A year ago, no one saw this coming.
A year ago, I was excited about the 2019–2020 academic year,
with new leaders bringing their energy and wisdom,
wondering who our new students would be and
what gifts they would bring, encouraged and a little daunted
by the initial steps of our capital campaign
(more on that elsewhere in this newsletter).
The fall began well, with new students getting involved,
and old timers welcoming them.
Winter quarter seemed normal enough: student leadership
stepped up in wonderful ways while I spent a couple of weeks
in Jerusalem visiting a dear friend.
Literally as I was preparing to fly back to the States,
we were reading reports of a new virus, reports that raised
the question of whether there might be issues with international travel.
Within a week of my return, the University sent its first email about
the virus, directing anyone who had recently traveled from mainland
China “not to attend school or work for 14 days.”
(The words self-isolate or quarantine weren’t being used yet.)
Early February seems so very long ago.
Within weeks everything was turned upside down,
our lives were confined within the walls of our homes and the screens
of our devices, and so much of what we had taken for granted
was called into question.
When the University of Chicago moved to remote learning
and students were informed that the residence halls would close
at the end of Winter Quarter, Brent House reached out to the community
and offered what support we could, but I found myself profoundly disoriented.
So many of the hallmarks of our ministry, so many of the powerful rituals
and acts of the Church, so many (all, it seemed) of the simple human gestures
that bind us together and allow us to connect with each other became unavailable
to us: no offers of tea to make space for a vulnerable conversation,
no shared meals to fill a hungry stomach and warm a chilled heart,
no hugs of joy or comfort, no laying on of hands with prayer,
no sharing of Jesus present to us in bread and wine.
And then, in May, the murder of George Floyd brought (yet again)
to light the systemic sin of racism in our country.
With students scattered literally across the globe,
it was difficult to discern how best to respond.
Tensions rose in Chicago, including Hyde Park, as hundreds of people
marched—or drove—in support of Black lives.
Through all of this we continued to meet.
As you’ll see below, Brent House found creative ways to offer
both regular, weekly programming as well as several special events.
New ties are being formed as students, alums, and friends have been
able to gather online in ways that would have been impossible,
or at least unlikely, before.
The new default of online gatherings helped make two new experiments
much richer than would have ben possible otherwise.
All of these programs were well-received and we expect to offer
followup events in the near future.
In this disconcerting jumble of disorientation, uncertainty,
anxiety, rage, surprise, delight, comfort, and unexpected assurance,
Brent House, even without gathering in person, continues to be a place
of community, prayer, and support for our communities.
We are now looking toward the fall and preparing to offer,
both in-person or online, a space that is, as our tagline reads,
“welcoming, inclusive, and unafraid.”
We will find new ways to pray together and dive deep into discernment
that build sustainable spiritual grounding for the work ahead.
We will continue to reflect on how better to be an antiracist community
and how to form young adults ready to do the long, hard work
of dismantling racist systems with wisdom, grace, and humility.
We simply cannot do this work without your financial support.
In the midst of so much uncertainty, your generosity allows us
to continue to provide the mainstays of our ministry and to offer
the creative, intellectually and spiritually engaging programming
that have made us a national model for campus ministry.
Please give what you can. It makes a world of difference.
Like the rest of the world,
Brent House has been adjusting to life during the pandemic.
In typical fashion, our community has found ways to stay connected,
across long distances and time zones, and to deepen the community,
with alums and other friends of Brent House joining us for worship and events.
Here are some highlights:
We found creative ways to mark the solemnities of Holy Week and Easter,
and to pray for our communities.
Weekly online worship and formation:
Sunday Evening Prayer, Bible study, chanted Compline
*All are welcome
to join us for Evening Prayer and Compline.
More information on our Facebook page.
Chaplaincy in Times of Pandemic:
a conversation between the Rev. Dr. Sam Portaro and the Rev. Stacy Alan
(Watch the recording!)
Brent House alumni conversations, “Spirituality in Quarantine,”
led by alumni and students
Roundtable on Science, Philosophy, and Religion:
a conversation with faculty and religious leaders
from two dozen institutions around the U.S.
Next year will include programming on discernment
and sustainable spiritual practices,
an exploration of evangelism informed by monastic practices,
more alumni conversations, and further development of the Roundtable series.
We depend on the support of our alums and friends to do this work.
allow us to continue to offer support and programming
that has an effect far beyond the streets of Hyde Park.
Since we were not able to celebrate our graduates as fully as usual,
this year we have asked two of our graduates to share their experiences
as members of the Brent House community:
Ruby Ross (College, 2020)
I first came to Brent House in spring of my second year of college.
I had come to UChicago excited about finding a Christian community.
I joined multiple Bible studies, regularly attended a Baptist church downtown,
volunteered at a high school chapter of Young Life,
and even started my own Bible study for non-Christians.
Unfortunately, during my second year, my happy Christian bubble started to deflate.
