Project Second Century:
Called to Love and Serve

A bold initiative to facilitate the expansion
of programming at Fourth Presbyterian Church

A model of the Gratz Center, being built as part of
Project Second Century, can be seen in the Loggia,
outside the south transept Sanctuary doors.


Whether the expenditure which has been made here . . .
shall prove justified, time alone can answer. And the answer will be
in terms of service, the lives lived here, and the spirit that shall go out
from here and enter into the life of the community.

Thomas D. Jones
Chair of the Fourth Church Building Committee, 1914


Background to P2C

Photos of P2C

Introduction to P2C

Updates on P2C

Congregational Meeting Presentation:
September 19, 2010

Sermon from September 19, 2010:
“Giants Ahead and We Are Merely Grasshoppers

P2C Steering Commitee Presentation:
June 27, 2010

Gensler P2C Design Presentation:
June 27, 2010

Media Coverage of P2C



Project Second Century: Called to Love and Serve

“There is no church at all, unless it has a sense of mission.” That was a favorite phrase of Elam Davies, who served as Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church for more than two decades. That sense of mission has been alive since Fourth Church opened its doors on Michigan Avenue nearly a century ago and is today as real and vital as ever. It can be seen and experienced in so many ways: an inspiring message from the pulpit on Sunday morning; a warm meal served to a hungry person who’s come in off the street; the light in a child’s eyes as she shares a moment with her longtime tutor in the church basement; the joyful noise coming from a youth choir or a crowded Sunday school class; the connections made at the community garden in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood and on the mission trips that send Fourth Church members out into Chicago neighborhoods as well as around the world. All of it is done in an effort to reflect Christ’s inclusive love.

That vision of love and service is alive and growing at Fourth Church—growing so much, in fact, that it is creating unique and wonderful challenges. Teachers in those crowded Sunday school classes can’t hold circle time because there’s not enough room to make one. More space is needed to hold the Bible studies and classes, meetings and counseling sessions, that nurture people in the faith journey. The desire to expand such social services as free meals and tutoring faces the limits of what a nearly 100-year-old church can accommodate.

So, inspired by its heritage and embracing the challenge to be a light in the city for another 100 years at the corner of Michigan and Delaware, in 2010 Fourth Presbyterian Church launched a bold initiative to expand its programs of service and its presence in the city. Project Second Century: Called to Love and Serve is a response to this congregation’s vision to grow physically and therefore to expand our ability to be a welcoming and serving community that embodies Christ’s love and compassion.

While our collective response to God’s unconditional love is typically expressed in actions—worship, prayer, service, and education—a careful and intentional congregation-wide visioning process clearly identified that in order to do all that, in order to carry out our call, we need space. We would not be able to provide for our current needs—let alone fulfill the vision of expanding our programs—if we did not address the urgent need for more space. Project Second Century: Called to Love and Serve was organized to enable us to do that, to expand our mission and build on the important legacy handed down to us.

In a very real sense, Fourth Presbyterian Church grew up with the city of Chicago. Our first worship service was held on October 8, 1871, the day of the Great Chicago Fire. The conflagration consumed the church building, but like the city itself, the congregation quickly rebuilt, grew, and thrived. Later, in 1914, the congregation moved into a majestic new building on North Michigan Avenue, proving to be a vibrant and vital part of the growing city. Fourth Church has always been a part of the fabric of the city, feeding the hungry, serving the underserved, ministering to the sick and lonely, and inspiring so many through word and deed.

During World War II, it was Fourth Church that opened its doors to provide a worship space for Japanese-Americans who had nowhere else to turn, with the Pastor at the time, Harrison Ray Anderson, literally standing guard out front to ensure the worshipers would not be impeded. At the height of the civil rights movement in the turbulent 1960s, Fourth Church, under the leadership of Elam Davies, expanded its outreach to the surrounding community rather than turn inward, launching the Tutoring program and Day School, among other programs. Toward the end of the century and into the new one, the church’s mission of social justice and inclusion only grew, with the congregation doubling in size under John Buchanan and expanding the role of women as clergy and in important lay roles. Dr. Buchanan also extended a relationship with a nearby synagogue and led an emotional and meaningful interfaith worship service with Jewish and Muslim leaders following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Today the work of Fourth Presbyterian Church continues to take many forms and tell many stories. There is the couple who was married at Fourth Church and later moved to London but returned to have their first child baptized here, in this faith community that is still home to them. For them and for so many, Fourth Church is part of their family. There is the young woman from a disadvantaged background who heads off to college after spending years in the Tutoring program. There are Fourth Church pastors who visit the sick and lonely, and there is the former Deacon who, in retirement, serves in a health clinic in Cameroon providing vital services and helping stem the tide of AIDS in Africa. There is meaningful preaching during Sunday morning services that motivates parishioners to effect change, and there are concerts and nontraditional services that stir the soul.

Much of the Fourth Church outreach and service is facilitated through Chicago Lights, which oversees the Tutoring program, Summer Day, the Urban Farm, and the Elam Davies Social Service Center. Chicago Lights also helps run programs of literacy and arts at grade schools on Chicago’s Near North Side and at the Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School, which serves juvenile detainees. Each year Chicago Lights serves more than 27,500 healthy meals; provides more than 23,000 hours of tutoring and mentoring for children from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods; and serves more than 7,000 people and brings together more than 1,000 volunteers, who are uplifted by serving.

The goal of Project Second Century: Called to Love and Serve is to ensure this service not only continues but grows and that the church remains a relevant and thriving part of the city. A thorough examination of space requirements led to plans for an expanded facility on Michigan Avenue, the Gratz Center. This effort included study of the financial requirements not only for a physical expansion, but also for what is necessary to support and sustain new programs, including adding to the endowment. Further, full examination of all options related to the asset that is the Chicago Avenue property owned by Fourth Presbyterian Church is underway. This includes articulation of a compelling strategic vision for the urban mission that may be based there and the sequencing and timing of the implementation of that vision, including funding requirements.

Our response to God’s call to love and serve is one we faithfully take up from our predecessors, who recovered after the devastation of the Great Chicago Fire and later had the bold vision to meet great need by building a new church. In turn, we build on their actions and work to continue the story for those who will hear their call long after we’ve made our response.

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Media Coverage of P2C

Blair Kamin in the Chicago Tribune
August 16, 2010:
“Fourth Presbyterian Ready to Unveil Design for a Five-Story Addition”

August 23, 2010:
“An Expansion Plan Done Right:
Fourth Presbyterian Plan Strikes the Right Balance between Old and New”

Chicago Skyline

August 18, 2010
“Plans Met with Applause at Community Meeting”

The Architect’s Newspaper
September 15, 2010
“Gensler Finds God in Chicago”

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Questions and comments about Project Second Century can be directed to Rob Holben, Director of Business Administration (312.274.3821).

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