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384: Church of Our Saviour, Chicago, USA
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Church of Our Saviour, Chicago
Mystery Worshipper: Bishop Joe.
The church: Church of Our Saviour, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: This church is an Episcopal church that doesn't look like an Episcopal church; it looks more Presbyterian or even Methodist. The nave (sanctuary) is rectangular and lacks cruciform shape. The sanctuary (chancel) is very thin, just big enough to hold a couple of rows of seats for the choir. Acolytes come out of doors to the far left and right of the nave and initially face the congregation before they turn and approach the altar. But the interior is beautiful, with solid-beam eaves, nice stained glass, intricate bas-relief mouldings and exquisite carved-wood walls.
The church: I don't know how much of a geographical "reach" this church has, but it apparently has something of a reputation as a broad church in a diocese that is Anglo-Catholic.
The neighbourhood: Posh. Lincoln Park is close on Lake Michigan and not too far from downtown Chicago. Except for a few holdouts from the flight-to-suburbia 50s, one must be at least upper middle class to live here. Shops are boutiques, restaurants are unique, and everything has been done to cater to the well-heeled consumer. Parking, however, is a nightmare.
The cast: The Very Rev. Linda Packard, rector, presiding; Rev. Brian Hastings, assistant rector, preaching.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist, Rite Two, 10.00am.

How full was the building?
Full house, except for a few of the side pews.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A hello and the order of worship from a greeter.

Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable wooden pew. Kneeler pads intead of the built-in kind.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Almost no noise. It felt very reverential.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Blessed be God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
1982 Hymnal, 1979 BCP, and the church's own order of worship (which was quite helpful).

What musical instruments were played?
The organ only.

Did anything distract you?
There were lots of small children there. One in particular seemed to be trying to do enough whining for the whole lot.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Broad, especially for this diocese. Very little genuflection and no orientation toward the cross when it was brought down for the Gospel reading. During summer, the psalm is spoken. When it came time to kneel about 80 percent of the congregation knelt and the remainder stood, or, in a couple of cases, remained seated. Of course, no smells and no bells.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
22 minutes, and it was worth every one of them.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – When it started we learned that the preacher, the assistant rector, had just returned from a conference. I shuddered. But he then gave a long, highly intelligent and thought-provoking sermon about the prayer life of a Christian.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Unlike other prayer traditions (for example, Zen Buddhism), we Christians have become giggly and shy about our prayer lives. This is not because we think prayer doesn't work, but because we know all too well we're afraid to tackle the real issues of prayer: we're afraid of the real God's capacity for anger, power and justice. Our ultimate prayer request, as in recent translations of the Lord's Prayer, is to be spared from trials and tribulations.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon came pretty close, although I was surprised to hear such a neo-Orthodox theme coming from an Episcopal pulpit these days. The eastern sun coming through the stained glass ran a close second. And I'd have to rate the church's new air-conditioning third, as it was a warm and very muggy day, especially so near to Lake Michigan.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The whiny kid. Mom shuttled him in and out of the sanctuary several times, doing herself, the child, and the rest of us absolutely no good.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was immediately invited to after-service coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Homemade date bread, grapes, cantaloupe, iced and hot tea, and coffee. But they dropped the ball on sociability! No one introduced him/herself to me and the clergy was nowhere to be found. (How easy it is to get swept up in post-service business, especially in a medium-sized church like this one.)

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – The broadness doesn't bother me, but there may be some problems with social class. And – at the risk of sounding impossibly crass – it's virtually impossible to park on the street. The other two nearby churches have free parking at the hospital two blocks away; this one doesn't. Except for the unintended gaffe at coffee, it seemed a friendly church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Oh, absolutely.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Probably how happy the assistant rector looked giving his sermon and how the wireless FM sound system left him unencumbered by the pulpit.
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