The people of St. James Cathedral seek to be a church for the 21st century. We believe that God embraces the fullness of our human condition and that our life together must do so as well. We believe that every person has freedom and responsibility to discern the truth of Jesus, God the Son, for his or her life through engaging the Bible with others, in conversation with the historic worship and traditions of the Church, and by human reason. 

We cherish diverse expressions of belief and practice as people grow into abundant and authentic lives in our time and place.


In October of 1834, a community of Episcopalians was gathered in Chicago. St. James was a congregation before there was an incorporated city or a mayor, before there was a diocese or a bishop.

We are in fact a congregation with a founding Mother, Juliette Kinzie. She was Connecticut born, a gently-raised, middle class, educated lady, a life-long Episcopalian, who married a dashing trader, entrepreneur, Indian agent named John Harris Kinzie.  The adventures that brought her to a Chicago in its own infancy in 1834 are chilling - both figuratively and literally - following sojourns with her spouse through Wisconsin in the dead of winter.

Like our biblical ancestors, Juliette and her kind were immigrants - not to the young American nation, but to another kind of promised land in our mid-western wilderness; they came from the East, men and women with passions and courage and ambitions and greed and curiosity and talents for creating newness and carving out meaningful lives in a difficult place and challenging times.  

Juliette and her friends gathered a church made up of speculators, adventurers, gamblers, entrepreneurs building businesses, easterners establishing cultural institutions on the frontier, and visionaries creating what would become a city with a national profile. 

Juliette wanted a church, this church, to give moral and religious structure to her family, and to a thriving new commercial community ñ to counter the intense preoccupation of the settlers with money making and speculation.  A tough, gutsy, talented, feisty Christian woman poured her heart and soul into a new kind of community, and she longed for a church, a people, who would be a gracious presence in gritty times and in a place marked by some grim realities.  And that hasn't changed.

The Indian wars of the 19th century have yielded to gang wars of the 21st. The massacre of Fort Dearborn is a bloody piece of our history.  The massacre of young people on our city streets is a bloody fact of life now. Like Juliette Kinzie, we live in a place continually being reshaped by the forces of history, now more than an emerging national economy, rather a global one.

The entrepreneurial spirit that settled this city is alive and well with the same unbridled greed and capacity to exploit resources, natural and human. We are now a community of urban pioneers, many of us immigrants to this area, aware that our destiny as individuals is somehow linked to the destiny of our city, and that our souls are still shaped by a Church, gathered in and for the city.  

With a mission to confront and challenge the distortions of the culture that surrounds us, to celebrate and enhance the gifts that also abound in it. Still a place to welcome the stranger, for they are us. In 1955, Bishop Burrill asked St. James to become the Cathedral for the Diocese of Chicago -- a Cathedral for the third largest city in the country. The oldest continuing Episcopal congregation in Chicago would now become the Mother Church of the diocese, the seat of the Bishop, with a peculiar ministry and mission of service and outreach on behalf of our bishop.


Although few Episcopal churches and their congregations look or act the same, most do share in the worship life of the church around The Book of Common Prayer. The BCP demonstrates how the faith of Episcopalians is shaped by our prayer, not by doctrinal formulations. Our wor­ship is grounded in ancient traditions, in which symbols, scripture, sermon, sacred music and a holy meal (Eucharist). A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Baptism and Holy Communion are the “great” sacraments because they were instituted by Jesus Christ.


Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and instructed his disciples to go and make disciples of others through teaching and baptism. Baptism is our rite of initiation. It is the moment with the community of believers welcomes the new person who is beginning a life in Christ and commits him or herself to the mission of God. And, as a community, we pledge to support that person in that life. In the Anglican rite of baptism, water is applied (by sprinkling or immersion) to an infant or a newly believing adult (or older child), together. A person is baptized once in his or her life.


The second great sacrament is Holy Com­munion, Eucharist or the Great Thanksgiv­ing, instituted by Christ at the Last Supper. The American BCP summarizes it in these words: "On the night before he died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you [God the Father], he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, 'Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.' After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, 'Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. When­ever you drink it, do this for the remem­brance of me.' ”

Anglican theology does not attempt to explain the Real Presence, i.e., that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Rather, it declares that upon the priest’s institution of these words, in the presence of the people, and with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, that in the context of a greater prayer of remembrance and thanksgiving, Christ becomes present in the elements and in all who are present at the liturgy. 

The Daily Office

The Daily Office is the daily worship of the Church. It holds a special place in the Anglican and Episcopal tradition. From our founding, following the upheaval of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in Europe, daily prayer, practiced in the form of Morning and Evening Prayer, has been one of our tradition’s main underlying supports.

The Daily Office is one of the great treasures of our Anglican heritage. Sunday, Holy-day, and even daily Eucharists have their place within our worship life but they do not and should not replace our need for and practice of the Offices. Rather the Mass or Eucharist and Office are complementary to one another.  It is both symbolic and an aid to St. Paul’s command in scripture to “pray without ceasing.” Its continuing round of psalms and scriptures gives us food for our daily meditations and actions.

Read more on the Daily Office here.