harlem Avenue and Division Street.

"This year's walk is a wonderful mix of different faith traditions that overlap either side of Harlem Avenue between our two sister villages," said Frank Lipo, Historical Society executive director. "Too often in Oak Park and River Forest, we may have admired many buildings only from the outside. This year's walk straddles the villages and features buildings constructed between 1903 and 1980. We really have a wide variety of 20th century worship spaces that 'break the mold' of what such spaces can be. How often do tourists who live here visit the great churches of Europe, but until now have not set foot in these incredible local buildings? Local architecture is more than just single-family homes."

The Chapel of Our Lord at Concordia University Chicago, 7400 Augusta St., River Forest, also designated the Clara and Spencer Werner Auditorium, has been an integral part of Concordia University Chicago since its construction in 1980. Generously funded by a grant from the Werner Foundation and private donors, it houses campus worship throughout the week and hosts the congregation of Resurrection Lutheran Church on the weekends. Both are part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Christian Science Society of Oak Park-River Forest, 948 N. Harlem Ave., is a branch of the First Church of Christ Scientist in Boston, Mass. The local congregation was founded in 1908 and was previously located at 200 N. Oak Park Ave., the current Oak Park Arts Center which houses the Ernest Hemingway Museum. The present building at the corner of Harlem Avenue and Augusta Boulevard was constructed in 1951 for the River Forest Bible Chapel congregation. The building was renovated for the current congregation when they moved in 1989.

Grace Lutheran Church and School, 7200 W. Division St., is a landmark in River Forest. An independent Lutheran church, Grace was founded by German immigrants in 1902 as an offshoot of St. John Lutheran Church in Forest Park. Grace School, established in 1895, remains an important part of Grace's ministry. The English Gothic-style building was designed by the noted Oak Park firm of Talmadge & Watson and was dedicated in 1931. Features include a bell tower, stylized flying buttresses and extensive stone carving.

Living Sanctuary of Faith Church, 701 Belleforte Ave., was founded in 1992 and is a member of the Church of God in Christ, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States. After a fire destroyed their church building, the congregation moved to its present location at Belleforte and Augusta in 2001. The Gothic-style building was originally built in 1903 by the newly formed Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church (now Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest).

Oak Park Temple B'nai Abraham Zion, 1235 N. Harlem Ave., began its history as the product of a merger between two congregations on Chicago's West Side: Zion Congregation, founded in 1864, and B'nai Abraham Congregation, established in 1873. Zion was one of only two synagogues to escape the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. At the time, Zion Congregation and B'nai Abraham Congregation were the only two synagogues west of the Chicago River. Ground for the new building was broken on April 24, 1955, and the first services at the present synagogue were held for Rosh Hashanah in 1957. In 2000, the new wing was added, resulting in additional rooms for adult education, meetings and youth activities.

St. Thomas Aquinas Priory, 7200 W. Lake St., River Forest, was established in 1925 as a house of study for the philosophical and theological preparation of Dominican friars. Known as the Dominican House of Studies, the Priory has been home to generations of Dominicans, Fenwick Friars and others religious. Designed by W.B. Anthony, a well-known architect of such Dominican edifices as St. Vincent Ferrer Church in New York City and Fenwick High School in Oak Park, the Priory was modeled to look like a castle of the family of St. Thomas Aquinas.

West Suburban Temple Har Zion, 1040 N. Harlem Ave., River Forest, is a modern, progressive and egalitarian Conservative congregation that serves the needs of its congregants and the wider Jewish community. This Prairie-style building was designed by the noted architectural firm of Loebl, Schlossman and Bennet and built in two stages between 1950 and 1953. In 1996, West Suburban Temple celebrated completion of Kadima, a major renovation project, which added expanded library facilities for children and adults, a new chapel, a large gift shop, meeting spaces, offices and more.

Tickets are $15 in advance, available at the Oak Park Visitors Center, 1010 Lake St., or at The Book Table, 1045 Lake St., or online at www.oprfhistory.org. On the day of the event, tickets and programs will be available for $20 after 1:30 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church, 7200 W. Division Street, in River Forest. Parking is available in the Concordia University parking garage next to the Grace Lutheran campus. For more information, visit the website, www.oprfhistory.org or call 708-848-6755.

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