Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Newsletter!

Check Out Our Summer Newsletter! 

Liberation Theologies On Tap

In addition to these things, we meet every Wednesdays, 6pm, for Liberation Theologies on Tap, through June 23 at Bar Louie, Dearborn Station. Contact Intern Pastor Drew Rindfleisch for more info: 

Also, selected Fridays throughout Summer, join us for Vespers (Evening Prayer) lead by Josh Evans! Dates for Vespers, followed by a light meal: 6/6, 6/207/117/25, 8/8, 8/22, 6pm! 637 S. Dearborn!

Takin' It To The Streets: Sunday Night Sandwich Assembly / Delivery
Join us every Sunday, 6pm. Come prepared to make sandwish bags, and to walk a couple of miles, delivering sandwiches to our homeless sister and brothers.

The LAST Sunday of every month, we invite folks in for a Community Meal! Volunteer at 5:30, meal is at 7pm. Contact, if you are willing and able to help! Or just show up!

Peace! Happy Summer! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My NPA Experience

"...being able to travel with my classmates to learn about our nation’s 'democracy' was prevented because of my income level." -Gianna Chacon

Written by Gianna Chacon, Student at Roosevelt University, South Loop, Chicago. Gianna, along with two other SLCM students,  pastors Tom and Drew traveled to DC this past April with SOUL, IIRON, and the IIRON Student Network!

Because I came from a low-income household, I never got the chance to go to Washington, D.C. in 8th grade for our U.S Government field trip. My mother worked hard to support our family on a single income and we did not have the means to finance the trip. 

It was clear, even then, that being able to travel with my classmates to learn about our nation’s “democracy” was prevented because of my income level. 

To finally make it to Washington, D.C seventeen years later to fight against economic inequality, together with people from all economic backgrounds, for an economic system that works for all, was truly inspiring.

My experience at the National People’s Action Conference was beyond what I had imagined it might be. It was incredible and honoring to gather with 1,000 people for a weekend to build power, share stories and strategize together about a national movement for economic and racial justice. 

I was surrounded by community organizers, religious leaders, and student activists who all understand that increase in economic disparities, separation of families, environmental destruction, and the inability for workers to make a living off of minimum wage in the United States are all symptoms of a broken economic, social, and political system that benefits only a few while leaving the rest of us behind.

The South Loop Campus Ministry has been a great church community to work with. I truly value Pastor Tom Gaulke’s and Drew Rindfleisch’s commitment to social justice and their work in creating a church community that embodies the act of love beyond charity alone, and addresses the root causes of oppression. Their work in getting students involved at Roosevelt University is able to bridge the gap between student activism and the church community. 

The NPA conference was an invigorating and humbling experience. I truly believe that by working together we can create the better world we all envision.

Students from the IIRON Student Network (and friends)!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reflection on Lent - From Create Worship at SLCM, March 7th

Angel Figueroa, speaking at a Sunday night de-brief. Angel wrote this reflection at the start of Lent, 2014. Angel is a Law student at DePaul, and an active member of South Loop Campus Ministry 
I never really got Lent growing up, even if I went through the motions. You 

know, the getting of ashes, the giving up something, usually sugar related, 

and ate fish instead of meat on Fridays. I didn’t know why, except that I 

was supposed to be sad and sorry for my sins. Kind of what Ash 

Wednesday is about, especially in the Roman church. 

And maybe there is something to that when you look at the meaning of the 

word repent. It tends to have a bad rep now a days. But the original greek 

meant something like “move beyond our present mind-set.” It was about 

transformation, and journey, a spiritual one. But recently, it occurred to me 

what Lent was truly about. It was about Baptism. I’ll say more about that in 

a minute. 

But even more so, it was about Easter. I know, I know, it’s the season 

before Easter, so that’s more or less a given. But there’s more to it. The 

word Lent is simply an early English word for spring, with the root 

meaning of long, as in the days getting longer. Makes sense as we are 

prepared to celebrate the rising of the Morning Star. But I thought about it 

and I realized something else. 

