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2264: Chapel of the Resurrection, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana, USA
Chapel of the Resurrection, Valparaiso
Mystery Worshipper: Paterfamilias.
The church: Chapel of the Resurrection, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana, USA.
Denomination: Independent Lutheran.
The building: A modern building, completed in 1959. The chapel seats about 2000 people and has a quite large high altar. There is a balcony with organ and choir in the rear, and additional seating for worshippers on the sides when needed. As attendance on a normal Sunday is typically a bit lower than 2000, a smaller communion table, surrounded on three sides by pews, was set up in the center of the chapel. A bema, or platform, was placed behind the communion table.
The church: The chapel serves a university community. There are services throughout the week, including morning prayer (sometimes in the style of Taize) each weekday that classes are in session. The eucharist is celebrated every Sunday at 10.00am, and there is a service of candlelight evening prayer each Sunday at 10.00pm. As an independent Lutheran university, the chapel typically has two Lutheran pastors on staff: one from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and one from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). As the LCMS does not ordain women, typically the LCMS pastor is male, the ELCA pastor female. There is a social action leadership team that oversees local volunteering, spring break service trips, and church-based community organizing. The chapel also hosts other university events.
The neighborhood: Valparaiso is in the northwestern corner of Indiana, about an hour east of Chicago. The university enrolls about 4000 students in a wide range of undergraduate programs. The chapel stands in the midst of Valparaiso's campus.
The cast: The Revd Charlene Cox, university pastor, presided at the eucharist. The sermon was given by the Revd Dr Walter Wangerin, a member of the English faculty. Assisting ministers were Michelle Friesen-Carper, Allison Schuette, Alissa Kretzman, and Laurie Kenyon. Lectors were Kristin Engerer and Jonathan Haggis. Dr John Bernthal was organist, and Jonathan Busarow directed the university men's choir. Jimi Freund was sound technician.
The date & time: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 23, 2011, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion.

How full was the building?
The altar and bema setup effectively meant that the service took place in the back half of the chapel. That part of the chapel was about three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A student usher handed me a large leaflet called The Service of Holy Communion Fall Season and a small leaflet with readings and hymns for the day.

Was your pew comfortable?
Quite.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Some quiet conversation, even after Dr Bernthal began the organ prelude.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The Lord be with you." Pastor Cox then gave a brief explanation of how we would use the big leaflet and the small leaflet in the service. She also mentioned that all of the hymns for the service were to be found in the "cranberry book", Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were three volumes in the pews: Evangelical Lutheran Worship, ELCA's service book and hymnal; the Lutheran Service Book, the LCMS service book and hymnal; and the Worship and Praise Song Book, an ELCA contemporary hymnal. The latter two were not used in this service.

What musical instruments were played?
A pipe organ, an opus of the Schlicker Organ Company, on which the renowned organist E Power Biggs played the dedicatory recital in 1959. The instrument was renovated by the Dobson Pipe Organ Builders in the 1990s.

Did anything distract you?
The distraction, if I can call it that, was the space. I simply wasn't used to this type of liturgical arrangement. But I certainly had the sense that a great deal of thought had been given as to how to celebrate the liturgy. I was never quite sure where to focus my attention, although if I were to worship with this community for a few weeks, I'm sure it would all come to seem quite natural. One other distraction: the preacher, the Revd Dr Walter Wangerin, could not quit fiddling with his wedding band as he preached.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A formal, evangelical-catholic liturgy. Celebrant and communion assistant were vested in chasuble and dalmatic, respectively. Pastor Cox's presiding style was impressive – reverent, never calling attention to herself, simply leading a community in prayer. Hymn texts were sometimes new, but musically all of the hymnody and service music were traditional. Communicants could receive the wine at communion either in a small cup, or from a common chalice.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
19 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – The Revd Dr Wangerin is an extremely effective public speaker. He had arranged for five candles to be placed in the aisle, vertically in front of the altar. He walked among the congregation and lit each candle as he talked about the seven "in the mountains" experiences of Jesus. The sixth mountain was represented by a crucifix he placed on the altar; the seventh by the processional cross near the bema.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The gospel reading was Matthew 22:34-46 (Jesus summarizes the two greatest commandments). Pastor Wangerin noted that Jesus teaches us what the law means when he climbs into the mountains. There are ways we do not follow the summary of the law in our own lives.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The care with which this community arranges its worship space, and the care with which they plan for the use of that space. Also, Pastor Cox's presiding style, Pastor Wangerin's sermon, and Dr Bernthal's effective organ accompaniments. His playing always supported the worship of the community, never overpowering it. Much about the Chapel of the Resurrection's worship is indeed a foretaste of heaven.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well... it's early in the term, and the men's choir who sang Janacek's Veni Sancte Spiritus during the preparation of the gifts (admittedly, a difficult piece) had some intonation problems. I'm sure Prof Busarow will whip them into shape by term's end. And I was surprised that the setting of Psalm 1 that was used included the older gender-specific language: "Happy indeed is the man... " This sort of sexist language, to my ears at least, grates in the second decade of the 21st century.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I remained in my seat to listen to Dr Bernthal's postlude. Even though the people around me had enthusiastically shared the peace during the liturgy, no one spoke to me at this point.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – The question is probably irrelevant, as the Chapel of the Resurrection is not a parish church. However, this was almost a model of how Christian liturgy should be celebrated (this statement, of course, reflects my own liturgical tastes). Now that I know I can leave a Chicago hotel at 8.00am and be at the chapel in time for their 10.00 service whenever Materfamilias and I happen to be in Chicago, we will probably stop by the chapel on our way home.

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?
The sermon.
 
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