FUN FACTS (FOR NO APPARENT REASON)
Name: Tyler Nylen
Hometown: Rockford, IL
College: Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio.
Love Languages: Coffeeshops, crewneck sweatshirts, ALL CAPS, Peanut Butter Cup
Favorite Bible Verse: Psalm 18:28 – "You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my
darkness into light . . ."
Favorite Bible Chapter: Romans 8 (with Psalm 46 coming in with a close second)
Favorite Dog: PUPPY
Favorite Vegetable: Peppers
Personality Profiles: ESFJ, 6 (Enneagram), S (DISC)
Currently running through my headphones: "Montrose" by Man Overboard
Girlfriend: Devin Sutter
Would I ever choose to go to McDonald?: Nah
Would I ever choose to go to Chipotle?: YAS
Jobs: Hospital Chaplain, Recreation Center Supervisor
Deep Dish of Choice: LOU MALNATI'S
Random Skills: Ancient Greek translation
Weirdest thing about me: Skittles make my nose sweat
What brought you to Chicago?
This is a funny story. I actually had SPECIFICALLY said when I was growing up
(and reinforced when I was deciding where to go to college) that I NEVER wanted to
live in Chicago. The city was super scary to me, and had so many people and
systems and things that I couldn't wrap my head around. I like knowing exactly how
something works before I enter into it, and so the thought of living somewhere as
intricate, complex, and vast as Chicago was terrifying.
God likes to do funny things, though. I have always been studying to be a pastor,
but during my junior year of college, God transformed my trajectory and gave me a
new vision for what ministry and life looks like. I became completely enthralled with
understanding the Gospel as a holistic transformation of all elements of life,
particularly within oppressed and under-resourced communities. The Gospel
stopped being purely about me, myself, and I, and became the transformation of the
entire world into what God intends.
As a result, urban ministry and racial justice became primary places I wanted to
expand and grow, and so I decided to move to Chicago and go to North Park
Theological Seminary to obtain both my Master's of Divinity and a Certificate in
Urban Ministry. I wanted to intentionally immerse myself into the city, for the specific
purpose of learning and knowing what ministry and life in the city looks like.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Rockford, IL (affectionately referred to as the "815"). Rockford, while
boasting a population of 150,000, does not feel like a large city by any means. A
contributing factor to this is its segregation stratified by race and socioeconomic
class. Rockford has been ranked on the top 10 worst cities in the United States in a
multitude of categories, including: most dangerous, most miserable, least educated,
most obese, etc. Rockford has been defined by its poor school systems, racial and
economic segregation, and lack of access to quality jobs. This was never my reality,
however. I grew up on the East side of Rockford, in what was predominantly white,
upper-middle class suburbia. I went to private school, and never went downtown or
to the West side (a forbidden place to most East side kids who saw it as destitute
and dangerous wasteland). I didn't hear of the realities of my city and have any
heart, care, or concern. I was indifferent, unaffected, and blind.
Through my transformation in college, I came to see Rockford as a beautiful place
in which God is and has been doing great work. God is doing incredible things
through His faithful witnesses in all areas of the city. My vision of the city no longer
remains as one based on fear or disregard, but as one that sees the potential of a
city that has assets already in place in the community for transformation.
What do you find challenging about living here?
I also find the sheer size and occupancy of the city to be somewhat counter-
productive to developing relationships, particularly until you really get "in" with a
group or people in the first place. My first year I lived here, I felt very lonely. I had
barely a handful of friends that I truly enjoyed and wanted to spend time with. It
wasn't until I got close with a group from my church at Missio that I felt like I had
found true community to engage this city. In a city this big, it's expected that there's
going to be people all around you, which makes it the most isolating. In a smaller
town, you say hi and engage with and talk to those you see or pass by, because you
could very likely see them again and be able to build a relationship. In this city,
you're weird if you talk to someone on the "L." Everyone already has their
community and groups and friends and lives (or so it seems). We're all longing to be
known and heard and let our stories become held by others, but unable to actually
do so until our perceived barriers are removed. While I seem to have hit my stride, I
remember that this was the most challenging part of being here.
Finally, the transience of this city makes it uniquely difficult as well (of which I am contributing towards). You never know how long friends will be around in this city, as people are constantly coming in and out, finding this a place to grow in knowledge or experience until a different opportunity comes one's way. This can result in sadness and lots of hard times in the middle of transition.
What are some of the reasons you love it?
I LOVE THE COMMUNITY!!!! While I felt I lacked community beforehand, I now
feel like I am surrounded by the best friends I have ever had. I always feel as if I
have something to do or people I can see, which is an extrovert's dream. I'll say
more about that later.
I love the energy of the city. There's always something happening within this
living organism called Chicago. I for some reason love the CTA and the
connectedness I feel it gives the city.
The neighborhoods and distinct vibes and flair that each one has is so unique,
and I love uncovering what makes each one what it is.
