|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
|1561: St Paul's,
Pekin, Illinois, USA
Pekin, Illinois, USA.
The Episcopal Church, Diocese
A lovely old painted wood building, Gothic-like in appearance,
dating from the 1870s. It sits on a tree lined street in the
midst of a quiet, well-kept residential neighborhood. The interior
is quite beautiful, with dark beams and columns, hand-painted
panels on the ceiling, and beautiful original stained-glass
windows. It is reminiscent of a family chapel than could seat
100 or so on an old baronial estate, but just the sort of place
where one could spend hours in quiet meditation.
This appears to be a very tight-knit congregation where everyone
is a good friend, I suspect. They offer rides to church for
those who need them, and support several ministries to the underprivileged.
They appear to be very much into social events and outings.
They celebrate holy communion most Sundays ("nearly always,"
as their website says) and a healing service during the week.
Pekin is a prim, well-kept little town located in west central
Illinois about halfway between Chicago and St Louis. It sits
amid river bluffs, corn and soy fields, gently rolling terrain,
and mature wooded areas – a picture postcard shot of what the
expression "Heartland" is all about. It was named,
for reasons unknown, after the Wade-Giles rendering of China's
The Revd Brian T. Kellington, rector, was celebrant and preacher.
He was assisted by his wife, the Revd Deacon Laurie R. Kellington.
The date & time:
May 24, 2008, 9.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Not quite half full. Not bad for the Memorial Day holiday weekend
in a small town, I thought.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The ushers at the door were very friendly and solicitous, welcoming
us and making sure we had worship bulletins. As we sat down,
the person in front of us turned and said, "Good morning
and welcome!" with a big smile.
Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable old wooden pews with no cushions. The hassock type
kneelers were mostly covered in red fabric, with some in tan
leather, which gave the feeling of the not-quite-matched footstools
in one’s family room. It seemed cozy.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quiet and prayerful. People greeted each other but in respectful
whispers. The prelude was just beginning, a medley of patriotic
songs. There were no children in evidence – we later discovered
that they had all been at Sunday school with the deacon when
they all entered at the offertory.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the
The Hymnal 1982 and the Book of Common Prayer.
One song (at the offertory) was from another source but the
words were included in the worship bulletin, along with credit
and license information. The readings for the day were also
included in the bulletin.
What musical instruments were played?
A very good Moeller pipe organ dating from 1938, played very
well. At the offertory, the rector and a member of the congregation
picked up two guitars that had been standing idle. This sent
a scare through me as I don't care for "contemporary"
church music, but they were played in a dignified and tasteful
manner and didn't seem out of place.
Did anything distract you?
The only thing I found really distracting was the beauty of
the church. I kept finding myself staring at the hand painted
ceiling panels, wondering when they had last been restored,
and marveling at the fact that no contemporary "renovations"
were allowed to spoil the place.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The service was Rite II through and through – warm and friendly
and yet strictly by the book. There was nothing terribly pompous
about it and it had a very familial feeling. Even the contemporary
hymn accompanied on guitars was not what I’d call happy clappy,
and it fit very well into the service.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The rector was very well prepared with his material
and seemed to be giving an intimate talk rather than preaching
or lecturing. I thought one of his threads sounded a little
tenuous, but he gave plenty of examples to illustrate his points
and everything managed to hold together well. The sermon seemed
much shorter than it actually was.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
He began with a story to illustrate Isaiah 66:13 ("As a
mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you") and
from that moved on to Matthew 6:24 ("No man can serve two
masters"). But we are not to worry. He gave some examples
of the worries we all share today, which do in fact make us
hypocrites if we continue to cling to them instead of letting
them go. He ended with a reference to Matthew 6:33 ("But
seek ye first the kingdom of God"). This segued very nicely
into the offertory hymn.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The music and singing were quite good for a small group, and
it all felt very comfortable. The rector addressed everyone
by name as he ministered communion, asking the names of those
he didn't know. Which leads me to...
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
... the awful moment when I realized that my mother (the dowager
Verger) and I were the only visitors and that they were sure
to know who had left the Mystery Worshipper calling card in
the plate. And to make matters worse, the dowager Verger entertained
everyone with our life stories over coffee after the service.
This removed all doubt as to whether my anonymity was shot.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No time for that! After the postlude, the rector and the deacon
as well as a parishioner spoke to us and helped us find our
way to the coffee. There, several parishioners welcomed us and
talked with us as the dowager Verger held court. The rector
prayed with us for the cousin in hospital we were in town to
How would you describe the after-service
Coffee, cookies, donuts and pastries had been nicely set out
on covered tables. We avoided the sweets but they looked good.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 If I were to find myself living in this town, I believe
this church might be the shining light of the move. I’d probably
be quite happy there.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
The whole experience made me feel very happy to be a Christian.
I somehow felt a part of this family of mine whom I’d never
met but with whom I had the primary beliefs and experiences
of my life in common.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beauty of the interior and the friendliness of the people
will stay with me a lot longer than seven days, I think.
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.