Part of this was due to the enormous responsibility that I had
as a leader in these groups.
I was also troubled by certain legalistic doctrines that the group held.
I finally took a step back from most of my Christian leadership roles
after an unpleasant interaction with a member of my Bible study.
For the first time in my life, I stopped going to church
because I was so afraid of being judged for my spiritual doubts,
and the messaging of my church just didn’t ring true anymore.
After several months of wandering, I found myself at Brent House.
My best friend, who is not Christian,
but had enjoyed going to the service, invited me.
Brent House turned things around for me.
I was shocked (and really, really thrilled) to find a Christian community
that affirmed same-gender marriage and the ordination of women and LGBTQ clergy.
I felt so comfortable to be in a space that allowed doubts,
and that welcomed people of different religious backgrounds.
I always felt like Jesus would want anyone to feel welcome in his church,
to come as they are.
Brent House has been the first church I have encountered that has
provided that kind of space.
I so badly wanted to keep Jesus in my life despite my struggles with the church
and certain Christian teachings that I grew up with,
and Stacy and my peers at Brent House gave me permission to do that.
I can invite my LGBTQ friends to the table, and not feel worried that
people are secretly thinking they’re living in habitual sin.
I can invite my lovely, non-Christian boyfriend to church,
and know he feels comfortable and welcomed.
Brent House also has a spirit of Christ-like humility
that so many churches fail to emulate.
People do not judge you on appearances, or have any sort of expectations
of who you should be.
As a result, we have a diverse group of people with different backgrounds,
interests, and beliefs, where the only non-negotiable is love and respect,
as I think Jesus would want.
I am very grateful for my time at Brent House.
It is difficult to put into words how much it has impacted me.
I will really miss Stacy and her patient heart, intellectual mind,
and her dedicated leadership.
I will really miss my Brent House family.
I know Brent House will continue to bless UChicago as it blessed me.
My time at Brent House these past six years has been nothing less than transformative.
I have been an Episcopalian my whole life and been blessed
with wonderful, supportive churches that I went to with my parents.
But since going off to college, I never found a true spiritual “home.”
Brent House has provided that home.
As I finish the sixth and final year of doctorate in Classics at UChicago,
there are many aspects of my time at Brent House that I will treasure.
The house provided small comforts, like always being a loving place
where I could spend time, get a hot meal, and recharge my batteries.
A classics doctorate can be an extremely lonely time and it was incredibly
important for me to be able to unwind with fellow students
every Wednesday and Sunday.
These conversations spawned many great conversations and friendships.
But beyond socialization, Brent House has provided a space in which
I could question and develop my own relationship with God.
As a person of faith in academia, I am particularly sensitive to
the need to use one’s spiritual and intellectual brains in tandem.
Brent House gave me the tools to build those connections.
With Stacy and a few other graduate students,
I spent my third year engaged in Ignatian spiritual self-examination,
asking God for guidance about why He had set me on the path to come
to UChicago and study Greek and Roman history.
I never got any firm answer to that question—except for God assuring me
that I was where I belonged.
But the process of investigating it forced me to critically evaluate
my prayer life and how I was using it to further my relationship to God.
The Examen, a prayerful reflection on one’s day,
is a tool I come back to again and again.
Brentsday, our weekly Wednesday programming,
was another venue for amazing conversations with Catholics and Lutherans
about Lenten practices, examining the St. John’s Bible, and the like.
Through all these experiences, Brent House has helped me to deepen
my relationship with God.
Aside from the Classics department, it is by far the most important community
that I was a part of during my time here.
I will be forever grateful for the community that Stacy has created here,
the friendships I formed, and the growth those have engendered in me
as a scholar and Christian.
Tim is also a member of the Brent House board
and will be a postdoc here at UChicago this coming academic year.
Brent House is excited to welcome a seminary intern this year!
Kim Lewis is pursuing her Master of Divinity at McCormick Theological Seminary.
She received her M.A. from DePaul University with a focus on nonprofits
to help youth in underserved areas.
Her grandfather was one of the original plaintiffs in
Brown v. Board of Education (from Briggs v. Elliott),
whose legacy has tapped at her conscious throughout her life,
reminding her to help others.
While enrolled at DePaul, she founded Jacquelyn of All Trades, NFP in March 2014,
a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young women through mentoring,
educational support, and care.
She has also served on eleven ministries, committees, and boards
throughout her life including South Suburban Special Recreation Association
(supporting teens/young adults with physical and mental disabilities),
Covenant United Church of Christ (CUCC) New Members Committee,
CUCC Youth Ministries (lay support),
Public Education Reform Ministry (P.E.R.M.),
and the University Church/United Church of Christ Illinois Conference
This wonderful new book written specifically for young adults
in college includes a chapter on discernment
(“Making Good Choices”) written by Stacy.
Order it from your local bookstore
(or the Seminary Co-op) today!
The world has turned upside down, but we are still moving ahead!
