Nearing the peak of the holiday season, we begin to see increasing numbers of donations made to religious organizations. People have varied motivations for charitable giving, be it to ensure goodwill, to financially help the church finish the year in the black, or to somehow offset wrong deeds. Whatever the reason, Albany Park residents are less likely to contribute. According to a 2010 PerceptGroup study on the neighborhood’s faith-preference demographics, just 22% of households in Albany Park are contributing more than $500 to churches, compared to a 31% national average.
However, it seems the religious members of Albany Park make up for not extending a wallet by extending a hand instead. The PerceptGroup study showed that 27% of religious residents prefer Community/Social Service church programs (over programs providing spiritual development, personal development, or recreation), a rate slightly higher than the 20% national average.
Within the past five months, Everyblock.com chronicled the numerous ways that residents have used neighborhood churches for a range of social service purposes. Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church hosted a Teachers for Social Justice meeting during the Chicago Public School teachers strike late this past summer; last September Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church hosted a Community Peace Forum for the Albany Park Neighborhood Recovery Initiative; the Mayfair Community Church hosts the monthly Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy 1712 Beat meetings.
One of the colleges situated in Albany Park, North Park University, is also a religious-based organization with a strong commitment to social justice. North Park’s affiliation with the Evangelical Covenant denomination of Christian faith seems to influence its strong focus on social service. The school offers students numerous volunteer opportunities within the Chicago region and a two-day Justice Summit.
A sense of community welfare seems to permeate many of the religious organizations in Albany Park, but why? North Park Nursing Senior Shadae Gaitlin claims in a recent Facebook status (paraphrasing Colossians 3:14-16 from the Bible): “The Church is more than bricks and buildings; wherever there are true believers and followers of Christ gathered—there is the Church.”
Perhaps it’s this idea that is shared among the religious members of Albany Park; a belief in people over structures or customs and actions over words—a belief that sets Albany Park apart as a neighborhood that is pioneering in social justice.This article was written by Kia Lewis. firstname.lastname@example.org