As you drive through the villages, towns and cities of Bureau County and the several counties adjacent to it, you may notice something different along the roadways; or more correctly, you may “not” notice something.
This past summer many of the churches and houses of worship in these counties received a letter from the Illinois Department of Transportation, which in essence informed us we were to remove our directional signs that told you, for example, the Presbyterian Church was one block to the right at the next corner, or the church of your choice was three blocks ahead.
“Church directional signs do not qualify to be located along public right of way per the Department’s Traffic Generator Policy and per guidelines in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices by the Federal Highway Administration.”
Many of the offending churches have had such signs located throughout our communities for 20 to 30 years without any prior problem, thus “more honored in the breach than in the observance..,” (Hamlet Act 1, Section 4), simply meaning a custom hardly ever followed. Why would such signs, that we have become accustomed to, and which even add a warm hometown feeling to our communities suddenly become offensive and needful of being removed?
We called around to several of our clergy friends to determine whether they had received such letters and what they intended to do with regard to them. Most were surprised and shocked the state was taking such an action, especially after so many years of allowing such signs to have been posted. One clergy member was not surprised, in that he felt it was just another action to demean the presence of the church in society, an attempt to make it less visible. I cannot say I believe that; I would hope that was not the underlying reason.
I am not even certain this action is statewide, since the letter received in our church was from a regional and district operations engineer. I do know that a copy was sent to Jeff Clawson the city manager of Princeton. I have asked other pastors in other counties, not of this district or region, about such action, and they have not heard of such an action. And as I drive through those communities I still see church directional signs, but there are none left on the streets of Princeton. Our church had such signs up for about 30 years before this past week. I just thought I would ask this question out loud.
Rev. Fr. Kyrill Esposito
O.S.B., St. Jude’s Anglican Church