When I think about Spring, I think about life abundant. Flowers, and birds, 

beautiful sun, but without the scorching heat of the heart of summer. But 

the amazing thing about life is this. It needs to come from death. And that

is what Lent is truly about. It is about dying to ourselves. It is about dying 

to our need for having the latest and greatest stuff. It is about dying to our 

need to be rugged individuals. It is about dying to ourselves and moving 

beyond our current mind set and setting it on Jesus. 

As Lutherans, we are thought that we should daily drown the Old Adam 

and be born anew in Christ. We do this through daily repentance ,and yes, 

contrition. It is something that we should take care to always practice, but 

especially in this season as we prepare to celebrate the defeat of death 

through death, and through new life. The funny thing about Ash 

Wednesday to me has always been that we read a passage about not 

praying in public and taking care of your appearance when you fast, then 

smear ashes all over our head. 

 But that took a new significance to me, just this Wednesday, though I’m 

not quite sure why. It represented death. Both the fact that we all are 

doomed to die, but something deeper. 

It’s death to yourself and identification by the cross you wear on your

forehead. I am no longer Angel, or Joe, or Kacie, or Anne. I am a servant of 


In many churches, after you are baptized, you are marked on the forehead 

with the sign of the cross. The words are usually something like “You have 

been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as one of Christ’s own forever.” 

And that my friends is what lent and Ash Wednesday is truly about. It is 

about dying to ourselves and turning our mindsets, our world views, 

towards each other and God. It’s not easy, I won’t lie to you, but nothing

great in life is. And this we do, because Christ loves us, and we are his until 

the end of ages. Amen.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Temples of Justice and the Streets of Our Nation, by Angel Figueroa

Grace and peace to all who read this.

My name is Angel Figueroa, and I am a first year law student at DePaul University. [Recently], while many of my colleagues were resting from the past semester and preparing for the new, I was with a group of 8 other law students in our nation’s capital. Now law students traveling to DC is by itself no big deal as I’m sure you are thinking. However, the purpose of our trip was. We were in DC for the primary purpose of assisting the  great organizations there as they supported the local homeless population. Being law students we also visited such popular locations as the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Capitol. DC is in many ways two cities, and the difference between the two was striking.

Angel Figueroa is a Law Student at DePaul University,
and leader with South Loop Campus Ministry
As an example, we visited the Supreme Court, and again and again we heard it referred to as the Temple of Justice. Fitting title for the highest court of the land, I will admit. But I ask you this. Is it really a Temple of Justice if outside the magnificent marble halls lies a homeless man, trying to stay warm in the park?

Is it a government of and for the people when Congressmen care more about saying powerful words in their nice suits, than they care about the people they need to work by on the streets to get to the hallowed chambers of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. It does not seem right and just to me that the city of monuments is also a city of the poor, with no place for many to live because of out of control housing prices.

I am incredibly grateful for the chance to work with such amazing organizations as the Father McKenna Center and S.O.M.E., which provide food and services to those who need it. But I am pain and filled with righteous anger that such help is needed at the center of power and politics of our nation. It is a city that is the site of an almost religious sort of pilgrimage, yet it has one of the highest homeless populations in the country. It seems to me that the United States Congress is failing in its duty to see to the wellbeing of those who live in the capital district.
Yet while the disparity between the haves and the have nots is perhaps most striking in Washington DC, it is not unique to that city. In fact, my very first trip out to lower Wacker with the people at South Loop Campus Ministry to provide some limited sustenance to the homeless of the Chicago Loop shocked me. Because of the layout of the city, it is easier for those without homes to become invisible, but they are there, not far from some of the wealthiest businesses in the world. 

