Welcome to the St. John's Blog!

St. John's Episcopal Church is located on the northwest side of Chicago, in the Old Irving Park neighborhood. You can learn more about us at our official web site. We hope you'll join us!

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring is Here!

We'll replace the banner photo of the church with a greener one once all the plants have had a chance to fill in, but for members of the parish in far-flung corners of the world, here's what your church looked like two days ago.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

If you were looking for evidence that St. John's is growing, you need look no further than today's Easter services: there were three of them! Does anyone remember the last time this little congregation had to hold three Easter services to accommodate everyone?

What a spirit-lifter, after the Stripping of the Altar on Maundy Thursday, to find the church decked out in lilies and banners this morning.

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I attended the 8 a.m. service, which had "only" 35 attendees. I say "only" because that's about twice what we normally get. At the 8 o'clock, congregants gather around the altar for the communion prayers. Can't do that with 35 people! We didn't know how to behave.

I came back to take some pictures of the 11 o'clock service.

The "banners" behind the readers above and below are actually strips of ribbon hanging down. From the back of the church they give the illusion of being whole-cloth banners. Kudos to the artistes, Leslye and Julianne!

Below is Kara reading the Gospel. This time I didn't get the back of her head (see Maundy Thursday), but maybe you recognize the back of Julianne's head?

Here's Kara giving a great sermon about, among other things, the dangers of certainty in religion. Usually, a few of the faces at Easter services are people dragged there by family members. They gave up on being part of a church community because they found dogma to be an obstacle to faith. [On this subject, I love a comment by Flannery O'Connor: "Most of us come to the church by a means the church does not allow."] I thought the Easter sermon was an excellent introduction for these folks to a different way of thinking about faith. Look for it on the official St. John's Web Site. (This puts a little pressure on Kara to actually write the sermon down. Do it in your spare time, Kara!)[Update: Well, that didn't take long. Kara has posted it.]

At the 11 o'clock service, Rich, Karen, Jackson, and Geneva all signed the parish register. Geneva was signing when the picture below was taken, and the podium hides her pretty well. That's Jackson behind the lilies.

Once Rich was finished, Vlada and Rebecca signed, too. Both these families have already contributed a lot to life at St. John's, and we're happy they've decided to stick around.

Okay, everybody, stretch your legs for a hymn!


Once everyone had gone to the undercroft for coffee and goodies, or into the garden for the Easter egg hunt, I got closer to the altar to take more pictures of the flowers.

The reredos were open again, with Theon Betts's paintings of St. Francis, Mary, St. John, and Thomas Aquinas. Welcome back! We missed you. Yes, even you, Thomas.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Maundy Thursday

I don't have much of a narrative for these pictures of the Maundy Thursday service. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, when the sacrament of communion was instituted, and when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. It is really one of the most moving services of the year -- right up there with the candlelight Christmas Eve service, in my opinion. Even if you don't participate in the foot washing, it is a surprisingly spiritual experience. Enough said about that.

I was struck before the service by the "still life" aspect of the bowls and towels set in place for the foot washing:

Reading the Gospel:

Let the washing begin:

At the end of the service, as the lights are gradually lowered, comes the Stripping of the Altar. The shroud over the crucifix is changed from white to black.