Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA.
Church in America, Saint
Paul Area Synod.
A traditional structure, built in 1911, with later additions.
There are several quite beautiful stained glass windows, and
the worship area is festively decorated with numerous banners,
quite artistically done. The parament hanging from the altar
boldly proclaims "Justice Rooted in Gospel."
The congregation was founded by German immigrants in 1889.
They have quite a few social justice ministries: they work
with several local hunger ministries; have partnered with
a local elementary school; sponsor low-cost housing in a property
directly across the street from the church; and actively participate
an organization that works on a number of racial and economic
justice issues in the Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and St Cloud
areas. They are justifiably proud of their music program,
which supports Sunday liturgies. They have also sponsored
for 14 years now a "Compline and Concert" series. The week
following our visit, the parish was sponsoring "Artability,"
a celebration of the use of creativity in the daily struggles
of mental illness. It is a racially diverse congregation,
and a Reconciling in Christ congregation. They celebrate the
eucharist weekly at 10.00am on Sundays, followed by a rite
of healing for those who wish to receive the laying on of
hands and anointing of oil.
Minneapolis and Saint Paul, called the Twin Cities, are two
communities that face each other across the Mississippi River.
A major metropolitan area, they are host to several professional
sports teams, a major regional theater (the Guthrie), symphony
and opera, and the renowned Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
There is a strong presence of ELCA-related institutions, with
Luther Seminary, Augsburg College, St Olaf College, and Augsburg
Fortress, the publishing house for ELCA, all located in the
area. The local neighborhood surrounding Redeemer is a mix
of largely middle-class single-family homes and apartment
dwellings. The area seems to be racially diverse.
The Revd James Erlandson, pastor, preached and presided at
the eucharist. Liturgical deacon and subdeacon, respectively,
were Michelle Geschwell and Rachael Geschwell. Diana Rankin
was organist and directed the choir. Katie Thompson accompanied
The date & time:
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 26, 2010, 10.00am.
What was the name of
How full was the building?
I would estimate a bit less than 20 per cent full, in a worship
space that looks to seat around 400.
Did anyone welcome you
We were warmly greeted by an usher and handed a service leaflet.
Pastor Erlandson just happened to be walking down the aisle
as we were entering our pew, and he spoke to us as well.
Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable enough, with standard pull-down kneelers (used
only for the confession).
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Good morning, and welcome to all of you," followed by several
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The service leaflet noted above, and the 2006 Evangelical
What musical instruments
A 1991 Martin Ott pipe organ, and piano. Mostly the former.
Did anything distract
The service leaflet included most, but not all, of the liturgical
texts. But almost no music was included, and for a couple
of sung portions of the service (the psalm, the responses
before and after the gospel, and the chant for the preface
dialogue) there was no indication as to where they might be
found. The psalm tone and preface chant were familiar to me,
but for the gospel responses I was consigned to silence.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
A formal, catholic-minded celebration of the eucharist. Pastor
Erlandson donned a chasuble at the preparation of the gifts.
The liturgical deacon was given all of the parts of the liturgy
that are traditional for the deacon in the Western rite (including
proclaiming the gospel, something I have not often seen in
Lutheran liturgies). No smells and bells (although their web
page indicates that incense is not unknown at Redeemer), but
much of the service was chanted.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
10 Pastor Erlandson is a relaxed and very effective
public speaker, obviously comfortable with his congregation.
On occasion he punctuated a sentence with "Amen," and the
congregation responded "Amen."
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
The gospel for this Sunday was Luke 16:19-31, Jesus' parable
about the poor Lazarus and the unnamed rich man. Pastor Erlandson
began by asking. "Would you like to be rich?" and then asked,
"Is it a sin to be rich?" He noted that very few in our society
are actually rich, and that one in seven in the US are living
in poverty. He also noted the growing gap between rich and
poor, and the racial gap evident in poverty statistics. And
even many who are middle class are only a paycheck or two
from falling into financial difficulties. He noted that Jesus
did not condemn the rich man's wealth, but rather his blindness
to Lazarus' poverty. The church must be neither blind, nor
silent, to racial and social injustice.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The care with which this community celebrates its liturgy,
especially the important role given to the liturgical deacon.
As well as Pastor Erlandson's beautiful chanting and fine
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
It would really be helpful if the service leaflet had some
of those brief musical bits noted earlier. Granted, if I were
to worship with this parish for a few weeks, I'm sure I would
pick them up, but visitors would be aided by being able to
see the music. And the alleluia before the gospel began without
a note of introduction.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Materfamilias and I remained in our pew to listen to Ms Rankin's
festive postlude (Ritter's Sing The Glad Song), as
did several other members of the congregation. Two folks,
one of them a member of the choir, stopped to welcome us,
ask us what brought us to the Twin Cities, etc. We talked
about the theater and jazz events we had attended, and in
general had a nice chat. They were most welcoming.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
The couple mentioned above kindly invited us to the after-service
coffee, but we needed to move on to the airport to catch our
flight back home.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
10 This is a fairly small congregation, which makes
the extensive array of their social justice ministries all
the more impressive. Combined with a strong liturgical tradition
and good music if I were to have the good fortune someday
to live in Saint Paul, I'd be at Redeemer in no time.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Ms Michelle Geschwell's bold, confident proclamation of the
gospel reading for the day.