Chicago’s Historic Holy Trinity Church Sold for $2.5 Million

Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. (Photo: holytrinitygocchicago.com)

CHICAGO – The historic 122-year-old Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Chicago was sold for $2.5 million dollars to Universal Life Church. The sale was approved on Tuesday September 10 by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge. Now the parishioners have 75 days to empty the church and its buildings and leave.

Through all the parish’s struggles it was reported that the icon of Mother of God started crying, which many took as a sign from above and others think otherwise.

The Metropolis of Chicago under Metropolitan Nathanael issued the following statement the afternoon of September 11:

“Earlier today, the United States Bankruptcy Court approved the Parish’s motions to approve the sale of the Chicago property and the Deerfield property. The decision comes after a faith-based community stepped forward to acquire the Chicago property, and a developer stepped forward to acquire the Deerfield property, allowing Holy Trinity to reach an understanding with its lender to avoid an auction of the properties. An earlier effort by the Parish to sell the Chicago property to a foundation under a contract dated December 11, 2018 failed because the foreclosing lender did not approve the 75% financing condition of the offer.

His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago.
Photo: Metropolis of Chicago

“While the Parish’s ongoing foreclosure and bankruptcy has been difficult for parishioners and the Metropolis as a whole, the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is not closing. The Parish is selling real estate assets to settle debts with a lender.

“While hard choices remain and nothing is yet final, the Metropolis will continue to work closely with the Holy Trinity community to continue parish life and ministries at a location chosen by the community. To this end, a General Assembly meeting was held on June 2, 2019 to inform parishioners of the foreclosure and bankruptcy status. Although a quorum was not present at the meeting, His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael asked about the parish’s fundraising efforts and donor outreach, as well as plans for the future, and he offered assistance in these matters as well.

“We ask the faithful of the Metropolis, along with all people of good will, for their continued prayers and support of the Holy Trinity community during this difficult period of transition and renewal.”

Fr. Nicholas Jonas, Presiding priest of the Holy Trinity refused to make any statement and said in an e-mail “I have a gag order from the Metropolis not to speak to media or post on social media.”

In the meantime the Metropolis of Chicago took the crying icon to examine it.

On September 10, 2019, the Metropolis of Chicago also made the following statement:

“On Sunday morning, September 8, 2019, the icon of the Most-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary on the iconostasis of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago was discovered, by an employee of the parish, to appear to be weeping. In such cases, Orthodox clergy know to immediately inform their bishop so that he may take appropriate steps to discern the nature of the phenomenon. When similar events were discovered in the Metropolis in the past, such news was not shared until months later in order to discern that what was observed was truly a sign from God. Unfortunately, appropriate discernment was not used in this particular instance, and an announcement was hastily posted on Facebook, which subsequently led to negative public attention.

“In order for the Church to lend its official voice to this event, the Holy Metropolis of Chicago has asked the parish for temporary possession of the icon. After a period of prayer and examination, the Metropolis of Chicago will return the icon to the Holy Trinity parish and will issue an official statement on the nature of what was observed.

“The Metropolis of Chicago asks the faithful to remain vigilant and also reminds them that while it is indeed possible to experience the divine through temporal objects, our faith rests not on “signs,” but on Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1: 20-25).”

It is reminded here that The National Herald first revealed the story of the Holy Trinity financial troubles and the court’s decision to auction the nave and the buildings on December 7, 2018 and since then has written many times on the issue.

In an interview with TNH on December 15, 2018 Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago said that “the issue concerning the parish of Holy Trinity is a complicated and one that spans many years. It is not an ecclesiastical or canonical matter. If it were, you can be certain that we would have found a solution. But here we need to address a legal and economic issue. From the briefing I received, I was informed that there were attempts in the past with my predecessor, Metropolitan Iakovos of blessed memory, to find a solution; unfortunately, however, these efforts did not lead to any tangible result. As we have emphasized in our communiqué, the issue of Holy Trinity is for me a top priority. Although we are limited by the provisions of the Law, we have devoted and continue to devote considerable time and professional manpower in an effort of good faith for the future of Holy Trinity.”

The end result of the sale of the historic church of the Holy Trinity is indicative of other matters in the ecclesial life in America of the Greek Orthodox Church. The mainstream American media has picked up the story with extensive coverage.

3 Comments

  1. Well, that raises an interesting issue of how we continue to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in walls that we cannot take with us. We live in modern times. Our hierarchs are too inept to manage the strategic placement of parishes to conform to growth and economic studies tied to our own strategic growth plans (hint: we have neither). We hang on “Greektown” parish models that are unsustainable.

    Now, even suburbs are changing rapidly. We aren’t building churches with savvy technology (like movable icons we can take with us). We are stuck, unable to reform, unable to manage, unable to grow. It is a very desperate situation and all Elpi can do is fly from one Hellenic event to another hoping to revive something that died 10 years ago, All the while the Metros make cufflinks for Bart and ship them to Istanbul using Archon wives as mule carriers— like the cheap boardwalk hawkers they are.

  2. Actually, iconostasis icons can be removed and taken and today almost all new wall icons are done on canvas and glued to walls so they can be removed. There is a question, however, of churches that have been consecrated. I have heard there is a service that is used to “unconsecrate” a church building but I am not sure if this is a fact. Many years ago St. Constantine and Helen church in Chicago was sold and became a mosque but the icons were all removed.

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