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2082: Redeemer, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA
Redeemer St Paul Exterior
Mystery Worshipper: Paterfamilias.
The church: Redeemer, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA.
Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Saint Paul Area Synod.
The building: 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 church: 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 in ISAIAH, 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.
The neighborhood: 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 cast: 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 choir.
The date & time: Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 26, 2010, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion.

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 personally?
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?
Fairly quiet.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, and welcome to all of you," followed by several announcements.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The service leaflet noted above, and the 2006 Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

What musical instruments were played?
A 1991 Martin Ott pipe organ, and piano. Mostly the former.

Did anything distract you?
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.

Redeemer St Paul Interior=

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 the sermon?
14 minutes.

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 preaching.

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 = terminal)?
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?
Yes, indeed.

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.

 
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