We’d love to share a bit about the history of The Preston Bradley Center, why we choose to meet here for the Holidays, and acknowledge some of the unique (and yes, sometimes challenging) aspects of the space.
The Preston Bradley Center was built in 1926 as the People’s Church, and is an historic building in one of Chicago’s most diverse Northside neighborhoods. The Reverend Dr. Preston Bradley himself was one of Chicago’s most sought-after preachers, and would pack the 1,400-seat People’s Church every Sunday, teaching a message of humanism and social justice. It had served as a home for many spiritual and religious communities, arts & culture organizations, and social justice movements over the years and is currently home to a men’s shelter, a free meal program that serves lunch every weekday, an independent arts center, several small religious communities, and the Lakeside Pride Marching Band.
Why it Works For Us
Mishkan is an engagement-oriented community that strives to be accessible along many vectors, and being in the Preston Bradley Center for the High Holidays helps us fulfill an important part of our mission. Here are some of the ways: the Preston Bradley Center is geographically accessible to community members of varying observance levels and practices, allowing people to travel here by foot and car, in addition to convenient CTA bus and train lines. There are not many locations in Chicago with sanctuary space that can accommodate the 1,700+ people who gather to celebrate, pray, meditate and sing together on the High Holidays, in addition to having ancillary spaces for kids & family programs. This space is also affordable enough to keep ticket prices low while still covering our direct production costs for High Holidays.
That being said, we are well aware of some of the limitations of meeting in this historic building. First and foremost, the space is very challenging for people who use strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility devices. While we work closely with attendees who use such devices to best accommodate them in the space, we know it isn’t a perfect system. We are also aware that the the main bathrooms are far away from the sanctuary space (hot tip: did you know there’s a single-user bathroom behind the curtain on stage left?), and that the shallow lobby doesn’t offer much room to take a break, hang out or schmooze (we recommend visiting the 4th floor “Chill Space”). Our staff and High Holiday volunteers works incredibly hard to plan creatively around some of these challenges and to make High Holidays at the Preston Bradley Center as welcoming, comfortable and meaningful as possible.
At this time, our board and staff feel the benefits this space offers locationally and financially do balance out the challenges. We feel blessed to worship in a space that allows so many people to come together during the Days of Awe.