There are two additional experiences I had in DC that will stay with me, probably as long a I have breath. The first was a visit to see the memorial to the great prophet and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope". These words greet you as you enter the memorial, to see the statue of Dr. King. The world might seem to be stacked against those who are not among the elite. Yet while the world may despair that the peaceable kingdom of God, where none are hungry and all are equal, has not yet arrived, there is hope. There is hope brought to us by the works of such great warriors for Christ as Dr. King, and Dorothy Day. Inequality and oppression do not need to rule this world, as fallen as it is. We are all broken people, imprisoned by sin. However we are also called to be set apart from the world, to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven upon this world. Dr. King understood that, and we live in his legacy.

The second thing that I brought back from DC was a conversation with a very special person. We were fortunate enough to meet with Sister Simone Campbell of the Sisters of Social Service. Besides being a member of one of the many religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church, she is also the director of Network Lobby. While many have not heard of the organization itself, many are familiar with the Nuns on the Bus, an outreach effort undertaken by Network. One of the things that she discussed with us were the essential aspects of lobbying. If you are like me, you probably consider lobbying to be a dirty word. However, lobbying efforts are the reason we have had such bills passed or proposed such as the ACA or DREAM Act. And one of the essentials of lobbying is the field. All the big money people in DC can’t change things without the support of We The People. That is why the field is such an important part of trying to force Congress to implement change. They need to know that we care about these issues, and that we will not stop until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.

We are called to bring about the realm of the Prince of Peace, which can not exist until there is true justice for all.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Condescending Charity? Liberating Love?

And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal. -Athanasian Creed

God is Love. -1 John 4:8, Bible

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. -Luke 1:52-53, The Mother Of Christ

In the beginning was the logos... The world came into being through him, but the world did not know him... John 1

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist. -Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara
I once heard a sermon on “why we should give.”

I don't recall much of it, 
but I do remember one of the "reasons" given. 

It feels good to give,” the pastor encouraged us, toward the end of the sermon. (I was a visitor).

If you don't believe me, try it!”     

Try it.

Try giving! You'll see!!!

You'll... see... 

Well, I've tried it.

And here's what I've found.

Sometimes it feels Good. Sometimes it Doesn't.
And, although God may “love” a “cheerful giver,” I don't think that that pastor was right.

To be clearer: I think he was absolutely wrong.

In the world as it is, we shouldn't give because it feels good or bad. We should give because it's the right thing to do—when and in which situation it is the right thing to do.

However, in the world as it ought to be, nobody should have to give, because everybody will have enough.

Giving, rather, then, ideally, (as “stuff” will always move from one location to another), becomes the sharing of those things which all, collectively, hold in common, rather than the granting graciously and mercifully of what one believes he or she “owns.”

South Loop Campus Ministry Community Meal
Charity, as we commonly know it, is necessitated by injustice.
Charity is the result of inequality.

Of hoarding. And of greed.

More deeply, it is the result of ownership—the demonic delusion that any of God's creation belongs exclusively to any human or any group of humans.

By nature, charity is condescending, because it starts with the reality that the giver is in some way—usually socially and economically—“above” the receiver.

Interestingly enough, in the world as it is, it is often those who hoard or have the most who get praised the most when they finally do decide to give. This is the case for those givers who "save" small country churches and for philanthropists who fund gigantic foundations.

Indeed, when one gives from a place of great privilege, and receives great and public praise, giving may feel quite good. In fact, one might be deemed a Saint—by the media, by one's peers, even by those “poor” people that one has helped with such a generous and Christ-like tax-deductible contribution.

I, too, know this praise.
And praise feels good.

Each week with members of South Loop Campus Ministry, First Trinity, and Grace Place, we either deliver sandwiches to the homeless, or invite the homeless in for a meal.

You have such a heart for the poor, Pastor!” “I really admire what you guys do!”

Not only do people admire us for our work, but often they, too, want to “pay it forward,” “get involved,” or “give back.”

And they should! Because IT IS NECCESARY.

In the world as it is.

But, again, in the world as it is, all charity is condescending.

And our intention in creating any event should be toward creating a moment or moments of community—not a moment of charity. A moment when we see our sister or brother as he or she Is—one with us and one with God. Not as he or she currently exists, as one “less fortunate.”

