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Chicago, Illinois, USA
Worshipper: Brad Parker.
Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Church in America.
The church meets in the Biograph Theater, an old movie house
that now presents live productions. The Biograph is where notorious
bank robber John Dillinger was shot and killed by FBI agents
on July 22, 1934. The theater sits in the middle of the block
adjacent to other stores. There is no indication that a church
meets here on Sunday morning other than the sign on the sidewalk.
Their website states that they're a church focused on service.
The sponsor The Well, a student organization at nearby DePaul
University, and women's and men's groups that meet during the
week. They also support Lincoln Park Community Shelter and Exodus
World Service, an organization that works with refugees.
Ethos Chicago is located a few blocks from DePaul University
and Children's Memorial Hospital. You could tell that you were
in a university neighborhood by the number of college students
walking around. Other than that, the neighborhood is a typical
Chicago neighborhood with lots of older buildings.
The Revd Ron May, pastor, led the service. Steve Hendershot,
director of worship and arts, was in charge of the music.
The date & time:
February 13, 2011, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The building was about three-quarters full. Every row had people
in it, but there were plenty of empty seats between the different
groups of people. On the day we attended, the congregation was
about 80 per cent college students. There were a few couples
with children, and there were even fewer adults older than 50.
The pastor dressed in business casual, and the congregation
wore a mix of casual and business casual.
Did anyone welcome you
We were greeted as we entered the theater lobby by two people handing out bulletins. They did not speak much to us other than to direct us to the coffee. During the greeting time, we did meet a few people who asked where we were from and how we liked Chicago.
Was your pew comfortable?
The seating was very comfortable. With the church meeting in
a theater, their seats were individual cushioned theater seats
instead of pews.
How would you describe the pre-service
More distracting than reverential. That's not a bad thing in
this case, because this church wants to be more laid back than
others. People were talking to each other about the weekend
and sharing their time with each other. The band was warming
up. Other people were struggling with the blinds on the windows
to see if they could let more light in the room.
What were the exact opening words of the
A minute or two after the band began to play, the band leader
said, "Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Ethos. Let's stand
up and worship."
What books did the congregation use during the
There were no books for the congregation. The words to the songs
and the verses of scripture were written in the bulletin.
What musical instruments were played?
Guitars, bass guitars and drum.
Did anything distract
The room was either being renovated, or they were building a
set for an upcoming production. The back of the stage was unpainted
sheet rock that had been patched in several places. It felt
like I was sitting in the middle of someone's home renovation
project. And during the sermon I could not help but notice one
individual holding his coffee cup up and taking an occasional
sip. I don't mind a casual setting, but this one moment almost
seemed irreverent, as if we were there for a show instead of
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The style was contemporary folk. Although they used electric
guitars, the music was definitely not loud or jamming. The songs
were a mix of newer songs and older songs done in a contemporary
arrangement. The service felt very casual but it did follow
an order that I've come to recognize at Presbyterian churches.
The bulletin mentioned "reflections" although there
were not many moments conducive to reflection. The main speakers
were the music leader, one of the students, and the pastor.
Periodically when someone would speak, they would mention one
of the quotes listed in the reflections section. The combination
of the smaller room, the music, and the readings gave the service
a coffeehouse feel. There was no communion. During one of the
prayers, one of the students prayed for the upcoming elections
and mentioned God's sovereignty in choosing the leaders even
before the election. This did not seem at all unusual to me
because this is, after all, a Presbyterian church.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The preacher used lots of good illustrations that challenged
us to think. I was disappointed that with all of his well chosen
illustrations he delivered the message in a typical three point
sermon format. I expected that he would be more creative.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The sermon was about how ordinary Christianity is. People are
always looking for something extraordinary, but Christians,
Jesus, and the gospel are rather ordinary to most outsiders.
Which part of the service was like being in
The service was filled with many thought provoking moments. Each person that spoke used a great story or quote to relate his message.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The three point sermon! I personally do not like this format.
After he rolled out his three points during the introduction,
you could easily get distracted and still have an intelligent
discussion about the sermon over lunch. And in the hall after
the service, several students were going on and on about how
one of their fellows had alluded to the existence of God's sovereignty
over a political election. It was as if he had made some bold
statement that only the most courageous would attempt. Is God's
sovereignty a taboo subject here?
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I stood in several places in the church, but no one approached
me after the service. I sat in the theater while people stood
around having conversations. I hung out by the coffee and donuts
where others held conversations. I lingered by the door in the
lobby waiting for my wife.
How would you describe the after-service
After the service, the coffee was gone. They have coffee with
donuts, muffins, and scones before the service, but I did not
try them then. After the service, I attempted to get coffee,
but there was only a quarter of a cup left in the three pots.
There was a regular, decaf, and a hazelnut flavor. The snacks
were higher quality than what you see at your typical donut
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 I would really enjoy the worship here. I don't feel
like they compromise their theology in trying to make the atmosphere
more comfortable. The church is a newer church, so they are
not able to offer as much as a more established group. Overall,
the setting might be too relaxed for some, but I felt like people
were actively engaged in the worship experience. I would be
concerned about being asked to take on too many roles.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. All of the leaders were obviously talented and loved God.
I was disappointed about not speaking to anyone after the service,
but it's not always about me. The sermon helped remind me that
we are common people in need of redemption.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The remark about God's influence on elections and the students'
reaction to it.
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