This past fall and winter we hosted seven cottage meetings in Chicago,
Seattle, and New York City, as well as gathering feedback online.
As you might imagine, the pandemic has slowed things down,
but the silver lining is that it has felt quite natural
to connect online with our global community.
Keep an eye out for more updates in future emails and mailings,
and don’t hesitate to be in touch with any questions or for more information.
If you haven’t seen our videos and given us your feedback,
please go to TheCampaignForBrentHouse.org
and watch the videos
on the main page and under the tab that reads “The Need.”
(And yes, that is Brent House alum Ray Suarez narrating the main video.
We are so grateful for his help!)
Then click on “Feedback” to share your stories.
We are grateful for the support of our friends for their gifts
of money, talent, time, prayer and encouragement.
Without you, our work would not be possible.
The Edna Billar Society: $1,000+ John and Norma Bramsen Episcopal Church Women Richard and Marilyn Harvey Ke Chiang and Shigeko Hsieh Susanne and Jim Lenz James Nako Katy Peaslee Sam Portaro and Christopher Dionesotes Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer Mark Sands Susquehanna International Group Ron and Linda Thisted Anna Mary Wallace
The Canon Bell Society: $500–999 Douglas Q. Adams Franklin Alan and Donna Eide Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger Luke Bretscher Brotherhood of St. Andrew—Chicago Assembly Bill Cosper Easton Sutter Household Sylvia Helm Charles Hopkins John Hopper Kevin Kamraczewski JT Kittredge and Charles Morehead The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee June Mire Emily Nicklin Patrick Palmer Tom and Nancy Patterson Kyle Rader and Verena Meyer Elizabeth Vann
The Brent House Society: $250–499 Stacy Alan and John Poole Jake and Katy Fallon Bitner Eric K. Clemons Elinor Crocker Meghan Duke Nancy and Robert Felix Mary Hope Griffin and Clayton Thomason Andrew Guffey Greg and Brenda Hough Charles Krance and Florine Bruneau Michael Leppen Carol Meyer and Bob Smither Karen Milton and Michael Meigs Sara Raftery St. Mark’s, Barrington Hills Linda Wheatley-Irving
The Canterbury Society: $100–249 Anna Akers-Pecht Amy and Shane Autra Joyce Beaulieu Gretel Braidwood and Raymond Tindel William Brewster Mark Brooker and Tamara Miller Bernard and Carol Jean Brown Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest Jack Clark and Andrew Goldhor Serena Cosgrove and Marty Bosworth Christina Coughlin L. William Countryman The Culver Family Barbara Flynn Currie Richard Daspit and Cecilia Mitchell Mary-Helen Deck Diane Falk David Follmer Darryl Ford and Gail Sullivan-Ford Grace Episcopal Church David and Barbara Heywood Janet Johnson and Donald Whitcomb Gabriel Kalcheim Danette Kauffman Enid Kivuti Margaret Lewis Betty and Stephen Lloyd Peggy Mason Elizabeth McCreless Elinore McLain Joseph Merlino Sandra and John Mulholland Margaret Pines Porto Helen Probst Mills Benjamin and Maruta Ray Carl Anthony Reed Donna Reynolds Christiane and Earl Ronneberg William and Frances Rounds St. Ann's Episcopal Church, Woodstock Jasmine Saulsberry Maria Scott Newland F. Smith Alan and Nancy Spencer Rushton Sara and John Henry Steelman J. Allyson and Carol Simpson Stern Don and Margaret Swanton Zachary Taylor Juli Wilson-Black
Friends: $1–99 David B.J. Adams Phil and LaVera Ayers Marion and Jonathan Baumgarten William J. and Marilyn Bauriedel Daniel Bertsche Barbara Bowers Margaret Moon Chambers Tim Clark Nancy Congdon Robert and Elizabeth Crowe Sara Cushing Teresa Mithin Danieley Thomas Ewing Rosemary Gooden Heidi Haverkamp and Adam Freiberg Linda and John Hillman Robert and Mary Hopkins Mary Beth Hwang Henry Idema Andrew Jay Johnson Julia Jennings Hannah Kenagy Norma Loo Leben Sarah Lincoln Elizabeth Maxwell D. Barry Menuez Messiah–St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church Kathleen Mills Margaret Mitchell Eleta J. Murray Jane Ford Oliver Emily Pera Caroline Perry and Luke Stetson Dan and Cathy Portaro Neil Raman and Elizabeth Gassler Bill Roberts Andrew Rostan Anna Schleusener and Vikram Iyer Kenneth Shelton Roberta and William Siegfriedt Lester B. Singleton David Stanford Grace Stover Andrew Suitter Russell and Marlene Tuttle Grant D Venerable Sophia Walker James Weigle Sarah and Josh Welch-Larson Lavane Williams Ellen Wondra Robert Wyatt
A special thank-you to Nina Deremer and NeonOne,
who have donated our donor database service.