We do not want to create a dynamic of an “us” giving to a “them.” Rather, for a few moments each week, we want to act out the world as it ought to be. We share what belongs to none of us, and what belongs to all of us, because it belongs to God, and we are all God's children.
Students and community members deliver sandwiches is sub-zero
temperatures with South Loop Campus Ministry
This, of course, we also act out (in lesser quantity) when we share in Holy Communion.

The act, of course is always symbolic.

Then we go home, to bed, back into the “real” world.

God is Love, according to the author of 1 John. God by God's very nature is coeternal and coequal according to the Athanasian Creed. That is, as clarified by St. Augustine, God the Trinity might be described as Lover, the Beloved, and the Love.

God is Love. Love is co-Equality. Love is co-Eternity.

It makes sense that St. Mary, in her song about God's work sings of something we often skim over in our overly-sentimentalized, Hollywood, Disney, How-I-Met-Your-Mother, momentary-Christmastime-gushy-feeling, can't-we-all-just-get-along, it-feels-good-to-give perceptions of Love.

It is not of Charity
(the acting out of the world as it ought to be—acting out equality through sharing that which is not normally shared in the world as it is)
that Mary Sings.

Rather it is of Justice, of Liberation
(the creation or the becoming of the world as it ought to be).

Not acting out the ideal world in the world as it is in Eternal moments, 

but creating a world that is the world as it ought-to-be, in a more-than-a-moment Eternity.

At least for now.

The lowly shall be lifted. All will be able to eat.

And Live.


The quote above, the one from Câmara,
is almost a cliché among my colleagues, and among our circles of friends.

It's on posters and coffee mugs, tee-shirts and needlepoint pillow-covers.

But it continues to speak to the tension raised when we, people of faith, really seek to have a “heart for the poor.” No... Scratch that...

Make that: Have a heart for all of our sisters and brothers in Creation...
Make that: Have a heart for our God who is Love,
and co-equal,

and who calls us to love one another,
and to create a world that reflects that love,
that co-eternity,
and that co-equality.

Câmara was right, though.

recently shared all over facebook
Though the word communist may not hold the stigma it used too—nor does it suffice to describe the ideals that many of my colleagues and I share, we are still subject to similar labels, to labels in general.

Radical, Idealist, Impractical, Socialist, Liberal, Democrat, Loose Giver, Anti-Christian (this one is the funniest and most hypocritical, of course)...

Lots of labels. Still. When we ask:
Why are people poor?”
Why are fewer people rich?”
And ultra-rich?”
Why don't we change some laws and some structural oppressions in order to change that situation?”

Poor St. Mary—and even Christ himself—must have dealt with much the same. Well, actually, much worse!

At least understanding this makes us feel kind of cool when we do get labeled!

Some friends (and fellow Lutherans) have expressed discomfort in my involvement in politics over the last few years. Discomfort in our work in SOUL and IIRON. And in Bridgeport Alliance.

That's not the work of the church!, they argue. Causing trouble. Exposing inequality. Calling for liberation and justice

“That's not the work of the church!”

We do service. We do charity. We Give! And pray! And sing!

And, well, it feels good!


To be clear... I think they are absolutely wrong.,

If the Church is to be about Love, co-eternal, and co-equal,
it must be about justice, equality, and liberation as a goal,
and charity in the meanwhile.

(aka the Kingdom lived in the world, already, with fervent prayer for the Kingdom to come that is not yet.)

AND IT MUST WORK FOR BOTH if it is to truly do works of love.

If the church's only act of Love is charity,
it is incomplete, and steeping in an unjust world.

As we prepare this year for another MLK Day, and as we work with SOUL and IIRON (and other justice workers work on similar projects around the globe), I invite you to join us—or join your local organization.

There will be buses from Bridgeport and from Roosevelt University, among other places.

This work is not in addition, or a compliment  to faith, but a work of faith—a work of Love.

You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing. -Dr. King on 1 Corinthians 13.

