St. Paul & the Redeemer, Chicago
St. Paul & the Redeemer is a program-sized parish in the Hyde Park section of Chicago. It offers three Sunday liturgies, in a flexible liturgical space.
size: 280 ASA [program size]
location: urban Chicago
- 8 a.m. eucharist (ASA 23)
- 9:15 a.m. eucharist (ASA 172)
- 11:15 a.m. eucharist (ASA 84)
parish webpage: http://www.sprchicago.org
The parish is located in a residential section of the third largest city in the United States. It is near the University of Chicago. The area population is very slightly younger than the state average (36.78 vs. 38.44), and it is 76% African-American, 14% white, 4% Asian-American, and 4% Latino. Per capita income in 2016 is estimated at $24,725, below the national average of $33,205. Significantly more adults in a three-mile radius have graduate or professional degrees than the state average, likely reflecting the presence in the neighborhood of the University of Chicago.
St. Paul and the Redeemer is the result of the merger of two congregations, St. Paul's Church and the Church of the Redeemer, in 1968.
On the Sunday of the site visit, the congregation appeared to be comprised of a range of ages at all three services, from small children to the elderly. The congregation was diverse in race and ethnicity.
Renovation and Liturgical Design
The church building dates from 1958, when it was the site for St. Paul's, prior to the 1968 merger. It was constructed as a typical, rectilinear church, with an elevated altar at the far (east) end, separated from the congregation by a rail. In 2002, the worship space was renovated, under the leadership of the Rev. James Steen, the immediate predecessor to the current rector. Prior to Father Steen's arrival in 1998, the then-bishop of Chicago had described St. Paul and the Redeemer as "a deeply troubled parish," and so the new rector worked to empower the congregation, and to encourage them to welcome in the diverse neighborhood that surrounded them.
The worship space was in poor condition and in need of significant repairs, which presented the opportunity for a creative renovation. The parish undertook a successful capital campaign. The design process included maximal input from the congregation. Over the course of the renovation, as the old finishes and furnishings were ripped out, the congregation worshipped in the church building each Sunday with folding chairs and a temporary altar, experimenting with different configurations. The final arrangement was the product of a careful, lengthy, consultative process.
The worship space is arranged around the central altar, with the organ and choir at the east end, the font at the north side, and the ambo at the south side. The octagonal, wooden altar is elevated slightly by a broad, octagonal platform—but not too high, so that the visual symbolism is of the clergy and people gathering together with the altar in the midst of them. The parish uses chairs, which can be rearranged as desired. Streamers in warm colors hang down from the rafters over the altar. There is no rail separating the altar from the congregation, no sense of some space being holier than other space. After the 2002 renovation, a presider's chair had been located behind the ambo. The current rector removed it and shifted the presider to the front row, which had the effect of underscoring that the presider is one of the congregation, not somehow separated from them.
A wide and welcoming narthex or foyer provides space for coats to be hung up, strollers and scooters to be parked, and bulletins to be distributed, before entering the worship space through glass doors. Large signs in the narthex show the work of the Food Garden and Food Pantry ministries, charting how much food was distributed and how many families were served. The Pantry distributes dry goods, canned foods, and toiletries to residents of the neighborhood for two hours every Wednesday. The Garden grows organic food for a nearby women's shelter. No one entering or leaving worship can miss the connection to these service ministries, whether they participate directly in them or not.
8 a.m. eucharist
The early eucharist follows Rite One in the prayer book, although the concluding versicle and response after the readings is drawn from Enriching Our Worship ("Hear what the Spirit is saying to God's people."). The people's portion of the liturgy is printed in a full-text booklet, facilitating participation by visitors (the entirety of the eucahristic prayer is not printed, to save paper, but rather the people's responses and their cues). At this service, unlike the others, the congregation sits on the west side of the altar, rather than all around it. This week, the crowd is somewhat larger than usual, because the youth leader brought the participants from the youth lock-in the night before. The presider (the rector) and deacon enter, vested in alb and stole. The presider reads the opening acclamation, collect for purity, summary of the law, and collect of the day from the ambo. The presider and deacon sit in the front row on the same side as the rest of the congregation. There is one lector for both readings, between which the psalm is read responsively, led by the deacon. After the second reading, the deacon reads the gospel from the ambo. The sermon is preached by a parishioner who is an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and director of ministry studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She preaches in street clothes from the ambo; the sermon is about sixteen minutes in length. All join in the Nicene Creed. The prayers of the people are locally composed and follow the outline at p. 383 in the prayer book. They are led by the same lector who led the lessons, and they speak of the specific concerns and ministries of the congregation, with references to the parish's organic garden project and its current capital campaign, as well as the names of those in need or distress. At the invitation of the leader, several parishioners offer their own prayers aloud. Many kneel and others bow for the confession of sin. The exchange of the Peace is warm and friendly. The rector gives the announcements, highlighting the needs of their partners in Haiti, who were hit by a hurricane over the prior week. The announcements close with an invitation to all to receive communion, "without exception."
