By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Assistant to the Editor
Churches are a prominent fixture in Hyde Park, where steeples peer above the neighborhood’s low-rise apartments and foliage-lined streets.
Yet what may be the neighborhood’s newest church, might also be its hardest to spot.
The non-denominational Hope Church of Chicago — a Black South Side congregation numbering fewer than 100 members — has temporary settled at K.A.M. Isaiah Israel, 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd. The church has been based at the synagogue since October, when it moved out of a small, gated, grey stone building near the intersection of 51st Street and Indiana Avenue.
One year earlier, in Oct. 2011, Pastor Larry Martin became the leader of the church, then named God’s Way Missionary Baptist Church. Under his tutelage, he says, the congregation has grown from less than 10 members into a group of sixty: “Most of that growth, was there on Indiana.”
“What really precipitated the move was that we needed additional space,” Martin said. “We had only one room there for everything.”
Martin said he contacted K.A.M. and the church negotiated an “affordable” deal to move in after learning from a friend that another congregation was leaving the synagogue.
The church operates out of the temple in exchange for rent, an arragement Martin and other church officials expect to maintain for three years, until they purchase a building. For now, the congregation, which holds its Sunday services in the synagogue’s main sanctuary, has far more room than it can fill.
“When you move into a real huge space, you have to prepare yourself not to suffer being demoralized,” Martin said, adding that the congregation did not want to arrive expecting that there “was going to be a flash growth and we were going to go from a handful of people to thousands.”
A group of around 40 church members and leaders attended last Sunday’s service. Many congregants sat in the sanctuary’s front rows and a sprinkling of members watched from behind.
Earlier this year, the congregation studied Judaism at K.A.M. “to understand the significance of what we were looking at [so] that we could have a greater appreciation for the work that has gone into not just building it, but sustaining it and keeping this a sacred place,” Martin said, standing in the sanctuary during an interview with the Herald..
Though the congregation is small, Reverend Carolyn Berry has an ambitious vision for what it can become: Asked what she saw in the church’s future, the Reverend at once replied, “I see all these seats filled.”