May God grace us with hearts of Love, and the desire for that Love to come to fruition in all of society, in all of our lives, and in all of existence.


Pr. Tom Gaulke
First Lutheran Church of the Trinity
South Loop Campus Ministry, Episcopal/Lutheran 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Welcome Back!

Hey Friends - 

Welcome back to Chicago--or to school if you've been around all summer! 

Joe and I will be around campus in the coming weeks. And so will our new ministry intern, Drew. He's a cool guy, and you'll no doubt enjoy getting to know him. 

Shoot me an email if you'd like to grab a coffee and hang out. (I know I'd like to). 

I'll be sending out a fuller schedule of SLCM upcoming stuff this week, but before then I wanted to let you all know that we are still up and running for our Taking It To The Streets Sunday nights--with a few changes. 

We decided this week, that every week will still meet at 6pm at Grace Place (637 S. Dearborn) to make sandwiches, and then deliver them to the homeless. Currently, it is no longer in our means to provide a hot meal for 60 homeless folks every week, but we will still be having the meal the LAST SUNDAY of every month.

I the meanwhile, we'll definitely be needing student leaders to step up and help with sandwich distribution, and with soliciting local businesses / stores to donate stuff for the meal, and stuff for little survival packs for the homeless. 

That, is we need you!

I'll send some more updates this week. 

But in the meanwhile, come say hi Wednesday or Thurs--or better yet shoot me an email and we'll set up a time to catch up. 

Peace! And again, welcome back!

Rev. Tom Gaulke
Campus Pastor
South Loop Campus Ministry Episcopal/Lutheran
637 S. Dearborn St. Suite 1 at Grace Place
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 545-1976

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Feed Somebody!


Dear Neighbor,

As you are aware, both hunger and homelessness in our communities continue to be pressing issues, as many of our neighbors—our sisters and brothers—suffer from a crashed economy, job loss, or the inability to find work.

Though it is not a permanent solution to the crisis, in response to the current crisis, while our neighbors and families still struggle, members of South Loop Campus Ministry (SLCM) and First Trinity Lutheran Church have started to do something about it.

Every Sunday evening, at Grace Place (637 S. Dearborn), we gather for the SLCM South Loop Campus Community Meal, to prepare a hot meal, and to share that meal with students, volunteers, the homeless, and other community members. After dinner, we deliver 50-100 sack-lunches, socks, and sanitary napkins to the streets, taking them to our homeless neighbors who were not at the meal. We started this endeavor with about twelve people, and have grown, in less than a year, to about fifty. Youth Groups from across the state and other volunteers frequently visit to participate.

Additionally, Tuesday evenings, 5-7PM, at First Trinity (643 W. 31st St.) we distribute free, donated clothing to community members in need. About once per month we provide a big community meal for the shoppers, and any community members who'd like to participate.

While what we do may be seen as charity, we like to think of it as community. We share the gifts we receive with our neighbors—and they share what they have. So far this has been an amazing endeavor.

We are inviting you to participate! Our funding is limited, and we want this work to continue. Here's what we need each week: Food—enough to prepare a meal for 50-60 hungry people – or an already prepared meal if you are a restaurant, grocery store, or chef; 100 paper sack-lunch bags, baggies for sandwiches, 10 loaves of bread, 4 jars of peanut butter, 4 jars of jelly, 50-100 bags of chips, 60 bottled beverages, ice to keep beverages cool in (in the summer), 50-100 pieces of soft fruit (oranges, bananas, etc.) and plastic gloves for meal preparation. Also useful are sanitary napkins, tampons, socks, hand sanitizer, and other useful things for hygiene, eating or for living!

Weekly or one-time donations are deeply appreciated. We are happy to publicly thank you via printed media, social media, and the web. We'll also provide a letter of receipt for you tax-deductible donation!

You may contact Rev. Tom Gaulke, 773.979.3383,, for any additional information, or to set up a donation today!

Thank You!

First Trinity, Bridgeport and South Loop Campus Ministry