The presider stands on the east side of the altar, facing the people across it, with the deacon at his right. Some in the congregation kneel and others stand for the eucharistic prayer, which is Prayer 2, from Rite I in the 1979 prayer book. All join in the traditional Lord's prayer. After the fraction and invitation, most people stand around the platform to receive the bread and wine, while a few use a kneeling desk ("prie-dieu") that is placed adjacent to the platform in order to receive communion while kneeling. The presider receives communion last, after the congregation, as a gesture of hospitality. After the postcommunion prayer, the presider blesses the people, the deacon gives the dismissal, and the two clergy process to the door, where they greet departing parishioners and visitors.
9:15 a.m. eucharist
A visitor is immediately struck by the number of children at this service. Most of the texts are drawn from Enriching Our Worship vol. 1. The procession, led by a cross and torches, enters on a hymn. The presider leads the opening acclamation, and then the entire congregation joins in the collect of the day. A collect is historically a presider's prayer, meant to summarize ("to collect") the silent prayer of the entire congregation, which had been prompted by the invitation, "Let us pray." But most worshippers do not realize that "Let us pray" is supposed to cue them to pray silently, and most clergy jump straight from that invitation to the recitation of the collect. Having the congregation join in the recitation of the collect is a reasonable concession to that reality. The Gloria in excelsis is omitted at this service, for time concerns. A lector from the congregation reads both lessons. After the first lesson, the choir sings a psalm with the congregation joining in a refrain. The psalm text is from the Roman Catholic Revised Grail Psalms and the music is from Lead Me, Guide Me, an African-American, Roman Catholic hymnal (both published by GIA). A gospel-style hymn follows after the second lesson, with members of the choir singing the verses and the congregation singing the refrain. During this, a gospel procession forms: led by the processional cross, the deacon goes to the altar, collects the gospel book, circles the altar platform, and then goes to the ambo. (The use of the processional cross eclipses the gospel book as the dominant visual symbol in this procession, and might bear rethinking.) The deacon reads the gospel lesson, after which children are invited go to "children's chapel." Some go, and some children remain in the worship space. The sermon is preached by a parishioner who is an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and director of ministry studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She preaches in street clothes from the ambo; the sermon is about sixteen minutes in length. All join in the Nicene Creed, which follows the form in Enriching Our Worship, omitting the filioque. The prayers of the people, led by the deacon on this occasion but ordinarily by a lay person, are locally composed each week and follow the outline at p. 383 in the prayer book. The exchange of the peace is warm and extended. A vestry member starts the announcements, welcoming visitors, and he is followed by a couple of lay leaders making relevant announcements. The rector makes the final announcements and then says the offertory sentence; announcements last about four minutes.
The choir sings an offertory anthem as the deacon sets the table. The bread and wine, as well as the other gifts, are elevated overhead at the offertory by the presider, deacon, and assisting presbyter. The gesture is big: the rector has noted that the architectural configuration, with people seated on two sides of the altar, requires that gestures be large if they are to be seen by all.
The eucharistic prayer is prayer 3 from Enriching Our Worship. The presider and the assisting presbyter face each other across the altar. The presider reads the sursum corda and preface, leading into the Sanctus. The assisting presbyter reads the text immediately following the Sanctus, with the presider resuming the text at the institution narrative concerning the bread. The assistant then reads the portion of the narrative concerning the wine. The presider resumes the eucharistic prayer thereafter. This dialogic twist on the Roman Catholic custom of verbal concelebration, read by two priests facing each other across the table, is not common in Anglican churches. Because the priests face each other on the short axis of the building, they stand in profile to the congregation. The goal in instituting this was to add multiple voices to the liturgy, so that it is not a solo by the presider. During the institution narrative, the priest that is speaking turns slowly in a full circle, to show the bread or wine being held to the entire congregation. The rector's goal in this is to draw the people into the text being prayed.
The fraction anthem, like the Sanctus before it, is from Calvin Hampton's Mass for the New Rite. During the distribution of communion, the congregation and choir sing two African-American spirituals. In addition to regular, leavened bread, gluten-free bread is offered. After communion, the congregation joins in the postcommunion prayer, and the presider blesses the people. The clergy and assistants process around the congregation on a final hymn, after which the deacon dismisses the people.
11:15 a.m. eucharist
The text for this liturgy is essentially the same as the 9:15 service, with a few changes (such as the addition of the Gloria) and added periods of silence. Most of the texts are drawn from Enriching Our Worship vol. 1. The congregation includes young adults, middle-aged persons, and older adults, and a few children.
The procession enters on a hymn, led by a crucifer. The presider leads the opening acclamation, and then the congregation sings the Gloria in excelsis. The entire congregation joins in the collect of the day.
