Community Conversations at the National Hellenic Museum

An opening presentation for an exhibit of the Morgan Model Collection at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago on Thursday, September 21, 2017 from 6:00-7:30 pm.

Four of the Morgan Models were exhibited on the main floor of the National Hellenic Museum with backboards that displayed colored photographs as well as interpretive text for the duration of one year.

On September 21, 2017, Suzanne Morgan gave a early-evening presentation on the exhibit floor where she shared information on the congregations each model represents - beginning with the earliest tradition and ending with the most recent. This began with the Jane Perlman Sanctuary located in Glencoe, IL. The synagogue is a gem for the Jewish tradition as it clearly articulates the Circle theology of Mircea Eliade, a Jewish immigrant from Romania who attended the University of Chicago Divinity School and became a prominent faculty member with many theological writings. The sanctuary features interior finished that represent many of the locations of the Jewish Diaspora around the world.

Secondly, Suzanne talked about the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church located near the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago. It illustrates the foundational shape of the Roman basilica augmented with a transept and campanile of the Italian tradition. Orthodox features are the central high and narrow dome containing an icon of Christ in its center, the Icon screen, which separates the worship space or nave, from the sanctuary. A trio of entrance doors to both building and the sanctuary, three crosses on the roof, and more are all references the Trinity. Americanization of the space is shown with the pews for seated worship and the pulpit located to one side of the worship space.

Next, Suzanne talked about a Roman Catholic Church that shows a modern interpretation designed after the Second Vatican Council in Rome that occurred in 1962-65. This Englewood church named St. Benedict the African Catholic Church was designed with a circular sanctuary with chairs for flexible seating and a full immersion Baptismal font containing 10,000 gallons of water and located at the entrance to the sanctuary.

Finally, Suzanne spoke about the Unitarian Universalist church located in Oak Park, IL which is designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It features a more horizontal than vertical shape with its entrances away from the street and located between the worship space and the fellowship hall. This conveys the idea that worship and fellowship hold equal value – one should not only worship God but also be kind to one’s fellow human beings. Natural light through the coffered ceiling is used to light the people rather than the building, making it a place for interfaith community building as this tradition welcomes people from all faiths and reads from all scriptures.

The four models seen in the same space bring people to see the uniqueness of each tradition a well as their commonalities. The evening concluded with questions from the audience members and refreshments over stimulating conversations.