On Sunday, November 7th, Interfaith in Action, along with the Religious Studies Student Association (RSSA) took a trip up to Chicago. It was an ALL-DAY affair, literally — we left Champaign at 6:15 am and returned at 11:45 pm. By the time we got back to the train station, everyone was dead tired. However, the trip was definitely worth it.
At the beginning of the semester, Professor Mohammed Khalil had suggested to Emily and me that the RSSA go up to Chicago to see some devotional sites we don’t have access to in Champaign-Urbana. At the moment, the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette is the only Baha’i temple in North America. We felt very lucky that it was so near to us; we had to seize the opportunity to take a tour. Additionally, the Holy Trinity Cathedral, nearby in Chicago, is the oldest Orthodox church in the area. Again, we felt it was a wonderful chance to see something we aren’t able to in Champaign.
The train ride up was interesting; personally I had never been on a train before, so I had a great time! Most people slept, and we seemed to arrive at Chicago Union Station relatively quickly. We all headed over to CVS to purchase CTA day passes, then made our way to the nearest ‘L’ stop. On the subway, we met up with a friend of Emily’s who is very active in the Interfaith community at DePaul University. It was a great chance to talk about the different events his group does, and exchange ideas.
Once we got to the Baha’i House of Worship, we were joined by Professor Khalil and a group of students from Elmhurst College. The tour was only of the visitor’s center, but was incredibly informative. Our group asked so many questions, and the tour took up all the time we had allowed. It was awesome that all the students were so interested in learning all they could about the faith. After the tour, we headed upstairs to the main prayer hall for an interfaith prayer service. The prayer hall was amazing. I have never seen architecture like it in person before. The prayer service was pretty interesting as well; about seven speakers read from holy books of different faiths, and one woman sang a devotional song in Arabic. The congregation was completely silent the entire time, and that definitely added to the atmosphere.
After leaving the Baha’i temple, we all grabbed lunch nearby. Everyone had a great time; the food was great, and so was the company. Again, it was awesome to mingle with students from other schools who are also involved in interfaith work.
The Elmhurst and DePaul students left after lunch, and the UIUC students piled into Professor Khalil’s minivan and went to Holy Trinity Cathedral. Archpriest John Adamcio gave us a tour of the small but beautiful church. Outside, the building was nondescript, but we all wondered about the cross at the top of the steeple. It looked different than the cross we typically see, in that it had three crossbars instead of only one. Inside, walls and ceiling were covered with icons and gorgeous murals and paintings. They had recently had a holiday, so we were also lucky to see many flowers and candles decorating the rooms. This semester I am taking an Islamic Architecture class, so I have been seeing pictures of the insides of mosques since August. Mosques never have figural art, because of the tradition of aniconism. For this reason, being inside an Orthodox church was especially intriguing for me.
After we left Holy Trinity, we had a few hours until our train left for Champaign at 8 pm. We took the ‘L’ to Millenium park, and walked around Chicago for a while. Instead of having dinner, we went to Ghirardelli and had chocolate (what?? yep!). It was a really good time.
We actually just made it to the train at about 7:58, but everyone got on safely, and we made it home (after some delays) at 11:45 pm. The trip was awesome, and I’m hoping the RSSA and Interfaith can come together to do something like this every semester.
Katie Ryan, Interfaith in Action & Religious Studies Student Association