A lector from the congregation reads the first lesson, after which an extended silence is observed. This, like all of the other silences, are unhurried and natural, reflecting a congregation that welcomes contemplation. The choir then sings a psalm with the congregation joining in a refrain, using the same text and music as at 9:15. A lector reads the second lesson, after which silence is observed and a gospel-style hymn is sung. During this, a gospel procession forms: led by a thurifer, a layperson described as a "subdeacon" in the service bulletin goes to the altar, collects the gospel book, circles the altar platform, and then goes to the ambo. The subdeacon censes the book and then reads the gospel lesson. The sermon, creed, and prayers of the people follow the pattern of the 9:15 service, with a lay person leading the intercessions. The exchange of the peace is warm and extended.
The choir sings an offertory anthem as a subdeacon sets the table. After it is set, the presider censes the altar, and then a subdeacon censes the clergy and people. While the terminology of "subdeacon" evokes the image of Solemn High Mass from the Tridentine liturgy, that is not the intention here—one might think of these as lay assistants taking on some diaconal functions.
The eucharistic prayer is prayer 3 from Enriching Our Worship. The presider and the assisting presbyter face each other across the altar. They follow the same pattern of verbal concelebration as they did at the 9:15 service. During the institution narrative, the priest who is speaking turns slowly in a full circle, to show the bread or wine being held to the entire congregation.
The fraction anthem, like the Sanctus before it, is from Calvin Hampton's Mass for the New Rite. During the distribution of communion, the congregation and choir sing two African-American spirituals. In addition to regular, leavened bread, gluten-free bread is offered. After communion, the congregation joins in the postcommunion prayer, and the presider blesses the people. The clergy and assistants process around the congregation on a final hymn, after which the subdeacon dismisses the people.
Worship Planning and Choices
The liturgical space is striking, and it reflects the theology of the 1979 prayer book and the wider Liturgical Movement. It creates the sense of a worshipping assembly gathered around the altar and font, as opposed to passively observing a performance.
Worship is planned by the rector, director of music, and associate rector in weekly staff meetings. Elements of the liturgy change seasonally, and lay members of the parish are consulted about substantial changes. The early service uses Rite 1 from the Book of Common Prayer, while the later two use Rite 2 and Enriching Our Worship. The parish also draws on resources from the Church of England and the New Zealand prayer book from time to time.
The rector notes that his goal is "to give the full meal of the historic eucharist in a way that invites participation, that downplays clericalism, that honors a diversity of cultural/racial expressions, and that is theologically and biblically rich." If the liturgy on the day of the site visit is at all representative, these objectives are clearly being met: the congregation is deeply engaged in worship, leadership is visibly shared, and the liturgy and (especially) the music draw on diverse traditions.
Particularly striking is the practice of having a vestry member begin the announcements and welcome newcomers, and other leaders make the following announcements, with the rector introducing himself by first name as he makes the final announcement, wrapping up all that had gone before. While to some this might seem a small thing, it is symbolically significant: it very clearly demonstrates that leadership is shared in this parish, and that responsibility for community life does not rest solely with the priest. The rector's use of his first name, when introducing himself, also underscores that this is not a community rigidly bound by titles and hierarchy. Having chalice bearers come up from the congregation to serve, in street clothes, also demonstrates powerfully that this is a lay function.
This year (2016), the parish began substituting lay worship assistants for the deacon at the 11:15 eucharist. These assistants, termed "subdeacons," perform some functions, such as reading the gospel and setting the table, that the prayer book reserves to deacons, or in their absence to assisting priests. As the rector explains, by combining some acolyte duties with some diaconal duties, the parish was able to create an important job that was attractive to people who otherwise might not take on a leadership role in the liturgy. The result was the integration of a diverse cohort of twenty-somethings into formal, leadership roles.
The practice of dialogic, verbal concelebration by presbyters facing each other across the altar was done to increase the diversity of voices in the liturgy, and to ensure that the congregation, seated on either side of the altar, could readily see and hear a priest during the eucharistic prayer. Concelebration itself is complicated and capable of multiple interpretations: sharing liturgical leadership among the presbyters present underscores the fundamentally collegial nature of that order, and anything that makes liturgical leadership less of a solo act is a positive thing. At the same time, a profusion of clergy joining in manual acts and/or the verbal parts of the prayer at the altar can, in the eyes of some critics such as Patrick Malloy (Celebrating the Eucharist, p. 89), obscure that the entire assembly is celebrating the eucharist. The prayer book's directions concerning additional presbyters at the eucharist indicate that they should stand around the altar and share in the breaking of the bread, in what was the minimalist, and arguably most ancient, form of "concelebration." At the same time, the custom of concelebrants sharing in gestures or speaking parts is widespread. There is likely no single solution, and the practice at St. Paul and the Redeemer seems to work well for that community and that architectural space.
The music at St. Paul and the Redeemer blends a variety of cultural traditions, reflecting the diversity of the congregation and its neighborhood. In addition to the full range of hymnals from Church Publishing (e.g., Wonder, Love, and Praise and Lift Every Voice and Sing II), the parish uses resources from GIA Publishing and Augsburg Fortress. The inclusion of more diverse music was one of the most significant changes instituted under the previous rector and continued by the current one.
The warmth of the congregation is striking: visitors are welcomed sincerely, parishioners appear to show genuine concern for each other, and the rector's enthusiasm is infectious.