The Peoples Church of Chicago

941 W. Lawrence Avenue in Uptown... just West of Lake Shore Drive;  East of red line el at Lawrence stop

P.O. Box 408319, Chicago, IL  60640-8319     773-784-6633    fax:  773-784-6760    email:


                    "A Spiritual Home for People of Conscience"


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Preston Bradley.pdf

Second Friday!







~ A Brief History ~

Preston Bradley and the Peoples Church of Chicago

The congregation was described in the 1924 edition of the "Western Unitarian" as "one of the most largely attended liberal churches in the world, its Sunday morning attendance being upwards of two thousand." Dr. Preston Bradley, who was 24 years old when he took over the congregation in 1912, moved the church to progressively larger spaces as his oratorical skills attracted more and more people, finally building the Preston Bradley Center to house it, a huge building of six floors with two balconies and a wide stage, where the congregation continues to worship.  Bradley's dream, as published in a 1942 press clipping, was that this congregation would have "a prophetic voice and civic conscience," and it grew to have a membership of over 4,000 in the 1940's, along with a distinguished social action program.  Bradley's ministry included several church services each week, radio broadcasts reaching several million listeners, and an active community relief effort serving hundreds on the north side.

As urban flight and the general decline of mainstream denominations took place over the last four decades, membership in the congregation dwindled dramatically, and the congregation nearly closed its doors. A decision was made to jointly affiliate with the United Church of Christ while maintaining Unitarian Universalist Association membership, and the congregation today has a membership of about thirty adults, maintaining an active social justice outreach ministry. Though the congregation is small, the building hosts a number of organizations, including Residents for Effective Shelter Transitions, or REST, which is the largest homeless service provider on the north side of Chicago, housing sixty-five men downstairs in Anderson Hall, and providing social services and a medical clinic on the 4th floor.  REST also runs a women's shelter and a warming center off-site.  The 5th floor houses the Christ Pentecostal Church, a lively congregation of people who've migrated from Ghana.  The third major use of the building comes from Playing Out Productions, an organization of gay musicians with music groups ranging from a 60-piece band to quintets.

The congregation runs a meals program, 2 Li'l Fishes, serving a free lunch four times a week to people from local shelters and the nearby community, and hosts an annual Labor Day Picnic for the homeless, with 400-500 people coming for barbequed chicken and ribs, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.