I love love love the coffeeshop culture of the city. I try and explore as many as I
can, and love having a working recommendation list for anyone and everyone
who would ever ask. I do all of my work for grad school in coffeeshops, and find
that it centers me. My favorites: Gaslight in Logan Square. La Colombe in
Andersonville. Heritage Outpost. This is actually one of my primary ways I
explore the city.
Why do you stay?
This is a hard question for me, because I actually plan on leaving at the end of
July to move to Madison. To be honest, I'm really not looking forward to that. I
feel Madison is my perfect fit and place for ministry and career, and that God has
opened doors for me there. But I love this city, my church, the way of life I
currently have here, and especially my community and friends and special
people (OK LETS JUST BE HONEST AND CALL IT OUT HERE WE KNOW I'M
ALSO TALKING SPECIFICALLY ABOUT DEVIN. DEVIN I KNOW YOU'RE
READING THIS). So I want to stay so bad, because I feel I have come alive here
in a way I had not been able to before. But I also sense God leading me to
Madison and what is there. So it’s a struggle.
How has community affected your time here?
Community has been my favorite part of this city hands down (cue Dashboard
Confessional). I have found community here in a way I've never felt. I struggled with
social anxiety for a while in college, and just never felt fully comfortable in my own
skin, or accepted, fully known, or even able to really just embody who I was. I used
to be apologetic of who I am and what I like. But here, I genuinely feel I am able to
be my own personality and I'm fully loved and accepted for it. While I still have my
barriers and spaces I let very very few people enter, I had not even felt fully
comfortable with just my identity, preferences, or personality before. Community has
let me become fully alive and fully me.
Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community (specifically in
the circle of people you spend time with)? How does it inspire you?
The creativity that lies in my group of friends is inspiring to me, especially as I feel
like I am not necessarily a naturally creative person myself. I usually have to use
extra energy to be creative, and spend lots of time deliberating and going back and
forth over what would be a right way to be creative. I think it's beautiful to encounter
and see the creativity of people who naturally embody and express their
participation in the image of God by creating as He created. It also inspires me to
see both God and humans more fully, as I see truth incarnated in different forms and
When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?
Honestly, when I am affirmed, uplifted, and wanted by others. That's why
community has been so important for me. I don't feel like that is done in an
unhealthy way, but I genuinely believe I come most alive when I am with other
people, specifically the ones I care about most, and they share that they love me
and affirm me and let me know they enjoy me and want to be with me. Also, I feel
most empowered when I am able to step into roles that I know I am good at or can
succeed at. In particular, those roles that let me care for and listen to others, help
them recognize their feelings, or give me opportunities to communicate or speak
using the gifts God has given me.
Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach your day-to- day
look? If so, how?
It actually has. I've noticed've picked up a bit more of a styled look, that even
reflects the community of which I've surrounded myself. My favorite way to describe
this is with the example of cuffed jeans. I wear my jeans cuffed/rolled up now. I do't
know when this happened. Somehow, this became a trend for guys to do this. And
apparently, I joined in. I don't remember making a conscious decision to do that. It
just kind of happened. Tha's how I feel like my style has evolved as I've lived in the
city in general. It's just kind of happened.
If you're up for it, would you share a specific story about an encounter you've had
in Chicago that has moved you/stayed with you?
As a hospital chaplain, I have the unique joy of being able to hear the
stories and legacies of many individuals in the moments within and
immediately after their death. Many times, a patient will be surrounded by
family members. One night, I was called to be with a patient's visitors as they
were withdrawing life support from an elderly woman. As I entered the room, it
became clear to me based on appearance that the couple in front of me at the
bedside was not family. Probably 30-40 years younger than the patient, I
asked, "How did you know her?" The woman responded, "Oh, she was my
neighbor. Actually, she has been my neighbor for my whole life. I've lived next
door since I was little. I remember growing up and being scared of her. She
was mean, and would yell at us when we were playing. It seemed like she
always wanted to keep us away. But about a year or so ago, I noticed her
property started to look a bit more run down, which had never been the case
in my whole life. So one day, I walked over and rang the door. When she
came to the door, I asked, 'Are you ok? Is there anything we can do to help
you?' You see, she had no known family, and was there by herself. We came
to find out she was struggling medically, and so we started to care for her. My
husband and I would cook meals for her, eat with her, and watch Cubs games
with her. For as many years as she pushed us away, it was amazing how
receptive she was in this time. She would still have a bit of that distancing
personality, and we both knew when we were no longer welcome (both
chuckled when saying this). But we have really loved and cared about her this
past year. For as much as she pushed me away all my life, it was in her time
of need that she finally let me in."
As they finished their story, I continued to listen, ask questions, and
said a prayer with them. Very shortly after, life support was taken away, and
the patient passed. The couple began to cry and hold each other, sad to see
their new friend leave this world. I gave each of them a hug as they got their
things and began to leave. The nurses and I stood to watch them walk down
the hallway, arm in arm with tears down their face. One of the nurses looked
over and said, "What an incredible couple." I had a little tear well up in my
eye, thinking of the love and compassion shown by these two in my eyes and
"So that's what it means to love your neighbor."
Anything else you'd like to share about your time in Chicago?
Go Cubs Go!