Ship of Fools
  Bulletin Boards
  Mystery Worshipper
  Caption Competition
  Gadgets for God
  The Fruitcake Zone
  Signs & Blunders
  Born Twice
  About Ship of Fools
  Support us!
  Contact us!
942: St Peter's, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Other reports | Comment on this report
St Peter's, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Misericord.
The church: St Peter's, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Denomination: Episcopal Church in the USA.
The building: This is an attractive but small parish church in the gothic revival style, tucked into Chicago's East Lakeview neighborhood on the block of Belmont between Broadway and Orchard. The present building dates from 1895. Inside, especially in the nave and sanctuary, all looked newish and tasteful and very well maintained.
The church: The website mentions an active social ministry and youth outreach, and I noticed that part of their very limited indoor space is devoted to a basketball court. The congregation were what you would expect of a city Episcopal parish in a pricey neighborhood: some older folks, some younger, many unmarried men with good haircuts, some churchy types, some free spirits.
The neighbourhood: East Lakeview used to be the gay Mecca of the Midwest. Gentrification has really taken hold and the area is now dominated by double-income-no-kids couples. A very hot pedestrian neighborhood on Chicago's beautiful lakefront, it sports all manner of retail, dining and entertainment venues. Typically street parking is dreadful and I arrived by bicycle, only to discover that St Peter's validates parking tickets at a nearby garage.
The cast: The Very Rev. James H. Dunkerley, rector, was the celebrant. The Rev. Gordon Stanley, BSG (Brothers of St Gregory) served as deacon. Brother Nathanael Deward Rahm, n/BSG, was organist and choirmaster.
What was the name of the service?
Sung Eucharist, twelfth Sunday after Pentecost.

How full was the building?
About half full -- maybe 130 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. A couple of smokers outside on the steps bade me a bright good morning, as did an usher in the narthex who handed me a service sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?
Quite. Nice wood pews with seat pads and hassock-style kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was more than usually quiet and reverential; more nods and whispered good mornings than chit-chat.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please stand and face the font for the blessing." The opening acclamation was given from the back prior to the procession.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
1982 Hymnal and Book of Common Prayer.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. The instrument seemed well suited to the intimacy of this room.

Did anything distract you?
No. Everything seemed to be functioning nicely. The website noted the recent addition of air conditioning which "shushed" quietly. Being August and finally warm, this was a welcome shush.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly high church, but not stiff. I would call it "meaningfully liturgical." There were bells but no incense. Six people formed the gospel procession to the middle of the nave. My own parish has to make do with five people, so naturally I was impressed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Father Dunkerley is a pretty terrific homilist. The sermon seemed shorter than its 11 minutes. His British accent and beautiful enunciation no doubt pleased his parishioners (and me).

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Father preached on the gospel lesson (Luke 13: 22-30) where someone asks Jesus, "Lord, will only a few be saved?" What they really wanted to know was, "Who's in and who's out?" Jesus taught them to enter through the narrow door -- in other words, don't worry about things that are God's business. We should be concerned about our own relationship with God, and we will find the door still open and not all that narrow.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Hearing the good preaching of a scholarly British clergyman. The worship, music, friendliness and pleasant space were also all just fine.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
More unusual in my experience than hellish, but everyone, I repeat everyone, remained glued to their pews during the entire organ postlude. One person started talking to his pew-mate and got a glare from the guy in front of me. The postlude, a nice prelude and fugue by Krebs, was received with applause (the only clappy moment), and then it was as if someone pressed the release button for the congregation to move. Usually I feel okay about getting up once the altar party has left and the candles are extinguished. Silly, informal me.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We filed out in an orderly fashion and were greeted by Father Dunkerley and the deacon. An acquaintance happened to be visiting St Peter's that morning, and we caught up on things. But had there been no one I knew there, I'm sure someone else would have struck up a conversation with me. It seemed genuinely friendly as smaller parishes usually are.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a sign on a stand directing me to the coffee hour, which was handy since it was located in the far rear corner of the parish hall. I was rewarded with a choice of coffee or a sparkling white cranberry ale "adult drink" (which I naturally took) and an impressive table laden with cheese and crackers, brownies, pastries and such. I have seldom seen such a nice spread.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I might prefer a parish with a more ambitious music program or a bigger space, and incense would be nice, but if I lived in the neighborhood this church would get very serious consideration.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely. Pretty much everything was being done right at this place on this day.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The attention paid to the organ postlude.
The Mystery Worshipper is sponsored by, the internet service provider from Christian Aid. By offering email services, special offers with companies such as and, surefish raises more than £300,000 a year for Christian Aid's work around the world.

Click here to find out how to become a Mystery Worshipper. And click here if you would like to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Top | Other Reports | Become a Mystery Worshipper!

© Ship of Fools 2005
Surefish logo